Morality: Memory and Desire (part 2)
My continuing work for School of Community (Find part 1 here) :
In the Christian experience, the night, in which people find themselves submerged and know things only in a groping way, gives way to something that starts to give meaning to everything. The clearest proof of this is that this dawning can happen for the most banal things, for everyday things. Thus, even the “routine” acquires a dimension of greatness and joy.
This sense of meaning is summarized by the Christian gesture that in the language of the Church is called offering. In the definitiveness of this gesture, there no longer exists small or great things, but everything begins to reach its greatness in relationship with Christ. To verify this as an experience of life, and not just a set of words, is an initial comprehension of what the Resurrection means, that new world that is already beginning. (Luigi Giussani, Morality: Memory and Desire)
Many are confused about the Catholic concept of offering. In pop Catholicism, the phrase, “Offer it up,” often amounts to: “Shut up and tell it to God because I don’t care.” But to offer means to remember that everything – my lumpy green corduroy couch, my affection for photos of my friends’ newborns, the limited range of motion in my neck and the wicked cool scar on my wrist, this sky that sags under the fiery weight of sun-saturated clouds, the rich scent of cardamom in my morning chai, the mosaic tiles of the Borromean rings I chose as the logo for my company, or my morning drive when I bring my youngest daughter to school – absolutely everything has been given to me. And I depend on these things. I cannot go a day without seeing the sky’s loveliness. Even the scarring in my neck and on my wrist, which limits me and still gives me pain, reminds me of the excellence (and kindness) of the medical professionals on whose care and attention my life literally depends.
The drive to my daughter’s school lasts 45 minutes and takes us through three states. Forests line most of the highway, and the road lies flat at first but climbs and twists and dips as we near the school. We often begin in the dark, and fog usually lies heavy in the hollows of the land around us. As we drive, the sunrise tinges the horizon ahead and then unfurls its petals, like an enormous, variegated rose. Meanwhile, my daughter tells me about the day ahead of her: the potholes she’ll navigate, the bright dawnings she anticipates, and the rough patches that could slow her down. She often plays music for me that she hopes I’ll enjoy.
This morning she related an episode from the day before, from one of her study halls: she mentioned that the teacher who supervises the study hall told her that she should become a politician. Then she explained: We couldn’t go to the library, so we were stuck in this classroom. The teacher and Jane were discussing education and the faulty system we have when Jane turned to me and said, ‘You have a whole rant about how to fix the problem.’ So then our teacher wanted to hear it. I was pacing up and down the room, and I even raised my voice pretty loud in parts. Everyone was listening to me, and the teacher was grinning this wide smile the whole time I was talking. Someone said that I should have my own podcast, but our teacher said, ‘You should become a politician. One of the good ones!’
“Oh, so your teacher wants you to enact your policies?” I asked. “It wasn’t that she was trying to say that you’re a persuasive public speaker but that your ideas will actually improve things for everyone?”
“Yes,” she said, with one of those excited wiggles that seem to want to make her burst out of her seat.
I cannot raise this daughter on my own. The teachers and other adults who come into her life to enhance her education give her something that I cannot give: objective affirmation from other, unimaginable perspectives. How I depend on this web of persons, some of whom, like the teacher my daughter just described this morning, I’ve never met! To offer, with this awareness, means to recognize the Source of this web of relationships, to allow myself to sink into the gratitude it arouses, and to respond in wonder to the unsought, unexpected salvation given to me in these everyday, “routine” moments.