Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finding as founding

Some days ago I started jotting down a few lines prompted by a statement the Pope made during his recent journey to Africa, saying that Christianity breaks all borders and so unifies all peoples. But I was taken by writing other things, and so those lines staid there unfinished.

I want to come back to it, remarking that there are two sides in what the Pope says on this regard, which seems irreconcilable among them: the one I just mentioned about Christianity breaking all borders, and the other he so strongly stressed in the Reichstag speech we reported, that Christianity never appealed to a God revealed law, but developed the idea of natural law of the Greek and Romans.

I hope the reader sees the problem in keeping these two statements together. If not, I’ll try to clarify it for him.

To breaks all borders means to make people capable of living under one law. Now, if it is Christianity that does this breaking, how can it be said that it doesn’t bring the one law under which to live?

Let’s take the case of the United States of America. I think I read somewhere –but I can’t be sure, because I don’t remember where – that the present POTUS said that America cannot be called a Christian nation. If we assume, for the sake of argument, that he said it, I’d like to ask him: If not, what is it then?

To which I could be retorted: if it is such, i.e. a Christian nation, how can it make so many peoples of different religion live in her peacefully?

The intelligent reader should see now that we have here the general question raised by the Pope’s statements set in a concrete case. And, being so concretely put, also the answer I’ll try to give will spring from the concreteness of my own personal experience.

I like to call it my experience of the “discovery of America”. A prominent American philosophy professor, nowhere less than at Harvard (actually a philosopher for real, but, being that such a qualification is given to dogs and pigs, I don’t want to insult him with it) gave some years ago two lectures by the general title of “This new yet unapproachable America”, one of which was: “Finding as founding”. How beautiful! America is something in whose founding anyone can share, if he just finds her.

And it is not enough for that to be born in the United States. I recall, by the way, that there were some questions raised about the present POTUS being born in the US. Originally it was a way to exclude him from the race, and now to disqualify him as president. But it doesn’t work. There are plenty of people who are undoubtedly born in the US, who don’t sound as Americans at all: one could say the great part of the MSM.

Why, what do they sound like then? Well, like today Europeans: people just born there, who don’t show signs of any discovery: as if there was nothing worthy of finding-founding.

As far as myself is concerned, there is no question, I was not born in the Sates, and I lived there just a few years. But that real philosopher whom I mentioned, by the name of Stanley Cavell, authorizes me to consider myself a founder, because I did find something.

When in my intellectual pursuit – of the true, the good and the beautiful – I came to study in the States, I made a discovery that turned studying into an experience of finding-founding. I realized that, except for the so called Indians, no one is native in America. Even the people who have been in the USA for generations, came in a traceable past from somewhere else. A discovery of hot water, one could say. But it is not so. To realize the obvious has a great import in the “search of the ordinary” – to say it again with Cavell –, which otherwise escapes our attention.

If everybody in the States is an immigrant, it means that America is the place where we can converge in our “pursuit of happiness”. Where happiness can be found, and then America founded, is suggested by Cavell by taking that beautiful expression of the Declaration of Independence (a stroke of genius of the otherwise ambiguous Jefferson) as title for a book of his on the Hollywood comedies of the first decades of talkies, all turning around the theme of marriage: love broken and refounded.

This means that coming to America makes a common story in which everyone can recognize himself. In a way no one is born in America, because, even if born in the US, still has to make that movement of convergence. Otherwise …: here, in the “otherwise” is another side of my discovery.

I realized that either people communicate in a story they share, or, when such a story is lacking, nothing else is left through which to communicate but, speaking of the US, green paper notes: better known as dollars.

Don’t take me wrong, I have no grudge against money. I only think that you cannot build just on it a political union, as it was tried in Europe, with what consequences we are now seeing. But, as I said, also the US is dangerously coming to resemble Europe, with a dropping therefore of the A.

To be short in a very complex matter: without money, you have just small communities, closed in borders defined by an exclusive cultural consensus. Just with money, you have large societies of a multicultural kind, made by individuals having among other options that of the religion to which consent, all equally included in a financial empire that knows no borders.

Perhaps the reader will see now the answer to the questions asked at the beginning.

The US, if it doesn’t want to drop the A, is a Christian nation, which doesn’t run counter anybody’s cultural and religious tradition, as long as he obeys to the natural law that everywhere requires that crossing of borders universalized in Christianity. Because, to say that Christianity breaks all borders means that it allows to cross them all; but borders there must be to be crossed. Out of which , there aren’t but outlaws or tyranny.

Anybody can come through this discovery in America: the finding that in ordinary experience founds everywhere human relations.


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