We can help improve the quality of our world and our lives
We fear losing what we have, what we have achieved as a personal and familial fulfillment. We fear falling into poverty or destitution, the irruption of an unknown world bereft of any referential precedents, whose sole insinuation becomes unbearable. How can we get over this?
(From Montevideo) DUE TO HIS TEMPORAL CONDITION, man is destined to traverse the past, the present and the future. The sense and meaning of life depends on the predominance of these phases in each person, and marks the existential tone of every human being.
The irreversible character of the past, the intense experiential fleetingness of the present, and the expectation of an uncertain future: we are only aware of all of these things in the present.
“The future appears before us as the only outlet for our projects, dreams, and hopes” The past – thanks to memory – is experienced as a recollection, in the present. The future is imagined, in the present. And the present – despite its uncontrollable vertiginous quality – is felt and experienced, in the present.
The existential pull towards that which has yet to be experienced is irresistible. If we look back, we feel a frustrating sensation of what already was, and that it will not go back to being like it once was. The elusive rush of the present drives us forward; however, we rarely reflect on its importance. It is the only place where existence pulsates, where life really flows through us, where we feel that we are alive, where our contact with the timeless can be felt, and where we experience the connection with the past and the future.
In this context, the future appears before us as the only outlet for our projects, dreams, and hopes.
THE FUTURE SHOWS CHARACTERISTICS OF RISK AND SURPRISE
However, we cannot avoid the uneasiness and fear of not being able to know if the future will really arrive (to then become another present); and if it will arrive, we do not truly know how things will have to be.
“Existential anxiety takes root in the soul, shakes its foundations, and comes to question the very feeling of existence” Therefore, future is possibility. Uncertainty. It shows characteristics of risk and surprise. But,even so, man despairs and clings to the temptation to predict how things will be. History is full of sages…
When the present is calm, we can catch a glimpse of the future as a clear and viable horizon. When the present is rough and shakes the foundations of the relative security to which we humans are able to aspire, the future frightens us and can instill us with fear…or panic. And so the anxiety caused by trying to know beforehand how things will be and what is in store for us is accentuated.
We are referring to existential anxiety, which philosophers from all eras – and particularly the existentialist thinkers of the twentieth century – have reflected upon. It is a state of mind that takes root in the soul, shakes its foundations, and comes to question the very feeling of existence.
At times, the fear of the future is tied to the individual; at other times, to his or relationship with those nearby. “Technology provides us with an infinite number of advantages, yet it also demands that we know how to use it in order to obtain the best results”
But there is also a fear tied to nature, to society, to political and economic crises, to growingly invasive aggressiveness and uncontrolled violence, to apocalyptic religious and ideological fundamentalisms, to the lack of adaptation to the speedy changes and transformations of the world in which we live, to an environment. In short, it seems more like a threat than a promise.
We fear losing what we have, what we have achieved as a personal and familial fulfillment. We fear falling into poverty or destitution, the irruption of an unknown world bereft of any referential precedents, whose only insinuation becomes unsupportable.
The globalized world that we are a part of has at least two sides to it. One shows promising prospects and already concrete evidence of a well-being that was previously unimaginable, as well as a trail of unusual opportunities for challenging, but attractive, plans. The other brings us closer to the almost inevitable abyss, which can swallow all of us up.
THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY IN OUR LIVES
“In the end, we get drunk on uncontrolled technology. It can place us at its service, instead of serving us” Technology provides us with an infinite number of advantages, yet it also demands that we know how to use it in order to obtain the best results.
But it does not teach us how to grasp its existential and qualitative gravitation. There is no technological wisdom to help us understand where it is leading us, and what its ultimate goals are. It causes a powerful transformation within our lives. It submerges us in a predominantly technological world. But it is indifferent and amoral, and it is not committed to making our roots and the significance of the human condition clear to us.
“We are witnessing an increase in all sorts of crises” It absorbs us so much in its absoluteness that if we are not spiritually alert and prepared, it can come to eclipse our access to transcendence, that is, to the world of values and fundamental answers.
In the end, we get drunk on uncontrolled technology. It can place us at its service, instead of serving us. It can make us change our preferences, bringing us to put off or cancel qualitative aspects of life, which give true meaning to the raison d’être and to understanding man’s place in the universe.
KNOWLEDGE IS NOT THE SAME AS WISDOM
“If man continues to believe that he is the most powerful being on the planet, or even in the whole universe, he might drown in his own arrogance” In recent times, we have witnessed an increase in all sorts of crises: a rise in intertwined fears. It appears that those in power are unable to curb this succession of crises, which is leaving nothing untouched in its wake.
How can we face up to or reduce this fear? Are there perhaps formulas that, despite having yielded results in other times, are applicable during this current tremendous era? Who can respond to these questions? It does not look like the answers can be discerned like a light in the distance on a dark night.
It is obvious that we are witnessing the end of an era and the dawn of another.
“This is about making the human presence in the cosmos take on a form of humility and clairvoyance, and a sense of transcendence” If man continues to believe that he is the most powerful being on the planet, or even in the whole universe, he might drown in his own arrogance. An increase in knowledge is not accompanied by an increase in wisdom. The accumulation of information does not necessarily lead to the relevance of knowledge. Wisdom is – at its very core – humble: it is aware of its own limitations.
These times are conducive to the rise of all sorts of messianic leaders who thrive in climates of fear and despair. However, this group of modern saviors will only cause more disappointment.
THERE ARE NO MAGIC FORMULAS
“If we continue believing that the answers will come to us from outside, then we will only make the crisis worse” This is not about saving what – or who – can be saved. This is about making the human presence in the cosmos take on a form of humility and clairvoyance, and a sense of transcendence. The inter-human community must leave room for a fraternal, respectful, responsible, and spiritual coexistence. The climate of shared tolerance, in which the other is actually our fellow man, and in which we find ourselves again, will open up new perspectives and provide renewed attitudes.
The answers are not already there. No one is keeping them for his or herself. Indeed, we can adopt a new existential stance, but it will only be possible if we let the spirit appropriate for these times be reborn. We need a new space of transcendent silence, in order to be able to hear the voices that will give us the answers that we need, voices that are today drowned out by the stridency of a chaotic and poorly-directed modernity.
The voices that we will be able to hear will be new messages. We need to encourage hope and be prepared to commit ourselves. And I am referring to a personal and non-transferable commitment.
If we continue believing that the answers will come to us from outside, that there are magic formulas that will be presented to us like gifts that we are deserving of, that in reasonable times we will magically go from crisis to prosperity, then we will only make the crisis worse.
EVERYONE ASSUMING HIS OR HER OWN RESPONSIBILITY
We think that the true transformation may come from outside and from within, from the inner world of each one of us. Without the desire for change itself, true change will not be able to come. We cannot continue to consider ourselves victims and accusers. Are we truly asking ourselves about the level of responsibility that each one of us has for everything that occurs?
Neither success nor crises are permanent. Everyone plays his or her part, however small it may be, in prolonging or shortening them. Paradise on earth never has, and never will, exist. But we can help improve the quality of our world, of our lives and of the future of man on the horizon.