The purifying pain
“The sight of man now makes us tired - what else is nihilism today, if it is not this? ... We are tired of man...” Nietzsche wrote in the summer of 1887, in one of his capital works Genealogy of morality. These words are today more relevant than ever and they sound all too familiar to us: they present themselves to us - men of the twenty-first century - as an expected and known guest. Isn't fatigue the dominant feeling of our time? Today we are gripped by fatigue: even simple thinking has become tedious for those who no longer see the horizon in front of them, for those who no longer know what momentum and vertigo are.
The horizon is shrinking, until it disappears: beyond the space of our daily life, we see nothing. We live in a present that repeats itself the same; the flow of images that surrounds us varies at every moment - similar to a phantasmagoria – but, basically, repeats a single, obsessive leitmotif: there are no alternatives, this is the only reality, there is no way out. This is the reason why in the West no more children are born: one does not believe in life, one does not hope for the future - the future does not exist, it has disappeared. There is only permanent topicality, with its statistical forecasts, its figures, its bulletins. We live in a ghostly world, increasingly dematerialized, saturated with signs but empty of meanings: we look so as not to see, we speak so as not to say. This fatigue naturally also takes on the tone of despair, because a humanity that no longer believes in anything is unable to hope: despair paralyzes the imagination and prevents us from conceiving a different reality.
Despair in some ways is even a luxury and not everyone can afford it: those who really have reason to despair are often so poor that they don't even have the time and energy to let themselves be taken by despair, busy as they are in mere struggle for survival. Despair is also the most functional to the plans of the enemy, or to the forces of subversion. The enemy wants us desperate, because a desperate man is ready to accept any imprisonment: when a man is convinced that what surrounds him is irrevocable, power is unleashed and dramatically increases its ferocity. The enemy wants us to believe that our life is reduced to the simple arc of earthly existence; that our homeland is the narrow space that surrounds us; that the only reality is that perceived by our senses. The enemy repeats to us that there is no escape and he repeats it over and over, incessantly. Yet never before should we think outside of time and not according to our own time.
Never before as today there is a need to recover the longing for the transcendent, that vertigo and momentum that give meaning to our lives. Of course, the relative has its own degree of reality, but it must not be forgotten that it is the manifestation of something unconditional - something that is outside of time - just as movement springs from what is motionless and the word from which is silent. If our attention is directed exclusively to what is relative and transitory (and everything in the presence of the Absolute is relative and transitory), we will remain prisoners of time and therefore of death. We should never forget - as Plato and Rūmī remind us - that we are toys in God's hands: we belong to Him, the last word belongs to Him. However, no matter how fiercely is the power that dominates us, we must be aware that it too - albeit unconsciously - is only an instrument in the hands of God and does nothing but collaborate in His design: this power had a beginning and consequently it will have an end. Therefore despair must not lodge in our hearts, because change is always possible, at every moment life promises a new beginning and beyond every winter an eternal spring quivers and urges.
We should repeat to ourselves, every day, that “Denn alles ist gut” that Hölderlin states in one of his highest poems, Patmos: “Since all is well”, tells us the one who had every reason to be overcome by despair, yet did not stop waiting and singing the dawn. For those who see things from the point of view of eternity, time becomes illusory: this night that envelops the world is not endless, it is not irrevocable. For a believer there is no greater sin than despair: despair means believing that God has limits, that the Infinite is finite and instead for God nothing is impossible, and there is no darkness that He cannot pierce with His rays. We must turn our gaze to the things that remain, not to those that vanish: this is where we see the nobility of a man, because we are and become what we love. Only in this way the fire - instead of burning - becomes something that purifies, that frees us from waste. Only in this way do the wounds turn into cracks, into thresholds to escape the tyranny of becoming.
Pain can tear us down or lift us up, it can be degradation or a royal procession: we decide, here and now. And we will become free men - no longer slaves of our time - when we can repeat, with Hölderlin, “in the end all is well and every mourning is only the way that leads to true and holy joy.”
Original column by Flavio Ferraro:
Translation by Costantino Ceoldo