Saturday, May 14, 2016

On Hope Against Hope

These are words expressing the thought of the philosopher Gabriel Marcel. They are philosophical words and demanding, but let us hear them:

The other person as sacred leads me to God. But love is the discernment of the other as imperishable, and this is the hope of immortality. The loved person is imperishable in two senses. She is of such a quality for me that she ought to endure, she possesses a unique worth that may not be dispensed with.

And also her being as opposed to her existence moves in a realm exempt from change; it is not an object that it should cease to exist as the Roman Empire once existed but does so no longer.

But it is precisely because the loved one is imperishable in these two senses that her death is so awful. For death reduces the person to the status of a thing, she goes the way of objects in the world, though her place is not with them; what ought not to perish appears to perish before my eyes. I therefore turn from death with the hope of immortality and stake out a claim for her in the beyond.

So we arrive at a metaphysic of hope. What for the onlooker is a piece of wishful thinking is for the one who thus hopes grounded in reality.  What he hopes for is not for the continuance of the other person as he might hope for the persistence of a flower that is withering.  Because he participates by love in the being of the other person, he hopes that the participation will endure and conquer death.

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