I think that, in the World and in the Church today, many people -and I, a sinner, too- live in heresy. That’s right: vital heresy.
This expression was used, quite a few years ago, by Igor Caruso who, besides being an excellent psychologist, was also a philosopher. For him, the human being is much more than a sardine or a mug: he has another dimension, beyond the physical. Only a psychology that recognises the validity of metaphysics contributes decisively to solving the problems of the human being.
The human being is only happy, balanced and healthy when he has a scale, a hierarchy of values, and respects it. There are absolute values and relative values. The Absolute par excellence is the one we call God. Everything else – the person, life, beauty, money, work – are relative values…. We run the danger of inverting the hierarchy, changing the order of vital values, ignoring or mutilating some of them and absolutising others. This is the heresy of life, according to Caruso, the opposite of the “orthodoxy of life’s values”.
Many people give true worship to the luxury and trash of the consumer society, they are fascinated by the gods of television and cinema, by the heroes of the moment. They absolutise what is relative. And so they go in search of immediate, ephemeral sensations, of “shake it, use it and throw it away”. Do such people live in vital orthodoxy?
Many others reveal a feeling of emptiness, of intimate dissatisfaction because they lead a life without direction and without meaning, incapable of fulfilling their oceanic capacity for happiness. How many anxieties, depressions, complexes, repressions, loneliness, immaturities and neuroses of all kinds! How much lack of health, physical and psychic! Igor Caruso taught: “Only one thing saves us: the hierarchy of values, the orthodoxy of the values of life”.
We live in a time in which there is no time – to reflect, to dialogue, to love, to create and to savour life. Is it a question of time or of mental priorities? Lack of space or vital disorder?
We absolutize work, for example. Well, far be it from me to speak ill of work, and for two reasons: firstly, because my father didn’t teach me how to do anything else and, secondly, because it brings me a lot of joy. But work has the power to enslave, like tobacco, whisky, heroin, gambling. It can be an exaggeration, an abuse. Teresa of Avila already saw in her time “many heads lost because they work too much”.
I know that the activism of some is to be reproached as much as the inactivity and laziness of others. But that does not prevent me from saying that work is only human when it leaves room to adore and to love, to cultivate health, balance and true self-esteem. A person who spins and revolves inhumanely, like a machine, wears out, exhausts himself, and ends up exploding. Tell me if you don’t deserve the label of heretic?
The fact is that even in the Church many men and women – and I am part of this procession – seem to be no more than efficient managers of institutions, magnificent bureaucrats of the “things of God”. The apostolate is reduced to an exercise of so many endless tasks that the intimate relationship with God either disappears or becomes a superfluous adornment. Evangelization becomes an activism where God is in abundance. We are so immersed in the Lord’s cause that we leave aside the Lord of the cause.
There are even those who speak of ecclesial atheism. The Church forgets God, it relies too much on its plans and its strengths. Arthur Paoli would prefer that many priests and religious spend more time on the beach or playing volleyball than leading a very active but apostolically sterile life.
We spout splendid truths: that God is the First, the Centre, the Mountain, but then, as if we had a giant belly button, we only see ourselves. We are the ones who are at the beginning, the middle and the top of everything, omnipotent and needing no one. Is this not true heresy?
Abílio Pina Ribeiro, cmf
(PHOTO: Danilo Capece)