Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Benedict Option

     "Historical experience teaches us that any genuinely meaningful point of departure in an individual's life usually has an element of universality about it.  In other words, it is not something partial, accessible only to a restricted community, and not transferable to any other.  On the contrary, it must be potentially accessible to everyone; it must foreshadow a general solution and, thus, it is not just the expression of an introverted, self-contained responsibility that individuals have to and for themselves alone, but responsibility to and for the world.  Thus it would be quite wrong to understand the parallel structures and the parallel polis as a retreat into a ghetto and as an act of isolation, addressing itself only to the welfare of those who had decided on such a course, and who are indifferent to the rest.  It would be wrong, in short, to consider it an essentially group solution that has nothing to do with the general situation.  Such a concept would, from the start alienate the notion of living within the truth from its proper point of departure, which is concern for others, transforming it ultimately into just another more sophisticated version of 'living within a lie'. . . .  Patočka used to say that the most interesting thing about responsibility is that we carry it with us everywhere.  That means that responsibility is ours, that we must accept it and grasp it here, now, in this time and space where the Lord  has set us down, and that we cannot lie our way out of it by moving somewhere else, whether it be to an Indian ashram or to a parallel polis.  If Western young people so often discover that retreat to an Indian monastery fails them as an individual or group solution, then this is obviously because, and only because, it lacks that element of universality, since not everyone can retire to an ashram.  Christianity is an example of an opposite way out:  it is a point of departure for me here and now—but only because anyone, anywhere, at any time, may avail themselves of it."

     Václav Havel, "The power of the powerless" (October 1978) XVIII, trans. P. Wilson, in Living in truth:  twenty-two essays published on the occasion of the award of the Erasmus Prize to Václav Havel, ed. Jan Vladislav (London:  Faber and Faber, 1987), 103-104 (36-122).

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