"It's Much Greater and Truer to Love the Infinite"

A night of drinks with friends, a few clicks to a “seamless” lunch delivery, that absolutely necessary new pair of jeans - as young, working adults living in NYC we find it so easy to let our time and money slip away without much thought or intention...

A night of drinks with friends, a few clicks to a “seamless” lunch delivery, that absolutely necessary new pair of jeans - as young, working adults living in NYC we find it so easy to let our time and money slip away without much thought or intention. We have few major responsibilities, and while like many New Yorkers we struggle to pay rent and don’t really understand the concept of “savings,” we also have yet to face the challenges and sacrifices that accompany getting married, raising a family and “settling down.” We find it so easy to live this time as a limbo period between college and “real life,” adults technically, but without many of the struggles our parents and grandparents faced at our age. Without really noticing it, we can slip into a routine of superficial conversations and “netflix binges,” where our biggest worry is how to get our WiFi to run faster, or whether we should text that guy or girl from Tinder we went on a couple dates with.

Over the past few months, however, Caitlin had begun mentioning to me and some of our other friends a desire for something more - a desire to live this period of time as meaningful and beautiful. Rather than just biding time until the next big life event, she wanted to embrace all the possibilities in front of us now, and ask how these years can in themselves be a time of education and maturity. It is easy to let the endless choices and plethora of novelty that surround us simply drain us of our agency, and paralyze us in the fear of doing anything big and beautiful, while giving us the illusion of self-sufficiency, but is it possible to make a real choice in how we live this time? In The Religious Sense, Don Gius tells us, “It is much greater and truer to love the infinite...we must recognize that man truly affirms himself only by accepting reality...he begins to accept himself by accepting his existence, that is, a reality he has not given himself.” Is it possible to discover a meaning and value to our money, our work, and our free time - a reality outside of ourselves, through which we can more fully understand ourselves and what we are made for?

It was with these questions that we turned to the recent proposal of the Movement regarding embracing our Christian brothers and sisters displaced from their homes in Syria and Iraq. We sought to unify Caitlin’s contagious desire for the present to be meaningful, with this reminder of the infinite Presence that makes us now. Is it possible that the “Presence stronger than Death” is also a Presence stronger than the banality, paralysis, and despair that can so easily come to permeate our much more luxurious and comfortable lives? So we decided to invite some friends to share a dinner together as an opportunity to begin this work. We requested that everyone bring a donation of about $20 for the NYE Indiegogo campaign, and we prepared a magnificent several course dinner themed around all the delicious vegetables and fruits available in fall and winter.

While all the food turned out well, and we did succeed in raising some money for the campaign, I think we both felt that this dinner was simply a small first step on this journey. As much as we approached the night with anticipation and desire - I personally spent the preceding 12 hours cleaning my apartment and cooking, and felt full of energy and excitement - the reality is that whenever we try to begin again, we must face our weaknesses and poor habits. In this case, we felt a lack of unity or focus to the evening, as though the question was still lingering in the air, “Why are we here? How is this night different from other nights? Are we still just aimlessly ‘hanging out’?” But looking at this more closely, we realized a few things. First, friendship is something that grows over time, and can’t be immediately imposed, no matter how big our desire is. It is ultimately out of our hands. This is especially the case when, as in this case, we invite some people who are unfamiliar with the Movement. And second, because we were the ones proposing this event, we perhaps need to take a more concrete initiative in the future to begin the educational process, in order to remind everyone else as well as ourselves why we have come together - perhaps by including a beautiful moment in the evening that could be shared by everyone, such as a witness or a musical performance.

Since this dinner, which happened a week ago, we have already heard from some friends who would like to have another one soon. So we are excited to take the next step together, and continue asking these questions. And we even thought of recommending that other communities of young workers around the country who are interested could so the same. While I based my reflections on the example of NYC and its contemporary cultural landscape, I think that many of the experiences we have here share commonalities with those of our friends in other cities and states, and Caitlin and I would love to do this work together with you as we prepare for this year’s New York Encounter.