Traces N. 2, February 2019

Resuming the Dialogue

Do we truly believe that the other is “a good for me”? Do we actually recognize this in our daily experience? When we say it again here, repeating a line that our readers have seen often in this magazine, we do not do so in order to articulate sociological theories or to urge readers to a moral effort, a misunderstood “let’s love each other.” We do so to help each other look at our experience and judge whether it is true or not that unless I compare ideas with others, I will never be able to grow, to gain awareness of who I am, and put to the test what I think. Without you, I would not be myself. Is this true or not? Mark you, this does not just concern those “far away.” The other is anyone, even someone close, maybe in tune with my ideas, maybe part of my personal story for years–a friend, a child, a husband or wife–but in any case irreducibly other than me. Those people have the same basic features as those I come upon for the first time: they are not made in my image and likeness as I would like or as I have in mind. They are given to me.

For this reason, it is essential to resume dialogue. This is certainly the case in a world in which erecting fences between people and nations has become a common shortcut for escaping from many fears. But it is even more so if we look at our day in, day out existence, at our lives. As always, the best way to understand this is to look, to go and see where this strange “relationship with the ‘other,’ whoever and however he or she may be,” essential “for my existence to develop, for my vigor and life,” as Fr. Giussani said, buds and blossoms. Go and see, because dialogue is a real relationship, not an idea; it is an experience, not a theory, and it happens where you least expect it.

On December 26, in the historic library of Alexandria, Egypt, the thousand-year-old heart of Islamic culture, dialogue as a real relationship happened at the presentation of the Arabic translation of Disarming Beauty, a book by Julián Carrón, the leader of CL. The event was perhaps little noted because of the Christmas holidays, but it is worthwhile to draw attention to it now, not only because of the event itself (which was impressive: that a book on the Christian proposal written by a Catholic priest should find a wide-open door in the Muslim world is not at all something to be taken for granted), but because of the method it indicates: dialogue, an encounter among people, a friendship that enables reason to broaden and opens spaces of freedom and reciprocal enrichment in places where this might seem impossible.

The wager is that what happened there, as in the other stories recounted in this issue of Traces, will help us come to grips with the reality around us, enabling us to glimpse a possible road right where we are, in our relationships with all the others who populate our life, because we need this more than ever.