Traces N.7, July/August 1999

Judgement and Freedom

On vacation, we stop doing lots of things. We stop (almost always) working, we stop (almost always) feeling under stress, we stop (almost always) seeing the same faces and the same streets.
But there is one thing, wherever and however we take our vacation, that we don't stop doing. Luckily, we can't stop judging, that is, exercising that faculty which makes a person a person and allows him or her to be free.
It is true that one can decide to reduce this activity to a minimum. But the decision to send our reason-what the Bible also calls "heart"-with that range of evidence and basic needs that make it up, on vacation is in itself a judgment. It is like saying: for a little while let's stop being human, as though in this way one hopes to get a little peace. But above and beyond the question of intentions and the forms it takes, this opens the door to violence and barbarism. It is no coincidence that in all these months John Paul II has repeated that his appeal for peace in the Balkans was "dictated not only by faith, but even more by reason." In the same manner, one can "barbarously" kill time and pass one's days in a violent neglect of self, ultimately indifferent to everything and everybody, and thus incapable of encounter or of memory.

Sending our reason on vacation is equivalent to suspending our relationship with reality, giving up what makes a person a person: the capacity to realize what is going on. Less than this, and we blindly accept what others impose on us as true, beautiful, right, and good, by proposing it daily, day and night; in a word, we are alienated.
Vacation time is an occasion when the reduced constriction of our usual circumstances throws into light what really interests us, the method you adopt for looking at reality. In sum, how we judge things.
The theme that the Meeting in Rimini proposes this year thus resounds not only as the provocative slogan of a great event, but as a powerful suggestion: "The Unknown Generates Fear, Mystery Generates Wonder."
What do we see when we look at things? Aren't we all a little like those men in the Gospel about whom Jesus of Nazareth said they have eyes and don't see? And again, what judgment comes into play in the process of looking at things?

This is the exciting question: it never leaves the heart of a person who is alive. And so, as Father Giussani recalled in his address to the congress of bishops on the movements, it does not abandon the heart of the baptized, of the Christian. He or she, in every season of the year and of life, in front of every circumstance, "perceives eternity in hiding within every appearance."