More thoughts on our underlying shifting ground

Similar thoughts to the ones posted on Monday, this time from a Christian perspective, written by probably the most influential Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century. He uses the word “pessimism” to describe the underlying sense of groundlessness which we frequently feel. His ideas are remarkably similar to ones found in other traditions, such as posts I have already written based on the work of  Pema Chodron.

This perplexity in human existence is not merely a transitory stage that, with patience and creative imagination, might eventually be removed from human existence. It is a permanent existential of humanity in history and, although it keeps assuming new forms, it can never be wholly overcome in history……. Of course, we cannot say that human finitude and historicity alone explain the fact that history cannot follow its course without friction and without blind alleys. Nor can this Christian pessimism be justified merely by the fact that it is impossible fully to harmonize all human knowledge with its many disparate sources, or to build a fully harmonious praxis on the basis of such disparate knowledge. We might also mention that we can never fully understand the meaning of suffering and death. Yet in spite of all this, the Christian interpretation of human existence says that within history, it is never possible wholly and definitively to overcome the riddles of human existence and history, which we experience so clearly and so painfully…..

People are afraid of this pessimism. They do not accept it. They repress it. That is why it is the first task of Christian preaching to speak up for it.

Karl Rahner, “Christian Pessimism”, in Theological Investigations XXII

(Photo Credit: AP/Winslow Townson)

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