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Manuel Casado Velarde, researcher principal of the project 'Public discourse' del Institute for Culture and Society

(Re)discovering the poetry of every day'.

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 13:08:00 +0000 Published in Our Time and

Who doesn't want to be happy? Experience tells us, however, that not everyone does. We see every day, in our own lives and in the lives of others, distresses and tears, existences lacking in harmony. An intimate discordance between, on the one hand, the unlimited plenitude to which we tend, the yearning for the absolute, for transcendent and lasting fulfillment; and, on the other hand, the shabby reality of daily life, sown with anxiety, prosaic tasks, misery, frustration. Quevedo wrote: "Everything in everyday life is much and ugly". Poetry and prose at loggerheads. As if in our life there were two selves: the adventurer of the absolute, of plenitude, of heaven; and the cynical and crawling one, doomed to root for whatever enjoyment the earth has to offer. Anyway, since we have fallen into the mousetrap, let's eat the cheese, as Luis Landero would say. 

Any way out of this dilemma? There are plenty of escapes and false starts. We see them every day: there are those who absolutize money ("there is no idol that demeans the human being more than money," writes Zeldin), health, pleasure, beauty, success. And he burns incense incessantly on the altar of his idol. Because an absolute yes to something is fed by many noes to everything else, be it family, bonds of friendship, one's own conscience or even God himself. But reality always ends up punishing the fugitive.

Our idols are a good thermometer of our scale of values. Who do we idolize the most? Maybe the one who scores the most goals, earns the most money, sells the most music, gets the most screen share, gets the most media coverage... The one who the market raises the most, and then, sometimes suddenly, leaves in free fall.

If at other times in history the dominant culture offered a firm instructions on which to build one's own life and social coexistence, today this is emphatically not the case. As Adam Zagajewski has written, we live "in a world torn apart, in a world where basic vital values are in tatters"; where it is not easy to find a minimum of plausible points of reference to share.

It is astonishing and refreshing to read today confessions like that of Christian Bobin: "What I love in a person is not his beauty or his strength or his wit; it is the intelligence of the bond he has been able to knot with life". Perhaps we should give more value to those who manage to combine the prose and the poetry of life; the outdated and the transcendent; even if these people are not shining stars, because, as Thoreau noted, "the hero is usually the simplest and most obscure of men".

I like to recall that the way to this achievement, that is, to marry earth and heaven, was already open two thousand years ago, when God the Son became flesh, like any of us, in the womb of a little girl from a lost village in Palestine. If we really knew what we were saying when we confessed to believe that God became man, there would be a radical change in our lives, like Saul of Tarsus. Since then, in the first century of our era, from the moment of the Incarnation, the path has been open for the flesh and the spirit to live in harmony. Always, of course, with the harmony attainable "in this valley of tears".

There is no longer anything fully human that cannot be amassed with the divine. The most prosaic has ceased to be at odds with the most sublime. St. Paul left it written: "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. It is an idea that fascinated Josemaría Escrivá, who proclaimed that "the divine ways of the earth" had been opened. I had the good fortune to be at campus at the University of Navarre on October 8, 1967, fifty years ago. Perhaps I was not fully aware of the relevance of what that priest was saying. But the echo of those words has not faded in my ears: "When a Christian carries out the most insignificant of daily actions with love, it is overflowing with the transcendence of God. That is why I have repeated to you, with a repeated hammering, that the Christian vocation consists in making hendecasyllables of the prose of each day. On the horizon line, my children, heaven and earth seem to meet. But no, where they really come together is in your hearts, when you live your ordinary life in holiness...".

If the mythical King Midas turned everything he touched into gold, the Christian treasures the unprecedented School to decorate with a bath of light everything that comes out of his hands.