Archivio mensile:settembre 2016

Video: This is water di David Foster Wallace

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education — least in my own case — is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Approfondimento: il tempo delle illusioni (il giovane favoloso)

dato che l’andamento e le usanze e gli avvenimenti e i luoghi di questa mia vita sono ancora infantili, io tengo afferrati con ambe le mani questi ultimi avanzi e queste ombre di quel benedetto e beato tempo, dov’io sperava e sognava la felicità, e sperando e sognando la godeva, ed è passato né tornerà mai più, certo mai più; vedendo con eccessivo terrore che insieme colla fanciullezza è finito il mondo e la vita per me e per tutti quelli che pensano e sentono; sicché non vivono fino alla morte se non quei molti che restano fanciulli tutta la vita
Lettera a Pietro Giordani novembre 1819

Quando novellamente
Nasce nel cor profondo
Un amoroso affetto,
Languido e stanco insiem con esso in petto
Un desiderio di morir si sente:
Come, non so: ma tale
D’amor vero e possente è il primo effetto.
Forse gli occhi spaura
Allor questo deserto
Amore e morte (vv.27-35)

Approfondimento: Leopardi, l’infinito e la teoria del piacere


Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle,
E questa siepe, che da tanta parte
Dell’ultimo orizzonte il guardo esclude.
Ma sedendo e mirando, interminati
Spazi di là da quella, e sovrumani 5
Silenzi, e profondissima quiete
Io nel pensier mi fingo; ove per poco
Il cor non si spaura. E come il vento
Odo stormir tra queste piante, io quello
Infinito silenzio a questa voce 10
Vo comparando: e mi sovvien l’eterno,
E le morte stagioni, e la presente
E viva, e il suon di lei. Così tra questa
Immensità s’annega il pensier mio:
E il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare. 15

La teoria del piacere
Nelle pagine 165-183 dello Zibaldone scritte tra il 12 e il 23 luglio del 1820 Leopardi presenta quella che chiama la “teoria del piacere”.
L’uomo desidera il piacere, ossia la felicità. Questo desiderio è infinito perché è congenito alla vita e termina con lei. Nessun piacere terreno ha però carattere infinito, tutte le cose terrene sono limitate in durata ed estensione. L’uomo desidera un piacere illimitato senza potere raggiungerlo mai.

[165] Il sentimento della nullità di tutte le cose, la in-
sufficienza di tutti i piaceri a riempierci l’animo, e la ten-
denza nostra verso un infinito che non comprendiamo,
forse proviene da una cagione semplicissima, e più mate-
riale che spirituale. L’anima umana (e così tutti gli esseri
viventi) desidera sempre essenzialmente, e mira unica-
mente, benchè sotto mille aspetti, al piacere, ossia alla
felicità, che considerandola bene, è tutt’uno col piacere.
Questo desiderio e questa tendenza non ha limiti, perché è
ingenita o congenita coll’esistenza, e perciò non può aver
fine in questo o quel piacere che non può essere infinito,
ma solamente termina colla vita. E non ha limiti 1. nè per
durata, 2. nè per estensione. Quindi non ci può essere
nessun piacere che uguagli 1. nè la sua durata, perchè
nessun piacere è eterno, 2. nè la sua estensione, perchè
nessun piacere è immenso, ma la natura delle cose porta
che tutto esista limitatamente e tutto abbia confini, e sia
circoscritto. (…) Se tu desideri un cavallo, ti pare di desiderarlo come cavallo,
e come
un tal piacere, ma in fatti lo desideri come piacere astratto e
illimitato. Quando giungi a possedere il cavallo,[166]trovi
un piacere necessariamente circoscritto, e senti un vuoto
nell’anima, perchè quel desiderio che tu avevi effettiva-
mente, non resta pago. (…) E perciò tutti i piaceri debbono esser misti
di dispiacere, come proviamo, perchè l’anima nell’otte-
nerli cerca avidamente quello che non può trovare, cioè
una infinità di piacere, ossia la soddisfazione di un desi-
derio illimitato.(Zib. 165-166)

Leopardi osserva che nell’uomo esiste una facoltà di immaginazione capace di immaginare piaceri infiniti perciò grazie a essa il piacere infinito che non si trova nella realtà si trova nell’immaginazione, che produce speranza e illusioni. Questa facoltà opera nel poeta che crea poesie con parole e immagini indefinite e opera nel lettore che prova piacere in queste immagini e parole.

“Veniamo alla inclinazione dell’uomo all’infinito. Indipendentemente dal desiderio del piacere, esiste nell’uomo una facoltà immaginativa, la quale può concepire le cose che non sono, e in un modo in cui le cose reali non sono. Considerando la tendenza innata dell’uomo al piacere, è naturale che la facoltà immaginativa faccia una delle sue principali occupazioni della immaginazione del piacere. E stante la detta proprietà di questa forza immaginativa, ella può figurarsi dei piaceri che non esistano, e figurarseli infiniti 1. in numero, 2. in durata, 3. e in estensione. Il piacere infinito che non si può trovare nella realtà, si trova così nella immaginazione, dalla quale derivano la speranza, le illusioni ec. Perciò non è maraviglia 1. che la speranza sia sempre maggior del bene, 2. che la felicità umana non possa consistere se non se nella immaginazione e nelle illusioni.” (Zib.167-168)

Eugenio Scalfari: Francesco, Obama e Leopardi


OBAMA ha sottolineato l’innalzamento di muri che chiudono il varco al movimento mentre a suo giudizio bisognerebbe costruire ponti che consentano la comunicazione tra diversi interessi e diverse civiltà.

Francesco ha incitato alla fratellanza delle Religioni condannando il fondamentalismo ed ha per l’ennesima volta ricordato che c’è un Dio unico anche se diverse sono le Scritture, le dottrine e la storia che ne deriva. Il Dio è unico ed unico è dunque il punto di arrivo dei credenti, ma non solo: la grazia di quel Dio tocca tutte le anime, credenti e non credenti che siano, purché la loro scelta di vita sia il bene degli altri oltre che legittimamente anche il proprio. Ama il tuo prossimo come te stesso: questa massima cristiana, se praticata, unifica credenti e non credenti, afferma con altre parole la necessità dei ponti da costruire auspicati da Obama, per superare gli abusi e i soprusi mobilitando tutti gli uomini e le donne di buona volontà a battersi per la pace e per l’amore contro la guerra e il potere.

Alcune citazioni sono necessarie per esser certi che l’interpretazione dei due interventi sia corretta. Cominciamo dal presidente Obama: « Troppi governi reprimono il dissenso con la violenza. Reti terroristiche mettono in pericolo società aperte e alimentano la rabbia nei confronti di immigrati innocenti. Questi stati d’animo caratterizzano purtroppo il mondo di oggi. Visioni alternative prendono piede in Paesi ricchi come in quelli più poveri. Non credo che sul lungo periodo queste idee possano generare ricchezza e benessere. La risposta non può essere quella di circondarsi di muri e di respingere l’integrazione globale ma anzi far sì che quella integrazione sia la più condivisa possibile. Non credo che in Usa e in Europa il nostro progresso sia possibile se il nostro desiderio di tutelare le identità darà il via alla disunità e agli istinti di dominare sugli altri gruppi. Il mondo è troppo piccolo e noi troppo connessi perché si possa tornare a mentalità di così vecchio stampo.

Gli imperi, dei quali noi siamo stati l’ultimo, sono ormai scomparsi. Ora dobbiamo sostenere tutti insieme l’impegno alla cooperazione internazionale. Io credo che tutti noi, e le Nazioni Unite qui convocate, dobbiamo rispecchiare questa inviolabile verità » .
Ed ora due parole di papa Francesco al raduno delle Religioni al convento di Assisi del cui Santo porta il nome. Ho l’onore d’essere amico di Sua Santità e un giorno gli chiesi perché avesse scelto quel nome che nessuno dei suoi predecessori ha mai adottato. In fondo poteva scegliere il nome di Ignazio, che fondò l’Ordine dei Gesuiti dal quale papa Bergoglio proviene: anch’esso non era mai stato usato. « Vede — mi disse — Ignazio qualche volta ebbe dei momenti di misticismo, furono intensi ma rari. Francesco invece fu un mistico permanente, anche quando faceva tante altre cose pratiche, ma parte del suo sé era sempre identificato col Signore. Io non sono mistico ma il misticismo mi affascina e perciò ho scelto quel nome » .

In realtà e a suo modo è un mistico anche lui. Un mistico moderno e infatti la sua opera è modernizzare la Chiesa, costruire ponti tra la preghiera e la società moderna. L’intento è quello di integrare le varie religioni in nome dell’unico Dio ma contemporaneamente integrare la verità assoluta con il relativismo della modernità. Il fine ultimo è la scelta tra la Misericordia e la pace contro la guerra e il potere. Ed ora citiamo alcuni punti essenziali del suo intervento ad Assisi: « Cari fratelli. Dio ci esorta ad affrontare insieme la grande malattia del nostro tempo: l’indifferenza. È un virus che paralizza, rende inerti e insensibili, un morbo che interessa il centro stesso della religiosità generando un nuovo tristissimo paganesimo: il paganesimo dell’indifferenza. Non possiamo restare indifferenti in un mondo che ha un’ardente sete di pace. In molti Paesi si soffre per guerre spesso dimenticate ma sempre causa di sofferenze e di povertà. Penso a famiglie che nella vita non hanno conosciuto altro che violenza, ad anziani costretti a lasciare le loro terre. Non vogliamo che queste tragedie cadano nell’oblio. Noi desideriamo dar voce a quanti soffrono, a quelli senza voce e senza ascolto. Essi sanno bene, spesso meglio dei potenti, che non c’è nessun domani nella guerra e che la violenza delle armi distrugge la gioia della vita.

Noi non abbiamo armi. Crediamo più nella forma mite ed umile della preghiera e perciò tutti insieme invochiamo Dio perché cessino guerre, terrorismo e violenza. Cerchiamo in Dio l’acqua limpida della pace di cui l’umanità è assetata. Essa non può scaturire dai deserti dell’orgoglio e degli interessi di parte, dalle terre avide del guadagno a tutti i costi e del commercio delle armi. Oggi non abbiamo pregato — noi di tutte le religioni — gli uni contro gli altri come purtroppo talvolta è avvenuto nella Storia. Ma tutti insieme per la pace dei corpi e delle anime. Noi qui, insieme e in pace, crediamo e speriamo in un mondo fraterno. Desideriamo che uomini e donne di religioni differenti, ovunque si riuniscano, creino concordia specie dove ci sono conflitti. Il nostro futuro è vivere insieme. Per questo siamo chiamati a liberarci dai pesanti fardelli della diffidenza, dei fondamentalismi e dell’odio.

Ci rivolgiamo anche a chi ha la responsabilità più alta nel servizio dei Popoli, ai leader delle Nazioni, perché non si stanchino di cercare e promuovere vie di pace, guardando al di là degli interessi di parte e del momento: non rimangano inascoltati l’appello di Dio alle coscienze il grido di pace dei poveri e le attese delle giovani generazioni. Oggi è veramente una giornata di preghiera, di penitenza, di pianto per la pace: è una giornata per sentire il grido del povero che ci apre il cuore alla misericordia, all’amore e ci salva dall’egoismo » .

Francesco e Obama hanno parlato alla coscienza del mondo. Ma noi tutti, Stati, politici, individui, abbiamo coscienza? O siamo ottusi dall’indifferenza e dall’egoismo? Questo è il problema che ogni giorno spunta e con il quale ci confrontiamo. Speranza nel futuro. Lo diceva Leopardi, anche se il suo pensiero lo rimosse per tutta la sua vita. Nei suoi Canti tuttavia speranza e malinconia si fusero insieme. Cerchiamo di comprendere e forse il mondo migliorerà.

” Entrambi i discorsi chiedono di lottare contro la violenza per far trionfare la pace, la libertà e l’uguaglianza”