Servant of God Fr. Luigi Giussani once said, the lucidity of genius is always incomparable. And if we want to understand who the man is in the least, it is always to genius that we must look.
T.S. Eliot was one genius.
“We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay can be the premise of the victory of those who will come after us, even if that victory itself will be temporary; we fight more to keep something alive than in the expectation of triumph.”
Eliot wrote those words in his 1926 essay Frances Herbert Bradley (later collected in Selected Essays, 1917–1932; an anthology that changed the face of literary criticism. While the American poet/playwright and naturalized British citizen carried on his shoulders the burden of an entire tradition, the genius Eliot could not have imagined how prophetic those words would be.
But we didn’t lose.
We at iFamNews, we pro-lifers, we lovers of life and family, of beauty and reality… did not lose. San Marino and Switzerland lost. The world lost. San Marino, Switzerland and the world have lost lives and beauty; reality and truth.
Today the world is an uglier place, less real, less true. It is a world where more murders can be committed legally, where hitmen reign, where the “[…] error of the human mind” dictates the law and where the “[…] contradiction with all the cultures of humanity that have succeeded each other until today” is rampant.
We’re sad but yes, we expected this. We have written about it several times on these virtual pages. The world is adrift. And so, murder can be legalized in different forms, hitmen can roam free, mind tricks rule, and contradiction to all human cultures is the “new normal.” The parameters of human coexistence have been completely overturned and aberrant criteria have been introduced. That’s why we expected to lose. The news, in fact, is not that we lost in San Marino and Switzerland: it would have been news if we had won. It’s not cynicism. It’s realism. San Marino and Switzerland will repeat themselves, as they are already repeating themselves daily in many corners of the world; incessantly, until something changes. And what needs to change will not magically change on the eve of yet another referendum.
What is needed is a radical and profound change of an anthropological nature. And to achieve it requires a lot of time, energy and–above all–desire.
The fact that this has gone so, so badly in San Marino and Switzerland is my fault. It is our fault. We haven’t done enough.
But now is not the time to throw in the towel. We learn from our mistakes, commit to starting anew, and do better moving forward. No more San Marinos. No more Switzerlands. The genius, the pinnacle of humanity, always tells us why. The beautiful quotation from Eliot with which I began above is in fact only the hermeneutic; the consequence and the development of an earlier aphorism which reads, “If we consider a cause in all its widest and wisest dimension, then there is no Lost Cause because there is no Won Cause at all.”
Never quiet, never at rest, never retired, Eliot tells us. Nothing is taken for granted and you never stop. There are no cases forever won, simply because, on this side of Eternity, there are no cases forever lost. It is not Manichean gnosis, it is not Georg W.F. Hegel, it is not dialectics as an end in itself: it is the realism of the earth. We are fighting and will always fight until our last breath because this is the story we are in.
The time of rest and of victorious causes will come, for already the one and already the other exist. But that time is not now, it is not for us now.
For us at this moment, our task and destiny is the battle. The battle to wrest a little victory from the much defeat that hangs over us and to take away a little defeat with a lot of victory.
Victory will surely come. We will not see it, but it is certain if we–even blindfolded–do our part now anyway. No one promised us roses and flowers, and the world holds only thorns. We gather them with sweetness in our hands, we tighten our fist, our fingers bleed and we offer them, smiling with pain. So that tomorrow our children can breathe a cleaner air, stroke greener grass, admire a bluer sky. That’s when our children will remember, and we, the fathers, will have won.
Now, get to work.