1. We want to be at home, and we want to be free. We want to fit into something larger than ourselves, something real and meaningful and permanent; and we want to control our destiny, to create something meaningful and to express our unique personality. We want to be a part, and we want to be a whole.

1.a. We are parts, and we are wholes. This statement must not be a simple contradiction, because we human beings, aware of being parts and wholes - we are real and we exist. This apparent contradiction certainly names a tension, a problem that lies at the heart of our humanity, and therefore (I would say), at the heart of reality itself, at least as far as we humans can know.

2. Moreover, our desires for home and for freedom, since both lie at the heart of our humanity, cannot be completely extricated from each other.
(The longing for freedom, or the desire to realize oneself as an autonomous whole, is another way of saying the desire to be divine and thus to belong to or be identified with what is real, with what is beyond human construction and human domination. Let us say that in its most radical form the longing for freedom is the blasphemous longing to be God, which is perhaps the nearest and furthest desire from the pious longing to be with God. But even the greatest possible impiety of longing to be God, the self-sufficient source of all reality, cannot avoid a Divine longing for a world to love and be loved by. Even the freedom of divine wholeness cannot be disentangled, as far as we can know, from the longing to be a part.)

3. But some few are more articulate, imaginative, intense than most in their desire for home/freedom: thinkers, poets, founders/statesmen (i.e., ambitious, movers & shakers).

3.a. This decisive fact of human inequality constitutes the political dimension of reality. It complicates everything: “home” is in some measure a human (historical) construction; some play a bigger role in this than others. Thinkers, poets, founders build our homes — and destroy them or undermine them. But where do they live?

4. In the ordering of human existence with respect to home and freedom, everything depends on the relation between the ordinary desire for home and for freedom, and the extraordinary longings and productions of thinkers, poets, founders. For these are inextricably connected. The ordinary is certainly conditioned by the extraordinary: those who would be happy just to be left alone will not be, and if they are, this can only be because of some arrangement of the affairs of the extraordinary, “ambition counteracting ambition,” or whatever. Less obvious to the extraordinary, they also depend upon the ordinary: the meaning of their thinking, the possibilities of imagination and of founding – these may soar far above the common, but they are launched from the common earth and never leave its orbit. The creator of every new possibility begins helpless, in some womb and some home.

Articles by Ralph Hancock


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