Disaster Creating Communion

Light of truth

The flood in August of this year was the second that devastated my home. Flood waters inundated, bringing along with it stench of putrefied carcasses and decayed debris. When my home got submerged in 1961 by overflowing Periyar, I knew how to swim and to row a boat or a raft. I collapsed in the makeshift raft, I was negotiating through the flood waters, terrified by the scary cry of street dogs and domestic animals. Maybe because I was too young an adolescent, valour and the spirit of adventure failed to enthuse me then. But the grit and determination of our undaunted elders came to our rescue. They evacuated us from our village to safety. That deluge taught me a simple lesson about communism, that it is in its essence existential, not political. It is a phenomenon that needs to be considered not for its political or economical value but for its existential value. In 2018 we lived in a world divided by self-centred individualism, which raised fences that separated families, and also by fundamentalism inspired communalism, which raised fences that separated communities. All the barriers that divide us crumpled under the force of the water that poured down day and night. After all, a small variation in the order of nature can snowball into a great tragedy in no time.

It is tragedy that brings out the best in us. Troubles and suffering enrich human experience and make men stronger. Man is the master of his own fate, and he can extricate himself from doubt, fear and agony by his own exertions. So, instead of bewailing his unhappy lot, man stands fearless before the totality of the threat posed by an unbearable calamity. The God of future makes man conscious of his identity, he finds the call of future to an exodus of enduring suffering, deconstructing his self to man’s unity with life of every one, shattering the walls of individualism. It is death that threatens him to unite with everyone. Abraham was called to live a life of faith that would fill the gap between verses 2 and 3 of Genesis 22. He had to travel that gap of life that was both too long and too short. To cross over that ‘void’ of the night — we might even say: the dark night of the soul — that passes between God’s sacrificial command and Abraham’s departure with Isaac early the next morning for Moriah. He wanted to perform the sacrifice altogether in the right way and had a correct sense in general of the whole affair: “…but could not believe that he was the one meant, he, an ugly old man, and the dirty youngster that was his child. True faith is not lacking to him, he has this faith; he would make the sacrifice in the right spirit if only he could believe he was the one meant.”

It is easy to be the saviour of a people – a people that is well acquainted with death. The question is the call and the consciousness. Man travels to the excess in such situations of tragedy; that excess is the communion which is holy. People live in eternality, temporarily forgetting others and always deserting others. The community becomes fragmentary when individuals are self-centred and pragmatic, which is not composed but decomposed. In other words, the community is not in itself art and adventurer, the community of the excess. Real community of art and adventure exists without any head or leader. It does not dissolve its members into a single unity. Adventurous community-in-excess is set towards the outside, open to the future. The community that is linked to a certain kind of adventurous and salvific always says: “Come, come you for whom the injunction, the prayer, the expectation is not appropriate. Nobody will say — because I don’t have the strength, for example, I don’t have the courage to live consuming my life from day-to-day.” The existential communist, who combines in himself all the elements, affirms the whole of life. The attitude of a communitarian man brims over with a vitality that triumphs over pessimism. A faith that does negate pain and misery and is therefore the highest of all possible faiths. Such faith in life celebrates the power and joy of life. Tragic situations prepare the way for great changes in our approach towards art of communion, which is the communion of the holy on earth. I witnessed this strongest instinct, the will to overcome, in men and women. I saw them quivering with the fierce violence of this instinct of hope and love. It is faith in life, which is within, and not a private feeling of “mine and thine,” that asserts with most profound significance and reaches its highest manifestation of human communion.

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