No World for Love

All I want to insist on at the moment is that the fact that Jesus was without sin doesn’t mean that he was cold and inhuman, but rather just the opposite. It means that he was liberated, free and spontaneous, really able to love and, as I say, not afraid of others, not afraid of being with others at their mercy.

Any man like this is, of course, at risk. He is going to be first exploited and then destroyed. This is the fact of life recognized by all those ordinary people I was talking about who take the crucifixion for granted. This is no world for love. There is a twist or a contradiction in our human life that means we build a world unfit for humans. The only way to get by in it is to restrict your humanity rather carefully, otherwise you will get hurt. The world is not totally unfit for human habitation, but it can take just so much of it. You have to ration your love, keep a wary eye out for enemies if you want to survive. Now Jesus did not ration his love, so naturally he didn’t last. (96-97)

Herbert McCabe | God Still Matters


Frustrating Affluence

Modernized poverty appears when the intensity of market dependence reaches a certain threshold. Subjectively, it is the experience of frustrating affluence that occurs in persons mutilated by their reliance on the riches of industrial productivity. It deprives those affected by it of their freedom and power to act autonomously, to live creatively; it confines them to survival through being plugged into market relations. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is with difficulty expressed. For example, we are the witnesses of a barely perceptible transformation in ordinary language: verbs which formerly expressed satisfying actions have been replaced by nouns which name packages designed for passive consumption only — ‘to learn’ becomes ‘to accumulate credits’. A profound change in individual and social self-images is here reflected. And the layman is not the only one who has difficulty in accurately expressing what he experiences. The professional economist is unable to recognize the poverty that his conventional instruments fail to uncover. Nevertheless, the new mutant of impoverishment continues to spread. The peculiarly modern inability to use personal endowments, community wealth, and environmental resources in an autonomous way infects every aspect of life where a professionally engineered commodity has succeeded in replacing a culturally shaped use-value. The opportunity to experience personal and social satisfaction outside the market is thus destroyed. I am poor, for example, when the use-value of my feet is lost because I live in Los Angeles or work on the thirty-fifth floor of a sky-scraper. (8-9)

Ivan Illich | The Right to Useful Unemployment

Beyond Imitation

In psychological terms, to put on the mind of Christ means relinquishing imaginative stereotypes and projections into the silence, and receiving back a transfigured (in the literary as well as the psychological and theological senses) perspective, so that we are freed from the trap of our own circular thinking; while “imitation” means pursuing a life based on our own imaginative stereotypes and projections, impressions that are easily formed and controlled by a hierarchy.

In other words, imitation does not allow us to break out of the circular squirrel cage of our own constructs and prejudices. However piously and devoutly meant, imitation becomes a kind of religious performance art, regressively reductive with the passage of time. Imitation breeds dependence and fear. By contrast, the mind of Christ results in a healthy autonomy and an inviolable integrity for the sake of the community. This is not to say that these two points of view or mutually exclusive: it is possible for the failure of imitation to point the way to the work of silence. The implications of these observations for today’s celebrity and consumer “spirituality” are only too obvious. (4)

Maggie Ross | Silence: A User’s Guide, Vol. 1


Indeed, since the act of faith is said to be threefold, namely, to believe in God, to believe God, and to believe unto God, he mentions this act, namely to believe God, which is the proper act of faith and indicates its nature. For to believe unto God shows the ordering of faith to its end, which is through charity; for to believe unto God is to go to God by believing, which charity does. Consequently, it follows upon the nature of faith.

But to believe in God indicates the matter of faith taken as a theological virtue, having God for its object. Consequently, this act does not yet attain the nature of faith, because if one believes in God in virtue of certain human reasons and natural sings, he is not yet said to have the faith of which we now speak, but only when he believes something for the reason that it was said by God — which is indicated by the phrase ‘to believe God.’ It is from this that faith takes its nature, just as any cognitive habit takes its nature from the reason in virtue of which it assents to something. (111)

Thomas Aquinas | Commentary on Romans

Divine Justice

In regard to the first the Apostle intends to argue in the following manner: if Abraham were justified from works of the law, he would have no glofy with God; therefore, he was not justified from works.

Hence, he presents the conditional statement, saying: it has been asked what Abraham found in virtue of bodily circumcision, and it is obvious that he did not find himself justified from the works of the law, such that his justice consisted in the works of the law; he has glory, namely, before men, who see the outward works, but not before God, who sees in secret…..

Against this one might object that becoming accustomed to outward works generates an inward habit, according to which a man’s heart is also well disposed and so made ready to perform well and take pleasure in good works, as the Philosopher teaches in Ethics II.

The answer is that this takes place in human justice, through which man is ordained to the human good. For the habit of this justice can be acquired through human works, but the justice which obtains glory before God is ordained to the divine good, namely future glory, which exceeds human ability….

Consequently, a man’s works are not proportioned to causing the habit of this justice; rather, a man’s heart needs first to be justified inwardly by God, so that he can perform works proportioned to divine glory. (110-111)

Thomas Aquinas | Commentary on Romans



Claustrophobia, at its most extreme, is not caused by overcrowding, but by the lack of any continuity existing between one action and the next that is close enough to be touching it. It is this that is hell.

The culture in which we live is perhaps the most claustrophobic that has ever existed; in the culture of globalisation, as in Bosch’s hell, there is no glimpse of elsewhere or otherwise. The given is a prison. And faced with such reductionism, human intelligence is reduced to greed.


What the painting by Bosch does is to remind us — if prophecies can be called reminders — that the first step towards building an alternative world has to be a refusal of the world-picture implanted in our minds and all the false promises used everywhere to justify and idealise the delinquent and insatiable need to sell. Another space is vitally necessary.

First, an horizon has to be discovered. And for this we have to refind hope — against all odds of what the new order pretends and perpetrates.

Hope, however, is an act of faith and has to be sustained by other concrete actions. For example, the action of approach, of measuring distances and walking towards. This will lead to collaborations which deny discontinuity. The act of resistance means not only refusing to accept the absurdity of the world-picture offered us, but denouncing it. And when hell is denounced from within, it ceases to be hell. (39)

John Berger | Portraits: John Berger on Artists

Existence & Consciousness in Marx

If all this is disputed, one has but to examine closely the Marxist formula: social existence determines consciousness. There are more contradictions in it than words. Seeing that what is “social” can have an existence only in human minds, “social existence” is itself already consciousness; it cannot in addition determine a consciousness which would in any case remain to be defined. To posit in this way a “social existence” as a special determining factor, divorced from our consciousness, hidden no-one knows where, is to make a hypostasis of it; and it constitutes, furthermore, a beautiful example of Marx’s tendency towards dualism. But if one wants to consider this enigmatic “existence” as an element of the relationship between men, which depends on certain institutions, such as money, one will clearly perceive at once that this element operates only as a result of conscious acts performed by individuals, and consequently, far from determining consciousness, is dependent on it. Moreover, if Marx, as opposed to all thinkers who preceded him, considers it necessary to set on one side a particular form of existence, which he calls “social”, it means that he tacitly places it in opposition to the rest of existence, that is to say nature. (133-134)

Simone Weil | Oppression and Liberty

On Struggle

As long as there is social hierarchy, be that hierarchy what it may, those below will have to struggle, and will struggle, in order not to lose all the rights of a human being. On the other hand, the resistance of those on top to the forces surging up from below, although it naturally invites less sympathy, is founded, at any rate, on concrete motives. In the first place, except in the case of a quite unusual generosity, the privileged necessarily prefer to keep their material and moral privileges in tact. And, more especially, those invested with the functions of command have a mission to preserve that order which is indispensable to any social life, and the only possible order in their eyes is the established order. Up to a certain point they are right, for until a new order is in fact set up, no one can affirm that it will be possible; that is precisely why any social progress — great or small — is only possible if the pressure from below is strong enough to actually impose new conditions on social relationships. Thus, between the pressure from below and the resistance from above an unstable balance is continually being established, and it is this which defines at each moment the structure of a given society. (128-129)

Simone Weil | Oppression and Liberty