Living Together

How are we to live together? Today we do have the challenge to work for peace amidst conflicts and violence. Intolerance of the other is on the increase. Humanity has become a victim as well as a perpetrator of new forms of violence and barbarity. We are clinging to narcissistic sameness and try to eliminate every trace of otherness. Living together has become impossible. But we have no choice but to live together. We have difference(s) that take us to dead ends and often some have embraced violence as the only way forward. Hence, humanity has the real challenge of learning to live together with irreconcilable differences. We have the imperative to engage these difference inventively.

We have the challenge to address them in new ways even in unheard ways, ways that are considered impossible through the widow of the familiar and foreseeable horizon. The embrace of the irreconcilable difference does take on an insecure and dangerous path. This path prepares the way for the arrival of other whose alterity can be welcome only if time, patience and respect for complexity are given importance. The uncertainties and foreseeability of the condition offer us opportunities for inventive engagements that can only be lived through trial by error for better or for worse. We have to cultivate patience but the wisdom of patience should not be allowed to defer justice to a tomorrow. Therefore, to live together, we have to almost do the impossible. This doing the impossible remains open. It has no promise of any return. It takes us to say our yes to the other and let the other the freedom to respond with his/ her yes.

Living in this open territory leaves the future to the future. Therefore, we have to be armed with the ability to forgive. Real forgiveness is forgiving the unforgivable. This means forgiveness leads us to do the impossible. Thus forgiveness brings the event of the impossible. Besides forgiving, we also have the challenge of living the virtue of giving. Forgiving is already giving but there is more to give. Like forgiveness, giving takes us out of the economic exchange. We do not give to receive. We have to give not to receive and have to do so without any hope of return. We live by the economy of excess taught by George Bataille when we give selflessly. This means to do the impossible one must give beyond the calculation or condition. It is only through this attitude of giving that we are enabled to embrace and say yes to the other that arrives without granting us foreseeable anticipations, determinations and identifications.

Giving enables us to enact the welcome as an offering of hospitality. Therefore to do the impossible in the face of the impossible is to open, to welcome, to bless, to save, to give, to respond, and to take responsibility …. the list can go on endlessly. It is by performing all of the above and more without hoping for any return that we give the gift of hospitality to the other whose coming is unforeseen and remains unknown. Such hospitality is not conditional and cannot be inscribed in any pact/ agreement/ law/ right. Hospitality, therefore, is a grace and a gift that we offer to the other(s). Hence, we have to be willing to cross the limits, exceed the bounds, cross the thresholds and welcome the other who is coming, no matter who or what without asking for reciprocity.

This absolute hospitality is transgressive and cannot be fully understood with reason. There is the madness of hospitality in this call to do the impossible. The other that is coming is calling us to enact the madness of hospitality. It is hospitality that remains impossible and is drawn to embrace the unexpected and unexpectable who catches us off guard, unprepared and even unavailable. Every time that we respond to the call to enact this selfless welcoming hospitality, the impossible takes place. This means we welcome the unwelcome and do the impossible just like we do it when we forgive the unforgivable. Thus, living together requires doing the impossible. The disruptive arrival of the other is also an event of life and hence by welcoming it we enable it to give life to our living. By Affirming the unwelcomeable other, we are enabled to live our yes to life.

This yes reaffirms life and repeats the gift of life. Doing so keeps life alive. We need to say yes to life so that life can live on. This means doing the impossible, we live for life. We take the side of life. There is no other side to life. Derrida rightly says, life has ‘ a unique side without another side, and this would be life itself . . . this unique side, this unilaterality is of life for life, life itself, life promised to life ’. There is only one side to life for life. Death is a nonside and has no side. We are led to think beyond the binary of life and death. They are not two sides siding against each other. Thus, living for life takes us beyond the binary of plenitude and lack (life/death/ lack of life).

It takes us beyond our habitual either /or thinking. This thinking allows us to think of death on the side of life. Life and death, therefore, are on the same side. Hence, death also has to be thought of as a way for life. Therefore, the possible and the impossible reside on the side of life. Our commitment to life leads us to live together to live unto death. This living together also includes living with others that are living or dead. We live together with the dead for life/ on the side of life. Death is for life. We live our death and become no more. But dead is not the end of the road. There is more life to come. This life after death takes us to the absolute horizon. Like death, it is completely other. It takes to a point that no eye has seen and no ear has seen. Let us live and die for life. This will enable us to live together.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao