The Civic Space and Politics in an Epochal Crisis

Opusculum 157 | 09.09.2021 | A View from Italy

(1) Introduction

In the days of the pandemic, an unpublished poem by Mario Luzi was discovered:

Third Millenium, your door is still closed
is there a word for passing through?
a password of sovereign surety?
There is, you don’t know who gives it
nor even who adjudicates. But there is.
The human mind, heavy and dissatisfied,
desires it, the dura against itself:
Breaking through frivolity and vanity to knowledge
Carrying to safety the essential work
of beauty and knowledge, lightening the load
of conceited fatuity….
From this purgatorial burning
Will be released Man, I hope, naked, reaching out,
To better: to constructive effort,
to peace, to fraternity.

The timely coincidence of its discovery and the metaphors used may let it resonate in us, thinking about what is to come, what is the post -pandemic, without forgetting what it was, and again what, at the moment of writing it is. We are all aware that we are experiencing an epochal crisis, dramatic for the number of deaths, for the gravely ill suffering with Covid, and for the serious social and economic consequences. We know the data well, maybe less the meaning of it all; above all perhaps because we are still immersed in it. Therefore the search for meaning – as well as the remote environmental and social causes of the pandemic – escapes us.

Luzi, with a fascinating profundity, suggests:
Your door is still closed,
is there a word for passing through?
a password of sovereign surety?

So let us look for a word, a logos, a meaning to help us to bear the burden of the moment on a personal and social level, while at the same time we cannot forget the political choices (“sovereign surety” Luzi would say) that define daily life and the meaning of what we live, and that contribute to finding and creating the “word” which drives the crisis and becomes the helm of the “boat” that carries us all; a much-used metaphor. Pope Francis says:Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realised that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.