who will be the final narrator of my life … ?

November 1, 2011

in Bioethics,Hospice & Palliative Medicine,Spirituality

… the Mystery … or I myself … ?

As Hutter explains, magnanimity – natural hope – protects us from despair because it “anticipates a final and meaningful integration of all my experiences in a worthy narrative … even if I will not be its final narrator.” Those who pursue physician assisted suicide/euthanasia (and their physicians) are determined to be their own ‘final narrator’.

“Besides the misplaced attempt at self-protection, cynicism, there is another form of refusing to surrender to the truth of the status viatoris: despair, that is, giving up each and every attempt at “having experiences,” that is, despairing at the arduous but necessary work of integrating and narrating experience. Despair is to give oneself up to “non-sense,” to the mere flux of experiencing in the first linguistic register.(*) Experiencing in the second and third linguistic register unavoidably involves work, disappointment, pain, unsettling insights (and potentially and most unsettling, surrendering to the truth, that is, conversion). The flight of despair embraces the first linguistic register as all there is to experience and interprets the other two registers cynically, as quasi-technological, purely linguistic competencies that allow the intelligent animal that the human is to cope successfully with its complex environment. This despair about the status viatoris with all its metaphysical and religious entailments settles for understanding the human animal as at best somewhat more intelligent than other animals.

Sustaining the reflexivity of experience is only possible by way of a conscious embrace of the status viatoris and an intentional cultivation of the virtues required for the existence and flourishing of the viator: humility and magnanimity. The former, humility, protects the viator from cynicism, because humility keeps the viator ever attentive to the manifold “given” of reality itself and to the rule of reason that allows for right reception of reality’s gratuity. The latter, magnanimity, protects the viator from despair, because, as natural hope, magnanimity anticipates a final and meaningful integration of all my experiences in a worthy narrative, even if I will not be its final narrator.

Again we come across the insight that the way we relate to the existential challenge that unavoidably comes with the reflexivity of experience depends on the kind of person we are. For this reflexivity is not primarily the key to understanding the dialectics of reason itself, as Hegel thought, or the key to the insight into our finitude and hence radical historicity, as Gadamer thought. Rather, this second order experience with experience is a moment of achieving the end of being human.”

(*) “ … experience appears in three linguistic registers that allow us to get an initial handle on the nature of experience: first, to experience, second, to have an experience, and third, to be an experienced practitioner of some kind.”

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