|The Cross of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy|
|Written by Peter J. Leithart|
“The Crucifixion is the fountainhead of all my values,” wrote the German-American philosopher and historian Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, “the great divide whence flow the processes most real in my inner life, and my primary response to our tradition is one of gratitude to the source of my own frame of reference in everyday life.” He adds, “our chronology of B.C. and A.D. makes sense to me. Something new came into being then, not a man as part of the world but The Man who gives meaning to the world, to heaven and hell, bodies and spirits.” A bride who receives her husband’s name is set in a “new realm” and all her actions are “credited” to that realm. In the same way, “in His name we [as His bride] enter a realm of freedom unknown to mere heirs” (Christian Future, hereafter CF, p. 102).
This paragraph neatly captures the pace and sprawl of much of his writing. He begins with the historical event of the crucifixion, and immediately goes existential, describing how the cross is frame for his own experience. In the next sentence he has moved from inner life to the crux of history, endorsing the division of time between B.C. and A.D. Characteristically, he employs a marital image to describe the historical change that comes with Christ, and, obsessed as he is by speech, he cannot stop himself from inserting something about new names.
This essay is organized around the several insights contained in the above quotation. First, I examine what Rosenstock-Huessy says about the uniqueness of the cross. Second, I explore the existential dimension of the cross, the way it serves as the source for all the real processes of “my inner life” and the “frame of reference in everyday life.” Third, I look at how Rosenstock-Huessy describes the effect of Jesus’ cross and resurrection on the history of human civilization. Throughout, we will find that the cross has two intertwined meanings for Rosenstock-Huessy. He sees the single historical event of the crucifixion of Jesus as central to all human history, but he also claims that human life in general is lived out on what he calls the “Cross of Reality,” which is both a key to personal experience and an anthropological and social paradigm. In the last section the essay, I turn my attention specifically to this aspect of Rosenstock-Huessy’s cruciform thought.
First, the cross as a once-for-all event. In The Christian Future, Rosenstock-Huessy talks about the divinity of Christ, but raises this creedal dogma in a discussion of once-for-all events in history: “Every value in human history is first set on high by one single event which lends its name and gives meaning to later events” (CF, p. 103). Crusades are cheaply bought now; there are crusades for universal health care, against illegal drugs, on behalf of oppressed house pets. The first crusades were not so cheap, but bought in blood. First comes Francis, then a Franciscan way of life; first Luther, and shortly there are myriads of Lutherans. In each case, the once-for-all event creates a new reality. Crusading is what it is because of the first crusade: “The one unique event must precede the many” (CF, p. 103). The definite article precedes the indefinite, and makes the indefinite possible.
The united complex event of Jesus’ cross-and-resurrection is the once-for-all event of all once-for-all events, and the possibility of recurring deaths and resurrections in individual life and in civilization depends on Jesus’ work: “crucifixion (or last judgment) and resurrection would not be known as everyday occurrences in our lives if they had not happened once for all, with terrific majesty” (CF, pp. 103–104).
Jesus plants the seed of death-and-resurrection, and this bears fruit repeatedly in moments of transforming anguish. As the Crucified and Risen Man, Jesus creates a new form of humanity, a new way of human being, of being human. He is not a man among men, but “the norm, the way, the truth, and the life to be developed by us beyond the state in which we find ourselves.” He is “my maker” because He is the first man “who was neither Greek nor Jew nor Scythe, but complete and perfect humanity, and each of the rest of us, if we are not simply jealous like Nietzsche, must be content with being his men” (CF, p. 104). We cannot, as modern theology has attempted, measure him without making him simply “a” man. On the contrary, “he is the measure by which we must judge ourselves; his life gives meaning to ours; and, to sustain the stage of human perfection which he achieved, the word ‘man’ would have been quite inadequate” (CF, p. 104). Jesus, Rosenstock-Huessy insists, is insurmountable. We might attempt to leave what he calls the “Christian era” but rejecting the gospel, but Jesus made the kind of difference in history that no one, not even the most hostile enemy of Christ, not even Anti-Christ, can escape being Christ’s.
II. The Cross in Christian Experience
What does this mean? How are the cross and resurrection reproduced in human life since Jesus’ cross and resurrection? Essentially, Jesus incorporated death into life. Christian faith means faith in a God who makes death into a positive feature in life.
Rosenstock-Huessy observes that life is suffering, battle, pain, shock, failure, elation. Human beings are always torn, always riven. Much of human life, individually and collectively, is an effort to deal with suffering and death. By being the first Man, Jesus establishes the possibility of a different stance toward suffering and death. Life after the cross, and life in the cross, is a life in which death never has the final word, but where death is a path toward new, more expansive life. Writing in 1946, Rosenstock-Huessy says, “twenty years ago I felt that I was undergoing a real crucifixion. I was deprived of all my powers, virtually paralyzed, yet I came back to life again, a changed man. What saved me was that I could look back to the supreme event of Jesus’ life and recognize my small eclipse in his great suffering. That enabled me to wait in complete faith for resurrection to follow crucifixion in my own experience. Ever since then it has seemed foolish to doubt the historical reality of the original Crucifixion and Resurrection” (CF, p. 102). This is not “survival.” It is renewal through death, death transformed into a “positive feature” of life, the key to abundant life.
Jesus, in short, reveals the “Living God.” Unlike the gods of the philosophers, the Living God is never an object. This Living God confronts us in the midst of life. He is never an axiom of reason: “The living God cannot be met on the level of natural reason because by definition he crosses our path in the midst of life, long after we have tried to think the world into a system” (CF, p. 96). God is always revealed in the cross; God always comes first of all in the form of catastrophe, raising the possibility of death: “That power which compels us to answer a question of life and death—and ‘any part of the world, sun, earthquake, crisis, revolution, can become a god when we feel that it is a power urging this question upon us’—is always our God; ‘the power which makes the atheist fight for atheism is his God’” (CF, p. 96). When they confront us, the gods “demand our devotion, not lip service.” A person can be wholly godless only if he acknowledges no power at all above him; a godless person would have to “be all of god himself.” Modern man is not godless but polytheistic, pursuing many gods or “values”—Rosenstock-Huessy enumerates “art, science, sex, greed, socialism, speed—these gods of our age devour the lives of their worshipers completely” (CF, p. 96). Powerfully addictive though they are, none of these gods can finally satisfy, nor can they enslave forever. Promiscuity wears thin, “socialism annoys the man of sixty,” and “greed is hardly conceivable to a young person.” These gods fade, but the Living God is the God of the future and so always endures beyond death (CF, p. 97). Faith in the God of the future, who is also the God revealed in the cross, enables us to die to the gods and move toward the future. Without the revelation of the cross, death to the gods would be impossible: The impotent man might as well commit suicide, since he has lost his reason for life. If you lose your fortune on the stock market, you look for the nearest window on the top floor of the nearest skyscraper. Without the cross, death to the gods is simply death. But the revelation of the Living God enables us to slough off gods when they grow old.
Gods can not only be shed, but this shedding process is the means of transformation. Because of Jesus, “death has paradoxically become the key to everlasting life.” Christians can anticipate death in order to overcome it: “By learning to anticipate the inevitable end which the pagan fights off, man has robbed death of its paralyzing gloom. Anticipating the worst, he can bury his dead in time. A pagan was ready enough to die physically—for his family, temple, guild, nation, or race—but these he held to be immortal and therefore without flaw. He could not admit the necessity of letting them die when the time had come; hence all went down together.” Through the cross, Christians recognize that life will necessarily involve regular deaths to their old ideas, ideals, allegiances. Anticipating and embracing these partial deaths as the beginning of new life and new future, Christians are not faced with the threat of a total death as the pagan was. We know that gods come and go, and we can let them go without anxiety, because we know that renewal is over the next ridge.
When death is incorporated into life, and anticipated in faith, life becomes abundant. This was Jesus’ purpose—not to negate life, but to give life, abundantly: “Christianity is not a decadent worship of death for its own sake, but the discovery that including death within life is the secret of the fullest life” (CF, p. 124). Monks and hermits witness to this: By giving up the world before death, “they proved that death is an essential element of living, in fact its sharpest ingredient.” Even those who are not cloistered give up life in order to live: “Any father, manager, or teacher has to practice resignation and let the young learn by doing things he could do better himself; for he knows that one day he must die and they must take his place.” This does not come from “our instinct of life” but “from our wisdom of death.” For Rosenstock-Huessy this is what it means to have a soul: “Man as an animal organism lives forward from birth toward death, but, as a soul who knows beforehand that he will die, he molds his life looking backward from the end” (CF, p. 124). To have a soul is to live through and beyond death.
What happens when we are torn, divided, riven without recognizing that it is a “human privilege,” without faith in resurrection? We lack soul, and we cannot live abundantly. There are also political consequences. “If a man does not know that it is perfectly normal to be thus torn, and that a divine power exists which integrates persons by uniting them in communion, he will surrender to any man-made power that seems to promise unity, fixity, and security.” This is was one of the sources of the attraction to Nazism: “Torn men are dangerous men. They will go to hell and worship the devil of power for power’s sake, in the form of any wild desire, unless we reestablish the power of the Spirit in its original white heat.” Our efforts to avoid the cross, and the suffering that comes with it, condemn us to insignificance. “The basic law of all history: only where extreme resistance is overcome does a new origination become possible. Usually we live according to the law of least resistance.”
III. The Cross and Civilization
Jesus gives abundant life. As the Crucified and Risen Man, he also creates new possibilities for history, forms a new epoch of history, the Christian era, and forms the possibility of a new civilization. To understand fully what Rossenstock-Huessy means by this, we need to examine his sketch of ancient social forms.
Following Augustine, Rosenstock-Huessy argues that civilizations are formed according to the direction of their loves. Love is expressed in call and response, in speech and listening. We turn to listen to the one we love, and when a community turns to listen to the voice of the beloved, a civilization is born. The speaker can call us from the past or future, from inside or outside, and as the appeal and speaker changes, as listeners turn to new lovers, a new civilization is born. Civilizations are also responses to death. Throughout history, “God becomes known to us in all the powers which triumph over death” (CF, p. 92). All human civilizations prior to Jesus organized themselves to avoid death, or treated it as purely negative, yet in these attempts we can discern a “growing knowledge of God” (CF, p. 93).
In tribal civilizations, god is the power that keeps a tribe alive after its members died. For tribes “God is identified with the spirits of the tribe’s ancestors,” and tribes overcome death “by simple denial: the ancestors aren’t ‘really’ dead, but have simply migrated to a happy hunting ground”
(CF, p. 93). For the tribe, love is directed toward the ancestors, and the living direct their attention to the dead because “the dead look at the living,” which, Rosenstock-Huessy says, is “the basic law of the tribal constitution.” As Morgan says, the tribe is “dominated by the past. Everything is sacrificed for the past. The spirits of the ancestors govern. They are highly suspicious of youth and oppose all change.” The future is “represented by the stone altar on which innovators are sacrificed—the widespread sacrifice of the firstborn child is an expression of this attitude.”
Cosmic, or temple-building empires, come into being in a sudden shift from the tribe. Flood legends narrate a cataclysmic baptismal boundary between tribal past and imperial present. In pagan empires, God was known “as eternal cosmic order revealed by the stars and imitated by the stone walls and temples and pyramids built for worship.” Temple civilizations do not overcome death by denial but by circumvention: “the sun-god and his temple enjoy deathless duration” (CF, p. 93). Imperial temple-building peoples attempt to “bypass” death by “climbing to the sky.” In tribes, the dead speak to the living, but in cosmic empires, the heavens speak to the earth. Heaven tells a tale of eternal recurrence: Sunrise and sunset follow one another each day, and the constellations move in recurring patterns. For cosmic empires, time stands still: “There were no real endings or genuine beginnings, no novelty, no true future.” Instead, the imperial civilization is “stunted into a kind of eternal present,” emphasizing space instead of time and establishing “timeless” political systems.
Israel introduced a new love, new time, a new speech, and hence a new civilization. Jews claimed that God was the power who created and who then “could enable His people to discount the passing of all visible things and wait for His future coming as Messiah.” Death is not “denied or ignored,” as in paganism, but for the Jews it has “only a negative significance. It is something to be endured.” Importantly, Israel endures in hope. The Lover who speaks to Israel is the God of the future who speaks from the end of time: “This is the new direction of its love—toward the one Living God, the ever-coming God.” And this means that the mode of Israel’s existence is oriented to the future, but it is oriented in patience, in anticipation and not in consummation. Abraham left his own land and waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises, and this waiting-in-exile is a crucial contribution of Israel to ancient civilization.
Finally, the Greeks created a “mixture of the tribal and imperial ways of life.” In contrast to earlier civilizations, Greeks united not through exercise of political authority but by a spiritual kinship. Greeks were united by the sea, and the seaport was a place of entry for outsiders into each individual Greek city-state. Greeks could look at themselves from outside, through the eyes of strangers, as well as from within. Greek pluralism in myths and politics gave rise to a universal poetry that united Greeks (Homer, then the tragedians), and also to the universal thrust of philosophy. Greeks created “the life of the mind, of liberal arts and sciences inspired by the muses, the free realm of ideas, as a way of finding unity outside political pluralism.” Achilles and Priam can recognize each other’s humanity, and the Iliad’s scene of their mutual tears is the great icon of Greek humanism. This presented also yet another way of evading death: So long as men remained spectators, they could forget that life depended on suffering and death.
How does Jesus affect this situation? In part, Jesus does for civilization what he does for individuals—he makes possible a positive stance toward death, and this produces a civilization that can shed the old with equanimity, an anti-tribe that does not cower before the gaze of the ancestors. At times, Rosenstock-Huessy says that Jesus unified all earlier civilization, all earlier human speech. Jesus was thus “the first to turn mankind’s direction toward unity,” and he did this by “placing himself at the source of the times, the heart point, from which we may come ever again to the formation of tribes, empires, humanists, and the true Israel.” He made the “fullness of time” available by standing at the source point of all times. At other times, he says that Jesus unified man specifically in bringing time into a unity. Each ancient civilization had grasped an aspect of human time, but could not integrate times into time. What Jesus revealed is the fact that “humans can progress from fragmentariness to completeness only by the cross, only by surviving the death of old allegiances and beginning new ones.” This was the theme of Jesus’ whole life. He lived under the law in order to do away with the law, to die to the law. His entire life scoured away the old to make way for new. He renounced “success” in his own life, giving Himself to the founding of the church, and through this “unsuccessful” career makes himself the most successful man in history. He gave Himself to death to gain abundant life.
IV. Cross of Reality
Christianity’s history is the story of the cross’s penetration into human experience and society. New epochs are formed when the cross begins to mark a new “sphere of our minds or bodies” (CF, p.165). In the new era that Rosenstock-Huessy saw coming, the cross needed to penetrate into social life. In preparation for this new epoch, Rosenstock-Huessy thought, it is necessary to reformulate Christianity’s dogmas about the cross, translating it into “non-ecclesiastical, post-theological language” in an effort to show the pervasiveness of crucifixion. The “Cross of Reality” is a deliberate bid to formulate something like Bonhoeffer’s religionless Christianity.
Rosenstock-Huessy uses the Cross of Reality to describe the suffering at the center of human experience, and the unsystematic and unsystematizable complexity of life. While philosophers and scientists, metaphysicians and physicists, might describe the world as a system, actual reality and actual lived human life is a “perpetual suffering and wrestling with conflicting forces, paradoxes, contradictions within and without.” Life stretches us in opposite directions, tears and rends us, yet through this tearing makes us new (CF, p. 166). Specifically, human beings are stretched out on two axes. The horizontal axis is a temporal one, stretching between past and the future. The vertical axis is spatial, as we are stretched out between “inner” and “outer.”
Time is not, as mathematics depicts it, a straight line, since a line does not distinguish qualitatively between past and future and cannot capture the multiform shape of human time. Time is an undifferentiated line for animals, which know “no future but only perfect and imperfect tenses, only processes that have ended or processes still going on at any given moment” (CF, p. 166). For humans, a timeline turns time into space. This confuses things that should be kept distinct, since our experience of time differs radically from our experience of space. Space is experienced “as a whole.” We see a whole mountain range, a whole starry sky, a million man march on the Mall all at an instant. Time, by contrast, comes to us as moments, fragments, as “a phantom moment or as innumerable phantom moments.” Time becomes organized and packaged into hours, days, years, epochs only “because we say so.” Times exist because “they are history-made units built by our faith, out of innumerable moments” (CF, p. 167). Time experienced this way is never uniformly one time: “Nobody lives in one time” (CF, p. 167). The past and future always inhabit the present, and so human beings are always being pulled backward by the obligations imposed by the past and striving forward by the hopes seducing us from the future.
The spatial axis of the Cross of Reality is the axis that stretches us between “inner” and “outer.” Individually, we all have an “inside” bounded by our skin, and a world outside us. (Rosenstock-Huessy would have us note, though, that the boundary of skin is permeable; we have pores and various orifices through which the world enters us and things from inside are poured out into the world.) Corporately too, each community constitutes itself by setting a boundary between “insiders” and “outsiders.” The social body too has its skin, and must protect itself against infection from outside (CF, p. 168).
We hang at the center of this cross, nailed and pulled in all four directions at once: “man’s life, social as well as individual, is lived at a crossroads between four ‘fronts’: backward toward the past, forward into the future, inward among ourselves, our feelings wishes and dreams, and outward against what we must fight or exploit or come to terms with or ignore.” This is a painful position, often agonizing, and so we are tempted to relieve the tension by embracing only one of the four points of this compass. But the goal of life is not “adjustment,” as modern psychology might suggest; the goal is integrating the demands of each, all of which are legitimate demands (CF, p. 169). Rosenstock-Huessy points out that “it is obviously fatal to fail on any front—to lose the past, to miss the future, to lack inner peace or outer efficiency.” If we rush forward without acknowledging the past, “acquired qualities of character and civilization would vanish,” but if we dwell in the past “we cease to have a future” (CF, p. 168). Integrating these demands is never easy, and we never fully achieve integration. Life is mobile. We are tossed here and there, shocked and thrown by the demands thrust on us from the outside, surprised by the unanticipated future. While we strive for integration, we cannot be at every point of the cross equally at the same time. Life is thus “a perpetual decision.” We must determine when to perpetuate or revive what is past, and when to let the past die and lie quietly buried. We must recognize the difference between those “within” our circle to whom we speak and the things “without” about which we speak. To live is to dance, as we strive to preserve “a delicate mobile balance between forward and backward, inward and outward” (CF, p. 168).
Elsewhere, Rosenstock-Huessy treats the four points of the cross as four dimensions or aspects of time. Time has “four leanings, four inclinations”—lyrical, analytical, dramatic, and epochal. Lyrical time is “inner” time, when, singing or watching a sunset or absorbing ourselves in a book, we “are lost on the inside.” Analytical time occurs when attention is focused outward. Lyrical time focuses on the mood of time and ignores time’s movement, but analytical time ignores mood and is very conscious of the ticking clock. A factory manager attempting to organize his workers’ time efficiently is in analytical time; a basketball player who keeps glancing at the shot clock is also experiencing time analytically. Dramatic time is oriented to the future. It marks a break in time, with the dramatic moment the breach between a before and an after. Dramatic time makes new time and creates future. Epochal time, finally, is oriented to the past. We experience time epochally when we focus on the repetitions and routines that persist from the past into the present. A sunset can be experienced as a moment of epochal time (it happens every evening) or as lyrical time (when we lose ourselves in the unique beauty of this sunset). Epochal time, like lyrical time, seems to stand still, not because we are lost inside but because nothing seems to change.
Like individuals, societies are also on the Cross, and thus always threatened by internal division. Different social groups and professions stand at different points of the compass. Lawyers and teachers pull back as politicians push forward; poets rhapsodize on traditional landscapes while engineers cross the scenery with new bridges. Like individuals, societies are always in danger of lurching in one direction or another, and strive to integrate the demands of the Cross by a division of labor, distributing responsibilities for past and future, preservation of the inside and mission to the outside, among various subgroups or individuals: “teaching, ceremony and ritual preserve our continuity with the past, and teachers, priests and lawyers serve on this front for all of us.” The “inside” is built up by “playing, singing, talking together, sharing our moods and aspirations, and on this inner front poets, artists, and musicians are typical representatives.” On the outer front, we aim to “control natural forces” and manipulate them “for our ends in farming, industry and war,” aided by “scientists, engineers and soldiers.” Finally, future is kept alive by “religious and political leaders, prophets and statesmen,” whose task is to initiate change and pull us into the future (CF, p. 169). Integration of these social demands requires that “specialists” make room for those leaning in the other directions, recognizing the legitimate claims of others without abandoning their own legitimate claims. Societies move through the tensions of the cross and are made new only through love, forbearance, and mutual honoring and recognition of differing gifts.
Rosenstock-Huessy’s main argument in favor of the Cross is “the fertility of its applications” (CF, p. 168, fn 3), and to him the Cross is as fertile as weeds. It provides him with a ready-made inoculation against reductionisms of all sorts. Cruciformity implies the “multiformity” of man, society, history, human life. As an example of reductionism, Rosenstock-Huessy notes the work of Josiah Royce. While commending Royce’s philosophy on loyalty, he criticizes the attempt to reduce every virtue to an expression of loyalty. Loyalty is oriented toward the past, and if loyalty is an absolute imperative, there is no place for the obligation to break away in a new direction. Loyalty must coexist with love, which stretches the person toward the future: “to say that a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to the wife of his choice out of loyalty simply does not make sense” (CF, p. 170). Scientific modernity in general is reductive in another direction, obsessed with the “outward front” as it treats everything as “something merely to classify, experiment with, describe, control.” This is an essential pole of human existence, but you cannot treat your wife like that (CF, p. 170). Intellectuals are prone toward reductionism as well. Thought, Rosenstock-Huessy argues, is “provoked by our ends,” and particularly by the end of death. But thinkers would not have time to think about death and the future unless other members of the society devoting themselves to other tasks, guarding other poles of the cross of reality. How can a philosopher dream his dream of reason unless he can sleep at night, unless he can be confident that the Gestapo is not going to beat his door down at any moment (CF, p. 171)?
The Cross of Reality also serves as an analysis of the social death that “lurks in wait for us on every front, if we fail.” Death can occur when any one of the four poles is forgotten: “Decadence, for instance, means being unable to reach the future, in body, mind or soul” (CF, p. 173). Decadence is a failure to reach future. Revolution, by contrast, is a failure in the direction of the past, anarchy a failure to build inner unity, and war a failure to engage peaceably with the external world. No community can be purely self-contained, and will collapse if it does not have some kind of contact with a larger world outside. Intellectually, the Cross of Reality transcends the division between philosophy and theology that came into existence in the middle ages. Philosophy has worked in a spatial framework, emphasizing “the world of space or the knowing mind and a corresponding logic of timeless abstractions.” For philosophy, time appeared “foreshortened,” and in the sciences to which philosophy gave birth the same spatialization is evident. Theology, by contrast, is interested in history—Adam, Abel, Abraham, Jesus, and the Judgment. The “division of labor” between philosophy and theology was a “working compromise” between Christianity and Greek philosophy, but this compromise is no longer viable. The Cross of Reality attempts to “overcome the division and fuse space-thinkers and time-speakers into one new profession” that is no longer exactly philosophy nor exactly theology. This would “accomplish the penetration of the Cross into the last stronghold of paganism within our own traditions,” the stronghold of philosophy and science (CF, pp. 173–4). The Cross even enables Rosenstock-Huessy to encompass transcend the boundary between Christianity and other religions in a single framework. As a Cross of Reality, the cross is not an exclusively Christian symbol: “the great civilizations of the Orient, China and India” are “under the Cross too.” To illustrate, he integrates Buddha, Laotse, Abraham, and Jesus into a single unified, cruciform tension (CF, pp. 177–190): “The founders have mastered each direction of the Cross of Reality by living the pure eye, the silent voice, the humble heart, and the fire of new love. Nirvana, Tao, loyalty to loyalty, and rebirth are permanent standards for the full life of man” (CF, pp. 190–1).
There are hints too that the Cross of Reality is a developmental model. We are plopped into the midst of a history with a past that is not of our choosing, addressed as “thou”; at adolescence we develop the inner self-consciousness of “I,” but we move to a future when we form the “we” of marriage. When the story of our lives is complete, we may be examined as an “object,” from the outside.
A name, he argues, places us at the crossroads of the Cross of reality. Drawn from the past, it calls us to continuity with our heritage; a name gives us a model to strive to achieve in the future. A name identifies us with the inside of the community, and our name is the mark of our identity as we cross the boundary to the outside of the community. The various moods and types of grammar also correspond to the cross in various ways. The imperative “you” is a voice from the past; the narrative “we” takes us together into the future; the subjective “I” is an expression of the inner man; and outside we deal with various “its.” If any of these forms of speech fails, human life is impoverished and human society cannot function. If any of these forms of speech colonizes beyond its proper sphere, we again face a personal and social crisis. We cannot deal with our children or spouse as “its.”
For Rosenstock-Huessy, the cross of Jesus reveals the meaning of the general Cross of Reality, but there are not two crosses, rather ultimately one. Every human being is stretched out on the Cross of Reality, between the obligations imposed by the past and the desire for the future. Every decent child wants to honor his parents, and yet refuses to relive the life of his parents. Pulled between parental obligations and future hopes, he lives in anguish. Every thoughtful human being dreams of a different world, but finds the world reluctant to comply with his dreams. And thus he is stretched between inner and outer.
This, as I say, is a universal experience. What Jesus reveals is that abundant life is found precisely in being stretched between past and future. Abundant life is not found in an enclave of the conservative past, or in the exuberance of a titillating present, or in a cell boiling with a revolutionary future. Abundant life is not found in retreat to contemplation or in self-forgetting activism.
Abundant life is found when, in faith and hope, we submit to being torn between past and future, inside and outside, and see it as a gateway to renewal. Abundant life on the Cross of Reality comes through the cross of Jesus, when, torn by past and future, by inside and outside, we hope against hope for transfiguration.