May 18, 2009

John D. Zizioulas on the individual

Some context and explanation for this quote. I came across this quote from John D. Zizioulas while I went back to read his Being As Communion again. I did not catch it the first time I read it because I was focused on Zizioulas' notion of Truth as ontology (rather than a propositional statement) as well as his view of community for my past work. But my search for his case in favor of theosis (the Christ follower's participation in God's Holiness) led me to find this passage. Keep in mind, the term persona, for Zizioulas, is used in a negative (i.e., not positive, or bad) sense, in which personas are really masks for human beings who continue to live a lie (outside the Truth, true being, a.k.a., Jesus the Messiah).

"Uniqueness is something absolute for the person. The person is so absolute in its uniqueness that it does not permit itself to be regarded as an arithmetical concept, to be set alongside other beings, to be combined with other objects, or to be used as a means, even for the most sacred goal. The goal is the person itself; personhood is the total fulfillment of being, the catholic expression of its nature. This tendency of the person, like freedom, is the 'two--edged sword' of existence. For applied to man it leads to the denial of others, to egocentrism, to the destruction of social life. As in the case of freedom, so with the unique and hypostatic nature of the person, a relativisation appears to be indispensible if chaos is to be avoided. Thus uniqueness is relativised in social life, and man becomes--in a greater or lesser degree but nevertheless assusredly so-- a useful 'object,' a 'combination,' a persona. But it is precisely this which constitutes the tragic aspect of the person. Diffused today throughout all forms of social life is the intense search for personal identity."

John D. Zizioulas in Being As Communion:Studies in Personhood and the Church. Crestwood, NY,St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2002. p.47.

In other words, once we start denying the uniqueness of the human individual person, we risk objectifying people and only seen her and/or him as another cog in the machine, only useful for our own objectives. That would make all forms of essentialism and stereotypes dehumanizing, huh?

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