Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Never-Ending Argument and Service Work

The desire to end the discourse, to have the final say, is the same dynamic that feeds a never-ending argument. A never-ending argument is neither constructive nor dialogical; open, rational discussion, while creating space for voicing disagreement, clarification, and proof, is not argumentative even if it may continue on forever. An argument, on the other hand, misses the point of what was being discussed; it is an act of battering each other with crystalized concepts cut off from their proper referent in reality.

Both of these phenomena are rooted in a form of solipsism, an overemphasis on esse in, the substance itself as an atom, disconnected from those around us.

Personal transformation is a positive manifestation of esse in; it acknowledges and respects the individual and seeks to improve it by admitting its poverty. The admittance of poverty, or in other words, humility, is also the necessary foundation for mutual transformation, the transformation of individuals in a network, a corporate body, a society. The collective transformation of esse in through esse ad, being towards or for another, enriching the other with each of our respective riches.

What, then, becomes of the status of service work when an individual who serves others at the same time treats other individuals with contempt, impatience, condescension, etc.? It's a contradiction. How might it be explained? The service, the movement to enrich another, whether it be an individual or collective, somehow loses its proper referent. Service properly speaking must always acknowledge and respect the other, in spite of disagreements and annoyances. But if service loses its proper referent, the impetus of service, which is esse ad, returns to esse in, or solipsism. Service then becomes an unconscious form of self serving.

In order to avoid the selfishness that creeps into service, it is therefore necessary to always return the referent of service to its proper object, the other in poverty, in need of enriching, and this referent must extend to all without discrimination with respect to the sharing of qualities of mutual support: patience, generosity, gentleness, kindness, consideration, affirmation. Of course, the extent of this support depends on context and circumstances, but the willingness to share and its equal distribution irrespective of persons is the condition by which esse ad refuses to remain esse in. It is the condition required to avoid the never-ending argument. It is the condition required to be willing to have an ongoing discussion, to resist the desire to have the last word.

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