Our Civilization’s Crux Issue

An Austrian friend of mine, from Vienna, invited me for dinner. He is a very nice man, ready to help anyone; everybody is bound to grow fond of him right away. He has Jewish ancestors, I believe. A co-owner of a small family business, he has to work hard.

My German is very limited, so our discussions are limited, too. As we were discussing something rather ordinary, my friend became serious all of a sudden and asked me: “Hast du Angst?” He asked me if I were scared. “What of?” I asked him. “Just scared!”

Am I scared? I let the strange notion impact me, quickly and intensely. There was no effect.

“I am not scared”, I answered. “I am rather worried, if anything.” What worries me is, for example, that now I am the only living son of my eighty-years-old mum, a friar, living three hundred and fifty kilometres away, and that I don’t know what will happen when she cannot care for herself anymore. “I’ve got nothing except for a computer, a guitar, some books and CDs, and some cloths,” I say. “And God,” I add. “What should I be scared of? Muslims? Or death?” The fact is though that I have no wife and children, no house or a flat, no savings.

“What I am scared of most is that I will lose all I have,” he says. “The more you have, the bigger the fear.”

If this is so, then maybe I understand, a bit. Jesus once said these very wise words: “You cannot serve both God and money.” Just like you cannot turn left and right at the same time. My friend surely does not serve money – he is a generous, hard-working man. I don’t want to do things for free either, it makes me happy when I get paid; I mostly use money to give them to others. But it is a shot in the dark, “la posta in gioco”, as the Italians say. Jesus puts it also this way: “Seek first His kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well.” He surely does not mean to say “don’t try”; what he means is “I am telling you what to wager on”. He points out the never-ending battle between the matter and the spirituality, between the body and the soul, as Jaroslav Hutka sings.

I believe that despite my poor German, our discussion identified the core issue of our civilization and of all its conflicts.