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Broken Beggars

Gerard Brungardt

“The real protagonist of history is the beggar.” In sharing this insight, Luigi Giussani underscores that real significance lies in the connection and encounter between individuals in their mutual humility, need, and search for fulfillment.

Living, the 2022 British period drama directed by Oliver Hermanus, is a film adapted from Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), itself inspired by Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Like its predecessors, the movie explores a middle-aged bureaucrat’s reaction to his terminal diagnosis (Mr. Williams portrayed by Bill Nighy in a Best Actor Oscar-nominated performance) as he struggles to discern if he has lived a meaningful life and, if not, what he needs to do to correct things. We will see that it is only through an attitude of vulnerability and humility—that of the beggar—that the other is lead to response to these needs.

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Transcendence vs. Transition: Finite Creatures and the Desire for the Infinite

Life: Issue Four

What strange creatures we are! We live fully only as creatures indwelt by an infinite desire. Yet, from within this paradox arises the temptation to self-enclosure, an attempt that at once curtails our desire for God and drives us toward the pursuit of unrestrained power. The seduction of modern technology pulls us in both directions. On the one hand, it would pacify us with its comforts and amusements. On the other, it would liberate us from our creaturely limits. We could become something else (transgenderism), or simply replaced by something “infinitely” better (AI). In either case, we settle for simulacra of the “good life.” Against these seductions, stands the invitation to “a joyful simplicity of life” [JPII] that sees in the acceptance of our finitude the living hope of an eternal promise.

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Humanum is about the human: what makes us human, what keeps us human, and what does not. We are driven by the central questions of human existence: nature, freedom, sexual difference and the fundamental figures to which it gives rise, man, woman, and child. We probe these in the context of marriage, family, education, work, medicine and bioethics, science and technology, political and ecclesial life. We sift through the many competing ideas of our age so that we might “hold fast to what is good” and let go of what is not. In addition to articles, witness pieces, and book reviews ArteFact: Film & Fiction searches out the human in the literary and cinematic arts.

Humanum is published as a free service by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.