The grammar of inner life

When we talk about the grammar of the inner life, or, to put it another way, when we talk about how we are made, the temptation to resort to predefined recipes is strong. Of course, given the frequency with which cooks are on video, one might think of a “culinary conversion”, but this is a temptation we can resist, at least for now.

A decisive element of an ordered life—that is, a life in which the difference in value between things is recognised as meaningful—is the right distance between us and the world. It is a middle way between bravado or hypertrophy of the ego and solipsistic closure.

One should certainly not be afraid of the world, but one should always be able to evaluate one’s own actions, to look at oneself from a distance as if one were someone else.

In this regard, consider the significant metaphor in which Carlo Maria Martini speaks of the climber: “who, as he ascends, is evidently careful, handhold after handhold, crack after crack, not to leave out anything that is necessary to stay and proceed up the wall; nevertheless, every now and then he looks up and down to see where the road leads, if it is good, if the weather is changing”.


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