[Truth] purifies man from egotism and from the illusion of absolute autonomy… makes him obedient and gives him the courage to be humble… teaches him to see through producibility as a parody of freedom and to unmask undisciplined chatter as a parody of dialogue. It is victorious over the tendency to mistake the absence of all ties for freedom.
of Theology, 39 Mission
Reflection – Well, this is a mouthful, isn’t it! A bit dense perhaps. What is Ratzinger saying here? Let’s unpack it a bit. ‘Producibility’ is the mentality or ideology that the goal of human life is to… well, produce something! To be an effective economic unit, to achieve so many ergs of work each day and have something external to show for one’s life.Ratzinger says that truth liberates us from this. By saying this, he is not simply saying ‘it ain’t so!’ What he means is something a bit deeper. It is the reality that there is something called ‘truth’ – that truth is a meaningful word in itself, in other words that there is a real reality that presents itself to us and that our minds can receive and grasp and make it our own. This is the reality that frees us from the terrible slavery of having to justify our existence by producing something.
How so? Because in the knowledge of the truth, we see or begin to see that the primary movement of our humanity is receptivity. We receive reality… and then we shape it and do things with it. But reception comes first, and it is ‘truth’ as a concept that communicates that to us.
We’re talking about an intensely Godly reality here. God is the author of all creation, and the author of all truth. And the first movement of God’s creation is to say ‘it is good’… and to rest in that goodness. Before we are to move as his co-creators by the work of our hands, we must receive what he has done, see it, and call it ‘good’ with Him. And this is prior, both in time and in importance, to our own shaping of reality.
The same dynamic holds true with true dialogue as opposed to empty chatter, and the rejection of autonomy as a pallid parody of freedom. It’s all about the fact of creation, that God has made something (everything, actually) and that our words are to be held by his creative Word, our freedom a movement held in his free creative act.
This is deep stuff, and I can’t make it un-deep. But we see here why relativism is so destructive of our humanity. When there is no truth, no overarching reality holding our frail individual humanity, then we are trapped in a world where the only stability we have is our projection of our egos into the ether, whether by work or words, and any tie that binds us to any other reality is a threat to our freedom, since all other realities are themselves forcing their own being onto us.
It is truth that sets us free from this terrible competition of being, that makes us free and secure, and able to meet the other in a true exchange of hearts and minds.