The courage of the spirit

Mathias Maurer

And that is inevitable because everyone wants to experience themselves as an independent personality which they do not want to abandon without good reason, be it dealing with the way in which they handle a tube of toothpaste, prepare lunch or form an opinion of the US election. This forces people into a contradictory situation, as it is impossible for them to experience themselves without other people and the world around them.

They simply do not obtain any information about themselves without referring back to other people and their environment. If they want to understand themselves better, they have to begin to develop an understanding of the world and their fellow human beings. But where should this interest in the world come from if people are in principle sufficient unto themselves, if their interest only stretches so far as to satisfy their own wants and needs? Why should people abandon their egoism when functioning in today’s society comes down to following your own inner-voice and learning to assert yourself against others?

Here the only thing that can help is a broadening of horizons. If, for example, I take a moment to think about the possible global consequences of buying a product as cheaply and as quickly as possible. If I think about what it actually means when, in democratic states, the law is bent so far that freely expressing your opinion can land you in prison. Or if I am willing to accept that billions are being allocated to the digitalisation of childhood and the automation of retirement homes. Can I let that mean nothing to me?

Social issues cannot be sustainably remedied with political programmes or through external measures. We are insufficiently aware that it is our ideals, the driving forces behind our interests, that awaken our sympathy and further human development in concrete terms, both personally and socially. If we were simply to be content with the world of sensory facts with its practical constraints and our everyday worries, and be subservient to our fears, of earning less, of not having the best education, or of not having taken advantage of all possible opportunities for our children, we would be condemned to stagnation.

Humanity has other, greater problems than those we produce throughout our individual lives and which we allow to send us into a spin. It requires courage to put oneself in opposition to a life tightly confined by economic and legal regulation by committing oneself to spiritual goals, and to do so not as the icing on the cake of cultural life or scientific discourse, but as a societal value in and of itself which places its faith in the openness to development and increasing humanisation of the human being.