The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 26, 2023 - 4:03:19

Relationality and the meaning of human life

Katie van Schaijik, Feb 28, 2016

Another line from Dr. Paul Kalanithi's memoir:

A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form. It was the relational aspect of humans— i.e., “human relationality”— that undergirded meaning.

He is putting his finger on another key theme in personalism—one I am learning to appreciate more and more as time goes by—viz., how the great drama of human life has everything to do with right (or wrong) interpersonal dynamics.

The question of our good or evil is not so much about whether we conform ourselves to the objective moral law as about how we relate ourselves to other subjects. Do we affirm or negate? Do we domineer or do we serve? Are we obsequious or self-standing? Respectful or dismissive? Are we tender or brutal? Are we warm or cold? Aloof or welcoming? Do we manipulate others or collaborate with them?

The truth we are called to conform ourselves to, the beauty we are called to magnify, the goodness we are called to realize in ourselves—these are first and foremost the truth, beauty and goodness embodied in the concrete individuals who cross our paths.