“Struggle for the good”

The drama of existence, like the drama on stage, is essentially human action. It is action that struggles to give meaning to human existence while longing for self-realization. The meaningfulness or meaninglessness of existence, however, is judged on the basis of its goal. The proper goal of human action is the good; ultimately, the absolute Good. Existentially though, the Good exhibits graduations. The absolute Good does not directly reveal itself, but only announces itself in relative goods and values. Besides, in drama – on stage and more so in life – decisions and actions are carried out in the context of the present situation which itself is ambivalent. Graduations of the Good and the ambivalence of the situation set the condition for the dramatic tension which characterizes the horizon known to us as the struggle for the good.

We find ourselves crowded with many objective choices and alternative values. Every good we strive for is at once surrounded by other goods which relativize our choice. When we subjectively and freely choose one out of many possible alternatives, we effectively reorder our scale of values around the preferred good. Whether we made the right choice or not, it must be judged taking into account our interaction with other persons’ value systems. Immersed as we are in a thicket of relative values, it is unavoidable that our scale of values often comes into conflict with someone else’s. Indeed, conflict does occur when persons, guided by different value systems, interact and act together. But conflict also occurs when the value pursued by an individual person runs contrary to the good upheld by a much bigger personality, say an institution. More commonly, however, conflict occurs within a person between one’s self-assertion and one’s self-donation, or between personal love and altruism, or even between the demand of justice and the pursuit of freedom. Such conflicts give rise to tremendous dramatic tension, revealing the Good in the trade-off between relative goods.[1] Such is our struggle for the good.

Objectively, choosing between conflicting values can be difficult, if not impossible. Subjectively, though, we need constantly to weigh our scale of values and carefully take the necessary action to ensure that our decision is not only free but responsible. Our conscience may be muddled and our value system may seem distorted, but it is still possible to find our way to the Absolute. As the theater makes sure that there must be at least one clear conscience on the stage that the audience may grasp the hierarchy of values, so the Theo-dulâ lets the light of God’s good action shine through the chief dramatic person, Jesus Christ. This is the light that illumines and guides our consciences as we struggle for the Good. It is the ultimate light by which human action will be judged.[2]

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[1] Ibid., 168.

[2] For the theme of the “struggle for the good” as dramatic horizon, see TD I, 413-51; Nichols, No Bloodless Myth, 37.

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