10. Introduction to Total Reality
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P A R T 3 A  E           E         C H A P T E R 1 0 Introduction to Total Reality Education is the great challenge that we all have to face. It is not by chance that we speak of an “educational emergency.” Education has always been crucial in introducing younger generations to life. What is different today than in the past? Why do we speak today in such dramatic terms of educational emergency? It is only in answering these questions that we can understand the significance of the contribution Pope Francis has made to this issue ever since he served as archbishop of Buenos Aires. What is the challenge we are facing? In an article published in [the Italian national paper] La Repubblica a few years ago entitled “The Eternal Adolescents,” on today’s younger generation, Pietro Citati wrote: “Young people today do not know who they are.They prefer to stay passive. . . . They live wrapped in a mysterious inertia.”1 An educator with extensive experience relating to young people, Luigi Giussani used an image to describe this “mysterious inertia”: “It is as though the young people of today have all been affected . . . by 137 radiation from Chernobyl.”2 It is as though the body no longer has any energy, because of the radiation. The consequence of the weakness described above is that “what one listens to and sees is not really assimilated. What one is surrounded by, the dominant mentality . . . , power, creates [in us] a sense of estrangement from ourselves.” It is as though we have been torn away from our selves. “One remains . . . abstracted in the relationship with oneself, as though drained in terms of affection.”3 We are therefore “abstracted,” estranged, not only from others, but from ourselves. Just think how long people are able to remain by themselves for a moment of silence. We have to escape right away, distract ourselves. It is as if there were an inability to be with ourselves , as if we never felt at home.The detachment from ourselves becomes a detachment from everything: nothing can truly interest us, and, therefore, indifference prevails. Responding to this situation with rules or ethical appeals is unthinkable, since these have already proven themselves to be ineffective . They are incapable of making the person who needs to be educated spring into action; they are incapable of awakening the desire of the “I.” Without the “I” in action there can be no education. Where Is the Starting Point? Where, then, does one start up again in this situation? Despite everything , that “hot point” of the soul, which Cesare Pavese spoke of, lingers on within man.4 It is precisely around this hot point that a proposal that truly corresponds to one’s humanity can turn. Pope Francis pointed this out quite clearly: “Man is not at peace within his own limits; rather he is a being ‘on a journey’ . . . and when he does not enter into this dynamic, his person disappears or he becomes corrupt . What moves man to begin this journey is an inner restlessness that pushes man to ‘step out of himself.’ . . . There is something, outside and within us, that calls us to undertake this journey.”5 That restlessness , of which Augustine spoke, lingers on in the depths of man’s being. It indicates the depth and breadth of desire, the hot point of the heart. 138 An Educational Emergency But the attempt to put desire to sleep is always at work: Worldly systems seek to quell man, to anesthetize his desire to embark on this journey, with promises of possession and consumption. . . . In this way man is alienated from the possibility of recognizing and listening to the most profound desire of his heart. Our attention is drawn to the numerous “alibi” that manipulate our desire . . . and offer, in exchange, an apparent peace. . . . Greed, lust, avarice, anger, envy, sadness, sloth, boastfulness, pride. . . . [These] are certainly pretexts, cop-outs that hide something else: fear of freedom. . . .They act as a refuge . Fundamentalism is based on the rigidity of a uniform thought, within which the person seeks protection from destabilizing instances (and crises) in exchange for a sort of existential quietism.6 In this context, then-Archbishop Bergoglio advised educators to be careful not to use educational tools in any way to reduce desire: “Discipline is a means, a necessary remedy at the service of the overall education [of the person], but it should not be transformed into a mutilation of desire. . . . Desire is...