No Mortal Answer

Charles Wyzanski - USA
Broadcast during the 1950s

Solitariness is the core of every man. And what he believes lies the core. When overcome by emotion this inner loneliness vibrates, and its secrets can be discharged by love, by prayer, by meditation. But no one can stand deliberately before a microphone and make that intimate revelation from which emerges the understanding peace that surpasseth knowledge.

I can, however, try to give you the atmosphere in which my deeper self dwells. When I pause for reflection, I am aware of bipolar tensions. All the different aspects of me are arrayed on one side and are drawn to one magnetic field. Pulling at the other end are all the forces in the universe that are not part of me. And yet I feel not merely this separateness, but a strong togetherness between me and everything else that is.

I wish I could say that this view of my relationship to the universe had made me humble. Humility is the noblest fruit of introspection. It establishes defenses against pride-that sin which the orthodox church justly stamps as the foundation of all evil. But when I become concerned about the miserable creature that I am, I do not draw closer to God, or to the magnificence of His creation. I am only inflating my own importance in my own eyes.

Yet self-assessment is not self-defeating. Through intimate analysis, man recognizes more clearly that he is weak, and that he lives without protective boundaries, always dimly apprehensive of the impenetrable beyond. If man is to comprehend this further territory he must summon as his guide not reason, but mystic insight. And there is no guarantee that a reliable guide will come when called. Not having had any mystic experience, myself, I formerly thought I could overleap the limitations of my knowledge, my reason, and my discernment by developing fortitude. I supposed that by inhibiting my desires and training my will, I could become immune to shock. But self-knowledge and self-discipline did not yield me a Stoic virtue and equanimity.

But experience prevents me from assuming that by mere volition, practice, and restraint, without grace, man can become his own commander. The fickleness of his human disposition stands prey not only to outside disasters, but also to internal pressures that he cannot distribute according to advance order. Nay, the order itself may produce not obedience, but revolution.

Have I then no authoritative answer to the universe’s ultimate question? I have none. Indeed, I take it as inherent in the human dilemma that no mortal can have an answer that will fully and permanently allay doubt. And yet I dare to feel confident that to be even partially satisfactory, an answer must bear the seal of religious faith.

And what do I mean by religious faith? Surely more than a creed, a commandment, a metaphysical scheme. It is that inner compulsion persuading us that we are implicated in an enveloping mystery. It is that search for meaning, which though it never reaches its goal, gives life a structural unity. It is that constant nourishment of our own personal and community roots as the emotional source of spiritual courage. It is that inexpressible yearning toward the fulfillment of the undiscoverable purpose of the universe, a purpose which when we are tuned to our most excruciatingly sensitive pitch, we firmly believe is unfolding before, and, in small part, through each of us.

CHARLES EDWARD WYZANSKI, JR. is District Judge for Massachusetts. Educated at Exeter and the Harvard Law School, he served as clerk to both Judge A. N. Hand and Judge Learned Hand, who, he says, gave him his professional canons, intellectual standards, and criteria of what makes a useful citizen. In 1933 F.D.R. appointed him a Solicitor of Labor for Secretary Frances Perkins. In 1935 Solicitor General Reed took him on his staff for arguments before the Supreme Court of the U.S. From 1937 to 1941 he reverted to private practice; but, after serving in Washington on the National Defense Mediation Board, he was appointed District Judge by President Roosevelt. Judge Wyzanski makes annual trips to Europe on behalf of ILO. In 1943, as he phrases it, ``I had the incredible luck to marry the happiest, most unspoiled and most lovable girl I have ever met. Living with her makes the whole year Spring.``