Considerable time has been spent on my part over quite a few years trying to decide what this means.

It is the title of a book of stories by Flannery O’Connor and is taken from an aphorism by the Jesuit theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, popular with seminarians in my theological days.  I learned recently that it also a concept valued by my friend, law school classmate, also a former seminarian, Governor Jerry Brown.

Fr. De Chardin wrote:  “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.

To “rise” in this context, it seems to me, is to have spiritual wings, to lift, to “slip the surly bonds of earth” in that memorable phrase taken by another Irishwoman, Peggy Noonan, and spoken by Ronald Reagan on the occasion of the space shuttle Challenger disaster (from “High Flight,” a poem by John Gillespie McGee)

What enables a thing to rise?  Living in truth.  Nobility.  Genuine love.  Care for others. Sacrifice.  In sum, what Kierkegaard called purity of heart.

Very few of these qualities are on display today, but they do exist and occasionally, despite the haze created by human tragedy and evil, we see them and are inspired.  They are the evidence of things unseen, the proof of that which the human heart is capable.

The desperate need for qualities that rise came back with film footage of evil in Syria, the purposeful gassing of children, the targeting of hospitals, the effort to hunt and kill the “white helmets”, those saints in human clothing who try to provide even elementary treatment for the wounded.

Surely there must be a special place near Satan’s throne for those, especially the Russians, who could end this with a phone call but who refuse to do so.  And Assad himself has earned the worse fate imaginable.

Those of us who live in safety (except, perhaps, for the random supermarket or school shooting) do not like to think of evil, of pure, unadulterated wrongs perpetuated with intent.  But if goodness rises, evil descends.

One is not required to be a Biblical scholar to view human behavior as a never-ending struggle between that which is evil and that which rises.

But what does it mean for human goodness to “converge” and why must it do so?

This remains a mystery and invites us to consider its meaning.  Perhaps it is at least partly solved by these words: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed”.  It is realized when people of varied backgrounds unite to achieve a goal larger than each of them individually.  It occurs when everyday Americans shun the language of separation and denigration and follow the better angels of our nature.  Convergence occurs when all the people of good will come together to overcome the forces of ill will.

Even in desperate hours, the hope of convergence of all that is good, all that rises will overwhelm all that descends, and the better angels of courage and selflessness and human goodness will prevail.

And while we pray for that day, we struggle on.


3 Responses to “Everything That Rises Must Converge”

  1. Neil McCarthy Says:

    It is such a Jesuit concept. Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit and Gov. Brown was a Jesuit seminarian for a brief time. One of the mantra of the Jesuits is that we should seek God in everday life, and I think de Chardin’s aphorism reflects both that effort and the belief that the effort can result in an encounter. It also reflects the central mystery of Christianity, the Incarnation, a kind of ultimate invitation from the God of love to rise up and in doing so to change the world for the better.

    And recently, it became the central message of the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, when the Rev. Michael Curry, Chicago’s Episcopalian Bishop, quoting de Chardin, told us that “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be the second time in history that we will have discovered fire.” Rev. Curry was crystal clear on what that rising flame could accomplish — “When love is the way,” he said, “poverty will become history [and] the earth will become sanctuary.”

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    I’ve often wondered, Neil, if I was not a Jesuit in a previous life. Gary

  3. Tom Stephenson Says:

    Missed this in August but wanted to comment. The Kierkegaard quote more fully is expressed, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” The decision to rise, to appeal to our better angels, to choose the good is a matter of the will. The choices we make, the words we speak all have power to shape and form the future. Unlike Nietzsche’s “Will to Power,” the will to love is not coercive but rises based upon the authority (Weber) given by those who receive such love. It is a trust conveyed by the beloved and the convergence of which de Chardin and O’Conner speak is, IMHO, the convergence of each act of good will into the ultimate Good that has already called us into the Light of a better way of being in relationship with one another.

Leave a Reply

All comments are reviewed by a moderator prior to approval and are subject to the UCD blog use policy.