Getting closer to “the other end of life” - Alfred Kuen

Alfred Kuen (August 31, 1921 – April 6, 2018) has just passed away in his 97th year. The Emmaus Forum draws its heritage in particular from the work of the Emmaus Biblical and Missionary Institute (IBME) where Alfred Kuen played a central role. We keep his memory in the hope of the Kingdom and in the recognition of a life in the service of Christ and founded on his Word. »* Alfred Kuen not only left us a theological legacy in more than 50 works on the major themes of the Bible, but he also contributed to the translation of the “ Sower Bible ”, a Bible written in contemporary French, and he He is heavily invested with other theologians such as Sylvain Romerowski . Alfred Kuen - Birth August 31, 1921, Death April 6, 2018 Here is a brief extract from the book: “ The Meaning of Life

By getting closer to “the other end of life”

Then, when we gradually feel our strength diminishing and we see “the other end of life” approaching, the question insidiously arises: And now? “What does all this lead to?” Will we say like Maxime Le Forestier: “I was born only to go underground, and forget it first”? Elsewhere, he confesses: “I have known the time of despair where we get bogged down a little more every day, where, with our eyes open, we expect nothing more from luck than death if it does not come. 'love". Death, yes, it is the only certainty, as Nietzsche said, but men refuse to think about it. They live as if their existence should never end here on earth. But sometimes this thought still imposes itself. During the death of a loved one or a funeral, an accident from which we miraculously escaped and where “we could have stayed there”, or for no reason, during a sleepless night. And with her comes her sidekick: “What next?” Are we sure that “when we are dead, we are dead”? That everything ends “in the hole”? That there is no after?

An eminently current question

For many centuries, man did not seem particularly concerned about this question of the meaning of life. We lived "in Christianity" and we considered that it was the responsibility of the ecclesiastics who had to settle it for you. But, with the collapse of Christianity and all the values ​​conveyed by it, man found himself faced with a great void: life no longer had a meaning defined by an authority accepted by all and which was shared by all. It is significant that the University of Human Sciences of Strasbourg organized a debate on “the ideological void” which followed the collapse of communism. Man does not discover himself only in Prometheus, capable of stealing fire from the sky, but in Sisyphus obliged to constantly climb up the stone which constantly slides down from the mountain. It is not without reason that Camus titled his analysis of modern society The myth of Sisyphus. Adam Sohaff, a Polish Marxist philosopher, asked the fundamental questions: “What is the meaning of life? What is man's place in the universe? He replied: “It seems difficult to express oneself scientifically on such nebulous subjects. And yet, if someone declared ten times that these were false problems, the problems would still remain.” 7 Nietzsche predicted the advent of a nihilism destructive of all values. Hans Küng spoke of the danger of a total loss of meaning in our generation; but he also said that many are beginning to realize that life insurance and a bank account do not yet guarantee a happy and meaningful life, and that the standard of living does not replace the meaning of life (Preface to Kromler, 76 p. 9). The Viennese logotherapist and philosopher Victor E. Frank said: “We are living in a very characteristic crisis of meaning, it is the new illness: noogenic neurosis, which is less a psychological illness than a spiritual distress, an existential void. » Einstein once said: “We live in a time of perfect means and confused ends.” R. Ruthe uses this image: “Most men are like travelers sitting in a train moving towards unknown goals. They pay their ticket and are happy to ride. They know neither the driver of the train nor the destination to which he is taking them. An incredible story - but true” (79 p. 160). The Catholic Church also recognizes that the question of the meaning of life is relatively new. The 2nd Vatican Council (1962-1965) was for the first time interested in the problem of meaning. In the declaration on the relationship of the Church with non-Christian religions, the questions are asked: “What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of our life? What is the ultimate, unspeakable mystery of our existence: where we come from and where we are going? On the other hand, it is affirmed that “God alone is the answer to the deepest longing of the human heart. .. Man will always carry within himself the desire to know the meaning of his life, his work and his death. God alone, in his revelation, gives the exhaustive answer to these questions.” “Given the current development of the world, the number of those who ask themselves the fundamental questions: 'What is man? What is the meaning of suffering, of evil, of death?' is constantly growing. One of the questions that keeps coming up is: “What is the main thing?” “It is from what we consider essential that our life and our activity receives its meaning, it is around this that it revolves... The essential is that God becomes the essential” (H . Gollwitzer). “The concentration on this world which, at the beginning, was liberation from an always threatening beyond, is felt by many of our contemporaries as a prison. The art, literature and philosophy of the 20th century bear overwhelming testimony to this. Their style, the style of tearing and regression towards the primitive elements of the universe shows that the demons that we thought we had banished have returned. We are once again aware of the tragic decline of man, of guilt, emptiness and despair” (Paul Tillich). 8 Why does the question of the meaning of life arise more acutely today? Because all the solutions advocated by thinkers of all time have been tried and none of them gave the promised result. The enthroned “goddess Reason” engendered Revolution and Terror without changing man. Replacing monarchy with democracy, while eliminating the arbitrariness of “divine right” power, led to party struggle and corruption at all levels. The dream of the “classless society” and the “socialist paradise” has collapsed, leaving countries bloodless and lives shattered. Religion, the “opium of the people,” was swept away without the man now of age being any happier. The “return of religion” directs thousands of men and women towards the dead-end paths of sects. Scientific progress has, in part. improved the human condition, but it also allowed the more radical annihilation of thousands of men and created less favorable living conditions: various pollution, food adulterated by the massive use of chemical fertilizers, hormones and -industrial products, global warming. Machinery and automation have freed man from a lot of tedious work, but they have had the downside of the unemployment of a significant fraction of the population. Working time has decreased, but the hours recovered have often contributed to degrading man more than elevating him, because easy leisure has weakened his will and fed his imagination with degrading lusts. The wealth of industrialized countries has increased everywhere while that of poor countries has decreased. But its unequal distribution arouses frustration among those who are deprived of it, which breeds violence and a climate of insecurity. All the goals of life proposed in turn as panaceas for the ills of humanity have proven to be fallacious. As man struggled to conquer one of them, he saw meaning in its existence. Even the war had a goal: “So that our children never see this again!” ". Their descendants observe today: “They suffered and many of them died for nothing!” So what to live for? “The disease of the end of the 20th century,” said Paul Tournier. it is the search for the meaning of life.” And Paul Ricoeur: “It is very true that men lack justice and love, but they lack even more meaning”. “The question of the meaning of life puts man into question: is his search for meaning serious? So serious that according to the answer he would be ready to change his life? (1. Amstutz). Jesus said, “He who seeks finds.” He therefore called us to search seriously, like the woman who had lost one of her ten coins (which undoubtedly constituted her wedding necklace), as the shepherd searched for the lost sheep, as we search for the unique key of our car if we have lost it. If this is the seriousness of our question, if the word of Jesus is reliable, we should be able to find the answer to this “question of questions”. The famous ophthalmologist and philosopher of the 18th century, Jung Stilling, friend of Goethe and Herder, said: “Blessed are those who are nostalgic, for they will reach the port”. This word can guide us and support our courage in this journey through the different meanings of life that each person has given to it, towards that which the Author of all life offers us - therefore also of ours. 7. A Philosophy anan London, Lawrence & Wishart 1963 p. 34. 8. “Das christliche Verständnis des modernen Menschen” in Das religiôse Fundament des morahschen Handelns T. … Stuttgart, Evang. Verlagswerk l965 pp. 1905.
* To find out more about his life journey you can read the article In memory of Alfred Kuen on the clc france blog For more information you can visit