When children were children, it was the epoch of these questions: “Why am I me and not you? Why am I here and not there? When does time begin, and where does space end? Is life under the sun perhaps only a dream?
Damian is speaking. He is one of the angels in the movie Wings of Desire who has the job of watching over and protecting those who lives in the city. The movie is set in the 1980s, in the midst of the Cold War, and the German capital is still divided in two. In those who live through it, the oppressive pall of ideology provokes a certain resignation to a repetitive life marked by an unchanging gray dullness. People wearily drag their existences. Their desires have been sadly stymied. Reality appears to have lost anything interesting for them. When children were children, it was the epoch of these questions. But not anymore. When reality is no longer interesting to adults, when they no longer can offer answers, children also stop asking questions. And yet asking is the beginning of thinking, of culture, and of philosophy. Children are the first philosophers. And the question is reasonable only if there is someone who has the courage to look for the answers, to take a stab at them, and to offer them as responses. Without the possibility of there being an answer, the child, man, stops asking questions. And at the end one accepts, resignedly and apathetically, a compromise with what the world offers. This is reflected in ideology imposed by an oppressive political power, like in East Germany 30 years ago, or the more devious one offered today which, through every means of communication, transmits to us the new values of a prevalent progressivism.
Von Balthasar says, «A consciousness of himself reawakens in the child once this consciousness is evoked in him through his mother’s love.» And a mother’s and a father’s love are complete when that love is translated into a proposal; composed of gestures, suggestions, and judgments; that sets into motion the child’s freedom.
Each one of us is that child who needs that his questions are listened to, and who, in turn, needs to listen to the answers. He asks that someone be involved in his life, someone available to guide him and correct him, to the point of learning from him to ask and to let reality provoke questions again in him.
At the end of the movie the angel Damian, who falls in love with a woman who he watches every day from the gray Berlin skies, decides to abandon his celestial nature to become a human being. He says, «Through my wonder of man, I have become man.» Damian becomes mortal so that he can share with his beloved her dramas and joys, and to face, beside her, the challenges and the questions that life places before her. In the event of Christmas, God too becomes man out of love for His creature. Or better, he becomes a child. To awaken in us our questions. And to suggest to us the answers.