Introductory Note

Introductory Note

Personal identity; personal fulfillment. Two issues that obsessively occupy the modern mind.

Who am I? Whatever other answer may be given, it is indisputable that I am not myself, not yet. The me of today is inevitably giving way to the me of tomorrow which is slightly different, and sometimes (after particular choices or experiences) notably or even radically different.

How am I? What do I want to be? What am I in fact becoming? Some people prefer to turn aside from these questions, and yet few can avoid them. We can do something with time, but we cannot stop it. Either we shape it or it will shape us. The past is behind us; we cannot change it, though we can try to learn from it. The future is yet to come; in that sense it still lies in our hands. The "tomorrows" of each one are coming quickly, but they still have to come. What will they bring? What will I make of them, or what will they make of me? Is the future actually in my hands, or am I in its hands? Does it shape me inevitably, or am I free to give it shape? Is my sense of freedom real, or am I in fact controlled and determined by some more powerful force or destiny?

"Will I be happy?, will I be successful?, will I be free?" There is little satisfaction in the fatalistic answer, "que será, será - what will be, will be", for it is not really an answer at all. Not only when one is young (although especially then), it is logical to react and say, "No, No! My life, and especially my future, is still in my hands. It can be what I want. I can still make what I like of my life".

My life will undoubtedly be what I make of it; of that I can be sure. But will what I make of it be to my liking? Will I really be happy and free? Of this I cannot be sure at all. It depends on so much, on so many imponderables and ponderables. The purpose of this book is to consider some of the ponderables; in other words, to examine main elements or factors of human existence and development which, if properly put together, can give shape to a fulfilled life, and so at least in part help resolve the question - the crisis - of human identity.

This, then, is a book about the life of each of us, as it can be, i.e. as we can make it. It traces a program for human fulfillment, examining major aspects of our personal and social life, asking fundamental questions, proposing some more obvious (though not necessarily politically correct) answers, along with a few that may not be so obvious. The chief purpose however is not to offer answers, but to expand horizons, to prompt interest in looking higher and reaching farther. As a consequence, most of the issues considered are left open so that the reader, helped perhaps by the analyses given, can provide his own answers and examine where they may lead.

In the main body of the book (Parts I and II) I examine the unfolding of human possibilities. I try to show that these possibilities are real and great, but not unlimited; nor inevitably realized.

The dominant anthropological theme is that one has to open oneself to "values" and, by responding to them, to happiness and fulfillment. The aim is to show what this means and - since happiness is not an automatic or guaranteed result of any sort of life - why it can be difficult and how it can be achieved.

The book is meant for those of this new millennium who, being immersed in the problems being posed to personal life, are not fully satisfied with answers being given; or are finding no answers. A glance at the bibliography will show that many contemporary authors are quoted, and many more of preceding generations. While this latter point may put some people off, the reason for it should be clear. It is hard to understand the present if you do not know the past. I cannot know myself if I do not know my roots. Without perspective I will never properly grasp the mindset of the age in which I live, or be able to judge the way it tends to shape my own mind and my choices.


Chapters 1-11 derive from a course in anthropology that the author taught during the 1990s in Rome at the Studium Rotale (the specialized postgraduate school for would-be advocates of the Roman Rota), and subsequently at Strathmore University, Nairobi. It might be described as an experiment in analyzing "man" and his possibilities at a purely human level, without any reference to religion, transcendence, or God. It is left to each one to conclude whether and to what extent an "anthropology of values" leads to a transcendent view of life.

Chapters 12 and 13 (Part Three), along with Appendix I, have been added in order to give some idea of the horizons which the christian transcendental view opens. They may be considered superfluous by the reader who feels little urge toward transcendence.