Wolfhart Pannenberg “What is Man?”, Fortress, 1970. pg. 55-56
Insofar as the direction of a man’s life is toward God,
community with God is already actualized in this movement. To
that extent, the destiny of man already becomes effective and
becomes a reality for us in this life. This presupposes that
we remain in this movement and do not stop along the way.
The fact is, however, that men repeatedly interrupt their
course through the world toward God. They establish
themselves in the world and, at least temporarily, forget
their quest for God. This is temporary, because it lies in the
nature of the question that it cannot be forgotten
indefinitely. Men do not forget God simply because they are
lazy. This forgetfulness has a deeper root, namely, man’s
egocentricity. Left to their own initiative, men by no means
live in a constant movement beyond themselves in an openness
to the world. Rather, as they actually are, men strive to
assert themselves and to prevail. Each person seeks to attain
all the riches of life for himself. It is common for the
clever person to exercise moderation as a means to this end.
A person seeks to establish himself through his achievements,
and he basks in whatever recognition others accord him.
Whatever task a man might take on becomes a matter of his
concern by the very fact that he puts his hand to that task.
The more he spends himself in its service, the more he
establishes his own self along with accomplishing the task.
This is the source of the ambiguity of all human behavior.
Each person experiences time and space only in reference to
himself. Each person is the center of his world. Therefore,
the here and now is different for each person.
It is clear that such egocentricity does not stand in an
obvious harmony with man’s openness to the world. On the
contrary, there is an inherent tendency in the ego to adhere
to one’s own purposes, conceptions, and customs. Thus a
man not only has a tendency to break out into the open, but he
also has a tendency toward a certain self-enclosement.
However, even where a person breaks through into the open, the
ego is always involved in it. The person who thinks he can
move beyond his self only lives in a dream world. Wherever he
might move, he brings. his self with him.
A person does not escape his self either through diversion or
through asceticism. To be sure, that is not even worth
striving for. The wish to escape one’s self is only a short
circuit in the whole enterprise. Aversion to one’s self is
ingratitude. A person can overcome his self centeredness not
by throwing away his ego, but by incorporating it into a
larger totality of life. This actually happens, however, a
person actually transcends his egocentricity in this sense,
only at the boundary of actual human existence (that may
happen just by learning to be content). For it is just at that
boundary that what existed up to that point is abandoned. What
exists, however, is at all times and at all places an ego.
Even if it has just been abandoned, it is immediately there
again in the new situation. All human life is carried out in
the tension between self.