The Voices of the Days

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The Voices of the Days/15 - The ways of faithfulness to the word are mysterious and uncomfortable

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 19/06/2016

Fiore bianco ridBlessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! ... for so their fathers did to the prophets. ... Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."

Luke 6,22;26

The natural condition of the prophet is the failure. The false prophets are the ones to be heard and followed, to respond fully to the expectations of their time. Being followed, achieving fame and honours has always been a sure sign of false prophecy - and continues to be so. True prophets, however, are always out of time, uncomfortable, obnoxious, annoying.

[fulltext] =>

They ask for and scream about the defence of the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the orphans, they struggle against idolatry; and while they do so they still live in a society where the poor are downtrodden and exploited and the idols are multiplying. In response to their complaint they encounter persecution, stoning and are often jailed and killed. Knowing and retracing the history of the prophets of yesterday and today is a great lesson on the dynamics of power, and therefore on the nature of all ideologies which, in their essence, are instruments produced by the ruling class in order to increase power and privileges.

True prophets do not like their condition of a prophet. They do not choose it, and if they could they would do something else. But - and here is the essence of this specific vocation - they cannot choose. They cannot escape, even if they try. The prophets are neither better nor worse than all the others: they are simply different. Some have even thought, and still think, that the prophets are useless if not harmful, because their words are vanitas that does not transform the world. In the end, all they do is deceive the poor and the marginalized promising a salvation that never comes. Some, many think so. But they are wrong. All the prophets can know is the misunderstanding on the part of the people, due to their "singing" a counter melody. There is also the deliberate and intentional persecution by those who understand them very well, and so fight them. The Pharaohs and Herod recognize and know the prophets, and that's why they fear them more than anything else. But there is someone who believes and loves the prophets. They are the poor, the oppressed, the humble, those pushed to the margins, the lepers. And not just because they see the hope of redemption from their unjust condition in a prophet, but because they are in the anthropological and spiritual conditions to understand their voice. The Kingdom of Heaven is just for the "poor" and those "persecuted for righteousness' sake" because in their condition they can see, understand and desire it.

The powerful, however, are very fond of the false prophets, to the point of worshipping them. They are their flatterers and devotees, because false prophecy confuses the collective consciousness and legitimates the positions of power. Yesterday and today, the market abounds with intellectuals, writers, sometimes religious people that generate theories and ideologies for the sole purpose of justifying the power of those who support them and feed them. When it is too expensive or inconvenient to eliminate the prophets directly, the powerful do so indirectly, by hiring false prophets. They behave like the plants that defend themselves from the attacks of some insects by generating odours and other substances to attract the predatory insects of those threatening them. Therefore, the main virtue of those performing some prophetic function is resilience and stamina to persevere in the condition of frustration over their words pronounced because of their vocation not being listened to. Especially when times passes slowly, persecutions have no respite, and the prophetic word should continue to be pronounced. But why does the prophet go on saying his words if he cannot see the end of injustice or the advent of a new kingdom of the poor? Certainly not because he hopes to convert the powerful. He knows very well - or learns it as he becomes an adult - that the pharaohs are inconvertible. He doesn't even hope for revolutions of the poor, because he knows that once they become powerful, the poor of today will behave exactly like those who oppressed them yesterday. Neither are they the men and women of the reform of small steps, seeking a gradual improvement on the level of what's possible, here and now. This reformist vision, which is just as important and co-essential, is that of the (good) institutions, not of the prophets. What they announce is too different from the status quo, and no marginal improvement could adequately respond to their prophecy. They are eternally dissatisfied. Because what they announce is a reign that's too righteous, a God who is too close, man who is too different. But prophecy is not to be confused with utopia, because unlike the utopian word (which is often produced to distract us from that of the prophets), the prophetic statement is always concrete. It calls people by their name; it takes specific actions and makes visible gestures using the "jars" and the "yokes" of all. It is an "already" that indicates a "not yet". For this reason the word of the prophets is always betrayed the promised land is never reached, and their existence is marked by a constant and growing feeling of certainty of failure and suffering.

To truly understand that happiness is not the most important thing in life, we must get to know the prophets. A prophet is not happy, simply because happiness does not interest him. He would not understand or know how to answer the question: "Are you happy?" He only wants to remain a "voice crying in the wilderness", without waiting or even hoping to see the desert flourished. True prophets always cry in the desert, and the much heat and thirst cannot silence their voices. And when they see some signs of spring, they wonder whether those shoots are anything but a sign that their voice has lost truth and prophecy. So why does the prophet continue to talk, to cry, to lose his health, well-being and not infrequently even his life? Simply because he cannot help to do it. He is inhabited by a mystery that he does not possess, does not know, and one that does not obey him. But if he does not give voice to that voice, he will really die. This is the sad and wonderful destiny of the prophets. The wonderful story of Jonah, the radical simplicity of his unique and paradoxical literary genre is among the most revealing of the essence of this dimension of the prophetic vocation (the dimensions of the prophetic vocation are many, and it is not easy to break them down to units). Jonah, as often happens to the prophets (Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah ...), does not respond to the call immediately. When Jonah receives the first call to prophesise in Nineveh, he escapes and embarks on a ship going in the opposite direction. After being miraculously saved from the wreck (thanks to the fish), he answers the second call of YHWH and brings his message to the big city: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (3,4). And, as an exceptional event, the city of Nineveh and its king repent, and convert fully and immediately. Having observed this conversion, God changes his mind and does not destroy Nineveh, acting differently from what he had said through Jonah. No prophet is master of the word that he has to announce due to his call. He knows that God cannot be caged either by the prophecy that He himself puts on the lips of the prophets.

The most mysterious aspect of the story of Jonah is his disappointment and anger about God's repentance: “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, »O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.«” (4,1-3) This pain and indignation of Jonah can tell us something very important. Prophets are the great lovers of the word. Because of this, they are its custodians. Like women and mothers are experts and guardians of the body, so are prophets of the word. They live only for this, they cannot do anything else. But they are not only lovers and guardians of the words they say: they are also their great defenders. Against men, but, says Jonah, they are defenders of the word even against YHWH. Since they are not its masters, they can be - and are - its protectors. More of an artist who keeps his work, the first task of the prophet is to protect the word, even if its sender change their mind. If he didn't do so, the word he is announcing would soon get worn out and empty. The prophets can defend the word of God from God himself. The word is always a very serious matter: prophets have the task to remind everyone, even God of this, knowing that they will not be heard. If the prophets did not love the word they are announcing more than themselves, they would be false prophets, journeymen of words that they only sell and do not serve. The paradox of the end of the story of Jonah opens up to us only if we take prophecy radically seriously and don't transform it into a merely ethical or religious matter. Faithfulness to the word of God is more radical for the prophet than obedience to God himself. It is in this paradoxical obedience-faithfulness that the true prophet is truly faithful.

Whoever has had a task in life, while unwinding it responsibly, can sense this mysterious and paradoxical dimension of every vocation. Their most valuable and crucial moments were those when they had to protect that task and that work precisely against those who had entrusted it to them. To keep believing even when the one who had "called" them no longer spoke, or had changed his mind. It is on this tremendous and wonderful faithfulness that you play a lot of the truth of an entire existence. It is also because of this strange faithfulness that it is not easy to understand the prophets. But it is not impossible. We must at least try. And so, after having commented on Genesis, Exodus, Job, and Ecclesiastes during the recent years, next Sunday we will begin to get to know the first writer prophet, perhaps the greatest of all: Isaiah. A new journey will begin that's unpredictable now, but certainly fantastic. Together.

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They cannot hope for the conversion of the pharaohs. They are the guardians and defenders of the word against everyone. Even against God, as the paradox of Jonah's story tells us. 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The Voices of the Days/15 - The ways of faithfulness to the word are mysterious and uncomfortable

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 19/06/2016

Fiore bianco ridBlessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! ... for so their fathers did to the prophets. ... Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets."

Luke 6,22;26

The natural condition of the prophet is the failure. The false prophets are the ones to be heard and followed, to respond fully to the expectations of their time. Being followed, achieving fame and honours has always been a sure sign of false prophecy - and continues to be so. True prophets, however, are always out of time, uncomfortable, obnoxious, annoying.

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The Counter Melody of the Prophets

The Voices of the Days/15 - The ways of faithfulness to the word are mysterious and uncomfortable by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 19/06/2016 Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! ... for so t...
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    [title] => The Shared Bread of Tomorrow
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The Voices of the Days/14 - We have to learn again about leaven sharing and dough making

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 12/06/2016

Surfinia rid

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, (...) And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. (...) ...and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet (...).

Ezechiele 37,1-10

In order for our life together to be good and happy we must know how to hold together different realities that are opposing each other. Creating unlikely and unforeseen alliances between persons and dimensions that common sense would keep separate and distant. The words "charisma" and "institution" aren't simple; they say something of this dialectic and confrontational nature of good life.

[fulltext] =>

Charisma and institution are values, something similar to the "active values" of the enzymes. When the "institution value" and "charisma value" are absent, the bread does not rise, the milk becomes cheese for the absence of rennet. Institutions without gratuitousness and the excess of charis-charisma become inhuman, asphyxiating, ugly and sad places; and if the charismatic experience is not supported by structures and rules, it cannot last, it shatters and evaporates. Institutions and charisma are co-essential like flesh and bones, spirit and body, intelligence of the hands and mind. They are co-essential and different. The institution is something adult, strong, hierarchical and male. The charisma is young, weak, fraternal and female. The institution is Peter, the charisma is Maria. The institution is and should be cautious. The charisma is and should be unwise. The institution avoids risk, the charisma loves it. The institution conserves, the charisma innovates. The institution remembers and maintains, the charisma forgets and changes. The institution preserves us from death, the charisma generates and regenerates new life. Without gratuitousness you cannot live, you can only survive. Without charis the bread is always unleavened. Our grandmothers kept the yeast by giving a small portion of the dough to their neighbour, who added it to the dough made with new flour and then passed it on (or back) the next day, so everybody could leaven new lumps of dough. The wonderful circuit of the reciprocity of bread.

To understand the logic and the valuable role of the charismatic value it is useful to think of it as a continuation of the prophetic principle that we find as a strong and central idea in the Jewish and Christian Bible, but also in other major founding texts of religions and civilizations, and, with specific and beautiful traits, in the life and activity of great poets, writers and artists. If we read the Bible and human history from this perspective, we quickly realize that the recipients of the prophecy are primarily the powerful, the strong, the kings, the temple, the religious and political institutions. The prophets come for the conversion of those in power.

When the prophets are lacking, or when they get silenced, institutions are closed in on themselves, they forget about the poor, they trample them, sell them, oppress them, and they become structures that feed the privileges and income of the rich and powerful. The prophetic word is always a concrete and historical one. It always speaks in the present, even if it was written thousands of years ago, although the most normal and common way to defuse the power of prophecy is to think that is not addressed to us here and now. When Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew condemns the "scribes and the hypocritical Pharisees", we do not understand the power of that word if we forget that the "hypocrites" were the leaders of the Christian communities for whom Matthew wrote (not only those of the time of Jesus). They were the leaders of the first churches in the late first century, and already wanted themselves be called "rabbi" and "master", like all the leaders of all communities after the prophets are gone. The prophetic word converts and saves us only if we feel that it's uttered and written for us, for me.

The prophetic profile is not only expressed in the words of the prophets. We find it in life and in the words of many biblical characters and books. Job, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, The Song of Songs, the Psalms, David, Revelation and many letters of Paul contain prophetic pages that are added to the words of the prophetic books - which, in turn, not only contain prophetic words. The prophetic principle does not coincide with the activities of the prophets or with the teaching of the prophets. It is more and less: there are no prophetic words spoken by the prophets, and there are words of the prophets that are not prophetic.

Sometimes prophecy is a collective experience, involving more people. Around the prophet communities are formed, and / or more prophets share the same lifetime. A particularly important prophetic phenomenon consists in communities and charismatic movements, which are formed around one or more people with charisma, of a spiritual, political, civil, cultural or artistic type. These collective realities have the specific feature of fully identifying with the charismatic-prophetic function. Therefore, the inevitable risk of such communities and charismatic movements is in not recognizing that even inside them, and starting from their rise, the charisma coexists with the institution. The charisma produces its institutions naturally and necessarily, which, in order to stay generative and genuinely charismatic, must continually reconvert to the original charisma, recognizing and valuing their prophets. But being "prophets by vocation and mission", charismatic communities do not feel the need to accommodate and enhance the prophets that are born to them, and generally fight them as false prophets. And so they begin their decline, because a charismatic institution does not become just an "institution and nothing more" if it is able to give space to the bearers of the prophetic dimension inside it. Paradoxically, the least hospitable places for the prophets are the prophetic communities in which they arise. Nobody is a prophet in these homelands, because the institution itself absorbs every prophetic dimension, it becomes a monopolist of the charismatic principle, and it does not feel the need of an internal charismatic critique.

Wise charismatic governments know how to host unaligned and critical characters, recognizing their co-essential role. They see them as providence and salvation, and they welcome the criticism that necessarily arises from them. Knowing and learning that beside the good grain of the prophets there will always be the weeds of false prophets.

The institution writes statutes and more and more detailed regulations; the charisma changes, transforms and simplifies them. When the government of charismatic communities is composed only of persons totally aligned with the vision and the words of the institution (which almost always happens), they actually lose prophecy and generativity dramatically. Prudence harnesses prophecy and innovation, rules and words of yesterday become the straightjacket of tomorrow.

The most valuable quality of those who govern charismatic communities is the ability to identify the prophets scattered in the suburbs, and give them space and attention, giving up unconditional consent and the absence of criticism. It is disagreement, and even a natural dose of conflict, what tells about the presence of the charisma in institutions, especially charismatic ones.

Like any prophetic voice, the first vocational task of these is to prevent and combat the disease of idolatry, which occurs naturally when the prophetic voice ceases to exist or is suppressed in charismatic institutions. The first and unavoidable temptation of all the prophets is to identify their own voice with that of YHWH, losing consciousness that only some of the words they utter are different, and that all the others are like everyone else's words.

In the rare cases in which the prophets are left to live and work in the community, the real miracle of the resurrection of the original charisma may be performed. The institutions that preserve a charisma have a natural tendency of becoming tombs containing the skeletons of the first prophetic event. They can do everything possible to keep the memory and the memory of yesterday alive, yet they remain funeral cults. Without resurrection the dead remain in their graves, it is the law of all life. The only good elaboration of mourning for the original charisma of the founders is its resurrection. New flesh, new blood, muscles and nerves that restore a new body from the old one that's been reduced to a skeleton. Each generation must perform the resurrection of their old and new skeletons. But only the imprudence of the prophets is capable of becoming from the handful of leaven inherited from fathers a multiplied bread to feed the hungry masses today.

The prophecy is able to operate all this, it knows how to breathe the spirit on the bones of the skeletons to make them come back to life. Without prophecy, there are only two types of sad fates charismatic experiences can face: either they end with the death of their founders, or become mere institutions reminiscent of something that no longer exists - as a photograph of a party or a distant friend. Because graves can get emptied and the photo can take blood and flesh, what's needed is only and simply prophets.

But there is also a good news: the prophets are there, although it is difficult to find them. As the spirit, the prophetic word blows where and when it wants. It doesn't let itself be caged by trades, it escapes common sense. It is found in unlikely places. In Miriam's hand over the Red Sea, in the ass of Balaam, in old Simeon, and especially in many silent gestures. The truest prophetic words live among the poor, the young, the uneducated, among those pushed to the peripheries, the desperate and the failed ones, on the mouth of mothers, at the bedside of the dying. To meet the prophets of whom we all have a great need we just have to look for them where they are not supposed to be. And beg them to breathe the word into our bones. And then learn how to raise from the dead.

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However, when a charisma is embodied in a community, sometimes the latter does not feel the need to welcome the prophetic criticism inside it, and this starts a decline. The world is full of prophets (true and false ones), but we often don't manage to see them and identify them, because they are among the humble. 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The Voices of the Days/14 - We have to learn again about leaven sharing and dough making

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 12/06/2016

Surfinia rid

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, (...) And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. (...) ...and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet (...).

Ezechiele 37,1-10

In order for our life together to be good and happy we must know how to hold together different realities that are opposing each other. Creating unlikely and unforeseen alliances between persons and dimensions that common sense would keep separate and distant. The words "charisma" and "institution" aren't simple; they say something of this dialectic and confrontational nature of good life.

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The Shared Bread of Tomorrow

The Voices of the Days/14 - We have to learn again about leaven sharing and dough making by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 12/06/2016 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he ...
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    [title] => To give some spirit to the world
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The Voices of the Days/13 - What really matters is to keep walking, until the very end

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 05/06/2016

Rosa ridOnce married you are punished by never feeling any kind of sweetness apart from what belongs to all.” (rough translation from the Italian original)

Davide Maria Turoldo, L’Uomo (Man)

The biggest challenge in all community experience is being able to create a "we" that does not end up devouring the "I" of the individuals who have created it. Collective nouns are good and on the side of life only if they are accompanied and preceded by names and personal pronouns. The "we" without the "I" is the origin of all community pathologies and illiberal regimes, even when they arise as a promise of liberation and are clothed with the robes of salvation.

[fulltext] =>

Communities can only serve their people if they recognize that they are second, allowing the first person singular to precede the plural. When this natural order of plurals and the singulars is reversed or denied, personal paths fail, vocations wither, the community betrays itself.

The destiny of every vocation is the generation of new life, the liberation of slaves from the pharaohs, beyond the sea. But every vocation is also a great love story. Its good development over time, therefore, lies in the concrete possibility of being able to hold together the call to the liberation of the oppressed and the delicate management of narcissistic emotions present in every love affair. In the beginning there is eros. The voice comes to us, it calls us and seduces us, and we find ourselves in the dream of dreams. All around us bursts out singing and is illuminated by a new sun inside, which is truer and brighter than the one shining outside. All the feelings light up, the heart moves and is moved, we feel and touch the voice that calls us like bread, like people. It is a sublime experience and essential to start each high flight under the sun. And those who have got to know it keep looking for it all their life. But in order for the vocation to continue its good development, the maturation of eros into philia (friendship) is needed. When that happens, the first call becomes an experience of company and fraternity. We exit the central and the prevailing register of emotions and passion and we start building communities. The feelings and the falling in love do not necessarily disappear, but they are neither the only nor the first language anymore. This is a very nice period of life and it is generally very long: this is when the vocation builds new cities, it realises works and an experience of a new kind of fertility and new children takes place. To Ishmael, the son of the flesh, Isaac, the son of promise is added. Faith also changes, and from an emotional and intimate experience it becomes a great history of a people, blooming in the community. The same first love is discovered in the love of the others, and a new alliance is celebrated together. The vocation opens up and it becomes a collective event. Eros stays alive even in the age of the philia because every form of love is co-essential if we want to live it well: there is no good philia (or authentic agape) without eros. But the maturation into philia changes eros forever, it opens and humanizes it.

In vocations that do not fail along the way, philia, born from the maturation of eros, blooms in turn into agape. This is the time of full maturity, when the flowers of spring become the fruits of summer. The community that has kept the first vocation and turned it into a shared and fruitful collective adventure, now becomes the springboard towards new spiritual horizons. The community does its job of a good pedagogue and finally introduces the person into adulthood. We continue to live with and for other fellow travellers, but with an all new sense of freedom and truth. Here the liberation promised by the first call reaches a first milestone: one is freed from the very community that had been donated to us. We understand that we have been sent to a larger community of our own: that of all. It turns out that the family that welcomed us was not the last word, but only the penultimate one. That our destiny is in the land of all, that the sky above the home garden is too small to hold our call to infinity. And we take off, even when we stay in the same house. There is no truer or more radical freedom than the one gushing from agape, when it really becomes anima mundi and we get to know gratuitousness. Those who come across these agapeic souls feel the heartbeat of the whole universe, no longer limited by the boundaries of a community or a specific charisma. Their identities become radically universal, their communities always have the door open.

Not all vocations manage to reach their agape phase. Many, too many, are stuck in the previous stages. The most common outcome is stopping at the "erotic" phase. People remain within the register of feelings, emotions and romance for life. Those who never leave the first dream fall into this vocational narcissism, and they reinvent and recreate it when it disappears. Instead of reading the end of the phase of as a sign and an invitation to evolve into a different, more mature love, they remain entangled in the toils of their own feelings, in a constant search of emotionally exciting narcissistic "spiritual" experiences that are able to stimulate the senses and passions. Life becomes a continuous flying from flower to flower in search of new, fresh and intoxicating pollen. They keep looking for friendships, meetings and new communities, "consumed" and left after a very short time, as soon as nourishment is finished. Life becomes a unique, monotonous and repetitive experience of "emotional" consumption, without ever moving on to the "production" phase and the liberation of the slaves.

Emotions and feelings are only the dawn and not the noontime of a vocation. The first exclusive and satiating dialogue must become a dialogue with the people in time, a dialogue with the poor, the slaves, with all the voices of the world, with that of the birds, the sea and the stones. One voice is not enough today to express that first voice that called us yesterday. Too many people lose faith in the truth of the voice of the first meeting because they seek it in the wrong places, in the infancy of vocation, in the feelings and passions of the heart. That was only the cradle, but when you are grown up cots must serve the children, ours and those of others. Biblical faith is never individual consumption: it is always the generation of salvations not yet accomplished, for others, and sometimes for ourselves. Noah went on the ark of salvation that he had built by vocation. Moses on the other hand did not reach the promised land, he saw it only from a distance. When we receive a call we do not know if we are to save ourselves, too, or only others. But what really matters is to keep walking, until the very end Mount Nebo can be a good place to die if before we have seen our people reach salvation.

Usually these blocked vocations arrive in times of great crises, when the natural habituation to emotions boils down to cancel the ability to experience pleasure from emotional consumption. An absolute dryness of feeling settles in, which is confused with spiritual aridity, and having identified the vocation with that first and only nourishment, people feel lost. Sometimes this great drought can open a new phase and mark the beginning of spiritual life. But this happy event is rare, because those who are in these "erotic" arid phases, instead of being helped to make a radical change of register, are very often encouraged to continue their inner consumption to regain the lost emotions. And the disease becomes incurable. They do not understand that in order to move from one stage of life to another they only need to learn to die.

No less common is the block at the stage of philia, which is harder to spot as illness and vocational failure, because the line between philia and agape is far more blurred than the one between eros and philia. Persons who reach the stage of philia experience fruits that resemble the ones typical of agape. When, leaving the individual eros behind, the chorus of community life is reached is we live a new kind of fertility, especially when compared with the sterility of an erotic phase prolonged beyond its natural span. This is why it is easy to be trapped by the community-philia, and not to arrive ever to the true agape phase. When we reach the age of philia, our individual identity ends up coinciding with the community identity almost inevitably. We identify with it to the point of not being able to say "I" but only "we." The arrival of the phase of agape then becomes a liberation from community philia, a great blessing which comes as a wound that can be very deep and painful. We cannot pass the age of eros and enter that of agape without crossing philia, because the agape communities is the resurrection of the philiia communities, and hence they are essential. When, in fact, personal identity has completely identified with a given group for years, to move to the new freedom of agape we go through a real death. The philia community must disappear to make way for the agape community. This disappearance brings with it all: the charisma, our personality, not infrequently even faith. This loss is total and radical, but there is no other way to reach the land of agape. The wisdom of those who accompany people during the crisis of philia is knowing how to indicate the promised land beyond the waves sweeping away everything, knowing to show a tree beyond the sea that is a lot more fruitful and lush than the dying bonsai.

Only those who have already passed the stage of philia (and that of eros) should accompany those who are still struggling in the ford. Too many rivers Jordan are never crossed because they have never been shown by the guides, or were confused with the River Nile of ancient slavery.

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It is not an easy job, because the emotional consumption and the identification of the "i" with the "we" of the community often prevent the complete flourishing of vocational paths, in any life phase. 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The Voices of the Days/13 - What really matters is to keep walking, until the very end

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 05/06/2016

Rosa ridOnce married you are punished by never feeling any kind of sweetness apart from what belongs to all.” (rough translation from the Italian original)

Davide Maria Turoldo, L’Uomo (Man)

The biggest challenge in all community experience is being able to create a "we" that does not end up devouring the "I" of the individuals who have created it. Collective nouns are good and on the side of life only if they are accompanied and preceded by names and personal pronouns. The "we" without the "I" is the origin of all community pathologies and illiberal regimes, even when they arise as a promise of liberation and are clothed with the robes of salvation.

[jcfields] => Array ( ) [type] => intro [oddeven] => item-odd )

To give some spirit to the world

The Voices of the Days/13 - What really matters is to keep walking, until the very end by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 05/06/2016 “Once married you are punished by never feeling any kind of sweetness apart from what belongs to all.” (rough translation from the Italian original) Davide...
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    [title] => The Paradox of Faithfulness
    [alias] => the-paradox-of-faithfulness
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The Voices of the Days/12 - The most faded life stops at its projects of youth

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 29/05/2016

Fiore Filippine rid rid“Save me, oh, Lord, from many words”

Saint Augustine, De Trinitate

The most relevant effects of our actions are the unintentional ones that we generate without thinking, or wanting exactly the opposite of what ends up happening. The root of this gap between intentions and results is the inability to control the processes we generate, which are more complex and free of our ability to control them. Our every act is a seed that blooms, grows and dies under laws which escape us. If the results of what we generate were all inscribed in our will and intelligence and if they were captured by these, the world would be such a sad and poor place to live and we would miss the biggest surprises "under the sun".

[fulltext] =>

Real life is freedom, it does not follow the rules that we imprint on it and it refuses to be caged by our will to dominate.

The unintended effects of our actions are always important, but they are decisive in ideal-driven organizations and in communities and movements born of charismas or spiritual values. Here very often the happiest outcomes arise from random events that are neither anticipated nor sought, and the worst things are the result of choices and rules resulting from good intentions to ensure future growth and success. The excess of the effects of actions on their intentions is particularly important in the mutual relationship between the founders and the future generations. Thos who give life to an ideal-driven organization or community, at some point will feel a profound need to write a "rule" for it. This rule serves several functions. It is like an identity card of that new and unique community, with photos and general information. But it is also a constitution which contains the rules of governance so that the management of relations among its members stays consistent with the specific nature of the charisma, so that the "new wine" can find "new wineskins" that are able to contain it and make it mature. The first goal of any good rule is to assure faithfulness to the charisma by those who come after. And it is exactly around this great word, faithfulness, that we tend to play a lot, almost all, of the ideal, human, community and spiritual quality of the life of future generations. In life, in every life, faithfulness is almost everything. It is trust, a covenant, a wedding pact, just as the word for wedding ring in Portuguese says - aliança -, which in Italian we call fede (faith). And like every faith, faithfulness is a free journey behind the voice that one day called us to a promised land and a great liberation. It is an exodus, a pilgrimage to a mountain that's higher than us, unknown and mysterious, a place of regeneration and personal and collective salvation. It's a going which is never followed by a simple returning, because the house waiting for us on our return is always new and different. Every time we do not recognize it, we must relearn to see it again, and feel it again from inside a soul that changes after each journey; because it grows with the journey, until, one day, it coincides with the whole earth and the whole sky. The house that preserves and takes care of a real great alliance changes a thousand times in the course of life, and if it does not become too large it always ends up being too small. No house born from a call coincides with the measure of our heart, although it is always tempting to lower the roof and decrease the rooms to live there comfortably.

Faithfulness is not a simple process, nor is the original faithfulness to ourselves that we all seek and that escapes us, because the day that we were to achieve it would be just the beginning of the "great betrayal." We are faithful to ourselves until, with a moral energy previously unknown to us, we manage to return home after yet another betrayal, and as long as we keep the door open to welcome new and new and guests that come to visit us and honour us, without letting sorrow for having ushered some of the wrong type of people in shut the door of the heart for ever.

Also, the faithfulness to the founder and the charisma is very delicate; it is a journey in a beautiful forest that, however, is full of dangers and pitfalls. The first traps are those that the founder disseminates along the way, even if the construction is driven only by the desire for good, the moral certainty of creating the conditions for saving the future. For the inevitable and necessary fear that the tradition of the charisma turn into betrayal, the founders almost always end up inserting some protection devices in their rules that eventually turn into traps. Something similar is done to those wives or husbands who through fear of being betrayed give rise to a control system to monitor the other's life that kills mutual freedom and soon the couple, too - which lives and grows until the betrayal option remains real and concrete, and is freely discarded every time. The only good management of the natural fear of betrayal is in accepting the absolute vulnerability of any genuine faithfulness. Building an invulnerable faithfulness is the first betrayal of every alliance, even if it is a betrayal that's neither desired nor thought. We do not know that we are faithful true as long as we do not find ourselves on the threshold of the wrong door and realise that we can still go home. Locking down a rule to protect it from possible future abuse is the sure path to the spiritual sterility of the community. Each vulnus (wound, weak point) is also a split and the possibility of fertility. Good community alliance begins with a rule that is not afraid of vulnerability and exposure to the abuse of trust and faith.

But even if the founder wrote good and courageous - and therefore vulnerable - rules, the part to be played by future generations does not become simpler, because the traps that they themselves build on their way are not minor ones. A very common one lies in the interpretation of the verb remember. In the Gospel we find a wonderful passage that should guide the behaviour of every community in the management of faithfulness. In his last speech to the disciples after the resurrection, Jesus said: "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit ... will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:25-26). In the time period after the founders it is the Spirit to perform the three basic functions: it is the Paraclete, it teaches and helps remember. The Spirit is the Paraclete, that is, the lawyer, the defender, the one who is on our side, protects us and saves us. The Spirit is the one who teaches us "all things": the master of the time that follows the founder is the Spirit, it is the charisma itself. This teaching is accomplished through the exercise of a particular dimension of memory. Remembering here is a crucial operation, because it is not a mnemonic act but an essential spiritual event for understanding the spirit of the ancient words in the present time, going beyond their letter. Remembering the founding words then is a complex and plural process that knows the most distinguished and co-essential protagonists: the first historical words, the Spirit and a community capable of remembering in the Spirit. The most common mistake is to confuse remembering in the Spirit with the exact reconstruction of spoken words. And so the communities are blocked in the name of absolute faithfulness to the words, which makes them lose the Spirit that is defence and creativity. Perfect and total faithfulness becomes total and absolute betrayal. In these instances of faithfulness to the spiritual memory the documents that recorded the ipsissima verba of the founders are of little help, instead they end up preventing good memories operated by the Paraclete. In the book of Job (chapter 19), the Paraclete is invoked by Job to defend him from Elohim who had unjustly condemned him. The spirit defends communities from their founder, because it allows you to remember only those words and events that keep us alive here and now.

Not all words must be remembered in the Spirit. Heresies are often born of words actually spoken by a founder, but not remembered in the spirit. Every good thing to remember is always partial, because life and salvation lie in remembering the few words that only a wise and risky community process can generate. It is creation of live and incarnate words; it is never a nostalgic remembering of past events. It is the re-living of the same miracle from the start with words that are ancient and all new at the same time. The living and fruitful communities are those where each generation has dared to decide which words to remember and which ones to leave to rest waiting for the propitious time of remembering them. However, when this work of partial recollection is lacking - and it always borders with the region of betrayal and sometimes even crosses through it -, the excellent intentions of unconditional faithfulness generate the worst result. The Gospels are not the chronicle of all the words of Jesus, but only a few of those remembered in the Spirit. Every charisma stays alive as long as the community does not pretend to remember all the words of the founders, and they take all the risks of partial spiritual memory, even when the founders recommended their total remembering. The words of life are few.

This is the beautiful paradox of every tradition and every faithfulness. There is no greater betrayal than that of a child who decides to keep to his parents' plans perfectly. There is no more banal encounter than the one that perfectly meets our expectations, nor worse worker than the one who performs the requirements of the employment contract perfectly. The most faded adult life is the one that realises only the projects of youth.

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The Voices of the Days/12 - The most faded life stops at its projects of youth

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 29/05/2016

Fiore Filippine rid rid“Save me, oh, Lord, from many words”

Saint Augustine, De Trinitate

The most relevant effects of our actions are the unintentional ones that we generate without thinking, or wanting exactly the opposite of what ends up happening. The root of this gap between intentions and results is the inability to control the processes we generate, which are more complex and free of our ability to control them. Our every act is a seed that blooms, grows and dies under laws which escape us. If the results of what we generate were all inscribed in our will and intelligence and if they were captured by these, the world would be such a sad and poor place to live and we would miss the biggest surprises "under the sun".

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The Paradox of Faithfulness

The Voices of the Days/12 - The most faded life stops at its projects of youth by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 29/05/2016 “Save me, oh, Lord, from many words” Saint Augustine, De Trinitate The most relevant effects of our actions are the unintentional ones that we generate without thinking...
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The Voices of the Days/11 - Daily work is the leaven of any career or vocation

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 22/05/2016

Pane ridIndeed, the tension of existence and the spur that moves us from the deep to live it reside in the fact that every stage of life is new, and had never happened before, and is unique, and then goes for ever”. As soon as you no longer feel the spur to live life, a feeling of monotony comes that can even grow to despair "

Romano Guardini, Stages of Life

The spiritual dimension of life is real and concrete as much as the organic and psychic ones. We would never have started looking at the stars in amazement, writing a poem, honouring our dead, if in our flesh and bones we were not inhabited by an invisible breath that escapes us and loves us. Honour, sincerity, beauty and meekness and all the beatitudes are spiritual matters, since neither the blood nor the flesh can reveal them to us.

[fulltext] =>

The stages of life are also those of the spirit that grows, evolves and changes every morning and you wake up being different from the person that had lain down the night before. One of the great forms of poverty of our time is the negation of spiritual life or its reduction to biology or psychic activity. And not seeing the spirit in the flesh and the emotions, there are no more masters capable of distinguishing spiritual depression from psychological. We cannot see the diseases of the spirit and we confuse them with others that look similar. We do not treat them, and so there is too much spiritual suffering in the world that is not understood or loved.

The life of the spirit also has its stages that are different for each person, just as and more than the stages of bodily ageing. In the spiritual evolution of people there are some very important and crucial events. One of these is the so-called vocation, a not too rare fact that occurs when a voice breaks in to the spirit of a person one day and calls him by name. This is an event that is not announced, unexpected and always amazing, one that changes life forever. Sometimes these vocations take the forms and language of religion, sometimes they are expressed through other languages. We do not understand many things in life because we think that spiritual life is only a religious matter and not primarily and fundamentally an anthropological reality. There are a lot of people who feel being called inside by a voice and do not know if it is or do not want to call it God. The voice is there and calls even when we do not know where it comes from - biblical humanism is the following of a voice that is not seen and has an unpronounceable name. Only the idols have obvious names and faces, and they are mute.

Therefore, when a person goes through an authentic spiritual encounter, their journey through the stages of life is enriched and complicated. First of all, at whatever age this meeting occurs, it always generates an extraordinary experience of youth. Nothing like an adult vocation makes you young again. It is the only elixir of youth available under the sun, much more powerful and radical than falling in love or becoming grandparents. It is really feeding from the tree of life. This youthful spirit has immediate effects in the psychological dimension and sometimes in the body, too. We no longer feel the limits, melancholy and cynicism disappear, the world becomes a place to change and improve. Above all, the eyes start to shine with a typical and unmistakable light, which perhaps is the most obvious beauty of every youth, and which becomes wonderful in the young days of the spirit. In this sense, every vocation is a baptism, it is death and resurrection, it is rebirth, it is returning to the womb of another mother.

Vocation, with its typical youth is, however, particularly sensitive when it concerns people who are young also by birth. The youthfulness of the body combined with that of the spirit unleashes a powerful energy, which is capable of the biggest and craziest actions, which only a young man touched in the spirit can do. It produces unlimited generosity, infinite docility. You can and want to do everything. This combination of several types of youth, however, generates another effect, too: it stretches the historical time of youth. Those who receive a vocation in young age also receive the gift of a longer youth. The bright spell of the eyes lasts for a long time, and its brings many years in which you stay really young, evangelical children - and, in a sense, you remain a bit like children for life. It is a youth that is as much longer as the great call was stronger and the greater the natural and moral talents of the person are. This long and good natural-spiritual youth is almost always the harbinger of a long and beautiful adult life and a postponed and good old age. It is the deposit of a great future gift. It delays the arrival of adulthood, but when it comes, it can be very beautiful and very fruitful.

In fact, the ability of the future to keep the promises of a long and splendid vocational youth depends a lot on the use that those responsible for communities, organizations, movements or charismatic ideals make of the infinite generosity of the time of youth. Whoever finds themselves having responsibility and authority in respect of a person in this age of life, has a difficult and delicate role. They should absolutely cherish the charm, because unrealistic, enchanted, idealistic and inexperienced youth is a rare and precious common good. But they have to be very careful, because if spiritual childhood blocks human and psychological development, it may happen that after a long youth one day you wake up old, without ever having been adults.

And it is in this typical "educational risk" that the discourse about work fits in. The generosity and the heroism typical of these young people, often lead them to neglect or not to give value to the their previous or future studies or profession, so strong is the desire to devote themselves entirely to the new reality. And so their vocation, rather than serving and strengthening their human and work talent, often turns into a kind of profession of their own selves over time, which absorbs everything else.

It was not by chance that ora et labora was in the DNA of the first monastic experiences. Even the early Franciscans lived of their work in general. Many reforms of monastic life have been especially reforms of labour, because the ora tended to devour the labora with time. Ora helps labora, but also work helps spiritual life, because it is a spiritual and charismatic activity in itself. And those who manage to save and develop a job while living within a charismatic community knows this very well. They know if they have saved a real job, because it is very difficult to really work when a vocation develops within ideal-driven communities. They do many "little jobs" to keep themselves busy, but they rarely do actual work, with a schedule, responsibility, discipline and all the toil of work.

At the root of this error, which is serious and common in the formation of young vocations, there is an aristocratic and gnostic vision which considers "spiritual" activities greater than those of work, as if a liturgy or Mass were always and by nature more moral activities and more worthy of an hour of simply working - a thesis sometimes supported by "creative" exegeses of the Gospel story of Martha and Mary. And so it is not surprising that one of the most common, although much undervalued, crises of adult religious life depends on the failure of the development of the work dimension in youth. Because you see work as a necessary evil that takes valuable time from to the only good "work" of the mission. And even when a trade (for example, teaching or curing) is inherent and intrinsic in the mission, it is even more important that the work dimension should be distinct, looked after and cared for, and never used instrumentally for the purpose of the mission, and therefore in a misrepresented way. Only a loved and respected job can be left one day, when life itself calls us elsewhere. We always get "attached" to work which is done poorly, when it becomes a "servant" or "master." However, if work is seen and recognized for what it really is, you leave it with the same painful dignity with which you leave your free child to follow the path that you had not thought of for him.  

Therefore, to work is true laity, in other words, it is an expression of being simply men and women. Work is the ability to feel and hear the heartbeat of your city, your time, your real people.

It is not always possible to really work in life. But we must live this non-work as poverty, not as a privilege or election. Suffering for not having become workers, and sometimes finding ourselves healed inside thanks to this suffering. A community leader who has really worked or suffered for not having been able to work will ensure that young people who arrive in the communities following a vocation can receive the gift of doing a real job well. Maybe for a few years, for a short time, but a real job, not "little jobs".

One day as I was leaving from Mass, I saw a worker who repaired a fault of the sewers. While thanking him for his work, in that beautiful gratitude I felt the same taste of the Eucharist (eu-charis) again. When we separate the altar bread from the work that generated it, we break the bridge between the temple and the city, and our religions do not save anyone. The bread and wine may become the sacrament of death and resurrection because they were already dead and resurrected when they became food and drink thanks to our work. But when the Eucharist loses contact with gratitude for real work, we do not understand it anymore, bread is not multiplied, the crowds are not feed. A society that no longer sees work does not have the anthropological and spiritual categories to see and understand the mystery of the Eucharist, either. Those who know the hard work and the beauty of the work that transforms the grapes and flour into wine and bread can understand the value of donating them on the altar. The Eucharist is an authentically human and social event as long as it remains the fruit of the earth, the vines and the work of man. And if passing between the stages of life we have lost our sense of the Eucharist, we can find it again by re-learning to work. Our daily work is the leaven of every bread.

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Il lavoro è altissima attività spirituale, se è vero lavoro. Quando da giovani si riceve una vocazione non è facile lavorare veramente. Ma il lavoro ci aiuta anche a intuire qualcosa del mistero dell’Eucaristia. 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The Voices of the Days/11 - Daily work is the leaven of any career or vocation

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 22/05/2016

Pane ridIndeed, the tension of existence and the spur that moves us from the deep to live it reside in the fact that every stage of life is new, and had never happened before, and is unique, and then goes for ever”. As soon as you no longer feel the spur to live life, a feeling of monotony comes that can even grow to despair "

Romano Guardini, Stages of Life

The spiritual dimension of life is real and concrete as much as the organic and psychic ones. We would never have started looking at the stars in amazement, writing a poem, honouring our dead, if in our flesh and bones we were not inhabited by an invisible breath that escapes us and loves us. Honour, sincerity, beauty and meekness and all the beatitudes are spiritual matters, since neither the blood nor the flesh can reveal them to us.

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The Double Miracle of Bread

The Voices of the Days/11 - Daily work is the leaven of any career or vocation by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 22/05/2016 “Indeed, the tension of existence and the spur that moves us from the deep to live it reside in the fact that every stage of life is new, and had never happened before,...
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The Voices of the Days/10 - No roof is high enough if it does not touch the sky

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 15/05/2016

Margherita ridRipeness is all.”

W. Shakespeare, King Lear

Becoming adults is a wonderful experience. It is an entirely spiritual and moral fact which generates a joy that can compensate and sometimes exceed the natural sadness that accompanies the end of youth and its typical beauty. The forms and times of maturity are many and various, inscribed in the flesh and history of each one of us.

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There is no condition or state of life where this experience is simple and predictable. But when we're dealing with people who live and grow inside an ideal or charismatic community, the metamorphosis of maturity is a crucial point in time, carrying a high risk of failure. It touches the heart of the very vocation that, as soon as one is past this stage, changes radically, even in aspects that previously seemed absolute and immutable.

The entrance into maturity takes the form of crisis. It manifests itself in distress, criticism and tension towards the community in which we have grown and flourished. After many bright and peaceful years, one day the heart's gaze changes, and the "house" in which our biggest story blossomed begins to change appearance. We do not feel it anymore like a good place and friend, and intimacy becomes foreignness. Something breaks inside, and that which until that point had been our first beauty and great pride, the thing that one tells to one's friends and colleagues right away becomes distant, uncomfortable and cold. In the evening we return from work, we open the same door, but do not enter home anymore.

It is not hard to see why. When a person sets out on a strong ideal-driven and therefore vocational experience, in the beginning they completely identify with the community that preserves and lives it. They see the same bright voice calling embodied, which is idealized to the point of coinciding with the ideal itself. It becomes perfect, infallible, an anticipated eschaton: if it were not so, there wouldn't be any great love stories starting. For the criticism of adulthood to be generative, it must be preceded by a youth in which the community had been loved unconditionally, felt and lived as the greatest and most beautiful thing. Sometimes the process of the crisis is slow, painful and it lasts many years; at other times, however, it is very fast, and within a few weeks or months the soul is filled with a deep spiritual suffering, which in many cases also affects the body and psyche.

At the height of this crisis we remain in the same community of the first vocation only if at a point we manage to understand that everything that is happening is a very good thing, it is only and entirely a blessing, and that we are in the pains of the birth of adult life. That the past was not pure deceit: it was only the beautiful childhood of our lives, although necessarily different from what we had dreamed. And so, finally, we are able to accept and love the idealization of youth, just as the best memories of every childhood. And we thank life and those who put us in conditions of freedom to be able to get to live the crisis of maturity – and the wound becomes a great blessing. And then we continue the journey with a new maturity and freedom. From children we become mothers and fathers of our community. A wonderful part of life begins, and the rewards that it brings are of a different flavour. One of the most amazing experiences of the earth is to meet the beauty and fruitfulness of those who managed to become adults after having received a great vocation in their youth.

These experiences, however, are rare. In many cases, in fact, vocations fail to reach this blessed crisis of maturity, even when they were big, authentic and sincere. And that’s because we get sick of such a serious, albeit common disease.
To understand the nature of this disease, it should be noted that when a person receives a vocation they feel an invincible tendency not to want anything but to respond to that loud, clear and endless voice. All our talents, passions, interests, affections are oriented in the same, sole direction. Nothing is more valuable, everything else becomes worthless. It is in these wonderful moments, when the thirst for the infinite and the desire of paradise absorb all the best efforts, that this typical disease insinuated. A vocation is a call of the entire person, with all their human talents, and it matures well if the whole person is to answer it. You get sick, however, if a dimension becomes the only identifying dimension. Earlier on, Franco was a young lover of music and studies, he had many friends and a passion for mountains. After his encounter with the Voice, answering the call becomes his only interest, and he only wants to become a Benedictine monk. He wants and asks only that. He does not understand that the call is an invitation to the flourishing of the entire field of his life – music, studies, friends, mountains –, of all his true passions, all his talents are called to multiply and to transcend themselves, because if they do not bloom, they get infected and poison the whole body.

No vocational journey can start without directing all dimensions of life to the new and principal one, but if this process of reductionism is eventually realized, the person fades and gets spent - this is the great paradox of all true vocations. At the beginning of the journey the person does not know, cannot and in a way "should" not know that all the beauty of the world and the sky that they search for can be found on all the earth and all over the sky. They may not know that their life will flourish if they do not allow that first vocational dimension to absorb and "eat up" all the rest. They do not know and cannot know this. But the wise leaders of the community must know it. They know, they must know that the flowering and mature fruits of a vocation depend on the possibility that that person has, starting from the dawn of their new day, to develop all the dimensions of their identity which is always multiple: no husband is only a husband, no artist is only an artist and no religious is only a religious. No religious is a good religious if they are only a religious. And that’s why they have to do everything so that young beautiful woman does not become a person of a single dimension over time, even when it is herself that wants it and asks for it with all her being. They must protect her vocation from the reduction to an intensive monoculture that could lead her to exhaust the substances that feed her. In order to generate life, every vocation needs time and free space for the fallow, to flourish in fields other than those previously provided, to give life to new grafts and new cuttings. Each garden where we grow our life becomes too small if it does not coincide with the whole earth, no house roof is high enough if it does not touch the sky.

But it is precisely this kind of wisdom that is in short supply in the ideal-driven and charismatic communities, because it is too risky and free to live with the rules and procedures of a good "prudent" governance. All too often, instead of helping people to enlarge their heart and open the windows of their home, leaders encourage monoculture and recommend it as the only way to put as a solid foundation for the vocation. And so people, especially the most beautiful and radical, find themselves encouraged to "eat" all the dimensions of their humanity so as to nourish only one – that dies because of running out of food after a few years. Formation is reduced to only one functional training to the only dimension. The readings and the permitted texts all become much too similar. In the "Spiritual Exercises" only the experts of spirituality and theology are invited, and all the other beauties of the world are gradually moved to the background of a life that is impoverished, because it gradually and radically loses biodiversity, fertility and generativity.

This is how a progressive and systematic simplification of the landscape of the soul and social life is accomplished. The shepherds, the sheep, the Magi, the peasants disappear from the crib of the soul and the community, and there remains a unique and increasingly large cave, from which the ox, the donkey and sometimes even Saint Joseph are soon eliminated. Something similar happens to those couples that consume each other and wither for lack of air and sun.

Vocations of a single dimension also arrive in a big crisis, but it is a crisis that's radically different from the good one of maturity. These crises are felt especially by those who observe them from the outside – friends, parents, brothers and sisters. They see their friends and children wither, they see the light of the early years disappear from their eyes. But those who are in it cannot understand what is happening, because they lack the categories to read correctly what they are going through. The decrease of generativity, joy and enthusiasm for life are the warnings, but those who go through them use the same "spiritual" repertoire to interpret them, and look for solutions in the same texts and the same sources, but these have been exhausted by then. These are experiences of great silent pain, from which it is very difficult to get out.
Communities that do not know how to create the first good maturity crises find themselves inevitably handling only bad crises of withering. It is nothing but the law of life, even of that extraordinary life that is born from our greatest ideals.

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In genere è una crisi buona, che è molto diversa da quelle crisi che colpiscono quelle persone che non riescono a diventare adulte per la riduzione della biodiversità e ricchezza della loro vita. 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The Voices of the Days/10 - No roof is high enough if it does not touch the sky

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 15/05/2016

Margherita ridRipeness is all.”

W. Shakespeare, King Lear

Becoming adults is a wonderful experience. It is an entirely spiritual and moral fact which generates a joy that can compensate and sometimes exceed the natural sadness that accompanies the end of youth and its typical beauty. The forms and times of maturity are many and various, inscribed in the flesh and history of each one of us.

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The good pains of adult life

The Voices of the Days/10 - No roof is high enough if it does not touch the sky by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 15/05/2016 “Ripeness is all.” W. Shakespeare, King Lear Becoming adults is a wonderful experience. It is an entirely spiritual and moral fact which generates a joy that can ...
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The Voices of the Days/9 - The temptation to "conform" and the antidote of "haecceity"

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 08/05/2016

Cardo Fucsia ridWhat needs to be there in the heart, in education is that love of life should never fail our children. ... And what is a human being's vocation but the highest expression of his love of life?

Natalia GinzburgThe Little Virtues

Every vocation is a radical experience of beauty; it is first and foremost a wonderful encounter. Those who have got to know this beauty continue to long for it for life. It is a meeting that happens only once, but it is so strong and radical that it changes us forever. At that time the person makes the most sublime human experience: they understand who they really are, which is something beautiful and great. They feel a tabernacle for the infinite, tiny but immense.

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For this reason, these vocations and these 'promises' are irrevocable. You can get out of a convent or stop painting for too much pain, but you can never quit the beauty before, because, simply, that vocation is us, it is the most lively and true part of us. On that day one gets the impression that the whole world was created only for us, for me. Some people go through a special experience as children, during childhood: they have the impression of being inside a movie, a cartoon, a play, where their parents, friends, teachers and the people around them are interpreting a script, written completely and only for their happiness. When the day of the calling comes the experience of childhood is relived: we can feel it, and we are sure that everything around us was created as a gift for us, for me. That everything, inside and out, is a unique, immense, wondrous spectacle of loving beauty, infallible and obvious. The quality of a life and its fruits entirely depend on this meeting. Almost everything is at stake there. These epiphanies of beauty are particularly strong and pure in artistic and religious vocations, but it is the same experience repeated in various forms in authentic work and scientific vocations as well, or in that decisive meeting with the one who will become our wife or our husband.

It is a call to embark on a mission, a task, a destiny, to take our rightful place in the world. It is moving out of the house and towards the promised land, to build an ark of salvation, for the liberation of slaves, even if just one.

But if the vocation is us, it grows with us; it takes the talent of our character, our work, our life, simply. And when the call takes place inside the community, the relationship between our vocation, that of others with whom we live, and the institution in which it is born and grows becomes decisive. And that's where you risk a lot, almost everything, for/of the flowering of a vocation. Many wilt or get spent because at some point the individual-community dynamic breaks down, for the mismanagement of the distance that is created between the development of the individual's own vocation and that of the community over time. This widening gap is inevitable, because every vocation is unique and unrepeatable, and therefore its forms and its times of development can never coincide with the forms and the ways of the community, because when they coincide the development of the person and the community stops. It is in the discard pile, among the slits, in non-alignments where life is generated and regenerated. Therefore, the block of the flowering of the vocation does not depend from this distance, which is very good, but from its exercise. It is here that the worst mistakes are usually made.

By far the most common mistake is committed by the leaders of the community, when facing the discomfort and the difficulty of managing the estrangement between the forms and ways in which the individual lives their vocation and the 'normal' ones, they think that they can eliminate discomfort and difficulty simply by asking the person to conform to the times and ways of the community, losing what constituted its original note. This way they lose sight of what the medieval philosophers called haecceity, i.e. that dimension of life to which a daisy I am seeing now is this daisy, and not just a daisy. This is what makes me see Giovanna, not only the Franciscan nun, who she also is. People are concrete, never abstract, and the most concrete dimension of all existence is their vocation. Sp the first wrong abstraction is the very idea of ​​community. They forget that communities are made of people who are all different, and they estimate a kind of an average that becomes a most abstract form of 'we' against which they measure the deviations and errors of the routes of individual concrete persons. It is a very common and very dangerous operation, because in the name of an abstract common good concrete persons are suppressed and put out. And maybe you also can build people who coincide with the average - it's a pity that in the process of transformation exactly the best part of the person is lost and often that of the community, too.

The temptation-error to forget haecceity is very common, because communities have the tools to achieve this conformation in their repertoire. Constitutions, statutes, regulations, decisions and resolutions of the governing councils also aim to maintain the unity of the community over time, and to allow the government of a body without dispersing and falling apart in the many different interpretations and often in the disagreements of the various members. But there is another thing that wise governments know very well: that the actual exercise of this power must be very rare, because a vocation reduced to compliance almost always ends up losing its splendour and its freedom, its most sublime beauty.

When, however, the individual paths - which are by their nature lateral and tangential - are discouraged and repressed, the myth of Procrustes is revived who amputated the legs of his 'guests' that were too tall to fit in his bed and stretched the ones who were too short. Procrustean communities use regulations, statutes and the words of the founders as materials to build a one-size bed, in which they force everybody to enter, disrespectful of the different vocational measures of individuals. The crucial aspect that makes this reductionist process very common and in some ways almost inevitable is the role played by the single person. It is those who have received a vocation that begin to numb their own soul to make it fall into the only measure of the 'average bed' of the community, and then to make real voluntary self-amputation to cut the difference between their own, real vocational measure and the one requested by the community. The most precious and very rare wisdom of those responsible for vocational communities is therefore in preventing these self-destructive processes, even when they come from the same people who, especially in the early years, derive a certain comfort from the adjustment to the average culture. We are all truly accountable to a vocation, especially when we are still young, if we help it not to lose its own surplus, if we cultivate and care for our own uniqueness; because when we don't encourage and maybe even fight vocational haecceity, vocations do not keep their promise of beauty over time and go bad. The dawns do not become noon, the springs never see the season of ripe fruits.

A virtuous community-organization is rather similar to a skilled artisan who builds the 'bed' so that it conforms to the real person: people with their variety of vocations are the ones that make communities fruitful. They are difficult to manage - just like life or children are. They are gorgeous - just like life or children are. Only people, in their mystery, contain the active ingredient of the evolution of the community and the fulfilment of their charisma. The Procrustean syndrome eventually amputates the future of all. The fate of these sad communities is in fact enrolled in the epilogue of the same myth: Procrustes was captured and killed by the same condemnation with which he had afflicted his victims.

At other times a vocation is blocked by a wrong way of relating to the past, to the first beauty. The purpose of that first meeting was the revelation of our place in the world (and as the word says, every re-velation is an act of unveiling a new covering at the same time). The fatigue of those who keep a vocation within themselves lies in the ability to resist the longing in the absence of the first beauty, to be able to resist turning back in search of the origin. At night we dream of that long-ago meeting, we go back to the place where it happened many times, we look at the photos and read the letters and diaries of the early days. But nothing happens, the miracle does not come back, because it cannot return. Until one day we begin to understand in a gentle way that that ancient beauty is not behind us, but - quite simply - it is in front of and around us. It is not the return of Ulysses, it is the setting out of Abraham.

Sometimes this new, charming and perfectly free phase of life begins with the discovery of the beauty of nature. We had lived in the country for fifty years, and one day we discover the flowers. We watch them and finally we see them inside. We see the same beauty that once enchanted us and lit us. In a thistle bud we see all the beauty of the universe, and we recognize that first beauty which has never disappeared from our land.

Finally, there is a great hope: this journey of the new beauty can happen even inside Procrustean communities, even when we lost a lot of the overflow. As long as a little remained of it, maybe just the memory of the first entirety. And, like plants, from that little rest that's still alive we can start to bloom again. 

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Sono un incontro con una bellezza grande, che lascia una eterna nostalgia. Il processo più difficile e delicato è la gestione del rapporto tra l’unicità di ogni vocazione e lo sviluppo e i tempi delle comunità, che spesso diventano comunità-Procuste, che riducono la ricchezza delle singole persone in una unica misura. 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The Voices of the Days/9 - The temptation to "conform" and the antidote of "haecceity"

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 08/05/2016

Cardo Fucsia ridWhat needs to be there in the heart, in education is that love of life should never fail our children. ... And what is a human being's vocation but the highest expression of his love of life?

Natalia GinzburgThe Little Virtues

Every vocation is a radical experience of beauty; it is first and foremost a wonderful encounter. Those who have got to know this beauty continue to long for it for life. It is a meeting that happens only once, but it is so strong and radical that it changes us forever. At that time the person makes the most sublime human experience: they understand who they really are, which is something beautiful and great. They feel a tabernacle for the infinite, tiny but immense.

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The Beauty in Front of Us

The Voices of the Days/9 - The temptation to "conform" and the antidote of "haecceity" by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 08/05/2016 “What needs to be there in the heart, in education is that love of life should never fail our children. ... And what is a human being's vocation but the highest...
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The Voices of the Days/8 - Those who give birth for real are generously vulnerable

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 24/04/2016

Tronchi sulla battigia rid(There is a kind of) human worth that is inseparable from vulnerability, an excellence that is in its nature other-related and social, a rationality whose nature it is not to attempt to seize, hold, trap, and control, in whose values openness, receptivity and wonder play an important part.

Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness

A particularly important phenomenon is the so-called "mission shift" which occurs when the organizations, movements and associations become something different during their development and move away from the purpose that had generated them, because some activities that were born to serve the mission at the beginning end up becoming the order instead of the means.

[fulltext] =>

Ancillary activities begin to seize opportunities or it happens because of some need, and then gradually, and almost always unintentionally, that these activities absorb more and more energy as well as the resources that once were used to develop the original mission. This is one of many important phenomena where the line between the good, the less good and the bad is almost impossible to detect, because they live inside one another, they grow together, and when the "evil" becomes clear and visible it is almost always too late to intervene effectively. Organizations and people change together. The original identity remains alive and fertile until it is able to co-evolve with the people; but as soon as an invisible but very real "critical point", is passed, the fruit of change ends up poisoning the identity. In this paradox there hide a lot of the quality and outcomes of the organizational evolution processes.

The change of the mission and the tension between the means and ends are important facts in any form of organized life, but they are crucial in the organisations that are born of ideals, charismas or great and complex "missions". Here the change of mission is not only a delicate process, but it can also lead to their death.

These communities and movements may also die when transforming into something too different from the original charisma - and sometimes they are already dead although they appear to be in great health. A school founded by an educational charisma can die because it closes, but it can also die in terms of its charisma because of having gradually become an institution that has lost touch with its original mission. It will still bring fruit, but those are fruits of a different flavour, even if the community cannot notice this change that it creates and on which it feeds because its palate has gradually adapted to it. And so, having been born to promote a cause or serve an ideal it suddenly finds itself promoting and serving another one or other ones. The servant becomes the master.

If an enterprise of footwear was founded yesterday only as a means to make profits (a very rare occurrence), its nature does not change substantially if you move first to the bags industry, then on to sport and ultimately to the financial-speculative sector. Just as it frequently happens that an ancillary type of activity (for example: products for shoes) gradually becomes the main activity. In all these cases the mission (making profits) remains consistent, only the ways and means to embody it change.

Things are radically different when we are not dealing with a company but a missionary religious order that founded a hospital to serve the poor and proclaim the Gospel a hundred years ago. In this case we cannot stay easy if over time the hospital has become increasingly large and efficient, and so it has drained more and more economic, spiritual and human resources, and the Gospel and the poor have been more and more distanced from its horizon. Until one day they disappear altogether, when the hospital becomes so beautiful and expensive so that it will only treat wealthy customers - it is a shame though, that in order to grow and become so big it has consumed almost all the energy of the community. Here the transmutation of the means into ends may simply lead to the death of the original mission, because day after day the work-child has eaten up its parent.

This process is particularly difficult to manage because these different organizations live and grow with a radical uncertainty about their future, which opens up and is revealed them only as tomorrow becomes today. When it gives a work is started or a community is opened in a new country, nobody knows where it will lead the new foundation, because in ideal-driven and charismatic organisations the main indigence is not knowing the arrival point of the journey.

The only knowledge that is given is that of the origin, and even this is imperfect and partial. They are like those ancient messengers, who had the message to be transmitted written on the back of their head. The real name of the communities born of charismas is revealed only when there is someone who reads it and explains it. The recipient of the message is not the community that carries and transmits it. The discovery of each identity is never a narcissistic process, but it is a gift we receive from those who can look at us differently. And charisma is never given for the sole consumption of the community which embodies it. When we no longer feel the need for somebody other than us to read the message that we bring written on the back of our head, and we try to interpret ourselves alone by looking in mirrors, charismas become minimal chores, socially irrelevant if not harmful, and will be spent soon.

So when a new work is born from a community we cannot know if the "baby" will be the realisation of the promise or the one who, without knowing or wanting, will kill us one day. Whether it will be Isaac or Oedipus. We cannot know their fate until it is fulfilled in the unfolding ambivalences, contradictions, in the meetings at the crossroads of history. At other times, though, it is not the works and activities that distort the ideal-driven communities and make them die. In some cases it is the community itself, born of a charisma, that ends up killing it.

False reformers, missed or delayed reforms, a crisis which is so radical and devastating to actually overcome the community itself. Here the generations that follow the one of the foundation cannot preserve the charisma and make it grow: the founder produces children who end up killing the charisma that they have inherited.

The greatest fear of those who found an ideal-driven community or organization is that the next generation, their "children", go astray, and betray the charismatic identity. This fear is in the chromosomes of each good foundation, and its absence simply reveals that we are not dealing with a charisma, but with an ordinary organization. But this founder knows, or should know, that the truly deadly mistake is to transform this natural fear into phobia or panic, and so block and prevent the continuation of the original experience.

Exposure to the distortion of the mission and the original charisma is the precondition for its fulfilment, its fecundity and its good growth. In the foundation of an ideal or charismatic organisation the time when the founders pass through this specific and decisive test arrives promptly. The possibility of continuing the charismatic experience beyond the founder, and then the transition of the charisma from one generation to another are almost all in the capacity to manage this vital, inevitable and decisive tension. The temptation has to be overcome and the generation that will come after him should be put in a position to be born, live and grow for real. In every child there may be Oedipus hiding, in every child there hides Oedipus. In every child there may be Isaac hiding, in every child there hides Isaac.

The latest and greatest temptation of all charismatic foundations is to prevent the "child" to be born out of fear that he may kill his father. The charisma is totally identified by the founder with his own person, who is blinded and makes it non-transmissible, thereby preventing it to be reborn many times in many generations. And so the charisma dies with the founder. Many communities have died simply because of this, for lack of generosity which is what prevents them from real generation. The greater the foundational charisma, the stronger the temptation is not to generate for fear of dying. No foundation of a community can escape the risk of its degeneration, because if it does, it surely degenerates: if it evolves it can get lost along the way, but if it prevents evolution it will get lost for sure.

Communities are generated and regenerated when those who have founded or re-founded them are able to "give birth" to men and women who become free to the point of giving their lives for the same "mission" of the founders. In this freedom there hides the possibility of abusing, perverting, injuring and even killing the gift. Without this radically risky and vulnerable gift of freedom the charismas do not bloom over time, they wither for lack of children, or because the children generated and brought up without this freedom become too "little" to be able to repeat the miracles of the first generation. Only risky and vulnerable confidence is capable of the generativity necessary for the charismas to continue to flourish.

The wonderful mystery of transmitting gifts between generations lives in the space opened by the vital tension between trust and betrayal. Our children can become better than we are if we give them the freedom to become worse than us, too, and to betray our dreams and our promises. Perhaps there is no greater gift than this.

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A volte le opere che nascono dalla vita di “fondatori” finiscono per uccidere chi le ha generate. Un paradosso particolarmente rilevante per le comunità ideali e carismatiche, perché la paura che il “figlio” uccida il “genitore” può far cadere in trappole di sterilità. 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The Voices of the Days/8 - Those who give birth for real are generously vulnerable

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 24/04/2016

Tronchi sulla battigia rid(There is a kind of) human worth that is inseparable from vulnerability, an excellence that is in its nature other-related and social, a rationality whose nature it is not to attempt to seize, hold, trap, and control, in whose values openness, receptivity and wonder play an important part.

Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness

A particularly important phenomenon is the so-called "mission shift" which occurs when the organizations, movements and associations become something different during their development and move away from the purpose that had generated them, because some activities that were born to serve the mission at the beginning end up becoming the order instead of the means.

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The Risk of Generating Freedom

The Voices of the Days/8 - Those who give birth for real are generously vulnerable by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 24/04/2016 “(There is a kind of) human worth that is inseparable from vulnerability, an excellence that is in its nature other-related and social, a rationality whose nature i...
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The Voices of the Days/7 - The seductive, crossless gospels of the false reformers

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 17/04/2016

Margherita gialla rid"Serious and terrible mistake it was, the invention of the crosses.

The Gospel of Thomas

The processes of change in ideal-driven organizations and charismatic communities are particularly complex and delicate because, unlike in many economic or bureaucratic organizations where change is planned and guided towards the objectives set by the owners, in ideal based organisations reform is actually a march into the unknown.

[fulltext] =>

When the self-styled reformer is a false prophet, he presents himself as the bearer of certainty about change, as someone who knows what the good is that awaits the community at the end of the path advocated, wanted and promoted by him. Like an angel who is the bearer of only and all light.

One of the elements that make it complex and difficult to overcome the moments of crisis in ideal-driven and charismatic communities is the appearance of false reformers. If, in fact, the community is not alive anymore, to the point of not even feeling the need for reform, neither good nor bad "prophets" are born into it. If the community is alive, the good and the bad prophets tend to appear simultaneously, and the more lively and fruitful the original charisma still is, the more prophets emerge. The abundance of false prophets is also a way to tell the charismatic vitality of a community. And the more light there is in the charisma, the more frequent, subtle and dangerous Gnostic heresies are. The early churches were full of apostles and false prophets. Therefore we must not make the mistake of thinking that positive phases only produce good prophets and those of crisis only bad ones, because historical reality shows the exact opposite to be the case. After all, it was the same spiritual fertility of early Christianity to generate Paul of Tarsus and Simon Magus.

The historical and concrete forms assumed by false prophecies are many. In ideal-driven and / or charismatic communities, the most subtle and pernicious false prophecies and false reforms are those that have recourse to the register of light. They are variations on and updates of the ancient Gnostic heresy, because they present themselves as an offer of new light and different knowledge. Gnosticism, in its rich and varied expressions, was the main ideological enemy of the Christianity of the first centuries. Penetrated in many communities, it could have decreed the death of Christianity if it had not been fought hard and eventually defeated thanks to the action of the best prophets and theologians - from Irenaeus to Augustine.

Spiritual and ideal-connected experiences are naturally and radically exposed to Gnostic seduction, because of them being essentially experiences of light and intelligence. Those who follow an ideal or a charisma are attracted by the new light and the different words (logos).

They discover the gift of new eyes that show new horizons, new heaven, new beauties, and with a bright intelligence that opens a different understanding of the world and things.

It should not be surprising, therefore, that in these communities the Gnostic phase arrives readily. It threatens especially those with the brightest and most spiritual charismas, because it is also a disease of these which develops as a form of neurosis: their most brilliant part gets ill. Spiritual experiences remain authentic and generate good life until they keep their connection with history, while they remain incarnate and therefore limited experiences, partial and intertwined with darkness. As long as the spirit remains in the flesh and the one follows the laws and the rhythms of the other. Many charismatic experiences are lost upon their birth because the spirit becomes disembodied and evaporates in search of perfection without any shade. For these reasons, Gnostic phases also accompany the historical existence of the founders, and if communities survive beyond the life of their founders it is because these temptations have not had the upper hand - many communities born from genuine charismas got spent after a few years because their founders were eventually seduced and devoured by Gnostic neurosis.

But it is in the phase right after foundation that the Gnostic temptation becomes almost obligatory and always decisive. Facing the end of the era of true "miracles" and "resurrections" that had been the normal way of life of the community's founding phase, some people start to think they can recreate the early wonders with certain techniques and spiritual drugs. They do like athletes who, no longer able to repeat their first record, instead of changing their training and working hard, fall into the trap of doping. Gnosticism is a form of spiritual doping which promises the performance of youth without work and effort, and if it is not decisively countered it infects the whole community very quickly.

It is, in fact, on this suffering and frustration over not being able to repeat the first charismatic performance, on the unconquerable nostalgia for the signs and the climate of earlier times where the Gnostic plant easily takes root. Instead of starting from the core of the first message, necessarily made of flesh and spirit, the Gnostic reformer performs a twofold task: reconstructing a partial and disembodied image of the original charisma and adding secret revelations of which - he says - he has come into possession through private experiences or special communications, and which are adorned by the spectacular and pseudo-mystic elements and techniques that supposedly allow for a deeper access to the ideal and spiritual message. The Gnostic type of reform is therefore accompanied by the promise of special mystical experiences that are accessible only to those few who have been introduced to the secrets and mysteries, around which it establishes a messianic power and its main promise. These are always elitist, non-transparent experiences that are and never popular and never on the side of the poor. The devaluation of concrete experience and the body then creates almost inevitably an ethical exception, which allows for enlightened carnal acts and actions that are harmful to others, but legitimate and necessary for the inhabitants of this new "colour" kingdom.

They are Baroque constructs, they are colourful, worlds populated by many fantastic beings and "truths" that do not appear in the first, original message. And the followers of these false prophets soon take the looks and attitudes of the initiated; they undergo an aesthetic change also in the expression of their eyes and facial features, and separate from the not (yet) illuminated people as the new "saints".

When the charisma is alive and healthy it is very easy to identify false prophets who are moved by personal material interests or are intent schismatics; however, the false prophets of light and intelligence are much more difficult to recognize and call by name, because they use the same symbolic repertoire and the same words that had founded the community one day and attracted many people to it. They are devouring wolves disguised as meek lambs, and sometimes as the good shepherd. The severe crises of ideal-driven communities are always crises of light and intelligence. For this reason the choice of heresies of light and intelligence is particularly abundant, especially and exactly during the most serious crises. And for the same reason many times false prophets are not recognized, they are successful, and they kill communities.

A fundamental job to manage deep crises and major reforms is, therefore, being able to recognize the Gnostic symptoms since they appear as renewal and salvation. It is a rather difficult job, because the Gnostic reformer, unlike other false prophets, uses truths and words that are actually present in the original, genuine charisma, and builds his speech up using parts and phrases from the speeches of the founder. From the beginning the intelligence of the snake has manifested itself in history in words and discourses similar to and more seductive than those of Elohim. The Gnostic chromosomes are in the DNA of the genuine charisma, because the gnosis builds salvation combining some foundational elements of the genome in a different way. It deletes the ordinary, normal or gray ones, as well as the mestizos, and reassembles only the brightest part of the original genetic material, creating a body that has all the features present in the first body. And so the Gnostic reform appears tremendously charming and bright: as the elixir of eternal youth, as the tree of life, like a picture of us when we were twenty years old that magically takes life.

The Gnostic reform proposals are therefore presented as days where it is always noon, and in the name of this light without shadow they refuse the dark dimension, which is only so because it is true, and of the limit. Incarnation, imperfection and sin become cursed words, condemned as the scandal to be overcome in order to create the new era of full maturity which is about to begin. This is the proposal of an eschaton in reverse: while the authentic spiritual experiences live an imperfect already and point to a not yet which is never reached in full, the gnosis will present itself as a perfected already, the completion of an imperfect already have. Gnostic reformers are always brighter than the founders, because they lack the shadow of true reality. Only the body can cast a shadow when it gets in contact with sunlight.

In these false reforms death is absent from the scene of their fake passions. They are "gospels" without the Calvary and the cross, the stone does not roll and the tomb is just a comfortable bedroom. These are very bad takes on the mourning of life. They reject life in order not to get their feet dirty on the only pathway possible for humans under the sun. Resurrections without crucifixes do not save anyone. They are ghosts that drift apart from the wounded flesh of others and from the victims, and imprison people inside cages of psychic and emotional consumerism. The Gnostic false prophets are revealed by the absence of the marks of the nails on their bodies and the bodies of those that they touch and embrace.

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Si presentano come riforma della sola luce e senza ombra, e sono segnate dall’ "intelligenza del serpente". Ma, se impariamo a discernere i segni, possono essere riconosciute e combattute. 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The Voices of the Days/7 - The seductive, crossless gospels of the false reformers

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 17/04/2016

Margherita gialla rid"Serious and terrible mistake it was, the invention of the crosses.

The Gospel of Thomas

The processes of change in ideal-driven organizations and charismatic communities are particularly complex and delicate because, unlike in many economic or bureaucratic organizations where change is planned and guided towards the objectives set by the owners, in ideal based organisations reform is actually a march into the unknown.

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The illness of light is deadly

The Voices of the Days/7 - The seductive, crossless gospels of the false reformers by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 17/04/2016 "Serious and terrible mistake it was, the invention of the crosses.” The Gospel of Thomas The processes of change in ideal-driven organizations and charismatic com...
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The Voices of the Days/6 - To see even in darkness, beyond fake brightness

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 10/04/2016

Fiore Fragola rid"There are qualities or instances of excellence that the I cannot attribute to itself alone: ​​purity, charm, modesty, humour, all the perfections that disappear if only we touch them, even if for just a moment, because they cannot exist except as unaware of themselves. In other words, it is never the same subject to be it and to say it."

Vladimir JankélévitchThe Pure and the Impure

The decisive experiences of life are not easy to recognize and call by name, because if we could understand their blissful nature their injury would leave no mark (or sign) on us, they would not mean (signify) or teach anything to us.

[fulltext] =>

If we were able to decipher the birth of a new purity along a pathway that opens up to us, and maybe is impurity; if we could understand that we are becoming stronger while a disease is making us experience the greatest weakness; if we could realize that we are actually creating a new and truer docility as we strive with all our strength to keep our business alive..., these experiences would lose their value, and that grace/charis which has saved the world so far, and which continues to save us would simply disappear. Like nature, like the smiles of children who convert us and give us the greatest joy because they do not want to either convert or make us happy, because they are simply so. Voluntarism is used in many things, but not in the really decisive matters, where we only need to learn to "know how to be" in unawareness.

When a person starts on a path of ideals following a vocation – whether religious, civil, artistic or poetic - at the beginning there is always the experience of a strong new light, amplified, often by the strength of youth. A light that is inside and outside at the same time, which turns on the best part in us: it calls to it, we recognize it as a good voice that we have always waited for, and so a journey following the voice begins. That's when we move all the furniture inside the room of our soul, because we want the new light to fill the entire space. At the beginning of every vocation there is a voice and an emptied room that becomes very-very bright. It nourishes us, quenches our thirst, fills us and makes us live. We do not want nor do we need anything else.

After this phase of naked light, which can last many years, a second phase begins. Day after day we start repopulating the room with new objects, furniture, ornaments, paintings, curtains, cupboards, clothes, statues and crucifixes. It is the building up of religion and worship. It could not be otherwise, because the symbolic construction of an illuminated environment from the original spiritual experience is the first act by which human beings recognize and love vocations. At first, this construction and this fulfilling are mostly social and collective: the furniture and cabinets are neither built nor bought by ourselves, instead, the community provides us with these. The only space that remains for us is for a photo of our parents or girlfriend. After a bit of time, if the vocation grows well and it matures, gradually and almost always unconsciously there emerges a need to customize the furniture and so we start adding new items and our things to the earlier furniture. This is a particularly creative moment of life, which usually coincides with the years of youthful maturity, when that first voice gradually takes the forms of our personality, and a symbiosis between the light and the most beautiful part of our character is created. From "consumers" we start to become "producers" of light, in a sublime type of reciprocity game: we are conscious of not being the masters of the light that we consume and produce, but we feel that the work we are doing would not come to earth without our part, without our industrious and creative "yes", the one that allowed that logos-voice to become "flesh." The poet knows that the voice that inspires him is not his property, but he also knows that without his efforts, docility and talent that voice would not have become poetry, his/not his poems.

The creations and creatures multiply and with them success and the feeling of bearing much fruit into a thriving existence grows, too. Without us becoming aware of it during the process, the first inner room begins to lose brightness, because the new furniture and new products, added to the old, begin to fill all the space, to the point of blocking the window and the light. But - and this is a central aspect in this filling process - the subjective experience made by those who blocked the window with their works is not the one of darkness. Born from the encounter with the first light, their works illuminate the environment with a light that is very similar to the original one, to the point of not being able to distinguish them clearly. This way the less light that penetrates from the outside is replaced by the light that emanates from our works, to the point of replacing it entirely. The light changes and decays every day, but our eyes will gradually get used to the decreasing and different kind of light. This is how we get used to the light of our works and of our fruits, even to the point of forgetting the colours of the room of our youth. But when the light of our home begins to come only from our illuminated works, creativity is reduced, the light loses its luminosity, we do not get surprised by anything we do anymore. The process is slow and can also take many years before we and others realize that the light has been changed. This is a form of spiritual narcissism that often imprisons people - specifically those with strong vocations and great talents. They feed on themselves, thinking that they are still nourished by the first light - also because, in a sense, these two are (almost) the same thing.  There are people who for the longest time stay in their stuffed room which is illuminated only by reflected light that is more and more artificial and dim, deriving form their own constructs.

One day, the reflected and artificial light is spent because of a lack of feed. And here there are three possible scenarios. The first is adapting to living in this darkness: the pupils enlarge until they manage to see in almost total darkness. To survive, the other senses are developed, so sight is lost without realizing it. Some people, however, when their room is left with no more light feel an uncontrollable desire to quit: they escape and look for another home, they return to their previous existence, to the meeting of their vocation, and no longer want to know about the light that has seduced them and now is but deception and condemnation for them.

But there may be a third outcome: reform, and the beginning of a new spiritual life. Having touched bottom with the extinguishing of the light, a dream comes to save us: one night we dream of the first light in all its colours again, and wake up with an invincible longing for real sunshine (many people who become blind continue to see colours in their dreams for years). And, once awake, we frantically begin to remove objects, artefacts, furniture, which now appear to us all dull and heavy, to free the window and see the original coloured light again. And so, as we are thirsty for sunshine, we start a new process of liberation from the room of artefacts, and from many idols that had accumulated over the years of worship.

But it is here that another surprise awaits us. When, at the end of the clearing, the room is empty again and we finally reach the window, we open it and realise that outside it is the time of night. Where did the first light that we all longed for end up? To the years that passed between the first light and the reform, instances of human pain, limit experiences, suffering, injustice, death, mistakes and sins (especially natural idolatry) got inserted. And we do not find that sun anymore. At this point, some people are convinced that the sun is gone forever, and the spiritual path is blocked; others leave home, begin to walk the earth, and are waiting for a new dawn. There begins a new phase of spiritual and moral life, which is among the rarest, highest and most extraordinary. You find yourself in an empty room and, having been liberated, looking out towards a sky that does not light up. Reform is the work done to free us from darkness to get us to another darkness. With a crucial novelty, however: the new dark is true, airy, spacious and alive. The main effort of spiritual life is learning to distinguish the second darkness from the first, because they are very different. The first imprisons, the second saves us.

After the reforms, both on a personal and community level, we must learn to see in this darkness. That's why only a few succeed, and most people get stranded in the first post-reform season because of the disappointment over not finding the light they long for (communities do not like and tend to "kill" authentic reformers because they expected light from them and found darkness, and it happens all too often that they love false prophets who are great builders of new artificial lighting systems).

Reforms, those of the soul but also of communities, are successful if they manage to stay in this new darkness, if they learn to live in it, to love it, and then to stretch their eyes until they see the stars in the depth of the dark sky, and discover their new and different light, “clarite et pretiose et belle” (clear and precious and beautiful). Even the night has its own brightness: farmers and nocturnal wayfarers are well aware of this. It is a less intense but more real light than that of the street lamps.

The first result of any reform is to take notice that the light of adult life is different from the artificial one that we had built, it is less dazzling than that of youth, but it is no less true. It is the splendour of the light of this truth that makes us walk the long nights of reforms, those of the soul and those of the community. It is in this waiting that, gently and lovingly, the sentinels announce the dawn to us.

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Ma nel cammino spirituale alla sequela di una voce ci sono molte sorprese, e occorre allenare le pupille dell’anima per imparare a vedere nel buio, e a distinguere le luci autentiche da quelle artificiali. 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The Voices of the Days/6 - To see even in darkness, beyond fake brightness

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 10/04/2016

Fiore Fragola rid"There are qualities or instances of excellence that the I cannot attribute to itself alone: ​​purity, charm, modesty, humour, all the perfections that disappear if only we touch them, even if for just a moment, because they cannot exist except as unaware of themselves. In other words, it is never the same subject to be it and to say it."

Vladimir JankélévitchThe Pure and the Impure

The decisive experiences of life are not easy to recognize and call by name, because if we could understand their blissful nature their injury would leave no mark (or sign) on us, they would not mean (signify) or teach anything to us.

[jcfields] => Array ( ) [type] => intro [oddeven] => item-even )

When there's light again

The Voices of the Days/6 - To see even in darkness, beyond fake brightness by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 10/04/2016 "There are qualities or instances of excellence that the I cannot attribute to itself alone: ​​purity, charm, modesty, humour, all the perfections that disappear if only we...
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    [title] => No armour is the way to rise again
    [alias] => no-armour-is-the-way-to-rise-again
    [introtext] => 

The Voices of the Days/5 - The work of a reformer is a humble and miraculous craft

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 03/04/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni rid"A community is never founded once and for all. The first founder cannot be the one and only point of reference. Society's needs change; communities evolve; their members grow. They need to be constantly 're-founded'. The founding myth remains but the form in which it is embodied is called to change. It is here that the presence of wise 're-formers' is required. They are capable of advancing, maintaining and deepening the founding myth, pruning and reshaping what seemed essential in the early years but was not really."

Jean Vanier, The Founding Myth

The stories of communities, organizations and movements that have been able to live beyond the era of the founders tend to present some constant features: they usually have had reformers and have been able to tell new stories alongside those of the founding era.

[fulltext] =>

Reformers make space for a charisma that's foundational for the community to stay alive and fruitful and to return to the original charismatic questions, changing the answers given to them. When the reformers don't appear, or are ostracized and not recognized, charismatic ideals and experiences inevitably decline due to the lack of grip on the present, and, consequently, because of a radical shortage of young people and 'vocations' due to the inability to translate the first message and the first experience. Its most involved and motivated members experience a deep moral and spiritual crisis: in a first phase they suffer for the lack of young people and new vocations, then they become indifferent and in the end they even feel some joy, because their disappointment leads them not to wish anyone to repeat their same sad existential experience. Therefore this crisis manifests itself as a no-good way of aging, leading to read life as decadence and decline. When and if these symptoms emerge in the concrete charismatic communities, it is clear that there is an urgent need for reform.

At the stage of the foundation, charismas generate more seeds than just those that manage to flourish in the first season: there are some intended to sprout in the subsequent ones, when the first seeds will have become old. The full potential of a charisma is greater than what can be manifested in the times of the foundation. There are deep veins that do not surface right away: despite being connected to the same source they are intended to emerge during droughts or after earthquakes. The concrete forms of poverty, loved and embraced by the Church during her two millennia, have been much more than those loved and embraced by Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples. The poor of Mother Teresa, Francesca Cabrini, Don Oreste Benzi and Hans Frei are not those who lived in Pilate’s Palestine: these new charismas have done "greater things" for poverty in the name of Jesus Christ than Jesus himself or his historical community. A similar process is repeated for each individual charisma, which in the course of its development uncovers dimensions that did not emerge during the historical life of the founder. The founder creates the community-movement through a process of discovering the charisma, which is revealed gradually, and during the community's entire existence. The more difficult part is to realize, in an already established community, that this progressive discovery of the charisma continues even after the first foundation, and when this process is stopped or interrupted it is the first charisma that becomes sterile.

Sometimes it is the historical Francis who understands that the church to rebuild is not the church of San Damiano; at other times it is the living spirit of Francis between the Franciscans that understands and does it. It is a Francis after Francis to complete the foundation of Francis and Bernard. However, when the foundation process is stuck with the first generation because it is considered complete and final with the death of the founder, it prevents the charisma from maturing and being revealed to the full and from illuminating and explaining the facts and events of the founding generation, too. Just as we do it at home, when we place some apples placed among the kiwis to make them mature. In a mysterious but real inter-temporal kind of solidarity, the Francis that lives on after himself serves the first Francis, too. We would know less of his charisma without Bonaventure or Bernardino of Siena. The first beneficiaries with the courage of the reformers are the founders themselves, since they can say new and sometimes different things thanks to those who freed them from the limitations of their historical time. Reformers make the rocks roll away from the 'tombs' of their founders. They are 'resurrected' from their graves. True reforms are not only the actualization of the charisma: they are a continuation of the first foundation, with different but no less wonderful fruits and miracles. The second 'miracles' are essential for unlocking the first ones.

Once deemed so precious, why are then reforms rare and always very painful?
The first charismatic groups, in order to survive in the time in which they were born (all societies have a tendency to kill the prophets that could save them) had to carry out a sort of hybridization between new and old in order to prevent the old from rejecting and choking the new. So, around the first good shrubs, the first generation naturally develops an ancillary vegetation to protect new seedlings, which allows them to flourish in the shade of other, more robust and weatherproof plants. This way, charismatic intuitions are surrounded by an entire subsidiary bush; they are covered with infrastructure, languages, written and unwritten rules, sometimes self-produced and sometimes inherited from tradition or the specific historical context. At a certain point this hybridization - which is a different process and one that is parallel to the ideological production that accompanies the development of an ideal that we have already discussed on these pages - becomes a straitjacket, which blocks growth and shuts down the future. The reforms come to slow down and, in the happiest cases, break the initial coating which has gradually become a straitjacket, the protective shield that has turned into a rigid steel armour.

The extreme difficulty of the operation of liberation is found in the difficulty of recognizing the straitjacket of the 'person' who wears it. In the biggest and richest charismatic communities, hybridization between old and new has been profound and lasted for many years, and so pieces of armour got into the flesh, and the skin has grown over parts of the armour. The first place that encloses the intermingling of old and new is the very rule written by the founder and left to his heirs, where items of novelty and coating coexist, without the founder himself being aware of it, or perhaps in a small part only.

Reforms, then, are painful because by removing the armour a few shreds of skin are also taken off. This is where the almost invincible tendency comes from whereby communities reject the very reformers of whom they would have a vital need. The natural and necessary need to protect and save the charisma ends up blocking the attempts at reform. In the name of its own purity the charisma gets condemned to sterility. Purity becomes unfruitful purism, for not having had enough charismatic courage to snatch a few flaps of skin, creating a wound through which the only salvation would have passed.

Every translation is also a betrayal, and the fear of betrayal should not prevent the success of the translation. Because without translation, the beautiful poems of the charismas are incomprehensible to those who would listen to them, but speak and understand a different language.

There are many experiences and charismatic ideals that today would still be alive and / or fruitful if they had been able to generate a reform from the pain of a wound.
Reforms succeed way too infrequently because the true reformers are suffocated or because false prophets are followed - or both. Also because wise reformers and false prophets are very much alike, even too much. And the reformers that are too easy to spot are almost always false reformers. The first criterion for recognizing a reformer is the fact that he does not present himself to the community as such. We should always be wary of the reformers who attribute this title to themselves and introduce themselves as 'reformers by vocation' to the people. The first art of reformers is that of the craftsman: they collect the stones of yesterday, sometimes even the rubble, and with these they build a new San Damiano with humility and hope: it may be smaller than the old church, however, in its humble silence you can listen to the first voice, and sometimes learn to pray again.

When the reforms are successful, communities live an authentic resurrection, and then a Pentecost. All the different languages are understood among each other, and you find yourself with new stories to tell. Reforms are also a new evangelization, the gift of good stories to be told to others and to each other amongst us. The first foundational stories are complemented by new ones that make us live and sing the first ones again. A crisis is always a shortage of stories that are capable of con-moving us inside and together. Reforms re-populate communities and the world with new stories: with the dead who rise again, the blind who see, water turned to wine or the poor who become citizens of another kingdom.

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Sono operazioni difficili e rare, e troppe comunità che potrebbero ancora fiorire non ci riescono per la mancanza di una Riforma. 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The Voices of the Days/5 - The work of a reformer is a humble and miraculous craft

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 03/04/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni rid"A community is never founded once and for all. The first founder cannot be the one and only point of reference. Society's needs change; communities evolve; their members grow. They need to be constantly 're-founded'. The founding myth remains but the form in which it is embodied is called to change. It is here that the presence of wise 're-formers' is required. They are capable of advancing, maintaining and deepening the founding myth, pruning and reshaping what seemed essential in the early years but was not really."

Jean Vanier, The Founding Myth

The stories of communities, organizations and movements that have been able to live beyond the era of the founders tend to present some constant features: they usually have had reformers and have been able to tell new stories alongside those of the founding era.

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No armour is the way to rise again

The Voices of the Days/5 - The work of a reformer is a humble and miraculous craft by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 03/04/2016 "A community is never founded once and for all. The first founder cannot be the one and only point of reference. Society's needs change; communities evolve; their m...
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The Voices of the Days/4 - Once out of the "houses", taking up different angles, you can see and grow

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 20/03/2016

Acquasantiera S Anastasia VR 01 ridMaster, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest’.

(Matthew 13,27-30)

A friend of mine after returning from a holiday abroad exclaimed in surprise: »There, there are many more blind people than here«. I replied, »There aren't more blind: only they come out more from their house, because there are fewer barriers, more infrastructure dedicated to them and a culture that encourages the blind to have a public life.«”

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This dialogue with Giulia, a colleague of mine in Sicily who is blind, made me think a lot. Allowing diversity, problems and poverty to emerge is a great and powerful indicator of the level of civilization of a people; it is a high form of the wealth of nations.

The most beautiful square in the world is the one where we can all meet, with all our different abilities and disabilities. The best class is the one inhabited by our wonderful sons and daughters together with those who are differently wonderful. The deaf, the blind, the lame, the depressed and the happy are all invited to the same banquet of conviviality of differences. There are some instances of poverty that - if they become public and therefore visible in the streets of all - make a people richer. In this sense it is still true that 'poverty is the wealth of nations'. And that the first poverty of a person, a people or a community is to hide their poverty.

Civilizations have always decided which wounds should be seen in public, and which ones should be hidden, concealed and denied. For thousands of years we kept much of our poverty and that of our children locked inside the house, keeping ourselves imprisoned together with them. They had to remain invisible, and many continue to be so. Sometimes we discovered them during a crisis, an emergency or when there was a bad smell coming through the front door. Crises are always a chance of emergence for invisible instances of poverty - just as we are seeing it nowadays. In our soul there are types of poverty that would become our own and everyone's wealth if only we were able to tell about them to someone who can accommodate them, if only they were allowed to "leave the house".

Some invisible instances of poverty of yesterday are becoming increasingly visible now, they start to emerge through a process of gradual liberation which is making our cities more beautiful and more civil. There are, however, some emerging new instances of invisible poverty, too. These are kept hidden intentionally, sometimes for the profit of those who hide them. The poor that get chained in the game halls of gamble are no longer seen. The more and more black glasses impede public viewing, and the neighbours of the "game" only see the enchanting machine, wrapped in a self-devouring loneliness and producing wicked private and public gains. Just as we do not see the children who sleep in special rooms, arranged to facilitate the day and night “game” of their mothers. The first step in the liberation of these post-modern slaves would be starting to see them, perhaps by brightening the windows of their prisons, sometimes entering inside, illuminating them with our eyes. In a country that does not have the strength to close these prisons, but keeps opening new ones, what remains for us citizens is only the possibility and the moral resistance to bring them inside the city, to place them in the spotlight of attention.

Then there are also instances of personal poverty that we have learned to turn into collective wealth for centuries, and that are gradually coming back into the realm of an invisible and lonely necessity.

Let's just think of prayer. Prayer comes first a necessity, an indigence - from the anthropological experience of being poor, incomplete, from the deep intuition that we are greater than the limits of our body and the universe. Faiths and religions have been able to turn this individual indigence into a community liturgy in churches, temples, pilgrimages, processions, all of which were (almost) always higher forms of common goods and the Common Good. When someone left their house, they would set out on the road with others to accompany them, and they identified themselves as - and admitted to being - needy and beggars. And so they would begin to pray, transforming those instances of poverty into wealth. We can (and should) pray even in the privacy of our own room, but we can also pray together, to recognize one another hungry for meaning and eternity, and so the indigence becomes a form of common public wealth for the whole city. Even those who do not believe (or no longer believe) that beyond the prayers there is a ‘You’ to embrace them know that the presence of communities that know how to pray together is a capability of the city, which increases its freedom. Today this anthropological poverty is still there, but we no longer find or recognize the places to celebrate together, neither the companions to share it with. We no longer go on pilgrimages, because we lack the goals and thus we lack the paths leading to them, and we just don't see the ones we have anymore. And so this poverty does not leave the house, it does not become wealth.

The hidden and segregated instances of poverty are therefore always considered as individual and community ills, but we are not always aware of this. When, for example, in a community the instances of poverty and problems are not seen, we must always ask ourselves whether we are becoming richer through this or poverty can no longer leave the house because of our civil and moral barriers. Many attempts at reducing poverty are actually only the expression of a community level crisis and poverty.

This paradox is general, but it is decisive when we are dealing with spiritual or ideal-driven communities.Acquasantiera S Anastasia VR 02 ridHere, in the best and most vital moments, people feel free to donate goods and wealth along with their 'ills' and poverty. When, however, communities and their spirit fade away, the goods donated together in response to requests for help diminish, too, even if we often do not notice or think that reducing poverty is actually the result of the increase of goods and wealth. A community is reborn when its members begin to give (share) goods together with their many instances of poverty and pain.

Furthermore, there is a particular kind of poverty and community problem that turn into wealth if they manage to leave the house. An ideal-driven / charismatic community can remain alive after its founding, it can get over the period of crisis caused by the change from the first to succeeding generations - but only if it can bring out disagreements, criticism, the diversity of interpretations and visions, the different readings of the "charisma" of the founders. However, all these are generally seen as forms of poverty and problems, and therefore they are just not let out. The moral health of those communities is in fact measured by the plurality of voices that manage to express themselves and sing together, including those that appear to be out of tune, and are actually just different and new voices.

The Church is still alive after two thousand years because, especially in the early centuries, she was nourished and purified by many theological and spiritual charismas, each very different from the others, sometimes mutually dissonant, but together they managed to prevent the creation of a single, monolithic thought. The church was nourished even by the heresies, because to defend herself against them she had to refine and purify her kerygma, she has been forced to develop new antibodies that have protected her from the virus of the ideology of her own faith. In any living community that grows and lasts through generations, the arrival - whether from inside or outside - of people with innovative and creative instances is necessary and indispensable for survival, but these in turn necessarily present themselves as problems for the ones governing. Not all of these instances are good for the community, not all problems are wealth. Some are born from narcissism and if cultivated would lead simply to the disintegration of the community-movement-organization. The crucial element, however, lies in the inability to recognize the innovative nature of the instance in its emersion phase, when it is born and when it begins to get expressed. The only way to distinguish between these "secondary" charismas is to make them grow, to give everyone a chance to flourish. "Good" charismas can cure the "bad" ones.

The original charisma has its own intrinsic strength, and if it develops properly it naturally produces its own antibodies. But if innovative people are blocked because they are perceived as a threat and poverty, or, worse, if the government of the community directs and pilots the emergence of instances artificially defined as "good", communities fall ill and often die.

It takes ten "false" prophets to have a good one, and if a community wants to have the certainty of generating only good prophets it ends up producing only bad ones. If there is only good wheat in the field of the spirit it does not prove fruitful. The more a community is spiritually alive the broader its spectrum of criticism, objections and protests is, which is, far from being poverty, only and entirely wealth. Sometimes, in fact, people who appear more problematic and dangerous at the beginning prove invaluable resources as they grow and mature; and others who seemed docile in the early stages (because they were adulators), in time become the real tumours of the body, that, having followed them finds itself sterile and unable to attract new members. Especially in the later stages the first foundation, it is not the leaders of the community-movement who are the best suited to discern the good reformers from schismatics and heretics; when they do that they cannot identify the people who do not belong there, because they are too similar to the selectors. Unlike businesses, in ideal-driven organisations, if the selection of the future elite is done by the "ownership" of today it makes the emergence of genuine reformers very difficult, albeit they are the only hope to keep the spirit of the original ideal alive. These essential reformers arrive by vocation, following a direct inner call: and sometimes to a Paul of Tarsus, the ancient persecutor. But even here there are "architectural barriers" that prevent diversity from leaving the house. They have almost always been built in the past to create fast roads and large buildings when the city and its culture were different. To save others and to be saved it takes the courage and strength to break down barriers, change routes, traffic lights and sidewalks. It is the open air of the square and the gardens that cure and save us.

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Le povertà diventano spesso ricchezze se ‘escono di casa’, e arrivare nella piazza di tutti. Anche le critiche e i problemi possono diventare la salvezza delle comunità, se sono lasciate libere di emergere e maturare. 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The Voices of the Days/4 - Once out of the "houses", taking up different angles, you can see and grow

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 20/03/2016

Acquasantiera S Anastasia VR 01 ridMaster, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest’.

(Matthew 13,27-30)

A friend of mine after returning from a holiday abroad exclaimed in surprise: »There, there are many more blind people than here«. I replied, »There aren't more blind: only they come out more from their house, because there are fewer barriers, more infrastructure dedicated to them and a culture that encourages the blind to have a public life.«”

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Leaving the House to Attain Wealth

The Voices of the Days/4 - Once out of the "houses", taking up different angles, you can see and grow by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 20/03/2016 ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said t...
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    [title] => Betraying the Ideal
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The Voices of the Days/3 - Charismas are the founding force of vulnerable but re-generable communities

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/03/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni ridThe philosopher is marked by the distinguishing trait that he possesses inseparably the taste for evidence and the sense of ambiguity. When he limits himself to accepting ambiguity, it is called equivocation. But among the great it becomes a theme; it contributes to establishing certainties rather than menacing them." 

M. Merleau-Ponty, In Praise of Philosophy

Much more than interest, ideals are the force that pushes the world forward. Sometimes we are the ones that generate them in the brightest part of our soul. At other times we are 'called' by the ideals of others: one day we find out that they were already living inside us, just waiting to be lit up.

[fulltext] =>

And so we begin the most sublime and generative types of adventures. In many cases, the greatest and most innovative ideals capable of generating a community are born of a person with a gift or a special charisma that can lead to collective experiences - at times very important ones, capable of transforming their own environment and their own time. Here the ideal is deeply intertwined with the personality of the 'founder'. It takes the founder's flesh, it grows and feeds off the founder's talents and character traits. This intertwining of the charisma and personality of the founders is the source and strength of 'charismatic communities'. But there comes a time when, in order to continue its development without getting blocked, the community must begin a long and complex process of distinguishing the 'pearl' from the 'field' that has kept it, to separate the personality of the founder from the 'personality' of the charisma. In fact, if the charisma coincides with the talent of the person who embodies and announces it, it does not have the strength to go beyond the very person. However, when the charisma is rather excessive in relation to the person, and hence it creates communities and movements, this surplus becomes the source that feeds the community after its founder, precisely because it is bigger than him / her.

All great charismas are greater than the charismatic person. The identification of this surplus, and so this 'gap' between the charisma and the person containing it, is the fundamental operation to which all followers of a charismatic community are called. Community, however, looks like a rather sophisticated collective work because it requires the ability to understand that at the root of that specific community there wasn't only an ideal-charisma: there was also its ideology.

Every ideology has its own life cycle. Its birth takes place very early on. It begins with the idealization of some key figures in the community, the founder(s) or other people who have special talents or gifts. It then goes on from the ideal announced by the leader to the idealization of his/her person, so that they gradually begins to lose touch with their own limits, errors, the typical shadows of the human condition of all the others. Around the leader a myth and a mythology are created, and they make the person gradually more and more different and unique, with a kind of ethical and spiritual infallibility. As a result, the circle of the people who work and interact with leaders gradually decreases, and the relationship of these few becomes increasingly asymmetric. Meeting or talking with the leader becomes a rare event, a ritual and mythical occasion. And the initial fraternity is pushed more and more to the background.

This is how the paradox is verified: those who have received a charisma of fraternity and announce it often find themselves in the objective condition of not being able to live in the community that they themselves have created. The first victim of ideology is in fact the original community’s fraternity. In the first, genuine and pure phase of ideals, fraternity is often the fundamental principle that involves everyone, including the founders and those who have prominent roles or responsibilities. When the community grows in size, some of these figures gradually take leave from the game of fraternity and equality, and are wrapped in an exceptional status, which is almost never limited to the founder alone but includes his entire entourage. The stronger and the more exceptional the charismatic qualities of the founders are the more likely and powerful the crisis of that fraternity and solidarity that once gave rise to the communities becomes. Communities founded by leaders with little spiritual talent are generally not very innovative, but they tend to remain more fraternal. Those that were born from great spiritual talents attract many more vocations but are much faster to produce ideologies that unhinge the original fraternity.

The second phase of ideology, which is a natural and logical follow-up to the first phase of the idealization of the founder, is the coincidence that is created between the charisma embodied and announced by the founder and his/her person. Since there is always a necessary and special relationship between a charisma and the person who embodies it, it is very difficult for the founders of charismatic communities, and especially their followers, to be able to distinguish the proposed ideal from the ideological idealization of charismatic people. The exceeding of the experience of the ideal over the charismatic person is composed by the charisma and the ideology. But in the foundation phase, the strength of the leader's personality covers out the ideology, which actually often becomes an essential element for the growth and development of the first generation of the community - the ideology is developed and empowered not only by the founder, but the community, too. The non-intentionality and good faith of the founders and their followers then makes the whole process even more complicated. However, when you switch from first to second and subsequent generations, it becomes essential to identify and distinguish the original charisma of the ideology that they have produced. If this delicate surgical operation is not attempted or if it is not successful, the ideology blocks the future development of the charisma, and often declares its end.

The crises of ideal-driven communities are produced by ideology, not by the ideal, and therefore can only be overcome by the elimination of ideology. But ideology acts primarily by making us unable to see it because it clothes itself in the ideal.

For this reason ideologies hate crises and deny them in a radical manner for a long time, until it becomes too obvious (and when it is usually too late to attempt a cure). A crucial mark of ideology is in fact the exclusion of the very possibility of crisis or decline from the horizon of future events. Everything is bathed in light, but much of this overall brightness is only the artificial light of ideology (true reality is always ambivalent). So when of the ideology of charisma sends the charisma in crisis in the second or third generation, the community does not have the categories to see, read, understand and overcome the crisis.

Therefore, the first step to overcoming this crisis would be in acknowledging that it is not the original message of the community (the charisma) that is in crisis but the ideology that grew from it. Identifying the ideological nature of the crisis, however, is very difficult, because the ideological creation is intrinsic to the foundation phase, and extends to some choices, words and attitudes of the very founders. The cure from the crisis would require a freedom of interpretation of the charisma and its ideology but it is precisely what the ideology has eliminated by its own development. Many charismatic communities seize to exist simply because of this. They could have been saved if they had tried, grabbing a scalpel, to penetrate into the living flesh, trying to remove the ideology to save the charisma.

And that's where different scenarios open up, of which the history of religions and ideal-driven movements is full. These scenarios are reminiscent of some dimensions present in the paradigms of two great Christological 'heresies' of the first centuries of Christianity: Monophysitism and Pelagianism.

The 'Monophysite' scenario (it recognizes only the divine nature, denying the human one) is the simplest and most common: as people are unwilling or unable to admit the human and therefore ideological dimension in the person of the founder, they make no distinction between the original ideal and its ideology, and everything becomes charisma. And so all the words, all actions, all the episodes of the historical figure of the charismatic leader have the same foundational weight and the same nature. The ideology remains unseen, and the disease becomes incurable because it grows without being noticed.

The other scenario is very reminiscent of Pelagianism, which was the great theological enemy of Saint Augustine. The spirit of Pelagius makes a new appearance when part of the community begins to think that they can 'save themselves alone', imagining an exit from the crisis unleashed by the historical figure of the founder and their original charisma. They seem to glimpse a salvation but without a 'saviour'. Facing the discomfort that arises from the inability to rid the charisma of its ideology, the crisis is interpreted as a crisis of the charisma and so that of the figure of the founder (not of their ideology). It is put aside, or used as a vague and distant ethical and symbolic reference, losing touch with the concrete and historical person. In these cases, the community / movement can also stay alive, but it becomes something substantially different from the first community.

The communities, however, that have managed to grow over time without falling into the new version of either of these two 'heresies', entered confidently in the heart of the historical experience of the foundation, the founder and their myth, taking all the risks that such a delicate operation entails. They wanted to do it because at some point, often for the intervention of authentic 'reformers', they realized that there was no other scenario if they wanted to stay alive.

Ideal-driven and charismatic communities stay alive over time if their every generation has the courage to try and revive the ideal from the ashes of its ideology. But first they have to be able to see it, understand it, accept it, love it, and request it to die.

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Le crisi delle comunità carismatiche dipendono dal non capire la natura ideologica. Per riuscire a superarle occorre evitare le eresie monofisita e pelagiana. 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The Voices of the Days/3 - Charismas are the founding force of vulnerable but re-generable communities

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/03/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni ridThe philosopher is marked by the distinguishing trait that he possesses inseparably the taste for evidence and the sense of ambiguity. When he limits himself to accepting ambiguity, it is called equivocation. But among the great it becomes a theme; it contributes to establishing certainties rather than menacing them." 

M. Merleau-Ponty, In Praise of Philosophy

Much more than interest, ideals are the force that pushes the world forward. Sometimes we are the ones that generate them in the brightest part of our soul. At other times we are 'called' by the ideals of others: one day we find out that they were already living inside us, just waiting to be lit up.

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Betraying the Ideal

The Voices of the Days/3 - Charismas are the founding force of vulnerable but re-generable communities by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 13/03/2016 “The philosopher is marked by the distinguishing trait that he possesses inseparably the taste for evidence and the sense of ambiguity. When he ...
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    [title] => In the Era of the Spider Web
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The Voices of the Days/2 - The miracle of the tree and the scion: defying death

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/03/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni ridBlessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked …He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Psalm 1

The intelligence of human beings is not the only intelligence of the planet. Next to ours there is also that of the different animals, insects, and even that of the different plants. Botany and other sciences show us that vegetables and plants feel, learn, see, suffer and remember, they decide, help and collaborate with each other, and they are much more similar to us than we would think.

[fulltext] =>

Farmers and gardeners know this well, since they are the ones who see and hear how plants react to the touches of their hands every day, and how their behaviour also responds to a law of reciprocity, among themselves and with us. They live and grow well in our gardens and our homes when they find their genuine companions in us, and they wither because they absorb our nervousness and negativity - the death of a plant next to us is always a message.

We can all experience the richness of the life of plants, but we have to walk into a forest or a park without haste, without headphones, without running, focused on our calories only. We are surrounded by many languages that we do not understand, because one day we started to run too fast, starting the gradual extinction of many non-human languages that had inhabited the earth for thousands of years - it is only by slowing down and taking their pace that we can re-enter the harmony of the "voices" of plants and much other life.

Trees and the world of plants have a dominant fundamental characteristic: they are anchored to the soil, they have roots. This being anchored to the ground has been a great evolutionary disadvantage, because it prevents plants from escaping from predators or moving in times of crisis of the surrounding environment (like fire or climate change). They are there, still and docile in front of us - there is no more radical docility than that of a peach tree or a willow. So, in the course of a few million years, they had to learn to survive even if at the cost of losing 50 or 80% of their body, managing not to die even when they are eaten and reduced to almost nothing. To succeed in this operation, which appears to us as a real miracle, plants perform their vital functions with their entire body.

We animals have had a big evolutionary advantage on the plants because of the development of our organs, in a strong functional division. We breathe with lungs, hear with your ears and see with our eyes. Plants, however, as they have no organs, see, breathe and feel through the full extent of their body. We have a hierarchical system to think and decide, plants "think and decide" with their leaves, with their branches, with their stem and with their roots. Their vulnerability caused by their physical inactivity has led them to spread their vital functions in all their cells. The specialized organs of the animals have allowed for a great efficiency and a huge cognitive success, but we have to pay for it with another great vulnerability: it is enough to lose one vital organ to die. It is much more difficult to kill a plant than an animal. A great vulnerability, therefore, has become a greater resistance to death.

There are many things that the vulnerability and resilience of plants can tell us. The companies of the past centuries have been structured on the animal model: a strong functional division of labour and a hierarchical order. This hierarchical and functional organization has enabled firms to run really fast, to move in search of opportunities, to react to stimuli and the changes of the environment, to become the most successful organism in these decades of great "climate change", especially if compared with civil and political communities that have been much slower, democratic, widely spread and anchored to their territory. Enterprises have been and are the big winners of the evolutionary history of our fast running time. At some point, however, at the turn of the millennia, the environment of the human world went through a dramatic change with the arrival of the Internet and networks – which are actually very similar to plants. The same metaphor of the network or of the web reminds us very closely of the spread of plant life, and certainly not of the organs and animal hierarchies. And those who want to move around in this new environment now have to breathe, listen, remember and talk with their entire body, just like plants. This means that the rigid hierarchical structure has to be reconsidered and overturn. Those who want to survive and grow today in the new economy are increasingly called to evolve by decentralizing and spreading out all functions (including entrepreneurial ones) by giving up a hierarchical control of all processes and decisions and by enabling and empowering every single body cell.

In fact, in our model of development, especially in Europe, we have known and still know companies that are organized according to the plant paradigm: these are the cooperatives. The strength of cooperation is in having developed a distribution of functions throughout the body, by giving up the rigid hierarchical organization to activate the entire corporate structure. Cooperatives have learned to breathe, feel and decide with their whole body, and they have always done it by re-thinking the company's property and direction. As they were anchored to their territories, they have been much slower and generally less efficient than capitalist enterprises, but have proved much more resistant and resilient to environmental crises, whether external or internal. And when they are dead or dying, their failure is often the outcome of having given up the plant metaphor in order to imitate the fastest and most attractive animals, adopting their type of governance and culture. If cooperatives and community businesses lose their ability to use all their cells to live, they will only end up with the disadvantages of being anchored to the ground - and, like a fox caught by poachers snare, they will be infinitely more vulnerable than the tree they find themselves tied to.

It is likely that the protagonists who are able to live through the "era of the spider web" successfully will be more and more diffused and horizontal, and also that they will look very much like the "old" cooperatives. The vulnus (weak point) of business in the new economy of the network is in fact their being changed to fit in terms of culture and governance but not yet in property rights. The owners of the new web shaped giants are still too few, their (huge) profits Pianta in vetrina ridare still very concentrated in just a few hands. Ownership and therefore the distribution of wealth will be the challenges of the new plant-like capitalism, issues about which we cannot say hardly anything today, because we continue to think of them along the categories of the twentieth century (entrusting all to policy and / or taxes alone). Until we begin to think of new forms of property spread out in the new forests, we will continue to imitate plants but remain predators.

The vulnerable resistance of plants can tell us many more things.
Let’s just think of ideal driven spiritual communities, or our inner life. The communities that have been able to survive the death of their founders, and / or to overcome serious crises, were widespread and able to breathe and see with their whole body. If the leaders or founders become the heart or the head of their community, with their death the whole community dies. If their charisma is spread through the entire body, communities are able to continue to live not only after their founder dies, but even after losing much of their body.

Finally, even the good development of the inner spiritual life can be seen as a progressive transformation of the soul, which becomes more and more like a tree. If our inner life is structured according to the animal paradigm, always on the move and without roots, we become extremely vulnerable when our vital places – people, work and certainties – are struck. Being betrayed by a friend, the death of a spouse, retirement or a crisis of faith is enough to sink into nothingness, and experience an instance of authentic spiritual death. Good education, especially of young people, therefore, consists in learning to feel, suffer, love, talk and see with all our soul. It takes longer, but it takes us much farther and higher, and we can survive losing 50, 90 or even 99% of our "body", and still be able to regenerate from a little "remnant" that's still alive in some corner. To get out alive from moments of great crisis, whether moral or physical, it can be enough to have a little bit of living tissue saved and healthy, that did not get devoured by predators – and rise again. Many times this "something living" is simply our job: we return to the office destroyed by misfortune, devoured by grief, abandonment, persecution, and while we turn on the PC or roll up the usual shutter, suddenly we can feel physically that life is starting again and it is starting to revive gradually, throughout our body. God spoke to Moses from the burning bush as he was tending the flock of his father-in-law, that is, while he was working. Work was often the place of the greatest theophanies. We have saved ourselves from authentic deaths of our soul so many times because we still knew how to make lunch, or because for years we continued to set the table with the same care as if there was someone who saw it and felt loved because of it. Or because we were able to recite the only prayer that still we remembered. And so a beautiful scion was born, and sometimes even a big tree with many fruits.

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The Voices of the Days/2 - The miracle of the tree and the scion: defying death

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/03/2016

Logo Voci dei giorni ridBlessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked …He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Psalm 1

The intelligence of human beings is not the only intelligence of the planet. Next to ours there is also that of the different animals, insects, and even that of the different plants. Botany and other sciences show us that vegetables and plants feel, learn, see, suffer and remember, they decide, help and collaborate with each other, and they are much more similar to us than we would think.

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In the Era of the Spider Web

The Voices of the Days/2 - The miracle of the tree and the scion: defying death by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 06/03/2016 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked …He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its le...