Regenerations

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Regenerations/13 - Both Saint Francis and Job are inhabitants in it. Just as children.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 25/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridAh you don't want to,
you're scared
of poverty,
you don't want
to go to the market with worn-out shoes
and come back with the same old dress.
My love, we are not fond
as the rich would like us to be,
of misery. We
shall extract it like an evil tooth
that up to now has bitten the heart of man."

Pablo NerudaPoverty (English translation by Donald D. Walsh)

For two millennia the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ has been trying to resist the attacks of those who have tried to reduce it to something else, to turn it into ridicule or an unnecessary comforting exercise. This fight against the simple radicalism of the beatitudes is particularly clear and strong in the case of the blessedness of the poor.

[fulltext] =>

The process of downsizing its scope started very early, when too much stress was appropriated to the ‘in spirit’ that we find in the Gospel of Matthew, leaving ‘poor’ more and more in the background, relying on new and creative exegeses of that beatitude. So we have written and said that the ‘blessed’ ones are not the poor but those who live a true spiritual detachment from riches, those who share the goods or use them for the common good. All these things are true and present in the Bible, too, but they turned us away from the very simple and tremendous statement of ‘blessed are the poor’.

It is not easy to understand and love this first beatitude. The first and almost insurmountable obstacle is the real and concrete condition of the actual poor: how can we call them blessed when we see them distorted by poverty, abused by the powerful, dying in the sea, being left to their fate on the peripheries of our cities? What happiness do they know? It so happens that the biggest critics of this first bliss are those who spend their lives to liberate the poor from their misery. The greatest friends of the poor often end up becoming the greatest enemies of ‘blessed are the poor’.

If we want this first beatitude to be able to reach us, to love and change us, we need to cross through this paradoxical, outrageous and even manipulative terrain - how many rich people found and used the bliss of the poor as a spiritual excuse to leave them in their blessed conditions of deprivation and misery, or how many were those who defined themselves as ‘poor in spirit’?! We must not make the very common mistake of reducing the range of this curious type of happiness to make it fit in our categories, by amputating (as in the myth) its legs sticking out from our beds that are too short. The paradoxes of the gospel and life are not solved by reducing them, but by ‘making the bed longer’, forming categories that ‘measure up’ to them.

A first clue to step deeper into the first beatitude is found in the text itself: it is Jules Adolphe Breton The Song of the Lark 1884 Chicagothe Kingdom of heaven. The happiness of the poor consists in living in the Kingdom already. The kingdom "is" theirs now, it's not something they "will" have tomorrow. The beatitude of the poor does not need the “not-yet”.
The poor are blessed because they are residents of the Kingdom of Heaven. This sentence in itself would be enough to understand, or at least make a close guess of the meaning of this beatitude that, not surprisingly, is the first one. Among the poor called blessed there were those who are rejected, the homeless, those who had little or nothing to live on. But this is where the lepers, widows (and almost all women), orphans (and almost all children) also belong, all these people who, not surprisingly, were the closest friends and companions of Jesus during his life. Most of his disciples came from among the poor: they met him in the streets of Palestine, they were ordinary people like us, who started to walk behind him and together with him. They were already poor or became poor having glimpsed another kingdom, following another type of happiness. In saying ‘blessed are the poor’ Jesus spoke to his people, and he still does.

Only the poor live in the Kingdom of Heaven, in that kingdom inhabited by the men and women of the Beatitudes: the meek, the pure, those persecuted, the merciful, those hungry for justice, the afflicted and the poor. A kingdom different from those that govern our society, but one that has never stopped being in our midst. A kingdom where you get to know the kind of Providence only the poor experience: Providence is for Lucia, not for Don Rodrigo. Holidays are the most beautiful celebrations of the poor: perhaps there is nothing more joyous on this earth than weddings and births celebrated by the poor among the poor. Children love parties and gifts because - and until - they are poor.

The rich do not enter into this kingdom, not as a punishment, but simply because they do not understand it, they do not see or want it. They are interested in the kingdoms of the earth and not that of heaven. If the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the poor, then it does not belong to the rich, unless they become poor leaving their idols behind. The kingdom of heaven is the place of non-predatory relationships with things and with people, where the golden rule is gratuitousness.

Throughout history there are some who have tried to take this bliss seriously. One of these is Saint Francis of Assisi, who has revealed what ‘blessed are the poor’ means more than anyone. Francis is this beatitude incarnate, the word made flesh. The one Francis followed is not the only way to enter the Kingdom as poor, but after the “poverello” (pauperculus, the "little poor man") one can no longer do without his poverty to really understand the one of the beatitudes. If it were not so, the charismas would only be private experiences, useless for the humanity of everyone and every age. Francis is the great and eternal master of the beatitude of poverty, the joy of a different kingdom. Whenever someone chooses to become poor again they meet Francis, although they do not recognize him (he met Jesus in the leper and he did not know, all those who become poor by choice also meet Francis, even though they do not know).

Not all Christians and not all men choose “Our Lady of Poverty”, but the typical joy of real - and not ideological - poverty is only known by Francis and those who are like him. That cosmic brotherhood, the Canticle of the Creatures, that absolute freedom, those kisses to the mouth and hands of lepers, the perfect joy can only come from those who are inside that bliss and live in a different kingdom. It is not mandatory to be poor, not even in the church: the rich are not excluded from the sacraments, they are often praised and thanked by the poor themselves. They have always been part, legitimate and even important part for the Christian communities. They live longer, with better education and health, they collect achievements and applause. But they are not citizens of that kingdom, they do not know those heavens, they cannot see those distant and beautiful stars. There is this kind of justice in this world, too, and it's great.

Monte Beatitudini Tabga rid But that's not all. The joy of Francis was born from poverty by choice, and his happiness is obvious to those who choose it and also to those who watch it. But the poor who followed Jesus were not only those who became poor by choice. There were so many who were just-poor-and-that's-all, people that did not choose poverty, but found themselves in it since the day they were born, or who had become poor as a result of an illness or misfortune. Among those who are called the blessed poor there were some like Francis, but there were also many "Jobs", that is, those people who were poor not by choice but by fate or misfortune. The amazing strength of the first beatitude is in its turning to the poor: those who were like Francis and those who were like Job. Both are called the inhabitants of this different kingdom. And if the kingdom is theirs, they are not subjects in it but sovereigns.

But while it is relatively easy to grasp the happiness of Francis, to call the many Jobs of the earth and history ‘blessed’ is a very difficult and painful operation bordering on the absurd, belonging to the realm of the paradox. But if we don't include Job, too, in that ‘blessed are the poor’, we reduce its range too much and we transform it into an ideology. We have to understand it and repeat it in the joy of Assisi but also next to the many ‘dung heaps’ where the poor of Job's kind live and dwell. Beatitude has to be true even for those who did not choose poverty but have only suffered it. The Kingdom of Heaven is and must be the kingdom of both Francis and Job, and of the two of them together. Those who are poor by choice should be right beside those who are just poor and that's all: all of them brothers, all blessed. It is not feeling happy that makes us blessed: bliss arises from the objective condition of being poor. It is not a feeling, it is a being, a living. There is no friendship that's more real and greater than the one between the Francis-like poor and the Job-like poor. To come across it it’s enough to go to a few missions in Africa, but also to Termini or Ostiense Railway Station in Rome where many poor people live and see how they hug each other and 'dance' together, all different and all equal citizens of the same kingdom.

The book of Job told us, at a high cost, that even the poor can be righteous and innocent - let's not forget that in that world, just as in ours, wealth was a sign of blessing and poverty was that of curse. The gospel goes out to meet Job and all the poor and announces them something new and immense: ‘You are not only innocent, you are also blessed.’ The dung hill remains, but from that day bliss comes to them as well, which has redeemed an endless story of poor people condemned by the religions of the rich of yesterday and today.

The beatitude of poverty may arrive late, very late in the life of righteous people: sometimes it is the last beatitude. To get a glimpse of another kingdom one must walk a lot, and if life lets us be born and live in the richness and abundance of goods and talents, it takes a lot of effort, a lot of testing and a lot of pain and love to be able to reach the beatitude of poverty. Often it takes all our life, and sometimes not even that is enough to become poor again finally, to be children and ‘naked’ just as we came to the world, and to recite the greatest prayer at the end: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ (Job 1,20-21) It is possible to go back to being poor, to return to poverty. The doors of the Kingdom are always open and waiting for us.

To believe and hope that the first beatitude is also for those poor who have not received a charisma to understand the happiness of poverty by choice is a message of great hope. Few can become poor like Saint Francis did. But we can all become poor like Job. And so we can all live in the kingdom, perhaps only for the last years, months or days of our lives. And when we finally become poor again in our last hour, the will also earn the kingdom for ourselves. ‘Blessed are you, the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

'Regenerations' was an unexpected trail, unexpected, surprising and wonderful for me. From the virtues and non-virtues of businesses we have now arrived at the Beatitudes, through forgotten and humiliated words. From next Sunday I shall resume, with new courage (of the Director and my own), the commentary of another great book: the Qoelhet (Ecclesiastes), expecting some new surprises and new heavens. In doing so, I am counting on the company and help of my readers again who continue to create this Sunday appointments with me. And - as always and more than ever - I would like to thank all those who have followed me this far.

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È solo loro quel Regno diverso, dove i ricchi non entrano perché non lo capiscono, non lo vedono, non lo desiderano e non sanno diventare poveri. Ma tutti possiamo trovare la strada, anche solo negli ultimi giorni della nostra vitaRigenerazioni/13 Francesco e Giobbe lo abitano insieme. 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Regenerations/13 - Both Saint Francis and Job are inhabitants in it. Just as children.

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 25/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridAh you don't want to,
you're scared
of poverty,
you don't want
to go to the market with worn-out shoes
and come back with the same old dress.
My love, we are not fond
as the rich would like us to be,
of misery. We
shall extract it like an evil tooth
that up to now has bitten the heart of man."

Pablo NerudaPoverty (English translation by Donald D. Walsh)

For two millennia the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ has been trying to resist the attacks of those who have tried to reduce it to something else, to turn it into ridicule or an unnecessary comforting exercise. This fight against the simple radicalism of the beatitudes is particularly clear and strong in the case of the blessedness of the poor.

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The Kingdom belongs to all the poor

Regenerations/13 - Both Saint Francis and Job are inhabitants in it. Just as children. by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 25/10/2015 “Ah you don't want to, you're scared of poverty, you don't want to go to the market with worn-out shoes and come back with the same old dress. My love, we...
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    [title] => The Gift of the Second Name
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Regenerations/12 - Believe it or not, in working for peace you can meet the Father

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 18/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."

Saint Paul, Letter to the Romans, 8

There are many wars being fought on our planet, in our cities, in our neighbourhoods. The weapons are many and varied, but all of them produce only dead or wounded people and destruction. The millennia pass, but a brother continues to repeat to his brother "we go to the fields."

[fulltext] =>

But whenever we start building peace again after conflicts, Abel returns to life, Adam walks again with Elohim in the garden of the earth, we can look "eye to eye" at each other in full reciprocity and with absolute gratuitousness. Every time we build and rebuild peace, our action also extends to creation, nature, the earth. And when we stop being its "keepers" (guardians) and deny peace, then the earth, animals, plants are injured, killed, humiliated, dragged into the vortex of our violence innocently. We see this more and more clearly every day.

Peace, shalom, is a great biblical word. It is among the most common, severe and exacting ones. The first covenant of Elohim with men comes to restore an original peace-happiness that was denied, in order to regenerate the primordial shalom betrayed by Cain's sin and by those of his equally atrocious children. It took a first peacemaker, Noah, for the rainbow to shine again over the earth, to make the re-creation of the world and of men possible. Peacemakers are always builders of arks to save a failed humanity. They are righteous men who feel a call to leave their land to save the land of all. If the world still lives despite all the evil that we generate, it is because Noah has never stopped building arks. The prophets and the many "blessed ones" in history have kept the rainbow in the sky by never stopping to build peace on a ground that has always been bathed by the blood of brothers. Noah's hand and that of the boat builders of peace has until now been far stronger and more creative than the hands of Cain and the owners of warships.

Peacemakers are not promised the earth, or the vision of God, or mercy. They are promised only a name: "They shall be called sons of God." It is, however, an immense name, the biggest of all, and only used for them. Peacemakers are conciliators, those who reunite broken relationships, those who spend their lives solving the conflicts generated by others. They leave their own peaceful life behind in order to make other people's lives more peaceful. Peacemakers, the builders of this biblical shalom, become what they are by vocation only. It is not just a matter of generosity or altruism. One can dedicate one' own life for the shalom of others and of all only if a strong voice calls them to do so from deep inside. Building peace is never just a job, even when the construction and reconstruction of peace is part of our job. These voices, these calls within cannot be resisted: they are highly effective. And we cannot resist even when we do not know by whom and where the voice that calls us comes from: to be peacemakers it is enough to hear and respond to it.

Our time knows many forms of war, and therefore it also knows many ways of building peace. But if the universal flood does not come back and life goes on, it's because inside the wars there is someone who continues to build peace, to insert stem cells into the body to regenerate it - or at least not to let it die. Someone that while the lobbyists of gamble fight their wars against the helpless poor tries to sabotage some of their "game", to build field hospitals for treating the wounded, to meet with their general to beg for a peace that never arrives. Peacemakers are also those who suffer because they cannot build an impossible peace and yet they do not give up. Even an impotent and failed peacemaker remains and deserves to be called a peacemaker. We do not know who the ones are that form majority in the realm of the peacemakers: those who get to see peace come following their actions, or those who spend their entire lives building peace that they never see coming. And so, while the constructions of death multiply, while governments increase investments in weapons and slot halls, while our children continue to be killed in the streets of Brazil and too many other places, Noah still obeys the voice that calls him and he builds his ark today, too.

But the Gospel promises us that for the builders of peace the day of bliss, will come, the day when they hear themselves being called "children of God". The beatitude of the peace builders is in fact a spoken name, it lies in being called differently. Their happiness lies in meeting the voice that gives us a new name. All the beatitudes consist in a being called blessed; but for the peacemakers to be called by name is the very content of their beatitude. They are called blessed as they are called by another name.

In the biblical world "son of God" was the highest, most beautiful and greatest name that a human being could receive. Today, though, there are authentic builders of peace and shalom that would not show any happiness if someone called them "children of God", because they have lost all contact with biblical humanism or have never come across it. Yet the blessing-beatitude applies also to them, as it must for all builders of peace. The Beatitudes are true for someone if they are true for all, for all those who are objectively in the given condition. Their prophecy and revolutionary force can be found in this universality of theirs. They reach beyond all boundaries and fences of religions, religious faiths and ideologies. In the realm of the blessed ones there are many more people than those who attend churches, synagogues, mosques or temples. All the pure at heart should see a God that is not seen, all those hungry for justice must be satiated, the promised land is the land of all the meek. All peacemakers should be called "children of God" and experience a beatitude-happiness, even those who do not know any more what these words mean.

The beatitudes live in the flesh of people. We may, for a thousand reasons, not want to be called "children of God" (perhaps Monte Beatitudini Tabga ridsimply because the God that we got to know was uninspiring, and no one wants to be the child of someone whom they do not esteem highly); but if the beatitudes are true and we believe in their humanism, then all peacemakers must feel a special joy in being called by that name, and must be able to understand it.

If we believe the promise we need to be certain that one day the builders of peace will hear their name spoken and discover a new and different way of being the children of God. In the midst of the good and peaceful struggle to try to build peace, to reconcile families, to heal wounds, they feel they are the children of that voice that has called them to this task. They find that by responding to the vocation that called them to build peace, another name has flourished in them next to the name they had received from their parents. They feel they have been re-created by the one who called them, and they sense that the voice calling them inside is another mother, another father. They no longer feel like orphans in their loneliness. If we are not convinced of the existence of this different child-status, all we should do is ask the peacemakers. And as we learned our first name hearing it pronounced by those who loved us (as children we discover our name because someone calls us so), we learn this new name of peace, too, by hearing it said by someone who calls us.

The peacemakers, therefore, enter in a profound dimension of life and they receive a second name. In their struggle for peace they end up injured but equipped with a new name. Wounded and blessed. Like with Jacob: blessing is the gift of another name. And so they have perhaps the greatest experience possible in this world: discovering that their spirit is inhabited by a deeper spirit, a spirit that speaks, one that calls them. We discover that we host a breath that we have not produced, and it has been there, forever, waiting for us. That our first name was hiding a second, deeper one which is pure gift. If, at least once in life, we do not hear this breath, if we never get to know our second name, we don't reach the deepest truth about ourselves, our spiritual life does not start to develop, and all through our lives we continue to talk to our own self even when we call it God. Building peace around us is of fundamental importance because it becomes a sure way to receive this new name, to re-cognise ourselves.

Finally, there is a deep relationship between fraternity and peace-building. It is in fraternity that we discover being sons and daughters. One day Jacob sent his son Joseph to his brothers far away to see how they were, to know how their shalom was (37,14). Along the way a man asked him, "What are you seeking?" He replied, "I am seeking my brothers." He found the brothers, but he did not find either shalom or fraternity. The sons of Jacob, we know, and denied shalom and profaned fraternity. There is no fraternity without shalom (it is decisive to remember it just when Joseph's tomb is in flames, being burnt by the war of hearts, minds and knives).

But there is a spiritual brotherhood between all the peacemakers: they are the children of the same call to shalom, and therefore brothers and sisters to each other. This network of universal fraternity that regenerates the earth stained with the blood of fratricide every day is the deposit of a new world that should arrive and that still groans waiting for the full revelation of the peacemakers. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

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La loro beatitudine sta nel sentirsi chiamati da una voce che rileva loro un nuovo nome, che si aggiunge al primo nome. Conoscere il proprio secondo nome è una tappa fondamentale della vita, e costruire la pace è una via maestra verso questa nuova conoscenza. La fraternità è il nome nuovo della pace. 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Regenerations/12 - Believe it or not, in working for peace you can meet the Father

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 18/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridFor I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."

Saint Paul, Letter to the Romans, 8

There are many wars being fought on our planet, in our cities, in our neighbourhoods. The weapons are many and varied, but all of them produce only dead or wounded people and destruction. The millennia pass, but a brother continues to repeat to his brother "we go to the fields."

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The Gift of the Second Name

Regenerations/12 - Believe it or not, in working for peace you can meet the Father by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 18/10/2015 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager long...
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    [title] => The serious happiness of tears
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Regenerations/11 - We all go through suffering and can rise again

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThen shall the young women rejoice in the dance, 
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy; 
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."


Jeremiah 31,13

The happiness promised by the Beatitudes is not the one promoted and promised by our culture. It has little to do with pleasure, it is not the good (eu) daemon (daimon), it blooms from pain. We can also get pleasure from the things of life if the pursuit of pleasure does not become the only thing in life. Because if we confuse happiness with pleasure we end up having neither the one nor the other.

[fulltext] =>

The Beatitudes are a 'way of life', they are another already. They are a concrete proposal and a judgement about our justice and injustice, about our embraces and walls, about our indifference and our consolations. Those who believe the truth of the Beatitudes enter into the very concrete world of those who can see the poor, the meek and the pure, and call them blessed. And then they want to live in their Kingdom.

The blessedness of the afflicted, the happiness of those who are crying seem the most paradoxical, that of the last day, not that of our penultimate days. What happiness can there be in tears? Crying in the Bible is not crying with tears of joy or with the false ones produced for profit on TV talk shows. They are the tears of the afflicted, the desperate cry of mourning, separations, failures, those fallen for the children who make mistakes and do not come home, those that fall when we fail to prevent a brother or a close friend to throw their lives away. Those of the wars, for the many poor crushed and oppressed, for those who lose their jobs, for betrayals. But they are also the tears of repentance and forgiveness, those of pain for our own conversion and that of others. Those of happiness are all very serious tears. In the Bible the experience of crying is often encountered. Even the patriarchs and kings shed tears, and Job, too. Jesus weeps for his friend who died, for Jerusalem, and that perhaps his final cry of abandonment was also a cry of tears. The Psalms are full of fruitful tears.

Tears are the first language of human beings. We can speak very different languages, believe in different gods, have many customs and cultures that are very distant from one another; however, all of us understand the language of tears, we all know how to decipher it immediately. Men, women, peoples always started to get to know each other through crying and during the work with migrants, when John did not understand the language of Sergey but could comfort him when he saw him cry looking at the crumpled photo of his children and wife left behind. Lapo did not understand almost anything of what Carmel was saying, but the tears of both of them were falling in the trenches and as they were conversing they understood each other perfectly.

Not all of us are persecuted for righteousness' sake, not all of us are meek, but we all cry. The beatitude of those who cry is a universal promise that reaches all human beings in their most essential, radical, vulnerable and naked form. It applies to all human beings: women and men, the elderly and the young boys and girls. Calling those who are mourn blessed, Jesus made all men and all women of human history and the earth blessed. We enter the world crying, and silent crying is often our last word before we leave. As Job teaches us, even animals, trees, the earth and the worms can cry. There are more tears than those of humans in this world. There exists a suffering of nature, a painful wait for consolation, a cry of creation. When we manage to hear some of its echo, we gain access to a deeper dimension of life, we discover a cosmic brotherhood, and we sing another Laudato Si’ together with Francis - yesterday and today. And there emerges the need to see consolation for human beings arrive, but also for the land that's been humiliated and offended, Monte Beatitudini Tabga ridfor the animals that have not been respected and were crushed, for the species that die day by day. We feel that there must be a consolation of tears in the world, that there must come a comforter, a redeemer, a Goel. We all become fully human when we begin to suffer from the non-arrival of these consolations - it is a suffering that once begun never ends and grows with us.

The blessing that lies within crying is called consolation: "They shall be comforted." The Greek word that we translate as 'consolation' is parakaleo, indicating the figure that stands close to the victim, like a lawyer, to defend them from their accuser. So this beatitude consists in having an experience of the arrival of consolation. In discovering a real presence that comforts us while we mourn. And with the arrival of consolation we stop crying, or cry in a different way. In this beatitude, unlike the others, happiness lies in changing the state that generates the beatitude. The meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the poor, the persecuted and those who thirst for justice - they all remain in that condition when the promise is fulfilled. We do not stop being poor because we are in the Kingdom of heaven, we don't cease to be merciful when we encounter mercy, we don't stop building peace when one day we hear being called "children of God". But when in our tears and despair we reach consolation, the crying decreases, changes tone and tears start being dried up.
We all know the beatitudes inside tears. They are recorded in the moral DNA of human beings. The yoke of life would be unbearable if inside tears we did not find consolation, too.

A first consolation can be encountered in the experience of being able to cry. Inconsolable suffering is when one can no longer (or not yet) cry. Many instances of deep regret, for example, start with deep and uncontrollable crying. It is a different way of crying that we can only get to know when it arrives, in its typical pain and beatitude. When the time of repentance and 'returning home' arrives, the first step is almost always crying bitterly - each on their own way, all similarly and all differently. It is a blessed way of crying, the beginning of a new life. While we cry we feel that we are called blessed: "They were tears of happiness born of the moral awakening dormant in him for many years" (L. Tolstoy, Resurrection). Before 'getting up' to 'return' to his father, the prodigal son had already begun his return by a great weeping. From inside hell there opens a glimpse to paradise, and the possibility of being able to finally reach it is already paradise. The road home is already home.

These tears are all and only beatitude, regeneration. They are extremely painful and salvific, terrible and wonderful at the same time. Afflicted and blessed.  This crying becomes a means of discovery and knowledge of the deeper dimensions of life. If you want to really know someone, meet them and listen to them while they cry because of repentance, forgiveness or a conversion. Great instances of forgiveness, especially between brothers and between friends, are accomplished while crying together in endless and timeless embraces: "So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt..." (...) Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. (Genesis 45:4-15)

There is another form of consolation-beatitude. It's the one that comes from being able to cry with someone who accompanies our pain. Co-crying, or co-suffering is a special form of happiness. Sharing in the pain and joining in the tears with a friend is the only happiness in life for many whose pain and tears are their only 'bread'. In these afflictions consolation comes with the real face of a friend who bends down to our pain. If there are too many afflictions that are not blessed it is also because they lack comforters, friends who are able to cry with us. In the instances of crying without consolation that abound around us there are too many absconding comforters. So many tears could be comforted and dried up, depressions accompanied, loneliness filled, if we could only see ourselves in the role of comforters and not in that of those who are waiting for consolation. I am the one who is missing from too much unconsoled pain of the world. Each beatitude is also an invitation directly to us, to you, to me. The first promised land is that of my house that I share with those who do not have it, the first consolation of the weeping other is my compassionate crying.

One special consolation that's also full of mystery is that of poetry, literature and art. The poet, the writer, the painter, through his or her work can reach the desperate ones of the earth, and console them by creating them. They become a neighbour, a fellow traveller, and so they make them blessed. In the greatest stories there is no need for a happy ending because despair seen and 'touched' by the artist is already happiness. Art gives us these beatitudes, too.

But there is still another consolation of the afflicted. It is that which comes as a 'angel'. Here there is no friend to comfort us. It is the Paraclete, which comes as the 'father of the poor'. It is wonderful that in the Bible the first angel comes to earth to comfort Hagar, a slave driven out into the wilderness by her mistress. The first theophany and the first annunciation both happen for her (Genesis 16). Annunciations, theophanies, the salvation of a child often happen at the height of great afflictions, when an angel comes to us where we could no longer reach, and comforts us. It is the consolation of the Spirit, the comforting Paraclete, it helps us rise again while we are dying on our cross. It is the perfect consoler, it is warms and straightens us out, it bathes us. If we are able to get up every morning when the night before we thought of not making it anymore, it is because the Paraclete is at work, and it kisses the wound of our souls while we are still asleep and dreaming, and heals them all. Not all of us know, or want, to experience God. But many, perhaps all of us have met at least once in our life this comforting spirit, or will meet it in a future instance of crying. It's a promise. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

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La consolazione arriva nell’esperienza stessa del pianto, da chi si china su di noi per consolarci, o da un angelo che ci raggiunge nel momento della massima consolazione. È lo spirito paraclito, il padre dei poveri e degli afflitti. 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Regenerations/11 - We all go through suffering and can rise again

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 11/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThen shall the young women rejoice in the dance, 
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy; 
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow."


Jeremiah 31,13

The happiness promised by the Beatitudes is not the one promoted and promised by our culture. It has little to do with pleasure, it is not the good (eu) daemon (daimon), it blooms from pain. We can also get pleasure from the things of life if the pursuit of pleasure does not become the only thing in life. Because if we confuse happiness with pleasure we end up having neither the one nor the other.

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The serious happiness of tears

Regenerations/11 - We all go through suffering and can rise again by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 11/10/2015 “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,  and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy;  I will comfort them, and give them g...
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Regenerations/10 - are written in the lives of the righteous just as they are in the Gospel

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 04/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridIf I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction."

The Book of Job, 10,15.

Hunger and thirst may take many forms. They may be for food and water, but there are those for beauty, truth, love and prayer. One can suffer and die for severe shortage of bread and because of drought, but many suffer and sometimes die because of the ugliness of hospitals and schools, because they live in places filled with lies, because they do not love and are not loved, because we look inside ourselves in hard times seeking spiritual resources and we do not find anything and are unable to listen and talk to the spirit that lives within us and nourishes us.

[fulltext] =>

These are all different forms of famine and drought; all of them are decisive. We are symbolic and meta-physical animals: in order to survive we need many different types of food and water. It is perhaps this plurality of possible nutrients that makes Homo Sapiens a special inhabitant of the planet that can starve amidst the opulence of food and drink and can be satiated by invisible substances, too.

If the only foods were those that satiate and quench our body, tens of thousands of years of evolutionary history would be wasted, when we started wishing for stars other than those of the night, listening to the voices and sounds of the mountains and clouds, filling the caves' walls with drawings and symbols that were "unnecessary" for hunting and fishing, and singing and maybe composing a few verses to look into a beloved person's eyes and love them not only in order to reproduce. And when human beings are removed from or denied the desires of these other types of food, because they are reduced to consumers and seekers of goods instead of the stars, we become too similar to our common ancestors, no longer singing the psalm: "Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings" (Ps 8:5). We have too many forms of hunger and thirst that no hypermarket can satisfy, and when the goods and money manage to satisfy our every hunger and thirst, the dignity of humanity recedes and is likely to become extinct: we will again exchange a poor man for a pair of sandals (Amos), we will sell a brother as a slave to merchants travelling to Egypt (Genesis). The expansion and the blossoming of human existence are, paradoxically, in the growing number of forms hunger and thirst can take. We come to this world craving a mother's breast that can only be left behind by craving a type of milk that only eternity can give us.

There is, however, a form of hunger and thirst that neither makes us sick nor causes us to die. They are those that the Gospel actually associates with a form of happiness, a bliss. There are thirsty and hungry people who are blessed. They are those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness." Justice can be food, it can be water. It can feed us like freshly baked bread; it can quench our thirst like a cold mountain spring.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness experience a famine, too. They too are poor and needy. Desires arise from the "absence of the stars" (de-sidera), eros has penury (Penia) as a parent. And as with any hunger and thirst, here too the body is the "place" where you feel and live this hunger and thirst. Hunger and thirst are experiences, not ideas. They are embodied words taking shape in our flesh - and as it happens with every word that's incarnated, we do not know what the word "hunger" means until the first concrete and conscious experience of hunger.

There are two types of hunger and thirst. There is the daily, healthy and good type for both, related to the normal rhythm of the meals, which does not cause any pain and waits only to be satiated. But there are also the hunger of famines and the thirst of the drought that millions of people still feel and live through, where a satiating lunch and thirst-quenching water can never be enough, and hunger and thirst are the daily bread. This second type of hunger is never satisfied, and this thirst is never quenched.

There is a hunger and thirst for justice that many, perhaps all of us can feel every day, just by living and cultivating our sense of justice. But bliss blooms during famines and droughts of justice. There are people in dictatorships, in the lagers and gulags, in prisons where they ended up just because they are poor and helpless, in the wrong and undeserved types of jobs, they only don't die because they feed off of their hunger and thirst for justice. The heart of this beautiful beatitude is the transformation of a lack of nourishment. Justice, since it is a primary good and basis for every common good, is a very special good, because the pain of its absence becomes bread and water. Just like in the fight between Hercules and Antaeus, the more Hercules hurled his opponent to the ground, the stronger his adversary rose back up again, because Antaeus was the son of the earth (Gaea). Hercules is unaware of this relation, and so he just makes Antaeus invincible while fighting him.

Those who fight a son of this type of justice, the more they deny to him the more they actually feed him, because they only increase his desire for what is taken away from him, and with it the energy and the strength to fight, too. Those who fight for a just cause, become increasingly stronger as the measure of injustice done to them grows, their energy increases with the thirst and hunger for the justice denied of them. However, during these famines we may die if we lose touch with the desire for justice, if we stop feeling his characteristic type of hunger and thirst. Just like in the myth, where Hercules can only kill Antaeus when he lifts him up from the ground, pulling him away from the source of his invisible and unbeatable source of power. If and when we stop yearning for justice and being hungry for the bread of life and thirsty for these rivers of living water, we get defeated in the battles against injustice, strangled by those who deny justice from us.

What satiety is then promised by the Gospel ("... they shall be satisfied"), if the bread Monte Beatitudini Tabga ridof those who seek justice lies in its very lack? How can you be given to drink from water that quenches thirst because it isn't there yet?

If we stay within our life and our own history (the beatitudes are words spoken here and now, and we would lose a lot, even too much, of their prophecy if we postponed their validity to the end of time), we can understand that the satiety of justice is born while we suffer because of lacking it. The satiety that we feel when we struggle to free someone from the structures of injustice - save a victim of gamble, the mafia, trying to get out  an innocent prisoner from jail, redeem a friend who entered into a spiral of debt through no fault of their own... - it is already bliss. If we do not sense and discover the beatitudes amidst the good fight, we will not find them ever, because it is life that creates this sublime form of happiness "live". If I do not hear the voice that tells me "blessed" while I feel a strong hunger and thirst for justice, I no longer have the strength to continue the fight, and I am dying of hunger and thirst. The happiness inside suffering is the first major motor of the history of the righteous. The differences between the justice that we want and the one we have is what can feed the righteous. I once saw a guy take a small tin can from a garbage dump, which then he turned into a cello to play Bach.

Upon hearing the word "blessed" resonate in the temple of the soul not all of us think it's a God speaking to us; but if there are people from different faiths who are nourished by their own struggles for justice - and there are many - then the voices that say "blessed" to us are many and varied. It is a chorus of voices singing on earth: "you are blessed". The water that satisfies the righteous ones is that of the public fountain in the country, the one that quenches all without asking where the source of that water quenching our thirst is. The land of the righteous is watered every day, it is nourished by the many voices that whisper to us from within: "happy", "blessed", "courage", "you were right", "you're fighting a good fight." It is a bliss that satiates, refreshes, sometimes even intoxicates us with a different but very powerful type of joy. It is felt clearer and stronger when our eyes cross with those of others who are fighting right next to us. Only with a thousand different voices can all the righteous hear being called "blessed." For the builders of Babel one language was enough but at the Pentecost of the righteous, there are many languages, all different and all equal.

This leads to a great hope. In the world there are many more beatitudes than those that the righteous can call by that name. We are not alone in our good fight for justice, we are not alone in crossing these deserts, our hearts are inhabited by many voices telling us that keep feeding us by saying "blessed" to us in many ways. The sky, with its dew, gives us a manna that feeds us every morning in this world. Many ask us amazed: "What is it?", and we cannot answer if the prophets do not explain it to us. But what really matters is that the righteous are fed inside, they feel satiated in poverty, so that they may survive and live in the midst of the famines of justice that never end - the poor, and so those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, will always be with us, and they will always have their beatitudes.

Multitudes of the righteous can hear themselves being called "blessed" in their soul even without having ever read the Gospel, or when they have forgotten it. A "kingdom of heaven" inhabited only by residents with passports and not by refugees and migrants would be a place that's just too small. Its skies would be too low, its horizons too narrow. The Kingdom of Heaven should be the kingdom of all of the righteous, each of them with their own language, all of them fed by the same food, drinking from the same water. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied".

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I giusti si saziano della loro indigenza di giustizia. E si sentono chiamare ‘beati’, in molti modi, in diverse lingue, nutriti tutti i giorni. Il Regno dei cieli è la casa di tutti i giusti. 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Regenerations/10 - are written in the lives of the righteous just as they are in the Gospel

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 04/10/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridIf I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction."

The Book of Job, 10,15.

Hunger and thirst may take many forms. They may be for food and water, but there are those for beauty, truth, love and prayer. One can suffer and die for severe shortage of bread and because of drought, but many suffer and sometimes die because of the ugliness of hospitals and schools, because they live in places filled with lies, because they do not love and are not loved, because we look inside ourselves in hard times seeking spiritual resources and we do not find anything and are unable to listen and talk to the spirit that lives within us and nourishes us.

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The lesser known beatitudes

Regenerations/10 - are written in the lives of the righteous just as they are in the Gospel by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 04/10/2015 “If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction." The Book of...
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    [title] => The persecution of the not-yet
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Regenerations/9 - Laws, just like clothes, often get tight and worn-out

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 27/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridAll that does not regenerate, degenerates."

Edgar Morin, Education for the Future

There exists the justice of the already and the justice of the not-yet. Justice grows, evolves and devolves over time, according to the moral sense of the people, cultures and generations. The statement "It's not fair", repeated by individuals and communities, is the prime mover of any widening of horizons of justice, and thus, humanity.

[fulltext] =>

Most people form their opinion of justice or injustice based on the difference between what they see and the justice already codified in the laws or customs of a people. The approval of justice and the blame of injustice are the basis for the construction of the justice of our lives.

A first persecution of those who practice justice comes from living with people who do not love justice and seek injustice - even when injustice comes from saying "just" and "unjust" to the wrong things. The market is full of these persecutions, when honest and upright entrepreneurs face a lot of suffering, from every point of view, only because they operate in industries where the sense of justice of others is completely domesticated in the accounts of profits. Honest businesses survive thanks to the honesty of their employees, customers, suppliers and competitors. The dishonesty and injustice of their interlocutors is polluting their air and their land, and the fruits do not come. The greatest virtue required of just entrepreneurs has always been to be able to resist when they are near unjust people and institutions. These are genuine cases of persecution, and those who resist and don't give in should be called "blessed".

The experience of justice and injustice, then, in addition to informing our behaviour can lead us to take action to reduce or eliminate the injustice around us. This is where another form of persecution is experienced. The history and the present of humanity show us a crowd of those who are persecuted because they see injustice perpetrated on other people or the world. As with mercy, what drives us to react against the injustices we observe is not primarily the desire for altruism or philanthropy. It is something much more radical that moves in our guts, which initially looks more like eros than a gift. Later, and only after this first feeling, intelligence and rationality are activated, as the servants of the indignant heart. Inside persecution for justice we find ourselves following disdain, obeying a logic that is different from that of the cost-benefit calculation.

The first impulse that makes us react against injustice is therefore a true and deep pain. We feel bad, we feel moral and sometimes physical pain, and, sometimes, we get into motion. Without going through pain for a world that seems unfair no sense of justice will be born. It is a pain that can arise even when the object of injustice are not human beings but animals, the earth, water or nature, because the pain of the injustice of the world is the greatest pure human pain. As long as there are people who cultivate a sense of moral justice, and as long as humans have an inner life that makes them able to feel this special type of moral suffering, we won't resign ourselves to the injustices that can be fought to reduce them, even though we will be persecuted by those who get benefits from those unjust behaviours.

But there is, in fact, a third type of persecution (and certainly others, too). It is the persecution for the justice of the not-yet.

There are people who have the gift of seeing, suffering and fighting for a type of justice that is not yet recognized as such by the society in which they live. They do not just denounce the violations of justice recognized by their generation. They do this, too, but they have also received the gift of the "heart's eyes" that allow them to see and search for a justice that laws and collective consciousness are slow to recognize. But they actually see it, suffer over it and act. They suffer because of instances of injustice that are not felt to be such by others, because they are considered normal by tradition, life and even the nature of things. They feel it in their flesh that there is injustice in the world that's hidden behind what the law does not prohibit or even encourages, and so the process of complaints and liberation starts, followed inevitably by persecution. They find themselves as people who are against the laws, not only those made to defend unfair low interests, but also those made in the name of justice. Although the laws, like shoes and clothes, often become tight and worn-out and must be changed, otherwise they damage and no longer cover us.

Seekers of the justice of the not-yet provide a continuation of the prophetic function throughout history. Prophets receive vision that is able to see injustices where others still see justice, and to call unjust what others call just, to feel a suffering that society does not understand, to fight for things that seem unnecessary or even harmful to others, to recognize rights and duties before they appear at all as such. Persecution for the justice of the already is capable of arousing the empathy and compassion of many fellow citizens who are humane and just. Persecution for justice of the not-yet, however, takes place in solitude, which is a specific feature of this different type of justice. Nobody makes night or torchlight marches, or hunger strikes for the first battles for justice that is still invisible. Prophets are always lonely.

Justice of the not-yet is fundamental to the moral development of the peoples, just as prophets are fundamental. Behind every law that is recognized and protected today, there is someone who yesterday suffered for its absence, someone who was indignant and was feeling bad for that injustice that was not yet considered as such. From that pain of the soul a collective action was launched, and the persecutions followed. On the land of the just anyone, like the ancient (and new) Mercedarian fathers, hear a call to do the "vow of redemption" to free the slaves of the justice of the already by taking their place.

This is how the moral sense of everyone grows and the boundaries of justice are moved forward. Every now and then we should remind our children and ourselves of the stories and the great amount of pain hidden behind certain articles of our laws. Collective memory also has a function of keeping our moral sense alive and alert, and when it fades, communities start moving backwards, defeating the pain of the martyrs for justice and offending their blood poured. Whenever the story recedes into the ground of justice - we have seen it many times, and we still see it - first there is an elimination of the "gap" between the facts we observe and our moral sense. It becomes normal to fire someone for his "race", falsify corporate balance sheets, and erect walls where the parents had given their lives to overthrow them (the walls - concrete, barbed wire or looks - are all the same.

Therefore, the first thing that those who love justice have to do is cultivate and nurture the moral sense in children and young adults. Starting from school, where reducing history, literature, poetry in the name of "useful" techniques means decreasing the sense of justice and the ability of resistance to injustice in the next generation - in "technical" schools and universities we must increase the presence of humanities, if we hope for justice in the economy and in construction techniques of "cars".

But there's more to it. The persecution of the prophets does not come just from the unjust and wicked. It also comes from those of the "justice of the already". Often seekers of justice already become the persecutors of those who represent the justice of the not-yet". The scribes and Pharisees, Job's friends, the Sanhedrin, were generally people and institutions who believed and defended the justice of their time: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees...". Different types of righteousness, and the second is the persecutor of the first.

The lack of understanding on the part of good and righteous members of their own community is typical of every prophetic experience. Fractures and sometimes real persecutions are created within the same "people of the righteous," because the justice of the not-yet seems unfair, naive, unwise and detrimental to those seeking the justice of the already. This specific persecution, this "friendly fire", is among the greatest sufferings of the seekers of the justice of the not-yet, but it is an inevitable suffering in the advancement of justice on earth.

Sometimes the righteous ones of the already, in a decisive meeting with the righteous of the not-yet, fail to realize that their righteousness must be open to a "beyond" in order not to become unjust. That is why Saul, a persecutor acting in the name of his justice according to law, becomes Paul the persecuted for a new justice. We understand that our righteousness must die to be reborn, it must rejuvenate. Donating one's mantle, forgiving seven times, going a mile with a brother is no longer enough. We feel that we are not righteous if we do not give our tunic, too, if we do not do the second mile as well, if forgiveness does not become infinite, for all, forever. Our justice gets older, it dies many times, and many times it has to rise and then relearn to die again.

The Gospel unites the beatitude of those persecuted for justice to that of the poor: both already have "The Kingdom of Heaven". There is a friendship, a brotherhood between the poor and those persecuted for righteousness. Both are poor, both are persecuted for righteousness. Those seeking justice if they were not already poor they become so as a result of persecution. And poverty is also persecution arising from the denial of justice, whether that of the already or that of the not yet.

There is a shortage of the justice of the already in our days, but more than that, we lack the justice of the not-yet. The prophets are too few. "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

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La più dolorosa, e inevitabile, è quella di chi difende la giustizia del "già" combattendo la giustizia del "non-ancora". Ma l’umanità avanza quando la giustizia, molte volte, muore e risorge diversa e più profonda. 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Regenerations/9 - Laws, just like clothes, often get tight and worn-out

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 27/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridAll that does not regenerate, degenerates."

Edgar Morin, Education for the Future

There exists the justice of the already and the justice of the not-yet. Justice grows, evolves and devolves over time, according to the moral sense of the people, cultures and generations. The statement "It's not fair", repeated by individuals and communities, is the prime mover of any widening of horizons of justice, and thus, humanity.

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

The persecution of the not-yet

Regenerations/9 - Laws, just like clothes, often get tight and worn-out by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 27/09/2015 “All that does not regenerate, degenerates." Edgar Morin, Education for the Future There exists the justice of the already and the justice of the not-yet. Justice grows, evol...
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    [title] => The intelligence of meek hands
    [alias] => the-intelligence-of-meek-hands
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Regenerations/8 - The logic of the beatitudes is revealed in trials of life and in struggling businesses

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 20/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThe Beatitudes are not virtues, they are not an ethical discourse about human actions. Instead, they are the recognition that the poor, the meek, the pure in heart do exist in the world, just as those who cry, those who are persecuted for righteousness and the merciful. And they are called 'blessed'.

The Beatitudes are above all a revelation, the lifting of the veil to see a deeper, truer face of reality than the one it shows. The gospel does not present an ethics of virtue (as it was already there), but it gives and reveals to us the humanism of the beatitudes (that is not there yet, and so it can come at any time). If we really understood and lived the logic of the Beatitudes, we should go to the streets, squares, businesses, immigration camps, look around and repeat with and like Jesus of Nazareth: "blessed, blessed...".

[fulltext] =>

There are too many who are pure in heart, persecuted for righteousness, poor and meek and are still waiting to be called 'blessed'. We do not know we are blessed until someone sees us, recognizes us and calls us with this wonderful name. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the new tablets of the Law he did not know that his face had become radiant (Exodus 34,29). It was his people to reveal the presence of that special light. The shining of one's face and all happiness appear in a relationship. We begin to learn to be happy amidst poverty, persecutions, when we cry and when others do, because someone who loves us tells us so, reminds us of their love and support. The more important Beatitudes are those of others. And ours wake up only when called by name.

Meekness exists, we see it every day, it gives us life, and thanks to it we make those around us live. The meek are recognized first of all by their tenderness, they all have the same root. They are docile, gentle, tender. The meek shall develop a special friendship with their hands - the Latin word (mansueto) refers to the tameness with which the lambs pass by the back of the hand of their shepherd. This tenderness is the opposite of the romantic and cheesy one that floods talk shows and commercials today. The meek know the sublime spiritual song of hands.

First of all they are docile to the action of the hand that works on/with them and know how to work. This is the first dimension of meekness: knowing how to sit still and pliant, especially on days when the hand of life is felt more intensely. To recognize the meek they should be observed in times of illness, during trials of life and, above all, in the encounter with death. Meekness is crucial help in times of being abandoned, during mourning, amidst internal and outer deserts, when we, as the lamb, dispose ourselves tamely to let the hand of the pastor do its job. And we should do ours: meekness is the opposite of passiveness. It is continuous, tenacious and persevering work. Meekness is the beatitude of the poor who can stay and live in conditions that would qualify as impossible for the non-tame.
We can meet meekness very often among the elderly and old people. The meekness of the heart looks like the softness of the ripe fruit, which fulfils its mission by becoming food for others or by falling and nourishing the land. The meekest eyes that I have ever met were the eyes of some old and even older people. Only these eyes have the gorgeous and bright colours of the last autumn.

It is not uncommon for a person to reveal all their hidden meekness (even to themselves) in the last phase of life, in their last days, in their last hour of life. When they manage to be docile in the hands of nurses and doctors, being turned by them in bed again and again, tame to the hands that pass by them, awake in the last endless nights. Or when we manage, for an unexpected gift, to see the hand of the angel of death and to recognize it as the good and friendly hand of the shepherd, and so let it embrace and caress us in the last hug-dance of life. So the first earth that the meek inherit is that little handkerchief that receives them in a benign and sisterly way when they return home in the end. Like Abraham, who obediently followed the voice calling him to a promised land, and who died in exile possessing only the land bought from the Hittites for the grave in which to bury his wife Sarah.

But the meek, accustomed to the action of the hands of others, also use their own hands to embrace, to heal, to welcome a friend, to host a repenting person. The meek hug, shake and cry together, and they know that you do not get to know someone without having them close to your chest, without kissing their cheeks with the kiss of peace. They know and use the humble and strong language of the body, the language of caresses, they are masters of tenderness and intelligence of the hands. We are all able to caress our children, and we can all caress those we love. These strokes are part of the basic repertoire of human beings - and other higher primates. But only the meek can and know how to caress anyone: children and adults, family members and strangers (only the meek should caress the children of others). And so with the exercise of the hands they heal the wounds of loneliness and abandonment that can only be healed when they feel a light helping hand pass on their skin. If it were not for the multitude of the meek that inhabit hospitals, paediatric wards, schools, shelters, social cooperatives, and act among volunteers in prisons, at stations and along the streets at night, life in these places would be impossible, or just too painful. Blessed are the meek, blessed are those who meet them and are caressed and loved by them.

Furthermore, the meek are necessary to disarm conflicts and rebuild peace and harmony everywhere. If there develops of a conflict (between brothers for an inheritance, between colleagues, between partners, within a community) without the involvement of at least one meek person, the only solution is usually that of the courts – and these are never true solutions in primary relations of our lives: the only true resolution of conflicts between brothers and friends is the embrace of bodies and hands. The meek can cover everything, they bear everything.

The meek are promised the earth, it is their inheritance. But the earth belongs to God in biblical humanism: "all the earth is mine" (Exodus 19,5). It is in this perspective that this particular beatitude (and all others) should be interpreted. We are only temporary owners and passengers on a land that is not ours. The first law of the earth is gratuitousness, all the earth and all lands are common property first and only then goods used with responsibility and care for our welfare (shalom). So the meek own all land by not possessing it; and therefore they share it all. They regard it as inheritance received for free, not as goods purchased in the markets; and therefore they want to leave it to their children. They open the doors of their house because they know that it is actually the house of the others, of everybody, too. And when their house is filled with non-family members they do not feel a hero nor an altruist, but only someone who is in possession of a land received as a gift and inheritance, even when they bought it from wages earned as hard working immigrants, with the savings of an entire life. Each of our properties is secondary, because the whole earth is owned by YHWH, and so it is neither one person's nor everyone's possession. The earth is always promised land, it is more than a (River) Jordan that we contemplate but never cross.

And if the meek are promised the earth, then the promised land is the land of the meek. Each land inhabited by the meek has already become the promised land. Also the land of our city, our neighbourhood, my home becomes the promised land if there is at least one meek person in it.

But the meek regard and live their life as an inherited land, too. In life, almost always there comes a defining moment when we understand, everyone in their own way, that the life we ​​are living is not what we originally wanted to live. The tree that has bloomed from the seeds of youth is not what we had thought or wanted either. The meek find their happiness-beatitude by accepting the life they live in a docile way, because they understand that for them there's no better tree grown out of that land. No tree resembles its seed, no good adult life coincides with the hopes of youth - and if it coincides it is not good. This meekness is the opposite of resignation, because while the resigned one becomes sad upon facing the disappointment of adulthood and gets sad and bitter over it, the meek one is happy and reconciled. Many, a myriad meek people end up finding their happiness in families and religious communities that have proven different than what they wanted to chose or dreamt of; sometimes it is very different or too different for the non-meek. The meek are able to flourish inside scenarios that were not scheduled on the day of their wedding or religious ordination, but once they have to go through them they embrace them with the same tenderness with which they embraced their bride on that first day. Embraces of the meek are all equal. We cannot control all events determining our happiness inside and around us. The greatest things in life are not chosen by us. They are inherited; we do not buy nor deserve them. We can reject them and run away in search of a land that is only and all ours. The meek, however, welcome them in their entirety, without asking for any "discount". They make them enter into their house where they set the table with the most beautiful tablecloth. And one day, surprised, they can have a feast, finding themselves adult and mature at last. There are few joys greater than those that bloom from feasts celebrated together with our disappointments. The meek know this kind of feast, they can savour this mature kind of joy, and are blessed. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

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Ma sanno anche usare le mani con tenerezza, per accarezzare le ferite degli altri. Ereditano la terra, abitandola senza possederla. E ereditano anche la terra della propria vita, facendo festa insieme alle proprie delusioni. 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Regenerations/8 - The logic of the beatitudes is revealed in trials of life and in struggling businesses

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 20/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThe Beatitudes are not virtues, they are not an ethical discourse about human actions. Instead, they are the recognition that the poor, the meek, the pure in heart do exist in the world, just as those who cry, those who are persecuted for righteousness and the merciful. And they are called 'blessed'.

The Beatitudes are above all a revelation, the lifting of the veil to see a deeper, truer face of reality than the one it shows. The gospel does not present an ethics of virtue (as it was already there), but it gives and reveals to us the humanism of the beatitudes (that is not there yet, and so it can come at any time). If we really understood and lived the logic of the Beatitudes, we should go to the streets, squares, businesses, immigration camps, look around and repeat with and like Jesus of Nazareth: "blessed, blessed...".

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The intelligence of meek hands

Regenerations/8 - The logic of the beatitudes is revealed in trials of life and in struggling businesses by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 20/09/2015 The Beatitudes are not virtues, they are not an ethical discourse about human actions. Instead, they are the recognition that the poor, the me...
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Regenerations/7 - Beyond the times of the sand, to the house of the Beatitudes

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThe poverty of joy that Europe and the West has been suffering for long now is a direct result of forgetting the logic and wisdom of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes embody and express all the values ​​discarded and despised by capitalism and so from our world that is increasingly built in the image and likeness of the Business God.

Meekness, peace-building, poverty, mercy, purity are not the words of the capitalist economy and its finances, because if we take them seriously we should destroy our empires of sand and start building the house of the man of the beatitudes. Not surprisingly, in these tragic and wonderful days of the unexpected and surprising revival of the Beatitudes in much of Europe, the great absent ones are big businesses and banks, which, with an empathy without compassion continue their production and rites. They remain indifferent and indolent, they do not open the doors of their "houses", they do not know how to take off their shoes to learn to walk barefoot like Adam, like children, like the poor.

[fulltext] =>

Purity is the word that’s least understood and loved by our society of consumption and finance. Yet without purity we cannot understand the world, because we only see its more superficial dimensions and we miss out on the vision of the nicest things. Seeing little and badly, we miss out on seeing the great hidden beauty in what appears as impure and repulsive.

In the Gospel, purity is closely linked to the heart and the eyes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The heart of biblical humanism expresses the profound nature - spiritual and practical - of the person. In Jewish culture, and therefore in that of Jesus and the evangelists, God, however, is not seen. This is one of the deepest and most radical truths of the whole Bible, it is at the centre of its fight against all idolatry worshiping false and therefore highly visible gods. YHWH is a voice that we can listen to through the word of the prophets, and that we can feel throbbing alive in the universe. The condition that brings together all humans is that of being blind listeners of God. What is it then that the pure one can see if it is not God? And what is this new and different type of purity, the purity of the heart?

To understand it, or at least grasp some of it, we should remember that the ancient world had its own idea of ​​pure and impure, which was the basis of the whole social and religious order. There were pure and impure places, people, animals, crafts, times, activities and objects, and society was constructed to avoid contamination and protect purity from impurity. All the sacred hierarchy was explained in relation to this role of separation. The Christian message performed a real reversal in the vision of pure and impure (already foreshadowed by some prophets and the Book of Job), by proposing a new idea of ​​purity that was beyond the category of impurities. That's why the purity of the heart is not the wonderful innocence of children, nor that of animals and nature. These natural purities were the source of the sacred purity of the communities of the ancient world, and after losing it they tried to reconstitute it by sacrificing animals, vegetables, virgins, children to the gods. But the separation of the pure from the impure and the pure ones from the impure ones was too much rooted in the world, although the revolution of the Gospel could last long and create a new civilization. But even in the heart of Christianity we have re-created the unclean ones and the lepers, and brick by brick we rebuilt the same pre-Christian culture of immunity (being uncontaminated), which is experiencing its own apotheosis in our time that is apparently not religious and highly secular, with multinational corporations as its main apostles.

Purity of the heart is exactly the opposite of the old (and post-modern) culture of pure versus impure. Saint Francis of Assisi tells us in his Testament that his conversion really started when he began to attend to the lepers of Assisi, thus breaking down the curtain of separation of purity from impurity. Purity of heart does not run away from lepers, but meets them, seeks them out, loves them, embraces them, kisses them. The first feature of this purity is the elimination of the term impure from the list of bad words, and realising that what we call impurity is exactly where real life takes place. So the first gift of new eyes that the pure one receives means to see a different world where impurity is gone. For this reason, a clear signal that we are not in the presence of eyes of purity is to find the distinction between pure and impure again - in order to position ourselves on the side of the first, of course.

If so, it seems obvious that a general feature that we find in pure hearted people is that they have no self-definition. Once the barrier between pure and impure collapses, purity becomes the environment and it is not seen any more since it is inhabited by the pure hearted. This elimination of the curtain between pure and impure is done in various ways. Almost always it comes as a gift, and sometimes it is an act of liberation that comes at a particular time of life. But it is always a movement of the soul that is not aimed at conquering purity, because looking for purity directly is the main way to lose what we already had and did not know, and to find ourselves left with the pagan type of purity only. For this reason, purity of the heart, like all the other beatitudes, cannot be called a virtue, because it comes without searching for it. Therefore it is pure freedom and the deepest kind of happiness.

This is the first purity of the pure one: to be pure and not to be aware of it, and so not to be able to appropriate its purity to oneself. It is the purity of purity. Furthermore, the one who is pure of heart is not recognized as such, because this purity cannot be seen, and when we see it, it is that ancient and pre-Christian one. The world is filled with pure hearts, but we cannot see them, because we seek purity where it isn't.

The pure ones should be recognized from what they can see around themselves. They See God. But if God is not seen, what do the pure ones see? They can see or feel a presence of the infinite within themselves, something that some feel and call God, and that many others also see and feel but do not know how to call it by name. They can also see it in nature, in the world, everywhere. But above all they can see it in the other, in all others that they meet or discover in books, music, art and poetry. They see every man and every woman as a tabernacle that holds a presence, even when the key to it is lost and the door is closed for good. And so they are attracted to every person, they are lovers of life and especially people. The love of the pure ones is all agape, but it is also all eros and philia. They can see that the world is really filled with beauty, and that the greatest beauty is that of the people. And with their eyes they can tell us: "Little girl, I say to you, arise." Purity watching us has the ability to resurrect the divine image that appears dead to us, too, but in reality it was just sleeping while relatives and friends wept for its death. But the unmistakable signal that reveals the presence of the pure hearted is when we see them embracing and kissing the poor and the lepers.

This purity brings wonderful fruits when we find it in those who happen to be responsible for a community or a business. The leadership of the pure hearted can be recognized for what they can see in others. One of the greatest gifts that life can give us is to place us next to pure hearted colleagues and executives. The yoke of fatigue becomes very light and work becomes our brother.

But there is something more, and perhaps even more sublime. If it is true that the pure hearted can see God and if it is true that God on earth is not seen, then the world is full of people who can see God although not being able to see him, not knowing that what they see is God because they do not recognize him . God is where he isn't, where not even the pure hearted can see him. This is very good news, one that should fill us with hope in this time appearing as the darkest night of God.

Meeting a pure hearted person is often the decisive encounter in life. Thanks to those eyes looking at us differently we can, if only for a moment, connect with the deepest and truest part of us; and feeling looked at like this, there blooms the desire inside us to become what we already were once, but we did not know yet, or simply to go home. In these crossings of eyes we relive something of that first good look of a woman who greeted us when we came into the world, and that we are always looking for in this life. The presence of these eyes is an extremely precious form of common good that keeps the gaze of Elohim on earth, continuing the action of those eyes that changed the world in the streets of Palestine, looking at it in a different way: "And, having looked at it, he loved it."

Purity, as all reality of the earth, can be lost. Even the pure hearted can have a blurred vision. And the only real sign that tells us that we have lost purity is not seeing a presence of the infinite in the other, in the world and inside us, and therefore not being in love with everything and enchanted by everything anymore.

But, like all spiritual realities, purity of the heart can be found again: you can return to be pure. You can return because there is an immense longing for that God we could once see-not-seeing-him in and around us. And the first sign of this return is wishing again, even more, to go back to kiss the poor and the lepers. It takes a long way to find that flourishing and blissful existence again, the purity of childhood - transformed into purity of the heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

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Il puro sa vedere Dio. Ma se Dio non si vede, che cosa vede il puro? Vede davvero gli altri, li sente tabernacolo della presenza dell’infinito. Il segnale certo che rivela i puri di cuore è vederli abbracciare e baciare gli impuri, cioè i poveri e i lebbrosi. 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Regenerations/7 - Beyond the times of the sand, to the house of the Beatitudes

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 13/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridThe poverty of joy that Europe and the West has been suffering for long now is a direct result of forgetting the logic and wisdom of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes embody and express all the values ​​discarded and despised by capitalism and so from our world that is increasingly built in the image and likeness of the Business God.

Meekness, peace-building, poverty, mercy, purity are not the words of the capitalist economy and its finances, because if we take them seriously we should destroy our empires of sand and start building the house of the man of the beatitudes. Not surprisingly, in these tragic and wonderful days of the unexpected and surprising revival of the Beatitudes in much of Europe, the great absent ones are big businesses and banks, which, with an empathy without compassion continue their production and rites. They remain indifferent and indolent, they do not open the doors of their "houses", they do not know how to take off their shoes to learn to walk barefoot like Adam, like children, like the poor.

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Purity is a collapsed wall

Regenerations/7 - Beyond the times of the sand, to the house of the Beatitudes by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 13/09/2015 The poverty of joy that Europe and the West has been suffering for long now is a direct result of forgetting the logic and wisdom of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes embo...
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Regenerations/6 – It makes our "forever-s" valid. And manages to give itself as a reward

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridI see and I find my own light in the other, the true Reality of myself, the real me in the other (perhaps buried or secretly disguised for shame), and once I have found myself, I am reunited by resurrecting myself."

Chiara Lubich, The Resurrection of Rome.

Mercy was the cement with which we kneaded our civilization in past centuries. Without knowing and loving mercy we do not understand the Bible, the Covenant, the book of Exodus, Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Frances Cabrini, Don Bosco, Christian social works, the Italian Constitution, the European dream, and life together and love affairs after the concentration camps, families living and staying together until the very end.

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It is mercy that matures and keeps up our relationships through time, it turns falling in love into love, sympathy and emotional accordance into big and strong projects, it makes our "forever-s" pronounced in youth become a reality, it prevents maturity and old age from becoming just a nostalgic story of broken dreams.

Mercy lives of three simultaneous movements: the eyes, the bowel (rachàm in the Bible) and that of the hands, the mind and the legs. Those who are merciful are first and foremost people that are able to see deeper.

The first instant of mercy is a look that reconstructs the moral and spiritual figure of the one that arouses mercy in us. Before acting to "take care of him," the merciful one looks at him and sees him in a different way. The "not yet" is glimpsed beyond the "already" and the "has already been" appears to all involved. Prior to being an ethical action, mercy is a movement of the soul, with which I can see the other in their original design, before the error and the fall, and I love them in order to recreate their truer nature. Mercy can reconstruct the broken image in the soul, it can reconstruct the interrupted storyline. It can see that there is an inter-human solidarity that is deeper and truer than any crime, it believes that fraternity is not cancelled by any fratricide. It sees Adam again, even after Cain.

And while it perceives purity in impurity, beauty in ugliness, light within the darkness, it also moves the body, and touches one in the flesh. The bowels are moved. Mercy involves the whole body, it is a totalistic experience, something like the birth of a new creature - if there was no mercy, the experience of childbirth would remain totally inaccessible to us males; and yet we can understand something of this mystery, the greatest of all, when we give life with mercifulness. Mercy is something that is felt, it hurts, there is labour in it. It is an embodied experience, it is corporal. For this reason those who know mercy also know disdain: if I do not suffer viscerally from all the injustice and evil around me, I cannot be merciful. The same bowels are moved today by the indignation and anger in front of the children who died locked inside a lorry or drowned in the sea, and tomorrow the betrayal of a friend in need of forgiveness.

Mercy is a blend of gift and virtue. The ability to see the living part of the heart of the other that remains immaculate even after the most heinous crime (it is actually a living part, and it remains alive until the last second of our lives, because if it wasn't so we would only be demons), is not the fruit of our efforts. It is all gratuitousness. It is a gift received from life, from our family and education in childhood and youth. Mercy, however, also needs commitment and virtue, when we have seen through our soul and listened to our guts, we decide freely that it's time for action, the movement of the legs, hands and the mind. Virtue and commitment, which come always after the gift of the "heart of flesh" and the "eyes of resurrection", are therefore necessary in order to conserve and enhance that gaze throughout our lifetime, as it tends to fog up with the passing of the years.

We are not merciful to just anyone, but only against those who are in an condition of error, fault, sin, a situation that touched me personally and wounded me. The first pain at the source of the merciful process is what the merciful person feels for the wrong suffered. That first pain - for treason, for a crime against me or others, for an injustice that reaches me directly or indirectly - must be real and concrete. It is thanks to this first instance of suffering that the different look, the compassion for the pain of the other and the action aiming to heal the wound are activated. That's why mercy is born and exercised first and foremost inside our primary relationships of communion (in fact it is used in the Bible for the relationship between God and his people, for relationships with one's children or friends).

The semantic field of mercy will not cross that of meritocracy. By its very nature, compassion is felt for the undeserving, for he or she who deserves only contempt and revulsion. For this reason we do not find it in the world of economics and big businesses, where it is not present and, if it makes an appearance, it is fought against because it is subversive to all the laws and rules of justice of the markets that know and practice only the merit based logic of the "big brother". Yet mercy is unwise, partial, skewed, unbalanced, biased. That's why capitalism cannot love; but if there wasn't at least one merciful person in every Madonna della Misericordia ridorganization or community, their land would be too poisoned by the toxins they produce, and no good fruit would grow on it.

Mercy, furthermore, has an intrinsic and necessary relationship with forgiveness. The forgiveness of the merciful, however, is forgiveness with its own characteristics. It does not need, for example, the repentance of the other, or that forgiveness is asked. The motion of the bowels and the healing look are activated before the other has acknowledged their guilt and converted - although repentance and contrition are favourable for the activation of mercy. The father waited for his prodigal son on the doorstep when he was still consuming his last resources with prostitutes and when he was eating with the pigs. His standing at the door to look toward the horizon was already mercy. He had "seen" him even when "he was far away". And he will run to meet his son, kiss him and embrace him even before checking on his repentance and conversion. Nothing is more unconditional than an act of mercy. And nothing is more free. Repentance and conversion are often a result of mercy. The "I will arise and go" is very often a mysterious effect of the mercy of someone who, maybe without our knowing, started to think about us and look at us inside their heart with eyes of mercy and healing. We will never know how many departures of liberation have begun from the darkest conditions because someone looked at us with mercy - perhaps while we slept - and healed our wound in his soul this way. And one day we found ourselves able to get up, to get back on the road. The earth is full of roads to liberation from very deep moral and spiritual traps taken up in the heart of the merciful. Rebirths begin by rising in the heart of who looks at us with the eyes of a mother.

Our compassion is always second. I discover, surprised, that I am able to be merciful because someone else was so with me before. When it comes to mercy, the "me" precedes the ''I": someone loved me and cared for me with their guts and with their eyes, and so I have become able to do the same. It is a reciprocity of receiving and giving mercy that is always valid, but is essential when you are little and young. Today, behind a person capable of mercy there hide, invisibly, the many merciful faces that have given him or her the possibility of mercy.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." It is a wonderful blessing, the only one that offers only herself as a reward. The promise of mercy is mercy. But what mercy will the merciful find? We have no guarantee - we see it every day - that my being merciful should generate mercy towards myself. Perhaps there is a connection between the instances of mercy offered and received, but the world is also full of merciful people who are not met with mercy on the day they would need it - or they see too little of it in a relationship comparing to how much of it they were originally offered.

But there are two types of mercy that the merciful will certainly "find". The first is that which we have given and that, by giving it, has multiplied. Mercy, just like and even more than the great virtues, grows with its exercise. By practicing mercy you become more merciful. The pain that we dry up in others becomes food that feeds our capability of mercy. Just like poplars and tamarisks that heal and detoxify sick and poisoned soils, trees that feed on harmful substances that make them live and grow. If the world was not inhabited by the merciful - and they are more than we think - all of the land would be poisoned, and the bloom of spring would never arrive.

Another form of mercy that the merciful finds truly precious and sublime, is the one towards him- or herself. Those who are able to practice mercy with others, out of gratuitousness and virtue, one day find realise having received the gift of new eyes with which to look at even those dimensions of their own life that would not want to entertain and that make them suffer. On that day our bowels start to move in the face-to-face meeting with the person we did not want to become but have, with missed appointments, with the wrong direction taken at the crossroads, with the story that we did not want to write and but we did.

While I am leaving Taranto I see that the 640 scions of poplar and tamarisk that some 300 people planted eight months ago have already exceeded three meters in height. They heal and they grow, just like our hope.

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Riesce a ricostruire dentro l’anima l’immagine spezzata, a ricomporre dentro di sé la trama dell’altro interrotta. Vede che c’è una solidarietà inter-umana più profonda e vera di qualsiasi delitto, crede che la fraternità non viene cancellata da nessun fratricidio. 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Regenerations/6 – It makes our "forever-s" valid. And manages to give itself as a reward

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 06/09/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridI see and I find my own light in the other, the true Reality of myself, the real me in the other (perhaps buried or secretly disguised for shame), and once I have found myself, I am reunited by resurrecting myself."

Chiara Lubich, The Resurrection of Rome.

Mercy was the cement with which we kneaded our civilization in past centuries. Without knowing and loving mercy we do not understand the Bible, the Covenant, the book of Exodus, Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Frances Cabrini, Don Bosco, Christian social works, the Italian Constitution, the European dream, and life together and love affairs after the concentration camps, families living and staying together until the very end.

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Mercy, the Cement of Civilization

Regenerations/6 – It makes our "forever-s" valid. And manages to give itself as a reward by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 06/09/2015 “I see and I find my own light in the other, the true Reality of myself, the real me in the other (perhaps buried or secretly disguised for shame), and once I...
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Regenerations/5 - Businesses, society, family: less and less time for compassion

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 30/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridHow selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner."

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759

Processing our own and others' emotions is requiring more and more effort from us. We have drastically reduced the community and personal spaces, places and instruments to accompany, tend to or elevate our emotions.

[fulltext] =>

The culture of the big firms, and all that is entering the entire world coming from it is producing a growing quantity of negative emotions (disillusion, fear, anger, anxiety, sadness...) that are treated as actual "refuse", so they are rejected, eliminated or taken as the markers of the "loser" type of workers. Should anyone show them or make them visible in the same places they were generated, they get punished by getting stuck in their career, or, not infrequently, losing their job. In the past few years these collateral emotional effects have grown so much that it made big businesses introduce new professionals who have been delegated and contracted to manage emotional illnesses produced by unsustainable relational styles at the workplace. This is how everyone gets engaged in a downward spiral similar to what we find in (more or less) hypothetical factories that pollute the work environment and then, instead of eliminating the poison, give their workers free cure in detoxifying clinics, or create new internal departments for detoxification of employees affected by toxic fumes. But while our ethical sensitivity no longer accepts such solutions in health and environment, we still serenely approve them in the management of our emotions, and so we do not rebel against our companies that first make us sad and depressed by keeping us in unsustainable working relationships, and then they offer techniques and experts to treat them; perhaps we even thank them for offering these treatments for free. Just like getting a disease and then (trying to) cure it was the same as not getting ill at all. And so we continue to multiply negative emotions and their cures - they cannot help but grow together.

In fact, these new authentic emotional traps of poverty depend on the strong decrease of compassion, one of the most precious and great human virtues, and its replacement with techniques and tools. Compassion literally means "suffering" (pati) "together" (cum), that is, the ability to know how and want to share the pain of others. Compassion is the form of behaviour that is the opposite of envy, because while the envious person rejoices for the suffering of others and suffers for their joy, the compassionate one suffers for their pain and rejoices for the joy of his or her neighbours. Envy, a sentiment produced, encouraged and cultivated by our competitive and rivalistic culture can be cured by limiting its serious damage, by having people capable of compassion enter the social organism, as they are a natural antibiotics for the virus of envy. In the Western tradition (but not only in that: just think of Buddhism) compassion is something different from what we now call empathy, because in compassion there is a wilful participation in the pain of the other in order to alleviate it, which is not requested for in case of empathy. Compassion is the desire to do good to those who are in a state of suffering. It arises from the knowledge or hope that the sharing in that suffering can somehow have a relieving effect.

Where and how is compassion created? In past generations, where compassion was more present and in certain periods even superabundant (during wars and after great collective mourning) the main place where they formed and fed compassion was inside community, beginning with the family. Compassion had its institutions, and its upkeeping occupied much of collective energy. Funerals, for example, were thought of as a great form of community compassion. A few weeks ago while attending a funeral in my native village, I was very impressed by the amount of kisses and tears falling on the cheeks of the widow and children of the deceased, as an expression of collective and true compassion that in past decades had lasted for several days. The many communities of life used to be the ones that created our capacity for compassion and the places in which to practice it. The long nights were not yet occupied by television but were the time for compassion, exercised by adults between themselves, and watched by the children who learned it by watching. In those past societies you learned compassion starting from a very young age by listening to the stories and fables, reading great literature, that created and cultivated the ability to suffer and rejoice in the suffering and joys of others so that they were becoming, little by little, our own, too. How much compassion can new digital narratives and video games played on tablets create in our children?

Compassion is an experience that never leaves us immune. It changes us, it contaminates us with the feelings and suffering of the other. We all have a natural empathy in varying degrees, but compassion begins when once taken empathy and felt something of the emotions of the other, I decide freely to be infected by the other's suffering, to share their emotions, to become their supportive neighbour and companion for a stretch of the road. For this reason, while there can be (and there is plenty of) empathy without kindness, for compassion agape is needed, the decision to lift the concrete person by loving them, like the Samaritan did with the victim of robbers. Compassion, then, is not a unilateral and unidirectional act. It is a relationship, a "feeling together" and being mutually and simultaneously aware of experiencing the same emotions and the same feelings. It is this mutual and contemporary experience that relieves pain and multiplies joy. Some instances of pain can be alleviated only by compassion. If you don't reach this conscious emotional reciprocity, compassion is not complete and does not bear its gorgeous fruits. If, in fact, I cannot enter into the feelings of the other - or the other does not give me permission to do so - so that we become "one heart"; compassion can neither relieve the pain of the sufferer nor make those who take the pain of others on themselves feel that typical and profound joy. Therefore, the experience of compassion teaches us that it is not true that pain and joy are two opposite feelings: the greatest types of joy are those that arise from shared and accompanied pain, where the pain is still there but next to it there develops, like a rare flower, a mysterious and sublime type of joy.

The immunitarian culture of big firms does not want compassion because it does not like the mixing and the contagion of emotions in ordinary work relations, and so it discourages and fights this contagion. But since the emotional suffering in the workers grows, companies want to respond by offering empathetic techniques for the demand of compassion, creating professionals who deal with the emotional distress without having to "touch" it deeply. The development of compassion between workers and managers is inhibited and prevented, restricted to non-working community spaces. Corporate culture occupies more and more areas of life where it exports its contempt for compassion and replaces it with the techniques (I saw these professionals, even inside a sanctuary). And so, paradoxically, these figures and these tools do nothing but increase the dissatisfied and frustrated demand for compassion, despite all good and often excellent intentions. As long as the dominant culture in our businesses and in our society we continues to consider pain, vulnerability and wounds just as costs and evils to be avoided and fought, without touching them, and welcome them and allow them their own space as necessary components and often friends of human beings, they will only multiply the real emotional evils that arise from partial, immunitarian, artificial and therefore sick human relationships. Empathic techniques, professionals and consultants can be very helpful in all areas, provided they do not become substitutes and "monopolists" of that widespread civil compassion constituting the profound spirit of every society.

Finally, compassion has its typical words. The first among these is attention. We do not cultivate and practice compassion if we are distracted and not attentive to those who pass by, those who work at the desk next to ours or live in the apartment across the street. There are too many victims of robbers who are abandoned and injured along the roads to our Jerusalems and Jerichos because there is a lack of people capable of noticing them. Without this inner attention that is spiritual vigilance we fail to exercise the second fundamental verb of compassion: to look. Compassionate people move around in this world watching it. They have enough attention and inner silence to watch the life that flows near them. They look and see, and so hear the infinite cry of compassion that rises from the cities. And once they have seen and heard the pain of others, they freely choose to exercise compassion by bending over, standing close to, taking care of the pain of others. Compassion is essential to live well, because it also enables us to multiply our joy by sharing it. It is a kind of a moral muscle: if it is wasted, it not only prevents us from reducing the pain of others, but even diminishes our capacity for joy and life. The culture of immunity dominating our time is wasting this muscle and so we take more and more pains to feel emotions for the suffering of others, and even more to act moved by compassion.

We have an immense need of compassionate people now, more than ever. We are increasingly inundated with psychological, moral and spiritual suffering, but the ground cannot absorb all this water because too few people are capable of compassion, and still less exercise it. Yet they are the ones who can radically change the moral quality of the places of living. Sometimes one compassionate person is enough to save an entire community. Life functions and flourishes when we are able to discover the beauty that surrounds us, letting it love us. But it is no less important to try and discover the pain around us, love it and let ourselves be loved by it. The greatest gift that you can do to help your child is to increase their capacity for compassion. Because it is compassion for the pain of others that makes us see the greatest beauty of the earth, the one hidden in people's hearts.

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[checked_out] => 0 [checked_out_time] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [catid] => 735 [created] => 2015-08-29 23:45:00 [created_by] => 305 [created_by_alias] => Luigino Bruni [state] => 1 [modified] => 2020-08-10 04:41:47 [modified_by] => 609 [modified_by_name] => Super User [publish_up] => 2015-08-30 04:45:00 [publish_down] => 0000-00-00 00:00:00 [images] => {"image_intro":"","float_intro":"","image_intro_alt":"","image_intro_caption":"","image_fulltext":"","float_fulltext":"","image_fulltext_alt":"","image_fulltext_caption":""} [urls] => {"urla":false,"urlatext":"","targeta":"","urlb":false,"urlbtext":"","targetb":"","urlc":false,"urlctext":"","targetc":""} [attribs] => {"show_title":"","link_titles":"","show_tags":"","show_intro":"","info_block_position":"","show_category":"","link_category":"","show_parent_category":"","link_parent_category":"","show_author":"","link_author":"","show_create_date":"","show_modify_date":"","show_publish_date":"","show_item_navigation":"","show_icons":"","show_print_icon":"","show_email_icon":"","show_vote":"","show_hits":"","show_noauth":"","urls_position":"","alternative_readmore":"","article_layout":"","show_publishing_options":"","show_article_options":"","show_urls_images_backend":"","show_urls_images_frontend":""} [metadata] => {"robots":"","author":"","rights":"","xreference":""} [metakey] => [metadesc] => La compassione è l’atteggiamento opposto dell’invidia, perché mentre l’invidioso gioisce per le sofferenze degli altri e soffre per le loro gioie, il compassionevole soffre per il dolore e gioisce per le gioie dei suoi prossimi. Le tecniche empatiche, i professionisti e i consulenti possono essere molto utili in tutti gli ambiti, purché non diventino sostituti e "monopolisti" di quella compassione civile e diffusa che costituisce l’anima profonda di ogni società. 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Regenerations/5 - Businesses, society, family: less and less time for compassion

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 30/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni ridHow selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner."

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759

Processing our own and others' emotions is requiring more and more effort from us. We have drastically reduced the community and personal spaces, places and instruments to accompany, tend to or elevate our emotions.

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Abusing the Illusion of Immunity

Regenerations/5 - Businesses, society, family: less and less time for compassion by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 30/08/2015 “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness n...
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    [title] => The Mighty Seeds of Generosity
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Regenerations/4 - Human beings give a lot only if they are free to give all

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid"Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others..."

A. Phillips e B. TaylorOn Kindness

Businesses and organizations are good places for a good and fulfilling life if and until they let non-economic virtues live alongside with the economic-business ones. It is a decisive co-existence that is not easy at all, because it requires managers to give up total control over the behaviour of people, to accept an element of unpredictability in their actions and to be willing to relativize efficiency, which is becoming the real dogma of the new religion of our time.

[fulltext] =>

Generosity is one of these non-economic virtues that, however, are also essential to every business and institution. The root of generosity lies in the Latin word genus, generis, a term that refers to race, family, birth - this is also the first meaning of the word gender. This ancient etymology - that is lost now - tells us important things about generosity. First of all it reminds us that our generosity has much to do with the transmission of life: with our family, with the people around us, with the environment in which we grow up and where we learn how to live. We receive it as an inheritance when we come into the world. It is a gift that our parents and relatives pass on to us. Generosity is formed inside the family home. The generosity we find in ourselves is very dependent on that of our parents, how and how much love there had been amongst them before we were born, the life choices they made and the ones they make when we start looking at them. It all depends on their faithfulness, their hospitality, their attitude to the poor, their willingness to "waste" time to listen to and help their friends, the love and respect they show towards their parents.

This primary generosity is not a personal virtue, but a gift that becomes part of the moral and spiritual standard of what is called character. It is a capital with which we come to the world, which was formed before our birth and is nourished by the quality of relationships in the earliest years of our life. It also depends on the generosity of our grandparents, great-grandparents, neighbours, and that of many others who may not be contributing to our DNA but are still present, in mysterious but very real ways, in our own generosity (and non-generosity). My generosity is influenced by the poets who have nourished the heart of our family. By the prayers of my people, the musicians I love and listen to, by the storytellers in village festivals, by the speeches and actions of politicians, by the sermons of preachers. By the martyrs of resistance, who gave their life yesterday for my freedom today. By the generosity of countless women of the past centuries (there is a great affinity between women and generosity), that many times placed the flourishing of the family they gave birth to before their own - and still continue to do so. Generosity generates gratitude towards those who have made us generous by their own generosity.

Living with generous people makes us more generous - and the same is true for prayer, music, beauty.... The cultivation of generosity produces many more effects than the ones we can see and measure - and the same goes for our non-generosity and that of others. The stock of generosity of a family, a community or a people is something like the sum total of the generosity of each and every member of it. Every generation increases or reduces the value of this stock, and the latter is happening today in Europe where our generation, impoverished in ideals and great passions, is squandering the wealth of generosity it has inherited. A state that leaves half of its young people without work is not a generous state.

Furthermore, our generosity goes less as we age. When we become adults and then old, we find ourselves naturally less generous. The future's horizon is suddenly finite and very near, and so time - which is the primary "currency" of generosity - becomes scarcer. There is never enough of it, and there is none of it for others. And so it takes a lot of work to conserve the generosity that we inherited and cultivated when we were young. Here generosity becomes a virtue because it takes a lot of love and pain to remain generous as the years go by.

But conserving generosity in ourselves is crucial if we want to continue to generate life. The words 'generosity' and 'generate' are sisters, one is read and explained with the other. Only those who are generous can generate, and the generation of life strengthens and nourishes generosity. A symptom of the decline of generosity is the non-fertility or infertility (sterility) of life. When we get together, often at any moment, without creativity and vitality, hoping to start generating again, we should be resolved to be generous again, in every age - the time donated in return by a generous person has infinite value.

In companies, which are simply part of life, there is often much generosity and so generativity. Entrepreneurs are generous by vocation, especially in the first phase of their activity, when the company is nothing but a treasure chest of dreams to realize, when new ideas are born every day, when one is so busy giving birth to new things that there is no time left for avarice and meanness. Good companies, even those that are very economic and industrial minded, have always been and are still born of generous people. When a business is launched, the generosity of the entrepreneurs, partners, managers, workers is not just important, it is essential for it to grow well. Without everyone's enthusiasm and dedication to exceed requirements of the employment contract and their duties, that is, without generosity, businesses are not born or do not last; only offices can be created this way to answer calls or to seize some speculative opportunities, but not companies that eventually become good and appealing.

Joy, the "sacrament" of every generous life, also accompanies the beginning of the adventures of young entrepreneurs and real businesses. But when the company grows and gradually becomes a complex organization that is bureaucratic and rationally oriented to profits, the original generosity of the entrepreneurs is reduced and the true selflessness of workers is no longer required nor encouraged. In its place there develops a subspecies of generosity: the one that is functional towards objectives, the one that's manageable and controllable. And so the dimension of surplus, abundance and freedom are taken away from the company. Generosity is not efficient, because it has an essential need of waste and redundancy. It is not eligible for incentives, because it does not respond to the logic of calculation.

This is what explains that an organizational culture built around the ideology of the incentive withers precisely that dimension of exceeding generosity in its members that allowed it to be innovative and generative in its best times. A company turned into institution wants only the kind of generosity that falls in its business plans: a limited, domesticated and reduced kind of generosity. But if generosity loses its tracts of waste and excess, it becomes distorted, something else. You cannot be generous "to reach goals".

Those who try to normalize generosity by cutting off the less manageable and more destabilizing dimensions from it do nothing but fight and kill that same generosity. Generosity bears good fruit if it is left free to create more fruits than necessary. The coexistence of "useful" and "useless" fruits is precisely one of the great enemies of capitalist enterprises and all bureaucratic institutions. With the help of technology we have managed to create "mandarins" without the annoying seeds; but if management techniques eliminate the "seeds" that are useless for the company from our generosity, generosity itself will disappear. Human beings give a lot only if they are free to give all. The quality of life inside our organizations will increasingly depend on the ability of their leaders to let more fruits than what they take to the market mature, to let the virtues that do not serve the company live and grow, too.

We have reached a new variation of the main paradox of modern organizations again. The growth in the dimensions and application of techniques and standardized methods for management and control mortify exactly those characteristics in the workers that have made them be born and what the company would still vitally need to continue to generate. This is a law that applies to all organizations, but is crucial when dealing with companies and communities that can survive if and only if they manage to place generous people in a position to exercise their generosity at work, too.

Finally, there is a particularly delicate aspect in the dynamics of generosity. It is what we call "organizational chastity". Generosity does not only suggest generating; it also suggests chastity, a word that may seem at odds with the other two only at first sight. A generous person does not "eat" or consume the beautiful people he or she sees around, but leaves them absolutely, profoundly free. A generous company-organization does not aspire to possess the totality of the time and soul of its best workers, even the special ones who almost completely determine its success. It is because it knows or feels that if it did so, these people would lose the very dimensions of beauty that made them excellent and special and that they need freedom and excess to stay alive. If I pluck the beautiful flower of the alpine valley to adorn the room I stay in, I have already decreed its end. And even when I conserve its roots and transplant it in my own garden, I will never sense the colours and the scent that attracted me in the mountains, because they were the result of spontaneous generosity of the whole valley, the sun, the minerals and the air there. The best young members of our organizations and communities remain bright and beautiful as long as we do not transplant them into the garden of our house, if they are not turned into a "private" good, only until we are willing to share their beauty with all the inhabitants of the valley. There are too many young people withering in large companies, and sometimes even in religious communities because they do not meet the generosity needed to maintain their excessive beauty. To safeguard the generosity of the people we need generous institutions, magnanimous people, souls that are greater than the goals of the organization.

There is a breath of infinity living in us. All places of life will continue to flourish as long as that breath remains alive, free and whole.

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È una virtù non economica, ma essenziale alle imprese. Dipende molto dalla nostra famiglia, ha a fare con la gente attorno a noi, con l’ambiente nel quale cresciamo e impariamo a vivere. La ereditiamo venendo al mondo. E le imprese hanno bisogno della generosità dei lavoratori, ma spesso hanno paura della natura eccedente, della libertà di questa forza. Così la riducono ad altro. E inizia il loro declino. 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Regenerations/4 - Human beings give a lot only if they are free to give all

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 23/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid"Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others..."

A. Phillips e B. TaylorOn Kindness

Businesses and organizations are good places for a good and fulfilling life if and until they let non-economic virtues live alongside with the economic-business ones. It is a decisive co-existence that is not easy at all, because it requires managers to give up total control over the behaviour of people, to accept an element of unpredictability in their actions and to be willing to relativize efficiency, which is becoming the real dogma of the new religion of our time.

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The Mighty Seeds of Generosity

Regenerations/4 - Human beings give a lot only if they are free to give all by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 23/08/2015 "Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of ot...
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    [title] => The Wonderful Song of Humility
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    [introtext] => 

Regenerations/3 - A virtue that is not loved by economy, but is key for the future

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 09/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid

...and when I see the stars burn up in heaven,
I ask myself:
Why all these lights? What does the endless air do, and that deep
eternal blue? What does this enormous
solitude portend?
And what am I?

(Giacomo Leopardi, Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia English translation by Jonathan Galassi)

Humility is one of those virtues that the economy and big firms do not really like even if they have a vital need of it. As it is increasingly modelled on corporate values, our culture fails to see the beauty and the value of humility, and so it gets "humiliated".

[fulltext] =>

In fact, the virtues practiced and powered by large enterprises and organizations feed on anti-humility. To make a career and be appreciated one has to boast one's own merits, show a "winning" mentality and attitude, be more ambitious than the others competing for the same position. We must seek and desire what is at the top, and escape from the bottom where there is the earth, humus, humilitas.

Ours is not a humble era. Past generations and those whose sun is sinking now knew humility very well and they recognized it, too. They had learned to discover it hidden on earth, by having experiences of the margins, something done only by those who know the earth by their own hands. It is by touching the bricks, the wood, the coarse tools of work, poor clothes, little food, the machines in factories and workshops that used to let us discover the earth, and it is by dialoguing with it that we used to learn the trades and the craft of living. The culture of the generations that lived through the great wars and the holocausts and still managed to save their faith in God and man was a humble culture, because those men and women loved, esteemed and rewarded humility.

Humility is a virtue of adult life. Children and young people should not be humiliated in order to make them humble. Humiliation caused by others does not produce humility, but a thousand distortions of character. The only good type of humiliation is what comes from life, without anyone there to procure it intentionally. Children and young people are trained for humility by putting them in touch with beauty and art, with nature and spirituality, with poetry, fairy tales and great literature. It is by meeting the infinite that we realise how finite we are, yet inhabited by a breath of eternity, and when the experience of touching the infinite is accompanied by the highest expressions of the human, the finiteness does not crush us but raises us and the limit does not stifle us but makes us live. When we raise our eyes and feel how "infinite and immortal" the sky is, the ground where humility can blossom is formed in us.

Furthermore, humility is formed in the relationship with one's peers: in comparison with peers, with brothers and sisters. The reduction of the number and biodiversity of the companions of our children, replaced by "functional" meetings (swimming, music...) and above all by too many "all-powerful" encounters with machines (TV, smartphone, tablet...), inevitably changes and reduces occasions for the good experiences of the limit, and therefore threatens the development of humility. An essential meeting for the birth of humility is the one with death and disease, from the earliest years of life. If we hide the sight of dying grandparents and relatives from our children, if we do not bring kids to funerals or to visit sick relatives and friends, it distances and complicates their encounter with the law of the earth and does not favour the maturation of humility in them. Education without a limit and without limits cannot teach humility.

Many seniors and elderly people are witnesses and teachers of humility, because life has had the time to make them humble. In previous civilizations, their presence was essential for their function of teaching of humility. The distance from the earth that had generated them and the close proximity of the second that awaited them offered a different and equally essential perspective on living, which could be passed on to all. For this reason the world of big business, built on the psychological registers of adolescence and youth (hence the wide use of sports metaphors, almost all improper), does not know or understand humility.

Humility is seen at its best as a universal law that we find at the heart of many virtues and other great things of life: you become humble without actually realizing it. Humility comes as we seek something else: justice, truth, honesty, loyalty or agape. It cannot be programmed, but it can be desired, estimated, waited for as a gift from life. And if we wait for it, sooner or later it will arrive, as a surprise. It often comes in moments of weakness, after a failure, abandonment or bereavement, when humility flourishes from inside humiliation. Love for humility is the foundation of every good life, because it does not allow you to take possession of your own virtues and the gifts received.

Humility is an "unspeakable" virtue, and it is radically relational: only others can and must recognize our humility, and we recognize theirs, in a game of reciprocity which is the grammar of good civic life. It is invisible, but very real, and we know how to recognize it - even if we are not equally humble, even if we are not humble at all but we want to be: the desire of humility is already humility. Its fruits are unmistakable. The first is the sincere "gratitude" felt over life, others and one's parents which comes from the awareness that my talents, my merits, my beauty, are a gift, "charis," grace. Humility is to acknowledge the truth about the world and life. It is born naturally, it is an act of the soul and it does not require efforts of will; it is a recognition emerging one day as something clear. We understand that our share in the most beautiful and greatest things is very small, in fact, tiny, because all that we are and what we possess we have simply received from the generosity of life.

Everything is grace. But to get to this natural act and radical of gratitude an ethical exercise of love for the truth is required, which lasts throughout adult life, and ends - with that last act of gratitude - when we take leave from this world, only grateful and humble at last. Humility, therefore, is nothing more than access to a deeper truth. That's why it is a great gift. Those who are humble are always grateful. Their "thank you"-s are rare because they are precious. They are born from the awareness of the beauty and goodness of those who live together with them - there is a deeper and more real beauty of the people and the world that is revealed only to the humble. And only the humble know how to pray.

A second signal of its presence is the ability to say "sorry" and "forgive me." There are conflicts that are not healed because everyone involved is convinced that he or she is completely right, and so waits for the other to apologize. But because the certainty of being right is reciprocal, parties remain stuck in relational traps that end up swallowing families, friends, communities, businesses and sometimes entire peoples. To get out of these traps at least "one" humble person is needed, one who is able to apologize even if not feeling responsible for the conflict - and maybe he/she isn’t, either. That person takes the first step of reconciliation because it is in his/her interests to rebuild the damaged "relationship" first, and it is a stronger force than wanting to see the responsibilities and the guilt of the various parties involved recognized. It is because he/she knows that only after having reconstructed the relationship will it be possible and necessary to reconstruct the weave of responsibilities for all that happened.

Pronouncing this "sorry" and "forgive me" is particularly difficult in hierarchical relationships, and therefore it is very valuable, too. It is difficult to say "sorry" to a superior with humility: it's much easier not to say anything, or say it out of fear or opportunism. But it is even more difficult for a director to apologize to one of their employees. No regulation of the company and no code of ethics require them to do so. But only few words like "forgive me" said by a manager to a worker of his team can give ethical and human dimensions to the entire workgroup. These are words that create a spirit of solidarity and brotherhood within the work team that manages to do well even in times of trouble only if and when its members feel that they all share the same fate, that they are all equal before the differences in salary and responsibility are taken into account. A sincere and humble "thank you" and "sorry" uttered by a manager create more team spirit than a hundred team building courses that in the absence of these profound words end up looking too much like the games played by our pre-adolescent children. Humility, however, like other great words of life, makes us stronger and more resistant while making us more vulnerable. Thanking and apologizing to each other actually makes managers and executives more fragile in a world where invulnerability is the first and most important value. It's like showing a wound, our own and that of others, because we want to heal it. But in the completely male dominated registers of business relations, these wounds have neither sense nor space. So they do not heal, they are hidden, become infected and poison the whole body.

The corporate world of the West is suffering a serious deprivation of new ruling classes because there is an awful lack of a culture of humility. In fact, it has been removed by practices and ideologies inspired by anti-humility, where the one who is humble is only a "loser". The first lesson of leadership courses should be on humility. It is a lesson that is missing everywhere for lack of teachers and because humility cannot be taught in business schools; but above all because if you were to start praising humility and her sisters (meekness, mercy, generosity...) the whole culture of leadership with its techniques would have to be completely reversed. Humility teaches us to follow. A manager who has not been trained to follow - the others, each and every other person, the poor, the best and truest part of themselves - will never be a good guide or a real leader.

The value of a complete lifetime is measured by the humility that it has been able to generate. Humility is essential to live and resist during great trials. When life makes us fall down and we touch ground (humus), we do not get hurt too much and we can stand up again if we have learned about the earth (the ground we have just touched) and if we have become its friends. Without humility you cannot reach human excellence, you cannot learn a profession really well, you do not ever really become adults. It is the last word of each and every Canticle of the Creatures.

 

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La prima lezione dei corsi di leadership dovrebbe essere sull’umiltà e, invece, manca ovunque per carenza di docenti. E questo rende i manager incapaci di essere davvero delle guide, perché non conoscono la sequela degli altri. 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Regenerations/3 - A virtue that is not loved by economy, but is key for the future

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 09/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid

...and when I see the stars burn up in heaven,
I ask myself:
Why all these lights? What does the endless air do, and that deep
eternal blue? What does this enormous
solitude portend?
And what am I?

(Giacomo Leopardi, Night Song of a Wandering Shepherd in Asia English translation by Jonathan Galassi)

Humility is one of those virtues that the economy and big firms do not really like even if they have a vital need of it. As it is increasingly modelled on corporate values, our culture fails to see the beauty and the value of humility, and so it gets "humiliated".

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The Wonderful Song of Humility

Regenerations/3 - A virtue that is not loved by economy, but is key for the future by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 09/08/2015 “...and when I see the stars burn up in heaven, I ask myself: Why all these lights? What does the endless air do, and that deep eternal blue? What does this e...
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    [title] => The Sad Spirit of Incentives
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Regenerations/2 - No company can domesticate the person's moral strength

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 02/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid"The man who wisheth to reap the fruits of virtue is a trader of virtue."

Mahabharatasacred book of Hinduism

Organisations cannot have the most important virtues they need. The wise ones accept the 'gap' between the desired virtues and those that can be had by their workers, and so they learn to live together with the inevitable need of the human qualities essential for their operation and growth, without trying to replace them with some simpler things.

[fulltext] =>

The first wisdom of each institution is to recognize that they do not control the souls of their members - all virtue is above all a spiritual matter. When this awareness is missing or denied, companies and organizations do not stop at the threshold of the mystery of the worker-person and do their best to fill the 'gap', ending up losing the best part of their workers. The stunning collapse of this form of institutional wisdom is one of the most serious instances of poverty today, because it is presented as a form of wealth, and so it is not fought but powered.

The difference between the virtues required of their members and those available has always accompanied social life, especially in the western world. All good institutions have always been beggars of virtues. Monasteries, governments, even the armies had an essential need of the highest virtues of the people, but they knew that these could not be obtained by command or by force: they could only welcome them as free gifts of the soul of men and women. What's new today is the total eclipse of this ancient, wise awareness, especially in the world of big firms that are more and more convinced that they had finally invented the tools and techniques to get all the virtues they need from their workers - all their mind, all their strengths, all their heart - without needing either moral force, or, even less, gifts to be offered. And so they end up with pseudo-virtues.

This mass destruction of virtues has a lot to do with the ideology of incentives. The culture that is practiced in big companies, particularly on the higher levels of direction, is becoming a perpetual worship of the god of incentives, an actual faith whose main tenet is the belief that you can get excellence by people if they are remunerated properly. Meritocracy is born from an alliance with the ideology of incentives, because merit is recognized by building a more and more sophisticated and custom-designed system of incentives to get the most out of every person in order to obtain, if possible, everything. And so they believe that if they 'enchant' people with incentives they can freely do their best (remember that the words incentive, enchantment and enchanter all have the same root). In fact, incentives are not only an unsuitable tool for creating and strengthening the virtues, but they usually destroy them by drastically reducing the freedom of the people. Incentives, especially their latest generation built around the 'management by objectives', look like a contract (and indeed they are), and therefore as one of the highest expressions of the 'freedom of modern people'. But it is enough to look at it a bit more carefully to immediately notice that the freedom of the culture of incentives has nothing to do with the freedom necessary for the development and strengthening of the virtues of real people. That of the incentives is an ancillary freedom which is small and serving the objectives set and imposed by the company's management. It is a lesser kind of freedom, which is very similar to that of a blackbird in an aviary, that of lions in the zoo, although, unlike animals, we think that we are entering freely in our cages and natural reserves. Actually we enter fascinated by the enchanter flute (incentivus, i.e. flute), and do not get out anymore.
Let's just think of, for example, loyalty. Only a few words like loyalty are evoked by the corporate culture. It is a key term in job interviews, we find it in the certificates of good conduct, it is an essential part of the repertoire of the ideal employee that every company wants to have. Loyalty is a virtue that makes us able to be faithful to a person, an institution or to a value in situations where our behaviour is costly and cannot be observed. Loyalty cannot be established by contract. It's all a matter of the soul. But we all know that in every contract there is an implicit assumption of loyalty, one that we cannot buy, however. Contracts do not establish themselves because they need pacts, and so loyalty and many other pre-contractual virtues. If contracts replace virtues, they end up undermining the ground beneath their own feet.

The basic grammar of loyalty is found in the beautiful episode of Joseph and the wife of the Egyptian Potiphar. While Joseph was in the house of Potiphar, on a day when “none of the men of the house was there in the house”, the woman “cast her eyes” on him and said: “Lie with me” (Genesis 39). Joseph answered: “...my master ... has not kept back anything from me except you... How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against [him]?” He made a loyal choice that cost him jail, when the woman he refused accused him of having molested her.
For loyalty to emerge, three elements are necessary: a relationship of riskful trust, a concrete cost that the person has to bear doing or not doing something that would avoid that cost, and - the third crucial element – that the loyal action itself should not be observable. Therefore, the value of loyalty is measured on the basis of what I could have done but I did not do because I wanted to be loyal.

Loyalty is the spirit of pacts and promises that live off of visible choices and acts supported by invisible acts and choices. There are words not spoken, things not done, secrets kept inside for the love of someone for a lifetime - they generate, regenerate and do not let our pacts die, including those that are the foundation for the life of enterprises and institutions. Words not said and things not done for which no one will ever say 'thank you', but which give moral weight and dignity to our relationships and our entire existence.

It is clear then that the virtue of loyalty cannot be enforced, nor is it possible to create it through incentives. Indeed, the logic of incentives discourages loyalty precisely because it encourages and reinforces visible, controllable and contractual types of behaviour.

This opens up a new scenario. Our ability to be loyal is not a constant stock, but varies over time based on the quality of our inner life and on the relational signals that come from the communities in which we live. My choice to be honest here and now will depend on my intrinsic moral rewards but also on the perception that the given company or community is 'worth' the costs of loyalty, which can sometimes be very high. Companies cannot create loyalty - because it's all entirely and only the gift of the person - but they can try to put already loyal people in a position to exercise this virtue there, too.

But it is precisely here that the mechanism of the self-destruction of loyalty and other virtues produced by the logic of incentives is revealed. Big companies and banks have a growing need to control the actions of their members, to be able to predict them and to direct them towards their goals. What they fear more than anything else are the action areas outside the management's control, the promiscuous border areas; they do not like the houses where "none of the men of the house" is there to control, to manage and to evaluate things. And the reason for this fear and this distrust is the pessimistic anthropology that, beyond words, is the basis of the system of big capitalist institutions. Directors, and even more so the proprietors (and sometimes even unions), think - more or less consciously - that the employee is generally an opportunist and should therefore be checked. In the factories of yesterday this control was very crude and obvious; with the introduction of incentives the same practice got disguised as freedom, but in essence the culture of total control was intensified, because now it gets through even to the soul. This is why the big capitalist organizations reduce the unobservable spaces of action and freedom systematically. And so they also reduce the preconditions for loyalty and many other virtues to be practiced - they all need real freedom and riskful confidence to stay alive. This creates a radical and progressive creation of contractual 'loyalty', which - being observable and controllable - lacks the most valuable part of the virtue of true loyalty. We find ourselves in institutions populated by virtue-bonsais, all controlled and inscribed under the roofs of the businesses themselves. But bonsais do not bear fruit, or if yes, they are tiny and inedible.

All this produces a phenomenon of great importance. These small and manageable 'virtues' work well enough for the ordinary situations of business life, but make organizations highly vulnerable in times of great crises, when there would be a great need for the loyalty and true soul of the workers that, however, have been replaced by incentives in the meantime. By eliminating the uncontrollable space of freedom and trust, the ideology of incentives reduces the small instances of vulnerability but increases the big instances of vulnerability of large companies tremendously, as they are devoid of the ethical antibodies essential for survival in serious illnesses.

Humans are much more complicated, complex, rich and mysterious than the institutions and businesses think they are. Sometimes we are worse, many times better, but always different. We find feelings and emotions in ourselves that do not allow us to be as efficient as we should. We disperse infinite resources in applications for recognition and respect that - we know - will never be satisfied by the answers we get.

We go through physical and spiritual trials, emotional and relational shocks. But we are also able to do things that are much more worthy and higher than those required by the contracts and rules. And we stay alive and creative as long as the places of living do not shut off the light of our heart, reducing us to their own image and likeness, erasing that surplus of the soul where our salvation and that of our companies lives.

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La lealtà ha bisogno di spazi di libertà vera e di fiducia genuina che la logica degli incentivi non consente, perché costruisce un sistema dove non c’è posto per gli atti invisibili e non controllati, che sono il cuore della lealtà [access] => 1 [hits] => 2427 [xreference] => [featured] => 0 [language] => en-GB [on_img_default] => [readmore] => 10305 [ordering] => 2 [category_title] => EN - Regenerations [category_route] => oikonomia/rigenerazioni [category_access] => 1 [category_alias] => en-regenerations [published] => 1 [parents_published] => 1 [lft] => 100 [author] => Luigino Bruni [author_email] => ferrucci.anto@gmail.com [parent_title] => Oikonomia [parent_id] => 1025 [parent_route] => oikonomia [parent_alias] => oikonomia [rating] => 0 [rating_count] => 0 [alternative_readmore] => [layout] => [params] => Joomla\Registry\Registry Object ( [data:protected] => stdClass Object ( [article_layout] => _:default [show_title] => 1 [link_titles] => 1 [show_intro] => 1 [info_block_position] => 0 [info_block_show_title] => 1 [show_category] => 1 [link_category] => 1 [show_parent_category] => 1 [link_parent_category] => 1 [show_associations] => 0 [flags] => 1 [show_author] => 0 [link_author] => 0 [show_create_date] => 1 [show_modify_date] => 0 [show_publish_date] => 1 [show_item_navigation] => 1 [show_vote] => 0 [show_readmore] => 0 [show_readmore_title] => 0 [readmore_limit] => 100 [show_tags] => 1 [show_icons] => 1 [show_print_icon] => 1 [show_email_icon] => 1 [show_hits] => 0 [record_hits] => 1 [show_noauth] => 0 [urls_position] => 1 [captcha] => [show_publishing_options] => 1 [show_article_options] => 1 [save_history] => 1 [history_limit] => 10 [show_urls_images_frontend] => 0 [show_urls_images_backend] => 1 [targeta] => 0 [targetb] => 0 [targetc] => 0 [float_intro] => left [float_fulltext] => left [category_layout] => _:blog [show_category_heading_title_text] => 0 [show_category_title] => 0 [show_description] => 0 [show_description_image] => 0 [maxLevel] => 0 [show_empty_categories] => 0 [show_no_articles] => 0 [show_subcat_desc] => 0 [show_cat_num_articles] => 0 [show_cat_tags] => 1 [show_base_description] => 1 [maxLevelcat] => -1 [show_empty_categories_cat] => 0 [show_subcat_desc_cat] => 0 [show_cat_num_articles_cat] => 0 [num_leading_articles] => 0 [num_intro_articles] => 14 [num_columns] => 2 [num_links] => 0 [multi_column_order] => 1 [show_subcategory_content] => -1 [show_pagination_limit] => 1 [filter_field] => hide [show_headings] => 1 [list_show_date] => 0 [date_format] => [list_show_hits] => 1 [list_show_author] => 1 [list_show_votes] => 0 [list_show_ratings] => 0 [orderby_pri] => none [orderby_sec] => rdate [order_date] => published [show_pagination] => 2 [show_pagination_results] => 1 [show_featured] => show [show_feed_link] => 1 [feed_summary] => 0 [feed_show_readmore] => 0 [sef_advanced] => 1 [sef_ids] => 1 [custom_fields_enable] => 1 [show_page_heading] => 0 [layout_type] => blog [menu_text] => 1 [menu_show] => 1 [secure] => 0 [helixultimatemenulayout] => {"width":600,"menualign":"right","megamenu":0,"showtitle":1,"faicon":"","customclass":"","dropdown":"right","badge":"","badge_position":"","badge_bg_color":"","badge_text_color":"","layout":[]} [helixultimate_enable_page_title] => 1 [helixultimate_page_title_alt] => Oikonomia [helixultimate_page_subtitle] => Sul Confine e Oltre [helixultimate_page_title_heading] => h2 [page_title] => Regenerations [page_description] => [page_rights] => [robots] => [access-view] => 1 ) [initialized:protected] => 1 [separator] => . ) [displayDate] => 2015-08-02 05:00:00 [tags] => Joomla\CMS\Helper\TagsHelper Object ( [tagsChanged:protected] => [replaceTags:protected] => [typeAlias] => [itemTags] => Array ( ) ) [slug] => 16408:the-sad-spirit-of-incentives [parent_slug] => 1025:oikonomia [catslug] => 735:en-regenerations [event] => stdClass Object ( [afterDisplayTitle] => [beforeDisplayContent] => [afterDisplayContent] => ) [text] =>

Regenerations/2 - No company can domesticate the person's moral strength

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 02/08/2015

Logo rigenerazioni rid"The man who wisheth to reap the fruits of virtue is a trader of virtue."

Mahabharatasacred book of Hinduism

Organisations cannot have the most important virtues they need. The wise ones accept the 'gap' between the desired virtues and those that can be had by their workers, and so they learn to live together with the inevitable need of the human qualities essential for their operation and growth, without trying to replace them with some simpler things.

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The Sad Spirit of Incentives

Regenerations/2 - No company can domesticate the person's moral strength by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 02/08/2015 "The man who wisheth to reap the fruits of virtue is a trader of virtue." Mahabharata, sacred book of Hinduism Organisations cannot have the most important virtues they need....
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    [title] => Let's Replant the Forest
    [alias] => let-s-replant-the-forest
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Regenerations/1 - Values are not to be manufactured and challenges should be acknowledged

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 26/07/2015

Rigenerazioni 01Everywhere in the world, human beings want the same thing: to be recognized with dignity for what they are and what they do. Companies like ours are in the unique position to satisfy this desire.”
(Robert H. Chapman)

The culture of big firms is gaining more and more space in our era. Categories, language, values ​​and virtues of the multinationals are creating and offering a universal grammar suited to describe and produce all the ‘winning’ individual and collective stories. This is how the big company that used to be interpreted as the main place of exploitation and alienation became the icon of excellence and human flourishing within just a few decades.

[fulltext] =>

In a time like ours, when collective passions surviving from the twentieth century are the sad ones of fear and insecurity and where the passions of the individual still reign and are mostly left unchallenged, the culture produced and conveyed by global firms is the perfect tool to embody and strengthen the spirit of our time. In fact, nothing is as capable of enhancing and strengthening the values of the individual and his passions as the capitalist company.

This is why the words of ‘business’ and its virtues are becoming the good words and the virtues of the entire social life: politics, health care and education. Merit, efficiency, competition, leadership and innovation are now the only good words of communal life. In the absence of other strong places capable of producing a different culture and values, the virtues of the companies present themselves as the only ones to recognize and cultivate starting from childhood.

Companies often do good things, but cannot and don't have to generate all the social values or the entire common good. To live well we need to create something other than economic value, because there are values that are not those of the companies, and the common good is beyond the common good generated by the economic sphere.

This is something we have always known but are forgetting today. The management of the Greek and European crisis in the past weeks - and the next ones - is an eloquent sign of this. But also what is happening in the areas of health, education, the world of volunteering, in social economy and even in some Catholic movements and Christian churches tells us that the economic virtues are gradually replacing all the others are also because these latter ones are being presented by the global corporate culture as vices (e.g. meekness, mercy ...). Furthermore, we must take note that the 'guilty ones' for this impressive reductionism are not only, and perhaps not even mainly businesses, global consulting firms or business schools that are the main carriers of this mono-culture. Civil society has a great and objective responsibility as it can no longer create sufficient places outside of the economic realm that should be able to generate virtues other than economic ones in young people and in others. School, for example (and along with it, family) should be the main counterweight of the company culture, because it belongs to the school to teach the virtues to children and young people, especially those that are not utilitarian or instrumental, the ones that are valuable even if (or exactly because) they do not have a price. However, what we are seeing around the world is that school is being taken over by the logic and values ​​of the company (merit, incentives, competition...), where directors, teachers and students are evaluated and trained in the values ​​of enterprises. And so we apply efficiency, incentives and merit even in the education of our children and in managing our friends (it is enough to visit the Nordic countries where this process is in a more advanced stage already, and see how they are transforming their community life, human relations and friendship accordingly).

The anthropological deficit experienced in economic and civil life today will not be overcome by filling the void left by the ancient, non-economic virtues with the 'new' economic virtues, but by generating and regenerating old and new virtues beyond the economic and corporate realm, that will allow the full flourishing of the people, inside and outside the world of work.

Economy has always needed virtue, that is, excellence (areté). Until a few decades ago, however, the factories and workplaces used the heritage of virtues and values that had been formed outside them, in civil society, politics, churches, oratories, cooperatives, trade unions, in the shops, on the seas, in the fields, at schools and especially in families. It was in these non-economic places governed by principles and laws other than those of the companies and the market that the character and virtues of the people were formed and reformed. This personal capital then was transformed into productive, entrepreneurial, management and work resources inside businesses. Without forgetting the immense heritage represented by women - mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, nuns, aunts, grandmothers - who formed, loved, looked after, generated and regenerated boys and men every day inside the houses; and these in turn carried some invisible but very real female figures with themselves when they crossed the gates of the places work, who actually offered and performed services of the highest value, even in the economic sense, at zero cost to the company.

In two or three decades, we are running out of this secular stock of ethical, spiritual and civil heritage, without being able to generate new ones as yet. And so the people joining the companies usually come Rigenerazioni 02with a poor and fragile moral heritage, and they are not quite equipped with the virtues essential in working life, in team work and especially in the management of human relations, crisis and conflict.

To continue to create wealth and profits, businesses got equipped to create the values ​​and virtues they have a vital need for by themselves. Almost none of these virtues and values are new, because they are nothing but the reworking and adaptation of ancient practices, tools and principles with a new focus (and here is the key point): the goals of the post-modern company.

This opens up some decisive challenges, perhaps the most important ones that have a determining influence on the quality of economic, personal and social development of the coming decades, which will be discussed on the next few Sundays.

Yesterday, today and always, there are virtues that are essential for the formation of a good character in people, who should come before the economic virtues and those of the company. Gentleness, loyalty, humility, mercy, generosity and hospitality are pre-economic virtues; when they are present, they also enable economic virtues to work. You can live without being efficient and particularly competitive, but you live very badly, and often die without generosity, without hope, without docility.

In a world occupied solely by economic virtues, how do we respond to the questions: 'What do we do with the undeserving?', 'Where should the non-excellent go?', 'Where do we put the non-smart ones?'. Not all of us are deserving the same way, not all of us are talented, not all of us are able to 'win' in the competition of life. The market and the economy have their own answers to these questions. Those who are not competitive in the markets have to leave; in the successful companies 'those who do not grow will be out of the group'. But if the economic sphere becomes the entire social life, where else can the losers of the competition exit to, which 'outside' welcomes those who do not grow or those who develop at different rates and in ways that do not count for the indicators of corporate performance? The only possible scenario that remains this way is the building of a 'society of waste'. We remain worthy people even when we are or become unworthy, inefficient and uncompetitive. But this different type of dignity is not recognised by the new culture of the company.

Creating economic and managerial virtues in the workers takes some other virtues that companies are unable to generate. The economic virtues are authentic if and when accompanied and preceded by the virtues that have their active ingredient in gratuitousness.

It is here that the great project of the company culture to create its own virtues needed to achieve the desired goals faces a strict requirement: the virtues, all the virtues, to be created and to flourish have a vital need for freedom and excess of the goals set by the management. We will never be excellent workers if we lose the intrinsic value of things, unless we free ourselves from the servitude of the incentives.

The economic virtues of businesses do not turn into vices if they are left to be humbly accompanied by other virtues that mollify and humanize them. Only by learning to waste time inefficiently with my employees can I hope to become a truly efficient manager. Only by humbly recognizing that the most valuable talents I possess are not fruits of my own merit but pure gifts (charis) can I recognize the true merits in myself and others.

Companies cannot build the good character of their workers, because if they do, they do not generate free and happy people as they say, and maybe as they want, but only sad instruments of production. Companies can only welcome, strengthen and not destroy our virtues. They cannot manufacture them. As with the trees. As with life. This is one of the most beautiful laws of the earth: the virtues flourish if they are larger and freer than our goals, even the most noble and greatest ones.

Here in Vallombrosa, where I am writing these lines, a few months ago a storm knocked down about twenty thousand trees. While working on the removal of fallen trees that were tended for centuries by virtuous monks, the Forest Service is also starting to plant new trees, of many different species, to try and save the biodiversity of the forest that will be reborn.

When forests fall someone must start planting trees. The tree of economy will grow well if it is surrounded by all the other trees of the forest.

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Ma le virtù economiche delle imprese non si trasformano in vizi se si lasciano, umilmente, affiancare da altre virtù che le ammansiscono e umanizzano. 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Regenerations/1 - Values are not to be manufactured and challenges should be acknowledged

by Luigino Bruni

published in Avvenire on 26/07/2015

Rigenerazioni 01Everywhere in the world, human beings want the same thing: to be recognized with dignity for what they are and what they do. Companies like ours are in the unique position to satisfy this desire.”
(Robert H. Chapman)

The culture of big firms is gaining more and more space in our era. Categories, language, values ​​and virtues of the multinationals are creating and offering a universal grammar suited to describe and produce all the ‘winning’ individual and collective stories. This is how the big company that used to be interpreted as the main place of exploitation and alienation became the icon of excellence and human flourishing within just a few decades.

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

Let's Replant the Forest

Regenerations/1 - Values are not to be manufactured and challenges should be acknowledged by Luigino Bruni published in Avvenire on 26/07/2015 “Everywhere in the world, human beings want the same thing: to be recognized with dignity for what they are and what they do. Companies like ours are in the ...