Traces N.2, February 2017

The Most Concrete Aspect

There is a place in life where we cannot cheat, not even with ourselves: work. This is not just because we spend most of our time there. As Fr. Giussani always reminded us, our true “I” is seen only as we discover ourselves “in action.” It emerges from an impact with reality, not in our ideas or projects, or in the images we have of ourselves, but when we are at work, engaged with what we have in front of us. Work is one of the hottest realities from this point of view. At work, who we truly are is seen. Everyone sees it, ourselves and those around us. It is a test that shows the stuff we are made of, what our foundation is, what criteria guide us. In a nutshell, it shows that to which we truly belong.

It is no coincidence that burning questions often emerge about this issue, questions that have become more acute in these times because the world of work is changing rapidly, and as the pressure of the economic crisis intensifies and unemployment is a widespread wound, certain linear dynamics, made up of a whole lifetime spent doing more or less the same things in the same places, no longer exist, or almost so. You go, you come, you have to re-invent yourself. Above all, you find it increasingly wearisome. So it is natural that doubts, questions, and wounds emerge. How do you look for a job, or choose one? What criteria should be used? Money? Security? Do I have to settle for what the market dictates, or should I follow my desires? How should dissatisfaction be faced? And if things go well, how do I reconcile my career with the other things that are dear to me, like my family, children, and friends?

In this issue we try to offer a contribution on these issues, not automatic answers or manuals, but a journey, a help (made up of reflections and testimonies, including from some who have chosen to go abroad) in realizing what is truly at stake in these questions. We look at why Fr. Giussani himself spoke about work as something that “forces us to become more Christian, to think over our love for Christ, to think over how I live, the usefulness with which I live and the thing for which everything was given.” It even forces us to think over “the most concrete aspect, the most arid and the most wearisome (and concrete!) aspect of my love for Christ.” This outlook is illuminating because it throws wide open a horizon that is infinitely broader than the one in which we often close ourselves. But his statement also burns at times, because even for those who have read it over and over, it remains to be understood completely and made our own. If there is a way to do so, it is only from within experience. So, enjoy reading, and good luck with the work ahead.