Let's Train Our Eyes

End of year: thank-you's and stories to tell

by Luigino Bruni 

published in Avvenire on December 31, 2013 

Grazie rid

The Greeks used two words to indicate what we now call time: chronos and kairos. For the chronos-time New Year's Eve is a day like any other. For the kairos-time, however, the hours and years are different: the day that Nelson Mandela died (4th December), or the one on which Pope Francis was elected (13th March) were days of a different quality that carved themselves onto the flat tablet of time. Chronos is a homogeneous quantity, while kairos is quality and diversity - somewhat analogous to the difference between space and place. The chronos-kairos dynamic is what creates the rhythm of time for our daily lives. The birth of children, mourning, jobs lost and found all colour and enliven the numbers on the calendar.

The year 2013 was certainly a longer one for those who suffered more, and there are many unemployed among them including just too many young people. We woke up abruptly and we realized that we did not lose millions of jobs to the U.S. sub-primes or to the spread, and that it is not Europe's fault if our young people do not have good jobs any more. We realized that we should get back on our feet by our own strength but we cannot, and the reason for that is a severe famine of moral capital. The world has changed really and we do not understand it anymore, and we all suffer because of the 'lack of thought' (Paul VI). We are suffering the pangs of childbirth. Something new is being born, but we still do not realize it. And we also suffer because one we cannot bear, collectively, to see a child being born amidst the pain of labour. And when you cannot see a child's arrival through all that pain, you do not see salvation, it is all suffering without reward, and the joy is missing. We should train our eyes to see farther and in a different way, and see among us and inside us the places and people where new things are happening, to find out where there are 'children being born. And we should learn again to say thank you - a word to rediscover in its root charis (“grazie” in Italian, which is a derivative of this word – the translator).

The 31st day of December is, above all, the day of thanksgiving, even in civil terms. The exercise of saying thank you and the virtue of gratitude are always important, but they are essential in every exodus through a desert. Giving thanks, especially if it is serious and done at a cost, is an extraordinary resource for continuing to hope and to walk. There are many people to thank today. I would like to start by the entrepreneurs. Those who continue to risk resources, energy and talent to save jobs and go on in spite of everything. To the entrepreneurs building welfare and paying taxes: there are many, even if people don't speak about them, and nobody thanks them. When an entrepreneur decides to pay taxes they know that, in a world of tax evasion such as ours, they are paying much more than would be fair and equitable to pay. He knows that he is paying also for his "colleagues" who have placed their headquarters in Monaco, but use the same public goods. Many, when facing this injustice become embittered and start to escape. Other entrepreneurs, workers and citizens, get outraged, and just like - or even more than - anyone will cry out for justice. But they do not get into bad ways and keep going ahead. And not only to comply with tax obligations: they also know how to make a donation. And a donation is always to be thanked. If it were not for these "few righteous" (that, after all, are not so few), the city would have already destroyed itself. Another, painful thanks that also becomes "sorry", must get to those entrepreneurs who did not manage to survive and had to close their business, leaving many workers at home, in the midst of great suffering and anguish (I know many). "The man is not his fault," I read in a community of Fr. Oreste Benzi. "The entrepreneur is not the failure of his business" - you can always start over.

Thanks also to the many people who accompany the poor and those who are lonely, and by the force of agape cure the despairs. To the many honest public officials who do not give up when they could for many reasons. To all those teachers that continue to love our children in injured, impoverished and despised schools. Finally - but we should go on and on - thanks to the families, to mothers and fathers, and even more so to the elderly who continue to mend the fides, the faith and the rope that still holds us together. They keep mending the social fabric that reminds us of our roots and our history.

In the "Thousand and One Nights" Scheherazade should not stop telling stories unless she wants to die. Today, if we want to live and let live we need to tell more stories of real life to find new reasons together for hope that is not in vain, and continuously repeat to one another "don't give up". And never to cease to give thanks.

 

  Translated by Eszter Kató

Further commentaries by Luigino Bruni in Avvenire are available through the Avvenire Editorial

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