by Stefano Bettera
What does a spiritual perspective offer us to rebuild the community and heal the society affected by a pandemic and environmental emergency?
Three reasons for an X
Dharma economiX is written with an X by choice because the contours of this path are not yet fully defined. They cannot and must not be. It is, in fact, a gamble, a construction site, a proposal, a vision and even an intuition. The X represents three dimensions of this journey. First of all, it is an undefined point that we can begin to draw on a larger map in which we encounter different places, different obstacles and many bridges to cross rivers and reach the other bank. Secondly, the X also represents the bridges themselves, these crossings that are formed between experiences and encounters, between unexpected connections, interdependencies that sometimes we do not even know we have. X, in fact, stands for what intertwines us, unites us, makes us one and heals us. X is the network, the community, the whole of you and me, the we. Finally, X is the distinctive sign of a value that is not yet defined but is potentially infinite, inexhaustible, and represents the merit of our commitment, the individual contribution we bring to a process of transformation that requires everyone to be protagonists and brothers.
A fragility that is no longer sustainable
Fragility is the theme that characterises the conditions of the present, a fragility that has ancient roots. Our current social emergency, like the ecological one, is in fact the result of the crisis of a system that is no longer sustainable. The Coronavirus pandemic and climate change are the clearest confirmations of our perilous condition, as well as the imperative and urgent need to rebuild. It is equally imperative to set a paradigm shift in motion. It is essential to invest in a new idea of a community that goes beyond the anthropocentric model and focuses, instead, on perspectives, practices, languages and imagery capable of healing the wound. If there is a possibility of imagining and implementing this new society from a ‘spiritual’, human perspective, without it becoming moralistically punitive, dogmatic or simply pietistic, it is necessary to supplement the scheme of solidarity-based subsidiarity intervention, which is the basis of progressive Catholic social teaching, and also focus on redemption and merit. Such a change provides us with an opportunity for a revalorisation of the individual and of the community in a single, simultaneous restorative action.
Pope Francis, first and foremost, has tried to point the way with his encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’, where the idea of brotherhood, of a common destiny, becomes the pivot for social action. In practice, we move from the idea of help based on reasons of pity to one based on identifying human being with human being. I feel empathy for the condition of those who suffer not only because of the situation itself but because, ontologically we might say, I recognise that potentially this condition belongs to me precisely because I am a human being. This is precisely the meaning of compassion, of Buddhist compassionate action, which stems from witnessing at the same time the fragility of the individual situation but also, and above all, a universal condition that connects every living being through interdependence. We can therefore say that the Catholic Church too, starting with the ‘All Brothers’, has changed its perspective and its very idea of intervention in society. It has therefore moved from an action of solidarity to a concrete testimony of suffering as a starting point from which to act. A testimony that no longer even requires a theological reason. I am not compassionate because that is what God asks of me, but because the mere fact of being human does not give me any other choice.
An X on the map
With an X, we draw a sign and go beyond fragility, bewilderment, and isolation to find on the map the place where we can return to look at ourselves again, to embrace this fragility, to take care of it, to rebuild dignity and hope and heal together. Reconstruction, healing is precisely a taking charge, an integral care of the whole system that starts from and underlies an interdependent vision where there is no longer an agent – the human being – and something acted upon – the community, the society, the ecosystem, or the planet. The new model of ecological mind that inspires this reconstruction is expressed through the dimension of profound interconnection, which translates into the willingness to recognise and bear witness to a condition of isolation, frustration, and alienation to which the social network responds. This becomes the heart of affective relations, on the rediscovery of friendship, on the common good. These are the access doors to operate in society, now imagined as a place of listening, learning, education, and shared compassion. A renewed creative, almost artistic centrality, restored to value and merit, presents them as recognition of a right to redemption, to freedom from fragility which can be achieved within the relationship, within the community which takes charge.
Ploughing the field
As a discipline, Dharma EconomiX is a field of investigation into human experience, and like any field it must be ploughed and kept with care, attention, experience and awareness. In this field we need to welcome every fruit that comes from the earth, every seed carried by the wind, every bee that pollinates the flowers, and every arm that helps to cultivate the soil. Everyone brings their own labor, their own sweat, but also their intelligence and satisfaction when the results arrive. Every farmer knows that he or she needs their land, is one with it and with the animals, the plants, the stars and the rain. In the fields no one is a stranger. In the Dharma EconomiX there is room for help and solidarity, but also more: there is recognition in looks and gestures. There is the sharing, the witnessing of a common destiny, an exchange of joys and sorrows. There is the profound sense of being part of a family.
The strength of the network
From the perspective of ‘I am you’ we move on to ‘we are’, where this ‘we’ is the possibility of bringing the sacred into the concrete of everyday life, not as an exception but as an indispensable quality of every life. It is precisely the recognition of the potential inherent in the condition of impermanence that characterises the very dimension of fragility, that makes it no longer a negative status, a stigma, a condemnation. Instead, such a recognition makes the current condition surmountable, treatable, healable and a stimulus for change. Care and individual willingness to take charge of the problem, supported by real opportunities for development, acts as a motor for individual and social transformation. In order for this process to take place, a model of interaction is needed which brings together every energy, every resource in the area which is willing to get involved in order to enter the current and go against it, like salmon, in a stubborn and contrary direction. The actors in this process are simple individuals with their own choices, companies with the capacity to produce development and community, institutions, bodies and organisations with their natural propensity to network and manage. A set of intelligences, visions and cultures capable of producing opportunities for concrete development and transformation in the micro and macro spheres. What is also needed is a renewed form of redemption that becomes the practice of human and social action first and then political action, and which therefore sets itself the objective of building, first and foremost, an ethically mature society. An intimately sacred society.
A sacred economy
Dharma EconomiX is all this. It is the human vision of the economy and society, of culture and politics, of the individual and the collective, of the community. It is the map and the imagery of a journey that we begin to make by imagining and generating it in every sphere in which we operate. Every time we set out on a journey, we leave something of ourselves behind and head towards the unknown, the mysterious, and the sublime. With each step, the path is made sacred, unique, and is transformed into a work of art. And like all art, the Dharma economiX also lives of light, imagination, dream, daring and draws the forms of its unfolding within the sublime immensity of the human soul. That is why an X is necessary, so that this road that we can travel together is not confined to the boring and dusty rooms of theory, but that it is brought into life, which is by its very nature is unexpected, changing, and always on the move. It is the movement, the constant transformation and its very condition of unfinished fragility that makes it a precious gamble, that makes it sacred. In this sacredness everyone can recognise themselves and move and begin to heal themselves and the world.