5. FERTILITY OF FRAGILITY
Fragilities can be strength and fruitful time.
Within the world of youth frailties hide so many possibilities. The culture of competitiveness and individualism emphasizes the fact that everyone should rule himself on his own and they have to conform to social and cultural norms. Sometimes, the same ecclesial education is a victim of this logic. It is necessary, however, to let emerge an anthropology of fragility and interpersonal ties.
A) Like we educators, youths in our schools live in a society with too many expressions of indifference, selfishness, individualism. They face a society that proposes consumption as the only path to happiness and “to hide under the rug” everything that is not productive, what is weak or what can not adapt to its breakneck pace. It is what Pope Francis repeatedly called the “culture of disposal (left over) .” cultural forms that men and women use and dispose of . The “culture of disposal” promotes individualism, competitiveness and gives the false idea of happiness associated with comfort and lack of commitment to reality. Moreover, this culture also encourages us to hide our human frailties, to deny our vulnerable condition. Our children and young people face a world that teaches them to hide their weaknesses and limits and to exalt strengths. Under the current youth culture the same weaknesses emerge everywhere, the same weaknesses and pains that beset young people, often without being aware of them. Family breakdown, loneliness, violence, harassment, exclusion, uncertainty, intolerance, ignorance, prejudice, sloth, addictions, loss of consciousness, selflessness, promiscuity, individualism, lack of faith … and the list of vulnerabilities would most likely continue. This problem also crosses our daily living-with-youths and we cannot ignore it. We might honestly ask ourselves:
– What frailties beset young people in my community with greater impact?
– How do the frailties of our students in our educational practices emerge?
– Do we repress them when they come up in the classroom?
– What spaces do we give them so that these can emerge ?
– Do we take them into consideration?
– Do we see behind the uniforms the fragility and vulnerability of our youths ?
We need to rethink what involves the fragility and vulnerability of human beings. Vulnerability (from vulnus, which means “wound”) implies dependence, it implies that above all we are dependent beings and in relation to others. A fragile vulnerable being is the one who can be hurt and, therefore, he is not able to survive outside the care and cure of another, regardless of his compassion. We are not self-sufficient. We, from the beginning of our lives, need to be hosted, because we are fragile, because at any moment we can break up, because we are exposed to the wounds of the world.
Recently, Pope Francis in his last apostolic exhortation called us to “accompany, discern and integrate fragility” (AL, 291). Faced with these vulnerabilities, characteristic of the human condition, and in general against dehumanization, we tend to fall into pessimism, in sourness and despair. However, as educators, religious and laity, “the evils of our world-and those of the Church must not be excuses for weakening our commitment and our fervor. Let us look at them as challenges which can help us to grow” (EG, 84).
B) An answer to this problem faced by many young people can be focused on the recognition of fragility. We need to look with new eyes at our pettiness, our weaknesses, our shadows. We need to encourage to build an anthropology of fragility and vulnerability in front of the “culture of disposal.” This means recognizing in these dimensions of our being a fertile ground to believe and to educate ourselves.
B1) First, to experience our own “fragility” is a necessary condition to achieve a true encounter with the other. He “Who was God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped … (cfr. Phil 2: 6-9). To recognize our own weaknesses helps us understand better that “I cannot do it alone,” that we are part of a community, that we need each other. Thus, the acceptance of our fragile condition becomes a generative strength of solidarity and development of every human being.
I am glad to be weak, to be insulted and persecuted, and have needs and difficulties to be faithful to Christ. “For what makes me strong is to recognize that I am weak” (2 Cor 12,10). Faced with the “culture of disposal” that does not accept the frailties, we must deal with a “culture of encounter”. It is urgent to provide spaces for meeting, for knowledge, for unity, for shared reflection. Moreover, knowing that we are fragile and vulnerable human beings also makes us capable of being sensitive to the weakness and pain of those around us.
In order to evaluate our own practice on this aspect that helps to recognize such fragility we can reflect and discuss on:
– What spaces are available for recognition and acceptance of the frailties that mark us?
– In daily activities with young people, do we promote unity or competitiveness?
– Do we in our professional activity place those who suffer the most, first?
B2) Secondly this feature of the human condition, necessarily relates to hope, a virtue God has sown in the hearts of man and that is what transforms those innate or acquired weaknesses into challenges , opportunities to become happy , to meet God. The frailties of man, that according to time manifest themselves in different ways, are nothing more than the tangible expressions of the search for harmony that translated into the Christian language are the pursuit of love, peace, happiness; ultimately, the search for God, who gives meaning to life. From this recognition of anthropological root, comes the need for enculturation of the Gospel of Jesus, in the light of those epochal changes that allow the youths to recognize as valid the option proposed by the Church, by our school, the oratorio or the community. The fragile affectivity of postmodern youth must discover the foundation of his life in the friendship of Jesus Christ who receives him in His heart with his weaknesses and imperfections in order to strengthen him, to improve him, not with reproaches or condemnations, but with the patient and transforming love of the Father.
Such discovery of God’s love, of the meaning of life, needs to be communicated. To become aware of our responsibility in building up the Kingdom must be the engine that drives young people and adults to be protagonists in the ecclesial life, preaching the Gospel.
To advance in this direction it is necessary to revise our pastoral-academic-institutional options. We can discuss this when we take into consideration the following areas:
– To teach, to share and mirror a committed God and not a God indifferent to individual and social reality,
especially in the weakest moments .
– To propose a religion other than “a fill in religion” rather a religion that helps us clarify our darkness
– To rediscover the name of God as Father and Mercy, and not as “judge”, “Reward”.
B3) Many times, also in educational settings we have forgotten about the fragility when thinking about education. To accept the fragility and vulnerability of the human condition, to assume them as a starting point and to recognize their fertility is a new educational challenge. It is a challenge that takes us even to revise our current educational practices, question what it means today to educate and even if it makes sense to talk about education. The classical ideal of “integral education”, on which the Catholic Church has so often insisted regarding the educational-evangelizing action cannot forget this dimension of the human being in order to fulfill its purpose. We must not idealize the subject, without setting at the center of our reflection and our practice the specific person, in flesh and blood, with his potential, but also with his weaknesses, limits, his constitutive vulnerability. It is about changing registry and abandon the idea of a subject modeled on autonomy, self-reliance and independence; it is abandoning the idea of a subject “self-sufficient ” and isolated for a an open subjectivity to the other .
We propose to think about what concrete action groups could help us realize the following objectives of an anthropology of fragility and vulnerability in modern times:
– An education that does not impose default models of life that end up working as borders of exclusion, but invite, especially with its example and coherence to diverse lifestyles but also imbued with the Gospel message.
– An education that helps to criticize the social and cultural norms that go against life and all its manifestations and to explore creatively and encourage other new standards.
– An education that will safeguard not in old certainties, fears and threats but to teach sailing in seas of insecurity. An education that is not a carrier of permanently fixed knowledge but encourages to develop and share maps for walking in times of uncertainty.
– Education that does not confuse happiness with comfort, with not having to do anything with longing “to be in a comfortable chair” as Pope Francis said in the last WYD 2016, or reduce the success to economic growth at any cost, but it is a place of resonance of alternatives forms of individual and community life more worthy and fulfilling for all the inhabitants of “our common home”
Possible inspiring resources:
For work with teachers or young adults they may be used as teaching resources these songs of Eduardo Meana :
María de los Ángeles Berardi