Monday, April 30, 2007

Capitalism, the Human Person, and America (Part IV in a Series)

Yesterday we began to run aground upon the limiting factors for work and its scope for human development. In this, we must make explicit the fact that work cannot be found to be the sole source of human satisfaction and development. Work remains an endeavor for profit and sustenance in its primary form. It is required of the worker that he work in such a way that he fits into the corporate culture in a profitable way first and foremost, although his humanity does, as we have seen, demand something more than merely to be a cog in the large machine. Because of this, it is not intrinsically meant to be the means by which humanity finds all of its fulfillment, as though work could be the only bread upon which we live our lives. It merely remains a part of the larger puzzle of our daily lives, being bound by the limitations which our nature places on all of our activity.

It would therefore be absurd to assert that work must always be gratifying to the individual worker, although it must be tempered by the Law of Love. It means that work must be subservient to the nature of humanity, one which is dual-fold. Gaudium et Spes from the second Vatican Council discusses this fact under the guise of two-fold interiority-exteriority of man. The human person derives his dignity from his ability to reflect in his depths but does not reach his fulfillment there. As we have said in past days, the human person also must derive his fullest growth from his dialogue with other beings. To the extent which work does not allow for this interiority-exteriority for human development , it should allow freedoms for this development outside of the workplace by means of wages and time flexibility.

Indeed, I think it most appropriate to see work as one element among many in life. When viewed this way, it retains its own boundaries but also can become part of an organic whole of our daily activity. When talking to my uncle once, we discussed the fact that work seems very often to intrude on our play and our play upon our work. I think this is wholly appropriate and is a means by which we can asses the quality of our work and life situation.

There is much wisdom in remembering the words of Qoheleth, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” There is a place for work and a place for recreation, making some distinction between everything. However unity is found in the fact that we not only have multiple material purposes in our lives but also a singular, essential purpose for our existence: to love. Therefore, there is also a time for loving at all moments of existence. All things are subservient to this, including the task of human work.

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