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BENEDICT/ The sweet weariness

PIGI COLOGNESI explains how the destructive weariness which afflicts so many of us in our times is quite different from Benedict XVI’s confidence in an Other when he decided to retire

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I would like to start these reflections with the definition that a recent sociological survey gives of us: fragile and hyperconnected. Another sociologist used the expression “fatigue” to describe our modern times. Again, as noted by Massimo Recalcati in an article in La Repubblica of October 6th, we are faced with a paradox: our lives are intertwined with a "permanent exciting current"--overwork, entertainment which has become mandatory, results to obtain, a personal capacity to demonstrate over time, a performance to offer--and at the same time they are listless, tired from the start, basically without an adequate motive to justify all this excitement.

As an example, Recalcati cites disadvantaged young people who "are characterized not so much by the vital conflict between the generations, but by a shutting down of a feeling for life." In fact, "the current symptoms of teenagers turning to psychologists do not arise from a dissonance between desire and reality, but by a kind of tiring of the desire itself." It reminds me of the words of Teilhard de Chardin: "The worst danger that humanity could fear today is not a catastrophe that comes from outside, but instead a spiritual malady, the more terrible because it is the most directly human of the scourges, which is the loss of zest for life."

In front of such a serious crisis, Recalcati poses the radical question: "The fatigue that afflicts us today does not show a link with the narcissistic dream of becoming masters of ourselves, of making our name regardless of the Other?" The initial capital of the latter word is not a typo; to bypass the swamp of fatigue it is not sufficient to multiply the connections with all the others, who are tired like us; we need to tap into a font of inexhaustible energy. Inexhaustible not because it removes the natural fatigue of the worker, but because it does not use up, indeed it always rekindles, the desire and joy of living.

The second example of fatigue which Recalcati cites--the resignation of Benedict XVI--is wrong. Recognizing the weakening of one's physical and mental energies and thus the inability to perform the task one has is an act of great energy. It is exactly the opposite of the permanent excitement of those who think to put everything right by their own energy and to prove to be a kind of Superman in all circumstances. It is the confidence to entrust your name and your task to an Other--and therefore to an other--that allows you to easily recognize and accept your own inadequacy.

Not all weariness, in fact, is destructive. There is also that kind--sweet and almost desirable--that Eliot speaks of: "The man who has builded during the day would return to his hearth at nightfall: to be blessed with the gift of silence, and doze before he sleeps."

(Translation by Sharon Mollerus)

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