Comic strips can tie your hands. Whenever I read one I feel like I could do something to right the wrongful situation, but could not. Its the same when I watch TV. I would fret around, complaining out loud how stupid the characters are when it could have been done that way or this way. And somebody will always remind me behind my back saying, “anhon mo kay amo ina ang sugo sang direktor.” That would shake me back into reality. I was just watching a story coming out from the idiot box.
This comic strip from B.C. irks me a lot. Something could be done by this two stupid prehistoric men. They just can’t sit there and watch a nearby volcano erupting. They just can’t sit there while red hot simmering lava is flowing towards them. And when it missed them by an inch they just can’t say “we were really lucky on that one,” because they could have done something like going for higher ground or at least move a meter away from it!
Man by nature is a co-creator with God. That explains why I can’t just sit around and watch as life goes by. I have to get involved, I have to right the situation. That explains too why I am irked by the people in this strip as they watch, doing nothing, something they could correct or at the very least avoid.
We are in an unfinished world, a world that does not have just volcanoes to control or avoid, but imperfections and conditions we could improve. Luck will not bring us anywhere. Letting things flow and riding in the rise and ebb of daily living will bring us nearer to disaster. Becoming co-creators is a matter of survival. It is here that we get our bread and butter, the means whereby we endure and escape the harshness of an imperfect world, and the process by which life is sustained. This is were human labor enters.
The CL issues for the month of July is dedicated to labor and the working man. However in these issues we will not just consider human labor as a matter of survival but the fact that we work in order to be “like God”, that through the labor of our human hands we participate in the creative work which God has begun. We work because God worked, Jesus himself worked as a carpenter.
To pursue our reflection on the dignity of human work and give a spiritual dimension to it, we go back and read from the book of Genesis. There we are told that when man and woman were created they were given a responsibility (the first responsibility of man): to subdue the earth and to have dominion over all creation. In other words and in simple terms, the first command of God to man was to transform this world, to continue the act of creation by his labor.
This is what defines man’s dignity, the God given responsibility to continue the work of creation - that he must work and be given or provided with work. This is the reason why industriousness is a virtue and sloth, ang katamad is a capital sin. This is the reason why gambling like lotto is degrading to the human person because the gambler seeks to benefit from the fruits of the earth by simply relaxing in his swivel chair instead of working hard. Human dignity is founded in fulfilling the first command of God to work - and we become a more mature Christian if we provide capable people the work they need in order to live out their dignity - not just dole outs, not just giving alms and handing out food, but work to capable men and women. By doing so we provide them not just with food but we restore their original dignity founded in fulfilling this first responsibility to become co-creators with God.
Just one example, in our parish we just don’t give dole outs, at least in some areas of our concern. The Ladies of Charity and the SSVP have indigents under their care. Before giving them rice these organizations decided to give them useful work - they are the ones who are tasked of folding our newsletter, Candle Light every Saturday. In this way we just don’t give them food or alms but help them re-acquire their sense of dignity by giving them useful labor.
Another important thing to be noted is the fact that we have a responsibility not just of providing work, but also providing a just compensation for the work done. For so many this spirituality of work and human labor is neglected. What is worse is the way we reason out this reality. Sometimes we say to our helpers and drivers, “maayo gani kay gintagaan ka sing obra!” This is an unfair statement, one that does not understand the God given responsibility. Providing a just compensation is part, an important part, of fulfilling human dignity. When we do not give a just compensation we are destroying the divine intention and we destroy not just the dignity of man but man himself.
Going back to the comic strip above, which irritated me for a time, I said to myself this is just a comic strip and laugh at it. But a question came to my mind as I put down this strip - when I come out of this world will I say I did live and survive it because of luck, or could I say I worked for it all the way?