Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 9, 2009

Work and Human Worth

Perhaps I’ve been going a bit far afield lately from the tai chi with my blogs on Dorothy Day and Conversatio Morum, but maybe not as the contemplative practice of tai chi chuan opens your mind to certain truths, important thoughts, and you have to be open to the synchronicity of things and explore why certain things crop up at certain times in your life.

So, I’ve been out of work since the end of February, which finds me straddling two worlds, one trying to re integrate into the current work force, either in my latest incarnation in retail management, or my former years in non profit management and working with homeless families, and the other trying to lay a groundwork and foundation for possibly doing something with the tai chi which I love so much and would be extrememly happy if I could make a living at it.

Having said that, what has been coming my way lately are themes of work and human dignity and the value of human life and how work should be a thing that lifts people up, makes them fully human, gives them the power to freely express themselves, to reach full expression of their humanity and individuality, to offer to the community at large the gifts that they have received and cultivated, to be recognized for their value and worth.

Having been thrust into the great, rising tide of the unemployed, I am forced to question whetther we are in a paradigm that will allow me to become more human, or if I will have to acquiesce to the broken aspects of the system. I love to translate the phrase, “what the market will bear,” as “what we can exploit and use you for.”  It also seems petty to bemoan our conditions in the United States when there is real suffering around the world. 

Perhaps it’s because I am unemployed for the first time in my life, but I think that it’s quite a struggle to ensure that workers are provided with basic rights and not exploited and not treated as objects and used merely to attain the needs and desires of the employer.  Pope John Paul the II’s encyclical, Laborem Exercens speaks directly to this issue.

 Many people have been forced under the current economic framework to use credit to purchase basic necessities, and then are dragged down by exhorbitant  fees. Something’s not right.



  1. “(W)ork should be a thing that lifts people up, makes them fully human, gives them the power to freely express themselves, to reach full expression of their humanity and individuality…”

    But is there any activity– any activity at all– that can do that? Currently I am in a job that I happen to find very rewarding (which is rare for me and I’m very happy to be here), but because I am here doing this, I am not somewhere else doing other things. As lifted and expressive as I am in this role I am not, say, a college librarian or a flight instructor. Those jobs are great too, and would offer a great deal of fulfillment, growth, and satisfaction. The potential I have that could be realized as a flight instructor goes untouched in my current job, and vice-versa. Humans have more potential than can ever be developed in one lifetime; we have an overabundance of gifts.

    I agree with what you say about the workplace, as I think most people would. Much of how we go about work today is dehumanizing. I wrote about this myself a little while ago in a post I think you’d appreciate: It takes a while before I get around to discussing the workplace, but the trouble, as I see it, is rooted in our refusal to recognize time for what it is. Companies try to freeze time, as though it doesn’t happen, and have a proper place for everything with everything in its place. Reality is not so sterile.

    • Hey, thanks for your comments. You write very well and I’ve checked out your blog. Very in depth.

  2. Hey Robin, thanks for checking in. I know a lot of times things go our way the unexpected way. I’ve kinda lost that mojo lately! But, I’m open to everything. My work with the homeless was for fifteen years but goes back to ’98 so I haven’t been in it for a while, but all these things keep popping up recently so I’m trying to discern what to do…it’s amazing how work can really suck your soul dry, certain jobs, and it’s funny that so many people describe it that way, because I think that’s the esence of what I was talking about with work and dignity and so on. A lot of corporations have become totalitarian and fascist in their ways they are sucking the soul of America dry…

  3. I didn’t realize you worked with homeless families Mike – that’s amazing.

    I’ve thought about this a lot myself. I had a horrifying experience a few years ago working as a temp in an Investment bank and it was one of the most soul-sucking jobs I’d ever had. I stayed in that job because I was barely making rent at the time and was scared to death of what would happen if I left. I ended up leaving after I couldn’t take it anymore and was relieved but frightened – what would happen to me? A few weeks later I ended up getting accepted for a job at a place that turned about to pretty awesome and full of wonderful people. Weird…

    Anyway – my point! I hope you find a way to follow your heart’s passion. I know it may sound a little corny, but I truly believe it is possible to attain your dreams – the path just isn’t always what is expected. That’s how it’s been for me anyhow. 🙂

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