Pope Francis surprised the world yesterday by delivering a pre-recorded message to the international TED Conference going on in Vancouver this week. “In this complicated and often confusing world, Pope Francis has become possibly the only moral voice capable of reaching people across boundaries and providing clarity and a compelling message of hope,” said Bruno Giussani, TED’s international curator, who coaxed Francis into participating.
Many thought His Holiness had made his final pronouncement on the digital world last year when he issued an encyclical entitled Laudato Si in which he said all the tweets and selfies the world has come to prize amount to little more than “mental pollution” that distracts us from focusing on what matters most in life. “When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously,” he wrote.
The theme of this year’s TED Conference is “The Future You,” but the Pope used the opportunity to remind people about some of the bedrock principals that have formed the foundation of human society for millennia. His words conveyed three principal messages.
Humanity Is Greater Than A Collection Of Individuals
“First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I’ separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone,” the Pope said.
“People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people.
“And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves ‘respectable,’ of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others. Life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
The Pope had advice for those in leadership positions both in governments and in the corporate world. “Please allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”
The antidote, the Pope suggests, is tenderness. He puts his prescription this way:
“Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted Earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.”
As reported by CNN, the Pope advised that “tenderness isn’t for the weak. It takes spiritual and emotional strength to empathize and act on behalf of the neediest. And alternative, arrogant, and out-of-touch leaders are like falling down drunks who ruin the party for everyone.”
Life Is A Voyage Of Self Discovery
“How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us,” the Pope said. Too often, modern “techno-economic” systems put products ahead of technology. He offered the story of the Good Samaritan as a parable for the modern world.
“People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another ‘you,’ and another ‘you,’ and it turns into an ‘us.’ And so, does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ When there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.”
The Pope’s Message For Today
Pope Francis’ remarks appear relevant to many segments of life today. Rather than me suggesting how his remarks might apply to globalization, politics, and the environment, this is your opportunity to share your thoughts with others. A complete transcript of his remarks is available at the TED website and the entire speech, with English subtitles, is available on YouTube (see below). Please share your assessment of the Pope’s message in the comments section.
Full disclosure: I am not a Catholic, I have never been a Catholic, nor have I ever played a Catholic on TV. However, I do think Pope Francis is one of the most magnificent people alive today and I have nothing but admiration for him. His viewpoint is congruent with my own belief that the “profits over people” ethos rampant today is corrosive to a civil society and a functioning civil society is critical to solving the scourge of climate change. You go, Pope Frank!
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