Yesterday Pope Francis sent out a tweet suggesting a correlation between self-centeredness and the quest for profit (a tweet that gained him 81,000 followers in one hour, by the way). It read: “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centered mindset bent on profit at any cost.” The kind of denial necessary to make profit at the expense of those who contributed to this “making” in the first place is the same as the denial of one’s dependency on others that defines self-centeredness.
Self-centeredness is based on the illusion that one’s self is the source and goal of one’s own life, a life which is at the same time more important than that of others. This illusion masks the truth that dependency resides at the very heart of reality itself. After all, we are not the source of our own life; that source lies outside of us in God. We are not our own ultimate reality; we are not the fullness of our own life and existence. Rather, God is ultimate reality and the fullness of life, God is existence itself, and it is God who has graciously given us a non-ultimate and limited share in that fullness. We are entirely dependent upon God not only for bringing us into existence, for giving us the kind of active “hereness” or “presentness” by which we stand out from nothingness, but also for continuing to sustain us in the here and now of our lives. If God ceased to creatively bear us up beyond nothingness, we would simply cease to be. As for us, so for all created things; the entire world of our experience is dependent upon one source for the very action of its existence by which there is any action at all.
In this way then, we and everything in the world of our experience are related. We are sister and brother creatures related in our dependence upon God for our very existence. For human beings, this relationship can come to a conscious awareness. We can understand that God did not simply share the fullness of existence with one creature, but rather created many kinds of things that in one way or another mirror their source in the mind of the divine artist. The human form of that mirroring is our very ability to understand the generosity of the one who conceived reality itself, the freedom to live into the fullness of that mirroring through our own (gifted) capacity for sharing out of our limited abundance. In other words, as human beings we are given the gift of being able to become more and more like God. We become like God as we share from whatever fullness we have just as God has shared with us out of God’s fullness by giving us a part in existence and a world in which to live.
Unlike God, however, our fullness is not something we simply have. Instead, our fullness – whether that of material goods, experience, maturity, love, etc., – is from the start dependent upon the God who created us and upon those others (who are also dependent on the creator) with and through whom we were cared for and nurtured as children, or who harvest our food (also a creation), or who educated us, built the homes we live in, clean offices, streets, sidewalks, and other public places, who…
Profit at any cost is thus anti-life. To pursue profit at any cost is to become unlike God. To deny my dependency on God and others by not sharing out of the fullness of what I did not create on my own in the first place is to deny the very purpose for which God gifted the human being with life, a purpose most fully revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, to give oneself to the world in the freedom that comes from conscious and prayerful submission to our total and utter dependence on God.