Father Hugo Tagle

Father Hugo Tagle

Elon Musk sent an email to the workers of his company Tesla in which he requires them to return to face-to-face work or leave the company. Apparently not everyone likes this remote working thing. What seemed like a trend to stay, already presents difficulties. “I want to see you in the office”, is the motto.

By force, and perhaps one of the most visible blows of these pandemic years, has been the notable improvement in virtual communication channels, versatility and speed that allow greater labor flexibility and, where possible, remote work.

“The “other” is not a diffuse being, less virtual, but a concrete reality, with whom I live, move and breathe “the same air”.

But not everything is color of roses. Virtual communication has eroded the sense of belonging and prevented an even greater fluidity in reflections, discussions and exchange of information that, apparently, only face-to-face allows. We live the paradox that we communicate more, but we meet less; we regularly interact with people thousands of miles away and we don’t know the neighbor. We have more points in common with people who live in other parts of the world and little or nothing to talk about with those who live a few blocks away or work in the neighboring office.

A feeling of almost disregarding the other is incubated and, worse, the feeling that the person next to me is a hindrance is fed.

The Christian view walks in the opposite direction. The “neighbor-next” is the real, current and close. The “other” is not a diffuse being, less virtual, but a concrete reality, with whom I live, move and breathe “the same air”.

Why is the feeling of real belonging so important? We are beings embodied in a space and time. That leads us to like being part of “something” in the middle of a whole. From a house, neighborhood, parish, chapel, company, school. This “being part” can take place on a virtual level, such as social networks or through the ownership of a card, code or brand. But, being “in situ”, seeing the counterpart and feeling their physical presence, is irreplaceable. It invigorates and revitalizes us.

With teleworking, spontaneous, “corridor” communication is lost. It will be a challenge to improve the quality of real meetings, which really contribute, are fruitful and productive, promoting fluid and frank communication. The question of “who am I next to” takes on new importance today.

Perhaps many forms of development emigrate definitively to the virtual field: education, culture, science. Even so, large universities continue to build classrooms and libraries. Personal contact will never die. Once again, Musk is visionary.

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