“El Empleo” (The Employment) is an animated short that has been winning awards at film festivals around the world since it’s released in 2008. With over 2.5 million YouTube views, director Santiago Bou Grasso is reaching many with his depiction of the working world.
Grasso takes us through the mundane daily routine of a working man. The creative twist is that normal everyday “jobs” that in reality are performed by non-living objects are done in Grasso’s short by people.
Although it is an exaggerationn in one sense, the image is perhaps much more true than we realize. The reality of economic slavery and servitude is all too real. There is a bit of a drab atmosphere lacking in vibrant color, joy, and human interaction. For six minutes the viewer is a part of this man’s world in which he appears to have a job of some importance due to the fact that all of the other people are working for him. When he finally arrives to work, we see his job is as a doormat for another person.
After watching this portrayal, there are a few ways that you could use the video. In the first place, the work situation of hundreds of thousands of people is simply unacceptable. Pope Francis has spoken often of the dignity of the human person and the importance of a worthy economic and laboral system: “Those of us who have been blessed with economic sucess and comfort, must ask ourselves if and how our lifestyles submit others to such misery”.
Here, however, I would like to focus on a few questions that came to mind while watching it. What is my purpose? Who am I working for? What is the point of all this?
These are the questions man has been asking for ages. Though Grasso captured this in a creative and animated way, the themes that lay the foundation for the creativity are nothing new. King Solomon voiced the same message in the book of Ecclesiastes much before the time of Grasso. “ So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-18, NIV)
The lack of joy and fulfillment when we we are working for “The Man” is clear in both the depiction in “El Empleo” and the book of Ecclesiastes. There is no meaning to be found in the meaningless tasks that we perform day after day after day. Unless… Unless we begin to find the Meaning behind it all.
The Meaning. The Purpose. The Reason. Blow the dust off an old Baltimore Catechism to find the answer – “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” If we are serving “the Man” in our vocations, than we are missing out on serving The Lord. We will never find true happiness until we begin to unite our vocation with the goal of working for and serving God. God made me for a relationship with Him and He made all other things in order to get me to Him. It doesn’t matter what your job is, when you do it for God it will have great purpose in leading you to a life with Him. Many fruits come when we align our jobs as a way to serve and love God. We will grow in our own holiness and we lead others to Him through our example.
Numbers 210-213, 2427 of the Catechism are highly reccomended!
King Solomon and Saints throughout history have discovered these truths. They lived their lives knowing that what the world claims to be fulfilling leaves us unfulfilled. St.Therese, with her Little Way of making all trivial tasks an opportunity to praise and love God greatly, showed us that simply doing the dishes well can lead to our holiness. Mother Theresa tells us “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Reminding us that even if we are CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, or Presidents, it will have no significance in God’s kingdom if we have not done it for the God’s glory.
If you continue to watch “El Empleo” through the credits, you might catch a glimpse that Grasso has also reached frustration with the way the world is living out their vocations. Following the credits, the lampshade man throws down his lampshade and walks away in disgust. Can you walk away from what the world has to offer and embrace what the Lord has planned for your profession?
Our lives will not be bland and boring when we make the choice to love and serve God through our vocation. God did not give us a world as seen in “El Empleo” – meaningless, empty, routine. If you are just trying to “make it through the day”, you are missing the point and the reason we are here. Begin today to make God a part of your ordinary day. Start with prayer. Continue with prayer. End with prayer. Ask Him and invite Him to inspire you in the daily commute and the daily grind. Look for Him in the faces of others. Listen for Him in His Word. Be prepared to move from monotonous duty to an all consuming passion in your career.