Fr. Joseph Hili

On the 9th of December we will launch Genius Vitae. This is an interdisciplinary research project, the aim of which is to identify, narrate and share stories of organisations from all over the world. As part of my studies in Milan I came to know the Centre for Anthropology of Religion & Cultural Change within the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Being faced with a constant change in our way to live, brought us to ask how human life can be effectively something which teaches us. A new attitude has become a must: to learn on life; to speak from life rather than about life. It is only our dynamic life experience that puts us within in movement, and we cannot reduce it to a simple object to control. We started following several organizations that with their work can teach us something on life. We consider these organizations as catalysts in developing meaningful and sustainable experiences at the two marginalized borderlands of our social life: the borderland of human fragility in its many expressions (poverty, loneliness, exclusion, illness) and the borderland of spirituality and openness to transcendence, also in its many expressions (prayer, contemplation, art).

Some of the keywords that this project will deal with are: Overabundance; Otherness; Transcendence; Fragility, Experience and sharing. Human experience in its dynamicity ways deals with all of this. It requires a constant let go and encountering its limitedness can be closely related to contemplation and openness to infinity. 

An answer to techno-scientific reductionism

The project started some time ago as a modest, but feasible answer to a contemporary global scenario dominated by an ongoing expansion of techno-scientific development. When reflecting about it, we saw that this phenomenon is in danger of reducing human life to a mere controllable and disposable object. On the one hand, it pushes towards an unlimited enhancement of the human, as if humanity itself was only a limit to overcome (“trans-human”); on the other hand, it leaves aside whole segments of humanity, considered as simple waste due to their noncompetitiveness (“in-human”). The starting point, then, is an attempt at rethinking the concreteness of human life, simultaneously made up of overabundance and limits, of fragility and transcendence. Only in this way can human life be once again exposed to that otherness, saving it from being reduced to an object.

One-of-a-kind interdisciplinary research

The name of the project can sound strange, but it has a very profound meaning. The term “Genius Vitae” means that the human being can generate a free and creative answer to all experiences starting with the relationship with the neighbour and with God. Over the centuries, Christian tradition ceaselessly created and developed new social forms able to bring value to all mankind (monasteries, hospitals, schools, communities, enterprises, cooperative banks, etc.). It provided a genuine “geniality” based on the concreteness of human life.

The term “Universitas Experientiae” defines the attempt made to collect and to give value to knowledge generated from concrete experiences. This knowledge cannot be reduced to subjective property or abstract information. For this reason, the project aims to disseminate this widespread knowledge and connect people together, opening the path in the search for common ground (“universal”) and stimulating the birth of new forms of teaching and education (“university”).

A new way to narrate human life

We are going to launch this project so that organisations from all over the world can get to know about it and they can get in contact with us. Genius Vitae is focused on narrating stories of organisations (institutions, associations, foundations, enterprises, etc.) that have experience in the field of human fragility or human spirituality. Some of the stories can already be found on our website: These two borderlands are starting points in increasing our understanding of human life. For us this is the starting point to get to know how, embracing human experience in these moments, can lead us to learn from life and this becomes knowledge to everyone.