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RISK of EDUCATION: Life on the Line

After he joins the Risk of Education work, Mark discovers that he has been invited to more than just a book study.


Mark and the Ann Arbor Community

When I first saw that a group of people would be working on the Risk of Education, I ignored the email without a second thought. After all, I’m a young adult with no children. I do largely solitary scientific research for a living, and I don’t have any formal role as an educator. I remember thinking, That’s a great idea, I’m sure it will be very helpful for all of the teachers and parents. But when my friend, one of the organizers, invited me to participate, I reconsidered, put the calls on my calendar, and started to read the book. 


What has unfolded from this unknowing acceptance has been totally unexpected. The contributions to the Google Doc leading up to the first meeting were an invitation to much more than I was doing. There I read the witnesses of people putting their entire lives on the line, judging everything in an unrelenting search for the truth, with the help of the text. It wasn’t people reading a book and talking about it; it was a new life.

Contributions were coming from all over the country showing how daily life could be the authentic search for “the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, the meaning of everything.” No aspect of life was spared from this search, accompanied by the text and each other. Seeing this put me on the spot: do I want to go on reading the chapters and picking out the sentences I agree or disagree with, or do I want my whole life to be like theirs? As Giussani says in the preface, “What faith proposes, therefore, is transformation of life,” and, “Life is today.” 


There was no miraculous improvement in the circumstances of my life, and yet many things have been made new. Reading the contributions of people I’ve never met opened me up to my own life and made me more aware that I belong to the people of God in the world. New friendships were born, and old friendships became more intense as we lived the content of the Risk of Education seriously together. In short, it was the lived experience of fraternity, which I now recognize more clearly than before. It bore many tangible fruits, like working more attentively and joyfully, or discovering a depth of prayer I always thought wasn’t for me.


But the biggest change that remains is in my awareness of belonging to something real. As Giussani says in the “Introductory Thoughts,” “The place we have been describing—made up of people and things—must be built. The walls of this place are made up of fraternity, . . . reciprocal affection.” It was the opportunity to discover a place where I can risk to verify an always-growing hypothesis for life and begin to look at the meaning of everything, even the smallest details. 


Participating in the Risk of Education study group was the chance to see these words on a page become a lived experience. Life—not a way of talking about life, but life itself—can be something more. 


Mark, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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