Sunday, March 3, 2013

Having a Future

Making fun of old aphorisms like this has been popular:
"Honesty's the best policy."
("Don Quixote de la Mancha," Miguel de Cervantes (1605-1615); via Bartlett's "Familiar Quotations," 16th edition)
I've done it myself, sometimes bitterly.

Some well-known one-liners aren't true. Others, like that quote from "Don Quixote," are true: but require patience.

Frustration and a Fruit

Sometimes the crisis du jour is personal: trouble with the boss, spouse, friends. Sometimes it's bigger: laws that don't make sense, laws that do make sense but aren't enforced, or economic woes.

In my youth, I wanted to see problems fixed: fast. I still do. But I've learned that patience is valuable.

I'd say 'patience is a virtue,' but technically it's a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and that's another topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1832)

'Life isn't Fair?'

It's easy to feel that life isn't fair: that folks who do wrong are rewarded, while those who try to do right are punished.

In the short run, that happens: not always, but it does happen.

In the long run, I've noticed this bit from Psalms play out, all too often:
"Of David. 1 Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

"Like grass they wither quickly; like green plants they wilt away.

"2 Trust in the LORD and do good that you may dwell in the land and live secure."

"I have seen ruthless scoundrels, strong as flourishing cedars.

"When I passed by again, they were gone; though I searched, they could not be found.

"Observe the honest, mark the upright; those at peace with God have a future."
(Psalms 37:1-3, 35-37)

Death and Memories

When I was young, a classmate's actions occasionally made my school experiences unpleasant.

At the time, I felt rage at the perceived injustices. I eventually took Luke 18:9-14 to heart, and began fighting the urge to be be 'convinced of my own righteousness.'1

Decades later, I read the classmate's obituary. It mentioned little more than his name, and when he died. I encountered a vague rumor that his death was drug-related.

I could indulge in self-satisfied rejoicing that I outlived him: but I don't.

I grieve at his death, and the choices that may have led to it. Human life, all human life, is sacred; and that's yet another topic. (Catechism, 2258)

Another person, someone very close to me, committed suicide. This troubles me more than the school bully: partly because the emotional bond was stronger; partly because I've had the same urge. Fairly often. Still more topics.2

Cackling, Matthew, and Me

I've never actually heard someone cackling maniacally while gloating over the eternal torment of 'those sinners over there.' On the other hand, I recall hearing enthusiastic discussions of passages like Revelation 14:11.

Gleeful contemplation of eternal torment for others encouraged me to learn about religion, history, and abnormal psychology. Many years later, I became a Catholic, and that's - another topic, of course.

I've felt outrage when wrong behavior didn't result in immediate punishment: or, worse, was rewarded. But I've also read that parable about wheat and weeds. (Matthew 13:24-30) There's that Matthew 7:1-2 thing about judging others, too. I really don't need that sort of trouble.

Taking "stop judging, that you may not be judged" to heart isn't the same as pretending that whatever folks do is okay. It's okay to judge actions. But we are supposed to leave judgment of the person who committed the act to God. (Catechism, 1861)

I'm quite willing to keep working on my flaws, help deal with problems when I can, and let God take care of long-term consequences. As I've said before, 'God's God, I'm not:' and I like it that way.

Related posts:
A tip of the hat to Fr. Cory Sticha and owen swain, on Google+, for the heads-up on ibreviary.com: where I found those verses from Psalms 37.

1 Role models, good and otherwise:
"He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

" 'Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

"The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous - or even like this tax collector.

"I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income."

"But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner."

" tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.' "
(Luke 18:9-14)
2 The Catholic Church says that suicide is wrong, but that we "...should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives...." (Catechism, 2280-2283)

I've had up-close-and-personal experience with suicide and mental illness:
Background:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Funny thing, or not depending on your point of view and the exact definition of "funny" that you use, I've never contemplated suicide. I've wanted to disappear or runaway, but that's not the same thing. Dying just seemed way too painful and permanent.

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

It's impressive, how dependent the meaning of words can depend on context: which is a reason I think we're a long way from AI that can handle natural language, which is another topic. Topics.

It's the "permanent" thing that helped me decide that, on the whole, living was better than the alternative. There just doesn't seem to be much of a future in suicide. Good grief: more topics.

In my case, being (firm minded/stubborn/mule headed) has been something of a mixed blessing. Harnessing that, and other qualities, is an ongoing challenge.

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