October 12, 2012

Various & Sundry

Interesting that I'm reading about Abraham Lincoln's father while a relative's financial problems continue. Thomas Lincoln was poor and always on the edge of bankruptcy mainly due to poor choices and laziness. (For example, Thomas picked about the worst farm land he could.) Lincoln's father always needed money and never changed or was able to change, and there's a lesson in that. Some people are going to live close to the edge and it's tricky to figure out how not to enable bad behavior while being compassionate. And to not become emotionally invested in trying to change them.  Some people can't handle money, which seems infinitely puzzling to people who can, but I suspect it's like that whenever we encounter someone different from us, whether for better or for worse. A recipe for frustration is to try to influence financial choices. People are pretty married to their monetary habits. Perhaps part of the problem is the heretical 'health and wealth' view of Christianity. I don't think one can pray your way out of debt. God seems pretty big on letting us figure things out on our own, and to let us make a lot of mistakes. Lord knows I have and do.

*

Related, from Chabon's "Telegraph Avenue": 

He absorbed from his poor black and Latino clients powerful notions of the sovereignty of bad luck and death. He had suffered no ill fortune throughout the length of a tranquil, comfortable, and fulfilling life and so at any moment anticipated—even felt that he deserved—the swift equalizing backhand of universal misfortune.

*

Picked up "Arguably", a big collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens. The $9.99 e-book price seems a steal given the immense book and the undeniable erudition of the late author. (By the way, I learned recently that Fr. Barron is a fan of Hitchens, though obviously not of his atheism.) I gobbled up essays about Ben Franklin, John Brown and Abe Lincoln. Learned much, and Hitchens pointed me to a two-volume Lincoln biography that I'd love to have if money was no object (it's a ridiculously pricey $74 even on Kindle!). Lincoln had an admixture of doubt and faith to make him more interesting in some ways (to me) than saints and pagans.

*

There's certainly no substitute for looking upon the Cross and trusting that that's how much He loves us. That is the answer to all frets, fears and accusations. That alone, in one act, can solve the questions and silence the inner critic. If I think about the ways God seems absent in the world that is of no use. Instead I should ponder all the ways He seems present - i.e. in the beauty of sunshine and trees, in the astonishing sweep of mountains and sea, in the saints. God seems present to me most obviously in the Cross and Eucharist, the saints, and nature. Nature, because how come beauty exists if God doesn't care or sweat the details? The saints because they are so certain of God's love that they are able to do seemingly impossible things like love their neighbor and levitate. The Cross and Eucharist because on the Cross God chose to pin himself there for our sake then, and the Eucharist because that is where God chooses to pin himself for our sake now.  Year of Faith indeed. Thank you Holy Father.

*

A couple lines from Chesterton, the prophet of joy and gratitude:
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?


*

Wherever there are happy men
they will build beautiful things.

No comments: