By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

In Spite of Everything: Happy Thanksgiving

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...
New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (Your blogger's favorite church in New Orleans on Rampart St.)
Yes, happy feast of thanksgiving, one of the great and truly sane moments in our American culture. And I give those greetings in spite of:

1.) frustrated individuals who will celebrate this feast hypocritically by harassing and baiting others this day, although it should be a time of tranquility for all; and

2.) the bourgeois smugness and self-satisfaction that in many settings detracts from sincere gratitude.

In spite of that, we will especially live today in a gracious, thankful manner: affirming that, in spite of all of the above and in spite of many other things, we will be full of grace.

One of the great and powerful keys to effective daily living is the great "in spite of": use it often today and every day so that the agenda of gratitude always wins.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Cup Overflows

In a world full of complaints and criticisms and invective, let me confess that my own cup overflows. I can testify to an experience of overflowing life. I am sure many others can do the same.

So in a world where the negative is so emphasized, there are other facts on the ground: some of us are actually joyful. Does that mean we do not have doubts? Does that mean we do not have our share of frustrations? Or even our moments of anger at injustices? Of course not, but, to recall FDR, the trend line is heading upward and that is my own overall mood through the years.

As I said before, others have the same positive experience. To what is it due? Theologically, it is the life of God in us--yet not because we are better than anyone else. The opposite is more likely in my own case. My own situation seems due to the combination of an outlook of trust and of temperament (some of us are just predisposed to be happy).

If you do not have this experience, then try the path of faith. If your temperament blocks you, then associate with those having a sunny temperament and avoid those with negative temperaments until their negativity bounces off your contentment.

Postscript from FDR's Fourth Inaugural Address (Jan. 20, 1945):

I remember that my old schoolmaster, Dr. Peabody, said, in days that seemed to us then to be secure and untroubled: "Things in life will not always run smoothly. Sometimes we will be rising toward the heights—then all will seem to reverse itself and start downward. The great fact to remember is that the trend of civilization itself is forever upward; that a line drawn through the middle of the peaks and the valleys of the centuries always has an upward trend."

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Many Antichrists

Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the Americ...
Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (Photo credit: elycefeliz)
The New Testament tells us that there are many antichrists, not just one (1 John 2:18). In the recent election, one of the vice-presidential candidates was known for his being enamored of the pseudo-philosopher and pseudo-intellectual Ayn Rand who told us that selfishness is a virtue. She was one of the antichrists. (Yet, the same candidate presented himself as a spokesman for Judeo-Christian values.)

The antichrists also appear in the personal lives of many people in the form of abusers of various kinds. These abusers of all stripes are the people who undermine the faith, hope, and charity of others.

So, in the world, we will have much evil and many antichrists. We must be vigilant to spot them and to make sure that we have the common sense to reject them. While many are looking for the appearance of the ultimate Antichrist, they are at the same time overlooking the many smaller but dangerous antichrists who lurk all around us in outwardly seductive forms.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Re-Igniting the Great Texts

English: Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo
English: Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Familiar texts, like familiar people, become boring to us. There are no more surprises. The problem lies not so much in the texts or in the people but rather in us--if the texts and people are indeed truly great texts and individuals (but, yes, there are admittedly some just plain mediocre texts and people and some of these mediocrities even have high and mighty credentials and reputations).

So, dramatists struggle to make the familiar, archaic texts of Shakespeare appealing to new audiences. So even the Bible must be presented anew to overcome the sluggishness of  our overfamiliarity. Clarence Jordan, a nineteen sixties Southerner, a Christian, and an inspiration for Habitat for Humanity, did just this refreshing of the Bible in his Cotton Patch translations of most of the New Testament.

Here is his take on the famous passage in Matthew 19 in which Jesus observes the problem faced by the rich young man who did not want to sell his possessions:

"If you want to be a mature man, " Jesus said, "go, sell your stuff, give it to the poor--you will be spiritually rich--and then come share my life." When the young fellow heard that bit, he walked away crying, because he had quite a pile. Jesus said to his students, "I'm telling you a fact: a rich man finds it extremely difficult to come into the God Movement. I say it again, a pig can go through a knothole easier than a rich man can get into the God Movement."

Jordan, Cotton Patch Gospel of Matthew.

Note that Jordan called the "kingdom of God" the "God Movement" because he felt that the concept of a kingdom did not resonate with modern Americans. Now, there is no perfection in Jordan's work (in fact, there is no perfection anywhere this side of heaven). But at least he was trying to do what is continually needed--to rekindle a great text and a great message for the sluggish, distracted, superficial, and confused lot we all are.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Way to Lose

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If many black and Hispanic voters view your party as unwelcoming and even racist to some extent, surprise of suprises: you are likely going to lose their votes by massive proportions. (It seems from the data that Asian voters may be similar to black and Hispanic voters in this regard.) If voters feel under personal attack by the rhetoric of extremists, then those voters are going to turn out and turn you down. See this column today on why it is important that one of our major parties make the transition from being the "Tone-Deaf Party"  to being again the party of Lincoln.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Intelligence That Counts the Most

English: Book Cover
English: Book Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Columnist David Brooks has a nice column on emotional intelligence today at this link.

Now this topic does really interest me. When I myself look at people, I judge their intelligence more by temperament than by discrete skills. I find people with well-developed emotional temperaments to be more creative, more insightful, and wiser.

Most important of all, I find it a pleasure to be around them.

There is something intangible about intuition and its emotional aspects that goes to the core of insight into human situations and problems. I guess that is what generations have called practical wisdom or prudence.

This ability reminds me of what Catholic religious writers call "the ability to read souls" (whether we view it in a particular case as natural or supernatural in origin or both--in all forms and varieties, it's still a gift from God). It's an extremely valuable ability that enables us to avoid bad people, wasteful conflict, and notice the people we should really get to know and with whom we should spend our time. I can imagine this ability is also very helpful in business and politics. I think, for example, that FDR had it.

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