Posts Tagged ‘ ability ’

Summer of horrors, or opportunity?

Some dream of high office, few ever attain it.  I can only imagine that one of the first things that anyone would do is sit in that chair behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and just…smile.  If ever there was a time to say, “I’ve arrived,” I think that would be it.  Similarly, whatever desk and whatever office the pope occupies, I would think the man would smile like a Cheshire Cat.

Finally: the opportunity to actually make a difference, to change the world.  Surely, that aspiration would go hand in glove with the pinnacle of power.

So, while the Summer of ’08 would seem to be the summer of horrors for the White House, it is no less than the summer of horrors for the papal palace.  While one occupant is probably sincere, and the other one anything but, both are blowing their opportunity.

It has been debated whether or not we have “free will” – the ability to make truly independent choices.  I won’t discuss that here.  But whether we have unlimited choices, or very limited choices, we still have choices.  Someone in the White House obviously has choices that a coal miner doesn’t.  The Bishop of Rome has choices no one else has.  Windows of opportunity come in sizes.

Next, there would be the ability to act upon the choices we make.  If we can’t act, then they really aren’t choices – at least viable ones.  Without ability, all we have are fantasies.  Again, a topic for another day.  Yes, some do win the lottery, tho for the overwhelming majority of us, the answer to the question of “what would I do if I won the lottery?” is just a fantasy.

You need both: opportunity and ability.

I just don’t understand why it is that two people in the news every day these days are squandering their opportunity.  It is said in jest that promotion requires a lobotomy; that, somehow, while we all start off the same, elevation in power is predicated on becoming more and more forgetful of our roots.  That people at the pinnacle truly forget how they got where they are, and therefore do not truly know where they are.

It is fitting that history judges most harshly those that have forgotten it.

I just finished watching an episode of NCIS where Gibbs switches some evidence.  Gibbs is usually unfailingly honest.  Integrity his highest code.  But in this episode he demonstrates that honor is more important than integrity.  There are other opportunities in the series for him to put integrity first, and he chooses another path (almost always honor).  But he “never” loses sight of the “big picture.”  He knows what he does and why he does it.

Neither Trump nor Francis seem to have a clue why they are doing what they’re doing.  I keep coming back to a book that I read years ago: The March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman.  In it, she picks a few examples of leaders that, had they chosen to do absolutely nothing at all, events would have turned out far different, and probably in their favor.  By being out to lunch, history would have been far kinder, maybe even salutatory.  But, no, they chose to be active in the situation, and all hell broke loose.  Three examples come to mind (it has been years since I read the book): Renaissance Popes, King George and the American Revolution, Vietnam (pick either the French or the Americans, it really doesn’t matter).

Fast forward to the Summer of 2018.  Trump did whatever he could to be elected; it worked.  Since gaining the Oval Office, he has been on a death spiral.  The only question now is whether his four years will end before he’s impeached.  After he’s out, America will breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if we have survived.  Bergoglio got elected pope and has been bouncing around like a pinball.  I don’t believe there is any mechanism to remove him from office, so we are stuck with him for awhile (as long as his health holds out, I suppose; Benedict’s resignation still doesn’t feel right, Francis’ resignation doesn’t seem possible).

Is this the era of the truly stupid leader?  Are these the times for head scratching decision making.  As in, leaders make decisions that the rest of us just wonder at.

My fantasy is that Trump will hit his head on something, rearrange all those megalomaniac brain cells, and move this country forward.  While I agree with Meghan McCain (this country has always been great), we definitely need some direction from that chair in the Oval Office.  My fantasy is that Francis will take responsibility for the predatory priests, instead of facilitating their fantasies.  I don’t know that Trump “must” resign; but I am convinced Bergoglio must.

The rest of us hoi polloi  must do more than tilt at windmills.  In politics, we must become more active and participate.  In the Church, well, we have no idea who the next pope will be, but at the local level, we owe it to the bishops to keep them on track (we don’t vote for them either; but we can close our checkbooks).

Truly, the Summer of ’08 is a summer of horrors.  But, what are we going to do with the opportunity to make this a better world for our children?  As painful as these times are now, to do nothing would be worse, for eternity is a long time.

(Thanks to Georg Weigel and his essay in First Things for “summer of horrors”)

Choice

I could see the next step when I wrote my posting, “Appetite,” but I couldn’t quite make the leap.  Then, my good friend Ben Sirach reminded me that we human beings have the ability – far more than any of our animal colleagues (or avocados) – to make choices.  We have the ABILITY to choose.  All that we lack, most times, is the DESIRE.

We are all familiar w the old (tired and tedious) story of the frog that is placed in a pot on a stove.  If the water is cool and is warmed up gradually, our poor froggy will stay put and let himself be boiled.  If the pot contains boiling water when he’s dropped into it, he will leap out immediately.  There have been several refutations, all of which seem plausible; where the truth lies, I know not (and I will not sacrifice a frog on whimsy).  But, I dare say we humans are that frog in the lukewarm, comfortable water.  I further say that the temp is rising.

No, I don’t mean global warming.  If you live east of the Rocky Mountains, you would be hard pressed to give any credence at all to the notion that temperatures are rising.  I just read an article that the Great Lakes – all of ‘em – are very nearly frozen shore-to-shore; something most people can’t remember ever happening before.  Record cold and snowfall do not seem to be what Al Gore had in mind with his inconvenient truth (at least I don’t see him w a snow shovel).

What I do mean by “the temperature is rising” is more along the lines of “it’s later than you think.”  I am no Paul Revere: I do not much care about trying to wake the populace (I am, of course, referring to the myth we were taught in school, not the reality).  Oh, I do wish values, decision and discipline, rather than gluttony, sloth and debauchery were rampant.  But, I am reminded of Horace Walpole, and would rather laugh than cry (“This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”).  I do pity the frog in the pot, for he doesn’t know any better; but what am I to think about my fellow, sometimes sentient, beings?

Not much, evidently.

I understand that the number of abortions performed in this country is slowly declining; is that good news to Planned Parenthood, or Big Pharm?  Maybe people are finally beginning to understand that abortion is murder and that babies are precious?  You mean we can choose love, and we can choose life?  Won’t find that on the front page of the NYT.  The current Administration (faithful readers will note that it is anathema to me to actually use the name of the current resident of the White House who has the conceit to call himself my president) has deported roughly 2 million illegal immigrants, far more than his predecessor, and at a rate roughly nine times that of 20 years ago.  Wow, now THAT is something to be proud of.

I haven’t yet seen that the UN has sent “peacekeeping troops” to Rome to protect the indigenous peoples from the horrors of the Roman Catholic Church; unlike the countless other countries that are murdering their peoples at a horrific rate (yes, Syria leaps to mind).  Let’s see: the UN pushes abortion on the “developing” countries (mostly Africa, because, well, whites have a very long history of imposing their will on Africa), and then condemns the biggest, oldest church that hasn’t yet morphed itself into pop culture for what, condemning abortion?  Excusify me.

“Real love is an act of the will; a sustained choice that proves itself not just by what we say or feel, but by what we do for the good of others.”

 

Thanks to:

Sirach 15:15-20

“Barak Obama, deporter in chief,” The Economist, 2014 Feb 8

“Deported Mexicans, bordering on cruelty,” The Economist, 2014 Feb 8

“Excusify me, but is ‘refugeed’ a verb?”  By Jeffrey Shaffer   from the September 23, 2005 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0923/p09s03-cojs.html

“A City Upon a Hill: Augustine, John Winthrop and the Soul of the American Experiment Today,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/a-city-upon-a-hill-augustine-john-winthrop-and-the-soul-of-the-american-experiment-today

Revelation 3:15-20