The 14th century was a time of great suffering. The Hundred Years' War between England and France ravaged both countries and provided a tremendous sense of instability to the whole of Europe. Strange weather patterns led to crop devastation which, in turn, led to widespread famine in some parts of the continent. Many believe the famine so weakened the constitution of Europeans that, when the Black Death arrived, their bodies stood little chance of fighting it off.
William McRaven devoted thirty-seven years of his life to the U.S. Navy. He served as a SEAL, rising to become a team commander and, eventually, a four-star admiral. Near the end of his career McRaven was Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He was actively involved in some of the most precarious missions in the War on Terror, including the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
First, living by faith does not mean ignoring your fears or anxieties. It helps to remember that we are complex beings with feelings and thoughts at multiple levels all at the same time. If your body wants to eat candy but your will wants to lose weight, neither choice would be made by somebody other than you. You are not your more authentic self if you give in to a temptation, but you also don't become somebody else.
If you live by faith and there is change and decay and chaos all around you, you should not be surprised if your body and soul feel anxious.
When I was a child, I thought like a child, and since my mother recognized that she read to me from books that did not condescend to me. In my memory, she read to the four boys who were her sons almost every day, usually from the book of Proverbs.
Since it is my memory we are using to remember this, it probably happened a lot less than I remember it, but it happened enough that I do remember it, and I remember it as a defining activity of my childhood.
Day after day, she would read the words of Solomon:
The “must-read” list, like the making of books, never ends. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius hardly stands as a newcomer to that list, yet its place has been often overlooked. The Meditations is a classic work of wisdom literature, providing inspiration and endless fodder for reflection and conversation.
Here are a few ideas. Let me know if they help or distract you:
First, you must lower your standards. It is not possible to achieve as much as you could with an easy book when it comes to scoring well on a test or developing the bad reading habits that endeavor forms in you if you want to read something more challenging. You won't remember as much. You won't understand as much. You won't be able to imitate as easily.
But you'll remember more that is worth remembering, you'll understand life and yourself better, and you'll be more humble before the masters.
This post has been edited (January 4, 2020) to include a link to a podcast for those reading along.
Thanksgiving Day joins together friends and family to feast, laugh, and reflect upon the innumerable blessings of God upon each of us; some of the most important ones gathered around the table. And, while for too many, Thanksgiving has morphed into “Turkey Day” – a day to eat too much, fall asleep watching football games they don’t care about, and plan Black Friday shopping – the intentional act of giving thanks is important.
If you have attended a CiRCE conference the odds are pretty good that you have prayed a prayer with us that includes the words: "teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all."
When I say these words, I am usually asking with in interesting attitude of expectation: I expect something terrible to happen today so I am asking God to teach me to accept it with "peace of soul and firm conviction" because it's going to be hard to take.
Imagine being inspired to read Plato's dialogues by first reading the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill--yes, that John Stuart Mill, the naturalist and utilitarian. That is precisely what happened to Mortimer Adler.