The Samuel Johnson
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April 10, 2005:
Life is not long, and too much of it should not be spent in idle deliberation how it shall be spent: deliberation, which those who begin it by prudence, and continue it with subtilty, must, after long expence of thought, conclude by chance. To prefer one future mode of life to another, upon just reasons, requires faculties which it has not pleased our Creator to give us.
— Samuel Johnson (quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson)
Much of what you find in Johnson's writings has to do with people spending too much time in useless deliberation. There is an essay about a couple who have temporarily moved to London but cannot choose an adequate apartment and thus wind up spending their time under another's roof; there are descriptions of the idle rich who cannot settle on an employment of their time; there is Rasselas, who seems to spend years working up the gumption to leave the Happy Valley. (And of course, if you've read Rasselas, you know about the ultimate conclusion that choosing how to spend your temporal life is not nearly so important as focusing on how you'll spend eternity.)
We were talking about real estate last night with friends, and I heard a story about someone who had sold their home at a tidy profit, yet didn't immediately buy a new one, apparently due to a reluctance to commit. Over time, real estate prices have risen (decreasing the buying power of their tidy profit) and their savings have diminished due to needing to pay rent in a temporary home.
Indecision sometimes has costs because time may add constraints. I don't blame the Democrats for not putting forth a "plan" to "fix" Social Security: the President raised the issue, but admits that he has put forth no plan himself, and that the ideas he's broached for private accounts don't fix Social Security's problems. But it would be nice if the Democrats at least announced that they were examining the issue and what it might take; that, at least, would demonstrate progress towards a decision. The Democrats may well come out of a detailed examination with a cogent argument that the problem is not as bad as has been claimed by those touting reform, that there will be a rough spot, but that after that it should be smooth sailing. So far they haven't acted progressive enough for my tastes. Right now, all arms are crossed, playing a game of "you go first."
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April 3, 2005:
No sooner do we, in compliance either with the vanities, or the business of life, relax our attention to the doctrines of piety, than we grow cold and indifferent, dilatory and negligent. When we are again called to our duty, we find our minds entangled with a thousand objections; we are ready to plead every avocation, however trifling, as an exemption from the necessity of holy practices; and, because we readily satisfy ourselves with our excuses, we are willing to imagine that we shall satisfy God, the God of infinite holiness and justice, who sees the most secret motions of our minds, who penetrates through all our hypocrisy, and upon whom disinclination can be never imposed for inability.
— Samuel Johnson: Sermon 19
There are many reasons to mourn the Pope's passing, all rooted in a celebration of what he brought to us in his life. I am no longer a Catholic, and left the Church before his tenure began, so I know that my exit had nothing to do with him. But as an ex-Catholic, I continued watching the Church (perhaps this is what a friend of mine once meant when she said that being an ex-Catholic is kind of like being an ex-Black).
For instance, I know that one aspect of the Pope which irritated many Catholics in America was his steadfast adherence and re-affirmation of core beliefs and practices (priest can't marry, practicing homosexuality is wrong, and so on). I think it's an insult to refer to Catholics who disagree with specific aspects of their religion's doctrines as "Cafeteria Catholics," because it suggests a whimsy to their beliefs, as if it really is as light a decision as choosing between fries and mashed potatoes.
I also know that this part of the Pope's story is receiving attention. I question, however, whether or not it should be looked at as a negative: I believe that the Pope was a bulwark against the erosion of values. I don't believe it's necessarily honorable if the Catholic Church keeps pace with the times; the times are not a yardstick when it comes to virtue, not now, not ever, and hopefully never.
Yes, I disagreed with the Pope on these issues, but I think it honorable that he was rigid in his faith, and true to his beliefs.
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