Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Our Gifts Shape Us

The Psalmist remembers how short life is.  “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Ps. 144:3).  The Lord says that his spirit shall not always strive with us.  God gives riches and wealth, “hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19).

A Pakistani novelist Moshin Hamid (b. 1971) said, “I take six or seven years to write really small books.  There is a kind of aesthetic of leanness, of brevity.”  Some might think that something is wrong with brevity and look for expanded versions of publications.  They could be right when it comes to writing, but with life it’s different.  The gifts of some short lives are filled with glorious moments, while those of longer souls might not.  It has to do with the God-given talents with which we are blessed.  Many saints have died quite young.

Amazing Gifts

Amazing gifts come from the hands of the Lord.  St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), a Spanish knight and priest wrote, “Realize that illness and other temporal setbacks often come to us from the hand of God our Lord, and are sent to help us know ourselves better, to free ourselves of the love of created things, and to reflect on the brevity of this life and, thus, to prepare ourselves for the life which is without end.”  In spite of suffering this is the preparation which leads to victory.

It’s often better to come to the point than to beat around the bush.  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC–43 BC), a Roman philosopher and political theorist agreed, “Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.”  Hosea Ballou (1771–1852), an Universalist clergyman and theological writer supported this concept, but added, “Brevity and conciseness are the parents of correction.”  That’s why the minutes of meetings are focused on essentials and summarized for easy comprehension. 

People & Simplicity

It’s clear that many people appreciate simplicity in life.  Confucius (551 BC– 497 BC), a Chinese teacher and philosopher remarked, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Do you view life this way?  Are you willing to take it as it is?  Do you ask questions about it?  Some feel living by the Golden Rule is good enough, while others believe it’s better to live according to the Ten Commandments.


But why do we follow rules?  We dwell on the past and wonder about the future.  Buddha (563 or 480 BC– 483 or 400 BC), an Indian sage and founder of Buddhism, advised, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”  Buddha preferred living in the present.  But can we?  Many prefer reflecting on past experiences and wondering about the future.  An Italian poet, novelist, and literary critic Cesare Pavese (1908–1950) was sure: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  Does such a statement say something about what matters most?  Often, we often recall good and bad moments in our lives.  These gifts shape us, but living in the present evades us.  

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