February 21, 2007


Caption: Goats are the ultimate pragmatists.

Today is Ash Wednesday and El Cabrero will get his annual dose of cranial carbon if all goes according to plan.

In a couple previous Lents, I actually gave up beer and wine for all 40 days (46 if you count the weekends, as I found out to my dismay) until I discovered that this caused me to lose all interest in religion...

I'm thinking about giving up something I don't do. Maybe something like mime, mud wrestling or pursuing an interest in accounting. But then you never know when the urge to mud wrestle will strike.


This blog has several patron saints. Among them are Aristotle, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Montaigne, Albert Camus, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Walter Reuther and psychologist, philosopher and pragmatist William James. (This list is not conclusive.) If there's a common thread, none of them were fanatics.

If you haven't read it (or even if you have), James' Varieties of Religious Experience is well worth the effort. The same is true of his Pragmatism
and many of his essays.

Here's a take home message from his essay "The Will to Believe:" faith can create facts. Let me explain. At times, the belief that something can be done, whether it's climbing Everest or challenging an unjust law, can lead us to try things that can succeed against all odds. In other words, that kind of faith can change and create reality.

El Cabrero was again reminded of James by a review of the book William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Jackson Lears in The Nation.

Here's a quote from James that rings true to me:

If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight--as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulnesses, are needed to redeem.

So again and again and again, let us fight the good fight.

SPEAKING OF REAL FIGHTS, here's a little more about the effort to get the legislature of El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia to pass a resolution opposing escalation of the war in Iraq.



Anonymous said...

I notice that you have no women "patron saints". An anarchist to be sure but good with analysis as well as action in behalf of humanity. She's just one who comes to mind right away.
Sr. Gretchen

Anonymous said...

It appears I was suggesting myself because I mistakenly left out the name of the woman I was suggesting. It is Dorothy Day. I must learn to reread what I write!
Sr. G

El Cabrero said...

Hey Gretchen,
Feel no fret. I'm planning a separate post on female patron saints (with Emily Dickinson at or near the top of the list). Dorothy is OK too!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I have always told my parishioners that Lent is not a time to give up anything but a season to add things to one's life: repentance, fasting, prayer, study, and works of love.

I read James' Varieties of Religious Experience many years ago. I now feel the urge to re-read it.

El Cabrero said...

That's good Lenten advice. I think I'm about to dust off Varieties again when I finish another book or two.