To Be What I Already Am

A 7 Quick Takes post, hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler at her Conversion Diary blog.


“Brilliant and gorgeous day, bright sun, breeze making all the leaves and high brown grass shine. Singing of the wind in the cedars. Exultant day, in which a puddle in the pig lot shines like precious silver. Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself—and, if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”

That from Thomas Merton’s Journals provides an apt description of the outcome of the poll I posted last week, “be what I already am.”  It was, in fact, 2 to 1 (2 votes for no change, 1 vote for name change).  I think it’s for the best.


I believe M. Montaigne would also agree with the idea of accepting one’s current situation and one’s limitations in writing:

“There is nothing so contrary to my style, as a continued narrative, I so often interrupt and cut myself short in my writing for want of breath; I have neither composition nor explanation worth anything, and am ignorant, beyond a child, of the phrases and even the very words proper to express the most common things; and for that reason it is, that I have undertaken to say only what I can say, and have accommodated my subject to my strength.”


Speaking of “want of breath,” many years ago, hell, many decades ago, when I school, I played the clarinet.  I got quite good at it, if I do say so myself, and played in the school band and orchestra, and was even selected for the district band.  Eventually, early in high school, I dropped the thing completely and never looked back. I can’t tell you why and I’ve always wished I hadn’t.  For the last year or so, since retirement, I’ve had an itch to try to begin playing again.  Last week, I rented an instrument, got a basic instruction book, and am trying to arrange to take some lessons.  My own early efforts, though, are eye-opening; the ol’ licorice stick is much harder to play than I remembered.  When I first tried to play a note, nothing at all came out; I was astonished.  And when I finally did get where I could play a note or two, the sound was hardly Benny Goodman like.  So far, a humbling experience, but I will press on for a while and see how it goes.


ImageThe Air Force Academy graduation ceremony was on Wednesday, and this year we once again have the Thunderbirds in town for the traditional air show immediately after conclusion of the ceremony.  They didn’t perform last year due to the sequestration budget cuts, remember those?  And, once again, we had them fly over our house during practice runs on Monday and Tuesday.  It’s devilishly hard to get pictures of an F-16, flying at maybe 200 feet, or less, off the ground and doing perhaps 300 mph from the back deck, but here’s a shot I got of one of the “solos” on Monday.  Did I mention how loud they are?


One of the really great things about being Catholic is you have such a rich tradition of very good writing and good thinking to fall back on.  I can think of St. Augustine, St. Benedict, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Pope Benedict XVI, the list is endless.  I’ve been strongly tempted to do one of these 7 Quick Takes posts consisting only of quotes from Catholic thinkers and writers over the centuries.  Maybe I will within the next month or so.  You’ve been warned.


Fr. Schall had another really good column on the Catholic Thing website  this week.  He was pointing out the near universal misunderstanding of Pope Francis’ comment, “Who am I to judge?”, given on the plane trip back from Rio last year.  Fr. Schall writes,

“Pope Francis’s question occurred in and interview as he was returning from  World Youth Day in Rio. The pope referred to a gay person who ‘is searching for the Lord and has good will.’ In that context, one could say: ‘Who am I to judge?’ But what of one who does not ‘search’ or have ‘good will?’ “

I admit, I don’t think I’d ever heard the actual context of this remark, and it’s very important to understanding what the Pope was trying to say and that his remarks were not offered as a license or form of acceptance of living out SSA inclinations.  There’s a world of difference between what Pope Francis actually said and what the media said he said.  As a Presbyterian pastor I was knew was fond of saying, “Text out of context is pretext.”  An important lesson to learn and take to heart these days.


We are great fans of British mystery shows, Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, Inspector Lewis, Sherlock, and the other usual suspects are staples of our limited TV watching.  Lately, we’ve been focusing on Morse and Lewis and one thing that jumps out at me in the current go round is the amount of poetry and lines from great literature the characters are able to quote from memory.  It’s astonishing to me, you never see this, even in the best conversation, here in the States.  It reminds me of my father, born in Scotland, who used to surprise me, even fairly late in life, when he would quote an apropos line from some British poet or another.  He was by no means an educated man, yet he seemed to have learned prodigious amounts of poetry, as well as much of the Westminster Catechism, by heart.  Growing up, I’d get hammered every once in a while by that, by gum!  I may start trying to cultivate my own memory; maybe people will think I went to Oxford!



4 thoughts on “To Be What I Already Am

  1. Re the quotes in TV shows…it’s easy for people who are writing scripts to give characters witty and intelligentsia-esque quotes to make them sound smart. 🙂

    Re the flyovers: we are only a couple of hours (read that a few minutes by air) from the home base of the Stealth bombers, and in the past year I have learned to distinguish the sound of a B2 from all other flying machines. It happened by chance one day when I was lying in my back yard and saw that distinct shape wwwwwwaaaaay up in the sky, and then heard the sound following it at some distance. Now I note it all the time when they’re up on training runs. When my oldest was a baby, one of the B2s did bombing run training up and down the main drag of our neighborhood. I was out for a walk–without the camera, of course. It was unbelievable.

    1. Kathleen

      Yes, it is easy to make characters sound smart, but I wonder if the writers wouldn’t make such a point of it if viewers weren’t familiar with the practice? You hardly ever see that done on American TV.

      It’s definitely true many airplanes have their own sound. I also know immediately when the Thunderbirds get to town because of their particular sound. Still, the airplane I love to hear in the air is the P-51; that big Merlin engine is a wonder. But then, I’m an old guy.

      Thank you for your comment.

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