Between Cowardice and Foolhardiness


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



Courage stands in the middle between cowardice and foolhardiness; humility in the middle between arrogance and servility . Modesty is a mean between timidity and boldness. Dorotheos of Gaza


I use the Trello app to create lists of books I plan to read, to buy, and also books I've read. Earlier this week, I stumbled across a reference to a couple of books and decided I would like very much to read them. I went right to the Amazon site but then, at the last minute and for some unknown reason, thought I'd better check my list of books read last year. They were both there. It was a little unnerving; I didn't know I had the books, much less that I'd read them so recently. I don't know if I should take that as a sign of aging or as a sign of having far too many books, more than I can keep track of. Putting a positive spin on the matter, I could just say that trying to buy a book I already had, a book recommend by trusted reviewers, was just affirmation of my good taste and leave it at that. Still, I'm glad I have that little Trello app.


I've been struggling with a frustrating matter over the past couple of weeks. A large part of my being Catholic today is due to the influence of reading Merton's The Seven Story Mountain and one or two other of his books. Through him I learned of important elements of monastic spirituality, especially lectio divina, the practice of praying with Scripture. It was important to me that the Church had such a key place for Scripture in the prayer of the individual Christian. I've been thinking a lot about this lately and wondering if I shouldn't write a bit more on the topic but just can't bring myself to a decision, thence the frustration; I don't think I could do a very good job of it. I hate it when something like that happens!


One result of the frustration is that I went back and read Merton's The Silent Life, a description of a monk's vocation and of the various forms of Benedictine monasticism as it existed in Merton's time. I may write a bit about it later, but the thing that struck me is how dated his description of the various Benedictine orders is. The book was written in the mid-1950s, not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, but since then the Camaldolese have become firmly established in the United States, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert has been formed, and many other notable developments have occurred. If you think monasticism is dead these days, just thinking of all the that's happened in such a short time will change your mind.


The clarinet work is progressing nicely, although that too has been frustrating me this past 10 days. When you play the clarinet, your selection of a reed and ligature (the band that holds the reed in place) is critical. Not, perhaps, as critical as for an oboe, but still important, almost as important as the instrument itself. As my technique has improved, i.e., as I've been blowing harder (that's a technical term), I've been stressing the reeds and producing some terrible sounds at times. In truth, I didn't fully understand what the problem was but earlier this week my instructor asked me what number reed I was using. Turns out, I need a little stiffer reed, which has helped immensely and eliminated at least one source of frustration I've been having. At any rate, it is good to make progress in something.


Foofaraw!! Did you know there was such a word? It means, a great fuss, uproar, over something very insignificant, like my efforts today. Actually, I love learning new and obscure words to spring on unsuspecting friends and relatives, inevitably impressing them with my great learning and sagacity. Beware.


And I hope this little panegyric will not be offensive to their ears, since it has the advantage of being only designed for themselves. Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub , 1704

Amen to that.




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