As a Good Shoemaker
October 19, 2016
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“Yet even in these nobility shines through, when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul… For the man that is truly good and wise, we think, bears all the chances of life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances…as a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Aristotle was not a Christian. As such he did not have the unique Christian understanding of how suffering can be redemptive.

Nonetheless he saw the power of suffering. He says that in a man of good character nobility shines through. He seems to mean that suffering reveals the man.

Yet surely when nobility shines through in suffering, this is more than just a revelation of what was already there. When such character is revealed, it is strengthened, it comes into its own. Not only bystanders but also the sufferer himself see and learn something about the reality of good character, and of the suffering that somehow ‘makes it.’

St. Augustine remarks that only in the actual loss of various goods can we know that we have the right order of affection in our hearts. And must not the shoemaker finally come into his own, when he learns to make the best shoes out of whatever is given to him?

The truth about misfortune and suffering is perhaps easy to understand when seen in this light, in the abstract. The one who lives this truth well is a marvel among men. In him virtue matures to a ripe fruit.

I think I will try to remember the good shoemaker.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his major ethical work.

Image: Jozef Israels (1824-1911), Awaiting the Fisherman’s Return

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9 comments

  1. While I may not be well read, I in fact read a lot, for both work and pleasure. I also am a writer with much to say and I strive to write so my reader might be engaged and be eager to read more. Coming from these two places, you are the most provocative writer I read and I am quite eager for your weekly posts.

    Well done good sir!
    Wint

    1. I appreciate your words here very much, Wint. All the best to you.

  2. Your weekly posting and explanation of ‘ancient’ wisdom is a very calming and anchoring thing in this very troubled time. Much of what you write is what used to called ‘common sense’ but it seems to have gotten lost in the rush toward a mean-spirited technological society.
    I am an agrarian at heart, believing that we must work with the rules of nature to do the best we can. God has given us everything we need, if we only see the way it needs to be used correctly.
    I truly appreciate your posts. God bless you and your family.

    1. Jerry, I think you have a great approach. Thanks, and God bless you and yours too.

  3. Beautiful as always Dr. Cuddeback. I agree with the sentiments of the earlier commenters whole-heartedly and am thankful for your blog every week. –

    Today the shoemaker, not liking the hides he is given, can often discard them and choose others. This makes a good case for immeasurable value that arises when finding the material difficult, we go about the difficult, disciplined, and inspired work of building on its uniqueness and beauty–bringing it to its potential as a well formed sole…

    1. Well said, Malia! I will keep thinking about the shoemaker…

  4. Today I was thankful for technology because I can read your Wednesday posts again!
    Well done as always.

    Cheers

    1. I too am grateful that we can stay in touch in this way.