This is Our Story
November 9, 2016

“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

Today is a day to reflect and to learn. What surely would have been a disaster has been avoided. There is much for which to be grateful. At the same time we know so little about what comes next.

We do know that we live in a political society that undermines truly human life, in multiple and sometimes hidden ways. There is no reason today to expect that this will change. This is what is ‘given’ to us; this is part of our story. Indeed, there is no story of our life that is not a story of living in a powerfully adverse culture. And it still can and should be a story of happiness. Such is the power of goodness, of virtue.

We can get very discouraged. We all have a deep-seated desire to belong to a good political society, with good rulers. It need not be perfect, and never has been or will be. But a political society can and should be a place that protects and fosters truly human life. And we do not have one.

We often feel powerless; we have made strenuous efforts in the political realm. And this has made a real difference. And we will keep trying again, and again, as long as we are able. But we must be realistic: it is probable that laws will get worse; public education will get worse; the exercise of religion will be more hindered; general customs will continue to degenerate in serious ways; etc.

I posted the quotation above from Aristotle just a few weeks ago; I thought I should do so again, today.

What does a good shoemaker do on this post-election day, with the hides that are given him? I think he is grateful, and cautious, and realistic. He turns again to the work at hand. Our home, our friendships, our interior lives, our moral struggles, our daily labors–are right where they were yesterday. Regardless of what happened politically yesterday, or of what happens tomorrow, there is nothing to do but to keep on working, like a good shoemaker.

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  1. Thanks John,

    I work in the Life, Marriage & Family Office of a large Archdiocese in Australia. I subscribe to quite a number of posts related to faith in the course of my work. This is the only one I read without fail. Reliable, short, pithy and encouraging.

    I appreciate your efforts a great deal.

    Matthew (one of your students abroad).

    1. Matthew, I am very honored. God bless all of your work, and I look forward to remaining in touch. Thanks very much for the comment.

    2. I would echo Matthew’s comments. Life leaves little time for digesting blog posts, but I look forward to Professor Cuddeback’s writings every Monday from here in Minnesota.

  2. It always amazes me how he understood so well the virtuous man and how he lives his life. Ora et labora is a beautiful motto that builds on his understanding, I think. As always, thank you for the reflection.

    1. Alicia, I completely agree. Thanks very much for sharing.

  3. My general attitude towards things like this is to simply not worry about them; they’re in the hands of providence.

    That’s no excuse for being lazy in regards to those things which are within our power, but it’s quite pointless to worry about those things which are genuinely outside our power. It’s in God’s hands, and all that worrying accomplishes is making you miserable.

    Do what good you can, and don’t worry about the rest.

    Psalm 37 comes to mind, particularly,

    Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers!

    For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.

    Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.

    Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

    The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.