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Archive for June 16th, 2005

T-Minus 12 Days (or Thereabouts) and Counting

Anna’s due date is in less than two weeks. All along we’ve sort of thought she might go early since this is the second baby. The midwife is acting pretty much like she’ll go late since she did with Sofie. Oy. On the one hand, if the baby is late, it might be born on Delane’s (Anna’s late brother who died last 17 December) birthday, 3 July. That would be nice. And my mom would sure like that since she’s flying up to see us over an extended Fourth of July trip and would be tickled to be here when the baby’s born. On the other hand, even being born past the due date, Sofie was born on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition, and this baby’s “scheduled to be born” on the eve of the Feast of the Apostles. It’d kinda be nice to keep the symmetry.

I remember this time two years ago, as I anticipated Sofie’s birth. There was the knotty stomach that couldn’t handle eating lunch. Frustrations with the well-meaning and the too-personal. And just overall flustered nervousness and anxiety.

Somewhat regretfully, this time around I’ve been so doggone busy writing papers that I lose touch with the stomach-flipping reality: I’m about to be a father . . . again. Of course, I won’t be fighting all the same battles as I did before (though I have been fighting all the worrisome thoughts of things-gone-wrong). Because of that, and due to my experience of nearly two years of fatherhood, I recognize how incompetent I am to be a father, and how undeserving. There is so much more awe and tear-filled gratitude these days when I dwell on these things. I am such a screw-up, yet God is gracing me with yet another child. I’m as still captivated by the biological processes of the growing child in utero as ever, but ever more stricken silent at the wonder-filled gift and unutterable responsibility of it all.

If anyone were ever tempted to the heresy of Pelagianism, surely fatherhood and its graces and obligations would cure one of such a contagion. The whole birthing thing is out of my hands. No matter my support and love it would all happen apart from me anyway. These thirty-odd weeks I could only watch at this unfolding of the work of God. Still–can you believe this?!–despite my uselessness, God stoops down to join my fumbling about with his most graceful acts.

This surely must be the essence and mystery of human fatherhood, and it undoes me every time I think of it.

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Philosophy is normally the English word that translates the Greek philosophia, which itself means “love of wisdom,” or, better in this context, “friendship with wisdom.” I have avoided using “philosophy” in this series of reflections, using instead the (transliterated) Greek equivalent, philosophia so as to also avoid the academic and professionalized connotations that latch on to “philosophy.” For present day understandings of philosophy are generally those exhibited by first year undergraduates on the completion of their intro course: a bunch of opposing arguments on a whole lot of topics resulting in no definitive answer to questions that are largely irrelevant to my daily life.

But philosophia in the ancient world was something else altogether. There were, of course, competing arguments between and among the various schools on various topics. But all the schools shared at least the choice of a way of life centered around the pursuit of wisdom for the purpose of the transformation of the soul. Platonists might posit reality as the realm of ideas, while Epicureans might hold a naturalistic monism, but both held that one’s beliefs and actions should be conformed to these realities. Aristotelians might posit a life of virtue in pursuit of the ultimate end of eudaimonia, while Stoics might adhere to a vision of life in which the pursuit of quietude of soul, ataraxia, was gained by a ruthless search for conformity of the self to reality without illusions, but both sought a transformation of the soul. Though the Stoic conception of the Logos differed from the Platonic idea of the Good, they shared the conviction that there was an ordered principle pervasive through the cosmos. To be sure, there were convictions and arguments that put one at odds with one’s own school. One could not hold to atomistic monism and claim to be a faithful Aristotelian, nor could one be convinced of and argue for Platonic ideas and be a Pyrrhonian skeptic. Some beliefs and practices put one at odds with one’s school and called into question one’s commitments. Even so, the various schools had their commitments attendant upon the choice to become a disciple of a particular school.
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