Saturday, November 11, 2017

Faith and/or Trust (Heavenly Graces, Pt. 4)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) -- the Stickies -- to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My sublime, drop-dead gorgeous muse (right shoulder) and back scratcher 
Iggy -- Designated Sticky
Dana -- Designated gentlereader (left shoulder)

"I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." -Edgar Allen Poe. I wonder if his mom or his friends called him Eddie?

Dear (eventual) Stickies & Great-Grandstickies, 

"Faith is the infused virtue, by which the intellect, by a movement of the will, assents to the supernatural truths of Revelation,.. ."

"...Faith, to honor one's community of business. "...also the faith to build monuments to the glorious past, to sustain traditions of commerce, of learning... ."

The first quote above is how Wikipedia defines Faith, theologically speaking.

The second is a secularized version, Faith applied to that most secular of sectors, business and/or the marketplace. It's from an essay (as you already know if you're not new here) written by Dr. Deirdre McCloskey. 

This is my last letter/column/whatever this is (well, for now at least) of a series in which I attempt to apply the Theological Virtues (or -- SOUND OF HARP BEING STRUMMED -- the Heavenly Graces) in a secular way.

For newbies, the Theological Virtues were presented to me as part of a package deal called the Seven Virtues when I was but wee lad attending Catholic grade school several thousand days ago in the Black & White Ages.

For oldbies who aren't aware, and those who read me via the dead trees format and who tend to be a bit techno-shy, when one blogs writes a weekly column on the web you have to be aware that with a potential audience of 7,500,000,000 ya' gotta allow for the fact that newbies are going to stumble on your semi-humble missives.

Since my readership is slightly smaller than that I think it's just good form to allow for it. Also, I have readers that are even older than I am and who, like me, suffer from CRS (can't remember, um, shtuff).

Now, the reason I'm doing Faith last is that Faith is well, Faith. At the risk of being accused of having a keen eye for the obvious, let me explain. To me at least, and yes I realize this doesn't necessarily apply to you, the word Faith is heavily associated with Faith in/fear of God. 

In my defense, when I did an eight-year bit in Catholic grade school in the Black & White Ages the teachers were mostly nuns -- the old fashion/old school/back in the day kind -- with theological/ideological/occasionally psychopathological hair on their carefully concealed chests.

Faith in God, as conceived by the Catholic Church, was literally beaten into me. For the record, as far as I can tell, the lasting marks are mostly good ones. Corporal punishment usually consisted of a crack on the palm with a ruler, and was usually deserved.  

But I also suspect that the nearly daily reminders that if I died with a major league unconfessed sin on my soul -- e.g., missing Sunday mass for any reason other than a potentially lethal illness -- might result in eternal damnation, may have had a slightly negative impact.  

OK, Faith... hmm, let's see, um... nothing. OK, Faith, as applied to um, oh yeah! that supremely secular sector mentioned in the second sentence of this missive, business. 

"...Faith, to honor one's community of business. "...also the faith to build monuments to the glorious past, to sustain traditions of commerce, of learning... ."

I've been "in business," twice, once mildly successfully. I was the owner-operator of an ice cream truck, thank you for not laughing. In fact, several years prior to that, I worked for Good Humor when they were in the process of phasing out of street vending. For those of you in the know, I watched the (old school) slideshow, aced the test, and was taught how to peddle popsicles and drive a stick shift by a corporate employee.

A more recent attempt, but one that's now far enough behind me that I can mention it without having an anxiety attack, something I attempted in a storefront, was an utter failure. However, the failure taught me some invaluable lessons. Actually, that statement is incorrect. They weren't invaluable lessons, but they were very expensive lessons. In fact, I know exactly how much they cost. 

In certain circles, business/the free market/capitalism/etceterism is oft-maligned and frequently scapegoated. This is in spite of the fact that the world has recently (relatively speaking...) stumbled into what Dr. McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment: an age of literally unprecedented prosperity powered by the usual suspects listed in the previous sentence. However...    

[What's that got to do with Faith, your garrulousness?]

Hey, Dana. Well, there's a lot of applied Faith going on in the market, in fact, without it I suspect there wouldn't have been a Great Enrichment and most H. sapiens would still be living the life of 99.999% of their ancestors. That is, "...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." (HT: Thomas Hobbes). Not even basic cable; no need for a weight loss industry. How would -- Hi, I'm Marie! -- feed all those adopted kids? 

Now, when I was a Good Humor Man Person, a "Goody Bar Man Person" (it's a Pittsburgh with an h thing), although most of the gajillion relatively tiny political entities that surround Pittsburgh that would be all be Pittsburgh if Pittsburgh was located in say, Texas, and would be both more efficiently and more cheaply run because...

[Marie-Louise is giving me the stink eye.]

Sorry, that's a different letter. Anyways... because Good Humor, which was founded in Youngstown, Ohio, which is, by the way, less than 70 miles from Pittsburgh with an h...

[Cough, cough.]

Sorry, when I was a Good Humor Person, my kids -- every Good Humor Person referred to the customers on their carefully established and maintained route as "my kids" -- my kids, and their parental units, had Faith that my goody bars wouldn't send them to the emergency room.

That is, they Trusted me. Trust, is applied Faith.

Good Humor's "sustained traditions of commerce," were safe to eat, yummy goody bars delivered to your street at roughly the same time and on the same days (weather permitting and romances under control) by um, mostly relatively normal, hygienic individuals (and the occasional, um, slightly eccentric citizen).

The customers Trusted that I would show up when I was supposed to, sell them a product that was only slightly misrepresented by the perfect images displayed on the menu boards (hey, talk to the marketing people...) and not shortchange the kids.

[That's your idea of applied Trust? The local ice cream truck driver? Have you met our...]

No, Dana, I haven't. He stopped coming around fairly early in the season because after experiencing his ridiculous prices, crappy product, and vaguely menacing air a time or two, nobody Trusted him and the kids started abusing him -- from a careful distance. No Trust, no sales. No Trust, no relationship. No Trust, no...

[Well I still think...]

Dana, are you aware that when eBay first started, before they built their rating system, that people could hire a middlema..., uh, middleperson, to broker the deal because it was assumed that customers would send rubber checks for non-existent merchandise?

They all went out of business, very quickly. If lots of people had sent rubber checks for non-existing merchandise eBay would've gone out of business, very quickly. This shtuff has a way of working itself out, very quickly.

Doveryai, no proveryai is a Russian proverb that means Trust, but verify. Google: Reagan, Ronald. I can assure you that...

[What's that got to do with anything? and what about relationships? I Trusted someone that I was supposed to marry. I arranged my whole life around this fact and one day woke up next to a stranger who was in short order, gone.]

But it might have worked out, and that's as good as it gets. If you hadn't taken the chance, there wouldn't have been anything to work out. You learn your lessons, lick your wounds, live to love another day. Or not, but I don't recommend it. No Trust, no Faith, no -- anything. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.

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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

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