Two Days, Two Ways

[ 5 ] November 24, AD 2012 |

Tempting as it was to declare that we should write a Discovery-channel-spinoff in the vein of this xkcd (Quill doing the words, Ink doing the doodles), being wrapped up in family matters has made that logistically impossible. Plus, it seemed more appropriate to write a heavier post.

Funnier than Black Friday

In light of today yesterday [1] being Black Friday, our thoughts were drawn to the very strange contrast between a day like yesterday, where the mindset of sales, purchases, and consumption dominates, and a day like Thursday, whose spirit is one of thanksgiving (exactly as it says on the can), and the recognition that everything we have is first and foremost a gift [2].  It’s as if by an accident of human affairs– or by the strange shadow of crass commercialism cast by all that is finest in our calendar holidays– whether by one or by the other, Providence has drawn out examples of the same two choices He puts before us time and again in the Scriptures: today He has set before us two ways.

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”  [3]

These two different attitudes can be found everywhere.  Scripture, as seen above, is only one location.  Salvation history is an equally blatant example.  Our own lives, however, are just as subject to this very fundamental choice: good and life, evil and death.

English-Ancient Greek dictionary

Thanksgiving – ευχαριστειν (eucharistein): to give thanks.

–notice eucharistein can be broken down into eu-charis (charis being the word for grace): to give thanks is to respond well (eu) to the grace (charis) we have received.

At the Last Supper, even God found the time to give thanks.  On the night of the first and truest Thanksgiving Thursday, the night all His friends turned their backs on Him and handed Him over to His great suffering, He still said the blessing “and gave thanks” [4].  And on the same night we find Judas grasping for his purse of silver, like Adam grasping for the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, mirroring the hands of the soldiers grasping for God Himself, to destroy His body.

This then was the first Black Friday, when the sun hid for shame, an example then as every Black Friday is now of the grasping, seizing, devouring attitude: the one that does not so much say “I Do Not Want” to God’s gift– for there is nothing else out there to be desired but things which God has already given us– so much as say “I Do Not Want It to Be A Gift.”  We want to have it both ways, to receive and then to hold on to it as if we had created it ourselves, bit by bit to privatize the world away from God and then to dispose of it as if it had all come from us to begin with, as if we called it out of nothing, as if we earned it and every other thing back to our own birth– to dominate, in the strictest sense, everything that comes our way.

Thanksgiving Thursday and Black Friday–the days upon which we give thanks for our many blessings and then proceed to destroy ourselves with greed, not even a full 24 hours later.  The way that recognizes the gift, receives it in thanks, and gives back to others and to the Giver; and the way of consumption and possession, of appropriating what we come across and sealing it off from the world, until we turn in upon ourselves and away from the source of every gift: in a word, the choice between the way Our Lord went on Holy Thursday and the way the whole world went on Good Friday.

—-

[1] This was originally meant to be published on Friday but, again, life got in the way.

[2] All things, being in existence, are first gifts from God, who actively Wills all things and beings into existence.  Do you feel small yet?

[3] Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[4] Luke 22:17

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About the Author ()

Ink and Quill are Roman Catholic college students studying architecture and philosophy (respectively). Long-time friends and co-writers, they enjoy studying Ancient Greek and attempting to re-create the 1920s (or sometimes the 1220s). Ink rarely sleeps. Quill rarely posts. Both love what they do. They post together at With Eager Feet.
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  • http://catholicfaithandtruth.blogspot.com/ Michael Val Hietter

    Although I agree that the grasping, greedy attitude that seems to have characterized Black Friday is no virtue, I believe that your post paints with too broad a brush. The discontinuity comes in your disdain of how we treat the gift that is our entire life, soul, and salvation, pur desire “to hold on to it as if we had created it ourselves…to dispose of it as if it had all come from us…as if we earned it” (I know I used ellipses, but the context is still accurate).

    The problem I see here is not your condemnation of our lack of gratitude, but your extension of that to our responsibilities towards the gifts themselves. The last time I checked, to be given a gift meant that we were given dominion over a gifted object, to dispose of it the same way as something earned. Of course, when we are talking about something like out lives and our salvation, those are gifts from God that SHOULD be used wisely and correctly, and for which GREAT gratitude must be shown. However, just as if once I GIVE you something you need, it is yours with which to do as you see best, God gives us these great gifts as well as the wonderful gift of free will, which means we CAN “dispose of it as if it had all come from us.” We owe God the responsibility of gratitude, and our salvation does depend partly on what we do with the gift of our lives, but God gave us these things including our free will for us to make the best use of it–we do have the “right” to “dispose of it” as we see fit (and bear the consequences of the wrong kind of disposal).

    As a seeming counter-example, but one that really reinforces what I am trying to say, I am reminded of a scene from teh old movie “The Robe” where a Roman Soldier (in the beginning process of turning toward Christianity) gives his donkey to a young boy. Later, the soldier sees that the boy gave the donkey to another boy. The soldier asks if the boy’s parents let him give away such a valuable piece of property. The young boy replied, with no disrespect, “You gave it to me, so I can do with it what I want.”

    The thing that frightens me about the overall tone of this particular posting is how the above analysis seems to me (and I very well could be misreading this here) to be copying the same lame oft-repeated tripe that is used by the left-wing socialist camp which cries out that NOTHING we have is earned by us, that it was all given to us by God or chance (such as our talents), and that the only FAIR thing to do is take everything away from all of us that we gained through our abilities (because “we didn’t build it”) and give it back to all of us according to our need. On top of that, I consider it to be rhetorically dishonest, as many opinion writers do, to apply the consumerist excess that seems to have become Black Friday to everyone participating in shopping that day (I myself have purchased some needful, not conspicuously-consumed, things at good values while shopping that day) or to use it as a veiled condemnation of capitalism, the best general economic system yet developed by humanity to serve humanity.

    You might not be trying to make that point, but I think putting things the way you did (which appears to me to be “lack-of-gratitude equals deciding-what-to-do-with-the-gifts-that-are-received”) seems to be heading down that rhetorical path. I would gladly accept clarification and correction from you, the esteemed authors.

    Michael Val
    (who reminds folks that private property rights are respected by Church teaching)

  • http://catholicfaithandtruth.blogspot.com/ Michael Val Hietter

    I need to clarify the last sentence of the fourth paragraph in my above “screed,” which should read: “On top of that, I consider it rhetorically dishonest to apply, as some opinion writers do, the consumerist excess….” I realized that my original sentence is accusing you directly of the rhetorical dishonesty which I am REALLY reserving for the “left-wing socialist camp” to which I refer above.

    Michael Val
    (who apologizes for that lack of clarity)

  • Ink and Quill

    Michael,

    First, you have our sincere and profuse apologies for the extreme delay in response–it is getting on to finals and both of us are quite stressed. However, since you wrote us such a long and thoughtful comment, we did not want to do you the disservice of replying in short.

    Second, the brush was painted broadly quite intentionally. The intention of this post was more to act as a reminder that everything we have is a gift–including our own life. Sure, we CAN do with it whatever we want, but SHOULD we? If you, for instance, gave me a kitchen knife as a gift (I got them for my birthday before I came to college) and I then used it to kill someone, I COULD do it but did you intend me to do that? The gift-giver usually has some intent behind the giving, even if it is something so simple as “I am giving you this book because I think you will enjoy reading it” or “here, Mommy, I made this for you!”

    In brief, a good theory of private property acknowledges that yes, God gives us His good gifts in order for us to freely dispose of them in creative cooperation with Him; but this does not entail a right to dispose of it howsoever I wish. There is no right to abuse property; but, as the adage goes, abuse does not invalidate use. We were not writing to argue economics or political philosophy but to use two calendar days as a heuristic device to point toward two attitudes toward creation: seeing it as a gift or as something to be exploited.

    ~Ink and Quill (Ink scribing)

    • http://www.catholicfaithandtruth.blogspot.com Michael Val Hietter

      Thank you for the reply. I figured that was what you were trying to say , and I agree. I just see the lame line of reasoning I noted above so much that I wanted to be sure no one else would get some bad rhetorical support for that brand of lameness (which is not the point you are making).

      Michael Val
      (who wishes you great success in your academic studies!)