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Thursday, December 6 2001

A self-analysis test for fun: do you color within the lines?

David Caldwell wondered in Sunday's postcard how the people he's met who make more money than he does but spend it all in the first week of the month and can't "afford" to underwrite their children's basic necessities fit in our recent discussion of low self-esteem, raised self-esteem, and so on. I also have been wondering that, or more to the point, how to get from here to there (so to speak), ever since.

In another incident this week a young person who lives in a camper made a wish for a DVD player as a Christmas present. I'm also reminded of Frank McCort's dad, in the best-selling memoir, Angela's Ashes, who (like millions of others of the past century, known both through literature and through real-life acquaintance), would go from the pay window at work to the bar and not return to wife and children until the pay had all been spent on drinks for himself and friends.

To play amateur psychologist, I agree of course with David's assessment that such people lack a sense of responsibility. It may be that at some junction on life's highway they've come to the conclusion, "I just can't win," and then stop trying and start just existing, "going with the flow." They treat themselves to all the booze, or the DVD players and other nonessentials, their hearts can desire because they have too much of the bad type of self-esteem. "Maybe I can't 'afford it' in the world's reckoning," they seem to think, "but, daggumit, I deserve it. I work just as hard as the people who have it all."

I've been close enough to such thinking myself, in fact, that I can understand how it can happen. In my younger life I could imagine myself "ending up" as a taxi driver, which at the time seemed like a job with no end of openings but which represented despair or at least the bottom rung of the economy's foodchain (to mix a metaphor). I also feared an eventual existence on the streets as one whose biggest contribution to society would be giving the better-off opportunities for almsgiving.

Adolescents often say (I've heard it myself), "I wasn't asked to be born" as justification for thinking the world or life owes them a living just for having summoned them to the planet. Those who spend everything on playing and playthings are afraid they're being cheated out of their much-deserved playtime. It's laziness, shiftlessness, irresponsibility. It's called arrested development in psychology. But who am I to judge?

Sometimes I think we all suffer from some of it—though I should speak only for myself—and those who've done better and appear "responsible" have found that their efforts pay off while those who don't achieve anything find nothing works. I wonder if it's more likely, however, that they fail to take joy in those things that do "work," which is another way of saying they're thankless.

Those who believe in luck find it easier to blame their luck than those who believe in trying to color within the lines.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

More classifieds. Real or fake?

Amana washer $100. Owned by clean bachelor who seldom washed.
Free puppies...part German shepherd, part dog
2 wire mesh butchering gloves, 1 5-finger, 1 3-finger, pair: $15
'83 Toyota hunchback—$2000
Star Wars job of the hut—$15

—Sent by Mike Harrison

Advent thought for the day

"What are you doing?" the unknown priest asked. "Is this all the
wheat you have? No more?"

The fathers at the Mt. Athons monastery replied that this was all they had indeed. It was December, and they were unable to buy any more because of the Fascist occupation. Though 10,000 okas' weight of wheat was needed a year for the monastery's survival,
they could not even buy one oka of it.

The unknown priest took a few wheat kernels in his hand, blessed them, and threw them on top of the rest of the wheat. He blessed the four points of the horizon, the monastery, and the sea, and then was about to leave.

"Where do you come from?" the fathers asked him. "Stay to have some bread and olives."

"I come from very far away—from Myra in Lycia," he said, and departed.

One of the brothers had in the meantime gone for some food to offer the visitor, but the elder, who turned out to be the monastery's protector, had vanished. The remaining 150 okas of blessed wheat lasted for half a year; that is, from the month of December when St. Nicholas appeared to them, until the following July when the new crop came in.

—From a monk-elder
St. Nicholas of Myra (aka, in Dutch, "Santa Claus")
Commemorated December 6
Sent by Christopher Haas

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