Tag Archives: value

26 October: St Chad. Water – totally or Marginally Useful?

The value of water: in 2017 Pope Francis had the Vatican fountains turned off when months of unexpectedly dry weather threatened the water supply from the hills to the citizens of Rome.

Today we remember Saint Chad, bishop of Lichfield, who used to stand in cold water to say his prayers. The River Trent and its tributaries were clean then. This post is an extract from an article by Shamus Khan in The Hedgehog Review, Summer 2021. Khan helps us understand entrenched social inequality as well as the power of advertising, product placement and influencing. This paragraph shows that economists don’t always speak the same language as the rest of us, and don’t always value things according to their usefulness. A pause for reflection: how much does it matter to me that children in some parts of our world die because they do not have safe water?

Meanwhile, Fiji water – water imported from Fiji, sells at around £2.00 per litre.

Born to Norwegian immigrants in 1857, Thorstein Veblen was one of several academically inclined children in his family. He studied economics at Carleton College, largely under the tutelage of John Bates Clark, a pioneer of what has become an almost axiomatic concept in economics, “marginal utility.” Veblen would build on Clark’s approach—understanding that the value of an object lies not simply in its “total utility,” that is, its usefulness to the world, but also in its “marginal utility,” the subjective satisfaction it gives to its consumer. If an object’s value were determined by its total utility, water might be the most expensive object in the world, since none of us could survive without it. Yet it is not, in part because there is a lot of it, but also because it provides us with little marginal utility. Companies today that charge a lot for bottled water seek, through marketing, to increase water’s marginal utility, which is to say the sense that we are consuming, with our Fiji water, something special.

And what about the marginal utility of a factory worker who actually makes something useful, but is on the minimum wage?

To support people who are bringing clean water to those who do not yet enjoy it, please go to https://www.wateraid.org/uk

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January 7: Body and Soul at Table

shared meal

 

This post is an extract from the article in the Hedgehog Review, Fall 2019, by Wilfred M. McClay and an invitation to follow the link and read the whole thing! As he suggests, food is a strong proof of our animality; it is equally strong evidence of how we transcend it. Did you know that Babette’s Feast is a favourite film of Pope Francis?

We are animals too, with animal needs and animal limitations just like those of our dogs and cats and squirrels and horses and all the rest, creatures great and small. For us, as for all of them—all of organic life, for that matter—the perpetuation of life requires at every moment a steady flow of nutrition, which we derive from our taking into ourselves the lives of plants and animals and metabolizing them, then eliminating what is left over from that process. Not to put too fine a point on it, we kill and appropriate and eliminate. We are guilty from the start, in a sense, of valuing our own life more highly than the lives of other living things. That is, in a sense, the original sin of all living beings, the sin entailed in merely existing at all—a thought that would never occur to us, were we nothing but animals.

But food is not only a strong proof of our animality; it is equally strong evidence of the ways we transcend our animality. Just as we are not souls without bodies, so we are not bodies without souls. The two are distinguishable but inseparable. Unlike the other animals, we are not content to take our food as it comes to us. We don’t do a lot of desperate bone-gnawing. Instead, we do a lot of work on our food, and it gains value from the infusion of all our loving labour.

Post-Christmas is a good time to reflect on our eating and our food preparation, the love that stirs the spoon, the shared table and the love that flows from it; the Shared Table of the Eucharist which transcends all meals. Do go and read it.

A family feast of fisn and chips after a morning’s walking in the hills.

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4 December: In a Matchbox

matchbox car

After reading yesterday about a son who did not want to inherit his father’s wealth, here’s a true tale of  a grandson inheriting from his uncle and grandfather – whilst they are still around to enjoy his enjoyment of the gift. The play value over 60+ years far exceeds the monetary value the toys would have if preserved in their boxes but unplayed with.

This post features a comment I wrote on the blog “Unshakable Hope“. The link below will take you to the post I was commenting on. I recommend a visit, but felt this comment deserved a spot of its own. Do go and visit Bill!

Good morning Bill,
thanks for looking into Agnellus Mirror and deciding to follow us.
Your story of the old cars reminds me that Abel, my 4 year old grandson, loves playing with the actual 1950s to 1970s Matchbox cars that my brothers and I once played with. They were made to be played with – even unto the third generation! In once sense they have lost value, like the rusty old cars. But they are fulfilling their ‘vocation’ as old books do when they are re-read, including, of course, the Scriptures!

God Bless,
Will.

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The British Library houses many old books, including Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the scriptures. Some of their – or rather our – treasures have been put on line. Whatever their past history, they are cared for in this paradise for books.

unshakeable hope

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7 March. Jean Vanier speaks to the ‘Flame’ conference.

jean.v.letter

Jean Vanier recently spoke by video link to young people gather in London for a ‘Flame’ conference. This link leads to the text of his speech at ICN.

https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36658

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December 3, Thomas Traherne XIV: Jesus Christ is an infinite treasure.

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Traherne tells us today that unless we will the redemption of mankind, Jesus will be no treasure to us. What would I have to change, where would I have to grow, to truly will the redemption of mankind – including X, Y, and Z ? (insert hate figures to taste.)

[God] willed the redemption of mankind, and therefore is His Son Jesus Christ an infinite treasure. Unless you will it too, He will be no treasure to you.

Verily you ought to will these things so ardently that God Himself should be therefore your joy because He willed them. Your will ought to be united to His in all places of His dominion.

Were you not born to have communion with Him? And that cannot be without this heavenly union. Which when it is what it ought is Divine and Infinite.

Traherne, First Century of Meditation

Photographs: MMB, CD.

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27 May, Trinity Sunday: Doubt and Faith by Father Andrew.

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I do not fear for any honest intellectual doubter, but I do fear for any life that has lowered its standard. If i did not believe that God is Love, then I should turn the sentence round and say Love is God; but I should think Jesus a richer symbol of love than Venus.

I don’t think for a moment doubts are bad. I think, in a sense, one’s mind was made to doubt; but if ones mind was made to doubt, one’s soul was made to aspire, and if one uses both mind and soul, one will attain to a faith that is strong and true. ‘It is intolerable to think that our ideals themselves should perish, that nothing worth existing should have any continuance or growth, that the world of values should have no relation to the world of fact.

From The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, Ed Kathleen Burn, London, Mowbray, 1948, pp169-70

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January 11: Temperance V: The Gift of Shame

phonecall..j (409x583)

The virtue of temperance does not require the stoic abstention from all physical pleasures. Temperance is the virtue by which we are strengthened in the ability to decide how much is good for us, and to follow through on that decision on the level of behaviour. What helps us in our decision?

St. Thomas teaches that the spontaneous reaction of shame that surfaces when we have over-indulged in the physical pleasures is both healthy and helpful to us. At first this might be hard to believe: shame is such a miserable, intensely uncomfortable feeling. We don’t like it, and often try to suppress it, or to defend against it by laughing it off and telling ourselves not to be so morbid. Yet, it is better for us to face our feeling of shame. It is a useful reaction whereby we recoil psychologically from the disgrace that comes from intemperance.

Excesses on the level of our physical appetites give us a feeling shame that is usually more intense than the shame we feel over our other moral failings and sins. St Thomas explains that this is because our bodily appetites are what we share with animals, and when we over-indulge them we feel deep down that we have lost something of our innate dignity as human beings.

aquinas-carlo_crivelli_007JohannesPaul2-portrait

Shame, again, surfaces spontaneously. In the masterful book Love and Responsibility, written by Karol Wojtyla*1 in the 1960s, the phenomenon of shame is one of the topics he studies in depth. Here is a brief passage from his book:

Shame is a tendency, uniquely characteristic of the human person, to conceal sexual values sufficiently to prevent them from obscuring the value of the person as such. The purposes of this tendency is self-defence of the person, which does not wish to be an object to be used by another… but does wish to be an object of love (Chapter III).

Perhaps this requires some unpacking. First Wojtyla affirms that shame is part of our in-built moral equipment, as it were – uniquely characteristic of the human person. As such, it is a gift, and it has an importance and a purpose in our spiritual and human lives. Then, he speaks of ‘sexual values.’ Again, an important notion. We see here that he is not trying to say that our sexuality is bad. Then why does he talk about ‘concealing’ this value? Simply because this value has a tendency to loom larger than it should, so much so that it can ‘obscure the value of the person.’ There is a hierarchy of values here, he is saying: the person is of greater value than sexual values. Through shame we actually protect ourselves as persons, so that we do not become an object of “use”. According to Wojtyla, then, shame is not the result of prudish conditioning by repressive religious teachings, or over-strict authority figures. It is inherent in our nature, and surfaces spontaneously with a message for us. That message is that we are created to be loved and to give love in a manner that always affirms the unique beauty and dignity of the person – both our own person and that of the beloved.

This beautiful insight by Karol Wojtyla shows us something that helps us to moderate our physical appetites, by reminding us that we were created to love and be loved. This is the fulfilment we crave most deeply. But we must love and be loved rightly, with great respect for ourselves as persons and for the unique personhood of our loved one.

1 Karol Wojtyla was elected pope in 1978, and was known as Pope John Paul II. His papacy lasted until his death, twenty-five years later.

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29 September: Fortitude VI, Fortitude, Justice and Endurance.

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And the virtue of justice? What does that have to do with fortitude? St Thomas says of justice that it is ‘…the lasting and constant will [to] render each his due’ (S. T., II, II, 58,1). Fortitude stands firm against whatever threatens a value. That valued thing might exist on a world scale, such as the freedom of our country, or on a personal scale, such as my right to a just wage; or on any other scale you choose, but the key word is value. By the virtue of justice, we become able to recognise what is of true value, and honour it by a certain kind of commitment to it, as appropriate. By the virtue of justice, in other words, we are able to identify what is worth the kind of self-dedication that fortitude requires.

Which brings us to the consideration of St. Thomas’s teaching on the chief “act” of fortitude. For him, fortitude is about endurance. This may be surprising. Perhaps we expected fortitude to issue in a big display of obvious power directed against something big and bad. How does endurance figure into fortitude? St. Thomas explains that endurance is “an action of the soul cleaving resolutely to good, the result being that it does not yield to fear” (S. T. II, II, 123, 6). Endurance, then, in “cleaving resolutely” to something, implies length of time. We don’t have to cleave resolutely when the difficulty disappears quickly. Resolute cleaving is only necessary when we have a difficulty that doesn’t go away.

So we see here that first of all, fortitude is a virtue for the long haul. Fortitude is what comes into play for situations that require time in order to achieve their fulfilment. Take something like marriage. The wedding day is not the fulfilment of the marriage vows. It is the golden anniversary that fulfils what the couple set out to do and become when they made their commitment to each other. In the meantime, fortitude is what helps them to weather the storms that are inevitable in a relationship between two fallible beings; it helps them to learn from their mistakes, admit their share in them, say ‘Sorry,’ and start again.

SJC

For further study:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church ,Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1994

The Four Cardinal Virtues, Joseph Pieper, University of Notre Dame Press

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/

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24 January: The Gasman Cometh

washers

‘Twas on a  Monday morning the gas man came to call.’ (Flanders and Swann). But this one knew just what he was doing, changing the meter and leaving all safe and sound.

He called me to witness that all was safely sealed at the end of the job by observing the manometer connected to the equipment. ‘We don’t like excitement,’ he said, as the level stayed exactly the same for the required times.

‘Those rubber washers are possibly the most important part of the whole thing, they guarantee your safety. Yet they are cheap, so cheap that they send them out in packs of a hundred. They wouldn’t do that if they cost pounds each.’

Who do we rely on but never give a thought to? Make sure you acknowledge them, pass the time of day, give them a smile. I am very glad our house is safe from gas leaks and all appliances are working; thank you, Martin the gasman!

As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. 

Matthew 25:40.

 

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