I’ve been wondering who would be a good patron saint for the deepening recession in which we find ourselves. The obvious candidates are those paragons of frugality who learned to live without a steady income or the comfort of regular meals. St. Francis, who threw off his clothes and took to the streets, alms bowl in hand, comes to mind. So does St. Clare.
I collect expressions of anti-intellectualism. I even consider myself to be a connoisseur of the sorts of things that fall within this genre. But this is no mere hobby. I was raised in a spiritual environment in which the intellectual life was regarded with suspicion, even with overt hostility at times. The anti-intellectual one-liners of my childhood still echo in my heart.
Dear Father Anselm: It’s been 900 years since that dawn of April 21, Wednesday in Holy Week, when you fell asleep in Christ. You may be surprised to learn of the fuss that is being made about you, with major conferences in England, Italy and New England, and glasses raised wherever Christian philosophy is prized.
“How do you develop such rich metaphors for your speaking and writing?” I asked my colleague, a stylist whose images stick with listeners and readers. “I read as widely and talk to as many diverse people as I can,” my friend replied. I was disappointed in the reply, for I was hoping I would discover a clever technique that would help me write and speak with greater eloquence.
“I am looking for a way to vocalize, perform, act out, address the commonly felt crises of my time,” Terry Tempest Williams writes in her new book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon). “These are spiritual exercises.”
Accumulation of wealth beyond meeting our basic needs doesn’t make us more content, studies show. Dr. Michael Finkelstein says that contentment takes practice. Think back on a time when you felt a sense of contentment, he says—it likely didn’t come from material possessions. “Our task is to simply discover where [contentment] resides” and focus on those times and places. It helps to “practice thinking, believing, and saying that you’re grateful and thankful for what you’ve been given” (excerpt from Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness in Utne, July).