Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I have lived in the world with my eyes open

Verily, I say unto thee, here are two quotes for Christmas ...

The first comes from the Mahatma himself, as reported in Joe Lelyveld's book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.

I deny being a visionary. I do not accept the claim of saintliness. I am of the earth, earthy ... I am prone to as many weaknesses as you are. But I have seen the world. I have lived in the world with my eyes open. (1920) 
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 1869-1948

"I have lived in the world with my eyes open." Those are words to live by. That could be a creed for a whole religion unto itself.

The second comes from Reinhold Niebuhr, from his lovely book Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, his reflections on being a young preacher at Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit.

Nevertheless the academic life has its allurements. It is really simpler than the ministry. As a teacher your only task is to discover the truth. As a preacher you must conserve other interests besides the truth. It is your business to deal circumspectly with the whole religious inheritance lest the virtues which are involved in the older traditions perish through your iconoclasm. That is a formidable task and a harassing one; for one can never be quite sure where pedagogical caution ends and dishonesty begins. 
What is particularly disquieting to a young man in the ministry is the fact that some of his fine old colleagues make such a virtue of their ignorance. They are sure that there is no Second Isaiah and have never heard that Deuteronomy represents a later development in the law.... Every profession has its traditions and its traditionalists. But the traditionalists in the pulpit are much more certain than the others that the Lord is on their side. (1916)
Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971

The chafings of a young man looking upon his life and his work with an intelligent, critical eye and a clear, articulate voice. "Every profession has its traditions and its traditionalists." Somehow, that rang true for me.