The Personalist Project

Here’s the message I’ve been trying to get out for years, first of all to myself but also to anyone else who might benefit from it:

Just do whatever’s on your plate! Don’t get discouraged and cynical if you don’t see spectacular spiritual or intellectual progress. Live wholeheartedly in the moment. Age quod agis (Latin for, more or less, “Whatever it is you’re doing, really do it!”)! Don’t be discouraged or paralyzed by failure.

Your own real spiritual state is notoriously hard to get a handle on. Don’t concentrate on futile attempts to evaluate where you stand, as spouse, parent, Christian, or human being. You can’t save the world singlehandedly. In fact (what’s become clearer and clearer to me lately), you can’t even force your my children to turn out a certain way, on a certain schedule, nor are you supposed to try. Self-centered perfectionism can come disguised as concern for high standards.  Don’t fall for it!

That’s all good and salutary, and I still think many, many people would find their lives much happier for letting it sink in.

Of course it has to go hand in hand with keeping up your guard against the mediocrity of squeaking through life accomplishing just the bare minimum. Easygoing-ness (what my kids call being chill) in itself is not a virtue, and neither is making peace with the deadly sin of sloth.


But we can’t be too easily disheartened, or lose our peace every time we’re confronted with our limitations. We need to be content to do what we’re actually called to do (quite possibly nothing dramatic or impressive). It’s a balancing act. If you can pull it off, you can honestly strive for excellence and honestly laugh at yourself when you fall short. You can be a well-adjusted person who doesn’t overcomplicate things. You can take a detour around all kinds of unnecessary agonizing.

Still, something else has struck me lately: how much is at stake. Christians and others are suffering hardship, persecution, and torture. Ukraine and Syria have mostly disappeared from the headlines, but the miseries of their people haven't therefore vanished from the face of the earth. And casual conversations with my older kids—the ones whose lives I’m micromanaging less and less--give me a picture of scores and scores of young adults stumbling through life with no stability, no goals, nothing much to live for (as far as they know), managing their moods with drugs and digging themselves in deeper with each irrational choice.

How to feel the urgency of doing something for a world gone crazy but not lose your peace? How to tell the difference between real peace of mind and the complacency and indiffernece that comes from living a sheltered life yourself? 

Maturity, common sense, and mental balance can take you part of the way. But I think without supernatural help there would be no way to reconcile it at all.

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