Wednesday, May 6, 2009

De gustibus non disputandum est

Roughly translated with apologies to Fr. Z., it means matters of taste are not to be argued about. (This of course is not at all the same about matters of doctrine, faith, and morals.) Note by the way the word gustibus: I suspect the English word disgusting refers to something that literally takes away your appetite.

Anyway, opinions vary about favorite time-wasters. I don't consider blogging -- or writing letters -- a waste of time. There is too much solid Catholic commentary and trenchant political analysis out there, and I learn a lot from it.

I mean real time-wasters, things we do just for the fun of it. My two favorites are the New York Times daily crossword puzzles, with which my sister keeps me supplied, and playing Freecell.

Now you who do the NYT puzzles know that they start easy on Monday, and get progressively more difficult as the week goes on. By Saturday they're positively demonic, made up, as my sister and I agree, by demented gonifs. (She shares my liking for Yiddishkeit, and during college roomed with an orthodox Jewish girl who still keeps a kosher household.)

I boast that I have never really lost a game of Freecell. There are games that I have had to restart many times, but I always get them in the end. If I have to leave one, I write down its number and come back to it later, and I don't cross out the number until I've won it. I have fifteen games listed that I haven't won yet. But I will, unless I pop off first. (I hope they let me have my machine in the nursing home or hospice.) Game number 1941 is exceptionally difficult. I must have started it a hundred times.

I suppose some people will point their finger and say, "A-HA! Obsessive-compulsive!" Well, so what? I'm old enough to have a few quirks; I've earned, the right, by golly. Besides that, one thing I like about Freecell is that it reminds me, in a playful way, of a very important truth for the spiritual life:

Never give up! Never, never, NEVER give up!

Or as it says in Scripture, "He who persevers to the end shall be saved."

Of course, I need the advice as much as anyone else, because I get downcast and disheartened sometimes. Partly because almost every confession is the same old same old. "Same stuff, different day," we used to say at the office.

There's a nice meditation on this in the seventh station of the Way of the Cross according to St. Alphonsus Liguori (the gutsy Stations we used when I was a kid, not some of the weeny bland-as-bread-dough stuff I heard in the 70's and 80's):

Priest: "Consider the second fall of Jesus under the cross -- a fall which renews the pain of all the wounds of the head and members of our afflicted Lord."

People: "My most gentle Jesus, how many times hast Thou pardoned me, and how many times have I fallen again, and begun again to offend Thee! Oh, by the merits of this new fall, give me the necessary helps to persevere in Thy graces until death. Grant that in all temptations which assail me I may always commend myself to Thee. I love Thee, Jesus, my love, with my whole heart. I repent of having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always, and the do with me what Thou wilt."

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