Amusement Park: So Where Are the Smiling Faces?

While growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I became tired of hearing my parents say that “happiness comes from within.”  My first boss after college graduation reminded me that “90% of our happiness comes from how we respond to events, not the events themselves.”

As irritating as that was to me then, they have been proven correct time and again.  We see many instances of the wealthy and famous who keep searching for more, something they can’t quite grasp.  Unfortunately, this futile search for happiness outside of oneself was evident last Saturday among us more ordinary people.

My girlfriend’s company was having its annual day at Kings Island amusement park which is north of Cincinnati.  I worked there during my college summers in the park’s second through fifth years.  I had been back on a few occasions, but not on a regular basis.  It wasn’t until she pointed out something that I realized that more than the park’s rides had changed.  Despite all of the new attractions added over the years, the general demeanor of the patrons was more of gloom and the stress of endurance instead of joy.  This was especially noticeable with those coming from the water park, the theoretical high point for many!

OK, so it was a hot day, approaching 90 degrees and humid.  But, we had those back then, too.  (My first solo business trip was to Boston during the same part of June, in 1980.  Temperatures were in the 90s across the region.)  Maybe it’s the bad economy and a lack of respect for the Constitution.  If you recall 1973-74, we had to deal with a very uncertain energy situation (Oil Embargo) and a president who tried to be above the law.  (Although, unlike our situation today, he had the decency to step down… But that’s not the subject of this article.)

We must have been a sight — two 50-somethings talking, laughing and holding hands as we walked through the park even though we had to avoid most of the rides because we don’t have the inner ears of astronauts.

To my mother, my deceased father and deceased boss:  You had it right!  The joy of life comes from within a person and between people who enjoy each other’s company, not from the externals.   🙂

Protecting Self-Esteem By Eliminating Academic Competition?

Today on Ave Maria Radio, one of talk show host Al Kresta’s guests was Elizabeth Scalia.  An accomplished Catholic editor and writer, she was promoting her most recent book, “Strange Gods:  Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life” (Ave Maria Press).  The book is a wake-up call for those who limit their understanding of “idols” to the golden calves of Old Testament days.

Yet, a side story which caught my attention involved a conversation she had with one of her children’s teachers.  She was curious as to why the annual school science fair was no longer being held.  It had been an excellent learning opportunity for the students and many looked forward to it.  The reason given was that it had become too much of a contentious event with parents fussing over why their children weren’t rated higher.  The teacher went on to say that the competition hurt some students’ feelings and he was hoping that the honor roll would also be eliminated in next school year.

Is this teacher serious?  He is forgetting that many of us academically successful nerds have felt strong disappointment at not always being able to excel in the “real” school glamour events – sports.  Perhaps we should let everyone be on the team and, better yet, cease keeping track of won-lost records?

Neither position is in the best interests of the future adults we are supposed to be helping to mature.  As with anything, excessive competition will be destructive for individuals and for society.  By the same token, the absence of competition is detrimental for all concerned (recall the debacles of socialist societies strewn throughout history).

Yes, we are all created equal in terms of human dignity.  However, equality in human dignity does not mean we are identical.  Any attempt to downplay the various talents each has been given shortchanges society as well as being unfair to the individual.

The problem is not competition, but our attitude toward our talents.  Each person is bestowed with the ability to help mankind whether by accomplishments or through the ability to teach love and compassion as a result of our weaknesses.  If we are fortunate to be the achievers, we have an obligation to be thankful for and a right to make the best use of our abilities.  However, we do not have the right to make others feel inferior.  The focus of our “wins” should be more of what we accomplished instead of what we did against someone.

If viewed properly, competition has the potential to help everyone, not just the “victorious.” 

“This Is My Body” — How Will We Live It?

On this Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ), Deacon Harry Settle, Jr.1 gave a remarkable homily at St. Joseph’s Church in Cold Spring, KY.  He briefly recounted our human history during which we recognized very early that “we are not in charge.”  Early man had an appreciation for the forces greater than him.  Even before the prophets, humans knew that respect for a greater being was called for.

To be complete, worship must be accompanied with some form of a sacrifice in order to “give to God what is God’s.”  It was true in all religious practices before Christ and He replaced it with His perfect sacrifice of the Mass.

The one statement which stood out the most was the reminder of Christ’s words at the Last Supper, repeated at every Consecration:  “This is My Body, which will be given up for you.”

Mr. Settle contrasted that with the prevailing secular philosophy of “This is my body.  I’ll do with it what I want.”  This should cause those of the “pro-choice” camp to give serious pause.

1 – Mr. Settle was ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Roger Foys of Covington this spring and is on track to be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Covington next year.