One of those coincidences, that’s not really a coincidence

Because I don’t believe in coincidences, after all.

The other night, John and I were watching The Emperor’s Club which is one of my favorite movies. It makes me wish I had learned Greek better, and Latin, and reminds me of (at least) one reason I chose to homeschool. Plus, there are cool soundbites from learned Classical philosophers. The one that struck me the other night, though, was Heraclitus: “A man’s character is his destiny.”

Heraclitus is my favorite pre-Socratic philosopher. Much of what he wrote survived only in fragments, and indeed his sayings are numbered such. It’s astonishing to me that these things have survived at all. (Side note: I recently finished A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas Basbanes, about the history of collecting books. Fascinating. I recommend it.)

Okay. So, in this movie there is a character who is a total moral failure. His teacher finally realizes that it’s not surprise that the student is so, after all, a man’s character is his destiny. You might say, a leopard can’t change his spots. Or I’ve heard Maya Angelou say, if someone shows you who they are, believe them. It’s pretty much all the same thing, only Heraclitus is more eloquent.

I started to wonder, though, is that really true? Is our character our destiny? And then it came back to me, something I’d read on Bonovox not too long ago, where he quoted St. John Chrysostom: that the only thing we can take with us to the great hereafter are the virtues we have acquired while we were on earth. Insofar as we have acquired mercy or patience or love, that is what we will take with us. (Forgive my awful paraphrase). So! Do you see it? Those virtues are indeed our character, and they are indeed our destiny.

I was explaining my thoughts to John and he said maybe St. John C was talking about this passage in 1 Corinthians, and he reads me 1 Cor. 3:9-17. That was the epistle reading for Sunday, but I didn’t know it at the time (because I have been a slacker). The funny thing is, neither did he. It was a complete coincidence! Or was it?

Of course not!

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