Tuesday, May 23, 2017

True Happiness (part 6): Places Of Honor

A number of years ago I was invited to lecture in Kenya, Africa. I prepared my lectures, got my shots, packed my bags and found myself in a village somewhere between Niarobi and Kisumu speaking to a group that grew larger daily for a week straight. So many were coming that we started a whole separate conference the next week to cover material for people who were still arriving!

My first day began with tea where I was introduced to local dignitaries along with my credentials and
Me with Johann, my driver
qualifications. Being introduced to the main audience, my host announced my credentials I was warmly received, picking my way through the material as the audience took notes. I planned an hour and a half at the end of each day to field questions: the first half dedicated to answering questions related to the topic on which I spoke; and the second half dedicated to answering "open-ended" questions.

The attendees asked questions that revealed a deep desire to learn--very well thought-out, heart-felt questions. As the first day drew to close, a very old man sitting in the back rose to his feet and asked his question. My translator spoke loudly so everyone could hear (though he was translating into English for me). His question floored me--it went something like this:

"We understand you come from America and are University educated. We understand you hold College and Seminary degrees. We understand you are Licensed and Ordained. You can teach; that is obvious--but who are you? We don't know you. Why should we listen to you? Why should we trust what you say is true?"

About 1500 years ago, Boethius suggested that a man was "made" by places of honor and his high rank should bring a man happiness. Lady Philosophy made another suggestion and it sounded very much like this old African man's question. Is the greatest good for a man found in his exaltation above other men? (Book 3, "Consolation of Philosophy")

reuters.com
A recent Time.com article titled, "Donald Trump After Hours"  shows us a snapshot of how a man with higher honor than another might live happily:

"The waiters know well Trump’s personal preferences. As he settles down, they bring him a Diet Coke, while the rest of us are served water, with the Vice President sitting at one end of the table. With the salad course, Trump is served what appears to be Thousand Island dressing instead of the creamy vinaigrette for his guests. When the chicken arrives, he is the only one given an extra dish of sauce. At the dessert course, he gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else."

The basis of his high position is given to him by others, but who is "he" and what if he is not around those who gave him the place of honor? How is he recognized when not in his home, his home town, his own country? Someone must announce his status, his credentials--but who is he as a man? What if a man is not worthy of the status given to him?
How can a man be happy when he is not recognized or his credentials have no meaning?

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