May 2016

New Melleray Abbey Church

Blossoms at New Melleray

Humility

Humility is truth. Humility is representing yourself as you really are, neither inflated nor deflated. The challenge for most of us is right there: how do we know ourselves as we really are? Most of us are caught somewhere between the surreal manufactured persona of Lady Gaga and the wimpiest of Woody Allen’s. When we are being Lady Gaga we are usually compensating for a self-esteem no higher than a grasshopper’s knee. When we are being Woody Allen we are simply too convinced of our worthlessness even to try to compensate. The truth, though, lies somewhere between; or rather, the truth of who we really are has nothing at all to do with our LG or our WA but only with the loving eye of the Creator-God who made us a delight and lovely in his eyes. Humility is to embrace without embarrassment or apology that we are loved divinely and to comport ourselves in the world accordingly, which means only to see and treat others as persons loved divinely, too; for God plays no favorites. Humility is to live out of a dignity that is not of our making nor the result of others’ adulation but is a gift of Another’s loving regard. The humble person never asks, “What’s in it for me,” but, “How can I help you?” and finds a way. We all know humble people and some of us are humble ourselves. It is a real possibility for everyone to be humble: don’t take the first place and don’t take the last place, but be the usher who conducts the others to their seats.

Fr. Mark

 

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.

Thomas Merton

 

Books

Books

Frans De Waal, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? 2016. The author tells us that it takes human ingenuity and respect to comprehend the level of intelligence of an animal. In example after example, he entertainingly demonstrates how researchers with those qualities have revealed surprising things about animal cognition and the porousness of the wall between human and animal cognition. First, for the nonscientist, the author provides some background on scientific thinking about animal behavior, putting paid to the bygone notion that animals are simply stimulus-response mechanisms or are solely driven by genetically endowed instincts. In recent years, scientists have begun to recognize the many surprising abilities of animals. Most of the examples are of primates, but elephants, octopuses, squirrels, and magpies are among the many other animals to appear in these pages. We see many animals both in the wild and in captivity solving challenging problems, planning future actions, having better-than-human memories, making and handling tools, communicating, and demonstrating empathy and cooperation. De Waal is persuasive in arguing that the difference between the cognition of the human and those of other animals is one of degree, not of kind, and the clarity of his writing makes for a highly readable book. A welcome bonus is the inclusion of rather charming, simple drawings by the author that give the essence of an activity better than a photograph might. For general readers, there is a helpful glossary, and for those who want more details about the research cited, there is an extensive bibliography. After this edifying book, a trip to the zoo may never be the same.

 

Author: Fr. Mark Scott

Tags: Humility, Lady Gaga, Woody Allen, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?, Frans De Waal

This simple communication is one way for me as abbot of New Melleray Abbey to communicate with the abbey’s employees and volunteers. My intention is to give our stakeholders some idea of the values and lifestyle of the monks and to share things that I have found worthwhile, thoughtful, and/or humorous. It is hoped that this sharing from the abbot will strengthen the bonds of partnership and collaboration between the monastic community and our extended community of employees and volunteers.

Fr. Mark

Abbot