Telos and praxis.

Mostly we don’t use words like that, unusual as they are; but that doesn’t make them bad words, or even irrelevant words. In fact they are words that give us life, that lead us to being what we should be and can be as human beings. In the image of John Paul II, they are about human flourishing.

For years I have asked folk, “Do you have a telos that is sufficient to meaningfully orient your praxis over the course of your life?” Or sometimes, “What is the point of life, and your life? And do you live like that?” Or more simply, “Why do you get up in the morning? And is the reason you get up, one that can keep getting you up, for the long haul?” Donuts in the cafeteria may do it for a while, but that is not a sufficient motivation after you leave college. Even making a lot of money is not enough, finally; people want significance, not just success.

For the Presbyterians in the world, the first question of their catechism is a telos/praxis question, viz. “What is man’s chief end?” The hard thing is to honestly and adequately answer in a way that makes for a good life, not only for an individual but for a society

All of us live this way, thinking it through or not, self-conscious or not.

I thought about all this today while reading the CNN/Sports Illustrated story about the Nationals Gio Gonzalez’s 20 wins, the first pitcher to do so this season. Apparently last winter he took up “Project 20,” with the assistance of his trainer, spending months forming the habits of heart and mind, body and soul, that the long season would require—and that a serious effort at 20 wins would ask of him. The long games with hundred of pitches resulting in an extraordinary number of wins didn’t just happen.

Baseball isn’t like that, and neither is life.

Steven Garber is the Senior Fellow for Vocation and the Common Good for the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. A teacher of many people in many places, he continues to serve as a consultant to colleges and corporations, facilitating both individual and institutional vocation. A husband, a father and a grandfather, a he has long lived in Washington DC, living a life among family, friends, and flowers.

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