Posts tagged with: desert fathers

Blog author: dpahman
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
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Not Abba Pistamon

Today at Ethika Politika, I examine some ancient economic wisdom from one of the desert fathers: Abba Pistamon. Far from the newest of Nintendo’s Pokemon monsters (despite the sound of his name), Abba Pistamon was one of the first Christian monks. The dialogue between him and an unnamed brother that I examine from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers has a lot to say about production, labor, profit, and exchange.

I write,

Far from a gnostic allergy to any involvement with the material world, Abba Pistamon acknowledges the good of production and exchange, appealing to past precedent of other revered monks before him (“Abba Sisois and others”). Commerce, he says, was common. In fact, according to the size and expansive enterprise of ancient monastic communities, we can say that his assessment is more than anecdotal. In ancient Christian sources, contempt for the merchant and trader is common, but the reality is more complicated. Sometimes traders and merchants went by a more respectable name: monks. We should not be surprised, then, that Abba Pistamon displays a certain natural business sense. But he does not stop at the merely economic aspects of production and exchange.

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“Wishful thinking will not fix our nation’s spending and debt problem,” says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary. “The longer we procrastinate, the harder it will be for us to actually do it.”

In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, a collection of wise stories and sayings from the first Christian monks, the following is attributed to one Abba Zeno: “Never lay a foundation on which you might sometime build yourself a cell.” This saying has at least two possible applications: 1) Do not start something you do not intend to see through. 2) Do not put off for tomorrow the asceticism you can do today. Unfortunately, both of these lessons are lost on our federal government when it comes to financial responsibility, and it is our children who will pay for the sins of their fathers.

The full text of his essay is here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, July 26, 2012
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In today’s “On the Square” over at First Things, Leroy Huizenga reflects upon “the technopoly” of our daily lives, where so much of our time is captivated by staring at a computer screen, clicking links, reading posts, checking updates, and so on. Huizenga writes,

I worry about becoming a functional Gnostic, plugged into this new matrix, this new pixelated irreality. My reality easily becomes the screens, and the interactivity of hyperlinks means I can go where I will and create my own personal submatrix thereby. (more…)

Coptic icon of St. Anthony the Great and St. Paul of Thebes

Earlier today, Dwight Gibson, Acton’s Director of Program Outreach, gave a presentation for the Acton Lecture Series on “The New Explorers.” While in the nineteenth century being an explorer was a vocation, the twentieth century saw a certain stagnation; geographically, at least, most of the exploring was finished. Furthermore, the common mindset was changed from the hope of what could be discovered, on all frontiers, to the idea that now we know so much—to the point that today it can sometimes be politically incorrect to admit one’s ignorance about anything.

This is not to say that there was no exploration in the twentieth century or, furthermore, that there is none today. Rather, being an explorer—with a broader definition of that word—is still a valuable vocation. As distinct from a consultant, explorers are people who help others get from point A to point B when there is no known and established process for doing so. They are rare people and naturally gifted to take the risks necessary to blaze new trails for others to follow with ease. Listening to the lecture today, it occurred to me, as a student of Church history, that while this is a needed perspective for the future, it is also a helpful hermeneutic for the past. (more…)