Ambition: Virtue or Vice

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.Where would the world be without some ambitious people? We think of the marvelous benefits we enjoy as a result of ambitious people intrigued by the thought of trying to implement a new idea they’ve had. Ambitious people usually seem to be the creative sort, who are driven to try out a pathway for themselves that is somewhat unique. However, this is not necessary, since the ambitious also enjoy whatever is new and challenging for them, regardless of how many others have preceded them in attempting the same thing, like climbing a very high mountain.

At times there are ambitious types who want to get ahead, so that where others are “at” determine how ambition plays out in their lives. But not all. For there are some people who have an inner drive and determination to succeed, to do something different or unique. It is part of their makeup, perhaps better called a gift or inner drive that is part of who they are.

Rock climber at sunset background. Sport and active life

There are athletic types, for instance runners, whose ambition is to be the best in their school, or their city. It’s an inner drive, already implanted in them without their striving to acquire it. In their case, ambition is a gift or endowment that makes a person who she or he is. It is competitive but its inner energy is less focused on others in an effort to best them, but more on oneself and the inner satisfaction of using to its maximum a gift or talent one has, regardless of the competitive aspect. So often ambition is focused on doing one’s personal best, regardless of others.

Ambition is the drive to excel. And it revels in doing so. It has its origin within oneself but its termination point is usually outside oneself: to be the best pianist I can be, or to be the most humorous person , or the most successful salesperson, or the most caring surgeon. None of these accomplishments would be possible without ambition. And while there is personal satisfaction in achieving these goals, often connected with this sense of accomplishment is the good that one can do—a good that is other-oriented. It’s good, not just for oneself, but it’s good for others too.

To be engaged in an activity simply because I enjoy it, with little or no thought as to whether I am successful at it, is not to be overlooked. I may belong to a bowling team comprised of those, myself included, who bowl for sheer enjoyment, relaxation, and fellowship with others who also bowl.   The ambition operative here is simply to “have fun”, to unwind, to relax. This is a form of ambition not to be overlooked. In the long run, ambition can simply be a mode of self-expression. It is not necessary to think of ambition in terms of others.

In this season of political activity, we note men and women ambitious to gain prominence in an effort to secure a victory that will help them win an office or position in various levels of government. To call them ambitious is not necessarily a criticism. They may be ambitious because they think they have the talent and gifts to improve the lives of people in view of the ideas the political candidate would bring to a position, should he or she win the election.

In the last analysis, ambition should be considered a gift of God, or an endowment, or a skill, along with a keen intelligence, a quick wit, a strong character or a charming personality. So it will undoubtedly come up for scrutiny at the Last Judgment, together with other traits and characteristics of our life. And the judgment leveled on us may, surprisingly, not necessarily consist of the charge that we were overly ambitious, but also that we were not ambitious enough, that is, we did not sufficiently recognize or develop or utilize our ambition, since it was a gift of God.

We might look to Jesus Christ and ask the question under consideration here: was He ambitious? Did He have a burning desire to achieve a goal or task? Did He exhibit any signs of His determination to achieve it? Certainly, His adversaries, among the Jewish leadership, considered Him exceedingly ambitious in the claims He seemed to be making about Himself (Jn. 6.42). and was He not still just a boy when, on the occasion of “being lost in the temple”, He responded to His mother’s mild complaint: “your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety”, by asking: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2.48-49) Here Jesus speaks of a strong ambition of His, to identify Himself with His Father’s program. And we recall His opening words at the Last supper: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” (Lk 22.15), indicating an ambition He had been planning as the grand finale of His life’s work. So from the beginning till the end of His life among us He had compelling ambitions driving Him to significant actions.

They convey to us the truth that Jesus, like us, harbored ambitions within Himself. So we need not speak of being victims of our ambitions. Rather, we should think of being utilizers of the ambitions with which God endowed us to do what He had in mind when He enriched us with them.

Partners and Community?

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

A number of years ago, a good friend and I spent a couple days at a Bed and Breakfast in the Amish Country in northern Indiana, not too far from Chicago. Sitting on the front porch after touring all day and seeing the horse and buggies passing by was almost surreal. How do the Amish do it? I still wonder, how, that is, do they survive economically in this country with such a diametrically opposed economic system? I also wonder if we could learn from them. I think so.

Robert Neuwirth in his June 2012 TEDGlobal Talk, “The power of the informal economy” taught me things I never learned in Economics 101 at DePaul University in the mid 1960’s. I suspect they are still not teaching these facts either in their 100 level courses or the 400 level ones. Neuwirth ends with saying: “I just want to end by saying that if Adam Smith had framed out a theory of the flea market instead of the free market, what would be some of the principles?” I like his question and think it especially good for us as we struggle to find jobs and meaningful employment today for all our college graduates leaving school with thousands of dollars in debt.

In an April 21, 2016 post “Leap of Faith” on the Fellowship for Intentional Community’s Blog, A couple in their late 60’s tells of their joining a younger couple, buying a couple farm buildings and acres and starting a community. I found the entire post very interesting, but in case you don’t have the time, I found the following quote especially apropos for anyone interested in developing community.

I also asked Alina what makes the farm work. She said (not in these words) that we know each other very well, we generously share things without feeling territorial, we don’t keep score, we all work together as a team, and we talk to each other about important things at dinner.

I wonder if such thinking has any place in our discussions regarding the communities we as Passionist Partners are trying to develop? I wonder especially if meeting once a month is enough to develop community? I wonder if it’s not time to rethink this whole thing we call community?

On the Ups and Downs of Squirrel Life

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Squirrels have a mixed reputation. On the one hand, many regard them as “cute”, full of life, with that curious way they have of looking at you, inquisitively, wondering what you are up to. Is it to be good or bad for them? So their muscles are always taught and drawn up tightly, especially if we are unfamiliar to them.   As we draw close to them, they wonder if we are up to tricks with them, whether for good or for bad. But they can be playful, if we have a bag of nuts that we scatter before them. And they engage in chatter with one another, which is engaging to some of their admirers.

a squirrel

On the other hand, there are others for whom squirrels are a nuisance, even somewhat threatening, because they can inflict a fair amount of damage with their incisor teeth and their sharp claws, which serve them well in climbing trees and scampering over limbs, leaping from one to the other. And they bear a facial resemblance to rats, at least for some people, which is reason enough to dislike them. Admittedly, they are troublesome, especially for gardeners, who are proud of their sprouting and budding flowers and food products as they emerge out of mother earth. Squirrels, along with rabbits, can prove quite troublesome for these growths.

Some people find squirrels good eating. Like rats, they are rodents, but, unlike them, are a clean type. And their diet tends to be of the clean variety, as witnessed by those who build feeding stations for birds alighting in their back yards to eat the bird seed placed in these cages to attract birds. Understandably, this frustrates and angers bird-lovers who try to attract these lovely fowl to their yards, but squirrel-lovers find it an intriguing and engaging past-time to watch the amazing gymnastics of a squirrel working its way up toward a bird cage with adroit maneuvers in an effort to gain some good eating.

Perhaps that is why birds try to harass squirrels, to ward them off the birds’ food supply. As if in reprisal, birds attack squirrels, especially when they are most vulnerable, scampering along telephone wires. Of course, these attacks are not always retaliatory. They can be playful too. This interplay also occurs at the site where each of them is most comfortable and “at home”: the trees, especially where they are numerous and clumped together. It is there that both birds and squirrels have their natural habitat, moving adroitly within and around them, making their nests in the leafy confines thriving there. The tree world is the natural habitat for the squirrel, who gains most attention for its daring and often hazardous leaping from one willowy branch to another, bending and swaying under the sudden weight of a squirrel leaping onto it from another tree.

But the phone wires, which are not the natural habitat for squirrels, even less so than for the bird family, nonetheless provide convenient unhampered travel paths for moving quickly and adroitly from one point to the next. At the same time, the wires provide one of the great threats besetting the otherwise attractive travel systems in the squirrel world. For these wires, extending from telephone pole to telephone pole, serve to power the electrical power generators serving the immediate neighborhood around them. Occasionally, an inquisitive squirrel, intrigued by one of these power units, will stop to explore it, in the course of which it will come upon something attractive to its appetite in the electrical cable converging there. And at that point will imitate Eve’s succumbing to her appetite, by biting into it, thereby suffering the same tragic end that she did, which, for the squirrel, meant being fried to death by the electrical wiring to which it was unwittingly drawn.

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What is more, just as Eve’s miscue affected many more than just herself, so the squirrel’s mistake spills over into the lives of others, throwing into confusion the neighborhood served by that particular electrical power unit, which, in losing all its electrical power, shut down all the services provided by that system. Understandably, this does little to redeem whatever disesteem into which the squirrel species might have fallen among its admirers.

Such is the ups and downs of the squirrel in the eyes of its observers. While it may enjoy attributes that are the envy of those familiar with its antics, comparable to that of the daredevil taking incredible chances to gain the admiration of those less prone to expose themselves to danger for what seems to be foolish or insignificant advantages, the squirrel pays the price for costly miscues and miscalculations, evidence of which we note on the pavement beneath telephone poles where the remains of a daredevil squirrel lie alone and unattended.

Such exploits may not be attractive to many. Nor may they prove consistently worthwhile or advantageous to their observers. But they bask in their well-deserved reputation for being industrious and hard-working. Their sagacity and capacity to build nests for themselves and their family at the onslaught of cold weather, and their diligence in burying nuts of various kinds in the earth around their familiar haunts as fall changes into winter is noteworthy for its prudent foresight in providing for the welfare of its dependents. We might try to imitate their admirable qualities, while avoiding some of their foolhardiness.

Squirrels have a mixed reputation. On the one hand, many regard them as “cute”, full of life, with that curious way they have of looking at you, inquisitively, wondering what you are up to. Is it to be good or bad for them? So their muscles are always taught and drawn up tightly, especially if we are unfamiliar to them.   As we draw close to them, they wonder if we are up to tricks with them, whether for good or for bad. But they can be playful, if we have a bag of nuts that we scatter before them. And they engage in chatter with one another, which is engaging to some of their admirers.

On the other hand, there are others for whom squirrels are a nuisance, even somewhat threatening, because they can inflict a fair amount of damage with their incisor teeth and their sharp claws, which serve them well in climbing trees and scampering over limbs, leaping from one to the other. And they bear a facial resemblance to rats, at least for some people, which is reason enough to dislike them. Admittedly, they are troublesome, especially for gardeners, who are proud of their sprouting and budding flowers and food products as they emerge out of mother earth. Squirrels, along with rabbits, can prove quite troublesome for these growths.

Some people find squirrels good eating. Like rats, they are rodents, but, unlike them, are a clean type. And their diet tends to be of the clean variety, as witnessed by those who build feeding stations for birds alighting in their back yards to eat the bird seed placed in these cages to attract birds. Understandably, this frustrates and angers bird-lovers who try to attract these lovely fowl to their yards, but squirrel-lovers find it an intriguing and engaging past-time to watch the amazing gymnastics of a squirrel working its way up toward a bird cage with adroit maneuvers in an effort to gain some good eating.

Perhaps that is why birds try to harass squirrels, to ward them off the birds’ food supply. As if in reprisal, birds attack squirrels, especially when they are most vulnerable, scampering along telephone wires. Of course, these attacks are not always retaliatory. They can be playful too. This interplay also occurs at the site where each of them is most comfortable and “at home”: the trees, especially where they are numerous and clumped together. It is there that both birds and squirrels have their natural habitat, moving adroitly within and around them, making their nests in the leafy confines thriving there. The tree world is the natural habitat for the squirrel, who gains most attention for its daring and often hazardous leaping from one willowy branch to another, bending and swaying under the sudden weight of a squirrel leaping onto it from another tree.

But the phone wires, which are not the natural habitat for squirrels, even less so than for the bird family, nonetheless provide convenient unhampered travel paths for moving quickly and adroitly from one point to the next. At the same time, the wires provide one of the great threats besetting the otherwise attractive travel systems in the squirrel world. For these wires, extending from telephone pole to telephone pole, serve to power the electrical power generators serving the immediate neighborhood around them. Occasionally, an inquisitive squirrel, intrigued by one of these power units, will stop to explore it, in the course of which it will come upon something attractive to its appetite in the electrical cable converging there. And at that point will imitate Eve’s succumbing to her appetite, by biting into it, thereby suffering the same tragic end that she did, which, for the squirrel, meant being fried to death by the electrical wiring to which it was unwittingly drawn.

.
What is more, just as Eve’s miscue affected many more than just herself, so the squirrel’s mistake spills over into the lives of others, throwing into confusion the neighborhood served by that particular electrical power unit, which, in losing all its electrical power, shut down all the services provided by that system. Understandably, this does little to redeem whatever disesteem into which the squirrel species might have fallen among its admirers.

Such is the ups and downs of the squirrel in the eyes of its observers. While it may enjoy attributes that are the envy of those familiar with its antics, comparable to that of the daredevil taking incredible chances to gain the admiration of those less prone to expose themselves to danger for what seems to be foolish or insignificant advantages, the squirrel pays the price for costly miscues and miscalculations, evidence of which we note on the pavement beneath telephone poles where the remains of a daredevil squirrel lie alone and unattended.

Such exploits may not be attractive to many. Nor may they prove consistently worthwhile or advantageous to their observers. But they bask in their well-deserved reputation for being industrious and hard-working. Their sagacity and capacity to build nests for themselves and their family at the onslaught of cold weather, and their diligence in burying nuts of various kinds in the earth around their familiar haunts as fall changes into winter is noteworthy for its prudent foresight in providing for the welfare of its dependents. We might try to imitate their admirable qualities, while avoiding some of their foolhardiness.

Stop! Look! Go!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

On a Fall evening in 1963, I was sitting in the refectory (dining room) of the Passionist’s Novitiate in St. Paul Kansas (yes Kansas) listening to a fellow novice read an article from The Sign Magazine by Fr. Andrew Greeley entitled “Grace, the Sacrament of the Present Moment”. Today, 53 years later, I remember well what Fr. Greeley wrote, basically, if you are waiting for life to happen, forget it. It is happening here and now in the present moment. That thought changed my life’s direction then, and continues to inspire me today.

Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast repeats that same message in his June 2013 TED Talk, “Want to be happy? Be grateful above. He further gives us a simple formula for doing that, living gratefully. After explaining the relationship between being happy and grateful, brother tells us if we do three simple things we were taught as children, Stop! Look! Go! we will be happy not only in the good moments but the challenging ones as well.

For me, it is also important to Stop! Look! Go! in community with at least one other person, but better with a small intimate community. In a National Catholic Reporter April 12, 2016 interview of Sister Diane Guerin, Justice Coordinator-Mid-Atlantic Community of Sisters of Mercy by Sister Camille D’Arienzo, Sister Diane tells how she prays:

I most often pray in images generated through readings of Scripture, poetry, headlines, nature. I share these experiences and reflections with other sisters and those close to me. For over 40 years I’ve been part of a small group of sisters, priests, lay women and married couples who have shared life together. We meet socially but also pray deeply together. As we age, and some have moved on to their heavenly reward, we meet less frequently but there remains a strong bond among us.

So here I am still trying to live one moment at a time, sharing those moments with the people I love, praying. I am lucky to have a small group called the Community of Passionist Partners. I hope you have a similar group.

 

His Only Vices Were Cigarette Smoking and an Occasional Drink

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

We’ll call him Uncle Jeff. He was a bachelor. He was a devout Catholic the better part of his life. He was a stalwart of his parish church—a daily mass attendant. He always sat in the same pew in church. And, as he aged, he obviously enjoyed dominating the laity’s role in reciting prayers such as the rosary or the litany. And, with his brother-in-law, Harry, faithfully brought Catholic reading material monthly to the city jail, on behalf of the Holy Name and St. Vincent DePaul Societies, to which both belonged.

He was a graduate of one of the two big public high schools in town. His family house was close to his parish, two blocks away. Of his four siblings, he was the only one who never left home. He had a brother, a bachelor, like himself, who, however, lived out-of-town. There was a story to the effect that he dated a girl in his younger years, but that could never be verified. So he lived with his parents in the family home, most of his life. It was a comfortable life. His sisters married and had children, on whom he doted on the occasion of their visits. On warm summer evenings he treated them to ice cream cones. His recreation was limited, mainly golf and bridge. In his younger days he did go away, during the summer, to a small lake resort, taking his mother with him, but just for a few days.

He worked all his life, starting right after high school, with a major railway company, with whom he remained all his life. His job, in the latter years, was to keep track of all the freight cars scattered over the extensive system of rails operated by the company for whom he worked—a formidable task in those days when freight cars were haphazardly dropped off all over the extensive track system, and computers were nonexistent to help account for them. It was mainly a pencil and pad method, which he methodically managed for many of his 50 years of employment there. He was well suited for the job, unexciting though it was.

He could have enjoyed some attractive vacations over the years, given the free travel made available to him in view of his long association with the company– anywhere on its extensive rail system. But he never took advantage of this. And he was a man of simple culinary tastes, always taking his lunch at a nearby cafeteria. It never varied: a bologna sandwich, a bowl of vegetable soup and a slice of blueberry pie. His lunch was always ready for him since the cafeteria personnel working there knew what he wanted.

His other shopping habits were similar—clothing, for instance. There was a Sears/Roebuck store close to the station, and it provided whatever clothing his simple needs called for, so that shopping was never an ordeal for him. Should he need a pair of trousers, he headed immediately to Sear’s men’s division, spotted the display counter featuring trousers, and bought the first pair that caught his eye. It was always a pleasure shopping with him, usually a five to ten minute affair.

His prize possession was his automobile—always a Chevrolet. Of course, he drove in the pre-automatic gear shift years. He purchased a new car every 7/8 years, and the neighbors, familiar with his driving habits, vied with one another to purchase the car when he was ready to sell. For he never drove it anywhere except back and forth to work—never out of town except on Sundays, when he took his mother on a little drive through the countryside. As a result, his mileage gauge featured unbelievably low figures. Another feature of the car was that he never drove more than 30 mph, to the distress of drivers behind him, but to those acquainted with his driving habits, this was an added advantage for the person fortunate enough to purchase it.

His only vices were cigarette smoking and an occasional drink.

So he was the perfect example of the temperate, regulated, (some would say, stodgy) life. He was evidently not given to extremes. The closest exception to this was Christmas Eve, when the family assembled for the sharing of gifts and a few drinks. The women gathered in the kitchen or dining room, the men in the living room. There the traditional arguments between Republicans and Democrats would get underway in this era of FDR and his New Deal, sometimes louder than necessary.

His life-style likely appeals to some, while not to others, who may regard its predictable pace and its lack of variety, experimentation and change as stifling. It is hard to know how to evaluate the well-paced life, such as his. Was it the force of circumstances that shaped his life, or was it the result of deliberate choices on his part? Is it possible to cite such a life as a happy one, or was it one of monotony: colorless and overly predictable? Was it the influence of the Catholic faith on his life, or his family situation with its responsibilities?   Or was it a pattern influenced by his habits and comfort level? Did his life’s work/employment unduly rule his life, or did he deliberately choose to live his life in this manner?

Perhaps it is best to leave it at that, saying: to each his own.

Give Me the Internet or Give Me Death!

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

An open letter to my Church family

In my sophomore year at the Passionist Prep in Warrenton Missouri, I won a speech contest delivering Patrick Henry’s “Call to Arms” in front of the assembled student body and faculty. The urgency Henry presented to the fledgling colonists in 1775, just six months before the death of St. Paul of the Cross by the way, is brought home with his famous last line: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

Today, I believe the Church is in much the same situation the colonists found themselves, with a few fundamental differences. The colonists were at the mercy of a government that didn’t serve them. Today the church is at the mercy of outmoded ways of delivering their much needed message of hope, joy and the power of the Cross to a suffering world. Paraphrasing Patrick Henry I’d say: “Give me the Internet or give me death.”

Haley Van Dyck in the above TED Talk presents a roadmap to such a change. She tells how she along with a few others, after having successfully used the Internet to elect President Obama, were charged by President Obama to apply these same techniques to providing government services to students, the poor, veterans, immigrants, the elderly. She tells about the four-step process that is bridging that divide and beginning to deliver services in record time. The four steps are:

  1. Recruit the very best talent you can find for a short term of duty.
  2. Strategically identify the most important services the government offers
  3. Pair these incredibly talented people with the people already providing the services
  4. Give them connection to everybody in the government from the President down to the front line people delivering the services

I think St. Paul of the Cross if he were around today would be using the Internet much the way Van Dyck is doing at the Federal Government. We are not in 1775, the year St. Paul of the Cross died. We must enter the 21st Century.

 

The Freighter, the Great Lakes and God

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Spring is usually a longed-for season of the year. It represents the verge of warmer days, though just gradually.   At the same time it hints at the diminishment of snowfall, if not instantly and completely, at least slowly and partially. And it teases inhabitants of northern climes with little green shoots struggling up through the ground. All in all, it is the epitome of promise.

Promises, of course, are not always kept. Or, at least, not always kept promptly or completely. And, when that happens, it is often accompanied by the qualifying phrase: “What I meant by that promise was…”   With reference back to the weather system again, what the weather man or woman must often do is qualify the promise of spring with the cautionary remark: “…this is not how it OUGHT to be…”

Now, in addition to mother nature’s signs of spring’s arrival, there are other indications to fall back upon, depending on the part of the country in which one lives. One might be the reduction in size of the rocksalt piled up throughout the city by the Streets and Sanitation department, signaling that much of the winter has passed, since the salt used to cope with the snowfalls on the streets has already been reduced in size, suggesting that it’s unlikely to be needed in any significant way in the coming days. Or, bundled-up fishermen and women head out to the waterways in their part of the country to catch great amounts of small smelt fish in their nets, one of the reliable signs that, regardless of the cold, spring is at hand.

In the Midwest, one such waterway is the Great Lakes system forming borders of several states. The lakes are good, not just for smelt fishing. They’re also good for transporting: raw materials like iron ore and limestone from places like Duluth Minnesota to reprocessing plants in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. They can be large ships, as big as ocean-going vessels. They are a key component in the chain of plants representing various stages of the manufacturing process so central to the economy of a nation such as the U.S.

And it is interesting to note that they are a key element in another aspect of this interlocking system of heavy industry: the movement phase of raw material, from one part of the country, to another. Key components in heavy industry have to be transported from one part of the country to another, and much of this occurs on the waterways provided by the Great Lakes. And it is these large freighters that move these raw materials from one part of the lake system to the smelting and refining process found at another part of the Lake.

It is this background that provides another way of noting the arrival of spring, at least for those living in and around the Great Lakes. It is based on the inter-lake transport carried on by these large freighters as they ply their way from one part of this waterway system to another. For during the winter season these ore carriers, big and powerful as they are, are unable to make their way through this water system because of the freezing temperature conditions that prevail in the upper reaches of the Great Lakes. This results in a formidable sheet of thick ice covering the surface of the entire lake (Superior), preventing its usefulness as a waterway. Not even ice-breakers can make their way through this daunting ice mass, in effect ending any commerce on the lake(s) for the three/four months of the winter season.

The inhabitants living around these waterways grow accustomed, during this period of time, to nothing but ice sheets covering the surface of the lake(s) as far as the eye can see. There’s not much to be done but to accept it with more or less resignation.

But as their calendars, hanging on the kitchen walls, signal the move through February and onto March (definitely, into April) the hardy folk walking the footpaths around the lake begin to cast an eye toward the horizon enfolding the lake to see what is worth noting at this time of the year, and, eventually, the eye will blink once or twice to refocus its gaze on what begins to take shape on the lake’s surface: the silhouette of a giant slow-moving freighter several miles out in the waterway, making its ponderous way south, toward the elaborate system of factories dotting the far end of the lake system, that have been dormant for several months, waiting for the first arrival of hopefully many such ships hauling cargo to their destination point.

Thereby, for this part of the country, the first signs of spring have emerged. It’s not the song of a bird, or the sight of one with a straw in its beak, nor a blade of grass peeping from the unforgiving ground, nor the shape of a pod on the tree limb above the pathway, nor a bulb struggling out of the ground. None of these are as significant a sign of spring for this part of the country as the slow-moving massive shape of a freighter bearing down on the dock ahead. The good news is out that the waterway is open, for freight-transport is underway. The factories can fire up, the work force can gear up, for another productive manufacturing season.

There’s no need for the nest-building robin, or the budding tree, or the peeping blade of grass to provide an incontrovertible sign of spring so long as the prow of a massive lake freighter majestically overcoming the formidable ice obstruction left behind it as it makes its way toward a familiar port and docking berth to provide the raw material for starting the manufacturing cycle once again. Overcoming the ice mass is as much a sign of God in action as other indications of spring’s arrival.