In the Lenten spirit, I went for confession.
In addition to the usual old favourite sins, I confessed that I overworked myself trying to secure a future for my future wife and I. This lead to injuries and burnout. Both of these forced me to quit. We needed guidance on the matter. He said hard work was a important, and it was good I had practiced it. But he said that without prudence, we can struggle to know what is best for us. Even what seems good or worthy can be hurting us. This was why prudence is a cardinal or guiding virtue, and one that takes time to develop. He said there is a lot of pressure on young people to succeed, and it was understandable. He asked how I was doing now, and I said I was retraining and had started a business. He said that was good, and he also advised me to be mindful of what had happened in the past. Prudence, he said, was about knowing what was best for ourselves. He said to pray every day, and try to feel God’s closeness. The priest absolved my sins, and did not assign any penance.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that confession. Prudence is the thing I’ve been missing.Whipping out the old Catechism tells me: “A person becomes prudent by learning to distinguish what is essential from what is non-essential, to set the right goals and to choose the best means of attaining them.” Prudence directs the other virtues. Prudence is the ability to recognise what’s right. If you want to lead a good life, you have to know what the “good” is and recognise its worth.
Part of the problem growing up was I never was told or shown what “good” is. My dad, who was agnostic atheist along with my mother paid lip service to the Church. They went to Church in front of the Catholic School principal’s nose to get my mam a job there. I was baptised, recieved first communion, and was confirmed in order to give me priority for Catholic high schools. I don’t even think I could classify it as lip service: they were cynical about it. All that, along with the background of the fighting between my mother and her mother skewed my values. There was too much confusion growing up to get a handle on what was good. Good was a quiet house. Good was no one screaming or crying. Good was holidays. Good was wine and meals. Good was grades. Good was father’s family.
And so it passed to me. Most of it good.
I’ve been financially prudent so far. I’ve tried to be prudent with others. But this feels more like conditioning. Like valuing hard work, they are formulas that were programmed into me growing up. Without that compass of prudence, I’ve felt totally lost up until last year. Put shit in, get shit out. It’s logical within the system. One example typifies it for me.
I had a habit of finding money growing up. I would see lost bank notes that no one else would. Sometimes as large as a €50 note. I usually made efforts to find the owner, or hand it in if was in a shop. This became a self-reinforcing loop. I still find money. But one time, I came across a dropped wallet, with no cards, no ID. Probably a child’s after a birthday or confirmation. I picked it up and took it home. It had €400 in cash (about $500). I hid it in my room while I deliberated what to do with it. I told my sister, who told my parents. They said they would give it to the police.But they lied to me. They ended up spending all the money from the wallet on themselves. This was at a time at the height of the boom, when they were both wealthy, with two properties, new cars: the works. It felt disgusting. I confronted them about it, and they said they would give me just €50 back from the wallet I had found. I think it was €50 from their pocket, they just wanted to shut me up by making me complicit. I used it to buy a computer game. From there on in, I kept every note I found. But I’ve reunited many people with their lost phones, wallets and bags. I don’t think that €350 was a good exchange for losing whatever trust I had in them.
When I checked into hospital because I was suicidal, I didn’t tell them. I didn’t trust them. Examples like the above, and others, go some way to explain how fucked you are without prudence,. I don’t know what I am supposed to take from that situation.”Follow the money” was one of my maxims in understanding behaviour. No suprise it lead me into hedge fund audit. But that’s no way to live life. I think it’s a good way to end up jumping off a bridge. “You didn’t get here by accident” a partner told me when I went for interviews. You were selected. You were chosen for your compliance first, then your analytic skill and intellect. You are cordially invited to fuck my ass.
Better get used to being in the bottom position, because you’re going to get fucked. A lot.