Sunday, March 04, 2012


Not the wet kind.

I'm talking this kind:
pre·cip·i·ta·tion (pr-sp-tshn)
1. A headlong fall or rush.
2. Abrupt or impulsive haste.
3. A hastening or acceleration, especially one that is sudden or unexpected: He is responsible for the precipitation of his own demise.
I think it has been my predominant fault in life.  Or maybe not.  In retrospect, making a quick getaway was at times a lifesaver.  Or maybe not.  My precipitousness led me to make not a few rash decisions throughout my life.  In fact, this post is somehow rather precipitous, not unlike most posts I do - but I'll try and make this one short and not reveal too much. 

People act precipitously when they act impulsively and without sufficient reflection.  Like when they wake up one morning and say to themselves, 'I'm quitting my job!'  And they have no other job to go to.  Or, 'I'm leaving my vocation to do something else!'  And although they may have a plan, they do not have the means or wherewith all to accomplish it.  Or worse, they keep reinventing the same plan over and over, taking in people along the way.  'I'm going to start a new company in this town!'  After getting the backers, the first town turns out to be not the right town, so they up and leave and go to the next.  But I'm getting away from my original intention here.  The do-what-you-love-and-the-money-will-come gyrovagues sort of promote this type of thinking - or lack of it.

Taking risks.  Of course it's not necessarily a bad thing, but people need to be smart about it - they need to look at their track record and be more calculating in their risk taking.  They need to avoid rash haste - they need a plan.  Otherwise, you might increase your sorrows and increase the likelihood of more precipitation, in the form of tears.  I've learned this the hard way.  Precipitous people are very difficult to direct.

As to the spiritual fault of precipitation, or how it relates to the interior life, Garrigou-Lagrange has a section on that as well:
Properly speaking, what is precipitation? St. Thomas (11) defines it as a manner of acting by impulsion of the will or of the passion, without prudence, precaution, or sufficient consideration. It is a sin directly opposed to prudence and the gift of counsel. It leads to temerity in judgment and is comparable to the haste of one who descends a staircase too rapidly and falls, instead of walking composedly.
What are the causes of precipitation? As spiritual writers say, this defect comes from the fact that we substitute our own natural activity for the divine action. We act with feverish ardor, without sufficient reflection, without prayer for the light of the Holy Ghost, without the advice of our spiritual director. At times this natural haste is the cause of extremely imprudent acts that are very harmful in their results.
Natural haste often arises from the fact that we consider only the proximate end to be attained today, without seeing its relation to the supreme end toward which we must direct our steps. Seeing only this immediate human end, we direct our efforts toward it by natural. activity, without sufficient recourse to the help of God.

We can see in the training that Christ gave His apostles how often He warned them against this precipitation or natural haste, which causes a man to act without sufficient reflection and without a sufficiently great spirit of faith. - Read more.

Art: Detail: Van Der Weyden, Descent from the Cross


  1. But what about St. John of God? He followed his impulses wherever they led him, to Africa, to Spain, to found a hospital on the streets of Granada (later he rented a building).

  2. Stuff works out for the saints, doesn't it.

  3. You are describing how my life has been most of my adult life. I've gone so many places on a wing and a prayer with absolutely no plan. I've been in some very desperate situations and places. I've left positions and places in haste and have almost always regretted my decision in hindsight. Now, to be certain those times in my past and mostly my youth were done with a clouded mind and were at a time when my faith was miniscule compared to a mustard seed. I did not seek the counsel of the Holy Ghost and I was doing everything to my own agenda. My regret is that I my life is littered with lost chances and opportunities. It's difficult in midlife to deal with that sort of thing. My greatest consolation is that God willing I shall have tomorrow to live a deeper life of faith and seek to do God's will rather than my own. I think it has to do with what your focus is in this life. If your focus is to find the ultimate relationship/man/woman who will fulfill your every need, or the ultimate job where you will love what you do, or the ultimate geographic location etc then you'll never be happy because those things are phantoms. I think that is a big issue with those who are SSA though certainly not limited to them. If your focus is on the Lord Jesus Christ and becoming more and more like Him on a daily basis, if your focus is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, if your first focus is to deny yourself take your cross and follow Him and if you truly love Him with all your heart you will follow His commandments then you will be on the right road. A friend of mine said to me recently: well I just want you all to be happy. Well, that's a nice sentiment but I don't believe true happiness is attainable in this life. We can have a measure of happiness, and joy and peace but when that becomes the focus and goal of one's life that's when we get into trouble. Because I don't believe that is what this here is all about.

  4. 'labels: life is a vale of tears.'

    i thought it was a cabaret (old chum).

  5. servus,

    I agree with your point about "happiness." I've heard many people use that term and attach it to God's ultimate purpose or even the topic of discerning one's vocation - without reservation. But is that Aristotle or the Gospel?

    I do not think that God is against our happiness as such - our happiness is ultimately communion with Him. But the way many seem to speak about "happiness" betrays the notion of happiness I just noted; it becomes evident when one is suffering and all of a sudden God is on trial because His allowing or not preventing suffering - which is seen as an obstacle to our happiness - is incompatible with the this-world-alone view of happiness.

    At the center of the faith is the Paschal Mystery - I'd argue that more of us are not "happy" because we have not entered into that mystery and 'suffered' the complications involved therein, such that the faith becomes more fully integrated into our lives, shaping our expectations and defining happiness for us, rather than the other way around.

    Anyway, from a strictly ethical perspective even, I'm of the same mind as a certain personalist perspective, which I'll quote here:

    "Since personalism takes seriously the freedom of persons, it takes seriously the moral existence of persons. Moral good and evil form the axis of the personal universe. The encounter with the moral law in conscience stirs the waters of personal existence like nothing else in our experience. When it comes to the norms of a personalist ethics our personalism starts with Kant’s prohibition on using persons, and proceeds to consider all the forms of coercion that do some violence to persons. In developing an ethics of respect for persons our personalism guards against two opposite errors. On the one hand, it rejects the ethical eudaemonism according to which the main point of the moral life is to achieve our own happiness; against this it affirms the transcendence of the moral subject who shows respect to persons because respect is due to them. On the other hand, it rejects the ethical altruism which asserts the claims of others so forcefully that any interest in our own happiness is made to appear as selfish; against this it affirms that the moral subject is also a person and thus also one who may not simply be used, or let himself be used, for the good of others."


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