principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Three questions…at the foot of the cross

“A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.”
St. Therese of Lisieux


(St Dominic at the base of the cross, with my reflection in the protective glass, also at
the foot of the cross / Freco by Fra Angelico / The Convent of San Marco / Florence, Italy

“The beatitude of the saints is immutable, like that of the Son of God. . .
Add ages to ages; multiply them equal to the sand of the ocean or the stars of heaven;
exhaust all numbers, if you can, beyond what the human intelligence can conceive,
and for the elect there will be still the same eternity of happiness.
They are immutable, and this immutability excludes weariness and disgust.
The life of an elect soul is one succession, without end,
of desires ever arising and ever satisfied, but desires without trouble, satiety or lassitude.
The elect will always see God, love God, possess God and always will wish to see Him,
love Him and possess Him still more.
This beatitude is the end destined for all;
God has given us time only in order to merit it, being and life only to possess it.
Reflect seriously on this great truth, and ask yourself these three questions
at the foot of the crucifix:
What have I done hitherto for heaven?
What ought I to do for heaven?
What shall I do henceforward for heaven?”

St. Ignatius of Loyola, p. 179
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Exercises

Seize us oh Lord

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.
Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness.
Let us love.
Let us run.”

St. Augustine


(flower stall / Zurich, Switzerland /Julie Cook / 2018)

“When you sit down to eat, pray.
When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you.
If you drink wine,
be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness.
When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes.
When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars,
throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way.
Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises,
when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God,
who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know,
love and praise their Creator.”

St. Basil the Great

the anticipation, the meeting, the victory…Santa

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

(The Mayor proclaiming the day was a success/ Julie Cook / 2018)

The Mayor is proclaiming the day a true success…

First, there was the preparation…

Next, there was the anticipation…

Then there was ‘the meeting’

and then there was the victory supper…

A good meeting and a great day…

Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves,
as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—
in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.

Amen.
1 Peter 4:11

the big house and ambience

Eating is one of the great beauties in life.
One of my favorite recreations…
eating with friends, the service, the ambiance.

LeRoy Neiman


(wishing to escape the confines of woobooville / Julie Cook/ 2018)

So for chief aide’s birthday, the CA, or moppie as she is known to The Mayor, drove to
Atlanta with her assistant, aka poppie—driving to the dreaded day office (aka daycare)
in order to spring the Mayor from the ‘big house’ for the day.

Birthdays are such that those held hostage by daycare should be freed…
or so The Mayor had decreed.

So later The Mayor entertained her entire staff at a birthday celebration for the chief aide.

While celebrating the chief aide’s birthday, The Mayor, in the dim lighting,
accidentally or perhaps purposely, pulled the bearnaise sauce over on top of herself
and her chief aide…all over the laps, the coats, the pants, the napkins, and the floor…
but despite the tasty but greasy mess…coupled with a gracious cup of raspberry sorbet,
a good time was had by all.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God

1 Corinthians 10:31

worse than the wild beasts

“We follow the ways of wolves, the habits of tigers: or, rather we are worse than they.
To them nature has assigned that they should be thus fed,
while God has honoured us with rational speech and a sense of equity.
And yet we have become worse than the wild beast.”

John Chrysostom


(door knocker, Florence, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018)

“The Devil didn’t deal out temptations to Our Lord only.
He brings these evil schemes of his to bear on each of Jesus’ servants—
and not just on the mountain or in the wilderness or when we’re by ourselves.
No, he comes after us in the city as well, in the marketplaces, in courts of justice.
He tempts us by means of others, even our own relatives.
So what must we do? We must disbelieve him altogether, and close our ears against him,
and hate his flattery.
And when he tries to tempt us further by offering us even more,
then we should shun him all the more. . .
We aren’t as intent on gaining our own salvation as he is intent on achieving our ruin.
So we must shun him, not with words only, but also with works;
not in mind only, but also in deed.
We must do none of the things that he approves,
for in that way will we do all those things that God approves.
Yes, for the Devil also makes many promises, not so that he may give them to us,
but so that he may take away from us.
He promises plunder, so that he may deprive us of the kingdom of God and of righteousness.
He sets out treasures in the earth as snares and traps,
so that he may deprive us both of these and of the treasures in heaven.
He would have us be rich in this life, so that we may not be rich in the next.”

St. John Chrysostom, p. 152-3
An Excerpt From
Manual for Spiritual Warfare

rest not at the entrance

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(St Anthony of Padua / Sainte Sulpice / Paris, France / Julie 2018)

So the religious soul finds in the heart of Jesus a secure refuge against the wiles
and attacks of Satan, and a delightful retreat.
But we must not rest merely at the entrance to the hole in the rock,
we must penetrate its depths. At the mouth of the deep hollow,
at the mouth of the wound in his side we shall,
indeed, find the precious blood which has redeemed us.
This blood pleads for us and demands mercy for us.
But the religious soul must not stay at the entrance.
When she has heard, and understood, the voice of the divine blood,
she must hasten to the very source from which it springs, into the very
innermost sanctuary of the heart of Jesus.
There she will find light, peace, and ineffable consolations.
St Anthony of Pauda