first things first put first things first

How To Put First Things First: What St. Augustine Taught Me About Love & Order

You Are Your Starting Point

The whole concept of understanding one’s starting point – that which is taken for granted when comprehending the world around us – has been twisting my arm, seemingly enslaving my attention against my will.

It pops mental quarters into my cranial pinball machine, “if this, then that, ad infinitum! Nonetheless, here I go..if there is a starting point then there must be an end, a continuum of sorts; an arrangement or order.

Academically the order is significant because a simple tweak in the order i.e. re-assigning God from the starting point and placing Him under the hailed absolute monarch of reason (wherein man sits in judgment) will create a radically different worldview than he who puts God first – under His judgment as it were.

I’m certainly no theologian, but the implications are evident: where one starts determines where one ends up. So, as the old recovery adage states, it’s time to put first things first!

The Ordinate Versus The Inordinate

The concept of arrangement or order reminds me of Augustine and how he discussed an idea of a rightly ordered love,augustine quotes love rightly ordered

In Augustine’s hierarchy of love, God is the greatest Good. Perhaps, the sentiment expressed here is Polutinus cloaked in Catholic terminology; that evil is thus a privation, the absence of good as it were.

However, evil, in a manner of speaking, is out of reach if ones love and attention is ordinate viz. if God, the Good, is first; the starting point in all things.

From this vantage point, the ordering of love is doubly instructive. For the further away one displaces God from the starting point, the Good, the Truth, the less they illuminate these particular attributes – not just in their philosophy and subsequent worldview, but more specifically in the ins and outs of their everyday life.

Let me explain…

Love Rightly Ordered

We see an order in everything around us. From the most robust theologies to the warmest melodies, from the darkest novels to the finest architecture – order simply cannot be missed.

Even in the swirling quantum-physic confusion one cannot help but recognize its order; the underlying chaos which brings the breathtaking rose into existence can hardly be called inordinate.

Nonetheless this “order” can be difficult to surmise, particularly regarding the emotional and spiritual nature.

Indeed, it’s important to assess one’s presuppositions before engaging in philosophical dialogue; we can see this play out in an inordinate manner with Derrida, wherein meaning is extended to an infinite regression of other meanings; similar to nonfoundationalism’s infinite regression of cause and effect. Examining presuppositions shouldn’t, however, be contained in academia alone.

Practical Philosophy

For example, I started to see this presuppositional dynamic unfold in my home life. Often, when my better half and I have embarrassingly petty arguments, it’s actually because we are coming to these events with two entirely different preexisting beliefs and assumptions.

Especially this day and age with email and text messages, communication has become that much more mystifying and difficult to decode, left with little but our presuppositions about self and others as our hermeneutic (our standard for interpretation), frequently to our detriment.

Truly, it appears we simply do not have enough information at times to rightly interpret others emotional states. Perhaps it’s not so much about solving the problem or rightly interpreting the emotional state as it is merely tending to it. If as Augustine noted, we become willing to love God first, the ultimate Good, then perhaps we would be more concerned about what each other were attempting to communicate rather than hastily reach rash conclusions based upon preexisting ideas prior to even truly listening.

A rightly ordered relationship, under God, the greatest Good, will look precisely like The Prayer of Saint Francis –  and there is no better yardstick for a rightly ordered love.

st francis prayer

Timmy G (2020)
TimmyG@e-RecoveryReview.com

first things first

Give a Comment