Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mr. Know-It-All

The curtain rises, and Rocky (aka Rocket J. Squirrel) announces: “And now, Mr. Know-It-All.”

Mr. Know-It-All (aka Bullwinkle the Moose) tells us that: “Today we are going to learn how to open a jar of pickles.” Mr KIA (hmmm, considering what I know happens in the rest of this story, that seems a fitting acronym) then proceeds to demonstrate various ways of attempting to open a jar of pickles, each way getting progressively more explosive --- and failing. After the last effort (and he gets out of the hospital) Mr. KIA is about to demonstrate yet another way to open a jar of pickles when suddenly Rocky butts in: “Wait a minute! That’s not a jar of pickles, Mr. Know-It-All. It’s a jar of jelly.” Then Mr. KIA exclaims: “Well, of course! That explains the problem. It was jammed!”

(The curtain falls suddenly. Ker-Plunk!)

Mr. Know-It-All was confused on how to handle his problems. He concluded that opening a jar of pickles and a jar of jelly were different matters --- “Of course!” But the truth of the matter is that for what he was trying to do with them, open the jars, they should be treated the same. The laughable point of the cartoon was that Mr. Know-It-All was not what his name implied. He was a fool.

How so very much we are like Mr. Know-It-All in our treatment of some of the important matters in our lives. Like Mr. KIA, we fail to distinguish the difference between things we have available to us, and what we are trying to do to get them.

Gold and silver are more important than other rocks. Money is more important than newspaper. A mansion is more important than a cot to sleep on. We treat some things of this world as much more important than others. But we fail to ask: “Why?” While addressing these things differently, we are like Bullwinkle, Mr. Know-It-All, for we are not addressing the “what are we trying to do with them” issue. Or rather, what “should” we be trying to do with them: For what reason do these things exist in our lives?

The jars of pickles and jelly are like earthly and heavenly happiness, very desirable things we want to open. The things of the earth, money and the like, are tools to open them. The tools are not bad, they were created by God and declared as good. Some, like our neighbor, we were even told to love.

If we act like an atheist or a materialist, we will see that some natural things can make our lives happier in this natural world and focus on that alone. But if we view all created things from the purpose of The Creator, they are for earthly pleasures, yes, but they are primarily a means to get us to an eternal treasure. They are merely tools to open that treasure chest of eternal life; they are not the treasure itself. Some of these tools are definitely better than others to help us open the eternal treasure, but by themselves they don’t compare with it at all. Some earthly things can make our lives happier, but only for a while.

Yet some men act as if the earthly tools were more important to gain us earthly pleasures than to gain us eternal ones.

The sciences, for instance, of good government, of acquiring wealth, of preventing and relieving want and the like, are for this reason especially dangerous; for fixing, as they do, our exertions on this world as an end, they go far to persuade us that they have no other end; they accustom us to think too much of success in life and temporal prosperity. --- The World Our Enemy, by John Henry Newman.

Mr. Know-It-All viewed the jar of pickles and the jar of jelly as different things, not perceiving that the same tool would open both, so he struggled, focusing first on the jar of pickles. Earthly know-it-alls may recognize that earthly and heavenly happiness are different things, but they focus on “the pickles” first, trying various tools to get earthly happiness first. They fail to recognize that if they use the right tool, both earthly (pickles) and heavenly (jelly) happiness will be opened to them. And what tool is that? Well, it’s not found in gold or silver mines, nor is it minted and valuable because of the word of some government. The universal tool of happiness is found in our Churches, and it is given value because of the Word of God.

While focusing on getting the pickles, we forget that the jelly is so much sweeter. And so many of us think that we know it all, when eye has not seen, nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.

Most earthly Mr. Know-It-Alls are also fools. How many will laugh when the curtain falls on their foolishness? Gold, money, and mansions ARE good things, but if we only see them as things to bring us earthly happiness, we are fools. And like the Gospel today, if we focus on using are material goods for ourselves, we will not have any for the Bridegroom and His uses, and He will say to us: I do not know you. It is not enough to know that earthly and heavenly happiness are available to us, we have to DO something to get them.


  1. I always love to hear this Gospel reading. It makes me think, "Am I prepared or am I among the foolish?". Good post!

  2. This morning I was led to your blog by a comment you made on New Advent. The title of your blog, DO NOT BE ANXIOUS, attracted me. I feel that I stumbled upon a treasure. At the moment, I am fairly lost as I have been catapulted from a serene, secure life into an uncertain future because of an accident that befell my husband who is the sole support of our family. No doubt, finding this blog was an answer to my many prayers. Thank you.

  3. Daily Grace, such thoughts I try to avoid (I'm afraid of giving myself an honest answer). But I am happy that anything I write here triggers you to think. So few people do, nowadays.

    Anne, I have another Anne who follows this blog and I initially mistook your comment as hers, and almost gave it a quick look. I glance at other blogs occasionally, but I do not follow New Advent, nor recall making any comments there, but if you found it and you find something here which gives you peace, know only two things for sure: 1)The title didn't lead you here, and 2)Any words here which give you peace are not words I schemed to write. God is good, and He gives us what we need, especially in our times of trial. If you glance at some of what I write of my life now, it certainly is not as I planned. But I do willingly submit to His plans, which I have confidence are so much better.

    I will be praying for your husband and family in my time with the Lord.