Be practical also

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

WHILE it is true that to be prudent in our actuations, we need to come up with some theories and hypothesis, we also need to realize that we should not stop only on the speculative level. We have to go all the way to the practical level too. The virtue of prudence would not be prudence unless its speculative part is accompanied by its practical aspect. Theories without action distort the true nature of prudence.

Yes, it is important to theorize and hypothesize if only to concretize some highly abstract truths, principles, standards and criteria. Theories and hypotheses make sure that the truths, principles, standards and criteria we are using are truly relevant and applicable to a particular situation, problem or issue. They offer us good guidelines for our actions.

So, theorizing and hypothesizing is indispensable, otherwise we might just be doing a lot of things, giving ourselves the impression that we are progressing or accomplishing something when, in fact, we are missing the real point.

But no matter how important and indispensable the theories, hypothesis, formulas and the other forms of speculative work are, they would amount to nothing if we fail to act on them. Action completes our prudent actuations.

Acting on our theories and hypotheses, of course, may involve some trial-and-error stage. And it may happen that we can be in error in the end in spite of our best efforts. But that would be better than doing nothing, unless it is quite clear that to withhold action for a while may be the most prudent thing to do.

It’s important that we act. That’s why we not only have heads to think but also hands to do, and both faculties have to be used. And even if the results of our actions are contrary to what we aim at, our actions, at the very least, can always give us precious lessons, can shed light on certain things that we may have forgotten to consider in our planning. It’s always worthwhile to act. We should not be afraid to act.

Of course, given our human condition, some people may lean more on the speculative type than on the active type, and vice-versa. But no one can and should be exclusively speculative or exclusively active. Everyone has to have both dimensions, though in varying degrees.

Yes, there are the so-called planners and policy-makers, but even in their planning and policy-making they have to do action to make their work attain its intended objective. There are also implementors who carry out what the planners and policy-makers suggest or propose. These should do their job in close coordination with the planners and policy-makers.

There therefore has to be collaborative work between the mind, heart and hands, between thinkers and doers, between superiors and workers. And toward this end, good relation should be established and developed. There has to be mutual influencing among the different parties involved.

In this regard, it should be said that whatever task one has to do, whether it is more of the speculative type or the active type, he should do it as best that he can. And while the quantity of their work is important, priority should be given to the quality of their work. “Non multa sed multum,” as one Latin aphorism aptly puts it, not many things but much. In short, quality over quantity.

Again, in this regard, everyone should realize that whether he is doing speculative or practical work, he is actually lending himself as instrument and material for the continuing work of God over his creation. In other words, our work is a participation of the abiding providence of God over all his creation.

In a sense, even if we are doing a very mundane work, we would actually be doing some sacred work since that work is part of God’s providence.