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COMMENTARY: Light at the end of the tunnel, deeds in life as a prelude to Eternity, reaping the harvest, working together for good

Russell Crowe as the lead charter in the film ‘Gladiator’ reflected the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius: “What we do in life echoes in Eternity.”
Russell Crowe as the lead charter in the film ‘Gladiator’ reflected the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius: “What we do in life echoes in Eternity.” (Universal/Dreamworks, 2000)

by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Some words on light, life, death, the harvest, and working together.

Presenting the latest news about gross tax receipts for state government, Oklahoma state Treasurer Ken Miller delivered a somber message, detailing what his overview release characterized as the continued “downward trajectory” of the state economy.

However, he leavened the bad news with moderately hopeful signs from the oil patch, as oil and gas prices hang around $40 a barrel (in contrast to the months just passed where the prices were below $30).

As a press briefing held at the Capitol last Wednesday (July 6) wound down, I asked Miller if there was a light at the end of the tunnel, or an oncoming train. Grinning, he replied, “A light. Always a light.”

In June, state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, took many of us by surprise when he announced he would stop campaigning for the Corporation Commission post now held by Republican Dana Murphy.

With characteristic candor, Morrissette said the death of his father this spring “had a bigger effect on my life than I thought it would.” Expressing support for those who had contributed and offered to help his campaign, he said, “I believe it would be prudent for me to drop out of this race and concentrate on matters of importance which effect my life.”

Rep. Morrissette got his example for hard work and dedication the old-fashioned way – at home.

His father, Robert Joseph Morrissette, fought with General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army in the Second World War. He was married to the same woman, Teresa Marie, for 40 years. He worked at the Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for four decades.

Rep. Morrissette delivered an eloquent tribute to his father on the House floor, and in conversations with his wide circle of friends. Term limited after 12 years in the state House, Morrissette’s grief over his father’s death brought back all the memories of the deaths of my own parents several years ago.

General election ballots will be prepared August 26 (three days after the August 23 runoff elections), the deadline for a formal withdrawal (still pending as of this writing) from the general election.

Soon after Morrissette’s announcement, Commissioner Murphy told supporters about her opponent’s decision. In an email, she described “shock and relief” about prospects to avoid a general election campaign, combined with obvious sympathy for his loss. The two exchanged messages and texts, and she said they planned to work out a time to meet and talk.

Hopefully, that occurred.

Murphy earned her way onto the Commission in the course of two rough-and-tumble election campaigns, including an often brutal Republican primary in 2002, a tough race against a popular Democratic incumbent in 2008, and a strong win in the 2010 primary that decided her race.

On the day Morrissette made his withdrawal announcement, Commissioner Murphy was attending a board meeting of the Salvation Army (SA). She had turned off her cellphone.

In a closing prayer for that meeting, a major in the SA said, “someone present was wondering or questioning or confused.” He said “not to worry because God has a good plan coming for them,” Murphy related.

Murphy told the major she felt as if the prayer was intended for her. She shared “details of the surgeries and issues that had arisen in my family since my brother died; about the campaign” and her varied concerns.

After the meeting concluded, she climbed into her truck, checked her cellphone and “looked at all the texts that were on my phone and I burst into tears.” She went back to the meeting room to share the news with the major.

In other news, an announcement from former state Sen. Andrew Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat, caught the attention of your humble servant.

Some background: Rice has felt a sense of mission, he has said, ever since his brother was one of those who died in the terrorist attacks on America in 2001. I got to know and respect Rice during his tenure in the state Senate.

On Thursday morning (July 7) Rice published an announcement on “NonDoc,” the online news and commentary service he founded last year. He said Janet Oden, founder of Teen Recovery Solutions (TRS) had decided to retire. He has served on the board since late last year. In the course of deliberations about the future of TRS, colleagues decided he was the right person to assume leadership of TRS.

TRS operates Mission Academy, one of only 24 accredited recovery high schools in the United States.

Rice wrote, “I struggled with addiction as a teen in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I began my recovery in 1993, and it has given me immeasurable gifts and joys with family, friendships, parenting and my career. The chance to wake up each day and work with a dynamic team of educators and clinical staff in support of these teens’ success and health was too meaningful an opportunity for me to pass up. My first day as executive director will be Monday (July 11), and I am quite grateful for the opportunity to do this work.”

Rice explained the school, which has a 93 percent graduation success rate over the past five years, offers “a safe environment where recovering teens are around peers who are similarly committed to staying clean and sober. The highly trained educators, staff and counselors wrap all the necessary resources and support around the students to ensure their success in getting a diploma, maintaining sobriety and having fun doing it. The teens’ families and support systems take part in peer-group therapy and are an integral part of the program as well.”

He doesn’t need my applause, but kudos to Rice for accepting this important opportunity to do good.

After a lifetime of study, I am fascinated (and edified) by contrasting approaches to translation of Scriptures and other ancient documents. Near the end of her recent missive, Commissioner Murphy cited the letter of St. Paul to the Galatians, Chapter 6:9.

In the New American Bible I customarily use, the verse Murphy shared reads this way: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.” (NAB, Revised) In this instance, there is little variance among the dozens of English translations of the Epistle.

In each rendering, Paul’s reflections counsel for wisdom, gently suggesting virtues of patience, fortitude and fidelity. In another place, he observes “that all things work for good for those who love God. …” (Romans 8:28 NAB Revised)

In the memorable motion picture, “Gladiator,” the lead character tells Roman soldiers preparing for battle that their deeds in this life will follow them into eternity. That is, what we do while living endures after death.

The sentiment is variously attributed to the philosopher and emperor Marcus Aurelius, or to Maximus Decimus Meridius. It is most often rendered this way: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” The point echoes the comments of Apostle to the Gentiles.

In an age of cynicism, dark division and even despair, I find comfort in ancient words that feed discernment, prudence and humility.

I garner strength in the examples of those who, in each stage of their existence, live in such a way that they give to explicit meaning for the sentiments of the holy Apostle and the ancient philosophers.

Noble souls live the most worthy of aspirations – for the here and now, and for Eternity.

From left, state Rep. Richard Morrisette with his father, Robert Joseph Morrissette. Photo provided.
From left, state Rep. Richard Morrisette with his father, Robert Joseph Morrissette. Photo provided.
From left: Sandra Naifeh, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy, and Frank Naifeh. Photo provided.
From left: Sandra Naifeh, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy, and Frank Naifeh. Photo provided.
Apple and Andrew Rice, with their children. The City Sentinel file photo.
Apple and Andrew Rice, with their children. The City Sentinel file photo.
Ken Miller
Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller. Photo provided.

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