Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
The last published book of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990), is a popular gift for graduating high school and college seniors and for anyone who is about to begin life’s next exciting journey. Great optimism abounds when the doors of the past have been closed and the gateway to future opportunity is in sight. Having achieved a great personal accomplishment, one can emerge with a sense of confidence and even entitlement, feeling empowered to take on the challenges of the world. As Seuss continues,
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Dr. Seuss, at first, seems like a potential candidate for a Thomistic children’s author. He seems to have a firm understanding of man’s capacity for rational knowledge and human acts of free choice by which he pursues his final end of complete happiness. But Dr. Seuss has left out the fundamental agent and end of our pursuit towards happiness: God. He says that we go through life on our own.
But God doesn’t leave his creation on its own to fend for itself. He didn’t create the world and then let it spin away from Him. This would be contrary to His Divine Goodness which causes all things to exist. Rather, all things are subject to God’s providence. God is the beginning and the end of all things. God created all things and directs all things to their final end, their ultimate perfection in the goodness of God Himself.
Even our free will is under God’s providence since God is the very cause of our own act of free will. Anything that happens under our use of free will—under our “human providence” over things—is subject to divine providence. This is to say that a particular cause is always subject to the universal cause.
Dr. Seuss seems to move in this direction once the man in the story decides to “head straight out of town” to explore “the wide open air” of the world:
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen,
don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along.
You’ll start happening too.
Our human will is completely free, but our free will operates in the particular mode of willing proper to human beings. There are things beyond the scope of our limited human act of willing, the “Bang-ups and Hang-ups,” which may re-direct our original plans for obtaining happiness.
So, if you ever find yourself stuck in the unpleasant “Slump,” or “headed, I fear, toward a most useless place,” give yourself over to the care of our heavenly Father, and He will send you to where you most need to go.
You will not be alone on this journey, for God is with us!
Image: Iván Aivazovsky, Columbus Sailing From Palos