Divine Providence 309
309. Allow me, though, to pass on something I have heard from people in the spiritual world. These were people who believed that their own prudence was everything and that divine providence was nothing. I told them that nothing is really ours unless we want to call “ours” the fact that we are one kind of subject or another, or one kind of organ or another, or one kind of form or another–that no one has any “self” as people usually understand the word “self.” It is only a kind of attribute. No one actually has the kind of self that is usually meant by the term. These people who credited everything to their own prudence (we could even call them overly invested in their own image) flared up so violently that fire came from their nostrils. “You’re talking paradoxes and madness,” they said. “Surely this would reduce us to nothing, to emptiness. We would be some idea or hallucination, or some sculpture or statue.”
 All I could say in response was that the real paradox and madness was believing that we are the source of our own life and that wisdom and prudence do not flow into us from God but are within us, believing that this is true of the good that comes from caring and the truth that comes from faith. Any wise person would call this claim madness, and it leads into a paradox as well. Further, this is like people who are living in someone else’s house, with someone else’s possessions, and convincing themselves that they own them as long as they are living there. Or they are like trustees and stewards who claim as their own everything that actually belongs to their superior, or like the servants to whom the Lord gave greater or lesser sums for business but who claimed them as their own instead of rendering an account of them and therefore acted like thieves [Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27].