I could not lie anymore so I started to call my dog “God.”

First he looked confused, then he started smiling, then he even danced.

I kept it up: now he doesn’t even bite.

I am wondering if this might work on people.

Tukaram

+ + +

How we look at the world and appear in it can bring us closer to God.  Mere conformity to all the this and that of what is man-made is contrary to reality.

God is in and above the world.  The world is not in and above God.  Tukaram knew this; we, it seems, are confused on this point.

He wrote poems and songs that Indian children still learn to this day.  He can teach us.  Maybe we are his children, too.

Tukaram lived in India in the 17th century.  He was a joyous man with a wonderful sense of humor. His poems number over 8000.  They show us the God within us and about us.

He was born in the small village of Dehu.  He had no formal education.  His family was of the low caste (Sudra).  They were peasant farmers.  Both his parents died when he was thirteen.  He became the support of his family.

He married, but his wife and children died in a widespread famine.  This, in particular, catapulted him toward the Divine.

He sought solitude and wondered about the purpose and meaning of life as he had known it.  He began to dream and came to know through his dreams a “call” to sing God’s praise in his writing.

He adhered to this call – becoming not an instant celebrity but a perceived “threat” to the Brahmin authorities as is so often the case in cultures.

He grew separated from the world and more closely focused on God.  Tukaram and his second wife and family began to live off the donations of patrons who favored his work and wisdom.  People traveled to him to listen to his songs, receive his insights and inspirations.

He was, in a sense, somewhat like St. Francis of Assisi.  He communed with nature and animals. Birds often rested on his shoulder.

One day he informed his wife that God would send a carriage for him in the morning. The following day he walked with a few close friends, stopped at one point – bid them farewell and walked off alone, never to be seen again.

This from Tukaram to begin your day:

Tell me again dear One so clear: I am you.

Shalom.

… is it not an act of worship to hold a child, and till the soil and lift a cup …

Meister Eckhart, Christian Mystic

+ + +

I have been wrestling with this question recently: How does a person stay in the joy and comfort of God’s glow in a culture that seems to show its troubles to us daily?  By troubles I mean the violence, the mental illness, the neglected young men or women, the hedonism, selfishness, division, the failure to lead, the rejection of God and faith …

This is, for me – and others, a substantial question.  Particularly so, because God never departs, no matter who “shows Him the door.”

This morning I turned to a book that my son gave me to find solace.  The book?  Love Poems from God: Twelve Scared Voices from East and West.  It contains the brief reflections of spiritual icons – Christian and Muslim.

I choose today to share with you the words of the German Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), one of history’s greatest mystics.

I offer you his words for your daily joy and comfort as he did.

To See as God Sees

It is your destiny to see as God sees, to know as God knows, to feel as God feels.

How is it possible?  How?  Because divine love cannot defy its very beauty.

Divine love will be eternally true to its own being, and its being is giving all it can, at the present moment.

And the greatest gift God can give is His own experience.

Every object, every creature, every man, woman and child has a soul and it is the destiny of all, to see as God sees, to know as God knows, to feel as God feels, to be as God is.

In the words of the masters like Eckhart, we are lifted above the chaos, above the violence, above evil and stationed in the perpetual joy and comfort of God.

Stay in that joy and comfort daily.

Shalom.

A Short Story for Ray Bradbury

How has she turned adulteress, the faithful city, so upright!  Justice used to lodge within her but now, murderers … Your princes are rebels and comrades of thieves.  Each one of them loves a bribe and looks for gifts.

Is 1: 21, 23

+ + +

Ross McKay had always looked upon each day as providential.  Well, today might prove that to this national, mid-career television newsman.

His mentor Howard Keane had suffered a heart attack and was taken to Mass General less than two hours before the candidates were to debate.  As his principal second, and the guy who prepped Keane for his role as interlocutor, he was the proper substitute.

Lights up, seated facing the candidates, he got his cue.

His introductions went smoothly as expected.

He commenced his questioning. The usual topics: the economy, taxes, foreign affairs, race, health care, immigration, our adversaries – their aggressive utterances and actions, the strength and readiness of our military – and the answers were, as expected: trite, time-worn, highly-practiced.

McKay could hardly stand the fraud of it all.

Not one for phony handshakes and disingenuous smiles … providence took hold. Appearing first in his stomach, then in his head, it surfaced amid a windy and vacuous reply designed to seem substantive.

His annoyance with the rote charade of it all came on as a faint nausea … Neither he nor providence could submit to the false and empty.  To do so, struck him like being your own hangman.

Ross, attracted to the Prophet Isaiah, fashioned the prophetic giant to be a muckraker journalist had there been newspapers and mass communication back then, or as an American Gandhi standing vigil over the destructive tendency for those who claim to lead but possess only the talent for obfuscation and disassembling in furtherance of their own self-promotion.

In lieu of the next question, McKay uttered verbatim, as if an involuntary impulse had taken its command, the words of Isaiah 1: 21 and 23 – the gist of which: that Jerusalem had been unfaithful to God, to the existing marriage vow between the Jewish people and Father God, and this proposition – the theme of the Book of Isaiah is that Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness and sinful defiance of God calls forth God’s divine judgment by which she and her people will be cleansed and return to God.

Initially, absolute silence, complete and unequivocal stillness.  Then, a low murmur from the audience stunned by this unscripted moment.  The candidates stood inert, but could not mask physical hints of perplexity.

Ross continued.

“Madame Secretary, does this quote from Isaiah apply to the United States today? In any form?”

Only stammering, punctuated by several false starts, and illogical broken field reverses all of which made nothing resembling any sense.

“Mr. Vice President, your view please?”

A practiced smile, a reference to his religious education, a semblance of a story and some obtuse observation somehow intended to connect with the question.

“Mr. Vice President, can you be more responsive to the question?”

The candidate’s color seemed to change from suntanned to ashen.

Yes, he posted words but they seemed to be from a language unknown to those listening.  His words only serving to say: “No, I cannot be more responsive.”

Then Ross asked each about this passage in relation to abortion and the sale of aborted children’s body parts?  Then, to the Supreme Court opinion regarding same-sex marriage?

Nothing coherent from either.  Only signs of perspiration and discomfort – as if a pop quiz had been levied on them.

Then questions about unsecured private servers, the destruction of emails, pending law suits, investigations, the IRS, Benghazi, past plagiarism of a foreign leader’s speech, the Veterans Administration, donations to a foundation and the relation of each topic to Isaiah’s words.

More weaker swings and wider misses.  Not a foul tip to be had.  Nothing put in play.

The questions came and the answers did not.

Throughout it all, the audience remained in rapt attention.  Their interest evidenced by their laser-like concentration and the absence of any sign of complaint.

As if hovering about the event while very much part of it, McKay thought – truth brings silence.

“Yes,” he settled in his mind, “Truth brings silence.”  A wry smile appeared on his lips.

Odd questions?  Unfair questions?  I think not.

When a government makes religion a target, an exile of those who are faithful, questions designed to show a candidate’s knowledge of the faith their Party attacks is more than fair game, it is obligatory.  After all, why caste away a wisdom narrative?  Do we not prize our faith, its heritage in the West, know its value and defend its place in civic life and a free society?

Shalom.

Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.

Jn 17: 11

+ + +

It is difficult not to conclude that we are unraveling, falling apart.  From personal affairs, to individual health, to families, then to communities, organizations, venerable institutions – particularly those who would govern – we are unraveling and there is no particular human voice that reconciles, rather only choruses of voices which divide and fragment what is already fractured.

Indeed, one cannot easily find a comprehensive critique of this fragmented and fractured culture.  Oh, one can find a critique of culture that is a Marxist view, a “feminist” view, a view from a racial perspective, as to the role of technology, from a psychoanalytical vantage point, etc. – but there is no comprehensive view aimed at this fundamental and practical question: How can one live a full human life in this mass culture, or any other culture and time?

In 1953 and 1954, Trappist Monk Thomas Merton wrote in his book Thoughts in Solitude a preface that might suffice as a starting point in the answer to the question raised.

In that preface, Merton says “(I)n an age when totalitarianism has striven, in every way, to devalue and degrade the human person … it is right to demand a hearing … in the favor of man’s inalienable solitude and his interior freedom.”

His point is this: the human being cannot be reduced to “a mere cog,” subsumed by mass culture.  Rather, Merton rightly recognizes that society’s existence depends on “the inviolable personal solitude of its members” and that “(T)o be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both imply … interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity a sense … of one’s ability to give himself to society … or refuse that gift.”

He is talking, of course, about personal growth and personal autonomy – the sacred nature of being itself, and our capacity to claim our “true humanity” without which one has no integrity, nor the ability to love, nor the capacity for self-determination.

He adds very poignantly that a society where the person has no interior solitude is not held together by love, but rather by “a violent and abusive authority.”

Faith and the individual’s responsibility to grow fully.  What other way is there?

If the individual is sacred, how can centralized power be the proper disposition?

“Father … so that they may be one just as we are one.”

Shalom.

———-

We are in this together.  Share this blog with others.

Without courage we can never attain to true simplicity.  Cowardice keeps us “double minded” – hesitating between the world and God.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

+ + +

We cannot live suspended on a string of indecision.

Time does not comfort the hesitant.  There is no faith in hesitancy.  The road demands choice.  The hesitant are soon enough compromised, converted, destroyed.

In Cormac McCarthy’s spell-binding book The Road we accompany a loving father and his young son in their journey in post-apocalyptic America and we see in them true simplicity and its pure faith in all its strength, in the face of devastation and its changed landscape – exterior and interior.

At a point in the beginning of the book the son captures a gray snowflake in his hand, it is described as “the last host of Christendom.”  A few pages later the father and his son come to a lake and the boy asks if there is fish in the lake. The father replies, “No.  There’s nothing in the lake.”

No fish, no fishers of men.

Yes, hesitancy has its costs.  Hesitancy kills hope, and the soul.

As Thomas Merton says: all the while you cling to the visible supports you think you possess, you deny “the authority of the invisible God.”

We are seemingly the masters of this fatal denial.

In our time exclusionary secularism and all its strands entangle the hesitant, deceive the undecided and as sure as night is dark choke the life out of us, one by one – individually, and in group assemblies of one collective falsehood or another – some “ism” or faux grievance designed to distract long enough to kill the soul.

” … the one who doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and tossed about in the wind … he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.”

Jas 1: 6, 8

The apocalypse need not be nuclear, you know.  It is likely to be more subtle, more effective and more deadly.

To kill the soul is to kill the human person.  Hesitation has its costs.

Shalom.

Note – To live well, think metaphorically, see the story before you – find your place and exceed the limitations of what is false.  God bless you.

There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

+ + +

Humans, especially in a secular culture which exiles any notion of God, seem habitually inclined to reduce the scope of existence.

This small screen instinct is prohibitively destructive.  It is as if they wish to rule or abide in a kingdom that is small and in its smallest cannot gather a larger picture of existence, and surely cannot “connect the dots.”

Such individuals are poor analysts, blind leaders lacking in wisdom, unable to inspire.  You will know them in hard times when complexity visits by their silence. In short, they hide in their practiced paralysis.  We are in such times.

Yet, consider this: Merton’s comment does not go far enough, for it is not just the spiritual which is damaged when we are stuck in the mortal muck of unreality, but our psychological, emotional, social and interpersonal life which is damaged, distorted and grotesquely so.

How can this be?  Easy.  A lived life is designed to be compensatory.

Psychotherapist Carl Jung, M.D., rightly says that life contains a trajectory for “psychic equilibrium,” a natural, built-in compensatory element.  That is, that life as presented offers each a whole personhood, that there is teleological imperative to know the Self, the True Self.  Of this Merton would agree.

Teleological imperative?  Yep.  But what does that say?

“Teleo” is derived from the word “teleos” – meaning perfect, complete and from its kindred “telos” means: end.

Combined “teleological” means we are designed for a perfect or perfected end point – a whole life, a life of full development of the human being we are made to be.

Alas, that speaks to the words above.

Merton went on to say that failing to live beyond the reductionist, surface existence of “material” unreality – we starve, live a life that is dead.  Jung would agree.  Zombies, anyone?

Ironically, our conception and birth calls us to die to the narrows and sickness of unreality.

For Merton this means: “renouncing the illusory reality which created things acquire when they are seen only in their relationship to our own selfish interests.” (Emphasis added.)

Does Christ come to mind?  Do you see how a life is destined to be lived in its fullness of being?

Think the Parable of the Rich Young Man.  Read it in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 19, verses 16-22.

Happy trails.

Shalom.

—–

Note: Make no mistake, we are governed and influenced by the ones Merton describes.  You need not, and best not, be one of them.

We were born before the wind/Also younger than the sun/Ere the bonnie boat was won/As we sailed into the mystic

Hark, now hear the sailor cry/Smell the sea and feel the sky/Let your soul and spirit fly/Into the mystic

And when the fog horn blows/I will be coming home/And when the fog horn blows/I want to hear it/I don’t have to fear it

Van Morrison

+ + +

We said “good bye” to Michael yesterday.  His departure so quick – yet, befitting those who sailed the seas as they were made and beckoned.

Now, into the Mystic; and we stood together as he once did in that bonnie boat off a-sail – to learn of the mystery, to teach, to laugh, to befriend, to love and coax others to do the same.

Yes, a good life should end in a second.  Anything longer says less.

In that church because of him, we were one – drawn to know.  You see he called to us in that final breath to his last assembly – called to us just as he lived so we might live too.

I know this kind of man.  I play the game for the same stakes and always have – it was my family way, my DNA – it is a Celtic way.  Yes, smell the sea and feel the sky.*

I saw his effect in my family who cried at the truth of it all, and in my grandson whose sweetness and openness to life showed me Michael at the beginning – with gaping smile and eyes a-twinkle ready to receive all what comes our way.

I see little Jack is one of us, a sailor too – and that will never change.  Yes, in grandson Jack the claim again as to who we really are – born before the wind and so much younger than the sun.

Michael is a presence never lost.  The good ones always are.  Yes, it is our inheritance.

Yesterday hand reached out for hand, shoulder for shoulder – ’tis our oft-disguised nature revealed in loss and the truth it tells.  Yes, into the Mystic – the never-ending Mystic.

Yesterday, we sang and told stories, and danced, and laughed, and shared a toast and clinked many a glass, and the music played – and the fog horn blew and we did not fear it, for we knew the sailor and heard his cry.

Shalom.

*It is no mistake.  I was raised next to the Mystic River in a Celtic conclave.  My great grandfather, a Scottish sea captain.  Life has no coincidences.  The Author writes a good story and we are set a-sail in it.

I have found Demetrius like a jewel, Mine own and not mine own.

William Shakespeare

Dedicated to Sam Doran and his family as they bury Sam’s father today.

+ + +

Wisdom is all around us – given to us in words and song, in nature, in art and architecture, in religious narratives, ancient stories in all cultures, in careful view of deeds and misdeeds, in scenes and experiences large and small.  Yet, we miss it or, worse yet, out of ignorance and sickness may destroy it.

Above are the words of Helena in Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Night’s Dream. Words of wisdom about love.

Love – “mine own and not mine own.”  A most peculiar and magical possession, held against time.  What?  Held against time.

Love exists as possessed and not possessed.  Does one not love he or she who has died?  Is that not a love still possessed.  Do you not encourage your beloved children to go forth and find their way and do so as a generous act of love when we might otherwise wish them near?  Is this not love possessed and possessed again when not possessed?

Love that is “mine own and not mine own” is love eternal, an introduction to the mystery we live in life, and to God, to the journey to God – a God who is Love.

Love that is “mine own and not mine own” liberates me and those we love – frees them and us to live fully in the Mystery, without fear and full of sweet memories and the certainty of what is eternal and far beyond the cage of mortality with all its grasping, fear, anxiety and dread of loss.

Think of love.  Explore it.  Grow in it.  Meet what is often missed.

Shalom.

Only when firmly grounded in a strong real self can we live and share our lives with others in ways that are healthy, straight-forward expressions of our deepest needs and desires, and in so doing find fulfillment and meaning.  (Emphasis added.)

James F. Masterson, M.D.

+ + +

I have wondered why it is that zombies attract the attention that they do in today’s culture.  Why, for example, The Walking Dead is so popular or what Cormac McCarthy meant to said to us in The Road?

In James Masterson’s The Search for the Real Self: Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age, he shines a light on the answer.  Simply stated, he asserts that there is no meaning to life in the false self.  And this corollary follows: only in the real or true self can one be healthy and contented.

Therein may be the answer to the fascination with zombies.

Art often shows us the core issues in, or nature of, the culture we exist in, its time and who we are in that culture and in that time.  In short, zombies fascinate us and reveal in a relatively safe way this reality: we are false in who we are, without meaning, less than we are made to be, something far less than a whole, developed human being.

These stories tell us something we might not wish to state plainly about who we are today.

In particular, Masterson tells us that the false self breeds the borderline personality – the person resting somewhere between neurotic and psychotic. This, he reminds us, is a condition arising in early childhood and puts the role of the contemporary woman as mother in the spotlight.

He makes one wonder what the effect of the post-feminist mother has on a child’s ability to seek the real or true self? What preoccupations are conveyed to the child?  What presuppositions?  And how they either advance or impede the development of a healthy real or true self?

In the aggregate, it brings this question to the fore: What habits, outlooks, behaviors does the culture further which impede the growth of the real self?  More so, what distractions are presented which incline a person to avoid the growth required and the challenges that one faces in that growth?

Insofar as borderline personality disorders are rather common place, one might default to this conclusion – the underpinnings of the disorder (fear of abandonment, selfishness, the desire to control all others and events, the narrowness of thinking, loss of intimacy, narcissism, etc.) are signs of an impaired culture – perhaps, indeed, a Zombie Culture.

Yes, “the walking dead” may be among us.

Shalom.

There is no life if man does not know in whose name he ought to live and to whose glory he ought to work.

Joseph L. Hromadka, in Doom and Resurrection

Prayers today please for Michael Dorn, an Irishman by birth and life, educator, good man and good father, who died suddenly yesterday – passing far before his time – and for his son Sam, another fine man, lovely daughter Emma, his perfect mate, wife Kathy and his family.

Soraidh.

+ + + 

It is really surprising that there is so little comprehensive and intelligent public critique of the disintegration of America among our political class, our media, and the academy.

Yes, of course, many of them have been mindless and willing participants in our great national undoing.

Yet, among these classes there are those who compete to lead, to gain influence, be exalted; but, they lack a view that enlightens – leaving to the properly angry pockets of citizens to express their opposition to this disintegration.

There is a public that desires we save this land – but who leads?  What voice is heard?  What words rally and unite? Who stands at Concord Bridge?  Breed’s Hill?

Strangest of all – a critique has common elements.  I cite but two.

One, the 1960’s brought us the intense politcization of the culture.  In politics all things (including relations between men and women, sexual expression and sex itself) were reduced, drained of human experience and expression.

All identity was reduced to politics.  Hundreds of years of evolution dismissed by the handy-work of those whose one voice was petty politics:  the world reduced to the gross nature of the ward boss, the “community organizer,” the tin-horn dictator, the ambitious appetites of never-accomplish-a-thing educational elites who think of themselves, of course, as being imbued with unquestionable privilege, unimpeachable intelligence.

Two, God has been discarded, ignored, opposed, exiled – and all references to life in any larger form than mortal, physical and material is banished, language lost, meaning scuttled in favor of all that is worthless, self-serving, cheap, hostile, divisive.

The broad critical context is simply stated.  It is thus: those who have had power have succeeded in reducing life to crude lifelessness.

If religious excitement be in its decline, and political excitement just beginning, the latter passion will extinguish the former.

Alexander de Tocqueville, in Letter and Remains, I

Truth is, we have been inept, inarticulate, intellectually-weak in forming a necessary complaint and useful opposition – and some who would oppose have straddled the fence unable to act as the serious erosion requires.

We live in very troubled times – with a poverty of leadership.

Shalom.

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