It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire.  Perfect tranquility consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations

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If you live in a crowded metropolitan area, tranquility may not come easily.  But, oh is it needed.

I notice when I reappear in the Washington metro area that the pace is quickened and signs of hectic people are easy to see.  Relaxed is not an adjective I associate with those who live in the urban sprawl.  Tranquility isn’t plainly visible – that’s for sure.

But who can live in constant motion, in non-stop stimulus, among frantic people rushing to catch up or get on schedule?

Yes, we can recede and, yes, we can seek tranquility – a quieting of the heart and mind. But that is, or must be, a decision that requires intention: the commitment to secure the peace within, the quiet available to you.

Think about what you face each day: the demands, the pace, the noise, the stimulus, the commitments, the uncertainties, the responsibilities, the obstacles. Hard to be tranquil.

Take time to rest, to know silence.  And seek to know your inner life, who you are – what makes you “tick.”  It is not just a quiet mind that is needed, but knowledge of who you are and a soul at rest that is no longer neglected.  God bless.

Shalom.

Excarnation … the process by which religion is dis-embodied and de-ritualized.

James. K.A. Smith, in How (Not) to Be Secular

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The challenge we face in America and the West is excarnation.  The question posed: will we believe or will we not?

Failing to believe in God, we shall all the same rely on something to anchor us. That something might be our gender, or our sexual behavior, an ideology, our self to the exclusion of all others, or nothing at all …

Yesterday, little was said by American mass media of the killing of a bus load of Egyptian Coptic Christian mothers and children on their way to a monastic retreat. Why, you might ask?

The answer is really quite simple – those who govern media are excarnated.  They do not believe.  Religion does not matter to them … or to the Democrat and “progressive” Left politicians, by the way.  It is worth noting that Senator Schumer did not pop up on T.V. to rant about the killing of these innocent, unarmed believers.  Granny Pelosi was absent, too.  No surprise really. Remember, candidate Obama referred to believers as those who cling to the guns and the Bible … and Hillary thinks of believers as “unredeemable.”

The Left does not hide its hostility, nor its ignorance.

If you want to know what is at the core of the hatred of Donald Trump – it is not Trump himself but those who voted for him and their beliefs.  Religious belief is an obstacle to the pagan practices and policies of the Left.  The core of today’s problem in our nation and the West centers on belief.  

Incarnation or excarnation?

Shalom.

… he who finds me finds life … all those who hate me love death.

Prov 8: 35, 36

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It is a simple admonition – plain and concrete.  Yet, it seems we live in an age in which many substitute ideology and bias and neglect the quest for wisdom and understanding.

I think in particular of the news media and the American Left.  And yes, it seems they hate all that does not match their ideology and yes, they lead to death.

Surely the division they breed shows this, as does the tenure of their most Leftist politicians and public policies.  One need only think of Obamacare, or the folly of the “Arab Spring,” or the abject weakness shown in the Syrian “line in the sand” regarding chemical weapons, or the fiasco and lies that surround the unnecessary deaths as Benghazi, or the Russian “reset,” or the inability to balance a budget, or the hateful efforts to destroy the Trump Presidency, or the insult that would have many Americans labeled “redeemable.”  The list goes on.

Ideology is the enemy of wisdom, and death is its yield.  The Nazis and Communists have shown this.  The latter in its many iterations across the globe in the last 100 years.

If you seek life, seek wisdom.  If you seek death, ignore the quest for wisdom.

When you live in an age where ideology is foisted on you, you’d best reject it and those who live by it.

In Christ there is wisdom and the way to life.  Ideologues, in contrast ignore, God and wisdom – and calamity results – on the way to death.

Shalom.

Hubris – Pride is poisonous.  It is ever present in America today.  You see it endlessly at college commencements when some celebrity or Leftist politician tells the graduates to “change the world.”  Horse-hockey.

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard graduates that they needed to create a world where everyone has a purpose.  This from a guy without a college degree. Did it not occur to him that perhaps God established such a world long, long ago? Or that telling Harvard graduates this most likely only added to their Crimson hubris?

Why do we want more nitwits running amok?

We don’t need more pride, we need more humility.  And, “No thanks, Lefty – you’ve done enough damage.  Keep your idiocy to yourself.”  I wonder if the person that invented the mousetrap felt compelled to tell others to “change the world?”  

… at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives – this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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So what if Merton is correct?  That God dwells within each of us?  Would it not be likely that The Creator might leave a mark on you in your creation?  A fingerprint so to speak?

If that is so, would you act differently each day?  Would you not be fortified when facing difficulties?  Could you ever truthfully feel alone?

Does it not follow that what Merton describes might well explain the heroic conduct we see now and again?  If it is true, can we not shake our heads in disbelief at all the mischief and thievery, lying, cheating, violence and betrayal that we see?

Would Merton’s observation not reshape our idea that X or Y is “an honest” man or woman?  Would an honest person not seem to travel with greater humility and greater tranquility for their reference to God?

If Merton is correct would a government and its political class seek to drive God and faith from culture and the public square?

Think for a moment or longer, if this is so – what effect does this have on you? How would this proposition change you?

Seeking God is the noble purpose – your noble purpose.  That which provides meaning to you – a meaning that exceeds the limits of mortal life and trumps all earthly objectives.

Shalom.

Piggy Bank No More – Europe’s NATO member nations owe years of back payments to NATO, payments obligated by membership in the mutual defense association.  President Trump has called NATO members out on their large outstanding balances. Rightly so!

One smug NATO minister kept talking derisively while the President was speaking. I’ll bet you he was from one of the countries behind on payments.

Isn’t it funny how others just think the U.S. will carry them – that they need not do their lawful share.  Let those days be over – suckers no more!  

Friends don’t let friends pay for all the dinners out year after year.  Such nations are doubtful allies.  The times they are changing.  At long last!

We venerate the song of the tragedians.  It contains truth about suffering, not often God: yet God has revealed himself by means of this truth.

Reinhold Schneider

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The soul-sick and lost kill children.  I am not surprised by this.  I wonder why others are. How can they be surprised?

In an unsolicited grant of grace I learned as a small child that life can be hard and lonely – that what was once there can disappear, that betrayal comes to innocents and disappointments land deeply within, that the world can present difficult moments and some can seem a crushing weight, a dent too deep to be restored.

However, like Reinhold Schneider says … “yet, God has revealed himself by means of this truth.”  My life is testament to this, living proof of this truth.

And so too, in the Manchester Murders of the Innocents – we see not the evil doers but the good that we are made to be.  Would we cry for the loss of a small child if we were not good?  Would we swear to rid ourselves of those whose intent is evil?  Would we cry for those lost across the sea?  Or vow to arms when it is peace we want?

In tragedy we hear the Cathedral bells more clearly and lift our eyes aloft.

In yesterday, grandfathers pray for their small grandchildren and ask that God might help them keep safe his little ones.

For too long we have played a peripheral game on the far outer edge of reality in a discussion that is surreal.  How many human rights can you stack on the head of a pin?  This question while London bleeds and Paris burns, and Europe fades from view.   

Life – all life – conveys knowledge of God.  Yet, we indulge our fetishes and focus on the tragedians and bury our dead.  Our sight clouded and hearts numbed. Avoiding reality while deaths multiply and sacred faiths are targeted.

Perhaps Manchester, in the shadow of our historic overture to an Arab-Israeli-American alliance, will bring us to our senses and reminds us that we have strayed from God and faith and seeded debate to the godless and their prideful desires and ideas.

Illustratively, perhaps a new generation of leaders will turn to those before who as exiles from their native land and its precious faith wrote of Christ as Wisdom, the role of the Spirit in the world, the place for mystical understanding in mortal life, the integration of life in worship, the sacred destiny of the cosmos.  I think, in example, of the Russian Orthodox intellects like Nicholas Berdyaev, Vladimir Lossky and others who saw clearly not evil but God who prevails above all disorder and in whom all can turn to good, and peace, and purpose, meaning and understanding.

In faith, we expel evil.  Politics alone provides no impetus for action being short of clear faithful vision and the infused wisdom and courageous resolve it brings.

Let not the Manchester murders of Innocents be in vain.  Rather, let it call us to repel evil and build the brotherhood of all faithful souls.  Return to faith … and march on we must.

Shalom.

… (Thomas) Merton described himself as journeying towards his destiny “in the belly of a paradox” … He sought the monastic life because he desired hiddenness and solitude, but his writings brought fame and demands.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in Thomas Merton & the Monastic Vision

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When we flee the world in favor of aloneness or have aloneness thrust upon us, we most often find God and in finding God we find ourselves, others and the world. God, of course, is our solitude and in Him and with Him we then proceed … never to be without Him.

There is no hiding, though many do so in plain sight using status, title, appearance, celebrity, power, wealth or what-have-you to separate out from the mob.  As for the individual, there is no unitary escape, no disappearing act.

In seeking one’s particular solitude you will most surely find self and God – for solitude is the door to contemplation, to self-examination, reflection, infused wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, patience, love, forgiveness, intimacy, contentment … and in each of these the gateway to Truth, to what alone is True, to you and He who makes you as you have been made.

Once God is known aloneness is proved a lie, for then one is never alone and realizes that one was never alone.  Paradox ends, then – and all fits a divine rubic.

Our path – seek to withdraw as if to the desert, or sit under the lotus tree in quiet and soon enough God is present and hiddenness is impossible, unnecessary for then we are called to life as it is intended.

The Sacred Paradox is this: aloneness presents God and aloneness is no more.

Shalom.

Blog for May 23, 2017, will be posted in the midday.

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President Trump at the Western Wall.  This is a remarkable vision.  Why have we not seen this before now?  We can be grateful for the emergence of faith in public affairs – how else can you see an American President stopping in Saudi Arabia and then in Israel.

Faith has a place in all life, and activity without it is doomed to fail.  Has not our recent past and the woeful tone of opposition politics today shown us this. 

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When man subverted order he did … more than … diminish his own humanity … compromise his destiny … he … presents the unhappy spectacle of a being in revolt against Being …

Etienne Gilson, in The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy

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Gilson thought of God as Being itself.  As such, everything in the cosmos combines into one meaningful whole and all is contingent on God who is the reason for the existence of all things, all persons, all life.

Ask yourself if you act as if this is so?  It puts you to a significant test, a serious self-examination.  Are you bogged down in meaningless matters, governed so easily by emotions and worry?  Swept up in useless, insignificant daily sensations and alarms?

Likewise, look at the news, at politics, at those with easy access to mass communication – what do they have to say about that matters?  Are they conscious of their own contingency?

Contingency breeds humility – our scale reduced to proper size: a tiny part of a timeless whole – of Being itself, of God the Creator who is always and forever.

If you do not live in proper context and dimension you come to prefer self to God and condemn yourself to error and discord, restlessness and worry, loneliness and separation.

A life well lived fulfills your design as God has presented it … authors contentment and prepares you for harmony with all things.

Do you see in this what you need to do to know contentment?  Can you see how lost we are today?  Especially those you show their godless confusion and seek that we might follow them, tolerate their self-destruction so that it can then destroy us?

Embrace the best way of living and that is under God’s authority where peace prevails when the rain and wind comes to gale force and all seems darker yet.

Shalom.

Remarkable Reception for President Trump in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis are to be applauded for the warmth and dignity they display.  This could be a significant turning point.  So much for the notion that President Trump is the Devil incarnate.

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… the state threatened to become not only militarily and politically triumphant but psychologically so: the custodial Superego for millions … their Egos an instrument, pure and simple, of the state’s bureaucratic manipulation.

Robert Coles, M.D. in A Secular Mind

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Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist, is commenting on Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz’s observations in his book entitled A Captive Mind in which he explores the consequences of (Communist) centralized state power over the individual person.

Doctor Coles ends his book about the secularized mind by focusing on the apparent need for the modern state to secure social and psychological control over its population.  And, Coles focuses on the prospects of neurochemistry and medical science in doing so.

As to the latter point, Coles draws on advances in neuroscience, biology and medicine – particularly on developments in pharmacology – reminding us that Sigmund Freud thought that in time the mind itself might be reduced to simple matter and ministered to (and perhaps altered substantially) by medications. That is to say, that the experience of being human would change rather significantly.

This, by the way, has been a theme expressed over time by a number of people from Orwell, to Huxley, to Stanislaw Witkiewicz and others, and displayed in Phillip Dick’s 1968 movie Blade Runner.

The notion of centralized control over the person leads me to think more critically of the divisions between those who despise Donald Trump and those who voted for him.

In thinking about this I see Trump as an unimportant focus.  It is not he himself that matters but rather the significance of the divide between those who voted for him and those who are clearly threatened by him, and seem to hate him.

It seems to me that the divide is what is important.

That said, I think one can make a reasonable observation that the difference is in part the distinction between those who favor centralized power and those who do not.  In effect, we are talking about those who favor government control over the social and psychological nature of the human person and those who oppose the same.

Illustratively, the Left favors imposing their “views” on others – i.e., forced “tolerance.” Some in the middle ground default to continued growth in government to the extent that sovereignty and national identity and nation itself is devolved to international organizations and competing cultures (i.e., globalists).

In opposition to this, of course, are those who favor less government and preservation of nation, individual freedom and continued American economic prosperity and ethos, and constitutional Federalism.

We have simply stated: globalists vs. nationalists.

So the question today is not Trump but what underpins the divide?  Why his adversaries violently oppose him?  Why the hatred and effort to drive him from office?

My view is that it has to do with a very fundamental question: Will we live in a country where control over the human person expands as the power of the central government and international organizations expands or will we not?

Shalom.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

… the time was approaching … when the Ego … would be mere putty in the hands of something much larger than any human being … a strangely impersonal (and inhuman) construction of social and political reality, that would have enormous, compelling, even definitive sway over all within its grasp … the state’s (moral and political) power (would) become for the individual a commanding and pervasive presence … enforcing its institutional will on … all … (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in Secular Mind

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In the above Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist who held three endowed chairs at Harvard University, is commenting on George Orwell’s classic 1984 (written in 1948) in which Orwell foretold of man’s loss of self to the state and its impersonal and often brutal, a-spiritual, conforming power.

We are, of course, precisely where Coles said we would be in his 1999 book –A Secular Mind.

We are – notwithstanding, the useless, uneducated, destructive chatter of “talking heads,” newspaper editorial boards, Leftists intellectuals, “progressive” politicos, feminist and sexual “special pleaders,” the mindless celebrity class, and misplaced vaudevilleans of late night television – just a Coles predicted … at risk of losing our Self.

The problem we face is not merely political.  No, it is far more.  It is cultural.  As cultural, it is fundamental.  It poses this question: what is and shall be a fully developed human being?

In particular, the force of the state on the human being always invokes this question: what is it to be human?

Of course, the history of the Communists’ gulags and the adjacent death camps of totalitarian states tells us that centralized, ideological governments and politics never advance the fullness of the human person.  Their concern is control of the mass, not the sacred reality of being a human being.  Hence, all central states (our behemoth included) incline to homogenize and reduce the human to dependent or servant and in doing so they seek to reduce the role of faith, exile God and curtail religious freedom.

The impulse which elected Trump is the impulse to salvage human existence in the face of the growth of the central state.  The hatred this has stirred up on the Left and among the statists Republicans (i.e., globalists, and vested elites) and those who make their very nice living as media handmaids of the governing class is precisely a defense of the large state and its imposition on the human person and critical subversion of faith and spiritual existence.  Think, for example, of the Obama IRS which took active, lawless aim at religious tax exempt citizen organizations.

That is where we are …and I add I see no one in mass communication culture who has called this to the fore.  Rather, I see debates over this or that policy, the appointment of this or that person to do X or Y.

We have a more comprehensive problem … one requiring a broader scope of intellect and a greater knowledge of psychiatric welfare and spiritual development.

Alas, the politicos and media-types are least likely to possess anything like the knowledge, experience, insights or analytical tools to navigate us through very troubled and dangerous waters.

We have an interesting challenge in the present moment.  The discussion must be broader than politics.  It must be cultural and fundamental.

Shalom.

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