This post is dedicated to Buddy Mahar, my friend and brother, whose genius is accepting life as it comes and facing the fight while not losing his soul, but rather enhancing it, and growing in instinct, insight, wisdom, love and courage.  Such a good friend and good man.  (See the Footnote.)

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How to live in the world pestered with lies and despair, not to flee but to fight and succeed in keeping the soul unsoiled and even aid in the purifying the world?

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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I differ with Rabbi Heschel’s wise words only in one respect – we may, in our best and heroic efforts, not spare the soul from being “unsoiled” but rather gain a goodness that out shines the dark marks of our human imperfection.

You see, for me, life is a journey to lesser imperfection and therein wisdom comes with humility and greater love and understanding.

Rabbi Heschel reminds us in explaining these words – the challenge implicit in them exceeds the strength of mere humans and, hence, requires the presence of The Ineffable … The Divine, of God.

Man cannot alone experience the growth we are built to know without God.  My experience tells me that the path to God in a very fundamental way requires that we accept life as a gift and, in confidence, live it come what may.  Life requires faith more than fact.

What do I mean?

There is no wisdom without faith.  Education alone does not win the day, for reason alone follows by nature what is not eternal everlasting and wise in all things seen and unseen, mortal and immortal.

Since the days of Socrates we in the West have thought that if you can think you can know how to live.  Not, so.  I say as one with a college degree, a law degree and two Master of Arts degrees – one who but reads does not possess wisdom, for who has not experienced life in its varied presentations, challenges, trials, joys, betrayals and moments of pure joy and excellence – excellence of the soul and heart – cannot know as wisdom does.

From Descartes forward we have focused on cognition, not the experience of living – on living fully.  Muted in this process, so few know what it is to be human, compassionate, courageous, fearless, humble, loving, selfless, sacrificial, heroic, brave, practical and insightful, tender and firm.

We excel when the full measure of mind and soul are engaged in all things, and condemned to failure and folly when only the mind is at work.

The culture we occupy “must grow out of the soil of daily living” just as the human person must grow from the soul out, from the interior to the exterior.

Yes, take in the experience of living for it is upon the faithful act of living life that we become fully human and excel as we are made to excel.  Incidently, is this not resonant in the moment, in the sounds of “populism” we have witnessed in the recent Presidential election?  Is it not clear in an Inaugural where God was invoked so appropriately?

We may be experiencing a Heschel moment – a great opportunity to repair our culture and ourselves.


Footnote – My pal Buddy “got” Trump right away before any commentators, media “geniuses,” political mavens, etc. got it.  Buddy’s background?  Like me the Irish Mob Boston neighborhood of Somerville.  Like me a post-WWII working class, first in our family to go to college.  We’ve been friends for 60 years – 60 years. Worked unloading freight cars in the summer.  Him?  A successful Division I basketball coach until the nitwits at Columbia gave him the “heave ho” because he “wasn’t Columbia material.” They were right. They couldn’t wipe his backside.