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Dedicated to Buddy and My Childhood Friends – Great People and Great Friends

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3:36

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Imagine if your life actually comes down to belief … and to performance based on belief, that it comes down to excellence in what you do, to virtue, and effort and sacrifice.

Yes, imagine life is a zero-sum game.  That if you fail to excel, fail to exert yourself – to try your very best to do things right, learn from mistakes, take responsibility for miscues, live honorably, befriend others, sacrifice when necessary, put others first, lead and encourage, learn your craft and do it well … imagine what eternity might be for you, if you fail to live as you optimally can. Imagine how unsatisfying your end days might be if you failed to enter the fray and give it what you had.

Imagine as a professed Christian what your burden may be if having professed belief in Christ as the Son of God you lived as it that was not so … as if your actions say “these are only words, but I do my own thing.”

U.S. Navy Seal Lief Babib writes in Extreme Leadership (a book he wrote with fellow Seal officer Jocko Willink) that “Seal training (and really, throughout a Seal’s career) very evolution was a competition – a race, a fight, a contest.”

You know I have often said that life in poverty, in public housing, with a Mom and no Dad or siblings, among tough hardcore people on the edge of survival was a state of combat – day after day with no margin of error.  I was, by the way, surrounded by friends in the same situation and they have been among the best people, strongest people and best friends I have had in my life … Brothers and Sisters to me, my family to this day.

Yes, necessity creates need for toughness and determination; and, whether people were consciously connected to this passage in the Gospel of John or not, these people lived a de facto zero sum game – gave life their very best, reached out to support and love one another, showed the courage to face life, accept its hardships and challenges and keep living as honorably as they could.

Now that is “seeing life” and experiencing the gift of life.  I contend that living life as it presents is in its very nature an act of faith, a life of courage. 

My friends are not snowflakes, weepers, cry-babies.  They do not look for government to do for them.  They do not seek handouts, make excuses, complain and whine.

They live and they laugh.  They raise good kids. Work hard.  Help others. Get up when they are knocked down. Learn from life, grow in it  – get wiser, gain understanding – excel as human beings.

They don’t need “selfies” to know who they are or remember where they have been. Celebrities hold no sway for them, but good people do.

They don’t count themselves “special.”  They are the polar opposite of Johnny Depp and Madonna.  They don’t need an audience and long ago realized entertainers are as jugglers – and jugglers come and go … while the best of us sustain to the end.

Shalom.

 

… the Light has come into the world, and men have chosen darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought by God. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 19, 20, 21

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I have been focusing on the Gospel of John and the teachings that Jesus brings us in it.  I do so for a particular reason and it is this: we in the United States, especially among elites – those of privilege … including the media and entertainment class, lawyers and the judiciary, and university teachers and administrators, have lost contact with God, or have rejected God, religious narrative and Christ and this underlies all of our problems and our deteriorating public discourse and the reduced quality of those serving in public life.

Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture.  About the intersection between faith and the culture in which we live.  There is no moral guide without faith and religious narrative.

The loss of recognition of faith’s invaluable importance to a healthy culture is crippling, destabilizing.  In its absence all sorts of ideas and wants are pushed forward without a glimmer of depth or understanding.  The subsequent foolishness is and can be both costly and utterly destructive.  We seem to have adequately demonstrated this quite clearly in the last five to six decades.

We are unhealthy, divided, crude and increasingly ignorant and wasteful.

Things have got to change.  We must return to the source of our wisdom and humanity – to faith – knowledge of it and life lived in it.

Look at the above words.  Read them.  Pause to think about them.

Do you see evil in this culture?  Among the most vocal advocates?  Or do you see good? Light?  Is faith banished or welcome?  Is God dismissed or welcome? Is Light manifest?

Or does one hear actors and celebrities, elected officials even – talking hatefully and doing so without hesitation?  Is the media truthful or are they not?

Those who are not truthful are not of the Light.  They destroy and there is no reason to give them ear.

Shalom.

Common Mistake – I recently watched an interesting report on the BBC about suicide among homosexuals.  The claim was made that it is a serious problem and that its cause is the denial of equality.

The common mistake?  Not all matters and forms of human behavior depend on “equality.”

There is far more to a healthy life than “equality.”  It is not the essence of human existence.

Indeed “equality” is invoked by political advocates without any evidence that they have studied the concept.  They use “equality” in an undifferentiated way.   Big mistake.  A mistake of ignorance.

The result in this case is this: neither “equality” nor suicide are understood.

Our ignorance grows seemingly in direct proportion to the growth of educational institutions and budget increases in education.

The Lord God planted a garden toward the East, in Eden … Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2: 8, 9

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… the tree of life …

We often miss this vital point in the story of Adam and Eve and their exile from Eden that results when they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

At Mass yesterday, Fr. Tucker pointed this out.  It is, frankly, a profound observation with extraordinary significance.

Yes, we were exiled for our disobedience.  Left to live far from the tree of life …. until 

Yes, until Christ was crucified – the Cross Our Tree of Life.  Such a wonderful and simple Truth from Fr. Tucker.

Think about this.  You have been brought back to Eden.  It’s enough to make a person obedient, thankful, faithful.

Beware of those who attack faith, the Church, religion and Believers – they have little understanding and are far from Truth and Life.

Shalom.

Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors … When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own. This quality is essential to dialogue.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Tradition is profoundly important.  It is, as Thich says, essential to dialogue. Without tradition one cannot easily acquire the experience of another for traditions convey human experience, reality discovered over centuries, truth as to human beings and the supernatural.

In America, today, we have little constructive or civic dialogue between the Left and the rest of us.  Rather, we hear very harsh, hostile and angry language from the Left.  Their word and conduct decry this fact: those at war with others are at war with themselves.

War, you say.  Yes.

The Left feels betrayed.  They lost power and an election that felt sure they would win … one they and their candidate felt entitled to win.

Indeed, they feel rejected and cannot come to understand as they must, in these circumstances, that they must look within to ask: why is this so?  Why did so many others not favor them?

Yes, they have been betrayed.  But not by those who voted for their opponent – but rather by their ideology – an ideology which attacks tradition and faith that is its common witness.  In short, the Left has attacked and opposed tradition and religion.

As to ideology, it has no long human history.  It is a recent human construct, a fiction of intellect – not a vehicle of human and divine truth.  It is simply: a lie … and to live a lie is a personal betrayal, self-deception from which no authentic dialogue can arise.

In the West, the modern liberals and the Left have chosen intellect over faith, power over humility, what is false on its face from what is and has been sustained truth about humans and eternity.

If we are to have a civil society, the Left will have to see their errors and change their ways rather dramatically.  On our part, we must be present in kindness and calm to receive them when they desire to advance civil community once again.

Shalom.

… those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Mt 23:20

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Make no mistake there are distinct, substantive differences between our two major parties.

Do not be deceived the last electoral result highlighted the very real difference between the common citizen and the elites: those with power, money, status – the intellectual and celebrity class, globalists, the media, the perpetual Washington insiders whose class status is far different from Mom and Dad in small town U.S.A. , and between the ideologues, “special pleaders,” and mere citizen taxpayers.

Frankly, the privileged class lost and the most politically-focused of them (the Left and the Washington wags who are used to being “important”) are offended and not taking their bite of humble pie very well.  Yes, their obstruction and rhetoric is destructive – having gone beyond civil debate.  Actually, their behavior mimics the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature who fled their state and hid from their official duties so as to thwart the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Like all actions people take, the angry objection to the voters choice of President tells us about those who are upset.  One thing it says is this: politics and power is a high priority for them – probably too important for their and our wellbeing as a nation.  Make no mistake a subset is NOT greater than the whole.  No one is more important than the nation.

It is always hard to speak to your Brother and Sister when they must be reproached – but speak we must – speak calmly, in a soft voice, as a friend, with authority and care. Reconciliation is the goal and it must always be.

Losses are difficult for many.  Those of us who have lived modestly and, in my case, on the “wrong side of the tracks” amid the very serious conflicts one can encounter – we are used to life’s ups and downs.  We learned long ago that no one wins all the time and that it is the losses which actually teach us the best lessons, impart the greatest truth and wisdom.

The one thing that we need now is a calm conversation with those who are most displaced by their perceived loss.  For civility to return, maturity must be cultivated and in this instance it means those hurt must listen to the voices of those who care for their welfare and that of this nation.  Yelling, fighting, anger will only inflame and put much at risk … including each of us.

Remember the opposite of love is not hate – but rather: indifference.  We cannot afford to draw battle lines, engage in nasty and dishonest behavior, retribution, character assassination, or violence.   Honest, calm conversation is the need.  An end to extreme language that excites ideologues and flames the fire … it must cease today, now.

I hope we are all to the task.  It is the humble who are exalted.  They are strongest who life has humbled.  Make no mistake – in the end the humble remain standing while the prideful fall. 

Shalom.

Postscript – I am always amazed that the “talking heads” on T.V. and many elected officials talk and talk without ever citing an authority – the words of someone whose insight and wisdom they share.  You have to conclude that they are talking through their hats, haven’t cracked a book since the 3rd grade.

You wonder: why would I listen to these people?  They really do not warrant my time.  They do not.  Happy landings.

Today’s Assault on Republican Congressman and Staff

[I wish I did not have to mention this.]

The man arrested for shooting a Republican Congressman, staff member and police officers is reported to be a Bernie Sanders supporter with troubling social media posts aimed at President Trump.  His posts show he is an ideologue and a devotee of Leftist policies and Leftist media celebrities.

Perhaps, Democrat politicians and the Leftist press and media types will realize their careless, inflammatory words and calls for “resistance” in the streets have a very dangerous consequence.  Hatred claims its victims.  It is best to watch what we said and how we say it.

Serious prayer and civil behavior is needed.

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… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …

Mt 20:28

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What will it take for us to be humble?  The Son of God came to serve, and ransom our life at the price of his own.

When will we see the essential, indispensable, central role of humility in human existence?  The foundation stone that it is for us, for a contented and peace-filled life?

Does it take tragedy like today’s devastating high rise holocaust in London?  Or the brutality of despotic regimes?

Yesterday, I saw for a second successive time the rudeness of a U.S. Senator (Kamala Harris, Democrat) asking questions of a witness.  No humility there.  No grace.  Rudeness, yes – not humility.  (Attention, Miss: the wise ones play hard, get their answer and are not rude in the process.)

Today, I saw the bright orange-red sun, a perfect orb, ascend over the mountains. Humbling.  Can anyone doubt God’s dominion?

Then, a friend sent me pictures of his four grandkids – two boy and two girls, Quads – four at one pregnancy.  All healthy.  All exquisite.  Perfect.  Little button noses, bright eyes, chubby little arms and hands and bellies.  Humbling.

The children’s Dad is a young guy who came to me when he was an undergrad at Notre Dame.  He sought me out to discuss becoming a lawyer.  Hesitant, he needed insight, encouragement, counsel.  I delivered.  He is now licensed in two states and occupies a seat in a Chicago law firm.  I’ve seen a college student become a lawyer and a father. Such a joy to witness.  Humbling.  Quads.  Very humbling.

I’ve seen my own son become a man, secure his Ph.D, in one of the hardest disciplines to tackle (the hybrid field of AI/neurals systems).  Humbling.  And seen him become not just a man with a doctorate but become a loving, patient, engaged, soft-spoken, fun-loving father of two little ones – a boy going on three and a girl of eight months.  Humbling.

Look, Friends – we are far better with humility than without.  Look around those without humility are bores.  They really crowd public life, politics especially … in the celebrity realm, and in media.  Bores, so often.  

Cherish the humble ones.  They are a clear “cut above.”  Do we not instinctively know this!

Shalom.

If this message is helpful.  Share it with others.  We are in this together.

“How full the days are, full of slow and quiet … Only here do I feel that my life is authentically human.

Thomas Merton

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Merton’s words in a journal entry of November 1964 when he moved into his hermitage – a place to dwell alone surrounded by nature.

In my solitude on the ridge I know what he means.  Never have I felt closer to reality, to God, to the ground of being … or more at peace.

I am away from disorder, chaos … and the flood of bad behavior, routine deceptions and the idiotic chatter – its self-destruction.

I think of ISIS.  North Korea.  The American Left.  The media, the press.  Iran. Russia’s global antics and Europe’s passivity and foolishness.

When good falls victim to evil has not the ground under you shifted?  Is it not wise to seek Eden once again?

In Eden there are no pagans, no herds of selfish people making unwise and suicidal demands.

Merton and the Ridge.

Shalom.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country … To the land that I will show you; and I will make of you a great nation … And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Gen 12: 1, 2, 3

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I sit in the morning fog in God’s green land.  Behind the mist are the pastures and the hills and mountains that I am sure to see when the veil is lifted and the sky is opened. I listen to De Profundis and Palestrina’s Gloria from Missa Papae Marcelli.

The news of the world is troubling.  In this land we wake to stories of overdoses, and of the murder of two young Muslim teenage boys on the eve of their high school graduation, both honor students on their way to college, and of conflicts and hostilities in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  In our legislature the Party out of power acts like spoiled children, turns to obstruction while problems pile up and division disheartens.  Small groups act like angry pagans demanding this or that.  Racism surfaces among those once its victim.  The morning fog cannot hide the shame of this.

It had been four centuries without a prophet until Jesus emerged.  Four centuries.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters wondered why God was silent.  Then we received The Word, Immanuel – “God with us.”

We have been given the opportunity to become the children of God, to become the great nation that Abraham was called to bring forth.

Children of God and children of Abraham, but how do we act today?  We act as if there was no Abraham, no Jesus and there is no God.

Today we seek to create good through human acts but in place of good is conflict, discontent, selfishness, hatred.  The flesh and the will of man cannot triumph … it is God who perfects man, not man who prefects man.  Like Abraham we must be His vehicle, His instrument.

Like you I see the conflict, the needless hurt, the arrogance of man and woman, the reliance on self as if we are God.  We have credited ourselves with wisdom and power we do not have.

The good and wise man is humble, speaks softly – sees others as his family.

Are you the good and wise man?  Am I?

Shalom.

 

 

A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.

Elisabeth Elliot

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This Elliot quote is a nugget … about as true a thing as you can find.

I have been asked often by clients, colleagues, friends and people who seek my counsel to explain another person’s consistent hurtful, dismissive, thoughtless, selfish, antagonistic, hostile or chaotic behavior.  I frequently respond by saying: if you have disordered people in your life, they bring you disorder.  Indeed with disordered people – any expectations to the contrary are misplaced.

Personally, I keep my distance from disordered people … and I mean personal distance (face to face) and distance in the multiple forms they appear to me in the mass media/mass communication society we have now.

I cite a case in point: Tucker Carlson in this television interview and commentary show last night had a guest who was the absolute picture of disorder.  From the very first question, this female guest ranted, spoke over him, would not and probably could not give a competent response to any of his inquiries.  She was loud, uncouth and incapable of civil discourse.  Yes, a belligerent, disordered soul.  I stopped watching.

If she were acting this way in a psychiatrist office awaiting a consult they’d probably have sedated her.

Disorder is frequently on public display in American culture today.

I see this in women now whereas I never saw this in the early decades of my life.  On the contrary, I recall women who were strong, dignified, insightful, balanced, wise and courageous.  They had class and commanded respect by their mere presence.   Somewhere since feminism this has changed and we are the worse for it.

In addition to the Carlson episode, I offer three recent public incidents of women displaying troubling indications of disorder.  The first is Hillary Clinton in her ongoing public, everevolving, ever-expanding blame-everyone-but-me explanations of her unsuccessful candidacy.  In her one sees the depths of disorder.  Yes, a troubled disordered soul.

The second, is Kathy Griffin’s pitiful, weepy public complaint that the Trump family is responsible for the (fittingly) public criticism of her utterly tasteless display of a decapitated bloody head of the President.  Yes, a lost and disordered soul in the era of ISIS decapitations.

Then, there is national security leaker Reality Winner whose immaturity and devotion to leftist ideology led her to violate the law by giving classified material to those who had no legal right to have it.  Yes, a confused, dangerously immature and self-righteous soul.

Four queens of disorder.  Not a good sign for them, or us, or for women … and a far cry from Elisabeth Elliot – a wise woman of extraordinary faith, service and accomplishment.

Perhaps we can pray that those who are lost and troubled can be found.

Shalom.

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