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Then they set out along the black top in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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McCarthy writes of a father and his most beloved son who walk under the grayest of skies in a burned out and broken America.  It is both a compelling book and extraordinary movie.  In both I am struck by the love of the father for the son and the son for the father, and by the grayness of the sky amid the ruin.  The latter reminds me of the verbal and video landscape of the present days where hostility is thick as fog and division seems the only objective of the public voices we hear and where each day brings stories of death, cruelty, hatred and the commentaries of the C- and D+ scribes and talking heads whose range of thought is a tad lower than that of a carnival barker.

In a most extraordinary land darkness has descended.  What was once one is now fragmented into many bruised parts .

He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.  He tried to remember the dream but could not.  All that was left was the feeling of it … he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was his own ashes.

This father like me had lived a dream – a dream in better times.  I was conceived when the Second World War was near its triumphant end.  My childhood was spent on a street of veterans and their families – remarkable men and women whose childhood commenced in the Great Depression and turned then to World War – its millions dead, others murdered in Stalin’s gulag.

How does one speak of what we had and lost?  How does one make that the known experience of an adult son?  Give him the optimism purpose and meaning I, poor as we were, knew so well?

How do my grandson or my granddaughter gain what had been, but now is so damaged?  How can my ashes live to sign their forehead?

The Road.  Where this father and son had the dark shadow and penetrating cold of a dying orb – they at least had silence.  We have the unstoppable voices and words of those whose lips bring darkness and cold.  They are now our dismal cover.

“You have to carry the fire … It’s inside you.  It always was there.  I can see it.”

So says the father to the son.  So say I to you, this day.

Shalom.

News as Soap Opera – This is where we are in a superficial mass communication, digitized social media culture.  We interview people with no achievement or proclaim and, in doing so, cannot distinguish people of substance from people who have no particular accomplishment.  We are more soap opera than not.  We can no longer tell the difference between depth and shallow, or what is substantive and what is not.  A real astonishing decline.

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I often wonder what the world would be like today if some of our modern religions taught that self-knowledge … was the paramount goal of the spiritual path.

Randy Davida

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I might frame what Mr. Davila (the Publisher of The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom) said a little differently.

I might say that we would all be far better served if we realized that religious narratives address our human development and well-being – that they speak to our full growth – psychologically, socially, emotionally, inter-personally, intellectually and spiritually.

As to our spiritual growth think of psyche (Greek for soul); and I suggest you do too.

Our spiritual growth is growth of our psyche – the deepest form of self.  Religious narratives present a dimension of observation, insight and understanding that enriches us at the very core of our being – in the soul/psyche.

Frankly, far too many people in our culture (and particularly among those who wish to govern us) neglect their full growth and development and present evidence of this daily.

They are as to full human development – lost souls – confined to error, ego, ideology, desire for status, wealth and attention … and, regrettably prone to poor, and even destructive, ideas and policies.  In a word – we are poorly served and poorly led by those who (forsaking religion and religious narrative) have little wisdom and not much of use to offer us.

My “take-away” from Mr. Davila’s words is this – we neglect religion, do not see its narrative as useful and informative in a very fundamental way, and turn our back on the ageless wisdom of our faith and, hence, we face a multitude who seek to lead us without knowing who they are and who we are.

Living without the self-knowledge contained in religious narratives is destined to produce error, ignorance and egotists prone to foolishness and serious mistake.

Each of us would be wise to take only the pulse of those in public life as a way to monitor the state of chaos, calamity and confusion present today – while focusing on our individual acquisition of the wisdom and insight present in religious narrative.  Absent that – the unknowing are led by the unknowing.

Shalom.

Postscript – As some of you know I am trained – in law, government and politics, international relations and American foreign policy, and theology.  I have long been interested in the relationship between faith and secular culture.  After a great deal of reading, thought and experience, one has to conclude that neglecting our religious heritage is a very unwise thing to do – for religious narratives deal entirely in the human person and his or her peace and prosperity – personal, communal, familial, psychological , intellectual and spiritual.  Neglecting religion produces poor results.

… let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on the minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.  (Emphasis added.)

President George Washington, in His Farewell Speech, September 19, 1796

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Once upon a time we were wiser and nicer.  Having dispatched wisdom and kindness, we are not consigned in perpetuity to live the ignorance and nastiness that has become us today.

“But how,” you ask, “can things change for the better?”

In answer I tell you that no one may simply present himself to a Court of Law and argue a case.  No, one must be credentialed to the law.  Training is required.  License, in good order and standing, is required.  We can learn from this.

At present we listen to anyone that shouts loud enough of their fanciful “desires and wants.”  Illustratively, no one asks those who propound the oddest of ideas to state their case as to faith, religious narrative, wisdom complied over the Ages, what history has taught, what is known of cause and effect psychologically, emotionally, socially – indeed, least of all judges who have as their credentials but two things: one, that they are but lawyers, and two, they know a politician or political group which will promote their interest in becoming a judge.  Mind you, Courts are occupied with those who have little training but law – and let it be known from me (a lawyer, with advanced degrees in theology and international affairs and foreign policy) that virtually anyone who can read can become a lawyer.

Studying law does not equip one with wisdom – and surely not with the learned ability to discern social policy, advance it, or question those before the Court who seek to advance their views of “man’s perfection” or the “way” society ought to run or be organized as their prejudice so poorly “informs” them.

To make our turn back to wisdom – make the proponents of change lay out very broadly and in detail the defense of a proposed change and explain the ramifications – personal and material costs – in embarking on their (usually poorly examined) proposals.

And remember, the cornerstone of wisdom is neither desire nor “equality.”  It is more complex than such simple thinking – indeed, its acquisition resides amid religious principle.

Shalom.

Postscript – This is the third and final blog post on Tradition.  I suggest reading each one beginning with the first entry two days ago.  Suffice it to say, we display a poverty of intellect that is shocking and explains more than any other factor (save our ignorance of religious narrative and the history of Western civilization) what we see as gross disorder and destabilization of our fundamental institutions today – running from marriage, procreation, gender, family and education to our institutions of governance and our sacred fundamental documents like the Constitution and an appreciation of the Federalist Papers and the design and unique working of a Representative Democracy with power shared by its citizens with both autonomous state government and the federal government.

… the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing?  For this man is preforming many signs.  If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him and the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation.”

Jn 11:47

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Power is intoxicating and easily so.  Herein, we see the chief priests and Pharisees gathering after Jesus calls Lazarus back to life.  Their thoughts?  How can we preserve our status?  

Is this not the way of the “powerful” and the privileged?  Is this not a truth that conveys over all time?  Those at “the top” of the ladder want to remain at the top of the ladder.

Such a disposition turns one’s back on God.  ‘Tis the way of political people, the self-important, far too often.

Oddly, the strongest among us are not those at “the top,” but those who are humble and guided by faith, knowing full well there is a God and they are not God.  In their mortal existence the strongest are immortal by choice, by faith, by belief.

It is an old story – one we prefer to neglect.  Offered a Messiah, we guard our vaunted place in the pecking order.  This is tedious to those who know and believe.  Tedious indeed!  Why concede the tedious ones a grant of authority?  Would you not prefer those who welcome the Messiah be those who lead?  Are they not the wiser?  Braver?

Where are you on such things?

Shalom.

 

The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

… it came to pass … that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world would be taxed …

Lk 2:1

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This census, of course, required each person in the Roman Empire to assemble in their ancestral village or town … and this was a prelude to Jesus birth in Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary journeyed from their home in Galilee in accord with Caesar’s directive.

How many note the significance of Jesus being born at a time when the entire Roman population was assembled as a whole?  My point being that the birth of Jesus has characteristics to it that proclaim something quite special in this birth.  Illustratively, the birth of Jesus heralded the assembly of all.

Yet, there is more.  Jesus birth in a manger among farm animals makes the statement that the child’s presence exceeds mortal reality – but rather speaks to all creatures and creation.  Yes, Christ is for and of the whole of this world and the next.

Indeed, shepherds and kings come to his place of birth.  Is this not a proclamation that in Christ the humble and exalted are but one in the same?

Yes, the circumstances of this birth speak to us of its universal and eternal importance – but do we think of this in our own time?  Is this a point of reference for us?  Does this magnificent birth inspire us?  Motivate us?  Lead us in our daily existence?  I dare say: “it does not.”

Does not the star that led others to Bethlehem speak to the cosmic significance of this holy birth?  Does it not say that each birth is God’s intention?  Yet, who are we now?  Do we see these things?  Are we comforted and governed by them?

Shalom.

 

A Week of Spring Rains Leads to A Late Post

Pride is a profound depravity; it is the worship of self; man becomes his own god through excessive self-love.

Jacques-Benigne Bossuet

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Pride – a depravity.  Yes.

Those who are prideful come to think of themselves “lord and sovereign master”of all things.  They see themselves as simply smarter than others and more entitled, born to be revered, lauded and “in charge.”

In many instances they both show and disclose the arrogance that is the product of American higher education from once distinguished colleges that have become merely ideological nursery schools.

The prideful’s attitude and actions deny the existence of God.  Rules, they show us, simply do not apply to them.  Every defeat they encounter is blamed on others.  Humility eludes them.  They act as if they are “the first beginning” and “the last cause.”

Godless.  Yes, we have among us many prideful, godless men and women who fancy themselves better than everyone else.  These men and women need public adoration – seek an audience.  They take delight in undeserved applause.

Craven, empty people – these prideful ones.  Full of vanity, the attention paid to them blinds them to the matter of Truth … and honor, honesty, virtue, self-sacrifice, courage, faith, fellowship, intimacy, love, caring and kindness.

Look around – you see so easily those of vainglory.  No leaders they.  In them there is no trust.

Shalom.

 

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Thucydides

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Our culture does not look kindly on men.  We are more the suspects than the welcomed.

Secular culture does not honor the nature of things nor the historical record.  Aside from rejecting religious narrative and God, groups of “special pleaders” adopt a variant of Marxist analysis and divide us by gender, skin color and political views.

In the present age, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is reflected in disparaging men.

Thucydides speaks a Truth.  The bravest among us face the difficulties that come to their families, their clan, their children, their spouse, their friends, their community, their country, their Church, their neighbors, the old, the weak, the poor, the young.

History tells us the task of facing danger and risking death has been the job of men.  To disparage men is to lose sight of who they are.  Yet, we disparage them without thinking – “Who will fight for us, protect us, do the dying that life demands so others might live?”

We are at this point a foolish culture.  I see those who garner public attention – but I do not see the men I know – those who stand ready when trouble approaches.

Life is combat.  And men do combat.

Shalom.

 

If there be any man who is not enlightened by the sublime magnificence of created things, he is blind.  If there be any man who is not aroused by the clamor of nature, he is deft.  If there be any one who, seeing all these works of God, does not praise him, he is dumb; if there be any one who, from so many signs, cannot perceive the First Principle, that man is foolish.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Bonaventure, in Intinerarium Mentis in Deum

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I am sure I live among disordered people – for each day I get up I am presented with evidence that we are surrounded by people who have absolutely no idea of nature, its immutable presence and the confides of its boundaries.

What do I mean?  I give and example: men are men and women are women –and while they share common characteristics they are not the same and are not interchangeable.  Each has their blessings, gifts, innate and unique talents and insights, and ways of seeing and being … and this is a beautiful thing.

When a culture loses an understanding and appreciation of nature, it loses its sanity and on the way to insanity it generates hostility and manufactures abject foolishness.

Need an illustration of the insanity?  Airlines are re-thinking the policy of allowing “comfort” animals on commercial passenger flights – because passengers are now bringing animals like small ponies as their “comfort” animals.  (Yes, this is true.)

In public policy matters, the “small pony” is exhibited by any number of iterations arising from feminism and homosexual advocacy.  Men and women are not meant to be “at war” and there is no such psychological designation as “homophobia.”  Notwithstanding that there is no such diagnostic category as “homophobia,” it has entered the public lexicon as if it is “a truth,” an actual psychological disorder.

This is a problem.  You see when nature is denied, truth is denied.  Consequentially, what flows is that which is unnatural and false.  Reality becomes unexamined fantasy.

If we have any particular group to “thank” for this is it people in the intellectual community who latch on to fantasy and ignore truth.  Their ideas now presented as mainstream suggest to me that rather than affording them the cap and gown of university achievement – consigning them to wear red bulbous nosed and large rubber feet seems more fitting.

The tragedy of denying nature is the tragedy of becoming less educated, less wise, less insightful, less truthful, less human, less stable and less sane.

We are, it seems, as St. Bonaventure says – blind, deaf, dumb and foolish.  Not a good development and one reason why I listen to few people and spend my time in nature, with cows, mountains, sky, and beauty.

Shalom.

Never Understood – The Democrats have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Russians, Wikileaks and members of the Trump campaign conspired to defeat the Democrat candidate in the last Presidential Election.

I have never understood their claim that Russians favored the Republican candidate over the Leftist Party’s candidate.  Let’s face it – the Democrat Party is the political party of the Left.  For heaven sakes, it had a Socialist seeking their Party’s nomination and their last President had a C.I.A. Director who voted for a Communist for President at one time.

How is it that the Party of the Left would be the Party that the Russians wished to get defeated?  What sense does that make?

 

Like every other human being, I am a splinter of the infinite deity … If the human [soul] is anything, it must be of unimaginable complexity … the only equivalent of the universe within is the universe without … as I reach this world through the medium of the body, so I reach that world through the medium of the psyche.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Memories, Dreams and Reflections

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Jung in describing the psyche is also conveying to us the nature of human health and wholeness whereby one lives not merely through the body but (and more critically) through the psyche as well.   Indeed, for Jung and other psychiatrists and learned people – a person is far from well (and prone to sickness and disorder) who lives within the body alone.

Looking about America in this age and time it is quite obvious that we are awash in disorder.  The social pathology is visible daily in news stories.  A state governor, despite being married, has a bizarre public sexual romp with his staff person, a man and woman beat their four year old child to death for spilling soup, a caretaker places a child in an oven to punish her … And the list goes on and on …

Are we not the only country that seeks tax revenue from drug use?  And look at the failure of custodial authorities (schools, social workers, police, teachers, principals) to attend to the obvious sickness and danger that Dylan Cruz plainly displayed and the pathetic social policies associated with that failure (the suppression of data on criminal conduct in Broward schools by the creation of “deversionary placements” so as NOT to have to face school violence done by “minority students” and the police officers unwilling to enter the building during the shooting for fear of running afoul of those who govern policy).

Let’s be honest – we live in a disordered culture, one in decline with manifestations of mental illness that simply go unacknowledged – denied, disguised, normalized or hidden.

In Jung’s words – we deny we are “a splinter of the infinite deity” and in that we starve the soul and ignore the psyche – the nexus between the world within and the world without (that which recognizes a mortal existence that is housed within eternal reality).

Yes, we are very poorly evolved and hence psychological problems, injuries and death abound.

We see these problems starkly in the ideas and actions of the political Left.  Indeed, having the lunatic Left present and active is like we are in foster care of Sarah and Cheryl Hart (the two lesbian mothers and “mates”) who drove their SUV off a California cliff into the Pacific Ocean 100 feet below with six helpless foster care (Black) children in the vehicle and to their collective death.

Any honest comment on American life, culture and society today must begin with an understanding that there is a great deal of mental illness that is unaddressed, dressed up as “normal,” excused, and tolerated despite the brutal costs that it imposes on others and the population at large.

We have drifted a long way from health and happiness and the decline is accelerating at a compounding rate.

That said, I offer you the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. –

In the shadow of death may we not look back to the past, but seek in utter darkness the dawn of God.

Shalom.

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