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If, today, genuine order has become incredible it is because people are not fully capable of experiencing themselves as persons with sufficient dignity and responsibility to contribute to an order in which all are fully and personally concerned.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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In monastic life time and space are ordered so monks may live in an orderly manner – a manner of calm and peace, without stress – where one’s heart beats quietly and one’s mind is not conflicted, ones soul is engaged and the Divine is present.

Modern secular life is far from this state of being.  Yet, this state of being is precisely being itself.

Monks live in quiet.  They reserve time each day for work, prayer, reading and meditation.

As Merton says “a monk renounces a life of agitation and confusion for one of order and clarity.”  It is the nature of their space and its ordered time and the regularity within space and time that gives rise to clarity and an ordered life.

The monks bend to what is human by design.  You are no different from the monk as a human being but that you do not order your space and time – and not doing so you are at the “mercy” of others, other’s pressures and demands.

Mind you, those who live as godless secularists are likely to be disordered and be well assured that disordered people bring disorder to all others and any institution over which they preside.

Take measures to order your time and space.  Be vigilant that you not listen to those who are disordered – who show no stability, insight, peace, humility and wisdom.

Order your time and your space.

Shalom.

Anti-State of the Union – A few meaningless actors and actresses and one or two lesser luminaries will hold their own state of the Union where they will harangue others with Leftist nonsense.

Funny thing about them – they are full of viewpoints about how we must live our lives but they seem to have little education beyond high school (at least one is a high school drop-out) and show no evidence that they have lived particularly well.

These folks only have sway if we listen to their foolishness.  Why give them any due?

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Humility is the truth about ourselves, the whole truth – about our weakness, our failures, our history, our virtues, our gifts.

Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B., in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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My life has taught me that humility is surely a natural goal as we age.  Humility leads to wisdom and there are no shortcuts.

Yes, you will grow in wisdom and stature from birth to death – if you simply and honestly learn from your life along the way – from your mistakes, misconceptions, errors, failures, losses, heart breaks, modest acts of good fortune and courage, from betrayals, deceptions and time’s fashionable untruths.  Indeed, life’s calamities are (when honestly received) the path to humility.

In living a long time, I have also learned this: people resist humility and doing so make a mess of life – their own and the lives of others.

Rather than grow, people resist recognizing their own human shortcomings.  People seem to prefer defense to honestly.  They deny their wrongdoing and miscues.  That, by the way, is often a signal of their own frailty.

Some see their education, or status, wealth, profession or possessions as designations that raise them above the common folk.  Ah … no humility in this diversion.

Elites almost by definition shun humility … no fun to be a commoner apparently.

Ironically, humility gives one freedom.

Life is easier when you see your capacity for miscues, for being wrong.  When you have that baseline understanding that people are imperfect – all of us, you included – and hence prone to mistake and endless folly, life actually becomes amusing, fun, far more relaxed, and quite entertaining.

To show the essential place of humility in life I offer just this one thing: Saint Bede cited the incarnation of the Son of God as an extraordinary act of humility.

Think about it: if God would offer Himself to us in such and action is it not sure indication that humility must be a central part of our human existence???  How could it be otherwise?

Think critically about your growth in humility.  Have you aged well in this regard?  You will know if life comes to you easily, without strain, with pathos and laughter, understanding, insight, mercy, compassion, and a divine humor and honesty.

Shalom.

Humility’s Absence.  Humility is scarce in secular mass communication culture.

Case in point: in a new book on the media by Howard Kurtz, Kurtz reports that young Jonathan Martin, a New York Times reporter, labeled Donald Trump and those that work for him as racists and facists.

Martin makes this claim as one with a simple B.A. in history from an obscure small college.  “Higher education” being what it is today, one might assume that Martin’s schooling is about the equivalent of a ninth grade education at a rigorous prep school of yore.

Today’s public discourse is flooded with under-educated people, lacking humility, throwing about all sorts of nasty assertions.  This, by the way, is a primary reason why I do not miss television and forsake newspapers but for The Wall Street Journal.  No sense taking on foolishness, now so common.  Humility absent, one’s access to truth is limited.  Listen and read very selectively.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the word of the Lord, because you know the labor in the Lord is not in vain.  (Emphasis added.)

1 Cor 15:58

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St. Paul is addressing the people of Corinth.  He speaks of courage.

I often say to others that “all courage flows from faith.”  Yes, St. Paul makes this point: to stand firm in life – in ordinary and troubled times – one must have faith, be of faith – trust in the word of the Lord.

There are similar passages in the Old Testament that make this point as well.  You see, that is the dynamic of faith in times that require courage of each of us.  We live in such times today.

There are many among us who prefer we listen to them, adopt their faithless views.  Much of what has been propounded by those without faith (the abortionists, the racists, those wedded to power and control, those who put their trust in gender and sexual practices – to mention but some) speak without belief – speak and act without reference to God, indeed speak as if God does not matter, does not exist or is “the enemy.”

Those of us who believe must summon the courage to speak in opposition to what is godless, destructive, divisive – even evil.  Yes, in faith comes courage and in courage we speak.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman whose thoughts went only to gender.  Her sight was very narrow – all matters centered on her concern about her gender and sexuality.  She saw her existence through that narrow bodily prism.  It was like talking to a brainwashed fanatic.  She had no point of reference but her gender and sexuality.  She had been reduced to much less than who she has been divinely made to be.

This is the nature of absurdity that the Left has given us in their “identity politics.”  People no longer see who they are – and like intemperate, spoiled children they scream and hold their breath in fits of rage and lunacy having abandoned all sense they have been given.

People like this are akin to “the possessed,” the demonic.  There is no discourse with them, nor do their words warrant our time or attention.  Sadly they discredit themselves.

Yes, we face this challenge: to restore common sense and maturity to those whose disposition is godless and hostile.  Failing to do that we will not have a nation or a community, friendship and peace.

The biggest part of our present task is to reject the poisonous fruit of “identity politics” which has propounded what is false, reductive, divisive and attempts to make normative that which is not.  Our best approach: do not listen to those who are possessed.

Yes, as St. Paul says – give yourself to the word of the Lord and have the courage to speak and witness truth to what is false and destructive.

Shalom.  

We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it normalizes by mass media and rendered unproblematic.

Bell Hook, in Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

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I have been alarmed recently by the loose talk about racial conflict.  Some talk of the need for violent racial conflict aimed at “white oppression.”

Words can inflame.  Their use requires care.

The above words are ideological.  Their base: racism, feminism and socialism.

Ideology is a no guide to good.  It narrows the sight and hardens the heart.  Where ideology appears, faith better serves.  You see if peace is to prevail, God is required.  Our best actions do not separate by gender, race, antagonistic political fiction.

I know of no problem that can be solved without kind, honest, conversation.  I know of no peace that is made without care, no embrace that binds without humility and love.

People do bad things.  All people.  This is the human dilemma since the beginning of time.  It is embodied in the story of Adam and Eve – the Fall from Grace, Original Sin.

Our only path to love and fellowship is through growing our relationship with good, becoming wiser, more humble, thoughtful friends and neighbors.  Peace can never be insured through divisive ideology.  Ideology is the language of the lesser heart, its pitch is calibrated to hatred.  Yet, relationship with God dissolves anger, raises us up by bringing us to our knees.

There is an inmost center in us all where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning, in Paracelus

Shalom.

Lord, give us the strength of faith to know the truth about ourselves so we might live in peace as one.

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

Freud … replace(d) religion with psychology.  In this therapeutic vision, we should stop the fruitless searching for a nonexistent meaning and instead seek self-fulfillment.

Ron Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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In a section of his book (“The Triumph of Eros”) Dreher shows the overt contemporary shift in America (and Western) culture to the glorification of Self over God; and, then discusses the subsequent rise of eros which produces a dramatic divide between and Believers and non-believers and the subsequent attack on religion and those who are religious.

As sociologist Philip Rieff so simply states – the shift presents this: “Religious man was born to be saved.  Psychological man was born to be pleased.” (Emphasis added.)

As time unfolds we see that “pleasing” found its base in sexual matters: in easy no-fault divorce, lurid entertainment, contraception, abortion, “re-defining gender,” same-sex marriage, female teachers (often married with children of their own) engaged sexually with young and under-aged students, homosexuality and its advocacy, and now “transgenderism.”

Recent decades seem to have established that in an unbelieving culture “freedom” produces carnal chaos.

Yet, the shift we have witnessed has one very fundamental flaw: cultures survive when their normative institutions support and protect what is implicitly good and ordered to human prosperity and happiness.  Absent institutions which do this and culture fragments, and then eventually collapses.

You see it is a hard-sell to convince neutral listeners that bad is actually good.

Illustratively, a failure to maintain a steady growth in the birth rate will finally result in a vulnerable, aging population and extinction – first, by the way, manifest in the presence of fractured families, out-of-wedlock births, and children born to teenage mothers accompanied by the growth of a dependent class composed of able-bodied workers who have been consigned to inactivity.

Perhaps the most troubling part of what we see around us is: the ignorance of elites who do not contemplate the course of self-destruction upon which we have embarked.

As the esteemed philosopher, Canadian Charles Taylor so succinctly states:

“The entire ethical stance of moderns supposes and follows on from the death of God (and of course, of the meaning of the cosmos).” (Emphasis added.)

We live in a time of testing – of a very fundamental test and it is this: God or no God.

Yes, each of us must elect God or godlessness and the chaos and utter collapse and death that godlessness brings.

In a sense this is a privileged time.  Few generations has faced so critical a challenge, faced a war as to preserve the goodness of being and believing … and make no mistake: it takes courage to elect God in the presence of the aggressive godless class – social relations being what they are per se.

Good luck, Friends.

Shalom.

The Great Divide.  Want to know how great the divide is between “the elites” and the rest of us?  Harvard University named Bradley Manning (a “transgendered” man previously convicted of espionage) as a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government.  Or is it the Kennedy School of National Destruction?  Birds of a feather flock together.

Was there really any wonder?  God or no God?  Your choice.

 

 

… Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take him … to make him King, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jn 6:15

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If politics and power had a primacy – made all the difference in  the world, why would Jesus withdraw to the mountain by himself?  Why would he NOT accede to that position of power?  Because it is not of ultra importance.

No, relationship with God is preeminent.  That is the essential aspect of human existence that complete each of us and perfects as far as is possible human society.

Ignore your spiritual existence and nothing you do will succeed, but rather will only divide and destroy.

That said, what Sunday political talk show ever focuses on man’s relation to God?  What Judge seems to reflect any appreciation for what is recorded in the above Gospel passage?  What media member or newspaper?

Those who speak only of politics are unable to lead for they know little and what they know glorifies not God but them – and decline follows, after the chaos and division that they create.

Listen more carefully.  Be discrete when it comes to public chatter.  Find a home in Scripture until you hear the voices of sanity in the public square.

Shalom.

 

 

When you try to extinguish a tantrum by ignoring it, the first response … is called extinction burst.  People do whatever it is you are trying to ignore louder, longer and more enthusiastically.  This might make you believe that ignoring them isn’t working, but what it actually means is that it is. (Emphasis added.)

Albert J. Bernstein, in Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry

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Whether it is Code Pink, the juvenile dweebs in college throwing childish fits, or some racial group pitching a public tantrum, it is always best to ignore them  – unless, of course, they break the law in which case they should be treated accordingly.

Society gains nothing but rather loses a great deal when it honors uncivil, intemperate, deconstructing, insulting, anti-social and childish behavior. Tantrums fall squarely in this category and we have plenty of tantrum-throwers around today.

Heck, the Democrats in the Congress fall into that category: sit-ins on the House of Representatives chamber floor are an example.  The juvenile departure from their legislative duties and their foot-dragging as to the public business – including processing of the President’s Executive Branch appointments is another. Childish, very childish. Behavior that demeans them and fails America.

This week Jaime Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, called out those in the federal government (particularly those in charge since the “Great Recession” of 2008) whose “stupidity” and gridlock deadened economic growth and impeded the natural strength of corporate America to bring prosperity to the nation’s citizens.

Yes, childish behavior has an economic cost.  Listen up, Liz Warren.

Since we cannot rely on the press and media to be fair, intelligent and honest critics of the central government any longer, it behooves us to heed the words of Albert Bernstein: ignore the tantrum throwers … walk away from them – even when they are a political party or call you nasty names like “bigot,” or “fascist.” And by all means do not reward such people in the “hopes” that they will change.  They will not.  As a footnote: one would do well to ignore media reports of these childish fits – hear the report and simply tune-out.

Indulging and rewarding bad behavior only teaches that “holding one’s breath” prompts the “nannies” among us to cave in thereby guaranteeing more bad conduct and more ludicrous “demands.”  One would think by the way that “educated adults” might know this … then, again – maybe they are not adults …

You can’t run a country ceding treats to the impudent.  We do ourselves a great disservice by rewarding bad behavior … and childish conduct robs us all.

The world is a dangerous place.  Others aim to get their way at our expense.  No time left for childish conduct.  Such conduct shows our weakness; giving in to it shows our disarray.

Shalom.

… the ‘natural’ hierarchy of species no longer applies.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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Franaszek is describing the world seen by the narrator in Czeslaw Milosz’s poem A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto.  In the poem Milosz is writing about the liquidation of the inhabitants in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis in May 1943.

Yes, we have known a condition in which “the ‘natural’ hierarchy of the species no longer applies.”  You could say we are in such a time, or on its cusp.

I think of the Middle East and Syria, of ISIS, the destruction caused by the ill-conceived “Arab Spring,” terrorism exported to the West, the dismemberment of Venezuela, the eradication of national boundaries and nationhood itself, North Korea, and the exile of faith, religion and God in secular culture.  But I also think of the hyper-political hostility here on our shores: among the Left, the media, the press, and various leftist groups and special pleaders none of whom seem versed in history and its wise lessons.

Natural hierarchies collapse when metaphysical inquiry is lost for when it is lost so too is morality, and meaning, and virtue, and value, wisdom and compassion, community – indeed, humanity itself.

Sadly we face this on other shores and within this country.  It is most present in what now presents as the Democrat Party, the media, academia and popular mass culture.

You can see in today, the world that Milosz saw and experienced along with Koestler, Orwell, T.S. Eliot, Beckett, Solzhenitsyn and others.

A world without metaphysics is a world with but one leafless tree.

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.

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