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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.

 

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A [person] entrusted with the care of souls ought to have certain wisdom of which does not consist of words only, but chiefly of experiencea certain wisdom of life … If such a thing can be taught at all, it must be of a personal experience of the human soul.  (Emphasis added.)

Carl Jung, M.D., in Letters

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Some guy goes to a pricey college after prep school and then to an “esteemed” law school and then into law practice or politics and we are told in time that “he can part the seas” (or if he is a real egotist he tells you he can make the seas recede several feet).

Pure idiocy … but this is the nonsense that dominates razor thin thinking about public figures today.  We get the public figures we deserve.

Public figures are a reflection of who we are as a people.  It you see pretenders and fools in public life – you live among pretenders and fools.

Wisdom figures, to the contrary, have lived and learned from a life fully experienced.

Too many public figures have simply traveled easy street and matriculated at some well known college and assume in time “positions of authority.”

Easy streets and a modest degree from a known college are not in any sense apt to produce “a certain wisdom of life.”  Far from it.  Have we not had sufficient numbers of fools with that meagher portfolio – affluence, a private secondary school, nice summer vacations, a house at the beach, a fancy college, law school and “authority.”

In the bar fight that live is – you’d best have someone who has thrown some punches, been knocked down and got up again … and again and again.

Live experience, alone, provides life wisdom.  Combat is your teacher.

Shalom.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Ralph Ellison, in Invisible Man

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With the warmth of a wood-burning stove, I write alone in the frigid darkness while the wind howls.  Aaron Copland’s Own Town makes now the memories of the past.

Yesterday’s battles tug most when you are alone, when the earth is asleep and the ground is stone hard.

There is nothing gentle in these recollections.  Thank God the ones you loved and lost sit closest as the night takes its form.

I am a long way from the Boston I never left.  Yes, life’s markers are portable and, at times, inescapable.  Curses and blessings served on one plate.  Time teaches unforgettable truths.  Yet, joy survives in having lived it all out.

What is exterior is interior.

The trials grant us wisdom for future battles.  What was once opaque, is not.  In challenges – the gifts of insight and understanding, a sense of humor – and confidence.  Behind it all, faith waits cultivation.

Yes, Ellison is right – life is to be lived … and we are not to be controlled.  The Spirit cannot be jailed.  He must take his breath.  His heart must beat.  His dignity is of God, so too his identity.  You are his host.  He lives in you.

Shalom.

 

A lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Attributed to Mark Twain

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Like others, I was not too keen on President Trump’s daily tweeting.   Many who take an exception to these tweets focus on Donald Trump the person and voice concern that tweeting is “not presidential,” that his tweets make him look “narcissistic.”

Yet, rather than focus on Mr. Trump think about his election itself and what it tells you about the state of our culture and our politics.

Donald Trump beat a wide range of Republican contenders to win the nomination and beat a well-known an established political figure in the general election.

As to his Republican challengers: he beat the Bush family candidate, Senators, a former CEO, a noted and accomplished surgeon, the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin and others.  In doing so he ran a Populist campaign that spoke to the middle class and attracted disaffected middle class Democrats.  He attracted Catholics and Evangelicals.

As to the general election he beat the candidate of the Left, the media, the academy, the feminists, the unions, the inside-Washington crowd, the homosexual cabal, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, the abortionists, anarchists, atheists, major newspapers, race-conscious advocates, the tech industry billionaires, Washington lobbyists and the entrenched Democrats in the massive federal bureaucracy, and the professional pols in both the Republican and Democrat Parties.

Think about it.  His election tells you something about America today.  It surely says – discontent is brewing.  Indeed, the divisions generated by the “identity politics” of the Left have succeeded and widening the divide between people in this country.  That division creates two groups: the elites/insiders and the rest of us.

This is where tweets come in.

Donald Trump’s tweets are a remarkably able and inexpensive way to offset the daily “news” and “commentary” owned by the array of Leftist and others mentioned above.

His tweets are strategic and very effective – they are the truth putting on its shoes before the lie can take flight.

Like it or not, it is a brilliant stroke employed by an outsider and underdog and the “basket of deplorables” dig it big time.

Indeed, it makes one ask – are we seeing the Left being exposed to light, and becoming unglued in the process?  If we are, one might see a swing back to the middle and normalcy – and the demise of the Democrat Left and all their noisy radical cohorts.

Be careful not to fixate on one aspect of a very interesting picture.  There is always more to unusual events than merely one factor.

Shalom.

Postscript – If you wonder how faith relates to the above – remember faith plays out in the context of culture as it is composed at any point in time and as it evolves and devolves over time.  That is surely reflected in the history of Christianity.  It is no less so today and seeing things like the use of tweets as a means of communication are part of our present composition.

 

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.

Ps 63:2

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Yesterday I began my day with men who attend a Saturday early morning gathering at a wonderful Catholic parish in Kensington, Maryland.  The men of varied ages attend a year-long program focused on developing their faith and growing in it.  It is a wonderful experience that includes a short video presentation with the men then recessing to a host of tables to share their thoughts on the subject matter of the video.

Yesterday’s video focused us on the simple question: Is there a God or is there not a God?

My table mates (eight men, counting myself) affirmed easily that there is a God – but most striking was this: their soul was thirsting for God.  These men ranged in age from early to mid-30’s to 70-plus.  All were family men, fathers and husbands.

What struck me so very deeply was this: these men were seeking God in the very manner that people in the 13th century and earlier sought God.

They asked questions much as the St. Thomas Aquinas might.  Deep probative questions. Their desire for God was vital to them – not because they themselves had burdens or carried sins that caused suffering – no, they sought God because they knew a relationship with God was critical to their existence, their contentment, their service of others, their life’s meaning and their ability to love, understand, find meaning and purpose in life.

I add, most importantly, they sought God because they experienced that faith, and God were under siege in America.  They had a sense that living a life of faith, God and Church was under attack today in this nation.

Honestly, I saw their desire, their urgency – their hope … and affirmation that God was the center of their being and that neither their faith nor God would be abandoned or exiled.

I saw in these men the metaphysical reality of the first 1400 years of Christianity.

I saw the probing question and longing that affirmed that there is a God and the desire for a relation with God resides within us no matter the utterances and hostilities of claims and actions of the godless among us.  Good news!

Alas, it can be said that the Psalms speak today:

My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps. 63)

Truth never fades.  Truth can never be denied, extinguished.  In the midst of challenge – God is closest and we are most deeply engaged.  Good News … in troublesome times.

Shalom.

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

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Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

A Navy Seal Instructor

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Imagine Christ on the Cross.  He’d have been a natural for the Navy Seals.  How about you?  What are you made of?  What are you capable of enturing?  Have you tested yourself?  Has life challenged you?  If so, did you see the struggle to conclusion?  Did you get up when knocked down?  Did adversity make you more determined?  Are you a “tough out”?

In St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 3:1-5) he writes of the last days as the most difficult time we face.  He says in those times: men will love themselves and money, that they will be boastful and arrogant … ungrateful, unholy.  That they will be unloving, malicious, without self-control … that they will hate what is good.  He says that they will be conceited, love pleasure more than God and that they will proffer their godliness but in actuality not live it. Most importantly, St. Paul says “Avoid such men as these.”

Look around you, what men do you see on the major news channels?  Are they men you can envision as Navy Seals or are they those St. Paul would have us avoid?

Ask this same question about your politicians?  Sports figures?  Celebrities? Actors? Public figures?  News media?  Critics?  Social “activists”?  Intellectuals? Professors? Judges? Lawyers? Doctors?  Public advocates?  Those running public organizations? Could you see Mark Zuckerberg as a Navy Seal?  Jeff Bezos?  Alex Baldwin? Anderson Cooper?  Or are these individuals that fit St. Paul’s advice?

In looking about I see far more people who fit St. Paul’s advisory, and I see that we have the very lax and costly habit of listening without discretion to anyone who has access to mass communication and that this is absolutely foolish to do.

Finally, do you fall into the first of the above paragraphs or the second? The best among us fit the first.  They may be few, but they are the best.

A life of faith, a life fully lived is not for the faint of heart.  Isn’t it interesting that those least likely to excel when troubles arise are so often those we see speaking?  

Shalom.   

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