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Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

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… there is no god more jealous than single-payer health care.

William McGurn, in The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2017

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This is Mr. McGurn talking about the infant Charlie Gard and how the courts deprived his parents of their rights to make lawful decisions as to his medical care.

Mr. McGurn understands precisely the totalitarian power of centralized government and how that power takes liberty and freedom from innocents – in this case a sick infant and his devoted and loving parents.

I have represented parents, innocents, and impaired medical patients in such cases.  I won each of my cases in this area and I know from real world experience that Mr. McGurn is exactly correct in what he says.

A few points in Charlie’s case to amplify the danger that a single-payer regime presents for all of us.

One, hospitals can go to court to override the lawful wishes of parents who diligently, wisely and faithfully care of their sick child.

Two, the hospital’s interest can be as simple as this: a child may occupy a bed that does not earn them sufficient pay-out and they resent the child’s occupancy of that space.  Yes, I have seen this.

Three, a hospital may have the view that the child’s “quality of life” is not sufficient to warrant his treatment and by this reasoning they can deprive the child of life-support care, i.e., the hospital can end the child’s life over the lawful objection of his parents.

Four, as in Charlie’s case the court may appoint a Guardian over the affairs of the child who will opt to side with the court and the hospital, thereby validating the death of a child.  Imagine a Guardian as someone claiming to represent a child with whom he has no conversation, of whom he has no knowledge and with whom he has no relationship! Imagine that Guardian being paid by the state – yes, this does happen.

One wonders if that Guardian would like Charlie’s parents to determine that her or his children deserve the same result: that is, death over their objection.

Case in point, the Guardian in Charlie’s case runs a “charity” that supports “assisted suicide.”  (As reported by Mr. McGurn of The Wall Street Journal.)

Yes, a single-payer system is a stacked deck.  A deck that is aimed at the weakest among us, and at those the state deems “disposable.” Honestly do you ever hear of a prominent actor and his wife or politician and his wife having their medical decision-making as to their child taken from them? No you don’t.

This is the single-payer system.  Or shall we say this: in Satan’s single-payer system the costs to innocents greatly exceeds money.

Mr. McGurn’s concern ought well be noted.

Shalom.

God, we pray for little Charlie Gard, for his parents, and for us as we learn the reach of godlessness and suffer its consequences.  Help us correct the wrongs we see.  Help us to value once again parents, children, family and faith.

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.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning … and there wisdom is the selection of wisdom.

Bergan Evans

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Many time people tell me that their brother, sister, mother, spouse does not seem to understand their plight in life.  The complaint I hear tells of the suffering and estrangement of being unable to experience a connection between those who you know well and for a long time and a person facing significant trials, angst, uncertainty, suffering and pain.

I always remind these people that one of the hardest things to do is to experience the experience of another.

Why is that?

Well, the primary reason is this: people do not examine their own experience in life fully.

Most people ignore the actual event of life.  They live what is easy, pleasant, necessary – but avoid the unpleasant things, challenges, the mystery of their own life and experience.  In that avoidance, one cannot take on another’s plight.  That being the case, two people who know one another – even reside with one another – cannot maintain an intimate connection with one another.  Sad and commonplace, but unnecessary.

The answer?  Live deeply, not on the surface.  Reflect on what is presented to you – whether good or bad, difficult or easy.

We are given a life so it may be fully lived, fully explored and experienced.  If you fall short, you reduce yourself and likely lapse into a smallness that leads to your own disorder … and your ability to befriend and love others, and to be compassionate is put out of reach.

It is easier to say you feel another’s pain, than it is to feel another’s pain.

Shalom.

When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became … deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”  And Jesus wept.

Jn 11:33, 34-35

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Some think that religion causes war.  Scholars refute this with evidence to the contrary. Yet, we do not venture to say: religious belief – belief in God might well humanize us – give us empathy for others – even those we do not know … the victims of violence, or disease, hunger or natural disasters in distant lands.

Jesus wept.

This passage records Jesus at the death of Lazarus.  When others wept, he was moved to tears as well – tears shed for their suffering, their loss, their sadness.

Does this not show his heart, his love, his humanity, his understanding, his empathy, his relationship with, and compassion for, others?  Is that not a lesson for us?  Has it not been a lesson for us? Humanized us?  Put us in relationship with God and others?  What other than this might trigger our empathy?  Our compassion?  Humility?  What other than this might cause us to care for those we have not met?  Do not know personally?  Provide us courage?  Courage to speak up?  To safeguard and defend others?  The capacity to comfort others?

What humanizes you?  Causes you to stand for others?  Risk your life?  Bring you to tears, and to prayer?

Look around.  Next time one attacks religion, those who live in and by faith, ask yourself: What humanizes us other than faith?

It is easy for us to come to anger.  Harder yet to love.  Left alone, without faith at hand – we anger more so than weep, more so than love.

Thank about it.

Shalom.

Every one knows how to be resigned amid the joys and happiness of prosperity, but to be so amid storms and tempests is peculiar to the children of God.

St. Francis de Sales

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Thought strengthens, the heart grows, courage increases and understanding and wisdom, like compassion, arise when times are difficult.

We have had a prosperous length of time.  Amid plenty we have become careless in our thoughts and habits.  We have succumbed to the errors of the intellect and pride in our limited selves.  And now we see the calamity.

Indeed, in the highest places we see corruption, incompetence, laziness, lying, arrogance and weakness.  We are now so very much who and what we have NOT been made to be.

Yes, we are at a turning point.

We would be wise to recall the words of King David to his son Solomon:

“Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.  Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses of Israel.  Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.

1 Chr 22: 12-13

Fear not.  Through adversity is salvation.  Does not Christ show us this?

We are invited to a new life, to reformation, renewal, from death to life, from chaos to contentment, from folly to faith – faith more certain than ever.

If you are dismayed and feel down and defeated, heed what King David said.

Ours is a time from adversity to prosperity, from despair to meaning, from the material and the physical to the Spirit and what is everlasting, immortal.

Where are you now?  Where will you go?  Where will you be?

Shalom.

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me; for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. (Emphasis added as to “my soul.”)

Ps 57: 1

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King David is one of the most interesting figures in Scripture.  He was a lowly shepherd anointed by King Saul as his heir, the next King of Israel.  He was a fearless and very gifted commander yet Saul turned against him and he fled into hiding and went from place to place to seek safety.

Ultimately he united the Hebrews into one people, one kingdom.  He is credited with bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and dedicating the site of the future Temple.

He was betrayed by friends and he committed some grave sins himself.  He struggled in his soul.  Yet, he maintained passionate relationship with God.  He trusted in the Lord and sought peace within his soul through his relationship with God.  He recognized that God alone offered the solace he sought and the love and mercy that he needed.

That, Dear Friends, is the lesson David brings to you.

It does not matter that you struggle with your soul, with your efforts to do what is right and faithful; no, it matters that you seek God who alone can lead you in that soulful struggle to live well, to live in love and maturity, compassion, mercy, wisdom, humility, gratitude, generosity, contentment and service to others.

This is also a lesson for our culture today.

Beware of “leaders” who exhibit no relationship with God, who “go it alone” – who make large and risky decisions alone, without the wisdom of elders, of experienced “hands.”

You will know them by their lack of transparency, their inability to build relationships, their arrogance and inability to accept the opinions of others.  They, in their smallness, see themselves as “The Almighty,”

They are, unlike David, doomed to fail and fail big – and fail in ways that punish their fellow citizens, the ones they are to have cared for.  They do not build a future, sustain a nation but rather destroy a legacy which has been carefully developed over time, time in which God played an active part in the lives of those who have led and those they have led.

Apply David’s lesson to you, and to your culture and those who claim they are worthy leaders.

You are forewarned. In God we trust.

Shalom.

He that thinks he lives without sin does not avoid sin but rather excludes all pardon … and therefore I dare assert it is good that the proud should fall into some broad and disgraceful sin.

St. Augustine, in City of God, XIV, 426

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We need not fear reality, nor tailor a life story to our design, including only the good parts.  However in the strangest way this is what we do in America and doing so is an explicit rejection of the life God gave us and God.

How you ask?

Because we are neither the creator of our life nor the author of life as it will be presented to us.

How does this relate to what St. Augustine says above?

To accept ourselves as we are made – in the imperfect image of God – is to accept our capacity for great good and for sin.  Yes, we fail to do good.  We succumb to temptation.  We are captive at times to our passions and act poorly out of fear and doubt – and we pass through such deeds with many rationalizations and justifications.

So what is the price of these rationalizations and justifications?  We become less authentically human.  We become actors and pretenders.  We become the prideful ones St. Augustine mentions.

Yet, I add more.  We forfeit humility and with it compassion and intimate contact, and ease in living, a capacity to know that God is God and we are not.

If you wish to see a shallow life and one with discontent and injury to self and others, look at those who deny sin, their own sin and life as it contains sin.  They are often seen by their destructive path, some full of small and misplaced “guilt” – the guise of “cheap grace.”

The remedy?  Truth.  Be truthful.  Own your humanity in all its glory and deprivation and ponder a God who loves all the same, and forgives generously – more than seven times seventy-seven.

Do that and life is filled with joy, and confidence and gratitude.

Shalom.

Thank you for sharing this with others.  Our task is to be the best we can – warts and all – with this gift of life.  God bless.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. (Emphasis added.)

The Declaration of Independence

Today is Patriots Day in Boston.

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Compassion is derived from the Latin words com and pati which, coupled together, produce this meaning: “to bear with” or “to suffer with.”  Compassion does not mean that you “feel someone’s pain” for that is superficial and can be easily faked.

No, compassion is more.  It is bearing another’s suffering, caring for that other who suffers, to, by presence or deed, act to relieve another’s suffering, at least by one’s actual presence to the one who suffers.

Compassion is best understood as having a place in theology, in faith and in the faith narrative – the narrative of God’s relationship with Israel and God’s gift of Jesus of Nazareth.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine the experience of compassion in a culture that ignores, dismisses or exiles faith, distances itself from religion.  Simply stated, people are not, without faith, apt to turn themselves to another and join in their suffering, act to relieve it.

The secular state’s disinterest to the plight of persecuted Christians and others in the Middle East ought to be proof enough that a culture lacking faith does little to alleviate the suffering of others.

We seem to have drifted away from compassion.

Our courts handling of religious questions reflects our shift away from a disposition we once held firmly.

For some time now American courts have seemed to mangle an understanding of the role of faith and religion in American society.  Judges seem uniquely unfamiliar with the vital place of faith and religion in fostering a compassionate people and compassionate culture.  Illustratively, we have seen judges think of the phrase “under God” is equivalent to a pledge to Zeus.  Likewise we have had judges announce that the mention of “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance is “innocuous” – leaving the notion of God as banal, having no significance.

When God is “innocuous,”or the equivalent to Zeus, can anyone imagine a population of a secular nation being compassionate?  I think the answer is “no.”

Oh, there are those who think, mistakenly so, that “volunteerism” is the equivalent of bearing another’s suffering? To them, I ask: Do volunteers routinely die for another?  Does volunteerism produce martyrs?  Was Christ but a well-meaning volunteer?  Is God as to Israel only a volunteer?

History shows us that a person has to believe in something, for the human person must have meaning to prosper and grow to their full humanity.  When God is exiled, humans are left with politics, power, pleasure, status, wealth and self as the source of meaning – none of which foster compassion or produce happiness, contentment and peace.

Compassion?  Unlikely without God, unlikely in cultures which diminish faith and religion.

Shalom.

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