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… it is difficult for churches, government, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing.  Everything divides into oppositions … vested interests pulling against one another.  Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation.

… you can lead people only as far as you yourself have gone …

Richard Rohr, in The Naked Now

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Richard Rohr writes of two monks of the 11th and 12th century – Hugh of St. Victor monastery in Paris, France, and Richard of the same monastery.  He tells us that these monks wrote that humans have been given three different ways of seeing.  One way arises from the eyes that produce thoughts.  The second way of seeing leads to reason, and to reflection and meditation.  The third way of seeing leads to true understanding and contemplation.

It is the third way of seeing that is the rarest and most evolved.  Whereas the first way of seeing is common, it produces little depth of experience, is more concrete and binds one to the immediate without nuance.  The second way of seeing allows one to relish his or her power to conceive of the material disposition of the world.  Ah, but the third way of seeing allows one to do more – it allows one to “taste” existence, to be in awe before the underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connects one with everything!

The third way of seeing is seeing as a mystic sees – seeing as God has designed us to see.  This seeing exceeds the senses, does not rest on knowledge and intellect alone – but rather sees in a manner that expands his or her consciousness – and in this is transformed, made whole, lives in and above at the same time, is mortal and immortal, contented, whole and wise in ways that neither the senses nor intellect can offer.

In commenting on this Rohr says “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the separation and loss of these three necessary eyes is at the basis of much of the short-sight-edness and religious crises in the Western world.”  Hence the above quote that leads into today’s blog.

The view that Rohr shares, Dear Friends, highlights how and why “identity politics” is so destructive, so wrong-headed, so primitive, tribal, hostile, aggressive, hateful and unappetizing.  Those with greater depth of human experience cannot abide that which pits one against another in a death struggle.  We are, after all, not made to be enemies to one another but rather brothers and sisters to one another.

This historic moment requires us to see as the mystic sees.

Shalom.

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Only solitude has taught me that I do not have to be a god or angel to be pleasing to You, that I do not have to become a pure intelligence without feeling and without human imperfection before You will listen to me.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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We neither need be god nor angel, nor pure intellect or perfect.  God loves us and accepts us as we are: human and imperfect.

Yet, what public figures or those in leadership positions or those who insist that they must lead show any signs of what Merton is saying?  Who among those cited have the humility and understanding conveyed by Merton?  Answer: no one.

Given the acceptance of a loving God, we chatter endlessly – much as if to avoid any interior examination.  Ironically there is no leadership to be offered by those who lack the humility that comes from what Merton rightly says.

The endless chatter of the public class says one thing: they are neither whole nor intact.  Run from such people – pay them no heed.  Lacking humility – they lack wisdom and missing each they cannot offer anything much but division and folly … and they do so as we can plainly see.

Chatter is wasteful noise to avoid individual growth and the recognition that we are all, in essence, the same – with the same value to a loving God.  There are no hierarchies of privilege and heritage, and education and wealth that ought be honored.  Indeed, one who serves in leadership must stand with others and not above others.

It is the quiet one who leads.  It is the common one who possesses what Merton describes.  For it is the quiet one who walks with God and others.

Shalom.

Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

Aging is no accident.  It is intended … we become more … of who we are simply by lasting into the years … the final years … the fulfillment and confirmation in one’s character.

James Hillman

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What if your life is a measure of your growth in character?  What if the opportunity you have to live this life is precisely so you may grow in character?  In understanding?  Wisdom?  Patience?  Kindness?  Confidence?  Empathy?  Compassion?  Insight?  Maturity?  Integration?  Mercy?  Courage?  Faith?  Humility?

What if Jim Hillman is right?

How have you treated aging?

In my lifetime I’ve seen us more and more neglect this question: what is it to be a human being?  During the same time we have traveled while neglecting the wisdom of the ages, the treasures of the classics, religious narrative?

Pause a minute.  Think about what your life actually is, what it might expect of you?

Pretty serious business.

Shalom.

 

Forget the suffering you cause others.  Forget the suffering others caused you,  The waters run and run, springs sparkle and are done, you walk the earth you are forgetting.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Forget

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Age roots in the body.  We remain, at best, of sound mind with insight from the years and the experience they bring.  For the fortunate ones joy remains, so too sight, touch, taste, sensuality, humor, gumption and guts.  But our voice softens as humility and gratitude take form – the soft voice – evidence of reverence.  Nearing home at last.

How blessed we are to age with soul in tact and heart alive with love and kindness – and long past worry and uncertainty.

There is a calm sense in being an elder for we have the range of sight unknown to the young – no matter the status, title, education, office … One must run the course to know and see.  Those ones see deeper, are content with quiet, live well among the lengthening shadows for by faith they are the sons and daughters of twilight … darkness holds no fear for them.

The aging ones who have lived well have fought the necessary fights – having fallen, they have gotten up.  In this they come to a point of common suffering and its fruit: compassion.

There is quiet and peace within when the light begins to fade.  Winter prepares for sleep.

Shalom.

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

Shalom.

 

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.

 

… 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.

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