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I return today to my daily writing after replacing a computer that simply wore out.  My recent absence is the longest time I have been away since 2010 when I began Spirlaw.  Even while “on vacation” I have met the challenge of a daily blog of living faith in secular culture and so I continue. It is good to be back.

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The most amazing fact about Jesus, unlike almost any other religious founder, is that he found God in disorder and imperfection – and told us that we must do the same or we would never be content on this earth.

Richard Rohr in The Naked Now

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Our faith as Christians is not about our private perfection but rather about out divine union with God shown so clearly in Christ.  Yet, we habitually miss this.  Yes, even our clerics often miss this.  Yes, organizational structure often captures us and defines as by our status and our role in it.

Yes, the material world and its demands on us divide us from our divine union.  Yes, our worries in trying to conform to the demands and images of the secular world likewise take us from our divine union.  Yes, what is immutable is made mutable in this world and its godless habits and discourse.

Alas, simply knowing that we are born of this divine union is and always will be the one exclusive and all-superior thought to maintain in your head (as it is carried in your heart through this life and the next).

Friends, it is Lent and we sit on the eve of Easter Week.  This one thing above any other is to be remembered every day – we live in divine union with our God.  From this union we share all things with God and in this union we see with the eyes of faith, as God sees and we know as God knows not as mere intellects but as those with eternal life and everlasting life.

Shalom.

Listening to the musical legacy of Abbess St. Hildegard von Bigen, 12th Century mystic, writer, diplomat and counselor to Bishops, Kings and Popes.  Beautiful.

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Spiritual development is the birthright of every man and woman … the world as a whole tends to neglect and forget the knowledge of how to pursue and live a spiritual life. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Can there be wisdom and leadership without a spiritual component to one’s life?  No.

We are more than intellect.  We are spiritual beings.  Denying this, we are left less intelligent, less human and less healthy – flat and without insight necessary to make wise decisions on complex matters – or any matter.

Contemplation is the way to spiritual development for a contemplative life and life itself is a spiritual experience.

Contemplation leads to the full experience of the human experience.  In mass culture or any culture, contemplation requires that one lift himself or herself above the fray of mundane existence which so often captures us moment to moment, hour to hour, day after day – year after year.

Yes, attending to the demands of the world keeps the Christian from the mystery of Christ and the timeless message of the Gospel, and from knowing our self.

There is no full development of the human person without contemplation, no self-examination either – and hence no fullness of being, of human being.

In contemplation, the self is examined and understanding follows, and one is no longer trapped by the errors, follies, divisions, temptations and corruptions of the mundane world and the voices of its most vocal members.

Indeed, does contemplation not require the voiceless silence of solitude!  Yes, in contemplation there is a silent respite from all that interrupts our healthy, full development and greatest state of being.

In contemplation, God is real and immanent and those who are disoriented are no longer free to be housed within us.  Free – free at last.  Thank God Almighty “free at last.”

Shalom.

… it is no sin to live a silent life …

The monk is … a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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I live as a monk … on a ridge at the edge of a forest and beside a large slopping pasture that sits at the bottom of a mountain range now in full autumn color posed against the blue November sky bolstered by the chill of brisk fall wind.

I live a quiet distance from a mass communication culture where those thrust ceaselessly at us are merchants of division, animosity, confusion, superficiality, self-interest and considerable ignorance.

A monk is counter-cultural.  His separation defines his values.  To stand outside the culture that divorces itself from God, that knows not sanctity, that neglects the spirit within us is to separate from disorder, to see the culture critically and keep peace with the Divine.

My cottage is my cloister where I may select what I read, hear, or see – a place where I may keep company with my thoughts and prayers and the things of a God who gave us our existence.

Having been planted on “the wrong side of the tracks” as a child, I was made ready to stand apart, to sustain a critical objectivity that refused “transient fashions and manifest absurdities.”  Leaving them was never to have fancied them at all.  Yes, it was a grace that liberates and leads me here.

In a solitary existence one finds the conditions for a full life, and life’s meaning – that is:

  • interior exploration and its sacred products – freedom, understanding and depth of being
  • the peace and health of silence and solitude
  • distance from distraction and disorder
  • contact with the Divine and what is Divine.

So I say (with emphasis added) what Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B. says in Essential Monastic Wisdom –  “…  find some where a place of silence and creativity, where one can listen to the voice of God and think one’s thoughts and be one’s own self.

Shalom.

It is within your power to withdraw yourself wherever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.  (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius

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What gives rise to tranquility?  Your tranquility?

If you pause to think about your health and happiness is this not the fundamental question?  I think it is.

Our eyes are the avenue to the brain.  What do you see each moment, each day?  Do you live in an “ordered” realm?  Are your surroundings in chaos, disarray?  If so, how can your eyes not convey this disorder to your brain?  And what of noise?  What do you hear?  Does not noise itself affect tranquility?

Desire tranquility?  Ask yourself what effect the invasion of unwanted ads on the internet have on you?  When you think about it they are intruders – others pushing themselves into your life – ads: from the eyes to the brain.  Do you wish unwelcome intruders into your home whenever they desire to enter?

We live in a culture where intrusion and invasion are common.  Yes, tranquility is denied routinely.  What is one to do?

Wall off these intrusions.  Control your surroundings – have your place of home ordered.  Each thing has a place.  You need not that much.  The less you have the easier it is to know tranquility.  Give no space to the TV talking heads.  You do not know their life – whether it is utter chaos – which it probably is.  Why listen to sick, confused people?  They bring no tranquility – only chaos.  And celebrities?  Ugh!!!

And, problems.  Do you welcome those who bring problems into your life?  To do so does not bring tranquility.

And what about your interior journey?  Have you quietly and diligently examined your life experience and come to know the pluses and minuses of those so important to your development from birth to adulthood?  And what of the losses, betrayals, great disappointments?  Have you faced them honestly and learned what was intended to be learned?  And how about you?  Do you know what triggers your most salient thoughts, reactions, attitudes, convictions?

Finally, can you be silent and alone?  And most importantly, do you have a home in religious narrative?  Do you keep the company of history’s great contemplatives?

When you think about it – tranquility soothes the Spirit and we are all first and foremost spiritual beings.  Tend to that thought and act on it – and you will come to greater tranquility – no more anxiety, no more naked vulnerability to intrusions and the idiocy of the noise and disorder surrounding you.

Shalom.

Postscript – When we see another, do we see a man or a woman or do we see color, age, ethnicity, status, physical attributes?  Can tranquility come from such seeing?

“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

The two worlds, the divine and the human, can be pictured only as distinct from each other – different as life and death, as day and night.  The hero ventures out of the land we know into darkness … his return is described as coming out of that yonder zone.  Nevertheless – the two kingdoms are actually one.  The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know … the exploration of that dimension … is the whole sense of the deed of the hero.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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Easter approaches.  But do we think of Christ the Hero who joins again the divine and the human in “the two kingdoms that are actually one?”

Yes, this is the time for our unification of the divine with the human – a reminder that we live in but one kingdom – whole and divine … that we are made whole and divine!

I am often struck at how it is that we live as if there is no recorded human story over all these years of human existence and how in our ignorance we miss the obvious truth and significance of the essential and repeated stories of the Hero, the sacrifice – the rule of the Divine over all from Age to Age.

Our Easter celebration occurs in many forms in varied cultures, religious narratives and ancient stories – making it all the more True, and making us in our ignorance all the more in need of wisdom and sight that is not blinded by our badly mistaken assessment of our own importance.

In our political life we are trapped in the daily event – unable to connect history’s dots.  We live so superficially – and listen to the most inane dribble day to day.  In this small frame of mind we fumble about, pontificate, content to be doomsayers, hopeless, foolishly assertive grand problem-solvers, faithless.

Shortly after the above passage Campbell questions the Hero who returns, thus: “Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of heavenly bliss?”  He notes it is just as easy to “commit the whole community to the devil.” Yet, he notes for the Hero comes “the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity.”

Christ descended into darkness for three days and arose and, then, returned to us so we might know eternity in time, and time in eternity.  But are we governed daily by the Hero’s selfless deed?

In Easter we meet reality.  But do we live this reality?  That is the critical, life-changing, life-saving question.  That is what you face at Easter – that one and only eternal question – that which governs mortal life and time, and eternity.

Shalom.

Hillary Kills Feminism.  Well, the poor-as-church-mouse Miss Hillary is at it again.  Traveling in India she tells us that she lost the election because White Women were directed by their husbands, male bosses and sons to vote for Donald Trump.

There you have it – the end of Feminism!  After years of listening to feminist nonsense and their howling at the moon – Feminism has achieved this one amazing thing: the White Women among their ranks now do what their husbands, male bosses and sons command!  Guess that puts an end to that “Cause.”  Take a bow, Ladies.

With Feminism dead, can gender studies be far behind?

To maintain monastic culture, monks limit their contact with the surrounding culture by means of cloister or separation 

Hugh Feiss, in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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Separation from existing culture in order to maintain one’s values, virtues – indeed to stay free of insanity, brutality, immorality and a range of toxic disordered and destructive dispositions in culture is a sacred act.

Monks have pursued such separation for good reason over the centuries.  We see in this practice – necessity, common sense, faith, peace and preservation.

A sacred separation comes from maintaining a critical eye on existing culture.  When cultures destroy people, institutions and what is good, those who seek healthy and peaceful existence separate.

In separation one preserves heart, mind and soul.

In separation one spends time carefully – at work, in quiet, in community, in silence, in thought and prayer – while the world about turns on itself much as Syrian bombing of unarmed civilians does today or as the American Left does by destroying standard identification of gender in favor of disintegration, confusion, disorder, untruth which they much prefer.

In separation there is no more gossip, useless “news,” talking heads, daily destruction of what is good and essential to peaceful existence.

In separation: prayer emerges, reading too, careful listening, care of self and others, soft discourse, contemplation, faith comes alive, consciousness of God is daily sustenance.

In separation you meet yourself, become re-assembled, restored to wholeness – stripped of the “needs” of the frantic culture.  In separation, life is simpler … life is life.

In separation: God, your own self, your thoughts, others and all that is under heaven.

Shalom.

Condolesse Rice wants to “modernize” the Second Amendment.  Easy for her to say – she’s among the elites — life for them does not carry the burdens the rest of us face.  Perhaps, Ms. Rice might think of the unarmed civilians in Syria whose government is bombing them daily, killing them – men, women and children.  

A little note to Ms. Rice – maybe you might want to civilize people before you “modernize” the Second Amedment.  Those of us who are not in “the elite” live far different lives than you do.  In short words – put a sock in it, no one needs to hear from you.

What (other than pride) makes you think you know anything and must be heard from?

 

A Day of Rest

Trying to tame a swollen leg so staying inert with leg elevated – all part of knee replacement and a whole lot of arthritis.  (Lucky me!)

So I invite you to brouse some of the past entries (there are 1000’s at this point) and then to take a few minutes alone with something said and think about it in a contemplative pause.  Yes, we are usually running wire to wire and that is in essence spiritual starvation.

God Bless.  Peace be with you.

Shalom.

Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century.  It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of life-style, and spiritual development. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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We live in an overtly secular culture.  For the most part our public discourse is godless.  Day-to-day there is no shortage of reports of heinous behavior – a father and mother torturing their small child, a ritualistic killing associated with an immigrant gang – one sad and cruel act after another.  Likewise we are engaged in one task after another – almost nonstop – day-to-day, week to week, month to month – year after year.

We are not living as a monk lives.

Where they have silence – we have endless noise and chatter.  Where they have solitude – we have immersion in the mass.  Where they have a simple life – we have a complex life. Where they tend to their spiritual wellbeing – we are dominated by our material existence.

We are NOT monks.  But maybe we need to be.

What level of comfort, contentment, peace, good cheer, health and calm does your life in secular culture bring?

On a scale of zero to ten with zero being “none” and ten being “perfectly fulfilled in these things,” my guess is that few among us confidently exceed 5 at best – likely three or four.

Why do I say this?  We are otherwise engaged.  And this present engagement keeps us from access to our whole and true self – our self as we are made to be: stable, at peace, content, insightful, patient, wise, healthy, congenial, secure, comfortable, un-worried, calm, at ease …

Simply stated each of us is made for the ways of monastic consciousness.  Yet, look around you – look in the mirror – are you not more or less fully engaged in the things of secular cultures?  Do you not act and think like a secularist – a sort-of human machine, fully and uncritically absorbed with the never-ceasing dance of secularism and all its inane lunacy?  Are you not sucked into listening to whomever appears on the Boob-Tube?

Dear God!!!  Do you not want to escape this in-crazed nonsense of the mindless, lost secular herd?

Be the monk you are made to be.  Silence.  Solitude.  Simplicity.  Spirituality.

Shalom.

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