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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.

 

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You never have to change anything that you got up to write in the middle of the night.

Saul Bellows

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Live your life like you wrote it in the middle of the night.

Victor Davis Hanson tells a funny story about his wife.  Apparently she was watching Donald Trump the candidate on television.  For her it was a case of “first impression.”  She called to her husband to come see “this guy,”  He joined her and she asked something like this: “Listen to this guy – do you think he has any guilt in saying what he says?”  Mr. Hanson says, “No, none at all.”  Mrs. Hanson, a “middle of the roader” as to politics, says – “I think I could vote for this guy.”

Trump lives his life as if he got up in the middle of the night to write it.  Freedom.  The soul fully engaged, no self-deception – living what you got.

This scares the heck out of the programmed and the pretenders.  It is as if – unfamiliar with Truth – the imposters are confronted with reality – with what they have steadfastly ignored, and avoided.

When you think about it freedom is in sharp contrast to the figures we see in political life: the fearful, contrived, scripted, cranks, whack-jobs, the predatory heavy breathers, social climbers, the inbred sons of the wealthy, the wannabe’s and others seemingly washed ashore after some colossal hurricane to stand damp, disheveled, dazed and confused.

Leadership requires authenticity.  Those who lead are real.  Not ideologues.  No, they live what comes and make headway.  They are unperturbed.  They have not just seen the movie, they lived the movie.

Yes, there are good people in public life – but they connect with others because they write their story having gotten up in the middle of the night to do so.

Much of life is in the middle of the night.  Sleep not.  Freedom waits.

Indeed, how can those who are not free themselves lead a free people?  Most public figures today prefer you to be the sleep they are.  Ah, the night is so liberating – in its sacred quiet and moonlight.  It is not conquered, you know.

Shalom.

 

It is for God to grant His grace.  Your task is to accept that grace and guard it.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in Catechetical Orations

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A friend of mine wrote to me this week and asked that I might be available to talk to her.  Her mate had passed away after a long illness.  The passing was about three months ago.  She knew I have experienced a number of such losses of loved one in my lifetime.

In responding that I, of course, would be available for her call.  I thought immediately of grace and its gift to us – a gift that we often overlook and that is so, so powerful in facing life’s losses and its extraordinary hardships.

Knowing the grace that has been bestowed on you (in my experience) is best identified my thinking about the parts of your life to which you have been drawn over time.  Or the recurring events in your life.

Are you one you cares for the injured?  Or the less fortunate?  The lost or abandoned?

Are you one who defends the innocent?  Stands up to the aggressor?  Whose foundation is kindness?  Or courage?  Whose skills are in seeing behind the veil?  Understanding human behavior and explaining it to others?

Are you one who sees the missing parts of others and how conduct and language tells you of another’s fears, limitations, or the constraints that have been imposed on them?

These, to me, tell of the grace that you have been given.

In times of hardships the grace is your strength.  Grace blossoms in difficult times.

I give an illustration.  If you suffer the death of another so deeply that you feel utterly lost and deeply saddened, does it not say that you loved deeply and gave all of your heart and soul to another?  I believe the answer is, “yes.”  That is a grace – to love so deeply.

Think about it.  Loving deeply is a capacity you have been given.  It is natural to you.  It is what you do.  It is you.

That grace exceeds all that has been lost, and anything you might be able to muster-up under your own power.  That grace is given by God and brings you closer to God – in this you are made more whole and come to know that all that befalls a human in this mortal existence only speaks of what is eternal and Eternity itself.

There is nothing that can exceed God’s grace.  There is triumph in all that appears as defeat – when one believes.

Shalom.

State of the Union and the Democrats.  It is revealing to watch the Democrats at the State of the Union.  They are not happy unless they are unhappy.  Members of the Black Caucus sat on their hands when President Trump noted that Black unemployment is the lowest it has been since the records were firsts established.  One thinks that the Black Members of Congress are more comfortable when their constituents are less well-off.  One supposes then the Black Members of Congress will have little to do but continue to complain and ferment racial divide.

The Democrats are in-large no different.  They specialize in exploiting division so they too showed no indication that they intend to cooperate in a bipartisan way with anything the President proposed.

They seem to have worked themselves into a Leftist cul-de-sac of racial, gender, ethnic and ideological division that has frozen them in their division and bias.

Nations are weakened in this manner – and our adversaries know it.  We had best snap out of this and doing so means rejecting the Leftist Party of Discontent and Division.

It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful, they are found because it is possible to find them.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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These are the words of “the father of the Atomic Bomb,” – a brilliant man, delightful and well-liked and a physicist.

Last night I watched a riveting documentary entitled The Day after Trinity.  It was about the effort to collect a large team of physicists, mathematicians, chemists, and related scientists to conduct research and then make the Atomic Bomb which was subsequently used on our Japanese World War II enemies.

The documentary was the story in some ways about a Faustian Bargain, one made by innocents so easily captured by the hard and most interesting questions of science.

It is hard in watching this not to realize that man without morality, without a Spiritual base in life cannot fully appreciate what he has done until it is done.

Without a moral framework and a spiritual existence – we are easy prey.  This, by the way, explains how colleges and universities can capture our young with foolish, destructive ideas.  The truth of the matter is this: few people 18 or 19 years of age have lived sufficiently to have the judgement and courage to resist or refute failed and self-destructive fantasies promulgated and preached by their seniors in academia.

Indeed, they are too inexperienced to resist the easy conversion to ideas that make of them nothing more than herd animals.

The reduction of the young is a simple task of conversion for the idealists and ideologues who envision a utopia and enforce its development through the totalitarianism of “true believers.”  This is precisely where we are today in America with the Left and the Democrat Party.

Strange days, these days.  No one remembers Oppenheimer.

Shalom.

The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and prefered answers, not because they are obstinate but because he knows others are worthy of consideration.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Who killed liberalism?  The Liberals … with the assistance of “education” turned into indoctrination of fruitcake social applications of Marxism.

Enter the nonsense of community-organization, feminism, “homophobia,” race baiters, multiple genders, sexism, white “privilege,” disarmament, socialism, redistribution, environmentalism, central government as omnipotent, etc.  All possessed as if these notions are, individually and collectively, the Holy Grail and justify attack on all ideas that stand in opposition to their point of view.

The question is now can this intolerant crowd once again become Liberals or whether contemporary “liberalism” will, as it now appears, to be converted to fascism and the destruction of our constitutional representative democracy – its tenets, ethos, habit, practice, civility, genius and institutions.  The choice: preservation of freedom vs. its lost.

Ironically, the present circumstances require that one might avoid colleges and universities that dumb us down.  Ditto “social media,” media commentators, traditional sources of news, academics and the Party of the Left.

Much of what you now see as assaults aimed at President Trump by the media, press, modern “liberals,” academics, Democrats, Hollywood, the entertainment world and identity groups is a clash between ill-liberalism and the existing, historic mores of our Nation.  Indeed, such a clash begins with God’s exile.  All form of evil prosper when God is denied.

We live in challenging times.  The question is this: Who are we and who will be?  Go with tradition, what has worked for a long time.  Don’t leave God.  Ride with the Wind.

Shalom.

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Emphasis added.)

Ps 37: 1-4

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The application of these words could not be more applicable to today and American secular culture and its politics.

Hollywood female celebrities dress like streetwalkers and adult-age female teachers sexually assault underage male students.  Men in media and entertainment prey on female colleagues and young children, while men in politics and the workplace prey on staff members and associates.

Immoral and destructive ideas are advanced as public policy.  Government is seen as savior and God is shunned, faith dismissed.

We have been given divine guidance.  Turning our back on evil and wrongdoing is our task.  Drawing closer to God in darkened times is our mission.  Rejecting what is bad, impure, immoral, wrong, destructive and those who promote such things is our obligation.

How do you live?  Do you seek what is good?  Do you delight in the Lord and do what is healthy and right?  Or do you conform to the worse things and the ideas of lost souls who advocate what is unhealthy and godless?

Remember, you are a sacred being made for what is good and life-giving.

Shalom.

Mental Toughness – Looking at Tom Brady and his Head Coach you see two people who are mentally tough, determined, disciplined … these are traits accessible to each of us.  But who among us seizes these?  I can tell you this: starting from real deficits, as I did, presented those choices to me early on.  Fortunately I had people around me – my mother, members of my family, and friends who lived by these traits.  Yes, when your back is against the wall – these three things get you through life.  Seize what you are given.  Live despite the obstacles.  Happy sailing.

 

Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than to think they represent ‘the people.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul Johnson

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Therein lies the identification of our present historic moment in time – and the foundational explanation of Donald Trump’s election as President.

In short, the elites reside “aloft” – above the common folk, the workers, the hourly wage and the part-timer, the displaced miner and factory worker, the retail clerk, the Walmart shopper, the truck driver, the firefighter and the police officer, the Sunday churchgoers, the folks who do the fighting and dying like their Daddy and Uncles did.

You see in the last five decades we have flourished economically but the “big money” went to the elites, the celebrities, the media types, tenured university professors at privileged colleges, and the political class and lobbyists, to the mavens of social networks and internet commerce, to expensive cities, ritzy suburbs and exclusive enclaves in Malibu, Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Naples, Chevy Chase, Potomac and Bethesda and such … but not to the common folks who do all the “heavy lifting” and die before they age.

Recently I heard a Yale Professor and Nobel Prize winner in economics tell an interviewer (without any hesitation) that President Trump had some nerve going to Davos for a gathering of the international elites to discuss world economics.  His justification for his comment was this: Mr. Trump is a “popularist,” a nationalist, one who favors national borders – the things at this self-selective collection of the super wealthy, world political figures, bankers, financiers, globalists, liberals and social activists simply reject and despise.

Well now, don’t they know better than those of us who live closer to the ground and deal (unlike them) with the battle of survival every single day – day after day, morning to night.

Imagine the ignorance these elites possess, the self-deception and pridefulness multiplied in this small hot-house of arrogant “we know better than you do” yahoos.  Whence we hear those not in attendance are a “basket of deplorables” – not good enough for elites but sufficient for cannon-fodder, wage slavery and permanent dependence.  Atrocious!

This is central to our troubles today.  The lesser among us are invisible and thus expendable.  You can’t miss what you can’t see.  They don’t see us.  We are chattel at best to these sequestered elites.

Today we have a divide that threatens our demise.

This is our historical moment.  Those who would lead must know who comprises the ones that might follow.

The Christian who might lead knows those who struggle the most, has come from them, lives with them, has acquired their suffering and fears and their strength and courage as well.  Elites who live “aloft” can offer nothing but error and division … and if unchecked the death of what we once have known and been.

Think about it.  Who among us shows you that they know who you are?

Shalom.

Postscript – We grant too much authority to people who have gone to college – especially to the once “elite” colleges.  There is no magic to getting a college degree.

It is life experience that teaches and distinguishes a person.  What have they done?  What trials have they faced?  How did they respond?  What did they learn?  How vast and varied is their experience?  Have they maintained healthy relationships over time?  What insights can they share?  Are they wise?  Patient?  Stable?  Invariable?  Do they inspire confidence?

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mt 5:2

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I remember hearing this and initially thinking: How can one without the Spirit come into the Kingdom.  Of course, I have come to understand as I got older that what Jesus said meant something entirely different.

Yes, it took more life experience to realize that life is the invitation to grow in the Spirit.  We live in the midst of a spiritual journey.  In this we begin with a native spiritual disposition, a natural endowment: the joy of children – their life in a state of supernatural reality, with an instinct for good sitting within.  Their eyes are the eyes of innate Believers.  Yes, we have those eyes.

Soon enough the world imposes a materiality on the young.  Their vision blurs.  Their conscience becomes that of the concrete world in its one-dimensional structures and requisite consciousness.

In our mortal world we are soon enough diverted from what is innate and natural to a state of spiritual poverty.  From cradle to adulthood we grow poorer than we are made to be.

Indeed, our life will teach us that we must seek what we have been given: life in the full – and that means a spiritual existence and all its joys, insights and comforts.

Beware.  What is your spiritual state?  Have you remained poor, without growth in the Spirit?

You see your blessing is in this: poor as you might be – the Spirit and its riches await.  You are made for this journey is the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Journey on.  That is the primary purpose of your life – to come to the full form in the gift of life – a spiritual life full of understanding, wisdom, peace, contentment and certainty … a life in touch with God throughout – a life of building up, not tearing down.

Shalom.

The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

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.

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