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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.

 

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Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country … To the land that I will show you; and I will make of you a great nation … And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Gen 12: 1, 2, 3

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I sit in the morning fog in God’s green land.  Behind the mist are the pastures and the hills and mountains that I am sure to see when the veil is lifted and the sky is opened. I listen to De Profundis and Palestrina’s Gloria from Missa Papae Marcelli.

The news of the world is troubling.  In this land we wake to stories of overdoses, and of the murder of two young Muslim teenage boys on the eve of their high school graduation, both honor students on their way to college, and of conflicts and hostilities in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  In our legislature the Party out of power acts like spoiled children, turns to obstruction while problems pile up and division disheartens.  Small groups act like angry pagans demanding this or that.  Racism surfaces among those once its victim.  The morning fog cannot hide the shame of this.

It had been four centuries without a prophet until Jesus emerged.  Four centuries.  Our Jewish brothers and sisters wondered why God was silent.  Then we received The Word, Immanuel – “God with us.”

We have been given the opportunity to become the children of God, to become the great nation that Abraham was called to bring forth.

Children of God and children of Abraham, but how do we act today?  We act as if there was no Abraham, no Jesus and there is no God.

Today we seek to create good through human acts but in place of good is conflict, discontent, selfishness, hatred.  The flesh and the will of man cannot triumph … it is God who perfects man, not man who prefects man.  Like Abraham we must be His vehicle, His instrument.

Like you I see the conflict, the needless hurt, the arrogance of man and woman, the reliance on self as if we are God.  We have credited ourselves with wisdom and power we do not have.

The good and wise man is humble, speaks softly – sees others as his family.

Are you the good and wise man?  Am I?

Shalom.

 

 

Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

Today’s Blog is Dedicated to Friend Bernie Klim – Zen Master and Catholic Brother – born March 29, 1930, died October 4, 2015.

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We touch with … our mindfulness …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Not being self, but just being … as in being one’s true, whole, undivided, divinely created being – either male or female (no alternatives or fabricated hybrids required).

How does one do this in the context of an errant, badly disordered, ideological and secularized, godless culture?  Answer: by simple and easy defiance.  And what, pray tell, is that?

We might learn from our Buddhists cousins.  And how?  By thinking of, and practicing, mindfulness.   That is: by separating yourself from the swell and noise of contemporary secular culture which divides you from your whole being, divides and distracts you, makes you but a fragment of who you are fully made to be.

In Buddhism mindfulness is the focus on each particular moment – that is the practice of being attentive to each moment and one’s life in it.  It is the attention to the immediate and a disgorging of the temptation to forfeit the now to tomorrow or yesterday.

In mindfulness one lives deeply in the instant – united to the present.  The fruits of this attentiveness are understanding, love, gratitude, contentment, peace, unity with others and access to eternity.  Yes, in mindfulness one exceeds mortality within a mortal moment.

In mindfulness one’s wounds are healed and tranquility, wholeness and stability is restored.

For the Christian mindfulness comes to the woman who touched Jesus cloak and was healed.

She, in one divine moment, made contact with divine reality … and in this: deepest of experience, understanding and unconquerable love.  In one attentive moment of focus she experienced Truth and was healed, restored, saved, made whole.

This is mindfulness – a dimension that knows no state control – a liberation that frees one to live beyond the prisons of the godless who govern and attempt to control.

Christ and Buddha show us a quiet liberation and its divine freedom.

Be, simply be.

Shalom.

 

The Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

Shalom.

An idea becomes close to you when you are aware of it in your soul … That is how it was when I read the Gospels.  In the Gospels I discovered a new world.

Tolstoy, in Bulgakov’s Diary, April 18, 1910

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Malcolm Muggeridge calls Jesus coming into the world “The most stupendous event in human history.”

He adds that “the revelations that Jesus provided, in his teaching, and the drama of his life, death and Resurrection, of the true purpose and destination of our earthly existence” is of “unique value and everlasting validity.”

Yet, he also says ” … I have come into the world myself at a time when the revelation’s impetus in history gives every sign of being almost spent, and when Western Man is increasingly inclined to reject and despise the inheritance it has brought him … “

Friends, this frankly is the pending indictment standing against the dialectics of modern liberalism, embraced by so many groups and institutional sympathizers, which divide us and produce violence like that yesterday in Dallas with the ambush killing of police officers.

This is the indictment that present history, not the FBI, delivers.  It seeks that we might determine if Christ, Christianity and Christians will be rejected and despised in this land.

Few more serious time and question have we, in our history, faced.

“The world has come crashing down around my ears.  The things we hold dear are reviled and spat upon … And I can tell you, my young friend, it is evening.  It is very late.”

Binx’s Aunt Emily, in The Moviegoer

Friends, this one’s on you.  There is no waiting for leadership, the Republican Party, wise elders, FBI indictments, the Church, someone in the media, the press, a battalion of rich donors, and surely NOT the “Supreme” Court or the judiciary –IT IS PLAINLY ON YOU.  And is this not what Christ offered?  That you decide – personally, that each of us, one by one, decide.

Shalom.

… toughness is measured by how you react when all the chips are stacked against you, now fast you get back on track when life kicks you in the nuts …

Benjamin Bayani, in The Nation

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I grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, a working class place on a street with plenty of Irish kids who became my brothers and sisters, which was good for me since I was an “only child.”  Ya, my old man split when I was an infant.

Thank God, for my mother; she saved my life.  She, the oldest of five – her and four brothers she helped raise, played a great hand against a stacked deck. I did too.

You learn lessons in tough places that no book can teach.  Hope is oxogen in these hard places.

Somerville was hardship – abandonment, death, fights and losses of varied sorts. It marked me in a particular way, showed me the importance of taking a “hit” and quickly getting “back on track.”

I remember a fight when I was about seven.  It was a summer fight, outside the schoolyard of the Brown School.  I was with a few pals and the older McDonalds and a few of their guys tried to “bully” us – without any hesitation we went after one another – me against them. One against two.

I remember they got me on the ground and were whacking me pretty good, and I looked up and there were my two closest friends Georgie and Bobby just watching.

Life lesson: your friends may not be made like you.  Nor maybe your familiy members either.

Toughness is like hope.  It is a gift given, meant to be invoked, and life demands its use.

Both toughness and hope are an “impulse of a sensitive appetite.” Each foretells of a good that is real but absent, a longing for what is right and proper and of a higher order than what is mortal, expendable, impermanent.  Each seeks what is gained only by exertion, forbearance, cunning, courage, defiance, insistence, battle.  Each witnesses faith.

Toughness and hope are the worthiest of sentiments in the human heart.  Each seeks moral good.  Each faces in its desire and its acquisition in conflict, at high costs, a pass through uncertainty and pain.  Each calls into place valor, and virtue, and bravery.  The journey of each demands its price.  Each is implicitly rooted in belief in God, in the goodness of God. Each attends to love and its growth in us.  Each teaches that there is no “cheap grace,” no painless way to good. The desire for each tends us toward God.  In this, both are good things.

Now as I sit many decades from childhood and look at Washington and our elected leaders and political figures I see neither toughness nor hope.  Rather I see a lower dimension and comfort in it.  I see weakness.  And if I see it, our adversaries see it too.

Toughness and hope evidence a desire for God, our greatness and highest good. The absence of each calls death to the fore.

Shalom.

Note – Benjamin Bayani, like me, went to Somerville High School.  He is a writer.

Meeting on the road to Basra/You half blind in a blood soaked coat/me I’m a fallen angel/fallen from the burning tree of doubt

Capercaillie, God’s Alibi 

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It is hard not to see the Fall today.  Our story.  Own it.

I.

Falling today.  Like yesterday.

Like all the yesterdays.

…  fallen from the burning tree of doubt

II.

 … witness to the moon and stars above

Made free.  Free will.  Free to will.  Ah, the implicit, unseen test.

Divine Law.  Nature and its laws.

One positive command.

 One prohibition.

One tree … in the Garden’s perfect peace.

III.

a state of claustrophobia

THE temptation.  Doubt in the mind.

“Weren’t no passion … “

In the mind.

“No, death,” the Tempter said, ” … you shall be as gods knowing good and evil.”

IV.

the longest note like a silence, never broken

Pride is the worm on the hook.  Lost fishermen bite very time.

  Rebellion.

Formal, reasoned, intentional acts.

Disobedience – our grievous fault.

Will misused.  Compliance rejected.  Surrender scorned.

Sacred wisdom ignored.  Holy dominion denied.

 Old worm, same bite.

V.

fear in the eyes, did the crucifix lie/did the words of the church run dry

It did not lie.  The words have not dried.

The Road to Fidelity is not hidden.  On it the stooped shoulders of the humbled become upright …

… and there The Narrow Gate.

VI.

I’m a witness to the crumbling walls … But I’m not your alibi

Free will misunderstood.  It is not impeccable.

 Sin prospers in it when we are gods.

Yes, Thomas – its perfection in God’s design.

There are no alibis.

Shalom.

Note – Today’s blog is inspired by Adolphe Tanquerey’s writing on The Fall and Scottish band Capercaille’s extraordinary song God’s Alibi.

… Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the table of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

Mt 21:12

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Bernie Sanders, a Socialist – one who has never run as a Democrat – won the Indiana Democrat Party primary.

Donald Trump, one who never held elected office and shows nary a sign of a conventional candidate – let alone a Republican and surely not one marching to traditional conservative music, is on the road to win the Republican nomination for President.

We live in strange times, to say the least.  These may well be “temple times.”

Having not been privy to the necessary polling data nor the demographic snapshots it might give, I do not to say that I understand what is afoot in any definitive way.  That said, I can offer some useful observations – given what we know from the analysis and acute appraisals of a number of esteemed experts and wise people who have charted America’s course over the last seven decades and even further back into our history.

Among the things that can be said are these.

As to what it says about the population:

  • a significant portion of the population are upset – they feel betrayed and discounted
  • they likely include the middle class and many who aspire to retain their place, see their life grow in prosperity or join it
  • they likely also include those who believe in the Judeo-Christian narrative and in America as the embodiment of it
  • they value our rare dedication to liberty
  • they value the Constitution and its provisions on freedom of religion, speech and the right to bear arm
  • all things considered, they prefer to be left alone
  • they value the opportunity to work, and prefer a smaller government and local government over central government in most things – save maintaining a strong national defense.

As to what it says about politics, it says this:

  • the Democrat Party has become offically the Democrat Party of the Left (DPL) – a political party of Big Brother Government and full of Socialists and quasi-communist Left ideologues – with a smathering of pacifists, nihilists, anarchists and racists – most of whom are embarassed by, or hostile to, this country and its ways
  • the DPL does not believe in God – they believe in themselves, their own narrow and false ideological views, and in power and politics; they favor “reason” (its selective use) over anything larger that takes in human existence – they are minimalists with grand designs on all things
  • the DPL imposes its views on others and thinks of “compromise” as agreeing with them
  • the DPL policies, like Obamacare, are ill-conceived and damaging
  • the DPL sacrifices people to policy – it is intolerant and totalitarian in many things
  • the Republicans, on the other hand, have been too cooperative with the leftist tilt for years, with but few exceptions – President Reagan, most notably
  • having neglected to hold its ground and distinguish itself from the DPL, it now has a populace candidate as its “just” dessert.

So what can be said now?

People are fed up.  Their disgust is reasonable.  Their presence is a bottom-up presence, not a top-down presence.  They are leading the “push back” and the conversation.

Just as Christ’s presence in the temple was a surprise, so too is the presence of those who are upset. He did what was needed.  Perhaps, today’s dissatisfied citizens are doing this too.

Shalom.

Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.

Jean Francois Revel

The Western World has lost its civic courage … such a decline is particularly among the ruling and intellectual elite.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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What does one do when a culture crumbles?

Well, understand the dynamic.  In the above we have three important aspects of a crumbling culture.

The first: when “leaders” and those who influence public opinion wallow in self-guilt, and convey this to others in all its many forms, recognize that they are devoid of courage and will neither defend themselves nor anyone else.

Second, in a crumbling culture courage comes from the bottom up, for it is the average man or woman who knows hardship and is accustomed to enduring courageously as his or her mother and father, and ancestors have done routinely for decades upon decades.

Third, in a crumbling culture rely on those with courage who know who they are, for they have faith and confidence undimmed by darkness.

Now what is the one constant that you can adhere to when a culture is on the decline? What is the one thing that can stave off the despair of The Decline evidenced in the guilt-ridden and cowardly?  Those lost to belief?

Heed King David’s advice to his son and employ it.  He said this:

You will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel.  Be strong, do not fear nor be dismayed.

1 Chr 22:13

Obedience to God, relationship with God alone offsets decline, nullifies the worse of godlessness and its despair, of self-guilt and fear, weakness and stupor, dishonor and addictions, lies and all uncertainties and their anxieties.

God alone maintains against a crumbling culture.

Forget the elites and the intellectuals, the appearance of plenty, politics and the assorted media hand puppets, and the utter nonsense of ideologies, the courts and legislatures, the presidents and kings, and by God forget “celebrities.”

The Gift exists in crumbling cultures. The Gift is God.

Shalom.

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