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A Quiet, Peaceful Sunday

… of the things in life … which is the thing you believe to be most valuable?  (Emphasis added.)

William B. Irvine, in A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy

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We seldom stop to think about who we are and what would most satisfy us in this life.  Most people just respond to the noise and impulses of the culture.  Hard to imagine a contented life might result from that default setting.

No wonder there are so many discontented people, so many who submit willy-nilly to the noise, fashion, ideology, stimulus, fear or fancy of the day.  Yes, we play the lead role in our own confusion and discontent.  Few live a considered existence.

Given the opportunity to live a contented life of inner satisfaction and peace – many live in perpetual distraction, anxiety, turmoil and unhappiness.  Seems like such a waste.

In the manner we think about the world and ignore our humble place within it, the more chaotic our life is likely to be.

Author William Irvine reminds us that the Stoic philosophers sought to live a life without negative emotions, a life of tranquility – one absent fear, grief, envy and anxiety.

In pursuit of tranquility, the Stoics saw the mortal world as transitory.  They sought to minimize desires.  In contrast they sought to live courageously, in a temperate manner, with self-discipline and virtue, with joy.  In this they foretold of Christ.

They examined their life, sought to control their attitude and expectations – but nothing beyond their reach.  They did only what they could.

This: a descent prescription for today.  Yes, separation from the chaos and decay requires knowing what it is you intend with this sacred existence you have been granted.

Use the gift of life wisely.  Listen discretely and avoid crowds of the confused and contentious.  Yours is a sacred calling.

You’ll remember me when the West wind moves among the fields of barley …

Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley.  See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold.

Fields of Gold

Shalom.

 

 

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“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah 3:1-2

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These are the words of God given to Jonah, the reluctant prophet, who was tasked by God to bring a message of impending doom and the need to repent to all in Nineveh.

This morning I awoke to hear on the radio of young high school students who assembled in the Florida state Capital to urge members of the legislature to toughen existing gun laws.  In the radio broadcast I heard a young girl weeping and moaning in disappointment because upon the students’ arrival the legislature had taken a vote that very day to reject a gun control proposal.  Poor misguided child.

With this radio report, one thinks of Jonah and Nineveh and the King of Nineveh’s proclamation that his entire population shall repent from their evil ways and violent behavior (which they did).

High school kids and Nineveh.  What is missing?  God is missing.

Our education system and culture teaches us not to rely on God, but rather the false notion of our omnipotence and that of human beings and human institutions at-large.  Foolishly this imparts the view that we are God or God-like and hence capable of great things – mere humans without God.

The students (like many adults) petition the wrong body.  They look for mortals to act as if mortals are divine.  God enters not at all into the young people’s consciousness or efforts.  Their petitions ignore our godlessness … but then again their school systems shun God, and prayer, and the manifestation of anything religious within their confines.

The scene of student action and bitter reality is quite frankly a pathetic and obvious identification of precisely our collective failure – young and old.  We are those of “evil ways” and “violent behavior.”  But unlike those in Nineveh, we do not relate to God … we show no humility and heartfelt remorse. We have not repented and sought God’s forgiveness.

You know, a little religion would do these children and us (top to bottom) a whole lotta’ good.  Time to grow up … and we grow up best from the kneeling position.

Shalom.

Irony.  I will bet you a whole lot of money that there is not ONE parent or child petitioning the Florida legislature that could tell you that ISIS took control of Nineveh and leveled a Catholic Church where Mass had been said for 13 hundred years and dug up and destroyed Jonah’s grave.  Quite honestly we will not get very far acting alone and without God.  In such ways we show our godlessness – the very source of all our problems.  We are an unsympathetic mob in present form.

 

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.  (Emphasis added.)

Matt 7:21

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These words from Jesus are quite clear.  One must do the will of the Father if one wishes to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Yes, this is the challenge.  Do you act as God would have you act?  Or do you do what is convenient?

In an effort to join the mass do you do as they do no matter what that might be?  Do you bow to clearly sinful and disordered conduct?  Do you like to be liked more than you like to be right and abide by the truth of the matter?  Do you ignore the godlessness of the present age and pretend that it is not destroying God’s creation?  Is revolting?  Creating sickness?  Division?  Decline?

Think about refreshing your understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis (Chapter 19).  Zero in on the plight of Lot in that story.  See that Lot lost all he had gained living in Sodom.

This story “adds meat to the bones” of Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew.  The point being: what we gain outside God’s intention is not worth having and it will eventually be lost to us.  Acting outside God’s intention brings misery and grave discontent.

How many of you seek to gain without regard to God’s desire for you?  How many ask: am I doing what God intends?  How many realize that doing God’s will leads us to the corollary obligation to speak up when presented with evil or sinful conduct or its promotion?

Shalom.

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.

 

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.

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