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A man sooner or later discovers that he is a master-gardener of his soul …

James Allen

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Even in the best of times, life is disconcerting.  Yes, it is populated by people and people come in all states of growth, immaturity, disorder, disposition, etc.

Yes, it is stunning how many people are anchored in their own selfish and exclusive desires, how many people “mail it in” – never grow, never exert themselves.

Yet, amid it all there are gems – great people – those who maintain a good nature despite the calamity that others cause.  Find those people.  Stay close to those people.  Be one of those people.

Be the master-gardener of your soul.

Make a concerted effort to know who you are, to grow where you need to … Be exclusive – enjoy life with the best people … the contented ones, the mature ones, the happy ones, the kind and thoughtful ones … Do not be afraid to detach from what is disturbing, disordered.

A master-gardener tends lovingly to his ground, you are wise when you do the same … and you and your life are that sacred ground.

Shalom.

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Difficult subject.  I have tweaked this several times in the hopes of not alienating others while trying to focus on restoring some good to our present circumstances.

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The psychology of the individual can never be exhaustively explained from himself  alone: … clear recognition is needed by the way (one) is also conditioned by historical and environmental circumstances … individual psychology is not merely a physiological, biological, or personal problem: it is also a contemporary problem. (Emphasis added.) 

Carl Jung, M.D. in “Psychological Types” (Collected Works, Vol. 6)

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Mass murder in Las Vegas.

Disorder does not spring up by itself no more than a flower blossoms without a seed.

The individual person does not (even in the best of times) possess much self-understanding.  In our mass communication culture, where God and religious belief is minimized or attacked, disorder is magnified.  Today we seem intent on division and antagonism.  Political correctness is not a moral structure.

When “isms” proliferate disordered conduct can displace healthy and trusted beliefs.    Those in authority can even advance chaos.

An individual’s disorder is conditioned by history, personal environment and culture – all the more when faith is lost and society has gone astray.

Evil seems to flourish when antagonism is more common.  We pay a very heavy price for division and godlessness.

It is a time to draw together, to seek what we share in common, to build friendships and foster individual responsibility so each might know prosperity and the contentment of personal achievement. 

It takes discretion and determination to avoid disorder today.  Only those with considerable self-understanding maintain a healthy distance.  Religious narrative and a relationship with God are critical today.

You had best see who you are and what precisely your culture conveys … and most certainly turn away from those who advance disorder.  Destruction is the obvious product of disordered people.  We need to get well.  To listen carefully and choose wisely.

The healthy person today will be more likely he or she who resembles as to modern society and disordered godless mass culture the disposition of a monk in plain clothes.

Shalom.

If you find this post helpful, please pass it along to others.  Thank you.

Being Reported – It is being reported by several news organizations that a senior attorney at CBS expressed an absence of sympathy for those shot in Las Vegas because “country music fans often are Republicans – (and) gun toters.”  One can only hope this is not accurately reported.  Yet, it is surely the case that political hostility must be reduced by all.

Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but in every word the proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

Mt 4:4

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This is the response of Jesus to the first desert temptation of Satan.  The word more important than bread.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This, of course, is the opening line in the Gospel of John.  It asks us: to what do you give primacy?  To money?  Power?  Politics?  Yourself?  Celebrity?  Your sexual desires?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  Food?

Food?  Yes, is obesity not a sign of self-deprivation?  Self-consumption? Emotional starvation, and spiritual suffering?  Would not God fill us to satisfaction so much better than food can?  Does Jesus not so very clearly say this?

There is nothing wrong in American society that cannot be radically altered for the better if God and the Word of God is not given primacy to each of us, and to this nation and its culture.  Nothing.

The Toltec Mexican writer Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. reminds us that in our head two entities reside: one is a parasite and the other is an ally.  Each speaks to us.

The parasite is the one who reminds us of the negative things others have said about us or done to us – the words and deeds which would have us think negatively of our self, impose on us the sense that we are deficient, less worthy. The ally offers, in contrast, thoughts that we are valuable and that voice comes to us from the voices and deeds of those who have seen our value.

Don Ruiz reminds us that we must dismiss the parasite and listen to the ally, but more to the point he reminds us that “neither voice represents your whole Authentic Self” for you are not your thoughts …

In our Christian tradition, its story and its truth: you are an extension of the Word of God, a child of the Master – a word in God’s vocabulary.

There is NOTHING in you, or this nation and its culture, that cannot be corrected by simply placing God at the center of our being – the defining reality of our life, this nation and its culture … and of life itself.

Ignore the many among us who speak as godless parasites.

Shalom.

The monk … says the claims of the world are fraudulent …

Thomas Merton

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These words are extracted from Catholic monk Thomas Merton’s last presentation before his accidental death.  They were given in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, in a speech to monks of various religious dispositions and identities, nuns, religious clerics and students. It was poorly received, and for good reason.

The above words seem, by themselves, relatively benign – but Merton’s text proceeded to equate the monastic with the Marxist.  His text explained that Marx was not militantly opposed to religion.  That Marxism seeks only to change social structures.  He opined that the rioting American students of 1968 were themselves monks.

Yes, you are right: shear dribble, idiocy on display.  Clerical error.

The point to be made is a simple one and it is as good today and it has ever been. The point is this: when clerics start talking about politics – stop listening. Blind shepherds are a great hazard to vulnerable sheep.

Need further indication?  Two words: “Liberation Theology.”  Anyone who reads this stuff with a sound education in economics, history, philosophy, the classics, theology, psychotherapy, cultural criticism and any real world experience outside a sequestered or exclusive religious existence cannot but conclude that they are reading worthless babble.

If there is any exception to the above point it falls under the rubric of St. John Paul II whose life under Nazi and then Soviet Communist occupation had tasted aplenty of the destruction, violence, enslavement, lies, corruption, immorality and abject failure of societies governed by faithless political force imposed on God’s precious souls.

Clerical error, folks.  Clerical error.

Shalom.

Footnote – The first test for you will be this: how will you react when the Left in Congress will proceed to throw the equivalent of a two-year old’s tantrum when others dare expose, alter and reject the destruction done by them – particularly in the last eight years?  Hasn’t their bratty child’s act gotten old?  Notice they never hold their breath to display their anger. Would that it be so.

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.

… the first Christian hermits abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.

Thomas Merton, in The Wisdom of the Desert

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Why does a man live alone in nature, removed from the population and the city?

‘Tis a useful question.

As for the 4th century men who did so we can say, as Merton does, that they sought their salvation, saw its individual characteristic and their own responsibility for its solicitation.

Indeed, they saw that the pagan society that they knew offered little to further their salvation.  Rather, they concluded that it impeded access to it.

These men would not let the ways and values of the pagan culture destroy them, co-opt them.

They took no comfort in the Cross becoming part of the presiding temporal powers.  This, itself, is particularly interesting.  They seemed to know that civil matters where not spiritual in nature, that to The Divine alone belongs the primacy.

Think for a moment: these men saw Christian life as spiritual, as “extramundane” – as simply existing in the Mystical Body of Christ … and they saw that their responsibility was to seek life in Christ.

These men stood for the idea that man was personally responsible for his life and what it said of him and of God.  

Contrast that with today – when so many are captured by the common denominators of secular culture, its herd, its folly, its untruth and its destructive, conflictive and unsatisfying ways.

These men did not wish to be ruled by the decadence.  They did not see themselves, mind you, as superior to others but rather only more intent on living in accord with their faith. They lived socially in aid of one another and strangers as governed by their faith and “the charismatic authority of wisdom, experience and love.”  They “sought … their own true self, in Christ.”

Today I live on a ridge looking out on rolling pastures, forest, and mountains. Minutes ago the sun rose in the East over mountain peaks announcing once again that God reigns eternally …

Each sunrise – unique in its colors and hues – raises up God the Creator … enkindles my gratitude.

In my solitude, quiet makes the music so much sweeter and evocative.  In the solitude, I think of God in a daily silence, and meet the Desert Fathers.  In solitude, I have good company.

Shalom.

It is better to be alone than in bad company.

George Washington

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There are times when you realize that those around you cost you dearly, prompt the worse in you.  Bad company.

A culture at its worse and most distorted can bring bad company as a routine matter, a daily event – in all its communications and images.  Bad company.

Better to seek yourself.  For there is God.  Good company.  Better to be sequestered, in solitude.  Good company.

In being alone with self and God, one finds the best company, a bridge to eternal reality, good neighbors, good friends, the nature to discern and contemplate.

Shalom.

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors and deluding images up into the mind – whether in dreams, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves.  There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide; the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. (Emphasis added.)

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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We live in a culture that does little or nothing to further a person’s full growth and wisdom and we are virtually ignorant of the human process that Campbell accurately describes.

We are, quite frankly, undeveloped and far more sick than well.  Stated another way: Who among the public figures that you see strikes you as one who has examined fully his or her life and come, as is our task, to honestly know their true self.  The absence of fully-developed public figures gives us a proper barometric reading of the state of our culture.

Who in the news media, politics, entertainment, among the clergy, within public policy venues or in universities strikes you as a fully integrated human being – someone who possesses humility, insight, vision, wisdom, a sense of humor, courage and speaks with clarity that offers you lessons worth learning?

Does the politician whose life is lie after lie, deception after deception, failure after failure demonstrate anything but their sickness?  Does the “egg head,” know-it-all professor who speaks arrogantly impress you?  Does the photogenic talking T.V. head suggest any depth of understanding of the humankind, a sense of history, or even recognition of what happened yesterday or last week?  Does the robed jurist full of bias and error convey any worth to you?

Great literature, religious narrative, mythology all introduce us to humankind and our true self.  But in exclusionary secular culture these are either shunned or ignored and evidence of their fruits do not exist in politics or the public square. We are sadly “led” by the ignorant not the able.

When we discard the things that give us access to our true self we grow blind, deft, superficial, insensitive, emotionally brittle and socially inept.  In this state we lie to self and one another, evil flourishes, corruption becomes common place.

Wellness and wisdom await, but not when religion is exiled and its narrative neglected.

Shalom.

Observation – Pundits think that the participants in a “presidential debate” have to be “smart,” demonstrate that they “know stuff.”  Wrong.  They have to be real, accessible, human, comfortable, at ease.  They have to connect with the audience.

Content without humanity is a put-off and the interior flags go up among those in the audience – those who attend, witness or listen to the participants.

Knowing the cost of everything but the worth of nothing is useless except that it tells a competent human in the audience – this person is not fit to lead.  Be smart, people.

… another porpoise broke the water … a third and fourth … neared … we knew by instinct not to speak … A wordless covenant was set …

Pat Conroy, in Beach Music

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Tranquility.  When happiness is deepest, natural – and contentment shows like the first crocus of spring in the warming sun of late March.

Tranquility – there all the time, buried and asleep in the cold ground of “demands” hardened by the chilling winds of hectic paces and “things to do.”

Tranquility – the deep quiet – the noisy world conquered and silenced … how we miss the good and natural state, the peace within … the wisdom that detachment’s silence is.

Shalom.

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