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In living we are directly doing the will of God … our very existence is contact with His will … life is holy and a responsibility of God and man.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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If you can imagine that your existence is willed by God, that each moment of your existence fulfills God’s will – would you think differently … act differently … feel differently than you do?

If one’s very existence touches the will of God, would you make different choices in life than you now do?

Each day I awake and in due time look at the news of the world.  Typically, I see some article that tells of something like this: a man tried to drown his two twin children, or a school teacher threatened to flunk a student with whom she was sexually involved if that student “broke” off their “contact.”

Seeing these things, I am repelled – not just by the event but by the fact that these things are thought newsworthy.  

These reported stories make me ask: Why would I want to know this?  What effect does reading this have on me?  On others?  Do these stories not bring us down? Sow seeds of despair?  Turn our appetite for life sour?

I am sure that every day there are any number of horrible acts committed and that newspapers and the news media in-general have their pick of horrible stories to convey – but is there any glancing thought that feeding others these stories has a debilitating effect?

The mere reporting of such stores tells us that the lost souls offering these stories neither conceive of living as collaborating with God’s will, nor that life itself is holy, sacred, divine in its creation and ought to be respected as such.

The truth is if you look around you will see all sorts of actions which deny that life is holy, sacred and divine.  Having seen this so clearly, I have decided to ignore this crap.

My view is quite simple: why do I want to have my spirit be poisoned by the godless conduct of those gripped by evil and its manifestations?  I know such people and acts occur, but why must I be made a party to them each day? Consequently, I’ve come to “keep by distance” from these reports just as I reject a diet of rotten food.

Why bathe in other people’s dirty water, or each rancid food?

Shalom.

If this post strikes a positive cord for you, please send it to others.  The process of reclaiming the public square and public space calls for our participation … and that means you and me together.

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.

Set your heart on doing good.  Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.

Buddha

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Cultivating virtue will make you happy.  But who among us, who in public space and in the media and among politicians, comedians, celebrities appears to seek virtue?  Perhaps, no one.

Who indeed does within your family?  Probably a few, but likely not many?

And in the mob of Leftist protesters?  None.  Militant feminists?  None.  Abortion advocates?  Do they seek good in their heart?  No.  Militants are joyless and those who advocate death of innocents obliterate any good that might have once resided in them. For how can the abortionist feel any more joy than the executioner?  Or the heroin pusher.

And what of those who compromise your virtue?  What might you do?

The fact is we live in an age without an abundance of virtue.  This leads to the dilemma of what one might do socially when invited to spend time with or among others who are vulgar, crass, tasteless grunts, ogres, louts, loudmouths?

For me, I prefer to savor my time and select with care with whom I associate and how I spend my time.  In short, I gently excuse myself from invitations that would have me in the company of those whose conduct and disposition fall short of virtue.  Yes, I prefer solitude to disorder and riff-raff.

Discretion is wise, and good for us.  It preserves our dignity and our tranquility.

Emil Durkheim noted that freedom from social ties correlated with suicide.  It might be said today that immersion in social settings charged with normless individuals produces a soulful suicide.  And who among us desires such an end?  Not I.

Shalom.

Footnote – I often find that the mute button is a most useful feature on a TV remote. Ah, sweet silence rather than the chatter of the foolish.

Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.”

1 Sam 20:42

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These are the words of Jonathan to his friend David.  Jonathan’s words tell us that their shared relationship with God cements their friendship from generation to generation.

In the present hyper-secular world and its mass communication, this is a significant reminder for us.

These words lead me to ask: Who are your friends?  With whom do you keep company?  To whom do you listen?  Do you let any fool in mass communication culture into your head? Your heart?

Are you a discrete listener?

If you are disquieted, confused, upset or troubled, ask yourself who enters your life? Whose words do you listen to?  Might they be the source of your discontent?

In mass media culture, all sorts of disordered people have a public voice.  Nitwits can be very disorienting … and we let them gain easy access to us.

Case in point.  I see in the news today that Jimmy Fallon (another in the growing list of late night faux Johnny Carsons) slammed President-elect Donald Trump at one of the many idiotic, self-congratulatory, celebrity “awards” dog and pony shows.

Jimmy Fallon.  Really?

Why listen to a guy’s political views who was a “communication” major from the College of Saint Rose?  I mean, come on – Saint Rose?  Communication? Wouldn’t he have learned to talk by the time college appeared on his horizon?

Ge’ez Louise, the guy combs his hair with a stick of butter. What could he possibly have to offer?

We are made for healthy association with one another and, of course, with God. Yet, if we indiscriminately welcome disorder and foolishness into our head and heart, we are hardly feeding on what is good and true, valuable, insightful, wise, sincere, lasting, useful.  (I guess Mr. Fallon missed this at Saint Rose while “studying” com-mun-i-ca-tion.)

In mass culture we listen all too much to those who have nothing to say and are unworthy of our attention.

Be discrete.  Don’t be a lemming.  Don’t degrade yourself.

Take in those things that advance you, that grow the Spirit within you.  Less than that and you dine on garbage.

Shalom.

Footnote – If you wonder why Donald Trump tweets it is simple: the culture is insane, godless, and politically-correct crap, full of what is false – very totalitarian, and utterly amoral.  As Saint John Paul II said it is not politics but culture that matters. The truth of the matter is this: politics arises from culture. Donald Trump is attacking the errant, corrupt, authoritarian Leftist, godless culture that has been developed in a straight line with every Democrat from FDR to Obama.  Few see this and its necessity and genius.  

… 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.

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement of the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 John 2: 15, 16

Detachment requires discretion.  And this means, one must be refined in their view of the world, listen to that is said with a careful ear.  Be a wise observer, a critical thinker.

Rather than rush in and follow others easily – pause, think, assess, accept only what is consistent with the peace that lives within you, for discreet detachment feeds the self and soul so that you might be fully formed in being as God has made you to be, so that you might know peace, stability in chaotic times and, most importantly, know God and have a self that can draw close to God and serve Him.  After all, do you not wish tranquility – especially when chaos and conflict reigns?

Think about discreet detachment like this: when driving are you not safer driving within the speed limit, adjusting your speed to the road and weather conditions?  So, too, is discreet detachment.  Yes, just as the latter is wise, so too is the former.

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.

I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

Jn 10:10

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These of course are Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John.

If you wish to secure insights about living life in abundance, the Gospel of John is a good place to visit, as is the work of Carl Jung.

Jung, you see, spent a lifetime seeking to understand what a whole life looks like and how one comes to know it.  He was, by the way, very accommodating as to faith and the Spirit.

As to an abundant, full life, Jung new that there must be a union between conscious existence and the unconscious, that failing this – we would be broken, fragmented, sick, disordered.

Frankly, most people you meet will not have done the necessary work to unify their conscious self with their unconscious.  Indeed, those who do not do so – enter our life as the sick and often deeply troubled.  You find them at all levels – personal and public. Rather than being signs of abundant life, they are simply abundant – common and way too destructive.  Yes, so destructive as to require your discretion.

Yes, we are among the broken and the willful ones who guard against exposure to those who are whole and well.  We killed Christ, did we not.

As Jung rightly points out, when one avoids the unconscious realm -its expression is not repressed but rather it finds voice and presence in sick behavior acted out in bizarre private escapades or public behavior leveled at others.

Indeed, when others are hateful, perpetually angry, controlling, live in lies one after another, etc. – you are seeing those who are repressed, underdeveloped, ill, not whole people.

Jung referred to their antics as a manifestation of their shadow side – the unconscious or psychic side they have neglected and tried to ignore or hide.  Ironically, this sort of person can be found anywhere – even in religious life, and often there in particular.

The task of life, as Jesus proclaims and Jung establishes, is the development of the whole self (critically including the psyche or soul).  That is our journey.

Christ and Jung are each worthy of our attention in the pursuit of life in its fullness.

Think about it.

Shalom.

Most … would rather deny a hard truth than face it.

George R.R. Martin, in A Game of Thrones

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Yes, there you have it; there you have the “State of the Union” presentation. And Hillary time after time.  And so many others.

Live your own fantasy.  Lie to your self.  Deny reality.

Those who do, and there are many and their voices are public and destructive, have practiced avoiding fact all their lives.  Fact and life is for them, too painful. They are not brave nor adult. And surely not wise.

They are smaller than the smallest child.  Infantile.  Pretenders.  Afraid of reality.

Infants’ books were made for them.  Their small worlds are full of mighty fabrications. Oh, they are “educated” – schooled in elite places – but never took a punch.  Rather, they rejected the pains that make us human, humble, compassionate, wise, strong, insightful and adult.

They are “side-liners” of no particular achievement who prefer ideology to reality.  For them, hard truth must be denied at all costs – even at the cost to a nation and others who die unnecessarily as a consequence.  Benghazi, for one.

Their universe is upside down and backward.  Incoherent.  Mindless.  Built on lies.  Yes, a captured naval officer thanks his captors.  Fantasy as public policy, and young officers learn the script. Astonishing!  Annie get your gun.

In his excellent book A Secular Mind, Robert Coles reports on his conversations with the once Leftist-“activist,” turned devout Catholic Dorothy Day who said that she began to turn away from her Communists friends when she realized she could complete their sentences word or word, concept for concept, idea for idea, expression for expression before they did.

We have so many public people living in a fantasy world, we are now Dorothy Day.

Want to be safe, sane, competent adults?  Stop listening to the fantasy people. Indeed, confront them and rebuke them.  Send them packing.

No healthy life has ever been lived by those who deny hard truth.

Shalom.

Perhaps a creature of … ingenuity and deep memory is … bound to grow alienated … He suffers from a nostalgia for which there is no remedy upon earth except as it is to be found in the enlightenment of the spirit – – – some ability to have perspective.  (Emphasis added.)

Loren Eiseley

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In a world were excellence is rare and often the object of suspicion among those of lesser depth and ingenuity, excellence heightens alienation.  One must, then, be prepared to live with ingenuity and memory, and in the depth of experience past and present.

As Eiseley correctly identifies healthy existence requires growth of, and life in, the Spirit.

Yes, in the modern world of exclusionary secularism spiritual existence gives perspective, raises you above hazard and inescapable suffering.  For the Christian this means familiarity with Christ and our faith narrative – their incorporation into daily consciousness, and daily life.

Yes, what we find in Christ and the narrative in exclusionary secular culture is an ad hoc monastic life – a quiet, contemplative life, a longing for peace – a consciousness of God and prayer.

Too often we submit unwittingly to culture, submit without understanding its character, its demands, the way it is denominated, composed – the things it asks of us … and it is rare indeed that anyone with a public presence offers us a critique of culture, tells us what costs are attached to participation in it, life in it.

The cost of culture is, often and at present, rather substantial – far too serious to accept it uncritically.  Indeed, culture can produce serious injury – alienation being one.

As anthropologist Eiseley notes: a conscious effort to engage the spirit is very important to sustain health in culture – especially one that would have us neglect our spiritual well-being.

Living in secular culture is, as it turns out, a counter-cultural experience which calls for our attention to our spiritual life.  In this we turn to face what one traditionally sees as a contemplative, monastic existence – a disciplined life of prayer, silence, tranquility and discrete choice vis a vis participation in culture.

Perhaps we might be less compliant to secular culture’s demands and more attentive to our spiritual development.

In spiritual existence we gain perspective and health.

Shalom.

In the hour of my distress, when temptation me oppress and when I my sin confess, Sweet Spirit comfort me.

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