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Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another.  It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing and fostering effective selfexpression and communication.  Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners as well as a matter of good health.  (Emphasis added.)

P. M. Forni, in Choosing Civility

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One reason I have come to the open space of the country is this: the disordered nature of people is, at the least, disquieting and often so distasteful that one risks being sucked into useless conflict with the immature and uninformed.

Unpleasant conversations with fools has never been a favorite pastime with me.

Yet, today the public discourse is so poor that I have turned away from anything but a glancing pass over the “news of the day.”

We have hit a new low with female Senators swearing in public, and entertainment celebrities crudely voicing in tantum-like manner their profanity laden dislike of party A or policy B – as if anyone really cares what they have to say.

Not-so-astonishingly, the cable and network “news” people, like lemmings, fall right into line – mimicking the ill-bred and poorly educated actions and views of the foul-mouthed celebrity.  Of course, the crass conduct of Leftist advocates makes matters all the worse as to civil discourse.

As to the latter point, the destructive objectives of the Leftist advocates is patently clear when they “game” the system by offering this or that feigned outrage simply to get their own way.  No civil discourse there.  It is all the aim for power.  And that means always – an idiotic and destructive policy turn in which faith in democracy and civil discussion are both lost.  Indeed we are at that juncture now.  

I am often surprised that those who push an ideological agenda have not met with forceful response.  Knowing human nature, I suspect that relative passivity may not sustain.

These are unpleasant times.  Civility is lost, and democracy and community are on the wane.  We listen to those we ought to ignore.

Shalom.

Trust – Trust is a funny thing.  There are not a whole lot of people in your life that you can trust for the entire length of your life.  More people jump ship than stay the course.  That’s just people.  Most seek an advantage or cannot sustain the exactness required for a trusted friendship.

A long term trust-relationship requires complete honesty and that means honest self-reflection and continual growth.  There are more people who cannot meet the terms of a trusted relationship than can meet those terms.  Cherish the trusted relationships you have … do not expect to have a great number of them.  Indeed, does this not underscore the place of a faith narrative, God as we have come to know the idea of God?  When all else fails – you and God can do wonderful things together.  Imagine me painting or writing – is that not God and me in a state of trust?

 

 

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A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love the servitude.

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World

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This describes the trajectory of the Liberal Left in America from FDR to the last administration … and it surely describes the vocal activists on the Left and their lemmings in elected office, in the judiciary, in education, the media, and those running government agencies, departments and bureaus.

We have witnessed what Huxley identified.

The tension today is between totalitarians and those who embrace freedom and welcome individual responsibility.  This is a serious division.

Religion figures into this rather substantially as those who favor freedom and individual responsibility arise from a religious ethos that stands for both freedom and individual responsibility.  Yes, one side sees the person as a sacred being and the other sees such notions as an obstacle to power and control.  The former thinks of others as substantive and the latter thinks of them as a bridge to power.

We meet today a very fundamental conflict.  One can be concerned by this: those in significant places in the society have been led to an ideology that does not value the propositions and beliefs which our Founders cherished so.

Shalom.

Democrats and Children – Astonishing.  The Democrats have a new-found passion for children.  They cannot stand to see children at the border separated from their parents as law may require (in some cases).  Yet, as to unborn children they have no emotions, it seems, otherwise abortion would be rare now that conception is widely and easily available.  Their “sincerity” did not motivate the Senators and Congressmen to do a darn thing to correct the situation.  You see they prefer government by the fiat of Presidential Executive Order – that way they never have to be on record as to the hard issues we face and they can sit on their fannies, count their money, and complain endlessly.  Lest you see this clearly, this is the totalitarianism which Huxley saw coming.

You can’t lie to your soul.

Irvine Welsh, in Porno

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Whole lot of people in Washington in positions of authority and in politics who are at odds with their soul.

That’s the net on these IG reports.  That’s the nature of “power” and government today in our nation’s Capitol.

A whole lot of this is the product of the Democrat Left – although the moderate Republicans are also easily co-opted in order to sustain the electoral system, their role in governing and the guise of respectability.  But there is no virtue or anything beautiful in dishonesty.  “Swamp” indeed.

Just look at the upper management echelons of the FBI, Justice Department and the Obama White House and administration.  Look at the Clintons – their foundation and their personal conduct and the behavior of those around them.  Not good.

Now the test is presented.  What will we do with what we see and know to be dishonest?  Weasel about?  Lie to ourselves about lies?  Or face the truth squarely and set the record and ourselves straight.

In our representative democracy when one trades away virtue and honesty for power, one deprives the populace of freedom and the protections of law and the U.S. Constitution.

You know once trust is lost, it does not easily return.  Lying undoes even the best form of self-governing.  A lot at stake here, Friends.

Shalom.

 

It is the religious impulse that which supplies the cohesive force which unifies society and a culture.  Great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of by-product; in a very real sense, the great religions are the foundation on which great civilizations rest.  (Emphasis added.)

Christopher Dawson, in The Quarterly Review

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We face today a fundamental disagreement and division.  On the one side are the socialists who have little or no regard for religion, but great regard of the state and man’s ability to solve all problems, act equitably, and form a functioning, “free” public union.

On the other side, we have those who, if only by instinct, believe that man alone is not capable of forming a perfect or working union which honors individual freedom as bestowed on us by God and codified in the  U.S. Constitution.

The former group winches when Constitutional protections are afforded the individual rights “at the expense” of state power.  Their disposition as to the state virtually insures centralized power and the need to conform the individual to the tenets of the state – in all matters to which the state lays claim.  As such, socialism’s great cost is one’s liberty and in that cost Judaism and Christianity are shelved, discounted and their believers relegated to relative silence – left to live their faith privately and out of the way of the state.

This is pretty much where we are today in our body politic.

This state of affairs, of course, poses a very serious challenge to the Constitution and the vision of our Founders (who were strongly influenced by the rightful place of faith in the formation of this Nation).  The Founders were very much in tune with Dawson’s above observation.  The question however stands now as this: Are we in accord with Dawson or shall we enter the state of being that reduces the human person, limits his and her liberty and is inclined to totalitarianism, economic destruction and permanent class division?

Shalom.

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflection in our own acts.  We must find our real selves … in our own soul … the principle of all our acts.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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This from a wonderful essay entitled “Being and Doing” in Merton’s No Man is an Island.

His words are very useful in a mass communication, digital and social media culture where images and acts are often center stage and narcissism is a real problem (as reflected in its prominence in therapy and as daily exhibited in the news and on TV).

As to our present climate public acts are so a part of others need for attention.

In the present era we seem to be besieged by those who need to sustain a public image at all costs.  We seem to have a culture that accommodates projecting images as the normal form of being while passing completely on the critical important core of one’s self – the soul.

As Merton noted in his 1950’s essay – “I need not see myself, I merely need to be myself.”

Yes, Merton gives us in eleven words the heart of health, meaning and contentment – not our image (and surely not our narcissistic actions and proclamations) but our eternal soul.

How smart he was.  Imagine now how we are surrounded by narcissism and self-promotion.  How many say nothing of value and cannot maintain day-to-day coherence.

How public figures have convenient double standards that say subliminally: I have no guide but ideology invoked and applied to bolster my personal preference.

It is, I think, fair to say – we have many lemmings, but few Mertons.  Therein is our illness, agitation, confusion, calamity, untruths, treacherous deeds and great unhappiness.

Shalom.

 

 

And Mary said, “Behold the handmade of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.”

Lk 1:38

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If Christ’s life is a guide to us, one might ask what does his conception tell us?

That, of course, puts the focus on Mary and tells us something very significant about women and, consequently, about our need to have full regard for them which warrants our reverence of them.

Contrast, if you will, Mary with Eve.

Mary’s faithfulness breeds humble obedience.  Her love of God provides her consent to her call to holiness.  Compare this with Eve who disobeys God’s instruction in Eden.  One might think of the two as showing us the difference between acts resting in one’s ego (Eve) and conduct arising in one whose faith has led her to knowledge of her True Self (Mary).

Yes, faith lived in one, matures the person – allows the certainty, comfort and courage of one who knows himself or herself as God’s beloved child.  This: a good lesson for all  … especially for men to whom it ought to be a very important understanding that prompts and promotes our love and protection of women per se and of our mothers and sisters in particular.

In a way, Mary in her response also rehabilitates Eve – redeems her disobedience.

Mary’s importance to us – to men, and to men and women, is an extraordinary lesson that we often (in the secular culture so highly charged with sexuality and gender division and confusion) forget, ignore or deny.

One might say, quite fairly, that the feminists have done more damage than good in ignoring Mary – the most significant woman in human history.  Yes, many troubles flow from such willful ignorance.

One never profits when one’s focus is on mere earthly status at the expense of what is eternal (the ego at the expense of the True Self); for there is no value in mortality absence eternity.  We ignore Mary at great, great cost.  How foolish we are!

We must change our ways.

Shalom.

Another School Shooting – This time in Santa Fe, Texas.  Ten dead, others wounded.  A sole shooter.  A high school student – described by his classmates as quiet, shy, nice and the brunt of some ridicule – somewhat of a loner.

And so the same questions begin: guns or no guns, how to protect the students and teachers?

When will we ever begin to see the cause of these events?

Let’s face it – life in a highly secularized culture that exiles God from it has minimal intimacy  … little basis for caring about more than self – hence lots of grotesque narcissism – top to bottom.  And let’s also acknowledge that the Left (feminists included) breed antagonism and division – ditto those who (sadly) see all others as divided by race –  despite the huge efforts made in stamping out once “legal and institutional” racism.

Truth is the Left functions by dividing people one from another, group from group as if we are NOT all Americans, men or women, God’s children, afforded equality under the law  – or least until Ms. Hillary was excused from her misdeeds while Mr. Trump was set upon by those who wish to fashion for him a crime he did not commit.

And let’s not forget abortion and the level of callousness that these deaths establish, in the millions, since abortion was made (and shamefully so) “legal.”

A secular society hostile to faith as this one is – is society that does not articulate the value of life – but rather takes actions after actions to prove just the opposite – that life as we now live is not sacred, valuable, to be cherished and embraced.

The cause?  Those who proceed to institute policies and advocate foolishness without any regard for the existence of God.  Pathetic.

From Mary’s obedience to our treacherous rebellion!  A disgrace.

“God resisteth the proud.”

Ja 6: 6

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The costs of pride are substantial.  The prideful are not careful.  They become lax and costly mistakes follow.  The prideful in leadership pave the way for a nation’s demise.

When those in leadership positions are prideful you can expect giant mistakes that are costly to all who are subject to their actions.  Yes, pride leads to lawlessness.

We see the obvious destructive consequences of prideful, partisan Leftist bureaucrats in the fiasco that has been the government handling of the Hillary Clinton national security breach, and we see it in the lawless “weaponizing” for the law enforcement and national security apparatus of the federal government against candidate and now President Donald Trump.  Yes, pride can excuse those who put us to risk, destroy the innocent, the rule of law, liberty and a nation.

How can pride be so costly?

Pride robs God of the glory due Him.  Pride makes of God – an exile, an enemy.  It creates a vast distance between God and the human being.  In that distance grace disappears.

The prideful are isolates from God, others and self.  They destroy community.

As leaders, the prideful make us strangers or enemies to one another.  Nothing destroys a person or a nation like pride.  It is toxic; it is corrosive.  It divides.  It kills the soul and the person.  It stokes the fire of envy and hatred.

And pride’s remedy?  The humble recognition that God is the author of all that is good – and we are merely recipients (not the source) of all the good that we might do, or that we might experience.

For a guide to daily humility and a protection from the evil that is pride, I offer this from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:7) –

” … whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

Individually, and in the aggregate, we MUST humbly return to God, or we shall perish by our own hand.

Shalom.

 

I urge you … that there be no divisions among you but that you be united in the same mind and same purpose … Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? … The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Cor: 10, 20, 25

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What St. Paul said so many centuries ago speaks to us today.

We seem to have the habit of nudging God from the picture.  Claiming belief, we fashion results as the author of what is good.

Humans are prone to produce division – often in the name of what is “good” or (worse yet) of our professed faith.

Wither ideology and all sorts of odd ideas like “social justice” – a cover for individual responsiblity and evidence of our pride and sinfulness.

Too many of our ideas, and the manufacture of ideology, dodge God and His instructions.  Divided from God we divide ourselves from one another.  Discord, estrangement and hostility flourish.

We make what is direct obscure.

We change the names of magnificent things like pregnancy – infanticide becomes “choice,” Holy Matrimony is befitted with fiction to excuse disordered behavior, gender is redefined and multiplied.  Absurdity abounds.

Corinth was “full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity.”  We are Corinth.  It best NOT be so.

Less government would be an improvement.  Less reliance on government – less political division and more individual responsibility … more space for faith and for God, and for humility and gratitude.

Shalom.

The Iran “Deal” – If Mr. Kerry wanted to see the Iran Deal made a permanent (while idiotic) achievement he’d best have encouraged Mr. Obama to make it a Treaty and get Senate approval for it.  But that would have required work.  However that didn’t seem to be Mr. Kerry or Mr. Obama’s inclination.

Religious experience is inevitably human experience.  It has to do with the human consciousness both individual and collective.  (Emphasis added.)

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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If religious experience is human experience, then it follows that human experience is religious experience. 

That said, experiencing human life is the experience of religious (or spiritual) reality.  What we are saying is this: one cannot separate the experience of the Divine from that of the mundane – from human existence.  Indeed, God is neither absent nor dead – but rather present and alive in us – whether we acknowledge it or not.

Assume for a moment that this is absolutely true.  With that, one might ask what caused us to discount God and Divine experience?  And, what is the price we might pay for living only in the mundane world?

The first question is answered by Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age where he lays out in considerable detail how the Enlightenment and the Reformation pushed us toward an exclusive humanism that counted reason and the mundane world as the preeminent focus of human life and in so doing radically altered (narrowed) the scope of human experience.

As to the “price” we have paid – I would say that it made each life less full and made living far more difficult.  My view is that we have vested much hope and expectation in the “genius” of the imperfect (and often nefarious, selfish or disordered) human person and his and her institutions, governance, ideas, ideologies, laws, rules, regulations, fades and fancies.

In short, man in his power and conduct is not God – not even close.

Abandoning the relationship with the Divine, one is left to rely on one’s own very limited ways and many weaknesses.  The consequences are visible today.  Need I remind anyone of adultery, abortion, divorces, child neglect and abuse, homicides, suicides, sexual molestation, drug addictions, obesity, mental illness, unhappiness, envy, hostility, randon mass shootings, political corruption, widespread government inter-generational dependence, racism, gender confusion, teen pregnency, unwed mothers, broken families, fatherless families, female teachers having sex with their underage students … etc.

If human experience is religious experience, you would have to conclude that in today’s secular culture we show evidence that we are neither living as human beings nor as religious people.

Where are you in this matter?

Shalom.

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

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