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Christianity (is) not … a matter of getting … ideas straight but rather of getting (one’s) life straight.

Robert Barron, in The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path

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Ultimately people want to live well, have peace, experience love, be free of troubles, worries, sickness and injustice, be able to laugh, enjoy friendship, and realize the value of their own good work.

Life is about “getting life straight.”  And that is a faith matter.

Yet, in the course of my lifetime, I have seen interest in faith (particularly Christianity) decline and, in the void that is created, I have seen people seek meaning in ideology and satisfaction the prosperity that has come to us mid-last century in a free market economy with peace at hand.

However as to ideology, I am most troubled.

Ideology is a body of ideas reflecting the “perceived” needs of an individual, group, class or culture.  Needs, mind you, of this mortal existence.

Unlike faith, it is earth-bound and reflects the desires of a class of individuals.  Its goal is not the realization of a full life but rather it is smaller than that – it seeks only the self-authored, contemporary desires of a group – often pursued with force so to impose a narrow and self-interested view of life on all others.  Apropos, politics, propaganda and public tantrums are three of their favorite coercive tools.

Ideologues, you see, care only that their views (which comfort them) be forced on others – never time-tested and never challenged.  Totally accepted as totalitarians demand.

Imagine living with someone who, exposed to an idea, assumes (because they like the idea and feel empowered by it) to make of that idea their world view and the “thing” that  governs their world as they experience it – as if this idea is the prism through which all experiences are, and must be, filtered.

I guarantee that living with such a person is close to living in North Korea or a re-education gulag.  This is where we are today as to ideology – in its public and private hues and noises.

Convince a potential ideologue a hammer is a “hat” and that person will spend the rest of life trying to fit that hammer to their head and expect you to do the same.  Yes, they will abandon all reason in favor of foolishness.  Me?  I’ll take faith – you can keep the hammer.

Shalom.

 

 

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The eternal life is not the future life; it is life in harmony with the true order of things.

Henri Amiel, in Journal

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I have taken to distancing myself from the everyday, and particularly “the news” only in so far as I cast a glance at the calamity and the ridiculous ignorance of many who “report” on it and then, God help us, provide their own uneducated, small-minded, predictable, silly “commentary” on the happenings they mention.

That one thrust alone makes space of eternity.  The intellectual poverty and rote recitations of some left leaning ideological fetish are ironically liberating and sanity-preserving, if not life saving.  Enter what is eternal and indestructible.

Aye, a far better and healthier focus where love and humility seem to grow.

In the void that the nonsense has created, I live closer to my faith, and my loved ones (especially the little children) are more in my thoughts and prayers.  God and those I love and what is good emerge as most important.

My world is now meaningful and not confined to what is inane, self-destructive, erroneous, ignorant and captive to all the “clap trap” of fickle styles, language, forms of expression and the chorus of trained parrots that passes for contemporary discourse … and such.

I much prefer what is true and not mad, to what is false and perpetually angry.

In this I remember St. Augustine who wrote: “Eternal life is the actual knowledge of the truth.”  (De moribus Ecclesiae catholicae, etc.)

As a compassionate man, I offer this to you: walk away from the nonsense.  It is disorienting, wrong-headed, and destructive of person, culture and nation.

Shalom.

 

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Jn 13:35

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The conflicts we see among us are unsightly, a shame and an embarrassment.  Yet, we say we are faithful Christians.

There are those who divide us.  Those whose God is self and power, and wealth, and status.  In their quest for these things their love falls by the wayside.

We are not made for pride but for humility.  In humility there is strength and courage for in humility there is faith and belief and in these two humility.

Seek humility and strength and wisdom follow.

Shalom.

Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.

Epictetus

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Hear the words of a man who lived 100 years before Christ.  Once a Roman slave, he gained his freedom, studied as a Stoic and devoted his life to philosophy – not as a theoretical proposition but rather as a way of life.

What he says here is good for today.  No doubt you have seen the chaos and dreadful conduct of many.  Indeed, you may have said to yourself or others –“the high tide has come and with it damage … it shows no signs of subsiding … when it leaves it will take many things with it – some very good things.”

Epictetus would have us not be so discomforted by these things over which we have no control for he saw that life is like that – with disorder and damage that we are powerless to avoid but that we will our self to peace notwithstanding.

We live in difficult times.  Disorienting times.  The air is flush with strange notions and odd ideas, and acts decry fetishes and self-destruction.

Yes, we live in rare times where wisdom and ignorance collide and good and evil struggle face to face.  Epictetus is ripe for these times.  Indeed he has lived throughout the ages in the head and heart and works of others.

He has been tutor to many.  Think of Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations and of contemporaries: Tom Wolfe (A Man in Full), V.S. Naipaul (A House for Mr. Biswas), James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) and J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey).

Words of ancient men from distance cultures do not survive the centuries but that they carry truth and have utility.  Yet, we neglect these gifts … and the voices of the unwise: the special pleaders, children, advocates, talking heads, ideologues and those who thirst for power and celebrity spoil the air we breathe.

… peace notwithstanding … that is our task.  Epictetus awaits.

Shalom.

 

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

Lao-tzu

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The older I get, the more I settle into quiet and keep things as simple as possible.

I have no taste for crowds, fast roadways, complicated gadgets, air travel and such.  My diet is simple and ample.  Time with friends and family matter so very much.

The quiet seems right.  It leads to peace and prayer and conversation with God – a rendering of spontaneous gratitude for all I have been given, for the love I have received and the experiences large and small – the memories of people, places and events.

Now I see how grandchildren carry hope for tomorrow and bring that hope to me.  I see in them hope alive in their days, and their joys and pleasures, and a love so readily shared – so openly proclaimed by these little people.  Wonderful, so wonderful.  For me, they are proof of God’s existence and signposts for who we are meant to be, and how we are meant to live.

In the quiet and the solitude I am acutely aware of the confusion and pain that others create out of pride and their own disordered thinking.  Full of energy and themselves they make matters worse by insisting on changing things “for the better.”  They are not quiet people.  They seem to prefer the crowded clown car of the circus – yet, they always fight one another to be the driver.

In quiet I know both joy and sadness, I hear my breath and feel strongly the experiences that gave me depth and comfort, improved my vision, produced understanding – led me to faith and to God.

Now the voices of those I love are symphonies for me.  The memories of those I loved who have died are my favorite movies.  The memories of yesterdays my treasured photos.

Now I do not need much and in my days little tasks bring appreciation and satisfaction – sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, keeping the grounds clean … I notice the pleasure of such things – the cool afternoon breeze off the mountains and the changing landscape as the sun moves west and fades slowly into tomorrow.

Proper quiet gives the fullness of being.

Shalom.

A gracious woman attains honors, and ruthless men attain riches.  The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.  The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.

Prov 11:16-18

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HonorMercyRighteousness.  Does this describe you?  Describe those you meet?  Those you admire?  Those you listen to?  Those who have public authority?  Those who wish to lead you?  Those who claim to serve justice?  Those who comment on public affairs?  Those who preach and baptize?

If not, why not?

There is no time in my life that I have seen what I now see: namely, the absence of virtue and the virtuous.  It is as if we have stopped teaching men to be gentlemen and women to be ladies.  More to the point we seem like we emulate Sodom and Gomorrah.  And, it seems that ruthlessness, cruelty and the acquisition of extraordinary wealth and power no matter the cost to our character are just fine by us.

Make no mistake – the human heart longs for what is good, and just, and true and merciful and not what is bad and unjust, false and merciless.

We had best restore the best in us – or bye, bye birdie.

It all starts with you – and it starts now, today!

Shalom.

 

 

Then they set out along the black top in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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McCarthy writes of a father and his most beloved son who walk under the grayest of skies in a burned out and broken America.  It is both a compelling book and extraordinary movie.  In both I am struck by the love of the father for the son and the son for the father, and by the grayness of the sky amid the ruin.  The latter reminds me of the verbal and video landscape of the present days where hostility is thick as fog and division seems the only objective of the public voices we hear and where each day brings stories of death, cruelty, hatred and the commentaries of the C- and D+ scribes and talking heads whose range of thought is a tad lower than that of a carnival barker.

In a most extraordinary land darkness has descended.  What was once one is now fragmented into many bruised parts .

He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.  He tried to remember the dream but could not.  All that was left was the feeling of it … he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was his own ashes.

This father like me had lived a dream – a dream in better times.  I was conceived when the Second World War was near its triumphant end.  My childhood was spent on a street of veterans and their families – remarkable men and women whose childhood commenced in the Great Depression and turned then to World War – its millions dead, others murdered in Stalin’s gulag.

How does one speak of what we had and lost?  How does one make that the known experience of an adult son?  Give him the optimism purpose and meaning I, poor as we were, knew so well?

How do my grandson or my granddaughter gain what had been, but now is so damaged?  How can my ashes live to sign their forehead?

The Road.  Where this father and son had the dark shadow and penetrating cold of a dying orb – they at least had silence.  We have the unstoppable voices and words of those whose lips bring darkness and cold.  They are now our dismal cover.

“You have to carry the fire … It’s inside you.  It always was there.  I can see it.”

So says the father to the son.  So say I to you, this day.

Shalom.

News as Soap Opera – This is where we are in a superficial mass communication, digitized social media culture.  We interview people with no achievement or proclaim and, in doing so, cannot distinguish people of substance from people who have no particular accomplishment.  We are more soap opera than not.  We can no longer tell the difference between depth and shallow, or what is substantive and what is not.  A real astonishing decline.

… (the) psychological state of affairs had … changed.  For them (George Orwell and Czeslaw Milosz), the state threatened to become not only militarily and politically triumphant, but psychologically so: the custodial Superego for millions, their Id effectively enthralled, their Egos an instrument, pure and simple, of the state’s bureaucratic manipulation. (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in A Secular Mind

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The state or political party coming to control a person’s thoughts and psychological disposition … Yes, the state control of its people – their ability to control the thinking of its citizens can literally alter the fundamental experience of being a human being.

In the mid, late last century that is what Orwell and Milosz and other prominent intellectuals and writers saw as a major change in the West, in democracies, in culture and universities.   They saw this as a real threat.

In our present mass communication society of Left-controlled social media giants and once-venerable newspapers, this is precisely where we are.

Indeed, the politics of identity and Marxist ideology has changed how we look at ourself, others and the nation.  They have divided us, made us hostile and violent as to those the Left deems their foes … and, indeed, hostile to the ideas upon which our Representative Democracy, Federal system and concept of liberty enshrined in our Constitution was founded.

The more the state grows and media is titled Left – the more Orwell and Milosz’s fears are confirmed.

That is where we are now.  You see it. I see it.  Language is no longer evidence of freedom but subject to state punishment, social exclusion and the like …

As to Orwell, he concluded in his novel 1984 that language, the reading we choose, what we are taught to learn from our “education” has everything to do with the rise of Fascism and Communism and the state’s encroachment on (our) private life.

To make this current – think of the language “rules” surrounding sexual identification and pronouns used to supplant male and female, etc.

Make no mistake the Leftist and the Leftist state is intent on changing who you are, what you think, how you feel, your existence and experience of life.  Most noticeably their view has no God or worship in its agenda.  Beware.  We have met the enemy inside the gates of the castle.

Shalom.

Politically “Correct” –  “Politically correct” by whose standard?  If you do not speak what is on your mind, you have forfeited your freedom.  Free speech allows you to have your views and express them but it does NOT guarantee that others must listen to you.  If only the Left realized that !!!

I do think that living your life to the fullest is a little flawed … why is jumping out of an airplane inherently better than reading a book?

… why is living a life that looks good on instagram inherently better than a life lived quietly?

John Green

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… a life lived quietly

We are a people in something close to perpetual motion.  In America it seems that there is a default setting to “do something,” stay “engaged,” keep in motion, “move up,” stay on the go” … etc.

If I am correct, I ask: “Why?”  Is action better than inaction?  Could it always be so?

Personally, I like my very smart son’s admonition: “don’t just do something – stand there.”

His oft-repeated observation is that people seems always inclined to “do something” … anything … in the face of some stimulus perceived to be a “problem.”  (Indeed this is the conviction of virtually everyone who enters political life or occupies a middling-to-top spot in a bureaucracy.  Displaying, I might add, the wasteful and idiotic disposition to think that doing is always “better,” “right,” more “useful” than not doing a darn thing.  Let’s be completely honest here: the political and bureaucratic “doers” are at best self-justifying, i.e., if they did nothing they would lose their identity, status, sense of importance, and God-forbid maybe a cubicle, and a public paycheck.)

If anyone doubts the wisdom of doing nothing or at least far less than political types and bureaucrats do – I remind you only of the plight of “education” in our land.  Thanks to the “genius” of Jimmy Carter his creation of the U.S. Department of Education in short order has overseen the destruction of American education by “doing stuff.”

Like John Green I feel no compulsion to “do something,” “be in perpetual motion.”

Like my son I see others “reason” this way: “I must do something.  This is something.  I think I’ll do it.”  Mind you, the something done is never put to this modest test: “Is this worth doing?”  Mostly, you can well imagine, such “Pavlovian” conduct is usually worthless at best except that it devours time, spends money and gives the middling mass “something” to do.

I much prefer quiet and inaction to the presumption of action.  Likewise, I prefer quiet to noise, no one to the company of anyone, solitude to the maddening mob, nature to suburbia or exurbia and the inane movement and madness of large cities.

No rock climbing for me.  No bungy-jumping from a bridge.  No triathlons required.  I have silence and solitude, beautiful landscape, books, prayer, my faith, contemplation, thinking, a few special people, grandkids, a son and daughter-in-law and the simple chores of a house lived-in and land lived on.

Shalom.

Failure of Liberalism – Chicago is Murder-City and it is a city that is destined for bankrupcy.  Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Newark, Los Angles, et al show us that Liberalism is dead and on the way to its extinction it kills innocents within its boundry.

The Nanny State, creation of inter-generation dependents is a deadly mistake.  It is time to blow the whisle on the government as God.  People are made for self-reliance, self-discipline, economic freedom, personal responsibility.  Diversions like sexual politics and identity politics destroy people and places.  Governments making “promises” they cannot afford nor keep is exposed.  Time to shut the door on Liberals and the Left.  Back to normalcy.

 

There is no less holiness at this time … than there was on the day the Red Sea parted …

Annie Dillard, in For the Time Being

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What if each day, everything you saw was sacred to you?  Yes, what if you saw it just as it actually is …  

Would your life not change radically and for the better?  Would you not see more, experience all, know that all is sacred and that you are surrounded by what is holy?

Would life not be all the more like heaven?  Would such a life not be far better and more beautiful and peaceful?  Would happiness and humility not be the ground of our existence – our natural state?  Would we not leave our worries and anxieties behind?  Leave our doubts?  Cease to be in conflict?  Have enemies?  Would we not all be friends and family – brothers and sisters?

How long we have lived falsely, without seeing.

Have we not lost the thing right in front of us?  Imagine what we have squandered and lost – all the endless gifts contained in each and every breath we breathe.

If we only saw … … … what is right before us … and all around us …

Time to see.

So see … what you have been given … and, in seeing, live; and, be for others, rejoice, know happiness, contentment and gratitude … know that heaven is here and not just “there.”

Shalom.

 

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