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The happiness on this side was like an announcement of the other side.  I realized that this was an undeserved gift and I could not grasp by what grace it was bestowed on me.

Czeslaw Milosz

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These are the poet’s words near the end of his life.  He had acquired perspective, saw the whole and stopped lamenting of things past.  We should all be so inclined.

Have you ever noticed how the least bright or least development among us fester in fear, announce in the strongest terms that we must pursue this or that “adjustment,” policy, point of view lest the planet/the universe/all humankind perish?

It is always the youngest or shallowest among us – some (but this is no longer a prerequisite) with their undergraduate degree and access to a TV camera or a radio audience ring the alarm of shear doom and name those they deem responsible for the impending catastrophe.

The inexperienced always panic and shout of the sky falling.  Yet, those who live fully and examine life along the way fear less – such is the harvest of years well and properly lived.

In the wise is faith – yes, the resignation that there is a God and time proceeds as God wills that it might.  Likewise, the wise see the humor of it all, and dismiss much of the pomp and circumstance.  Their eyes see the suffering of others, the unnecessary worry many without faith carry.  The wise go quietly into the dusk.  They sleep well when the night falls.  They do not bow to mortals.  They keep their words and thought with God and love those who love also.  Their voice turns soft as light dims.

It is Christmas time – live with the wisdom it brings … hear the words of ancient choirs sung once again so we might hear and grow in wisdom – yes, acquire the settled heart of Christmas – proof  of eternal reality.

Shalom.

 

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Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

Welcome Back after Thanksgiving.  I hope you had a delightful respite.

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Out of suffering has emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.  (Emphasis added.)

Kahlil Gibran

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Suffering is and has been a part of human existence since the very beginning of human existence.  Yes, we are vulnerable.  Long ago we might have learned that people actually betray one another.

Indeed, you may assume that those who hunker down in an effort to avoid suffering will impose suffering on others.  

Forget climate change.  Far more daily destruction comes at the hands of those who foolishly will to avoid suffering.

They are the ones who cannot absorb the experiences of life and the experience of other people or come to know themselves as they are and can be.  They are the family despots, the ones who exclude – keep secrets and demand total loyalty from others while giving little of themselves (having so little to give to begin).

The fear and avoidance of suffering has a faithlessness to it.

Strange isn’t it to fear suffering.  In this, one denies reality, life and the wisdom of Gibran words.

If you wish to listen to others who have something to say listen to the one who has suffered and grown because of it.  He or she gains wisdom, character and courage for they have accepted the divine gift of life as it is and have, consequently, gained peace and relationship with God.

Shalom.

 

Forget the suffering you cause others.  Forget the suffering others caused you,  The waters run and run, springs sparkle and are done, you walk the earth you are forgetting.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Forget

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Age roots in the body.  We remain, at best, of sound mind with insight from the years and the experience they bring.  For the fortunate ones joy remains, so too sight, touch, taste, sensuality, humor, gumption and guts.  But our voice softens as humility and gratitude take form – the soft voice – evidence of reverence.  Nearing home at last.

How blessed we are to age with soul in tact and heart alive with love and kindness – and long past worry and uncertainty.

There is a calm sense in being an elder for we have the range of sight unknown to the young – no matter the status, title, education, office … One must run the course to know and see.  Those ones see deeper, are content with quiet, live well among the lengthening shadows for by faith they are the sons and daughters of twilight … darkness holds no fear for them.

The aging ones who have lived well have fought the necessary fights – having fallen, they have gotten up.  In this they come to a point of common suffering and its fruit: compassion.

There is quiet and peace within when the light begins to fade.  Winter prepares for sleep.

Shalom.

The eye of the nihilist is unfaithful to his memories: it allows them to drop or to lose their leaves … And what he does not do for himself, he does not do for the whole past of mankind.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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The last several days I have been off my stride in posting a daily blog.  How can this be?

I was visiting Notre Dame – a place of faith where friends meet and memories are preserved; and in the preservation, the person and the past are, like Christ, alive and eternal.

This trip held time for friends and conversations of substance – human contact, embrace, careful listening, honest discourse, laughter, fellowship, remembrance and renewal.

Notre Dame is a place where daily life and faith meet – and faith absorbs its visitors.

There strangers greet each other as familiar neighbors – smiles and warm exchanges are the coin of the realm.

Standing in the very back of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus for the last Mass on Sunday past, I looked out on a church with every seat taken and many happily standing for worship – made all the more absorbed in faith by the beauty of the majestic structure, the stained glass made by French Nuns a century ago, the choir voices, the exquisite ritual of the ageless Mass – the privilege of Communion.  Many as One.

Standing there – seeing so many people focused on the reality of their faith – on Christ their Redeemer, Mary their Mother, God their Father, I was deeply moved by the truth and beauty, and hope and certainty that my eyes took in.

In faith there are no nihilists and memories are never forgotten nor misplaced.

It is faith alone that keeps us One.

This, Dear Friends, is for you.  Take heed, lost no more.  Live in faith – certainty and contentment follow – no storm or doubt may claim us then.

Shalom.

 

The object of contemplation is the whole of human reality, which, subjected to perpetual necessities of love and death, is not subjected, however, to the right of perpetual recurrence.

Czeslaw Milosz

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I wonder why people listen to me.  Perhaps it is because I think about the world, human experience in our shared point in time and cumulative history.

That is to say I have made a habit of taking experience in, wondering about what I see, felt, observed and what others encountered and how life speaks to them.

Yes, I spend time in contemplation – hence time with history, incident, my heart and soul, the individual and the aggregate, religious narrative, psychology, story, good writers, others, being alone, in the quiet, listening, in my faith, with my Self, in prayer, consciously with God.

In all of this I think: what do I see?  What is happening?  What registers on the faces, in the actions and in the hearts of others?  What gives authentic joy – makes one blissful … and brings us to sorrow?  What evidence is there of love and its absence?  Contentment and dis-ease?  Stability and disorder?  Tenderness and hostility?  Truth and its opposite?

I have been like this all my life – since a small child … because life presented incidents that questioned my existence, as loved ones died early – and far too often.

Contemplation gave some depth and range – immersed me in life’s events and living itself.  Yes, gave me immersion and perspective that regularly produced laughter and tears, grew understanding and the ability to diminish fear and shrink death to something manageable.

In thinking about life my voice had words that others received.  People actually listened to me and often laughed a legitimate laughter of joy at something I said – as the product of my experience and contemplation.

I was once a child, then young – full of strength enough to collide with life and history’s moments.  In age my heart has grown, laughter multiplied, friends became plentiful, gratitude ever present, love lives inside and leaps between me and others.

In a contemplative life there is neither regret nor blackened heart, eternity is real and close at hand.  Oddly, people listen – receive me and my words.

Shalom.

Whacked-Out.  Want to see how lost we are?  Look at the boorish behavior of the political elites and entertainment “celebrities,” and female teachers engaging sexually with their under-aged students.

Is this not evidence enough that the “sexual revolution” has worn itself out?

No more pampering of the boorish louts and misguided under-developed – children still when well past thirty.  Enough of them and their childish disposition, action and ideas.  They only succeed in making life more chaotic.

Back to normative behavior, people!

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

Shalom.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Mt 5:8

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John Dunne in The Circle Dance of Time tells of a student who asks a rabbi why it is that men no longer see the face of God.

The rabbi replies that men no longer “stoop so low” – meaning that they no longer subordinate themselves to a superior reality … that our preference for our own autonomy keeps us from knowing God and ironical finding and knowing ourself.

It follows that not knowing self nor God staves off contentment, peace and loving self or another.

If you do not know yourself nor God can you know another or have peace?  Indeed the question arises – Without knowing self or God, can you love at all?  Can you find peace?  Tranquility in mortal existence?

One can justifiably ask: does our autonomy – the priority we place on our rights under the law of man in a culture that disdains faith, relationship with God … does this state of being, this consciousness leave us discontented, quarrelsome, far less than we are made to be … does this emphasis on autonomy insure our unhappiness? 

The loss of God in a mass communication culture where legal rights are extolled accentuates our unhappiness – particularly when all manner of uninformed, sparsely educated voices, ignorant and hostile and divisive ones dominate public discourse?

If we are offered the “pursuit of happiness” in our nation, are we not wiser still to subordinate ourselves to the superior reality of God?  Is it not obvious that our access to happiness requires that we bend to a superior reality.

One nation under God – – – yes or no?

If you wish to understand the chaos, division and hostility that abounds daily in this land – think about what is written here today.

From mass media to politics and mindless homicides – we show our distance from health and happiness.  This need not be.

Shalom.

 

 

When it comes to faith, “The heart has reasons that reason does not know,” Pascal says.  Those reasons … can become known to the mind … and insight and understanding is what happens when reasons of the heart are known to the mind.

John S. Dunne, in The Circle Dance of Time

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So begins John Dunne’s concise recitation of the human’s natural drive to find life’s meaning.  Yes, the human being has a natural spiritual drive to find beyond the limits of the mind and reason the transcendent nature of this life and the next.

Our present age prompts me to ask: have we diminished this natural quest?  Are we further from fulfillment of our human promise?  Are we less than we are made to be?  Are our addictions, homicides, suicides, broken marriages and disordered lives, mistreatment of unborn children, fractured families, sexual assaults and gross sexual disorientations not an indication that we are less than whole humans in a culture that is far less than well?

Recently Sean Parker, the former President of Facebook, talked publically about how he and others who initially developed Facebook knew that they were developing a product which would be “addictive” to its users – especially to children who used it.  Indeed, we see now suicides among its teens users, use of Facebook to “bully” and attack and exile others.  And, no one held to account for the damage caused, lives lost.

Aside for asking us to what degree is technology harmful as it is presently developed and used … yet, another question emerges and it is this:  Have we lost the capacity to know the reasons of the heart that exceed reason and the mind?  Could we even understand John Dunne or Pascal?

Asking these two questions asks this: do we know the endless stories recorded throughout human history which illuminate the meaning and purpose of this life and beyond?  Do we understand who man is?  Who woman is?  Who the child is?  What a marriage is?  What a family is?  What a community is?  Honor?  Virtue?  Fellowship?  Courage?  Selfless sacrifice is?  Do we experience The Divine?  Imagine eternal existence?

Once we did.  Now one wonders if anyone understands that there is a relationship between Buddha’s victory over the Bo Tree and his consequential view of transcendent reality?  Understand Dante’s vision of the Triune God in the Celestial Rose?  Or know of the foretelling of Christ’s crucifixion in the ancient German story of the pagan Othin who hung on a tree and in this penetrated darkness?

My point?  This: have we lost our way to the reasons of the heart? 

Does a nation of addictive tweeters lose God and in losing God lose the substance of Self … become reduced to mere mortal adjuncts to small machines which capture us and dull life, and impair much of what is human and hence transcendent?

Think about this.  Don’t go gently into that costly dark night.

Shalom.

Postscript – Many among us state this view: technology makes life more complicated not less so.  The machines load more and more functions onto smaller and smaller platforms sold at higher and higher prices.  A phone for $1000.00 dollars.  Progress?  I think not.

I have come to two firm observations.  One, just as the computer did NOT deliver a “paperless” office, technology has not made life easier – rather it has captured the human being and stole his and her time.  Two, life in the country among the cows beats being captured by machines … and it ain’t even close.

The object of life is surely not to have others take your time from you.

 

Margaret adored her father, but (he) moved (out-of-state) when Margaret and her sister were small and started a second family.  Margaret recalled she rarely saw her father again … Margaret knew little of her mother …

Excerpt from a Funeral Program (Nov. 5, 2017)

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I spoke at a Memorial Service for a woman I knew who died recently at age 97.  She was a petite and pretty lady.  I knew her, her husband (who predeceased her), her two daughters and members of her extended family.

Margaret kept a nice home in a nice neighborhood, married an engineer who was successful.  She was cordial to me and others.  She had a social life, sang in a Church choir, worked at an herb shop, won awards for floral decoration, did some painting, belonged to the Women’s Club – always looked nice.

Seems like an exemplary life, a good and comfortable life.  Yet, she carried in her entire life the deep injury of loss of her mother and her father.  She was, in practical effect, abandoned – betrayed by her father and her mother at the very young age of two – sent to live with her grandmother in a crowded home where she was largely forgotten – but for her use as a servant girl.

The critical loss of one’s parents is devastating, disorienting – it left in Margaret a longing to be cared for, accepted, loved as a child is loved by her mother or her father.

Psychologist tell us to have a relatively normal and healthy life a child needs one “good enough parent.”  Margaret had no such parent.

This loss was a constant in her life; she always needed others to do for her.  This was her pathology.

No sooner had I met Margaret that she called to ask me if I might drive her car less than two blocks from her home to fill her automobile with gas.  Without hesitation I said, “No, Margaret – but you have a nice day.”   You see I knew from her daughter that she inevitably tried to usurp others into serving her in all manner of things, at any time – day or night – once compromised more and more expectations were placed on you,  yet nothing but the love of God could fill her void … only those who offered this love could assuage her hurt.  For her part she had to seek God, not the perpetual dependence on others as a source of affirmation.

We fail miserably when the government pursues policies that strip fathers from the family and leave women idle and alone to raise children by themselves.  Yet, that is the policy of the government and the Left.  Yes, we insure dependents and the illness it manifests so readily in the human person.  As for the Black family and poor Whites – government policy enslaves them and generates inter-generational disorder.  This need not be.

It is about time we acknowledged the devastating injury to the family caused by the government, Leftist champions of the Nanny State, and advanced by the law, legislators, the judiciary, a sundry “talking heads,” lightweight celebrities and media types, and odd ball academics.  Let’s be plain – villages do not raise a family – parents do!

Getting families right is a fundamental measure of the health and strength of a society.  Getting them wrong creates lasting injury and disorder and is astonishingly costly in human and monetary terms.  Failing families weaken a nation and make all easy prey.

The truth of the matter is this: that government which governs least governs best … because people prosper when they face their individual responsibilities and grow in experience, faith, maturity, confidence, pride and wisdom as a result.

We ought to be ashamed of what we foster – of the broken families we create.

Shalom.

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