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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.

 

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There is for all of mankind but one felicity – a gracious God.

Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 

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Well, there you go.  Written in 75 A.D.  If only we had the wisdom of Flavius Josephus!  But alas it is absent.

Nowhere in public discourse is there much thought of God, of life in the Spirit, of our historical record or wisdom of the many centuries.

No, in its place – talking heads, the chattering class of ill bred, poorly schooled, ideologues incapable of holding two contradicting ideas in their head at the same time.  And yet the most astonishing thing is this: their words pass as worthy of our attention. Who is the greater fool there?

RETREAT while you can.  Take safety in wisdom and reality.

Imagine a God of felicity – a gracious and loving God.  Such a novel thought today in this deflated culture flooded with harmful utterances and ideas.

In contrast, I can offer this.  I have never doubted that there is a God and that this God had an interest in me and all others.  That is not to say that I acted without sin, nor that I did not attempt a life of self-reliance, a life in which I acted as if it all depended on me, my efforts.  Yes, we are foolish for a time until we prove ourselves less than we think we are.

There is nothing, by the way, like tragedy and injustice, chaos whose actions abound to your loss and pain to bring you to God … and, in due time, to Flavius Josephus and his insight.

In retrospect, I can now express daily sincere gratitude for the grace to have always known there is a loving and merciful God – and that God, not man, reigns over mortal and eternal life.

After years of life, I know the valuable gift of humility, in knowing that I am His subject … and you are too.  Likewise, I know in that reality, that relationship – the priceless value of intimacy … God’s love of me, of us and our divine opportunity to love others as God loves each of us.

Imagine if we knew what Flavius Josephus knew, we would not live in fear and think in that fear of the world as governed by race, or gender, or class, or force, or power, or money, or intellect, or sex, or status, or nonsensical ideologies.

No, on the contrary – tension and anxiety would dissipate; we would know certainty, live in confidence and gratitude, know peace and fellowship.

Best of all – if we were as Flavius Josephus – there would be no place for those who spread words of hate, who divide and speak so carelessly, so ignorantly.

That, Dear Friends, is a step toward Eden and you have been given the opportunity to step toward that Paradise.  Alas, seize it … or suffer more, and continue to hurt yourself and others until you die and face this question: Why did you not take the path I gave you?

God help us all.

Shalom.

God, let the words of Flavius Josephus rest in our heart and animate our every thought and action in the confidence of your gracious and loving dominion.

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts … perhaps the fear of a loss of power.

Seneca

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Seneca has something here.  We have seen people who manage power very nicely with calm and grace – but they are a distinct minority in time.  God’s deeds, of course, are masterfully offered and employed.  His power is perfectly expressed.  Not so in man’s conduct.

If you want to understand Washington today, think of Seneca.

Corruption here today in Washington is rooted in the fear of the loss of power. Yes, this is the entrenched Washington elite – both parties, the bureaucracy and mass media, in the entertainment community, et al; they display a fear a loss of power, status, etc.  They liked “being liked.”

Those who have power and influence simply refuse to release their comfortable grip on status, influence – power.  They profit from the status quo and those who would disturb it are not welcome.

Let’s face it.  People are self-interested.  The greater the grip – the more prominent the fear.

One of the the hardest things to do is to acquire the experience of others. We live in our own experience; our fears and insecurities frequently govern – and more so among the godless.

Truth: the acquisition of another’s experience necessitates a growth in the Spirit, a faith which denominates one’s humility and God’s supremacy – reduces mortal existence to a passing moment and eternity to its rightful place.  In this God-centered view, fear is vanquished and power need not corrupt.  We are made, you see, for humility, not fear, for eternity not mortality.

If you want to understand corruption.  Know this: it is present today.  It is present among the powerful and privileged and when you see it you are seeing (as Seneca notes) fear.  Yes, fear begets corruption.  And, yes, those who are in relationship with God do not fear … and those who are not so inclined show fear.  The latter is inevitable.

Think about how the powerful see and name “the basket of deplorables” and how they react when they are not favored, and how they react when a person is elected who challenges them: yes, the person and his or her supporters are attacked, and attacked, and attacked.

The fear of the loss of power is a mighty destructive force.  Yet, our strength and identity has nothing to do with status, or power, wealth or privilege.

Seneca – very cool.

Shalom.

 

 

… sanity is spiritual.  It simply is.

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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Liberals are fearful, frightened.  Having neither faith nor having sufficiently deeply examined themselves and the demonstrative nature of being human, they are in great need of reassurance.  Hence, they are “snowflakes” demanding special zones of “protection” and they relish being victims and asserting all sorts of privileges they associate with victimhood.  Yes, in such “status” they are reassured … at the expense of others – no matter the cost to other, self or society.

Fearful as they are, they seek control.  They do so by making errant ideas their idols and forcing others to conform to their fear-driven orientation.

They root in politics – local, state and national.  In this regard they create and encode fanciful notions: homophobia emerges, fascism assigned to others, genders “multiply” from two to many, “transgenderism” becomes a “human right,” marriage “re-defined” and child sacrifice legalized.

In the extreme, immaturity emerges.  One thinks of the liberal state legislators who fled the state of Wisconsin to avoid conceding power to their fairly elected opposition, or of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s obstructionist tactics intended to thwart America’s legislative business and peaceful governance, or of the bureaucracies use of “leaks” to scuttle an American Presidency.

Liberals were once better than this.  Alas, they are no more what they once were.

In life we must choose – self alone, or self in the Spirit.  That is: life with or life without God.  The liberals mistake – life without God, life without Spirit.  In this, as May notes, sanity is lost.

It profits one not at all to maintain discourse with those who forfeit sanity.  The mere semblance of dialogue with them destroys one’s own sanity – individual or nation.

We live in strange times.

Shalom.

 

… you wicked and lazy slave … Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness, in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth …”

Mt 25: 26, 30

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… “wicked,” “lazy,” “worthless” …

These are powerful words to use and to aim at another person.  However these are the words of condemnation that Jesus used in telling the story of the master who left for a journey and gave to each of his three servants money (talents) to hold in his absence.

As you may recall, these are the words the master aimed at one of his three servants when he returned and found that the servant never used the money positively, but rather buried it in the ground for fear of losing it.

Much to the master’s displeasure, he had not used what the master gave him.

This is a story about slothfulness – about not using what you have been given. It raises a serious question for us (individually) and for our culture today.  Indeed, it is a measure wisely applied to those who profess to lead us today.

What is slothfulness?  In scripture we see it is rebellion.  The slothful do not serve God in their life.  No, in not serving God they register no gratitude to God for what they have been given (a life in being, for one thing).  Nor do they show obedience to God.  They shun the works God has called them to in this life.  They “do their own thing.”

Sloth is also wastefulness.  These people (and there are many) never use their spiritual gifts to glorify God.  They waste their time, gifts, and life on things that do not further God’s intention.

The slothful are selfish. They serve, not others, but their own desires.  They are lazy, as well, – preferring things that are easy to things that are hard.  These are the people who avoid work, depend wholly on others, take the low road or sit and do nothing, or in working never fully commit themselves to excellence.  These are the people who, while doing little, believe that they know better than others.

In thinking about this parable, I could not help but think about the Democrat Party of the Left here in the United States.  They are chock full of people who never held a private job in their life.  I think of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, and Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer, a Harvard Law School grad, never practiced law nor held a job in private industry after his schooling.  Rather as a young man with the gift of a “good education” he entered politics and never left.  He is one of those people who think, without any instructive life experience in the rough and tumble of daily work, that he knows better (always) than anyone else.  These are the slothful people who are perpetually foolish, trivial, loud, self-serving, and wrong. The Democrat Party of the Left attracts these people.  And in building dependents and the Nanny State, they breed slothfulness.

Think about it.  Does in make any sense for you to depend on the judgement of those with no life experience to speak of?  Would it not be better to cast them out to a dark place much as the master in the parable did to the lazy and wicked servant full of inertia and fear?  Have people such as these not done enough damage?

Shalom.

The problem of living … begins in the relation to our own selves, in handling our physiological and emotional functions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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Rabbi Heschel makes a very important point: to live well – to live in a healthy and stable and contented manner – we must confront ourselves.  The task of living is personal.  Yes, even sacred – especially sacred.

Called into being, it is best to know why you are here and how you are called to be – not in a vocational sense, but rather in the fullest manner of human existence, which is in essence spiritual existence.

When you think about the absolute importance of this task of intimate knowing of self (and in the doing – knowing of God our Creator and Initiator) you might look around and ask: if we are to know our self, how is it that so many focus on knowing themselves by being part of a group?  A political group?  A herd of one sort or another?

Are we just feminists?  Homosexuals?  Democrats?  Socialists?

Are these identities not just superficial?  Are they not reductionist?

Do they not say so much less about us than what we might actually and accurately say about our self by simply saying: I am a human being, a spiritual being?

American author Midge Decter commenting on feminism offered that freedom created the contemporary “women’s movement” insofar as the broad range of freedom and opportunity in American society “frightens … [today’s woman] and disorients her and burdens her terribly … (and that) the movement offers her the … escape contained in the idea that she is not free at all.”  [Emphasis added.] (See: “You’re On Your Own, Baby,”  The Women’s Quarterly, Winter 1996, p. 4.)

If you think Ms. Decker is wrong, ask yourself this simple question: Is it not the case that the disordered people you know frequently have ignored knowing fully who they are in favor of some concocted notion of a life image that they alone design – a false and unexamined identity, frequently a “herd” identity?

Is not our age one in which people avoid the hard work of critical and honest self-examination in favor of group identity?  Do we not from this see the reduction and destruction in “identity politics” and all the idiotic and childish folly and division that such hollow, plastic, much-to-do-about nothing “identity” discourse brings us?

Neglecting the task of knowing self has its great costs – and they are personal, interpersonal, familial, and societal.  We seem to live in age of foolish and sick distraction.

Think about it.

Shalom.

Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worse in one another.

Fulton J. Sheen

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Yes, without God we are a wreck, create chaos, division and hostility.  Without God, things are destroyed.  Marriage.  Community.  Peace.  A person.  Even a Nation.

Wonder where we are?  Why we are unhappy?  Fearful?  Antagonistic?  Petty? Foolish? Irritating?  Confused?  Divided?  No God.  That’s why.

Listen to the discussion about the election and the state of life in the U.S.  Does anyone – commentators or candidates – mention God?  The place of belief in community?  In a people who claim a nationhood?  You know the answer; and, it is, “No.”

And the scribes and intellectuals – what wisdom do they offer on the importance of God to the human person, to community, to a nation, to America, Western Civilization?  The answer, of course, is “None.”

We are lost.  Without meaning and purpose. Without direction.

Have you heard one insightful word from the nominal figure in the White House in eight years?  Again, “No.”  Rather we hear only ideological gibberish from the Left and those transfixed on doctrines of race, gender, class, etc.  With each word they destroy and subtract from the sum of human knowledge.  What a mess.

It is the language and experience of God, not government, that we need.  Yes, shrink government and grow God is the prescription for the sickness that is killing us.

We are in need of fixing and the fixing is as to the Spirit, as to each of us and who we really are in being human, capable of love of others rather than, and self-sacrifice, honor and virtue.  But, no one speaks of this so we might know and heal. In the absence – disorder and inevitable collapse.

Father, bring us back to You …

Shalom.

Postscript – Dear Mr. Putin – Can you please put me on the list of those receiving top secret emails disclosing our national security secrets?  I understand that Chelsea Clinton, Anthony Weiner and others have these emails on their computers.  I don’t want to be the only one “out of the loop.”

To be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both these imply a certain interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity, a sense of one’s own reality and of one’s ability to give oneself to society – or to refuse that gift. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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For man to be man – whole, healthy and at peace – he and she must know solitude, the ability to be alone and know he can be in solitude.  For only in solitude is one alone with God, alone with self and soul, alone in intimate quiet with others – past and present, living and deceased.

Yes, there is a monk in all of us, and in some a hermit. We are, you see, contemplative.

Yet, as society grows more intrusive, totalitarian, more governed by rote and simple-minded ideology, more homogenized by mass communication – man is devalued, degraded and the experience of being fully human fades from existence.

In such circumstances we are invaded, the soul assaulted – the sacred inalienable is destroyed and sickness is the norm.  Yes in these conditions we are estranged from our self and one another – left insecure, fearful, anxious, uncertain, unhappy, resentful and dependent.  Yes, today culture deprives us of our humanity.

Listen to Merton:

When men are … submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by … forces, they lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their capacity for self-determination.

In such a society, solitude is a casualty.  Such a society is held together not by love but by violence and the treat of punishment by those claiming “authority.”

Yes, solitude must be sought in such a society for man and freedom are lost without it, so to: family, community, friendship, faith and meaning.

In solitude one learns to listen and discovers hope.  Yes, solitude is as required as water, air, and food is required.  For we are spiritual in nature and human in form and solitude is an existential need, a necessity of personal autonomy, individual and collective health and flourishing, and required for a free people in a responsible and secure self-governing nation.

We combat the present assault by being spiritual and seeking solitude.  Freedom and the human being vanish if solitude ceases.  We must savor and protect our spiritual existence or we shall cease to be human and free.

Shalom.

Note – A man with a gun was shot by Secret Service personnel near the White House yesterday.  Makes me wonder how it is that the President and those in the White House warrant greater protection than was afforded the men at Benghazi when they were under attack.

Everything to do with religion, everything it is and asserts, touches the human soul …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Letters, Volume 1: 1906-1950

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Do you wonder how it is that we are lost today?  Adrift.  Confused.  Unhappy. Disoriented. Discontented.

We live more so a soulless existence, days without meaning – in a quandary. We are bound by what is physical and estranged from ourselves, from reality, from what we are: spiritual beings.  And we are misled by those who discount and exile religion, faith, our faith narratives.

If there is one critical source of our discontent it is a loss of faith, and hence a loss of self, of soul.

Yes, many in command are soulless.  In this, we are quite ignorant of human existence. We simply have neglected what we should know from a comprehensive knowledge of human history, its reflection in our nation’s story, and the vital role faith plays in sustaining healthy, insightful, congenial, wise people and cultures.

Jung knew that our psyche corresponded to what we know as divine, the divine images we find in our faith narratives throughout time.

Jung, in writing about archetypes and the collective unconscious, noted: ” … man is not so much interested in objective explanations of the obvious, but he has an imperative need – to assimilate all outer experience to inner, psychic events.”

Yes, the soul matters – living at depth is required if sickness and self-destruction is to be avoided.

Life and all that we experience goes to the soul, to the interior where it has lasting meaning, provides depth of life and understanding, links us with others, allows us to “read” situations better, remain calm when all about us are frantic and fragmented.

And where now is the soulful leader?  The soulful discussion?  Where is the certainty we ought to know?  The confidence we need?  The wise voice?

Anyone who has lost the historical symbols and cannot be satisfied with its substitutes is certainly in a very difficult position today: before him there yawns the void, and he turns away from it in horror.  What is worse, the vacuum gets filled with absurd political and social ideas, which all are distinguished by their spiritual bleakness.  But he cannot get along with these pedantic dogmatisms … (Emphasis added.)

Carl Jung, M.D. in Collected Works

Does this not explain the foolishness of Bernie Sanders, the ranting and superficiality of Mr. Trump?  The utter confusion and dishonesty of Mrs. Clinton? The disengagement and estrangement of the President?  The inertia of elected officials and institutions?  The insanity of those who wish to deconstruct historic and indispensable institutions – from our representative democracy, to marriage and family?

Is it not time to salvage what works, what gives us meaning and houses wisdom and fellowship and healthy relationships, civic order, leadership, confidence, kindness, sanity?

Shalom.

 

In my darker moments I have a bad hunch.  The fraying of the bonds that keep us together, the anomie of … popular culture … the rising radicalism of the politically correct … the increase demand of all levels of government for the money of the people … these things may come together at some point in our lifetimes …

Peggy Noonan, in The Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2010

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Yes, these things and a few more have finally come together and we see them in the American voter today.

The fact is that during the last six decades America, led by the Left, has been deconstructed.  The bonds have more than frayed.

The Party of perpetual “change” and government expansion has done us wrong, drastically wrong and people feel the dislocation and see the chaos created by the Left in all quarters: domestic and international, in the economy, in security affairs, in the family, the schools, in their communities, in neighborhoods, and in their government – especially in the federal government.

Think about it.  In the last six decades we have seen the government grow, become more intrusive and far less competent. We have legalized abortion, use tax revenues to fund organizations that sell the body parts of unborn children. We have “re-defined” marriage, scoffed at religion and those who are religious. We have seen the growth of out-of-wedlock births and swelled the rolls of those dependent on government and the tax dollars of a dwindling number of working Americans.

We have seen the growth of special pleading groups that seek something from a government which rarely denies any demand.  We have seen the Civil Rights movement quickly become a quota system and create greater race consciousness that has morphed into Black racism for too many among us.  We have made police officers our enemy.

We have seen the President act, not as the equal of the judiciary and the legislature, but rather as a monarch who chafes if anyone questions his “authority.”

We have created a sea of “entitlements” which we are unlikely to be able to meet.  Our military has been shrunk as the world has become more dangerous. We have upset the stability in the Middle East and reduced our leadership role dramatically.

We have grown the welfare state, ballooned our national debt, and dampened the economy.  We have managed the decline of our education system and reduced secondary and college education to political and cultural indoctrination.

We have allowed the IRS to become political, have had a Secretary of State whose misdeeds did Edward Snowden-like harm to our national security, and have a Commander-in-Chief who appears to have been missing when we were attacked in Benghazi.

Yes, deconstruction is frightening.

Indeed, we see that particularly in immigration.  Common Americans know a nation that cannot control its borders and bestows benefits and privileges on those who enter illegally or without proper scrutiny is a country on the verge of disintegration.

Yes, the stakes are quite high.  Yes, things have come together in our lifetime.

Shalom.

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