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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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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.

 

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.

 

Evil is in opposition to life … it has … to do with killing … Evil is also that which kills spirit.

Rollo May, M.D., in People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil

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Killing the Spirit.

Dr. May goes on to discuss Erich Fromm’s thought that necrophilia “includes the desire of certain people to control others – to make them controllable, to foster dependence, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictably and originality, to keep them in line.”  (Emphasis added.)  May reminds us that those who wish such control “avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into automatons, robbing them of their humanity.” (Emphasis added.)

Such is evil.  Some among us seem intent on control.  Are hostile to individual freedom, constitutionally protected rights, federalism, religion and religious liberty, God and religious belief.  It appears at time that others oppose the ideals this nation has long promoted and the nation itself – its existence.

Can a political movement be evil?  We know the answer is “yes.”  We saw it in Nazi Germany, in Mao’s China,  Fidel’s Cuba, in Lenin’s reign and Stalin’s too.  We saw it in Cambodia.  See it in North Korea and elsewhere.

Anywhere that the Spirit is denied or subverted there is evil.  And mind you, the more a person submits to sin the more evil emerges in its many iterations – its horror and depravity.

Jesus said, “I come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”  (Jn 10:10)

Shalom.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, if there is one good that I hope comes of this it is: that we might see one another as individuals, people, God’s children, sacred beings, friends, neighbors and show one another respect, kindness, warmth, regard.

“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer … Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life …”

Rev 2:10

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There are probably very few who read and think about the Book of Revelations.  Yet, the above is an excerpt written to one of several Christian communities at the beginning of the Book which assesses the life and faith of early Believers.

Reading these messages reminds me of our plight today.

We are undergoing a very fundamental assault on our culture.  This challenge presents us with the prospects that the place of religious liberty under the U.S. Constitution will be diminished.  Yes, religion is now suspect in the United States.

Make no mistake, the Marxist Left advances secular existence and, as Marx, Lenin and Stalin did, counts religion as its enemy – especially Christianity.

So what is my point?  Who among you thinks each day that you are living in a moment when Christ and Christianity is under serious siege?

Who among you realizes the fundamental challenge we face?  That our nation and its culture may be altered in a very significant way?  That morality may fade out of view?  That expediency may govern and politics and power will control all thinking, being itself?  That when faith is lost, we are profoundly altered – impaired, reduced.

Reading the initial words in The Book of Revelations might be worth your time.  Is its message, a message to us today?

Shalom.

Courage is the first of all human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.

Aristotle

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A nation and its people puts its character on display in how it handles acts of courage … what it says about them … whether it reveres such acts or does not.

Benghazi affords such measure.  Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton and their aides failed the nation badly in their handling of Benghazi.  They left Americans exposed to a vicious attack without offering any support.  They left lives at risk and people died.  To this day we do not know where the former President was during that attack or what he did.  And, of course, Ms. Clinton and people surrounding her were not forthcoming as to the origin of the attacks on our diplomatic post in Libya.

The acts of courage exhibited by those who stood outnumbered and fought to save others from death is both awe-inspiring and beyond apt description.  These were men of great courage and character.

These were men with wives and small children.  Fearless men.  Able, strong and healthy men.  Men willing to die for others, willing to defend this country in far away places.

I grew up among these men, and women just like them.  My life and the lives of those around me brought us challenges on a daily basis.  Responding to adversity was a common and repetitive assignment.  Money and work were hard to come by – but such conditions breed great friendships, and a strong community.  To this day I have friends from childhood – yes, friends I have now known for more than sixty years.  More than friends, they are my brothers and sisters – my family.   I am walking long distance with several whose spouses or children are dying from cancer.  They would die for me, and I would die for them.  I know the brave men of Benghazi.  I grew up with these men.  They are my best friends whose ranks are increased by others I have come to know through military service, college, law school and practice, through my Catholic life and in places I have lived – from city to countryside.

It is said that character is higher than intellect.  I would agree. Thinking and education are lesser functions.  Living with character and courage is always superior for those who live with character and courage understand life and love and fellowship … they do not value their own existence more than the lives of others.  They die but once and live fully each day.

As we approach September 11th, the date of the Benghazi attack – we best remember our brave men and their colleagues who died so others might live … and we had best vow that we will never again leave Americans unprotected and alone to die without our help.

Character and courage deserve far better from us – and those who hold leadership positions cannot ever again fail us as they did.

Shalom.

 

“Man cannot stand a meaningless life.”

Carl Jung, M.D.

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Psychiatrist Carl Jung spoke these simple and decisive words at the end of a famous BBC interview.  Simple and important.  Lost to us in our mass communication, a-religious, secularized and highly-politicized culture.

Yes, we have distanced ourselves from God and lost any significant depth of understanding of our Self, the meaning of human existence and our many telltale habits and expressions of need – both healthy and unhealthy.

We are strangers to spiritual existence and stand without meaning.  Hence, we often manifest confusion, violence, hostility, anger, addictions and self-destructive behavior … even individual and collective insanity.

Yes, we have abandoned the wisdom compiled over centuries.

Who among us reads and employs the classics in literature to navigate from day-to-day, crisis to crisis?  Which of those who would lead us have any depth of understanding of human history?  Case in point – Venezuela leeches toward totalitarian communism and repression of faith and freedom and no American politician or public commentator mentions The Monroe Doctrine which for years has been our claim to peace and freedom in the hemisphere.  Frankly, with all the faux education and the abject failure in places like Harvard and Yale, we are dumber and far less insightful.

And, what about moral philosophy?  Noted scholars have documented the loss of moral reasoning and our moral development in our own time.  Who among us focuses national attention on this?  Yet, destructive immoral conduct abounds with more on the way (if one listens to the mobs and academics and their demands and misguided notions).

So where does Dr. Jung say meaning comes from? Simple: meaning comes through the unequivocal affirmation of the Self – through each person’s individuation, each person’s honest soul-searching quest for wholeness.

Forget the Leftist mob with its rote chants, costume dress, and acts of violence. Forget politics as a means to individuation, meaning, wholeness and one’s True Self.  Meaning and wholeness require that each person engage their journey personally because each is a sacred being with meaning, and all journeys to meaning are by definition about one thing: man’s relation to The Infinite.

By the way, chanting some nonsensical hateful mantra is a clear sign that one is way off course – lost, far from wholeness.  Ditto most political pursuits.

Mind you, the value of the American constitutional federal representative democracy is this: it enshrines and (when properly honored) insures each individual lawful citizen the pursuit of their sacred journey to full development and the realization of meaning – and neither the mob nor central government can deny this quest.

Indeed our nation’s constitutional structure is designed for our spiritual, psychological and material welfare. Yet, many falter – wishing others provide them material benefits while they ignore their own opportunity and obligation to journey to fullness, meaning, and maturity.

Truth is we were never intended to be a cradle to grave welfare state but that FDR, LBJ and Democrats, with moderate Republican assistance, made this so.

The quest for individual wholeness, uniquely the center of the American political structure, is ultimately a spiritual quest.  Indeed, the mobs and ideologies that would destroy what we have get given are intent on our spiritual death – in favor of meaninglessness and totalitarian rule.  There, of course, is no health, no soul, no wholeness, no freedom, no meaning in such an existence.  So says Jung – and he is right.

Afterall, who among us wants to live in a time when the wisdom of the Ages is destroyed? Only those who are most lost and most mistaken.  Pay heed.

Shalom.

Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

A Chipper Morning to Ya’ !

… and hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 5: 28-29

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Eternal life or judgment?  That is what is at stake.  Yes, at stake for you.

In the Doge in Venice is a painting by Henri met de Bles.  It is a painting depicting hell.  It is entitled Hell and it is riveting.  It captures the horror of death for those who have not chosen good deeds, denied life and are, consequently, consigned to judgment at death.

We live in a cosmopolitan culture.  We think of ourselves as “too cool” for such propositions as heaven and hell.  Our foolish and deceptive regard for self leads us astray.  Little do we recognize the evil deeds we embrace, things we do because we have lost track of heaven and hell – lived distantly from the Divine, from our soul and Creation.  Education hath become mis-education, gadgets deadly distractions, affluence and status grand intoxicants.

A case in point: today we litigate matters of religious freedom.  There are those among us who seek to silence religion, to privatize it and constrict its expression only to worship.

I give an example.  The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission in which the state of Colorado seeks to compel a baker to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.  The baker objects because he holds religious beliefs that are at odds with same-sex marriage.  The issue is important and simple to state: Does the state’s action violate the baker’s rights to free speech and free exercise of religion as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?

This case invokes Jn 5: 28-29.  Masterpiece Cakeshop is a clash of good deeds vs. bad deeds.  The stakes: heaven or hell.  Nothing is more fundamental to the life of a faithful Believer.  Indeed, breath itself is inconsequential to those who believe when the cost of citizenship is the consignment to hell.  Yes, this case is about life, or death.

In American and Western Culture today we encounter godless groups who invade the body politic and the courts in efforts to make bad deeds good – and in doing so implicate Believers in their misdeeds and coerce Believers to abandon and renounce their faith.

In all of this equality disguises evil …

Shalom.

 

The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics.  Fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.  (Emphasis added.)

Samuel P . Huntington

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Do not Islam and Marxism display the truth of Professor Huntington’s remarks? Is our national security not, then, contingent upon America and the West knowing who they are and who their rivals are – what is the bedrock of our identity and their identity?

American and Western identity rests on our classical legacy, Christianity, the relationship between church and state, freedom of religious expression, free speech and free elections, the rule of law, civil society and the peaceful transition of political power, free market economics, and our historic national footprint.

When cultures clash, as they do now, one must have a very clear understanding of who one is.

When cultures clash radical variation in basic identity within a society is a luxury that cannot be readily accommodated.  That said, a political party like the Democrat Left whose identity is based on: perpetual radical social and economic “change,” the centralization of cradle to grave power in the federal government, creating conflict through “identity politics” which manufactures angry “victim classes” and enslaved government dependents – compromises the nation’s security.  A state of perpetual internal flux puts in question one’s basic identity – it distracts and creates unnecessary and dangerous discord.

Indeed this is where we are today: division within while those within and without who wish our defeat grow stronger and more intent on our destruction. 

To make matters worse, very few of those who occupy political office have any inkling of the challenge we face and the fundamental question it raises.  The question?  Who exactly are we?

In a clash of cultures not knowing who you are is fatal.

Shalom.

 

 

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