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Dedicated to Buddy and My Childhood Friends – Great People and Great Friends

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3:36

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Imagine if your life actually comes down to belief … and to performance based on belief, that it comes down to excellence in what you do, to virtue, and effort and sacrifice.

Yes, imagine life is a zero-sum game.  That if you fail to excel, fail to exert yourself – to try your very best to do things right, learn from mistakes, take responsibility for miscues, live honorably, befriend others, sacrifice when necessary, put others first, lead and encourage, learn your craft and do it well … imagine what eternity might be for you, if you fail to live as you optimally can. Imagine how unsatisfying your end days might be if you failed to enter the fray and give it what you had.

Imagine as a professed Christian what your burden may be if having professed belief in Christ as the Son of God you lived as it that was not so … as if your actions say “these are only words, but I do my own thing.”

U.S. Navy Seal Lief Babib writes in Extreme Leadership (a book he wrote with fellow Seal officer Jocko Willink) that “Seal training (and really, throughout a Seal’s career) very evolution was a competition – a race, a fight, a contest.”

You know I have often said that life in poverty, in public housing, with a Mom and no Dad or siblings, among tough hardcore people on the edge of survival was a state of combat – day after day with no margin of error.  I was, by the way, surrounded by friends in the same situation and they have been among the best people, strongest people and best friends I have had in my life … Brothers and Sisters to me, my family to this day.

Yes, necessity creates need for toughness and determination; and, whether people were consciously connected to this passage in the Gospel of John or not, these people lived a de facto zero sum game – gave life their very best, reached out to support and love one another, showed the courage to face life, accept its hardships and challenges and keep living as honorably as they could.

Now that is “seeing life” and experiencing the gift of life.  I contend that living life as it presents is in its very nature an act of faith, a life of courage. 

My friends are not snowflakes, weepers, cry-babies.  They do not look for government to do for them.  They do not seek handouts, make excuses, complain and whine.

They live and they laugh.  They raise good kids. Work hard.  Help others. Get up when they are knocked down. Learn from life, grow in it  – get wiser, gain understanding – excel as human beings.

They don’t need “selfies” to know who they are or remember where they have been. Celebrities hold no sway for them, but good people do.

They don’t count themselves “special.”  They are the polar opposite of Johnny Depp and Madonna.  They don’t need an audience and long ago realized entertainers are as jugglers – and jugglers come and go … while the best of us sustain to the end.

Shalom.

 

Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

… My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

Lk 1:46-47

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I grew up in Boston.  Politics is a significant part of that City and the life of its people.  Yet, I never experienced the hostility that I see among the Democrat Left.

Now what I see is hostility and antagonism, division and angry expressions.

Think about it.  If you disagree with the Left you are a bigot, a Nazi, “deplorable,” immoral, unfit for pubic office.

Yes, the Left declares White men are evil.  The police are a target to be hunted, and killed. Leftists stir up racial conflict and Black Racism is publicly displayed. Lawlessness is the character of public protest.  Character assassination is employed against those who do not agree with Leftist positions.  Distrust and division is promoted.

What I see that is missing is this: respect for the other person, civil discourse, kindness, fellowship sustained among those whose views differ one from another.

What might repair this divide?  Faith, religion – relationship with God, God with a hallowed place in our culture and the Nation.

What difference might that make?

If we had a view such as Mary conveyed in the above quote we would restore balance in our private and public life.

Imagine if our highest desire were to seek and celebrate God in this life and our community.  Would we not see others as friends?  Would we not seek to further friendship, share concern for the welfare of others, be more welcoming, optimistic – be a peacemaker not a divider and antagonist?

Want to live in peace and restore civility?  Put yourself in the position that Mary occupied and live from there.  Peace will follow … life will be easier and more congenial – – – we will be One again.

Shalom.

… the first Christian hermits abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.

Thomas Merton, in The Wisdom of the Desert

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Why does a man live alone in nature, removed from the population and the city?

‘Tis a useful question.

As for the 4th century men who did so we can say, as Merton does, that they sought their salvation, saw its individual characteristic and their own responsibility for its solicitation.

Indeed, they saw that the pagan society that they knew offered little to further their salvation.  Rather, they concluded that it impeded access to it.

These men would not let the ways and values of the pagan culture destroy them, co-opt them.

They took no comfort in the Cross becoming part of the presiding temporal powers.  This, itself, is particularly interesting.  They seemed to know that civil matters where not spiritual in nature, that to The Divine alone belongs the primacy.

Think for a moment: these men saw Christian life as spiritual, as “extramundane” – as simply existing in the Mystical Body of Christ … and they saw that their responsibility was to seek life in Christ.

These men stood for the idea that man was personally responsible for his life and what it said of him and of God.  

Contrast that with today – when so many are captured by the common denominators of secular culture, its herd, its folly, its untruth and its destructive, conflictive and unsatisfying ways.

These men did not wish to be ruled by the decadence.  They did not see themselves, mind you, as superior to others but rather only more intent on living in accord with their faith. They lived socially in aid of one another and strangers as governed by their faith and “the charismatic authority of wisdom, experience and love.”  They “sought … their own true self, in Christ.”

Today I live on a ridge looking out on rolling pastures, forest, and mountains. Minutes ago the sun rose in the East over mountain peaks announcing once again that God reigns eternally …

Each sunrise – unique in its colors and hues – raises up God the Creator … enkindles my gratitude.

In my solitude, quiet makes the music so much sweeter and evocative.  In the solitude, I think of God in a daily silence, and meet the Desert Fathers.  In solitude, I have good company.

Shalom.

A Post Today for Parents and Children

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Our consciousness does not create itself.  It wells up from unknown depths … it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep …

Carl Jung, M.D., in The Psychology of Eastern Meditation

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Jung would say that we are not born tabula rasa – with a clean state.  No, his views is that each person’s brain has a history of human experience and within each person is a psyche that will seek expression, fulfillment, realization of personhood.

Jung would say that each of us is born with “a high complexity” and “existing determinants” that persist throughout each life.  Yes, in many ways we play out our particular being within this divine design.

The fact that we share this excursion seems, it appears to me, to promise our completeness provided we accept life, its lessons and – listen to the cues we observe within – evolve as we are uniquely called to life within this divine design which is itself made to insure uniqueness and commonality.

It follows, in my mind, that relationships with others, intimacy, marriage, love, family, fellowship, friendship, community and nation flow from this magnificent divine design.

What a gift is this life and its living.

Shalom.

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …

Jn 3:16

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This is the starting point of Christian life – that God, out of pure love of us, came to us incarnate so we would cease to be alienated from the source and meaning of life – mortal and eternal.

Indeed, in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ we are offered this: all the things we do that divide us from God, and one another, can be overcome if we but believe and act on our beliefs.

In this, Christianity transforms us, makes us brothers and sisters and places our relationship with Him above all other things.  Such is the solidarity that God has created with us and the dignity His love of us proclaims for each person.  In this we are raised up, exalted as His children.

God’s love of us transfigures us, identifies our worth and calls us into our full being.  In this comes confidence, courage, tranquility, forgiveness, honor, humility, fellowship, unity, love of others.

This gift gives the primacy to God.  Yes, it is not man and government, nor commerce, nor power, nor politics, nor control, nor wealth, nor status, nor celebrity, nor possessions, nor gender, nor race, nor title, nor sexuality that comes first – but God and our identity as His children and our call to serve others, not self, as God serves us – that is who and why we are.

This is the foundation of a nation that possesses a Christian heritage.  This is a way of being that offers fellowship, community, family, unity – a nation of One – an indivisible nation, a family of many as One.

That said, where are the voices to reprimand the violent protestors?  Why no unifying voice from Mrs. Clinton?  Why the divisive intent of Ms. Stein’s recount?

Are we not in need of unification?  Cooperation?  Do we not face foreign adversity?  Domestic challenges?  The rise of hostile entities in the world?  Unsustainable deficits?  Unemployed people?  A sea of idle dependents?

Exalted by God’s great act of love, the silence of some and the divisiveness of others stands without condemnation.  What does God imagine in this?

Shalom.

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving 

To … prove God’s existence is a very different thing from … thanking Him.

Soren Kierkegaard, in The Present Age

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I call you to give thanks for what you have been given.  I do so by sharing some of the things that I will give thanks for today:

+ for a Loving God and the grace I have been given to believe in God since I was a very small child

+ for God’s moral order and the strength and humility to adhere to it

+ for a loving family and a Mother who saved my life at the cost of her own desires and needs

+ for those who loved me and those I have been graced to love

+ for the struggles and challenges in life that have always taught be more than any education could ever have

+ for having been born in America and for our ancestors who built this great land of freedom and opportunity

+ for the men and women in the armed forces who have protected us at great cost to themselves and still do today

+ for my son and my daughter-in-law and my two grandchildren – Jack and Fiona

+ for my health and the health of friends and loved ones

+ for friends – so many, and so undeserved

+ for this beautiful land

+ for the recent election and the opportunity to repair the destruction we have brought upon ourselves by errant ideology, excessive pride in self, selfishness and unnecessary hostility toward others

+ for Christ and his sacrifice for us, all who have lived and yet will come to life.

God bless you all.  Rejoice today … and be glad.

Shalom.

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