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The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on a surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

Douglas Adams, in The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

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Trump meets Putin and people are going bonkers.  The President didn’t hold Vladimir’s feet to the fire, didn’t get after him for causing the defeat of Dear Hillary.  Disaster – the end of the world nears!!!  Oh, my!

Well let’s think about our recent Presidents and maybe we’ll get some useful perspective.

John Kennedy was an unconstrained philanderer.  Lyndon Johnson ran the war in Vietnam from the White House and when political winds turned against him he “cut and ran.”  The strangely asocial Richard Nixon put his hands to a burglary of the Democrat Party HQ.  Peanut farmer Jimmy Carter managed the use of the White House tennis courts and lasted one term.  Bill Clinton was a sexual predator with a taste for fast and loose money.  George W. Bush was the most incurious President in my lifetime.  Barack “We are the People We have been waiting for” Obama was an unmitigated failure.  So I ask, what do we expect of Presidents?  And, do they not reflect us and our culture?

Perspective people, perspective.

As to Trump and Putin.  Does anyone expect a man to fall in-line with his opponents’ mantra when he has been the subject of concerted efforts of corrupted bureaucrats-turned-partisan-politicos to slander him and run him from office using false dossiers with Russian fingerprints on them, and skip over the lawlessness he has been subjected to with the relentless onslaughts from the media, Leftists and socialist Democrats intent on dissolving the nation’s borders, the Constitution, and the Republic so they might rule over all?

Smarten-up.  Trump is a guy from Queens – from the streets where real people live.  Like them, he knows when others throw punches and he ain’t about giving in or giving up.  His fellow citizens are attacking him, the Presidency, our electoral system, and the Nation.  They are a greater threat to the country than Putin at the present time.

You fight one fight at a time – it’s street smarts.  There was a significant subtext to his meeting with Putin and that’s that.  In not yielding to his power-craven Leftist opponents he is doing us all a favor.

Perspective.  One, we ain’t that cool.  Two, lots of dirty hands in public life today.  Three, our culture has been badly misshaped by the Left.  Four, the history of recent Presidents has few saints and some blank sheets.  Would that it be not be so. 

Shalom.

 

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The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another.  It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing and fostering effective selfexpression and communication.  Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners as well as a matter of good health.  (Emphasis added.)

P. M. Forni, in Choosing Civility

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One reason I have come to the open space of the country is this: the disordered nature of people is, at the least, disquieting and often so distasteful that one risks being sucked into useless conflict with the immature and uninformed.

Unpleasant conversations with fools has never been a favorite pastime with me.

Yet, today the public discourse is so poor that I have turned away from anything but a glancing pass over the “news of the day.”

We have hit a new low with female Senators swearing in public, and entertainment celebrities crudely voicing in tantum-like manner their profanity laden dislike of party A or policy B – as if anyone really cares what they have to say.

Not-so-astonishingly, the cable and network “news” people, like lemmings, fall right into line – mimicking the ill-bred and poorly educated actions and views of the foul-mouthed celebrity.  Of course, the crass conduct of Leftist advocates makes matters all the worse as to civil discourse.

As to the latter point, the destructive objectives of the Leftist advocates is patently clear when they “game” the system by offering this or that feigned outrage simply to get their own way.  No civil discourse there.  It is all the aim for power.  And that means always – an idiotic and destructive policy turn in which faith in democracy and civil discussion are both lost.  Indeed we are at that juncture now.  

I am often surprised that those who push an ideological agenda have not met with forceful response.  Knowing human nature, I suspect that relative passivity may not sustain.

These are unpleasant times.  Civility is lost, and democracy and community are on the wane.  We listen to those we ought to ignore.

Shalom.

Trust – Trust is a funny thing.  There are not a whole lot of people in your life that you can trust for the entire length of your life.  More people jump ship than stay the course.  That’s just people.  Most seek an advantage or cannot sustain the exactness required for a trusted friendship.

A long term trust-relationship requires complete honesty and that means honest self-reflection and continual growth.  There are more people who cannot meet the terms of a trusted relationship than can meet those terms.  Cherish the trusted relationships you have … do not expect to have a great number of them.  Indeed, does this not underscore the place of a faith narrative, God as we have come to know the idea of God?  When all else fails – you and God can do wonderful things together.  Imagine me painting or writing – is that not God and me in a state of trust?

 

 

A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced because they love the servitude.

Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World

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This describes the trajectory of the Liberal Left in America from FDR to the last administration … and it surely describes the vocal activists on the Left and their lemmings in elected office, in the judiciary, in education, the media, and those running government agencies, departments and bureaus.

We have witnessed what Huxley identified.

The tension today is between totalitarians and those who embrace freedom and welcome individual responsibility.  This is a serious division.

Religion figures into this rather substantially as those who favor freedom and individual responsibility arise from a religious ethos that stands for both freedom and individual responsibility.  Yes, one side sees the person as a sacred being and the other sees such notions as an obstacle to power and control.  The former thinks of others as substantive and the latter thinks of them as a bridge to power.

We meet today a very fundamental conflict.  One can be concerned by this: those in significant places in the society have been led to an ideology that does not value the propositions and beliefs which our Founders cherished so.

Shalom.

Democrats and Children – Astonishing.  The Democrats have a new-found passion for children.  They cannot stand to see children at the border separated from their parents as law may require (in some cases).  Yet, as to unborn children they have no emotions, it seems, otherwise abortion would be rare now that conception is widely and easily available.  Their “sincerity” did not motivate the Senators and Congressmen to do a darn thing to correct the situation.  You see they prefer government by the fiat of Presidential Executive Order – that way they never have to be on record as to the hard issues we face and they can sit on their fannies, count their money, and complain endlessly.  Lest you see this clearly, this is the totalitarianism which Huxley saw coming.

Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works

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Jung knew the importance of seeing the spiritual content of life and life’s events.  We are not so readily inclined.  He derived meaning and understanding from this.  Our inability to do so, leaves us confused and, in the worse cases, destructive of self and others.

It seems to me this is where we are today.  Likewise we have few (if any) commentators who are capable of seeing and discussing the spiritual and psychological elements of our present moment and its fractious nature.

This circumstance makes me think of Mary and Joseph and their newborn child’s flight into Egypt.

You may recall that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and urged him to flee lest Herod kill the child.  This itself has meaningful value as a simple story.

What we see in this is the fear felt by the ruling authority vested in a rigid status quo – the fear that “change” other than what they offer or demand, however aluminating otherwise, may be costly to their status quo.

Thinking of today – this may well explain the daily hostility we see aimed at President Trump by media, comfortable elites and his political adversaries.  His presence disturbs their psychological comfort, their status, the world as they have come to know it.

It is always wise to ask deeper questions when one sees reactions at that are overt, persistent and hostile.  Such reactions signal that a fundamental cord has been struck, i.e. something important is afoot.

Likewise when ones sees those sworn to serve lawfully acting in a lawless manner – one confirms again – this is a significant moment.  I think, in particular, of the challenges to the U.S. Constitution – another grave sign that fundamental stakes are at play.  And I think of legal guardians acting unlawfully.

More to the point, when the Constitution is easily attacked its opponents tell us they do not realize that this document is as much a spiritual document as it is a political document.

Indeed, seeing only with political eyes produces destructive consequences for the Constitution is by all measure a document that reflects the soul and identity of a free people and their nation.  Damaging it, damages our individual and collective self – our identity and relationship to one another as one people united and free.

So often we miss the spiritual and psychological aspects of life in one’s historical moment.  Such a mistake is always costly and wrought with conflict that could be avoided if we just recalled our larger context – namely, the narratives of our heritage and what they tell us.

Shalom.

 

We make ourselves real by telling the truth.  Man can hardly forget that he needs to know the truth, for the instinct to know is too strong in us to be destroyed.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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The Left has come to a very significant hurdle, a road block.  What is it?  The public at large does not trust or respect it.  Their day is about to be up.

After five decades they have pushed their ideology too far.  They are now seen as untruthful – governed by an ideology that breeds hostility, creates conflict and division.  They show their arrogance.  They think for too much of themselves.  Their support is dwindling.

In most ironic way, a fellow like Donald Trump exposes their untruthfulness, their sense of entitlement.  He provokes their wrath and deceit.

Yes, this time will be remembered as “the period of fake news exposed.”  Hollywood has been seen for what it is – the land of the bacchanal and excess.  The media, the press and academia has shown their narrow-mindedness, and extreme partisanship – the truth “be damned.”

People at the top of Washington power centers in the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Justice, the judiciary, the Congress and the intelligence agencies show their distance from the public they serve and their willingness to play “loose and fast” with the law and truth.

You see Tom Merton is absolutely correct – “the instinct to know the truth is too strong in us to be destroyed.”  Why is that?  Because God is Truth, Christ is the living exemplar of Truth; and, those who deny the truth of the matter are destined to failure – and their failure and rejection is near.  Good bye, “fakers.”

Make no mistake those in the Republican Party who have made peace with their Leftist colleagues who savaged truth will also come to a reckoning – the voters response.

Life is funny.  The unusual happens.  Reckoning comes in ways one hardly can predict.  To me it always seems that God reigns and God has a real sense of humor salted with irony.  Trump is exhibit “A.”  The godless Left “resistance” mimics a collective nervous breakdown.  Life has its moments and teaches Truth can never be extinguished.

A Dear Friend of mine (a guy I grew up with in Boston) asked me (with a laugh in his voice) early on in the last presidential campaign cycle: “What do you think of this guy Trump?”  Knowing he and I grew up among some very strange, strong and plainly spoken people, I replied: “I never knew he went to high school with us!”  He laughed.  We both were saying this: This guy is more like the people we know than any of the privileged “Blue Suits” we see far too often.  He saw this guy’s appeal and alerted me to something that was afoot with this unusual character in the public square.

Good bye, Blue Suits, eggheads and all.  Hello, Truth.  The times they are a-changing.

Shalom.

 

 

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflection in our own acts.  We must find our real selves … in our own soul … the principle of all our acts.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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This from a wonderful essay entitled “Being and Doing” in Merton’s No Man is an Island.

His words are very useful in a mass communication, digital and social media culture where images and acts are often center stage and narcissism is a real problem (as reflected in its prominence in therapy and as daily exhibited in the news and on TV).

As to our present climate public acts are so a part of others need for attention.

In the present era we seem to be besieged by those who need to sustain a public image at all costs.  We seem to have a culture that accommodates projecting images as the normal form of being while passing completely on the critical important core of one’s self – the soul.

As Merton noted in his 1950’s essay – “I need not see myself, I merely need to be myself.”

Yes, Merton gives us in eleven words the heart of health, meaning and contentment – not our image (and surely not our narcissistic actions and proclamations) but our eternal soul.

How smart he was.  Imagine now how we are surrounded by narcissism and self-promotion.  How many say nothing of value and cannot maintain day-to-day coherence.

How public figures have convenient double standards that say subliminally: I have no guide but ideology invoked and applied to bolster my personal preference.

It is, I think, fair to say – we have many lemmings, but few Mertons.  Therein is our illness, agitation, confusion, calamity, untruths, treacherous deeds and great unhappiness.

Shalom.

 

 

Without a life of the spirit our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.  The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible reality – not as we imagine it, but as it really is.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I am sure if you look about you see as many do that people have become difficult, coarse and quite narcissistic – self-centered.  Likewise you see, like others, hostility and incoherence – just look at the news and the unimaginable crimes – a woman kills her infant child and hides the body, a mass shooting of innocents by a troubled young man.

There are, alarmingly, many signs of disorder – individuals whose behavior and utterances indicate they are “lost,” disoriented, without sensible purpose or direction.  Just look at addictions and the vast spread of drug use – broken families, illegitimate births, killing unborn children in the womb, violent crime.

These things do not arise all by themselves.  They are a manifestation of a life without any spiritual context, that is a life of illusion, life without substance – or meaning … and aimless, a life that is destructive of self and others.

In such circumstances reality, sanity, health, stability, relationships, contentment, and nation are lost to us.

You look and see the problems growing and see in others behavior that gives you caution, concern and seeks that you keep your distance and be on guard?  All of this is attributed to but one thing: No God.

All of course is made worse by the ignorance of those in media who are as lost as anyone, and by politicians on the Left who manifest some of the same traits and many ideas that are void of wisdom – but do us harm, and further chaos.  The Left discounts God and the essential nature of spiritual life and all that it propounds — –  their work and words are simply the product of their self-deception and their narcissism.

God identifies the order of things.  Deny this and life and nations disintegrate rather rapidly.  Better return to the beginning.

Shalom.

Often our mistakes provided the greatest lessons, humbled us, and enabled us to grow and become better.  For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential …

Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, in Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

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These two combat-experienced Navy Seal officers have something important to share with us and they do in their co-authored book Extreme Ownership.

As to the above: there is a direct relationship between humility and leadership and between both humility and leadership and the recognition that we are created as part of something far greater than us – something that exceeds our personal interests.

Yes, we are part of the human family and called into life by a loving God and into an existence that tells a far greater story than our own life might ever tell.  We are, at best, part of the story and, when at our most faithful best, likely a sign or message or source of encouragement for others (some of whom may merely observe us as from afar).

And the authors give us this: mistakes often provide the greatest lessons – but to learn from mistakes one must “own” those mistakes (hence, the book title “Extreme Ownership”).

Easier to say this than to see it done in the world at large.  Just look at the present F.B.I., the Justice Department, the intelligence services and those who are in positions of authority or the last Presidential administration – an awful lot of “covering” one’s tracks – dodging responsibility for things done, said or not said.  The “take away” lesson to be learned and adhered to: there is NO leadership without humility and the capacity to own what went wrong.  

Indeed, you know those in authority are not leaders when truth is not told and gross failures are never discussed or “owned.”  I think of Benghazi, for example – a shameful mess that cost good men their lives.

If humility is essential to leadership then God is too for the human person is born with neither humility nor patience but that life and a belief in God makes it so.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

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