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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 Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

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.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “… Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Matt 4: 3-4

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This passage conveys the first exchange between Jesus and Satan after Jesus had concluded a 40 day fast alone in the desert.

Satan, as evil does, chose to exploit Jesus by addressing His hunger.  That is, giving Him something good and essential when he was vulnerable.  But Jesus knew that something more than bread was necessary for life, namely – that man’s spiritual needs were foremost.

This is a wisdom lesson that must be at the center of your orientation to the world. If it is so, you will not fall prey to Marxist foolishness or let a government make you a “dependent” who is consigned to idleness, and subservience.   In a word, you will not be trapped in the Democrat notion of life-long dependency … a state that empowers them at grave detriment to you. Indeed, your God-given dignity demands more of you, and more from you.

In simple terms: you are God’s child and valuable as such. It follows that you can work and know the achievement and pride of human toil, honest work and caring for your family.

Dependency, in contrast, is no substitute for fulfillment of a life that God has given to you for good use.

A significant fact often left out in this Biblical account is this: at the time Jesus lived, the Roman Empire distributed bread to promote goodwill for Caesar and his empire.  Free bread advanced his interests but did not satisfy the deepest needs of people to know their value, know their Creator and find strength, confidence, independence and solace in a relationship with God, their Creator.

Does this story not serve us today in our culture, in how we are governed, and how we understand our humanity and God’s divinity?

You know the answer.

Is it any wonder that bread figures into the Passover meal and our communion offering of bread and wine?  Again, the question answers itself.

Attend to government and political parties the way Jesus attended to Satan.  Do not forfeit what God has made in you.  Live in dignity and honor.  Expect excellence from yourself.

Shalom.

Comment – This blog initially focused on living faith in contemporary secular culture.  Out of necessity and because politics and the nation state have become a dominant aspects of living exclusionary secular, it has morphed into a blog on the faith, politics, culture and the individual.  Please share Spirlaw with those who may be interested in the content of this rather unusual blog. Thank you.

The world is wilder in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright.  We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

Annie Dillard, in Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek

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Do you recall the story in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 7) where the Roman Centurion hears of Jesus and sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come to “save the life of his slave?”

Well, the elders approach Jesus and urge him to come to the Centurion to save the slave and they argue that the Centurion deserves this because “he loves our nation, and he built the synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them to the Centurion’s home but when he was a short distance from the home, the Centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof … I did not consider myself worthy to come to you; but say the word and let my servant be healed.”

This amazed Jesus and He said, ” … not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

When the messengers returned to the Centurion’s home they found the slave restored to good health.

The Centurion heard of Jesus.  To hear is to listen, to receive.  Do you listen?  Do you receive?

How did he hear so well, listen so intently?  How did he have this predicate to receive?

The Centurion knew the world was wild in all directions.  Knowing this, he heard and he listened and he received.  He knew it to be bitter and dangerous, extravagant and bright. In this, he heard, and listened, and received; he experienced life.  This led him to Christ.  It is our predicate as it was his.

How about you?  Do you listen?  Hear?  Receive?  Experience?  Seek Christ? Rely on Him? Grow in humility and in reverence, gratitude, belief, become whole, certain, fearless?

Make hay, or make whoopee?  Raise tomatoes, or raise Lazarus?

It’s on you, Friend.

Shalom.

Tomorrow: Exploring the Centurion.

Merry Christmas!!!

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Above the Mist

Today I have just begun to see vaguely the mountain tops above the mist in the valleys below.

Today I realized I have learned how to write

because I have learned how to live.

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God bless you one and all, and all the little children – and this Great Land.

Shalom.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

Thomas Jefferson

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We are a federal republic, with autonomous states.  We are not intended to be a central government with all power and authority vested in it.

Power and authority rests closer to the citizen in the autonomous states.  The locality and its citizens matter – all problems are in some real way local, where people reside.

When each state and locality tackles its problems, it creates a fertile template for innovation and “best practices,” is more efficient, less wasteful and less costly.

Indeed, all power not expressly devolved to the federal apparatus is reserved to the states and all power given to either the states or the federal apparatus rest with the sovereigns (the lawful American citizen) as they derive that sovereignty from the grant and grace of God.

This is who we are.  This is our heritage.

But alas the Democrat Party of the Left takes a different view and so doing changes who we are, and reduces the citizen to serf (insignificant pawns) in favor of securing power and a lifetime career of controlling others – those once free Americans.

From the Great Depression to the present we have got it wrong, and power has been transferred to the federal apparatus while states and citizens have been ever more captive to the workings of centralized power.  Yes, a stage ripe for tyranny and a loss of liberty.

Most bad government comes from too much government.

A strong nation requires a strong and virtuous people: a citizenry that cares more about equal responsibility than equal rights, who rely on a sovereign God and live in that reality.

Anything less does not live in faith, within a balanced budget or a free enterprise system, with the sanctity of marriage, family, children and the unborn, with respect for private property and one another, in community with civil discourse; nor does it live by the maxim that each generation is responsible for discharging the debt it has accumulated.

We face today not just foreign threat and domestic infiltration – but a fundamental question of who we are, and who we will be?

Will we live as we were constructed to live by our Founders, or will we radically change who we are?

Will God be welcomed and at the center of our understanding of our citizenship and our responsibilities?

Will we be, individually and collectively, neighbors who watch out for one another?

Strong and honest?  Courageous?  Humble?  Thankful?  Hard working? Responsible?

Grateful to be alive and be an American?  Willing to stand up to those who wish our demise, our captivity, our destruction?

Think about it.  We are at a crossroads.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God.

Patrick Henry

Shalom.

It is not true that man is condemned to … a realm wherein causality, struggle for existence, will to power, libido sexualis and craving for prestige are the only springs of action.  He is involved in relations which run beyond that realm.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel, in Man is Not Alone

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Despite what we might think, secular culture or Marxism and its variants might say: we are not consigned to a life in a material cell.

At some point each of us feels the urge to be utterly disinterested in the limits of mortal existence, the day-to-day event, the mundane, and the tedious obligations of mortal dialogue and structure.

Yes, we seek more.

‘Tis not enough to be fixed on prosperity nor to be conscious of only the expedient and how others give their very existence, values and souls to either.

Rabbi Herschel reminds us “In every soul there lives incognito a coercion to love, to forget oneself, to be independent of vested interests.”

Yes, against the lesser backdrops we seek meaning, purpose and transcendence. We wish by the very way in which we are made to seek more than mortality, to know love eternal – unconquerable, all-liberating.  Yes, we seek an end we do not fully comprehend – a reality far superior to ideology and what is earth-bound and merely physical.

The great among us leave wealth, the favor of the privileged, power, celebrity and popularity in favor of life “loyal to moral and religious principle.”  They alone lead, for they alone are wise and courageous.

That greatness is available to you.  Might you live thus?

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you/ and the we may have peace, joy/ and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Notre Dame Freshman, 2002-3

Shalom.

… the important thing about Christ was not his exterior appearance but his inner character.  So too, the important thing about events is not how they happened but what they mean.

Alan Watts, in Behold the Spirit

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In the Middle Ages men and women had space for mythology, and symbol was important to them – they derived meaning from symbol, they had contact with spiritual reality.

To many, the Catholic Mass was the center of their spiritual existence – they flourished in the mystery of the Mass, and the symbols enlivened them, spoke to their depth of understanding and furnished wisdom and stability.

For those in the Middle Ages life housed the incarnational mystery; they lived a mystical reality.

Alas, that is not our condition today and we suffer as a consequence.

There is a cost in losing the Catholic mythos and mystical theology.  We are a blander people for this.  We are shallow where we once had depth.  We understand less.

You see this manifest in many ways: we elevate sexual conduct above a loving experience – such a great loss to the human being, human experience and human existence.  Likewise, few are wise and a lack of wisdom means failed leadership – public foolishness, the reign of arrogant stupidity wrapped in an elite university education and professional training.

Yes, we encounter fewer fully developed people – with social savvy and emotional range, fewer selfless people, fewer people with the confidence to serve, be as a pure servant with the capacity to live beyond material existence.

We are, as well, a lonelier people, a people far less secure and congenial.

We are less well-contacted with others, engaged in intimate transactions, lasting friendships and healthy families.

Reason, rationalism, material existence and humanism separated us from the larger picture, the wider and deeper experience of being a human being. Meaning has been if not lost at least misplaced – and we face this reality: ex nihilo nihil fit – one cannot find meaning out of meaninglessness.  Yes, crisis follows and it has.

All moments provide opportunity; and, the circumstances of the present moment provide us with a clear call to return to the mystery, to live at a greater depth, to immerse ourselves in the symbols that speak to us of God and the fullness of the human person.

Alas, to turn a deft ear to all the secular nonsense.

Shalom.

I have found Demetrius like a jewel, Mine own and not mine own.

William Shakespeare

Dedicated to Sam Doran and his family as they bury Sam’s father today.

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Wisdom is all around us – given to us in words and song, in nature, in art and architecture, in religious narratives, ancient stories in all cultures, in careful view of deeds and misdeeds, in scenes and experiences large and small.  Yet, we miss it or, worse yet, out of ignorance and sickness may destroy it.

Above are the words of Helena in Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Night’s Dream. Words of wisdom about love.

Love – “mine own and not mine own.”  A most peculiar and magical possession, held against time.  What?  Held against time.

Love exists as possessed and not possessed.  Does one not love he or she who has died?  Is that not a love still possessed.  Do you not encourage your beloved children to go forth and find their way and do so as a generous act of love when we might otherwise wish them near?  Is this not love possessed and possessed again when not possessed?

Love that is “mine own and not mine own” is love eternal, an introduction to the mystery we live in life, and to God, to the journey to God – a God who is Love.

Love that is “mine own and not mine own” liberates me and those we love – frees them and us to live fully in the Mystery, without fear and full of sweet memories and the certainty of what is eternal and far beyond the cage of mortality with all its grasping, fear, anxiety and dread of loss.

Think of love.  Explore it.  Grow in it.  Meet what is often missed.

Shalom.

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