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The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

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… in every society where the distinction of ranks has been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; … one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system.  The former is … admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly … esteemed and adopted by … people of fashion.

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

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There you have it.  The common folks live by an austere morality – one that adheres to common understandings of what is good and reflects a system of belief, their faith.  In contrast, the elites live a lax system of morality – one in which they do what pleasures or advantages them regardless of the consequences to them, others or the society at large.

This is precisely the dynamic we experience here in the United States and the West today.  Make no mistake – lacking faith, the elites also lack courage – but selfishness they have in spades – always ready to assert their views no matter the obvious destruction they yield.  Indeed, they ruin life for the vast populace without a whimper or pause.  They lack conscience – although they “moralize” and relentlessly hurl acquisitions like “racists,” “sexists,” “bigot” etc. at those who dare to oppose their idiocy.

By elites, who do we mean?  Those at the top of the economic ladder (especially in social media and in the hi-tech industry), those in positions of political power, and those in academia, the celebrity class in Hollywood, in entertainment and media.

And those of the common weal?  The workers, homemakers, the middle class which the Left has abandoned completely – preferring to know them in passing as “a basket of deplorables.”

This is the cultural divide we now suffer.  At no time in American history has the fight between the “privileged” and the “common folk” been so apparent or meant so much.

In this collision much is at stake.  Our identity is at risk.  Will we be a sick or healthy society?  A fatherless-nation?  Will family survive?  Will drug addiction be common and accepted?  Will we continue “social engineering” to meet the fancy of sexual fetish, Marxist social theory and ideology, racial prejudice and gender division?  Will godlessness prevail over religious belief?  Will amorality win?

It is a daily source of both disgust and amazement that all the talk of our present problems hardly ever contains anything that resembles an informed comment.  One listens and thinks immediately: those talking have not paused for a moment to learn anything – they are, as a consequence, only adding to our collective ignorance when they open their mouths.  Yes, the elites are ill-formed, poorly educated and virtually always wrong.

If you wish to comprehend how an unsuspected individual like Donald Trump managed to get elected, you need only know this: the divide between the populace and the elites is real, it is close to its burning point and it has been forming from the 1960’s to the present.

People are knee deep in the horse-hockey of the Democrat Left and they don’t like it.

Finally, you might note that Adam Smith centuries ago laid out the basic conflict between the privileged and the populace – and we now see its explosive nature.  A little reading and real learning goes a long way in making sense of the chaos and insanity that visits us now.

Shalom.

Postscript – If you wonder why no one among the elites who violates law or ethical codes ever gets held responsible, the answer is simple.  Elites control the legal and political structure.  They protect one another.  All those not among the elites are dismissed out of hand, except that they are to be used for the advantage of elites.

Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

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The police officer on guard at the Parkland, Florida high school when the carnage was occurring stayed outside the building rather than respond to protect those under fire.

This is pathetic.

I have long said that faith proceeds courage.

We are a culture where all sorts of people make demands on others.  This particular iteration of selfishness is epidemic.  Forget claims of real harm – now one need only assert that group X or party Y is by race, or gender, or political disposition a prospective “offender.”  

Now children can make depends on others and expect that their demands will be met.  Forget the small delicacy that they know little to nothing and lack accumulated life experience or particular expertise.  Armed with anger and the strange notion that life is not to be hard, have its disappointments, tragedies, problems and losses – they want to be spared from what is and has been reality throughout human history.  Children being childish – and we are supposed to give them what they want!  Ridiculous.

The Left has given us a denial for faith and a whole lot of hatred of others and of this country.  They are selfish and want their way no matter the absurd or destructive demand they seek to impose.

Enough.

With the Left we now hunt police officers, ambush them.  We seem to have an officer a day killed.  Now we have some who will not come to the defense of the unarmed – but rather let the unarmed innocent die.

Six decades of Leftist sickness has given us decadence and decline.  We are now a nation where the young (those who traditionally served to defend this land) are too fat, too unhealthy, to addicted, to lawless, to uneducated to serve in the military.  This is what the Left gives us – the likes of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and many others who never held a job outside of a political office – freeloaders who complain but never put their hand to the plow, to an honest day’s work.  DecadenceWe have far more selfish loudmouths than selfless neighbors.

We have allowed the Left to squander away our freedom and our security, destroy the family and communities, co-opt our young people, destroy fundamental institutions and beliefs, divide this nation, exile God.

But for a small group of honorable, selfless men and women – we would stand naked, unarmed, cowardly and selfish – the prey of those without and within who wish our destruction.

Back to faith – or our end will come.  No more meeting the demands of those who talk and take but do nothing for others.

No more free rides and constant complaints from the talkers and the takers.

Let’s be absolutely clear that there is NO courage without faith … and institutions and government agencies, departments and bureaus DO NOT have courage – individual people do.  Faith and courage – your job!!!

Shalom.

$500 million to Protect Schools.  No problem – shift the federal annual give-way to Planned Parenthood from the abortionists to the task of protecting children who have escaped their clutches.

 

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.  (Emphasis added.)

Alexis de Tocqueville

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Open up The Wall Street Journal today and you’ll see stories about a government agency established in 2008 which has done virtually nothing … a story about how Iran was able to purchase American airplane parts through one of our NATO “allies” despite our embargo prohibiting such purchases, our collecting a handful of the 11 million illegal aliens in the country (many with felony histories) … details about how once again we focus on gun “control” and regulations regarding gun purchase in the wake of the Parkland murders without any thought that people, government failure and a sick culture are the problem.

Likewise you’ll find an opinion piece that laments the shape of American culture with focus on the decline of democracy in America without once mentioning our nation’s peculiar and extraordinary linkage of freedom and religion (that is, Christianity – to be specific) as the foundation to our representative democracy.

Yep, you got it!  We have lots of tongues wagging that is for sure.  But those speaking are unrestrained by the rigor to learn before vocalizing.  Their words are unstudied – they speak but do not know.  They make repeated mistakes.  One, they do not know of America’s unique and religiously inspired origin, nor do they understand that Christian morality is the essential ingredient of peaceful civic life in America’s representative democracy with its autonomous states and federal system.  Two, they ignore primary causes of our decline as found in the last five to six decades: radical egalitarianism, radical individualism, the adoption of the failed ideas of Marxism and socialism, destruction of the family, advancement of identity politics that divide us on fundamental fault lines of race, gender, sexual morality, ethnicity, class, ideology and the like.

The fact of the matter is quite simple.  Liberty and religion go together.  Deny faith and liberty is extinguished.  In their place – bigotry, hatred, division, hostility, vast ranks of intergenerational idled dependents, addictions, declining mortality, social chaos, institutional failure, corruption, abortion, sexual self-destruction – all tributes to nihilism.

Public voices would be well served by spending a few pennies to pick up a used copy of de Tocqueville’s two-volume Democracy in America …We’d all be well served if their mouths remained silent until they actually know who we were as Americans.

Shalom.

With Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Prayers.  Let us remember the men and women who selflessly respond everyday to dangerous circumstances in order to attend to, defend and rescue others notwithstanding the danger that is posed to themselves.

 

 

 

What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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I like the symmetry of this.  Our gift from God is being itself.  However our gift to God is in our being not just singularly but collectively.

What we become in reflected in each of us and in the culture in which we reside.  Just as we prosper in who we are, what we do, what we think, what we believe and how we order our life and time – so too is culture assessed in a similar manner.

As to culture today – we are not much of a gift to God.  Indeed, we live as if we reject this gift of being.

We have normalized all sorts of abhorrent behaviors.  We make violence lawful – think: killing children.  Yes, mothers engaged in child sacrifice.  Hideous.  Marriage is not honored as it once was – and families are in tatters.  Drug use is common, suicide and child abuse too.

Intimacy is scarce.  Vulgarity is not.

We care less about others and more about our self.  We have dumbed education down.  We have ideology but not belief.  One political party relies on division, Father Government and variants of destructive Marxism fantasies.  Envy and hatred are common.  Humility is rare.

What is one to do?  Separate yourself from godlessness.  Turn your back on it.  Close your ears to it.  Live independent of it.  Keep your distance from it.  Learn to live in silence, quiet, peace.  Learn your faith.  Recall its wisdom and employ its truth daily.  Speak softly of what is good.  Help those who come to you.  Be candid in describing what you see and the truth you know.  Make each breath count for what is good.  Stay close to God who brought you into being and ignore all those around you who have no God but themselves or some nonsensical idea or fetish.

A time for choosing what is good is here.  You are either a gift to God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

Washington Post.  The newspaper reports in a long article today that Nikolas Cruz was identified as a troubled child in his early school years.  The story reports that getting a child into the proper setting was a long and involved process that took years to accomplish.  Likewise, the newspaper article says that places in the right settings were fewer than needed for troubled children.  It also reports that Broward County had used many of the placements for youngsters who would have likely been referred for prosecution.  The paper suggests that some groups wanted to interrupt the “pipeline” from school to jail that beset certain ethnic groups.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Mt 5:8

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John Dunne in The Circle Dance of Time tells of a student who asks a rabbi why it is that men no longer see the face of God.

The rabbi replies that men no longer “stoop so low” – meaning that they no longer subordinate themselves to a superior reality … that our preference for our own autonomy keeps us from knowing God and ironical finding and knowing ourself.

It follows that not knowing self nor God staves off contentment, peace and loving self or another.

If you do not know yourself nor God can you know another or have peace?  Indeed the question arises – Without knowing self or God, can you love at all?  Can you find peace?  Tranquility in mortal existence?

One can justifiably ask: does our autonomy – the priority we place on our rights under the law of man in a culture that disdains faith, relationship with God … does this state of being, this consciousness leave us discontented, quarrelsome, far less than we are made to be … does this emphasis on autonomy insure our unhappiness? 

The loss of God in a mass communication culture where legal rights are extolled accentuates our unhappiness – particularly when all manner of uninformed, sparsely educated voices, ignorant and hostile and divisive ones dominate public discourse?

If we are offered the “pursuit of happiness” in our nation, are we not wiser still to subordinate ourselves to the superior reality of God?  Is it not obvious that our access to happiness requires that we bend to a superior reality.

One nation under God – – – yes or no?

If you wish to understand the chaos, division and hostility that abounds daily in this land – think about what is written here today.

From mass media to politics and mindless homicides – we show our distance from health and happiness.  This need not be.

Shalom.

 

 

His will is our peace.

Dante, in Divine Comedy

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After recent mass murder in a Texas Church, members of the media (including CNN’s Don Lemon) and minor entertainment “celebrities” snidely suggested that being in Church or praying did nothing to protect the dead or badly wounded victims in this Texas crime.

Unfortunately, today religion, faith are God is placed in question, pushed aside more and more in public discourse.  We have gone from constraining prayer and religious symbols in public places to disdain for people of faith, religion, belief, prayer, praying and God.

So what are we left with?  Dependence on the people in authority who were required by law to notify those who keep the national registry on individuals who are not permitted to purchase firearms – but failed to do their job?  

The perpetrator in the Texas shooting is reported to have served a year in the brig while in the Air Force and received a Dishonorable Discharge, had a history of spousal and child abuse, and escaped from a mental institution – all before this mass killing.

Moving further away from God hardly seems a wise response.  Trusting bureaucrats with the safety of you and your family, likewise, seems “iffy” to say the least.  How is one protected by a law when the law is not followed?

A relationship with God changes hearts.  Faithful citizens capable of protecting themselves and their loved ones doesn’t hurt either.

Shalom.

Ever notice – Ever notice how many disordered people take up our public discourse day after day – half-crazed celebrities, criminals, incompetents here and there, the sexually-obsessed and sexual predators, people with addictions and drunks, serial divorcees, disgruntled millionaire sports figures, egghead college teachers,  corrupt – self-centered politicians … media “talking heads,” political partisans, etc.

Aren’t they all a waste of time.  Do they not lower the level of discourse and darken the day with their habitual foolishness?

The one thing disordered people bring you is: disorder.  Why bother with them?

 

… he who has hatred nourishes the devil.

St. Basil, in Sermo III De Charitate

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A group supporting the Democrat Party candidate for Governor in Virginia posted a television ad that depicted a white man driving a pickup truck with a Confederate flag on it and a bumper sticker of his Republican opponent.

The ad displayed minority children running in fear from the truck.  The implication was that the driver (a White male) intended to harm the children.

This was despicable.  It branded all White males as racists, those who do harm to children.  While the controversial ad was eventually “pulled” by the group that authored it, the Democrat candidate never renounced it.

This is what we have come to.  Identity politics allows the maligning a race and a gender without a shred of conscience.  What next?

I have yet to hear anyone remind us that the Nazis embraced identity politics and unspeakable deeds followed.

Hatred is integral to identity politics.  Allowed to flourish it will lead to a very evil end.

Where is the kindness we once knew?  The care of others.  Morality.  Decency?  Honor?

Unless we confront those who advance hatred or tolerate and excuse it, we will earn a results that will be catastrophic.  Shame, shame, shame.

The prudent sees the evil … but the naive go on, and are punished for it.

Prov 22: 2,3

Shalom.

Footnote – I grew up in poverty in a city whose legacy included signs in shop owners’ windows which read: “No Irish Need Apply.”  For decades I practiced law and my clients were predominantly minorities, usually poor, and often children.  Truthfully, I strongly resent being placed in a pickup truck hunting children, minority children.  I refuse to be so characterized.

Shame on those who think they can do this.  Imagine their disordered way of living … they think they can woo white and white male voters by coloring them as racists, bigots.  Who thinks like this?

 

 

 

The power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; the same freedom which extended vices …

Edward Gibson, in The History of the Decline of the and Fall of the Roman Empire

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Vices.  The decline and fall of people and nations.  So it is.

Today we see evidence of corruption – in Hollywood, in government, in politics, in Washington, D.C., in the news media, in academia, in individuals and among groups.

Corruption is corrosive.  It destroys.

Yesterday we learned from news reports that there appears to have been some things very irregular about approval of our Nation’s sale of uranium to a company with Russian participation and that the sale has profound risks and potentially dangerous consequences to America’s security and survival.

It was reported that beginning in 2009 FBI had an on-going investigation of Russian criminal behavior (involving bribery, extortion, money laundering and blackmail) intended to secure access to American uranium used in nuclear weapon production.

We also learned from the reports that the investigation utilized a source with first hand knowledge of the Russian criminal behavior and access to evidence and documents about the crimes.  Again from the reports, it is alleged that that Russia used  “kickbacks” to further their crimes.  It is reported through leaked government emails belonging to  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that she was aware of the investigation, as was (as to the reports) Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller and then U.S. Attorney Rob Rosenstein (now at the Justice Department).  The reports presume that President Obama knew of the investigation, given that he would eventually have to approve the transaction if it was recommended by the government panel with authority to do so.

We know that Ms. Clinton and Mr. Holder were on the panel that approved the sale.

It is reported that the FBI was not permitted to inform the Congress of their investigation and the concerns that it raised about Russia’s criminal conduct.

It is reported that the Clinton Family Foundation received a donation from nine shareholders in the company (Uranium One) that served to present Russian interests in the transaction and that their “contribution” to the Clinton foundation totaled (as reported) $145 million, and that “the donation” was paid before Ms. Clinton voted (along with other members of the panel, Mr. Holder included) to approve the sale – later approved by President Obama.

We are also told that Mr. Clinton received a $500,000 speaking fee from a Russian organization around the time the transaction was pending or approved.

The appearance of corruption emerges from this news.  It is troubling to say the least.  Ironically while Democrats were looking for President Trump’s collusion with the Russians they may have been better served by looking in the mirror or at their own Party’s government officials.

We might say: it is not pride that goeth before the Fall but vices … vices which attach risk to each of us – particularly because it is reported that some uranium has been shipped from the U.S. to unknown locations. 

How might others do such a thing?  Money is a fair answer.  But in Washington power enters the transaction and, among Leftists in government hostility toward the nation might be a factor.  Hard to imagine anything else.

Reminds me of this from Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bells Toll – “He did not care for lying at first … Then later he had come to like it.  It was part of being an insider …”

Shalom.

As to all who are lost, the goal is their restoration and salvation.

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