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3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

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The more the powerful and independent consciousness becomes, and with it conscious will, the more is the unconscious forced into the background.  When this happens, it becomes easily possible for the conscious structure to be detached from the unconscious images.

Richard Wilhelm, in The Secret of the Golden Flower

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To be whole and have psychic health, full development and contentment, our conscious life must be attached to our unconscious life.  Without an unconscious life, life and our experience of it is distorted, limited and chaotic.

Indeed, it seems that this is precisely where we are in our country today.

Look at the celebrity and political class and those in control of higher education (the “teaching” intellectuals) and you see not mature and insightful individuals but narrow people full of self-assertion, anger and extreme and destructive notions.

Yes, being stuck in conscious alone is a superficial state of being, a fragmented and  unhealthy state of being.

Carl Jung in a 1931 essay noted that the disconnection of consciousness from the unconscious makes for the modern man who Jung identifies as “unhistorical” – that is void of any of the broader lessons of human history.

Jung’s observation might explain the measure of ideas offered and advanced by the American Left today as well as the limited use that can be made of public discourse among those engaged in news reporting and commentary.

I find nothing so much as the separation of conscious and unconsciousness to explain what I see among public personalities, see in the conduct and discourse of the elites.  Sadly, this reminds me of the tragic decline in the German culture in the inter-War years.

Disordered development creates great risk for cultures – and a failed education system and rejection of faith makes for increasing the risk of serious error and destruction.  And make no mistake religious narratives all over the world instruct us in symbols and metaphors that open us to our unconscious.  Ban or undermine religion and we increase our collective and individual danger.

Our individual full psychological and spiritual development is critical, indispensable to our flourishing and survival … and a sign of how far we are from health is evidenced by our reaction to the horrible shooting of people in New Zealand last night.  Immediately our public commentators see it as a product of political opinion when it is rather an indication of psychological sickness – disorder all too common to its counterparts around the world.

Shalom.

 

Christians are meant to be the continuing revelation of God’s Son through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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While our challenges may be many and run deep within us, our country and our culture, our task is quite clear: to be the continuing revelation of Christ in this world.

What makes this task initially challenging is that we are (independent of God) merely humans and as such we get angry, become busy, self-absorbed, weary and preoccupied.

Look about, many are angry (especially those in the secular Left – the socialists, Communists and radicals).  Confrontation can be quite hostile, even physical.

What is one to do?  Remain calm.  Be soft-spoken.  Avoid anger.  Simply respond quietly.  Perhaps take up your calling to speak to others of the truth of the Gospels.  Our task is to share Christ with others, to quell the hostility – defuse the anger.

In our most trying times – it is the peace of Christ which resides in us and gives us voice, courage and wisdom.  Yes, the peace of Christ in troubled times.

Shalom.

Postscript – Those who dislike Trump make their position known in rather intense and obvious ways,  We see this with Democrat Members of Congress and the news and celebrity class.  But few people ask: How did we elect Trump?

Well the news of the very wealthy in business, law and entertainment paying huge amounts of money to get their “little darlings” into once “elite” colleges tells you exactly why we have Donald Trump as President.  The elites live separately from the vast majority of all other Americans.  They live (as the Clintons so clearly do) above and apart from the vast sea of working Americans who pay their taxes without loopholes and privileges.

The arrogance of elites elected Trump, and their elected state, local and national representatives go one better – they ignore the will of the common voter on borders, the national deficit, abortions, illegal immigration, the Second Amendment, education, religion and all manner of Leftist (i.e., socialist and Communist) public policy.

This is a divide that creates very real problems.

 

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person.  Understanding is love’s other name.  If you can’t understand you can’t love.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in How to Love

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Hanh is a masterful Buddhist teacher and a monk.  His wonderful three book set (How to Love, How to Sit, How to Eat) is a lovely set of wisdom books given me by my Son in a hand-made artist box (which he made) into which these treasures sit so tightly.  Yes, they sit on a book shelf within arm’s reach of my bed.  It is always good to have Hanh, these books and my Son close to me.  Books, art, love and living well and wisely matter greatly to my Son and to me.

Understanding.  When we understand another, we take in their story, their existence, their heart, their soul, their doubts and fears, their triumphs and defeats, their hopes and aspirations, their sanctity, their dignity, their challenges, their joys and their sadness, their laughter and their tears.  Ah, but our ability to understand depends on our having come to understand ourselves and life as it presents itself to each and all of us.

This for the Christian is the essence of Christ’s admonition to “take up the cross” and follow him.  Life is, for all, a challenging journey … in life we find our “Crosses” and our “Crosses” find us … yet in this journey (when it is fully accepted – pains and joys the same) we come to understanding and make of us one capable of love.

Shalom.

 

 

1:05 a.m. – an early morning post … writing is like that … especially when you wonder about God and your relationship with Him … Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019.

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Holiness consist in simply doing God’s will, and being just what God wants you to be.

St. Therese de Lisieux

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The world today is a very troubling place.  I often feel overwhelmed by the division and hatred on display here.  For me, it is hard to comprehend why others choose to be so selfish, so lacking in patience and humility – so prone to anger and assertion, antagonism, hostility and discontent.

Yes, I ask myself: what is it to be holy in the world that surrounds me?  In the chaos, I ask – what can I do to live a holy life day in and day out?  How can I sustain a witness for Christ?  Find daily contentment?  Be in regular relationship with God?

How can I be holy amid the chaos and evil I see, I hear each day?

I believe St. Therese has supplied the answer.  We maintain holiness in the world we find today my doing God’s will … by being who God made us to be.

The irony follows.  It is NOT our job to change the slant of the axis of the world in order to be holy.  No, it is something far simpler that is requires of us, something more fundamental – more intimate, more personal and it is this: do God’s will and be who God made you to be.  It is this which provides the access to holiness in a chaotic and godless hour we now occupy.

Do His will and be who he made you to be.  This is the path to holiness today and always.

Shalom.

Liberalism moves … toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that the movement entails.  By destroying traditional social habits of the peopleby dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified … Liberalism can prepare its way for … the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

Robert H. Bork, Sloughing Toward Gomorrah; Modern Liberalism and American Decline

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Bork makes the case that modern liberalism (as distinguished from classical or traditionalism) is destroying America.  It is an impressive case.  Yet, I see few in politics (but for some conservatives) who make this case.  And, I see few in politics who represent traditional or classical liberals and offer thoughtful opposition to modern liberalism.

Likewise, I see few clerics, few in the media, in academia or the law who offer a critique of modern liberalism and school us as to the damage it has done and is doing.

Recently I watched a documentary that purported to explain the political mess in Washington whereby collaboration and congeniality among liberals and conservatives has ceased. The documentary blamed the paralysis on Americans who held traditional values and ignored the ruckus caused by proponents of modern liberalism.  It ignored the fact that for every action there is a reaction.  Such blindness does not help.

In looking briefly at Bork’s criticism of modern liberalism one might see what the documentary misses:

  • corruption of standards: think FBI and the Justice Department as each has been revealed to us
  • destroying traditional social habits of the people: think the destruction of the family, the dispatch of religion from the public square, abortion, infanticide and the hyper-sexualization of culture
  • dissolving the natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes: think identity politics
  • licensing the opinions of the most foolish: think cable news, TV networks, major metropolitan newspapers, and attention given the views of “entertainment” celebrities
  • substituting instruction for education: think Leftist ideology and the indoctrination centers that primary and secondary schools and colleges have become
  • encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom: think late-night and midday television “pundits”
  •  the upstart rather than the qualified: think Ocasio-Cortez and her cohort
  • artificial, mechanized or brutalized control: think of national health care, the Green New Deal, Venezuela and the attack on the U.S. Constitution.

Sloughing to Gomorrah indeed.

Shalom.

 

 

 

Writing at 3:11 a.m. – writing in silence and at night.  It is just like being … yes, it is being – just being … This is what is intended for us.

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Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind …

Anonymous

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Be. Just be.

Seems so simple, but so rare.

Imagine being cheated out of being, out of being you – God makes one-of-a-kind in each of us.  No carbon copies.  Why do we miss something so obvious?  Such a simple truth … so easily lost.

In the dark and silent night I am.  It reminds me of my time in monastic living … of the silence … of the holy nature of that silence which said without words – “you are, just be.”

In that, I saw better – angles appeared, as did shadows, and light, shades of colors, open spaces, contours, nature’s contrasts.  I heard better, too.  I heard the sacred silence and the chirping of small birds, the wind and the vast emptiness of silence which is its own music.

In silence you are.  You feel you.  Know the quiet action within you – the movement of your heart and the sacred touch of your fingers, your hand.

If I were to give you one solid thing I have come to know at 73 it would be this: “you are, just be.”  In this you would be you and life would quiet down.

In the end and fullness of time you are meant to be, to be who you are in that simple act of being.  Then, it will come to you: you are as a monk is – you are … yes, you are.  And He is near always and endlessly.  This is the simple Truth of life: you are and He is.

3:32 a.m., Sunday Morning, 3 March 2019.  The wind does not whisper its name tonight and it is dark and still.  I am.  He is.  You are.

Shalom.

In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

Late start to my writing day.  Bitter, rainy and cold.  So much like life in Boston in the late fall, winter and near Spring – often providing a St. Paddy’s day snowfall.

Something about the raw chill of it all that bespoke life as it really is.  Such weather prohibits fictions of what life actually is.  You bones speak the truth … they are ancient in origin.

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… contemporary belief may be powerless to do more than “borrow light  and lightness from ancient lamps” and provide a sliver of hope for the few who are still driven “to take comfort in the periodic company of like-minded others, who day … ‘share the thing ancient that will not quite die.”

Roger Luden, borrowing from John Updike in Luden’s Believing Again.

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If you were to sit a bed watch for a dying culture you would ask: “Who believes?”  And, “Do I believe?”

One can make a plausible case that a death watch may well appear in a culture like our’s which moves intentionally away from religious belief.  Ah, yes – such is our moment.

As expected we are influenced in mass culture by unbelievers – the mavens of privileged,  immoral chaos, and self-exaltation.

I cannot tell you how to believe.  But I can tell you that belief is a gift if you dare seek God or look for the ancient sacred things destined to remain even if we die within.

I can tell you that my belief began when I was a child and observed the calamity so present in the conduct of others, the institutions and shallowness and lunacy they unwittingly displayed all the while those running them were thinking they “were something” other than small potatoes.

My vision has only been more confirmed with the ages – and now: mothers seek to “choose” to kill their children – born and unborn … and humans can mate with virtually anything, anywhere, anytime.  No sanctity there, people.

Believing.  What has your life told you of this?  What does today say of this?

The blind among us cannot see … and many are blind despite their eyesight.  In a dying age those who are sick cannot be saved but the children can be made stronger, wiser and more immune to human nonsense.

Shalom.

Listening to the musical legacy of Abbess St. Hildegard von Bigen, 12th Century mystic, writer, diplomat and counselor to Bishops, Kings and Popes.  Beautiful.

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Spiritual development is the birthright of every man and woman … the world as a whole tends to neglect and forget the knowledge of how to pursue and live a spiritual life. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Can there be wisdom and leadership without a spiritual component to one’s life?  No.

We are more than intellect.  We are spiritual beings.  Denying this, we are left less intelligent, less human and less healthy – flat and without insight necessary to make wise decisions on complex matters – or any matter.

Contemplation is the way to spiritual development for a contemplative life and life itself is a spiritual experience.

Contemplation leads to the full experience of the human experience.  In mass culture or any culture, contemplation requires that one lift himself or herself above the fray of mundane existence which so often captures us moment to moment, hour to hour, day after day – year after year.

Yes, attending to the demands of the world keeps the Christian from the mystery of Christ and the timeless message of the Gospel, and from knowing our self.

There is no full development of the human person without contemplation, no self-examination either – and hence no fullness of being, of human being.

In contemplation, the self is examined and understanding follows, and one is no longer trapped by the errors, follies, divisions, temptations and corruptions of the mundane world and the voices of its most vocal members.

Indeed, does contemplation not require the voiceless silence of solitude!  Yes, in contemplation there is a silent respite from all that interrupts our healthy, full development and greatest state of being.

In contemplation, God is real and immanent and those who are disoriented are no longer free to be housed within us.  Free – free at last.  Thank God Almighty “free at last.”

Shalom.

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