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In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.

Czeslaw Milosz

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Democracy imposes a burden on its citizens.  The burden – to speak truth when what is false is said.  Ah, but this requires knowledge and courage.  While courage is perpetually in short supply, now knowledge is rarer yet.

Yes, the measure of our over-funded education system is failure, misinformation, ideology not free thought but special Leftist nonsense, softness, the destruction of language and belief, gutless “administrators,” the devaluing of education itself – and the long ago desertion of moral reasoning, virtue, honor or consistency.

Last year I asked my Ph.D. son what he wanted for schooling for his two young children.  He answered – “a place where they would not lose their interest in learning.”

That just about nails the problem.  A serious one at that.

You wonder why elected officials run about pedaling “socialism?”  Because they do not know what it is nor its inevitable thirst for total control and hence its inclination for the communist gulag, its hostility to human freedom, humans, religion and God.

At the present time, one is wisest who turns a deft ear to the “young, unlearned and inexperience socialists.”  And one is bravest who speaks truth in a room of silence.

Shalom.

 

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Remember you are an actor in a drama of such sort as the Author chooses – if short, then a short one; if long, then in a long one.  If it be his pleasure that you should enact a poor man, or a cripple, or a ruler, see that you act it well.  For this is your businessto act well the given part, but to choose it belongs to Another.  (Emphasis added.)

Epictetus, in Enchiridion

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Can’t say more about this than – live the life you have been given … see hardship as that which teaches, makes you stronger – wiser.

Those who try to fashion their life and elect to avoid this or that or play a “pat hand” do damage to self and others.  Life is not static nor does it belong to only us.

Take heed.

” … act well the given part … “

Shalom.

 

 

 

In his inimitable, frank language, Epictetus explained that his curriculum was not about “revenues or income, or peace or war, but about happiness and unhappiness, success and failure, slavery and freedom.”

James Bond Stockdale, in Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior

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Navy fighter pilot James Stockdale is the only three star Admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy to have spent years of captivity in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war and become a recipient of the Congressional Metal of Honor.

He holds a graduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University where his focus was on the Stoic philosophers, Epictetus included.

Epictetus, as the above indicates, maintained a school in Rome the purpose of which was to produce students who could speak of philosophical ideas without “idle” babble. As he said “Let others practice lawsuits, others study problems, others syllogisms: here you practice how to die, how to be enchained, how to be racked, how to be exiled.”

Mind you he lived in a harsh time.  Indeed, he was a slave who gained his freedom.  He faced (as did many) a hard life with great risk.  His desire was to help others find a way to live well in the midst of real challenges.  Philosophy was his vehicle – as it was with Admiral Stockdale.

Epictetus thought that a person was responsible for his own “judgments, even in dreams, in drunkenness, and in melancholy madness.”  His view was that each person brings about his own good, his own evil, good or ill fortune, his happiness or unhappiness.  He held the view that to be a victim one must consent to victimhood and that in virtue is serenity.  Indeed, how we chose to live our daily life was key to our contentment, wisdom, survival and prosperity.

Why do I write of this today?  To raise the point that we are not captive to the language and conditions of secular culture.  As human beings we have a sacred autonomy that allows us to author a life that is positive and strong in the face of what seems hard, unjust, dismissive, hurtful, disrespectful, faithless and harsh.

We are made to know our freedom, dignity, happiness and autonomy and to encourage and respect others who possess precisely that same nature as we do.  Seems to me we could use a good deal of what Epictetus is “selling.”

Be well.

Shalom.

 

 

Our culture has lost any clearly defined spiritual standards and aims, and our cultural values have become impoverished.

Christopher Dawson, in The Judgment of the Nations

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Dawson wrote this in a book published in 1942, when World War II was in full bloom. Three years earlier T. S. Eliot took the view that we faced the choice between a Christian culture or a pagan culture.

The question of culture and our well-being has been with us for eight or nine decades.  Yet, isn’t it odd that those occupying space in the public square speak with no particular appreciation for what Dawson and Eliot and many others (to wit: Reinhold Niebuhr, Jean Danielou, Romano Guardini, Nicholas Berdyaev, Paul Tillich, et al) saw as the problem we faced in the West – namely, the disintegration of our culture.

I write about faith and culture and by necessity must address the words, thoughts, actions and inertia of those who command places in the public square.  Yes, I see a mix of theology, culture, history, religion, public policy, law, psychology, philosophy and literature as required to understand who we are today, what risk we run, what wrong turns we have made, and are making, what is lost, derided, discarded and abused by those who have our attention.

The ignorance of those in the public square is monstrous and embarrassing.  Political people alleging that a border wall is immoral while abortion is not as but one example.  Astonishing.  Simply, astonishing.  So many who speak with “certainty” minus doubt or evidence of serious inquiry.

What is my bottom line?

Throughout the centuries we have understood that faith grounds observation. 

No less a man than Albert Einstein offered this to validate the place of faith in intellectual inquiry and life – “God does not play dice” – i.e., mathematicians might say “Both God and the Pythagorean theorem … are believed to exist independent of the physical world; and both give it meaning.”

Faith is a necessary ingredient in human life, community, culture, peaceful existence, civility, full human development, human progress, knowledge, contentment, health, prosperity, intellectual growth and wisdom … and it is the absence of faith that generates the bulk of discord, abhorrent behavior, destruction, division, disorder, violence and hostility in our culture and that of the West today.

If a scholar have not faith, how shall he take a firm hold of things.

Mencius, 371-288 B.C.

The same can be said of citizens and those who claim to lead.

Shalom.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.  In your compassion blot out my offense.  Oh wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51

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This from Morning Prayer – Psalm 51 is most useful reading.  It speaks honestly of our imperfection, our capacity for sin.  More importantly it speaks to us truthfully.

It acknowledges that we fail and that sinful conduct is an offense committed against God.  This, of course, is a humbling truth.  To admit our own shortcomings, however, is essential to identifying with precision who we are and who God is.

We are merely human; while God is Perfection – and we are imperfection.

The Psalm reminds us that God desires our growth and humility and the strength to admit our failures and our sinful conduct.  In this disposition, we come to know God and in our humility acquire wisdom and the avenue to communion with others who are made just as imperfect as we are (without exception).

Progress in a well-lived life has much to do with knowing our limitations and faults and admitting them.  Such admissions anchor us in the reality of being human and the reality of a Loving God who prizes our honesty and humility.  You see, in admitting our humble humanity we order ourselves to a relationship with Our Creator.  In this, life becomes easier and good arises naturally from our modest acts and thoughts.

So I end with this, also from Psalm 51:

Oh rescue me, God, my helper, and my tongue will ring out your goodness. Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.

God desires our goodness emerge from within us.  Civil society depends on this as does our human flourishing.

Shalom.

Postscript – Yesterday, a newly elected female member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a Muslim and Leftist from Detroit, Michigan, choose to celebrate her being seated in the Congress by dropping a crude phrase (to wit: “Mother-F”) in reference to a member of the opposing Party.  What a classless presence in celebration of “democracy!”

This is what we have that is offered as leadership material by the Democrat Left – a coarse and vulgar person with a surplus of hatred, hostility and ignorance.  Thus saith the Democrat Left.  How sweet!!!  Does she actually eat with this mouth and kiss her children with same???

Psalm 51, Friends, Psalm 51.

Theology is not made by mystics; mystics are formed by theology.

Thomas Merton, in Ascent to Truth

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In a sense the above proposition raises the question as to one’s journey to God.  Is this trajectory intellectual or does it require an ascetic disposition?  Does one think oneself to God, or is there a personal disposition that brings one to God?

As to the latter question, I suppose that when one’s life is absorbed by, and full of, the satisfaction of all personal desires then one might think of the importance of an ascetic disposition – a sparser life.  That is to say – a life void of multiple distractions and endless obligations, a simple life of few attachments and tasks – one with privacy and quiet might be better than a fully engaged life if one desires God.

As to intellect, it seems that thinking alone will not of itself bring us God for God is not a mental proposition but far more the totality of all that a human is, and can be by their mere (divine) creation.

So where does that leave us – or at least – me?  A modest life fully lived, accepting of all that comes one’s way (good or bad) is necessary for the experience of God.

By a life fully lived, I mean one that is examined so one comes to know one’s faults, short-comings, personal history honestly seen, one’s gifts and deficits and the mysterious joys of having been helped, nurtured, taught, loved and accepted by those placed in one’s life without whom each of us would be far poorer and more likely lost than found.

What am I saying?  Yes, intellect plays a part in our journey to God – we learn from our narrative and all those who over the Ages unbundle the mystery of a Loving God.  Yes, maintaining a life that is prepared in its honesty and humility to find God is also essential.  And yes, the acceptance of life as it is presented is the essential ingredient of obedience that brings us to God for this acceptance says clearly – “I accept my gift of being … I trust in the Gift-Giver.” In this, it seems to me one meets God …

Do not underestimate the value of acceptance and obedience.  Is that not the humbling road we must choose?

Friends, journey well and wisely this year.

Shalom.

 

Insanity is contagious.

Joseph Heller, in Catch 22

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Well, New Year’s Eve.  Resolutions, hopes and all that stuff.   Me?  I’d like a lot less insanity … and I lot more quiet.

Elizabeth Warren (of the high cheek bones) has announced she has formed and “exploratory” committee to assess whether or not she should run for President.

Oh, goody!

We need a faux Indian princess for President – especially one who is utterly unable to present herself to others but that she is screaming with the crinkled-up face that not even a mother could love.

Gee, I hope Lizzie does the old Cal Coolidge thing and dons the War Bonnet that created that infamously odd-ball photo of the taciturn Yankee (who, by the way was alsonot related to any American Indian).   History could be made, People!

Suggestion to the Princess: have the Exploratory Committee look for your husband.

The guy is M.I.A.  Frankly, I think in reality he is the “Invisible Man” from comic book lore.  Yes, when you think of sacred bliss with the Princess – being invisible qualifies for the heading “some guys have all the luck.”

Then there are the endless radio ads telling us of do-good community efforts – like early January 1st a.m. free rides for the completely intoxicated New Year’s Eve party-goers.

Imagine how many of these guys get dumped off at a house that isn’t their’s …

Yep, do-gooders … ain’t they something.

How about the do-gooder ad that introduces us to a guy (“Louie” who sounds about a half-step away from a dead-end) who tells us with glee that he had not paid his taxes in years and some do-good operation interceded and Ol’ Louie’s got out from under a huge debt just like that … shazzam!  Magic, I tell you!!!

Doesn’t that just make you so happy to have fully paid your taxes all these years!  After all, think of all we got to finance all the “great” things Father Government has done – all the efficiency and perfection they have authored.  Wow.

Louie missed out on being part of all that.  Poor Louie – that’s missing “all the good experiences” taxpayers have!

My hope for the future?  Fewer lunatics in public life, fewer people stampeding to “do-good” since their efforts are often less helpful than they think – and more humility, more responsible people who mind their own business and leave others alone, smaller government, fewer “advocates” of their particular insanity or fetish, fewer people who desire to “change” the world or make everything “better.”

Give me humility, responsibility, less non-stop public chatter and end to talking heads and CNN, MSNBC, PBS, CBS and the rest, and a renewed habit of wrapping fish in the likes of our “leading” newspapers.  Quiet would be just fine.

The alternative?  I join Yossarian in the hospital censoring out-going mail of all words but conjunctions.

Shalom.

It is never easy to discern what motivates people to vote, but exit-poll evidence and other survey data suggested that a significant reason for the vote to leave the EU (European Union) was a long running resentment at what people saw as a lack of accountability from government and large institutions.  There was a powerful sense that the very fabric of democratic politics had been torn as powerful people and institutions … simply did whatever they wanted without deference to the will of the people, pursuing economic imperatives seen as favoring the advantaged.

Gerard Baker, in The Wall Street Journal, December 8-9, 2018

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” … powerful people and institutions … did whatever they wanted without deference to the will of the people … “

While Mr. Baker is referring to Brexit and the English people and their politicians and bureaucrats … and (by inference) the wealthy and corporate elites and those in the public media and higher education, what he says explains the riots in France and the election of a populace in Italy and in the United States.  To make this simple – the political class and the well-healed have created a divide between the populace (and their ethos) and their own particular desires, interests and often loony or unsavory ideas, fetishes and fancies.

In France, England, Italy and the United States – there is a great divide between the common man and woman and the governing class and the wealthy class.  The divide is best seen in the question of sovereignty – namely: Who rules in a representative democratic republic?  Those in public office or government bureau, or the citizens of that nation?

Make no mistake – the identity that accrues from being a citizen of the United States, England, France or Italy is not easily dismissed or dissolved by those who think they know better by virtue of their: status, power, title, education, wealth or social circle.

Indeed, to be blunt – here in the United States we have seen the likes of the Clintons as representatives of governing class and we know they are, to be kind, utterly unlikable and substantially disordered.  Of course, they are not alone among the elites in that regard.

My point?  The voting public is no longer apt to play follow “the leader” when the costs of doing so are the loss of their livelihood, identity, freedom, family, religious ethos, culture, their priceless morality or safety and security.

For this tension to be resolved favorably, the elites must be disabused of the idea that they know best.  They do not.

Shalom.

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Gen 3:12

“I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’re said happen to me.”

Luke 1:38

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First we hear Adam in Eden after eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Next we hear the young Mary responding to the Angel Gabriel who has announced to her that she will bear God’s Holy Child.

Adam did not obey God and tried to avoid responsibility for his disobedience.  Mary, on the contrary, accepted God’s gift to her and to us – she obeyed without reservation.

Obeying God or not obeying God. This is always the singular determinative question in a life – in the life of a Nation also … Yes, in our life and the life of our Nation today.

Is this not the issue we face, the issue that we see before us now?

What do I mean?

There is substantial evidence to suggest that the Clinton Foundation functioned illegally.  Such evidence, complied by interested private citizens with extensive experience in criminal law, tax compliance and finance, has been submitted to the Justice Department.  That done, we shall see if the Justice Department and the federal government is populated by those like Adam or by those like Mary.

Mind you, when material suggests criminal activity may have been pursued by significant high-level government officials (present and/or former) with considerable influence – an investigation must commence lest the public conclude that some are above the law and, given that, our Nation is now not the honorable and law-abiding place it once was.  A conclusion that would then place the common people with the task of restoring what is good to what once was.

Think about it: do we want to destroy a Nation to favor those who, privileged by name and title, are so thoroughly corrupted?

Adam did nothing to endear himself to us by his disobedience and denial of responsibility – while Mary accepted easily the task she was called on to do.

One hopes we are, in this Nation, Mary and not Adam.

Shalom.

 

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

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