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Aristotle didn’t equate happiness with wealth, pleasure or fame.  For him, happiness was an internal state of contentment that we acquire only by living life in the best possible way.

Edith Hall in “Aristotle’s Pursuit of Happiness” in The Wall Street Journal (Feb 2/3 2019)

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Happiness is an inside job.  It is evidenced by our good feeling, our aim at what is “well” and “good.”  Hence contentment, tranquility, peace of mind and heart.

In his early life (as Dr. Hall notes) Aristotle saw the unhappiness of the elites, their malevolence and turmoil.  He saw (much as one might see now) how the “high and mighty” are miserable, living in and creating chaos for themselves and others.

For Aristotle the road to happiness was an honest understanding of who you were – that is, self-knowledge/knowledge of self.  He sought to know the ethos of the human person – the way to virtue and virtuous living – not wealth or possessions, or fame or title or power – but rather heart and soul and good health.

Aristotle would have each of us know our best and worse behavior and strive to maximize the best – to improve where we need to grow for the better.

In such a life is, as he determined, “moral self-sufficiency” … a good life, a stable existence – contentment, maturity, wisdom and compassion.  Men and women such as this are and always will be critical to the leadership of others – for they model the best within each of us that is frequently honored in its absence.

As for me, we tolerate too easily those who are not near well-developed and in that condition sow division and unhappiness and act in error and ignorance.

Seek happiness.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

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“How is it possible that suffering that is neither my own nor of my concern should immediately affect me as though it were my own, and with such force that it moves me to action?”

Arthur Schopenhauer, in On the Foundations of Morality

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This is precisely the kind of question that is not asked by individuals in America today.  It is precisely the sort of question in which we are of a very desperate need.

Its absence is the product of our failed education system – especially university education and makes its absence in a secular culture that denies God in favor of “trivial pursuits.”

Yes, what we concentrate on does not seek the feel and understanding of the mystery that this implicit in this question and others of its ilk.

I give you one such distraction that is our preoccupation.  It is “equality.”

Who images any one person is in every measure the equal of another in very detail?  No one who is thinking.  Yet, we chase in all sorts of “social justice” pursuits “equality.”  Likewise such a notion allows us to divide in hostility one from another.  Such estrangement does great damage – separating us woman from man, and by race, religion and income.

Yet over all these separations and distractions – one stops to help another who suffers.  One risks one’s life for another. We do this because we are who God made us to be in the doing of such things.

In contrast, the political climate separates us and with God in exile we grow further apart and weaker as people and as a nation.

My constant frustration is this: I see hardly anyone in public life who lives as if they ever ponder as Schopenhauer’s inquiry so clearly does.

We ought to be ashamed and less a pack of complainers and more individuals with interest in the defining questions of life that make us far better people and a stronger and more faithful nation.

Shalom.

Adultery is injustice.  He who commits adultery fails in his commitment.  He does injury to the sign of the covenant which the marriage bond is, transgresses the rights of the other spouse, undermines the institution of marriage by breaking the contract on which it is based.  He compromises the good of human generation and the welfare of children who need their parents’ stable union.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2382

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When one dishonors the marriage by committing adultery – one: (a) shows his or her lack of integrity, (b) violates our covenant with God as reflected in the covenant of  marriage, (c) abuses one’s spouse and bestows on the spouse a grave injustice, (d) undermines for all the sacred institution of marriage, (e) damages the culture at-large, and (f) undermines the morality, virtue and welfare of children and others.

Each party in an adulterous relationship is responsible for the damage that is done by such behavior.  Each diminishes themselves in a deeply significant and serious manner.  Each party to the adultery establishes that they are to be neither trusted nor held in esteem.

The next presidential election will be a referendum on the moral state of this culture, national government and this nation.  I say this because we have a series of very dubious positions held in the areas of sexuality, family, abortion, equal application of the law applied parties holding privileged positions for whom the law seems not to have applied.

The present climate necessitates that we ask ourselves is this candidate a person to be trusted?

On the Democratic side we have a candidate who seems to have falsified her heritage by claiming a status as a Native American that she does not possess in order to secure a position at an American university.

Another women candidate seems to have committed adultery with a married man (and notable womanizer) who enjoyed a political status that allowed him to advantage his adulterous partner by helping her receive several lucrative positions in state government.

So the question might be: can you trust someone who falsifies their background to secure a position she does not deserve, or trust an adulterous woman who used her adultery to parley a few choice jobs at taxpayer expense?  Stated another way do you want to led by people lacking in character, morality, honesty and virtue?  

Have we not enough examples of poor behavior and are we now in a critical place where we need people of virtue in positions of leadership?

For what it worth, I have found in my lifetime that those who cannot be trusted are seldom bright or trustworthy … succumbing to acts of distrust they lack good character and strength sufficient to warrant positions of leadership in any venue.

Shalom

Interesting – Isn’t it interesting that today’s woman can wrap herself in the “Me Too” movement and at the same time can excuse or overlook a woman’s (or their own) adultery notwithstanding that being a partner to adultery itself is a painful betrayal to another woman who stands by as an innocent.  This sisterhood thing only goes so far … you put in on and you take it off.  No honor or consistency there.

For some reason the post for January 23, 2019 appears under the Title Heading of the Blog and is identified thus Firm in Courage and Faith.

Difficult winter weather demands a great deal of attention when you live on a ridge in a sparsely populated area.  My mornings and some part of the afternoon are taken up with winter in the wilderness.  Hence my postings are often done in the mid-to-late afternoon … but they are done daily as they have been dating back to 2011.  Now in year eight.  Tally ho.

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Many of our young are uprooted.  They no longer believe in the traditions of their parents and grandparents, and they have not found anything to replace them.  Spiritual leaders need to address this very real issue … They have not been able to translate the deepest values of their traditions, perhaps because they themselves have not fully understood or experienced them.  (Emphasis added.)

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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If our children are lost it is because we have failed them.  The elders have disappeared.  In their place are un-accomplished cosmetic, confused figures who thirst for power, notoriety, fame, wealth, celebrity, fulfillment of their own (and hence) selfish desires.

You cannot call these figures anything less than misinformed, ignorant, craven, selfish, wrong and destructive – the least accomplished of an over-indulged and over-educated generation.  Their failure is plain in themselves and in the lives of young people – from teen years to their 20’s and beyond.

Many of our children are aimless, impractical and rootless.  They know neither history nor themselves.  Tradition is a stranger to them – they are cut off from their past and many exist without ambition and initiative – in a sea of ease, affluence and institutions that cater to them and expect little of them.  Such softness breeds contempt and challengers none to excel, to exceed the hardships and errors that all life brings.

The young now threaten our collapse.  We own this bitter harvest.

Those who do not know the past know neither the present nor the future.  These young men and women like their priests and elders fail to acquire the experience of human experience.  In this: all is immediate or not at all.  Nothing is past, nothing is tomorrow.  All is now or a vague dream with no concrete avenue nor action to realize its accualization.

We have left them without a map, a charter, without access to wisdom and with but avant guard failed “isms” of the Left – pipe dreams with dissipating smoke soon dissolved into failure.  In high station we have a Jelly Bean Cleric and the Sex Scandal Band.

In the dock stand the men and women slightly younger than me.  “Our body ourselves” has failed as well it would and our children are lost … the shame is on us.  But no one takes the blame.  Honor is not in them.  And down we go.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

God created man in His own image …

Gen 1:27

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Why would God create us in His image?  A fair question – with an easy answer.  The answer?  So He might have a relationship with us and us with God.  And wherein is the epitome of intimacy and love everlasting.  Yes, the very thing we all long for in our mortal life is given to us right from the beginning of life and time.

God’s love of us is central to our well-being, contentment, happiness, strength, meaning, purpose, peace and identity – the one cardinal Truth that banishes all failure, hardship, setbacks, sufferings.  Yet, we so often ignore this fundamental reality.  But, why?

Pride is the most common reason.  Pride would have us try to make life work to our design.  Despite our failures and the loneliness and stress that our pride produces – we persist … until one day we resign ourselves to this fact – we cannot succeed or be at peace when we neglect God and the truth of God’s omnipotence and God’s love of each one of us.

Still others neglect God for they fear God is a wrathful, unforgiving God – while God is a merciful God.  Yes, people by into fear and the false identity that is pervaded by others that God is not a loving God.

Remember Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope.”  (Emphasis added.)

Why would anyone wish to neglect God in favor of making life more difficult and less certain and stable?  Think about that today and tomorrow … until you come to your senses.

Shalom.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

The Christ’s Breath

I am a hole in a flute

that the Christ’s breath moved through,

listen to this music.

Hafiz

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How do you conduct your affairs?  What does our public dialogue sound like?

What do you say with your actions?  Opinions?  Words?

I have been reading about Germany between the World Wars – in the Weimar Republic.  It was a contentious period.  A time of division.  And the rise of anti-Semitism and a decline in public morals.  In my readings, I do not see where people of faith spoke up in opposition or made a difference in any effort to do so (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, notwithstanding).

What is my point?   The breath of Christ is to move through us.

Shalom.

Postscript – I have often asked myself “Am I doing what God wishes of me?”  I suspect in some was this daily blog allows me to be the a hole in the flute … that (on a good day) my writing transits the breath of Christ.  At least, I dearly hope so.

 

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.

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