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… a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise … the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I?  Where have I come from and where am I going?  Why is there evil?  What is there after this life?

Saint John Paul II, in On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason

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We are more alike than we are different, yet we let charlatans galore promote things like “identity politics” which divides us from one another and from God.  Shameful, isn’t it.

Yes, Saint John Paul II has identified the four essential questions that lead to one’s full human development – our stability, maturity, wisdom, compassion and the ability to care for self and others.

Yes, these questions help us know who we are and, in that, present the Divine to us, open us to our spiritual identity.  In these questions we become what we are designed to be: both human beings and spiritual beings. 

As Saint John Paul II reminds us these are the questions addressed in sacred writings through the ages – in the sacred texts of Israel, in the Veda and the Avesta, in the work of Confucius and Lao-Tze, “in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha” … “in the poetry of Homer and the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles” and the works of Plato and Aristotle.

These questions lead us to meaning and truth.

Make no mistake those who demand your attention, who seek to govern, lead, entertain, amuse, teach, preach, propose public policy and especially advocate fundamental public change ought to be given no quarter unless they display they are fully grown and schooled in the wisdom that is derived from these vital questions.

For too long we have granted empty-headed children posing as adults the privilege of being heard.  Our culture’s decline is evidence of doing so.  No more!

Be discreet.  Expect those who would lead to have grown spiritually, to be humble and wise – facile and clear with words that convey something of their person, their heart and their soul – and be possessed of good humor, sensible insight and frankness – yet encouraging and optimistic despite the challenges of the day.

Shalom.

 

 

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Then they set out along the black top in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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McCarthy writes of a father and his most beloved son who walk under the grayest of skies in a burned out and broken America.  It is both a compelling book and extraordinary movie.  In both I am struck by the love of the father for the son and the son for the father, and by the grayness of the sky amid the ruin.  The latter reminds me of the verbal and video landscape of the present days where hostility is thick as fog and division seems the only objective of the public voices we hear and where each day brings stories of death, cruelty, hatred and the commentaries of the C- and D+ scribes and talking heads whose range of thought is a tad lower than that of a carnival barker.

In a most extraordinary land darkness has descended.  What was once one is now fragmented into many bruised parts .

He could not construct for the child’s pleasure the world he’d lost without constructing the loss as well and he thought perhaps the child had known this better than he.  He tried to remember the dream but could not.  All that was left was the feeling of it … he could not enkindle in the heart of the child what was his own ashes.

This father like me had lived a dream – a dream in better times.  I was conceived when the Second World War was near its triumphant end.  My childhood was spent on a street of veterans and their families – remarkable men and women whose childhood commenced in the Great Depression and turned then to World War – its millions dead, others murdered in Stalin’s gulag.

How does one speak of what we had and lost?  How does one make that the known experience of an adult son?  Give him the optimism purpose and meaning I, poor as we were, knew so well?

How do my grandson or my granddaughter gain what had been, but now is so damaged?  How can my ashes live to sign their forehead?

The Road.  Where this father and son had the dark shadow and penetrating cold of a dying orb – they at least had silence.  We have the unstoppable voices and words of those whose lips bring darkness and cold.  They are now our dismal cover.

“You have to carry the fire … It’s inside you.  It always was there.  I can see it.”

So says the father to the son.  So say I to you, this day.

Shalom.

News as Soap Opera – This is where we are in a superficial mass communication, digitized social media culture.  We interview people with no achievement or proclaim and, in doing so, cannot distinguish people of substance from people who have no particular accomplishment.  We are more soap opera than not.  We can no longer tell the difference between depth and shallow, or what is substantive and what is not.  A real astonishing decline.

I often wonder what the world would be like today if some of our modern religions taught that self-knowledge … was the paramount goal of the spiritual path.

Randy Davida

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I might frame what Mr. Davila (the Publisher of The Mastery of Self: A Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom) said a little differently.

I might say that we would all be far better served if we realized that religious narratives address our human development and well-being – that they speak to our full growth – psychologically, socially, emotionally, inter-personally, intellectually and spiritually.

As to our spiritual growth think of psyche (Greek for soul); and I suggest you do too.

Our spiritual growth is growth of our psyche – the deepest form of self.  Religious narratives present a dimension of observation, insight and understanding that enriches us at the very core of our being – in the soul/psyche.

Frankly, far too many people in our culture (and particularly among those who wish to govern us) neglect their full growth and development and present evidence of this daily.

They are as to full human development – lost souls – confined to error, ego, ideology, desire for status, wealth and attention … and, regrettably prone to poor, and even destructive, ideas and policies.  In a word – we are poorly served and poorly led by those who (forsaking religion and religious narrative) have little wisdom and not much of use to offer us.

My “take-away” from Mr. Davila’s words is this – we neglect religion, do not see its narrative as useful and informative in a very fundamental way, and turn our back on the ageless wisdom of our faith and, hence, we face a multitude who seek to lead us without knowing who they are and who we are.

Living without the self-knowledge contained in religious narratives is destined to produce error, ignorance and egotists prone to foolishness and serious mistake.

Each of us would be wise to take only the pulse of those in public life as a way to monitor the state of chaos, calamity and confusion present today – while focusing on our individual acquisition of the wisdom and insight present in religious narrative.  Absent that – the unknowing are led by the unknowing.

Shalom.

Postscript – As some of you know I am trained – in law, government and politics, international relations and American foreign policy, and theology.  I have long been interested in the relationship between faith and secular culture.  After a great deal of reading, thought and experience, one has to conclude that neglecting our religious heritage is a very unwise thing to do – for religious narratives deal entirely in the human person and his or her peace and prosperity – personal, communal, familial, psychological , intellectual and spiritual.  Neglecting religion produces poor results.

… many even the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for the loved the approval of man rather than the approval of God.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 12: 42, 43

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So many lessons in Scripture … so many –

We are social beings and the need to be accepted by others is a very strong influence on us.  We often keep our thoughts and beliefs to ourselves rather than risk the reaction of the loss of social status or exile from our group or community.  At times we forsake what we need most.

Our spiritual and psychological needs are sacrificed when we deny our faith.  Yes, our well-being is neglected at great cost when we deny our faith.  Doing so in secular culture is quite common.  To deny God is common – but, oh my, does the great cost of godlessness not show itself daily!  Is there not story after story in the news of the evidence of this godlessness produced by our denial.

In denying God in secular culture we testify not to the love and power of God, but our weakness and the role of social sanction in secular culture.

You want the tide of godlessness to subside?  Live your beliefs openly- with courage and confidence.  Fear not.  Believers have this obligation.  Be so obliged.

Shalom.

 

 

 

If you don’t realize the source, you stumble in confusion and sorrow.  When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king.

Lao Tzu

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Philosopher Lao Tzu existed six centuries before Christ.  It is said he was saddened that people did not seek goodness.  His writing and his concern was as to the individual and mystical existence.

In Taoism, he sought that one might live quietly alone with the spirit and the intellect.

In the above remarks he notes that without knowing the source of all being, one is confused and sorrowful – and with a recognition of the source of all being, one is naturally tolerant, not entwined in all the hubbub surrounding us, at ease, kind and dignified.  In other words: calm, detached, happy, content, relaxed.

Think of this in the context of today.  Imagine being detached from the chaos, conflict and constant noise, hostility, accusation and name-calling.  A level of calm today is quite valuable – especially in a rabid social media environment and a perpetual mass communication culture.

I am tickled by this which is attributed to Lao Tzu: “Why are the people rebellious … because the rulers interfere too much.”  We know this sentiment as: he who governs least governs best. 

People are not meant to be governed but rather to be free and responsible.  Is this not something we now know?  Is it healthy to be a dependent all your life?  Satisfying to be stunted in your growth and maturity – so others might rule you?  Deprive you of your freedom?

Our nation was formed with a sacred commitment to individual freedom and the presence and protection of faith and liberty.  Our Constitution enshrines that.  Not unlike Lao Tzu’s point of view.

Is not a relation with God the fundamental thing that gives us peace, health and contentment?

How do you orient yourself in the culture we have today?  Do you like being diminished and subject to others governing you down to the smallest details of your life?  Would you not rather your full growth and development?

You are a sacred being, capable of full growth and development.  Those who seek power try to convince you that you are not a sacred being who is capable of full growth and development.

Shalom.

 

 

 

The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude.

Antonin Scalia

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These words are from an address given by former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1996.

Among his observations are these:

  • “a Christian should not support a government that suppresses faith or one that sanctions the taking of innocent life”
  • he knows of “no country in which the churches have grown fuller as the government has moved leftward”
  • the most religious nation in the West (the U.S.) is a capitalist society that is “least diluted by socialism”  (Emphasis added.)
  • since FDR’s New Deal, the U.S. has taken on the increasing role of a welfare state (i.e., taking tax proceeds of all and dispensing them to select individuals and groups that are deemed “needy” – and building political constituents in the process)
  • “Christ’s view was that you should give your goods to the poor, not that you should force someone else to give his (to others)”  (Emphasis added.)
  • “to the extent that the states takes upon itself one of the corporal works of mercy that would have been undertaken privately, it deprives individuals of an opportunity for sanctification and deprives the body of Christ of the occasion for interchange of love among its members”
  • the welfare-state does not contain or convey the Christian virtue of altruism
  • “governmentalization of charity effects … the donor but also the recipient … What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement … the teaching of welfare socialism is that the world owes everyone a living.”

What Scalia lays out is the decline of the role of faith in secular culture – and with it the loss of moral conduct long displayed by acts of religiously inspired service.

Likewise socialism fundamentally changes the way humans experience themselves, others and the nature of fellowship and community – indeed it blunts the power of love and hope … it deprives us of faith and sanctification.

Make no mistake, religion and God have been shunned in the post-New Deal environment – and, frankly, when moral conduct is not fostered through a population who has an active faith – hostility and faithless division takes its place.  There we become a troubled and self-destructive culture with less opportunity to make of us brothers and sisters to one another.

Converting to socialism and BIG government is, quite simply, destructive.

Shalom.

It is very well to insist that man is a “social animal” – the fact is obvious enough.  But there is no justification for making him a mere cog in a totalitarian machine –  

In actual fact, society depends for its existence on the inviolable personal solitude of its members.  Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or mechanical units, but of persons.  To be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both of these imply a certain interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity  … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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Well, we are about to have a real brou-ha-ha over the appointment of a new Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The President has nominated a person whose view seems to be that the U.S. Constitution, as written, must be honored – that it is not a judge’s job to “make” new law but rather honor the plain meaning of the Constitution as written.

This view is opposed by the Left. They prefer (and have become accustomed to) winning political objectives through law suits and Court action when they cannot secure these objectives through the legislature or through the political (electoral) process.

This brings us to Merton.

He notes that we have arrived at a point in time whereby the individual can be made into a “cog in a totalitarian machine.”  Indeed, this is the risk one runs when a group desires that their views and preferences be imposed on others, especially in areas that are deeply personal and about which reasonable people can differ.

The point Merton makes is that society is composed of free people who take individual responsibility for their own life.

This is the underpinning of our rights and protections in our Constitution.  This is the root of a free representative Republic.  This is the articulated view of the current nominee to the Supreme Court.  His emphasis is on protecting the sanctity of the individual and the Constitution.  In a very real sense that is the underlying dispute between Conservatives, moderates and “neutralists,” and the Left today.

One sees in the opposition to this nominee and his way of seeing and understanding the Left is worried.  Their concern is that his way of thinking will result in the abandoned of their preferences in matters of social policy secured through Judicial activism.

I do not know how this will sort itself out – but I do know that (for me) I am tired of waking up every day to the non-stop yelling and screaming, hyperbolic assertions of the Left and the endless “demonstrations” that manufacture and perpetuate discord.  Likewise, I do not see the judicial system as a means to create social (or public) policy – a task resting with the Legisature.

I prefer quieter times, a Court that protects the Constitution, and the baseline expectation that each free person will be individually responsibility for their own life.

I favor the sacred person to a “cog.”  I find the former is a more satisfying and liberating state of being than the latter.

Shalom.

 

 

All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taster receptors.  Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors – either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice.  But people have so many powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., in The Righteous Mind

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Well if you want to understand the basic rift between the Left and others (moderates, Conservatives, and “neutralists”)?  Haidt gives you that understanding.

The Left is secularized – removed from faith, anchored in material existence, the narrows of intellect and ideology devoid of psychological or spiritual depth and the understanding and experience that each provides.

In matters public and political they are so narrowly focused, they neglect or dismiss our natural desire for liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity (as Haidt notes).

You see, esteemed Social Psychologist Haidt is telling us that as a matter of innate design the human person thirsts for morality that attends to more than fairness and equality.  Mind you, this thirst is an involuntary desire.  Hence, we are “hardwired” for a morality that extends beyond the shallows of the Left.

The distinction that Haidt describes explains why the Left is intolerant and must force their views on others much as totalitarians do.

Ironically, on an even playing field (i.e., one not corrupted to protect their views) the Left is destined to fail because the public’s natural moral appetite is larger than what they offer.  Humans are more complex than the Left reckons.  No, we are not all like them or their ideology.

Think about the many positions the Left advances or defends and you realize that their positions are at odds with the innate moral desires of the human person at-large.

Once that thinking is done, you can see how the Left forestalls the full development of the human person.  Indeed, they create unnecessary conflict (and division) by attempting to impose exceedingly narrow views on others that are, as a consequence, antagonistic to our broader moral needs.

Haidt, applied to our present situation, leads to greater understanding of the unhealthy antagonism that the Left generates.

You would be wise to get to know Haidt and his excellent scholarly work.

Shalom.

 

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar. / Not in entire forgetfulness, / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we / From God, who is our home: / Heaven lies about in our infancy!

William Wadsworth, in “Intimations of Immortality”

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A 30-something man fixated on a running feud with a local small town newspaper shows up and kills five staff members.  A large crowd of plump, disgruntled (but well fed) middle age women show up in the Capitol to air their “grievances” (which seem more like proclaiming themselves rather than establishing a claim of injustice).

In any given day, on multiple fronts, some strange things happen (some violent and others just noisy) and one wonders: Has the door to the loony-bin been left open?

My point?  If you look around and wonder what is going on with these people you see – I might suggest two things: one, many people are not well-formed, fully matured, and, two – some are genuinely ill.  I add: the line between the two is thin and hard to see.

That said, what does Wadsworth have to do with anything?

Well, this – throughout time stories have been told (as in the above) that proclaim that prior to our birth we knew a celestial existence and that we were born to the mortal world to journey in it in a manner whereby we grew in understanding, maturity, in faith so we might one day return to our celestial beginning.  Yes, for many the journey was from God – to God, again.

Well, so what – you say?  My response: classical and religious narratives and as with myths and stories present an account that can guide us in this life – help us retain meaning and sanity and grow in patience, wisdom and understanding.  Note, please analytical psychiatrists may well be familiar with these ancient sources of understanding and do incorporate these stories in their appreciation for human wellness and the journey from ego to self (and human wholeness and sanity).

Now back to what we see daily that concerns us.  The day’s events give us these lessons: (1) many people are not fully developed, and their conduct tells us this, (2) some are acutely disordered and they carry real risk for innocents, (3) we do a lousy job providing people with an education that helps them understand their task is to grow in knowledge and stability over time, (4) in our present state we have many people who do not “play well” with others in the sand box, (5) our welfare rests on knowing the wisdom of ancient narratives – religious included – and applying ourselves to growing up to be healthy people – one by one.

Finally, today we are a LONG way from the maturity we are offered.  A starting point for us?  Stop the complaining in the streets and the demonizing of others (such efforts only establish your own immaturity).

Shalom.

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