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Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

… at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives – this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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So what if Merton is correct?  That God dwells within each of us?  Would it not be likely that The Creator might leave a mark on you in your creation?  A fingerprint so to speak?

If that is so, would you act differently each day?  Would you not be fortified when facing difficulties?  Could you ever truthfully feel alone?

Does it not follow that what Merton describes might well explain the heroic conduct we see now and again?  If it is true, can we not shake our heads in disbelief at all the mischief and thievery, lying, cheating, violence and betrayal that we see?

Would Merton’s observation not reshape our idea that X or Y is “an honest” man or woman?  Would an honest person not seem to travel with greater humility and greater tranquility for their reference to God?

If Merton is correct would a government and its political class seek to drive God and faith from culture and the public square?

Think for a moment or longer, if this is so – what effect does this have on you? How would this proposition change you?

Seeking God is the noble purpose – your noble purpose.  That which provides meaning to you – a meaning that exceeds the limits of mortal life and trumps all earthly objectives.

Shalom.

Piggy Bank No More – Europe’s NATO member nations owe years of back payments to NATO, payments obligated by membership in the mutual defense association.  President Trump has called NATO members out on their large outstanding balances. Rightly so!

One smug NATO minister kept talking derisively while the President was speaking. I’ll bet you he was from one of the countries behind on payments.

Isn’t it funny how others just think the U.S. will carry them – that they need not do their lawful share.  Let those days be over – suckers no more!  

Friends don’t let friends pay for all the dinners out year after year.  Such nations are doubtful allies.  The times they are changing.  At long last!

“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?”

Lk 24: 18, 19

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This is an exchange between Jesus and one of two men he encountered on the road to Emmaus after his crucifixion.  Neither of the two men recognized Jesus. They were both down trodden.  They had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah who would redeem Israel.

The interesting thing about this exchange is how Jesus approached it.  Having been the subject of the crucifixion, he said “What things?”

Why is this important and interesting?  It is an example of two things: one – He uses words to prepare them to recognize Him when they sit and break bread together.  That is, He prepares them for a remarkable and hopeful and reassuring experience – the experience of His Truth and their hope fulfilled.

Secondly, it illustrates that what is said cannot always be taken literally – for the apparent meaning it would seem to profess.  “What things” in this instance does not seek knowledge of what had transpired but “sets the table” (literally) for Jesus revealing Himself to them in the Eucharist.

Why would I explore this?  One reason: we are too literal … we hear in a very narrow way and as a result we lose access to the story of life, to the essence of what is revealed by the words we choose and the underlying meaning of those words.  In such a state, we are easily influenced by those who command communications – we are easily managed and our impressions easily formed by others who seek control over us.  In the above case – the authorities sought to dash the hopes and beliefs of others for fear that Believers would diminish the power of those in positions of authority.

We had best listen more clearly.  We are missing life, its depth, and forfeit access to its wholeness and its expansiveness.  In the above, Jesus is using “What things” to bring these two men to a greater understanding, life’s full experience. Do not be too literal – meaning often exceeds the words we hear.

Shalom.

It is not that I’m so smart.  But I stay with the questions much longer.

Albert Einstein

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Staying with questions.  Yes.

Who among us has this staying-power?  There are such people and we see them today.  I think of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster as examples.

Each of these men answer questions with an economy of words, plainly and when they do they make sense, they teach and demonstrate their intellect and evidence that they have stayed with “questions much longer.”

That said is it not the question to ask ourselves can we distinguish between those who have stayed with questions and those who have not?

In Washington, Hollywood, the media, academia and politics we have a surplus of people who are “breezy” thinkers … the superficial who run with the unexamined view.

But can you as one stuck in a mass communication culture distinguish the thoughtful speaker from the superficial one?

Democracy does poorly when we cannot separate the insightful from those who think not and speak too often.

Ideologues, by the way, are indeed adverse to staying with questions.  Their preference is the unexamined point of view over the hard task of honest inquiry.

Shalom.

Judaism is a theology of the common deed, of the trivialities of life, dealing not so much with the training for the exceptional as with the management of the trivial.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man Is Not Alone

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Rabbi Heschel offers us a simple and powerful observation.  In what he says is this: he reminds us that our faith makes the small deeds of each day holy.  Yes, each breath is sacred.

This point of view gives us a divine and eternal contact in the simplest things – those things done quietly, things often unnoticed – taken for granted.

I see the implicit holiness of my grandchildren in their being itself.  Jack, at two years five months, and Fiona at six months.  She beams her smile instantly and often and looks at the world in wide-open eyes – seemingly happy with all she sees.  Jack bubbles with excitement and joy.  If you wish to see his cowboy boots or his green toy tractor or his Teddy Bear – he runs full speed to his room and back so he might share his belongings and himself with you.  Joyful Jack – full speed ahead.

Yes, we are designed to make the everyday holy.  You see it in children so very clearly. Let them remind us of our innate holiness so we might remind others of their sacredness.

In all things glorify God.  In the quiet of this certainty, life gains its meaning and its immutable, everlasting value.

Shalom.

… he did behave with a death-defying self-belief …

Boris Johnson, in The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

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Johnson is describing Winston Churchill (most likely the greatest leader that Great Britain has ever had) in the above words.

Mr. Johnson’s portrait of Winston Churchill in The Churchill Factor most definitely brings to mind Donald Trump.  Churchill was despised by the British elites – who were, by the way, appeasers willing to concede defeat to the German’s before the beginning of World War II.

Appeasing elites.  Sounds a familiar contemporary American cord does it?  Yes. Elites do not fight, elites survive.  They have their stakes in life and join with potential adversaries to secure a common privilege – the nation and liberty be damned.

Are you seeing Mr. Trump in this reality?

When Churchill was but a few weeks into his tenure as Prime Minister – his Tory (i.e., Conservatives) colleagues closed ranks to dump him, throw him out of office. Yes, that is the way of those who have their fine share and desire to keep it (thank you very much).

It disturbed the elites all the more that Sir Winston was self-assured, decisive, hard to predict or control.  Worse yet, the elites were unsettled by Winston’s genius in seeing the spiritual evil in the Nazis, the fascists, and the corrupt in his own land. The vested elites shunned him, saw him as an opportunist and egoist, and one who spoke his mind without reservation.

Do you see a Trumpian element in all this?  Well, you should.

Life does not give us what we expect, but often what we need.  England did not want Winston Churchill – but the abysmal failure of their ruling elites required that England needed Winston Churchill.  Who is to say we are NOT in the same boat today?

A final word: Isn’t it just remarkable that our talking heads, political mavens, op-ed writers, news media, reporters, academics, veteran politicians cannot manage to wonder if Trump resembles anyone in recent history?  How dull can this bunch be?  Afterall Johnson’s book was published in 2014 … But then again, those who know everything seem unwilling to grow, and think, and rethink, and challenge their stale views and dreadful, ignorant bias and stupidity.

Do you understand what Brexit and Trump are saying?

Shalom.

P.S. – Feel free to send this along to a handful of colleagues.  It is best we sound the alarm – grow understanding.  Help people gain perspective and with that stability and confidence!!!  Tally-ho!

Calm down.  Both your sins and your good deeds will be lost in oblivion.

Czeslaw Milosz

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Do you want to identify who is out-of-control, who need NOT be listened to under any circumstances?  Those who speak as if their words and deeds – and they themselves survive oblivion.

These are the sick and confused and they are everywhere.  In friendship, family, work, neighborhood, the pulpit, politics, Hollywood and entertainment (such as it is), the news business, on television, in academia, on the radio, in the professions, on the bench …

Yes, so many people are better NOT heard at all.  Silence is far, far the better than their voice.  You see silence knows more than speech.  Silence comforts while most speech falsifies and disturbs.

So to Meryl Streep, Eamon, John, Farrar, Joe Mulligan, Pope Francis, Bernie (never had a job in my life) Sanders, all the crew at MSNCB and CNN et al, at The New York Times and The Washington Post, on the nightly news, in the Democrat Party, on the Left, in the acting community, and to the guests on Tucker Carlson (most of whom seem hand-picked from the especially-looney bin) – “calm down  – you just don’t matter.”

Consider this the first rule of surviving the assault on a civilization.  You can thank me later.

Shalom.

Postscript – Do not underestimate the possible role of Leftists and anarchists in the desecration of Jewish cemetary markers.  The Left is hyper-political and devoted to division and undermining the unity in this nation.  These divisive acts of destruction were common in Europe to sow seeds of animosity among the native population.

… the future is made up of purely abstract and logical elements – inferences, guesses, deductions – it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, heard, or otherwise enjoyed.  To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom …

Alan Watts, in The Wisdom of Insecurity

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Mindfulness.  Do you experience the moment in the moment?  Do you experience life in each breath?  Do you see at any given moment what is around you?  On today’s horizon? Do you feel life?  Your heartbeat?

Are you standing in the moment?  In that, do you know the invisible reality of the Spirit? God?

When you chase tomorrow, you lose today.  When you chase tomorrow, you forfeit your True Self.  When you chase tomorrow, you miss God in the present … and God in the forever and a day, God in all the tomorrows come what may.

If you miss today day after day you will miss your life from your first breath to your last.

Our culture aims us to tomorrow and with it stocks us with fear and perpetual distraction.

In this we are captured, easily deceived, unsettled, destroyed – diminished and lost, sad, and worried.  In this we discard instinct and the knowledge it brings by design.  Yes, we become less human and less organic, less full and developing, and instead become like a cog, a widget, a valueless part of a constantly rotating Rube Goldberg machine doing this and that for no particular reason or objective.

Mindfulness.  Do you live in the now or in some fog of confusion that is tomorrow?

Don’t let others force you into fear and uncertainty.  Don’t let others reduce you. You are more than a widget and surely more than the small, inane and insane definitions foisted on you by those in mass secular culture who would control you by sustaining their disordered views.

Shalom.

When woke in the woods and in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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A father reaches out to touch his young son in the opening line of a story about a father’s love and duty to shepherd his son in post-apocalyptic America.

Constraints.  Shepherds have constraints.  Fathers, too.

With constraints comes identity and meaning.  In constraint is form and purpose. And other and self – true self in the constraint of another.

Rather puts the rest to selfishness and legal and political claims and the insistence on “equality” so often in demands that distort the value of self and other, and kill both.

The 19th century French sociologist Emile Durkheim led us to this truth: the fewer constraints one has the greater the risk of suicide.  What is true of man and truer yet of society.  When anything goes, everything goes!

Without bonds and obligations, relationships that are honored – death cometh.

I am often struck my how clueless public figures are and especially those who comment on the daily news.  None seems to see what is clearly in front of them.  One might ask but a simple question – if a book about the love of a father for a son in post-apocalyptic America can be a best seller and a motion picture, what does that say about us, about today?

When we do NOT wonder what that says, what dies that say???

Durkheim observed that those who had least demanding religious obligations committed suicide more than others with a religion that expected more of them. Likewise those in families were less likely to commit suicide than those alone. Those married least likely than those not married.  Those with children least likely than those without children.

Perhaps, someone might inform Supreme Court Justice Kennedy and his colleagues and then school the Left, the Democrats, feminists, abortionists, the media, Hollywood, Ivy Tower types and the other “deconstructionists” who seem hell-bent to destroy time tested institutions, mores and identities that save us from self-destruction.  

In the deep glens … all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.

Cormac McCarthy

This from the last sentence in The Road.

Shalom.

This post is dedicated to Buddy Mahar, my friend and brother, whose genius is accepting life as it comes and facing the fight while not losing his soul, but rather enhancing it, and growing in instinct, insight, wisdom, love and courage.  Such a good friend and good man.  (See the Footnote.)

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How to live in the world pestered with lies and despair, not to flee but to fight and succeed in keeping the soul unsoiled and even aid in the purifying the world?

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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I differ with Rabbi Heschel’s wise words only in one respect – we may, in our best and heroic efforts, not spare the soul from being “unsoiled” but rather gain a goodness that out shines the dark marks of our human imperfection.

You see, for me, life is a journey to lesser imperfection and therein wisdom comes with humility and greater love and understanding.

Rabbi Heschel reminds us in explaining these words – the challenge implicit in them exceeds the strength of mere humans and, hence, requires the presence of The Ineffable … The Divine, of God.

Man cannot alone experience the growth we are built to know without God.  My experience tells me that the path to God in a very fundamental way requires that we accept life as a gift and, in confidence, live it come what may.  Life requires faith more than fact.

What do I mean?

There is no wisdom without faith.  Education alone does not win the day, for reason alone follows by nature what is not eternal everlasting and wise in all things seen and unseen, mortal and immortal.

Since the days of Socrates we in the West have thought that if you can think you can know how to live.  Not, so.  I say as one with a college degree, a law degree and two Master of Arts degrees – one who but reads does not possess wisdom, for who has not experienced life in its varied presentations, challenges, trials, joys, betrayals and moments of pure joy and excellence – excellence of the soul and heart – cannot know as wisdom does.

From Descartes forward we have focused on cognition, not the experience of living – on living fully.  Muted in this process, so few know what it is to be human, compassionate, courageous, fearless, humble, loving, selfless, sacrificial, heroic, brave, practical and insightful, tender and firm.

We excel when the full measure of mind and soul are engaged in all things, and condemned to failure and folly when only the mind is at work.

The culture we occupy “must grow out of the soil of daily living” just as the human person must grow from the soul out, from the interior to the exterior.

Yes, take in the experience of living for it is upon the faithful act of living life that we become fully human and excel as we are made to excel.  Incidently, is this not resonant in the moment, in the sounds of “populism” we have witnessed in the recent Presidential election?  Is it not clear in an Inaugural where God was invoked so appropriately?

We may be experiencing a Heschel moment – a great opportunity to repair our culture and ourselves.

Shalom.

Footnote – My pal Buddy “got” Trump right away before any commentators, media “geniuses,” political mavens, etc. got it.  Buddy’s background?  Like me the Irish Mob Boston neighborhood of Somerville.  Like me a post-WWII working class, first in our family to go to college.  We’ve been friends for 60 years – 60 years. Worked unloading freight cars in the summer.  Him?  A successful Division I basketball coach until the nitwits at Columbia gave him the “heave ho” because he “wasn’t Columbia material.” They were right. They couldn’t wipe his backside.     

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