You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Insight’ category.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

+ + +

Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

+ + +

Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

An Autobiographical Reflection

[Maybe it will help in your unique journey.]

__________

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

So, too, with writing – and more so with writing about one’s story – lived spontaneously breath to breath, scene to scene  – heartbeat to heartbeat, never planned.  In this is the gift of life in the moment, life in one long unbroken strand of time, and place, and experience.

Bobby Sylvester

+ + +

Living is story … autobiographical story with interludes of humor, unexpected twists, abject sadness, disappointment, unwarranted delights, war – interior and exterior – personal and communal.

Yes, swings of elevated joy and darkness darker than night … and fear and bliss, betrayal and unswerving loyalty, trust and distrust where losses seem to outrun gains at times … drama and science fiction, fantasy and detailed and specific certainty – or at least attention grabbing with focus on that one thing so odd, or so sublime … so eye and heart-catching that it reveals in time access to the puzzle – at least part of it.

Pieces of time and space and events that reveal a theme and explain the story as youth turns to age.

I have been conscious of my story and life as a story since that day in 1948 or it was maybe 1949 when my absentee father walked by me and never turned to say hello.

If movement and moment were a gripping paragraph that one thing might suffice as the beginning of my story, or its crystallization – it’s clarion theme, it’s overture and it’s one, first and true guidepost: we are abandoned, left … and from this we know that those who don’t love us, don’t love us.

Ah, what a gifted truth to have so young – preparation for what would come to pass.

I never left that point where by I lived within the story and watched it at the same time …

Oddly, I never felt merely a viewer – rather both a viewer and a participant in one body.

And there never was a script.  There was just being … just living the immediate instant while sustaining contact with the yesterdays produced in the same spontaneous manner. Life for me was and is: experience it – whatever “it” was or will be – and learn and grow in depth, insight, strength, faith, understanding, comprehension wisdom and tempered expectation.

As tragedy enters and exits overtime in-and-out, living takes on scope, humor and sensibility increase.  Faith might also grow.

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

May your story come to you – clearly, and give you strength, reveal purpose and meaning.

Shalom.

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

+ + +

The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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

+ + +

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

+ + +

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

+ + +

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

+ + +

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

+ + +

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

+ + +

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!

Welcome Message

Categories

Log In

%d bloggers like this: