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We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it normalizes by mass media and rendered unproblematic.

Bell Hook, in Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

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I have been alarmed recently by the loose talk about racial conflict.  Some talk of the need for violent racial conflict aimed at “white oppression.”

Words can inflame.  Their use requires care.

The above words are ideological.  Their base: racism, feminism and socialism.

Ideology is a no guide to good.  It narrows the sight and hardens the heart.  Where ideology appears, faith better serves.  You see if peace is to prevail, God is required.  Our best actions do not separate by gender, race, antagonistic political fiction.

I know of no problem that can be solved without kind, honest, conversation.  I know of no peace that is made without care, no embrace that binds without humility and love.

People do bad things.  All people.  This is the human dilemma since the beginning of time.  It is embodied in the story of Adam and Eve – the Fall from Grace, Original Sin.

Our only path to love and fellowship is through growing our relationship with good, becoming wiser, more humble, thoughtful friends and neighbors.  Peace can never be insured through divisive ideology.  Ideology is the language of the lesser heart, its pitch is calibrated to hatred.  Yet, relationship with God dissolves anger, raises us up by bringing us to our knees.

There is an inmost center in us all where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning, in Paracelus

Shalom.

Lord, give us the strength of faith to know the truth about ourselves so we might live in peace as one.

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A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

Reason is not the measure of all things, not the all-controlling power in the life of man, not the father of all assertions.  The cry of a wounded man is not the product of discursive thought.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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How often we hear this nonsense: “Oh, he is really smart.  He went to X or Y university.”  So what.

So often this sort of thing is uttered in politics as to a candidate for office, or one appointed to a government position or a judgeship.  Yet, never does one hear: he is a man of faith … she is a faithful women.

As Rabbi Heschel points out: the content of faith cannot be retained by a logician’s sieve – its content is too fine to be held by reason alone, it demands a greater receptacle: the human being – open to life as it presents, and fully engaged in heart, and head, and soul. 

Reason takes a place in secular culture that exceeds its weight.  It is over-valued in the abstract and routinely under-utilized by most – who prefer, sadly and often, their own ignorance, ideology, bias and narrow life experience – to reason, let alone faith and matters of the Spirit … the fullness of human existence.

Man does not do well by reason alone.  Faith soars at higher altitudes and plants at greater depths.

Shalom.

For life that is sound and secure, cultivate a thorough insight into things and discover their essence, matter, and cause; put your whole heart into doing what is just, and speaking what is true; and for the rest, know the joy of life by piling good deed upon good deed until no rift or cranny appears between them. (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations

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Marcus Aurelius in Book Ten of his Meditations.  Words from 2100 years ago. Still valid. Still wise. Still applicable.

… cultivate a thorough insight – many look, few see.  Seeing is more an experience than an act.  Seeing takes in – sight goes to the heart and the soul. Such seeing teaches and ignites. In such seeing lessons are learned and wisdom produced.  Such seeing knows the past, present and the future – as man is man then, now and beyond.

Who among you actually sees?  Listen to only those who have cultivated thorough insight. Prefer silence and your own company to those who speak but do not see.

… acting justly, speaking truth – these each require the cultivation of thorough insight – neither justice nor truth emerges from those who have not done so.

Tis better not to act nor to speak without having cultivated thorough insight, for in quiet one might see by listening carefully … and thinking about what one observes, hears and experiences.

Today we have mindless chatter – and the idiotic predicate of social media and technological communication built on the absurd and unexamined notion that everyone has something to say that is worth hearing.  Thousands of insane birds chirping is no better than thousands of monkeys typing. 

Marcus Aurelius did quite well without Facebook, Twitter, Google, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post, without tech mavens, “talking heads,” Warren Buffett, et al.

… cultivate a thorough insight … the joy of living follows …

Shalom.”

Disgraceful.  How tasteless and offensive is it that Democrat Senators Durbin and Feinstein would challenge a nominee to the Federal Court about her commitment to her Catholic faith.

Ironically, each Senator ought to realize that it is far better to have a Judge informed by their faith, than to have one utterly uninformed by their faith.

Questions like these reveal the ignorance of the inquisitor.  Such inquiries disqualify those who pose them.

Bishops – The Catholic Bishops are “going after” Steve Bannon.  What can we say? Well, Bannon must be doing something right.  Hierarchies have trouble with popularists. The wider the divide, the greater the conflict.

My apology for the miscues in the text today.  I wrote this early this morning in a crowded and noisy breakfast joint while a bit under the weather … Yes, I am on the road and when I could access it mid-morn, I was on a friend’s computer and had no easy access to my earlier text.

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… psychologists … realize that there are really two processing systems at work in the mind at all times: controlled processes and automatic processes.

Jonathan Haidt, in The Happiness Hypothesis

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Psychologist, professor and author Haidt is commenting on the functioning of the brain. His point is a simple and important one, the human person is not controlled by reason, rather much of what we do is automatic – while only some of what we do is the result of “controlled response.”  That is: we are not in any way close to complete control of our actions, rather that portion of our conduct which is authored by our capacity to reason is limited and depends on our intellect, insight and life experience.

What might this mean for us in contemporary mass communication culture? Well for one thing it might lead us to consider free speech more carefully – particularly public media and “protest” speech.  What do I mean?

We rather easily assume that media speech and protest speech is worth our attention. But what if speakers do not show any particular capacity for reason? What if they possess no education?  Are ruled by rote ideology?  What do you know of their human experience?  What insights have they formed based on their experience?  How exactly are these speakers in any manner astute and informed?  Perhaps they are quite limited in many respects?  The question becomes: why listen to mobs and “talking TV heads?”  Would you go to a pastry maker for neurosurgery?

When you consider free speech you would be well advised to recognize that free speech does not require listening. Much of what is said by mob and media is utterly worthless and listening to mob and media speech is often a waste of time.  You would be far better served by reading, listening to only those who have demonstrated insight and extensive life experience and education.

By the way, the days of listening to the B.A. from Harvard are long past; education being what it is today – they know very little.  Big ditto as to celebrities and the talking heads with a degree in “communication.”  Nothing there, folks.

Discrete listening is the order of the day.  Be selective.

Shalom.

Postscript – Human history is long past the foolishness of Marxism.  Sadly, the Left/Liberals/Progressives have not kept pace.  They still live in Europe of the 1840’s. Wake up Bernie Sanders!

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

Aristotle

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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

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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.]

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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