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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!

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

“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.

Such a wonderful cool spring rain – gentle and quiet.  It pairs with the heart’s beat, easy breathing, the green and flowered forest, the pastures, hills, mountains, and umbrella pale gray sky.  It is a day for collecting thoughts, writing notes to friends, and making a chicken stew while incense burns and floats in the air.

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“How long are you going to keep killing people?” Lady Astor would ask Stalin brightly.  “As long as it is necessary,” he answered …

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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When he left his secret Communist espionage ring Whittaker Chambers felt “an uneasiness, an anxiety” which he identified as “spiritual.”  He pondered how and when it was that the “spirit of man” had gained its foothold in him.

He recalled he had wondered, quite involuntarily, what Communism lacked?  Why it was such “a rat’s nest of intrigue and faction?”  Why it housed a “corroding cynicism?”  What “keeps the human level of Communism so low?” Why it had “not produced a single inspired work of the mind” since the Revolution?

Chambers asked, is it God that it lacked?

He reasoned it’s killings and deceits injured the soul.

Yes, without God man’s actions most often attack the soul, and put to danger and trial the “spirit of man,” his essence, his identity – his divine inheritance.  In this is the edge of conversion in man.  

Within each of us is a longing for good, for God.  When this longing is neglected, denied (as it is by ideology and it our present highly secularized culture) man is estranged from himself, his true identity  – and meaning, purpose, intimacy, optimism, and peace are lost.

Today, we are like Chambers – captured by ideology and secularized culture. Combined they breed division and hostility and heighten anxiety, worry and isolation.  It follows the sooner one turns to God, the sooner health and civility is restored, community and fellowship are renewed, and we find peace and meaning – and become whole and one again.

Think critically.  Are you Chambers?  Is your brother or neighbor Chambers?  Your pastor?  Elected official?  Have you lost longtime friends whose lives are narrowed and governed by ideology, secularism, and utopian political nonsense?

In this past century, Mao killed 60 million of his countrymen, Stalin killed 50 million, and Hitler thirty million.  All ideologues.  Each godless.

Think about it.  140 million people killed by political ideologues.

Shalom.

Happy Easter, April 16, 2017

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (Emphasis added.)

St. John Paul II, in On the Relationship between Faith and Reason

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It is Easter.  Christ has risen in fulfillment of the words of the Prophets and in furtherance of the proof of God existence and reign.  We need fear no longer.  Yet, in this Truth, we are ordered to seek truth, to guard it, preserve it.  Yes, in this – we are not alone and meaning and purpose is established for all time – mortal and eternal.

In an age where some in the East use violence to enforce their beliefs on others, it is fitting to see the Easter contrast as the Father presents in through the Son.

Continuing the theme of conversion (developed in prior posts) as illustrated in the story of Whittaker Chambers rejection of life as a Communist spy in favor of a life in truth, and in faith – we can see an example of what our path can be.

When Chambers left Communism, he noted that he endured “an inner earthquake” in which the structure of Communist thought, as he says so logically and firmly built, convulsed and that deep down he knew for some time that the political “faith” he held and “devoutly served” was destroyed – but that he knew not “what the right way might be.”

Are we not in the same spot today, whereby the errant ideas and desires of the Left lead us to know at some level – something is desperately wrong?

For Chambers, his initial hesitancy in leaving his political life was stymied for he reasoned if Communism was evil, was not all that remained but moral chaos and nothing more?

He knew, he records, that the killing Communists invoked was evil and he realized that in his Leftist politics his mind justified “evil in the name of history, reason or progress.”

In turn and in time, and through the grace of God, he realized that “there is something greater than the mind, history or progress” and “this something is God.”

From a political mindset, to indecision, to sight.  This is a conversion – and evidence of God’s grace and nature, and His love of us.

At this Easter in 2017, with the troubles in the East and the violence and persecution of Christians, and the assault within our nation on faith, reason, common sense, morals, truth, law, history, tradition, national security and the American legacy – are we not where Whittaker Chambers once stood?

Yes, the Truth of the matter starts with faith, and for the Christian that is in Christ risen.

Shalom.

Today’s Blog is Dedicated to Friend Bernie Klim – Zen Master and Catholic Brother – born March 29, 1930, died October 4, 2015.

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We touch with … our mindfulness …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Not being self, but just being … as in being one’s true, whole, undivided, divinely created being – either male or female (no alternatives or fabricated hybrids required).

How does one do this in the context of an errant, badly disordered, ideological and secularized, godless culture?  Answer: by simple and easy defiance.  And what, pray tell, is that?

We might learn from our Buddhists cousins.  And how?  By thinking of, and practicing, mindfulness.   That is: by separating yourself from the swell and noise of contemporary secular culture which divides you from your whole being, divides and distracts you, makes you but a fragment of who you are fully made to be.

In Buddhism mindfulness is the focus on each particular moment – that is the practice of being attentive to each moment and one’s life in it.  It is the attention to the immediate and a disgorging of the temptation to forfeit the now to tomorrow or yesterday.

In mindfulness one lives deeply in the instant – united to the present.  The fruits of this attentiveness are understanding, love, gratitude, contentment, peace, unity with others and access to eternity.  Yes, in mindfulness one exceeds mortality within a mortal moment.

In mindfulness one’s wounds are healed and tranquility, wholeness and stability is restored.

For the Christian mindfulness comes to the woman who touched Jesus cloak and was healed.

She, in one divine moment, made contact with divine reality … and in this: deepest of experience, understanding and unconquerable love.  In one attentive moment of focus she experienced Truth and was healed, restored, saved, made whole.

This is mindfulness – a dimension that knows no state control – a liberation that frees one to live beyond the prisons of the godless who govern and attempt to control.

Christ and Buddha show us a quiet liberation and its divine freedom.

Be, simply be.

Shalom.

 

There was a time when people were not concerned about self.  It was a time of simply being.  (Emphasis added.)

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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It is said by some that when Adam and Eve partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that this is the moment when consciousness is born, when man and woman see themselves as “self” – as living in a state of being “separate” and “apart” from God and one another.

That said, Dr. May in his book Simply Sane examines the evolution of the human being once he and she discovers the self and other.  

May sees this as a very significant turning point that posts a false state of being and creates very difficult tensions, and problems, for the human person.

In particular, May reminds us when we were less conscious of self we are more aware of being itself, and life and creation as we were but a part.  Says May, when we focus on self our awareness fades and thought clutters our mind.  This transition, I offer with May’s help, creates distance between one person and another, imposes particular burdens on a single person and makes intimate experience far more difficult for the distance consciousness of self fosters between one person and an other, or all others – and in relationship with the Divine. One might ask in this context, Can one know the “I Am” when one must be the I am?

Yes, in self comes estrangement.  In a way, consciousness of self makes another a potential threat, an enemy.  Perhaps this is why we seem to prefer that “God is dead” or forgotten in the present secular age.

I have come over the years to see the loss of intimacy as a major and very damaging issue in modern life.  My observation has me think about so many of the modern horrors and disordered behaviors and wonder if it is not the estrangement from our divine and whole being and the resultant loss of intimacy that gives rise to so many modern illnesses and murderous escapades.

I ask for instance: What explains the homicidal rage of ISIS?  What empowers the need for nation states, like Iran or North Korea, to fortify themselves against “others” as they do?  Why is a flawed ideology like Marxism so embraced by “educated” people who should know it’s ugly and brutal history?  Why is pornography so prevalent?  How can homosexuality can exist in a vowed religious community?  How can women justify the killing of an innocent, unborn child in the womb?  How can the Left justify their lying to secure political power at the expense of their dignity and honor?  How can once great nations, where freedom was secured and debate welcomed, become so divided, so at war with their citizens with whom they do not agree? How can obvious dangers be ignored and incidents be overlooked because they are at odds one’s distorted political view of what is “correct?”  How can people lie to themselves and live what is false and a lie itself?  Cover up and excuse horrible crimes?

Self.  Self more than other.  Thought replacing awareness.  The other as enemy. Estrangement. Loss of relationship.  Loss of intimacy. Distance from others. Distance from one significant other.  Sickness on display.  Sickness excused, justified.  Sickness.  Decay.  Decline.  Death.

Think about it.

Shalom.

Question: When can we prosecute Hillary for national security breaches, or at least get her psychiatric help?

Surgery was a success.  Total knee replacement.  No pain killers needed.  In rehab – things going well.  Learned I have strong bones and a high pain threshold.  Interesting.

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” … the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel, of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor 4:4

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Last Monday while in the hospital awaiting a late morning surgery, I was asked several times by nurses if I had fasted as required and each time I was asked when I last ate or drank anything, and I replied “6:50 p.m. on Sunday.”

Just prior to surgery the anaesthetist asked me that same questions.  My response did not vary.

However my friend Marty who drove me to the hospital added, “He had Communion this morning.”  The doctor turned sort of pale.  “When?” he asked.  “About 6 a.m.,” was the reply.  “We have to reschedule to a later time today,” said the Doctor.

I apologized for the inconvenience.  I felt embarrassed.  I felt like an idiot for not thinking of the Communion offering as “food.”  A few hours of humbling silence followed.  I thought, I am a lawyer, how could I not see that issue?

In those hours of waiting I realized that years ago I would have seen the Communion offering as simply a wheat product.  But not now, not now as I routinely live … and believe.

My blindness to wheat was actually a proclamation of the sight of belief that I had acquired … quitely, earnestly over years of my conversion to Catholicism and my many, many days of attending Mass, and all that I experienced in the Mass, in my life and in my faith.

My faith had blossomed.  My sight had replaced the blindness that is of this world.

It is so very funny, strange, special how God delivers us and when He does.

How grateful I am for the sight I have been given.  I was blind and now I see!

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.

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