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Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.

Hostile secular nihilism has won the day in our nation’s government, and the culture has turned powerfully against traditional Christians.

American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture … in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense (to others).

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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Dreher’s short, readable book will tell you better than others I have read (and I have read many) what we live today in a culture that is changing/eroding at a rapid and disconcerting clip.  Yes, a book to be read not once but several times – and referred to often.

For parents and grandparents who desire that their children and grandchildren be safe, stable and sane amid the hellish chaos of our disintegrating culture – this is a “must read.”

As the quotes above suggest, we are moving away from religious narrative and the underpinnings of America as it was created by our Founders.  This puts us adrift, at sea without a point of reference … without a necessary backdrop that affords a context in which to endure hardship, evil, death, betrayal, loss, disappointment, etc. – of a mortal life.

Frankly, it is simply impossible to live without an overriding wisdom narrative – and, yet we are abandoning our narrative in the face of pressure and hostility from the godless ones (hostile secular nihilists) up and down the social and political ladder.  Such is the way of pridefulness and ignorance.

The loss of a wisdom narrative leaves each to drift without guidance.  The loss places an impossible burden on the individual to create meaning out of their meager experience.

How foolish to think you can write your own narrative while you live it day by day.  Such behavior ignores the treasured records of human existence passed on for centuries.

The costs of this abandonment for the individual and the culture pile up: suicides, homicides, drug addiction, depression, insanity, aborted children, obesity, alcoholism, broken families, lost love, dependency, racial conflict, disorientation, lethargy, despair, confusion, the absence of hope – confidence and faith, of courage and optimism – intimacy, warmth, peace, laughter – human existence, itself.

As Dreher points out Christians are at a crossroad – Christ or no Christ.

So what is it?  Soul or self?  Death and despair without God, or life with God.

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.”

For my Son, himself a divinely loving father … of whom I am very proud and for whom I am so grateful.

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They ate the little mushrooms together with the beans and drank tea and had tinned pears for their dessert. He banked the fire against the seam of rock where he’d built it and he’d strung the tarp behind them to reflect the heat and they sat warm in their refuge while he told the boy stories.  Old stories of courage and justice as he remembered them until the boy was asleep in his blankets and then he stoked the fire and lay down warm and full and listened to the low thunder of the falls beyond them in the dark and threadbare wood.

Cormac McCarthy, in The Road

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A father loves the son in divine dimension.

It is Sunday.  We are given Sunday so we might ask if we love as the Father?

In the best of moments and in the strongest of bonds a father loves his son in ways that mimic God and prepare the son for tomorrow and all the tomorrows we might be given, all the burdens that fall to men – the sacrifice of killing and of dying in the fight.

In the last few American decades it is men who have been attacked, derided, suspected and accused.  Fallen times and fallen women – a race gone wrong in many ways. Such is a time when God is forsaken.  Fundamental undoing. Dangerous course and full throated nonsense.

But who will fight for the frail but the father and his son?  The crop of warriors diminishes. Whole groups have no fathers.

We speak and act as if there is no treachery, as if “others” will magically appear to save us.  But there are fewer fathers who love their sons divinely … and fewer sons breeds fewer fathers and danger appears to conquer and destroy.

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.  Nights dark beyond darkness and days more gray each one than what had gone before.

Shalom.

Footnote – I hope this strikes a satisfying cord for you, especially for men and fathers. We have fewer now who know who we are and what we do, know how deeply we feel and how essential we are.  Share this with others if you wish – and surely with men who are fathers. God bless you all.

 

… sanity is spiritual.  It simply is.

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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Liberals are fearful, frightened.  Having neither faith nor having sufficiently deeply examined themselves and the demonstrative nature of being human, they are in great need of reassurance.  Hence, they are “snowflakes” demanding special zones of “protection” and they relish being victims and asserting all sorts of privileges they associate with victimhood.  Yes, in such “status” they are reassured … at the expense of others – no matter the cost to other, self or society.

Fearful as they are, they seek control.  They do so by making errant ideas their idols and forcing others to conform to their fear-driven orientation.

They root in politics – local, state and national.  In this regard they create and encode fanciful notions: homophobia emerges, fascism assigned to others, genders “multiply” from two to many, “transgenderism” becomes a “human right,” marriage “re-defined” and child sacrifice legalized.

In the extreme, immaturity emerges.  One thinks of the liberal state legislators who fled the state of Wisconsin to avoid conceding power to their fairly elected opposition, or of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s obstructionist tactics intended to thwart America’s legislative business and peaceful governance, or of the bureaucracies use of “leaks” to scuttle an American Presidency.

Liberals were once better than this.  Alas, they are no more what they once were.

In life we must choose – self alone, or self in the Spirit.  That is: life with or life without God.  The liberals mistake – life without God, life without Spirit.  In this, as May notes, sanity is lost.

It profits one not at all to maintain discourse with those who forfeit sanity.  The mere semblance of dialogue with them destroys one’s own sanity – individual or nation.

We live in strange times.

Shalom.

 

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.

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