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I would like to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

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There is wisdom in what John O’Donohue says.  Indeed his words tell of our growth and mission in life, our divine identity – how we have been made to be.

A very smart and pleasant young doctor confided in me recently that he and his wife often wondered if they were doing enough with their skills to help others.  This, of course, is a wonderful way to think.  Their interest was to use their skills to help others.

Implicit in this desire is a proper and good orientation to life.  Their desire to serve registered with some urgency – they wanted not to waste a day in which they were not doing their best for others.

He asked my thoughts.

I offered him this: patience.  I assured him that life will unfold as it is intended and in the process he and his wife would know with a compelling certainty that there was a next step to which each would be called.  In what I said I was stating what O’Donohue has said, namely – be as the river and let life flow and in the flow unfold.

When you think about it – there can be no wisdom without a practiced patience and the peace and humility that patience brings.

The river does not get impatient, nor does it create its own sea into which it might flow.  Rather it merges with the circumstances of its path, the terrain it traverses.  Our life is no less river-like.

Yes, we can have a broad direction.  We can elect an orientation – to teach, to write, to paint, to build, to care for others or what have you.  But the details for our life await in life’s flow.  Our purpose is told to us over time, played out in time.

Yes, we know with reflection and life experience who we are.  This is a process that takes a lifetime – with definition being more refined as years pass.  But the key to the larger nature of our journey is to let the journey happen.  We are all on a sacred mission, called to be – and in this we must first of all relinquish command and let life happen to us.

Be as the river that flows and unfolds.

Shalom.

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Aging is no accident.  It is intended … we become more … of who we are simply by lasting into the years … the final years … the fulfillment and confirmation in one’s character.

James Hillman

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What if your life is a measure of your growth in character?  What if the opportunity you have to live this life is precisely so you may grow in character?  In understanding?  Wisdom?  Patience?  Kindness?  Confidence?  Empathy?  Compassion?  Insight?  Maturity?  Integration?  Mercy?  Courage?  Faith?  Humility?

What if Jim Hillman is right?

How have you treated aging?

In my lifetime I’ve seen us more and more neglect this question: what is it to be a human being?  During the same time we have traveled while neglecting the wisdom of the ages, the treasures of the classics, religious narrative?

Pause a minute.  Think about what your life actually is, what it might expect of you?

Pretty serious business.

Shalom.

 

The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and prefered answers, not because they are obstinate but because he knows others are worthy of consideration.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Who killed liberalism?  The Liberals … with the assistance of “education” turned into indoctrination of fruitcake social applications of Marxism.

Enter the nonsense of community-organization, feminism, “homophobia,” race baiters, multiple genders, sexism, white “privilege,” disarmament, socialism, redistribution, environmentalism, central government as omnipotent, etc.  All possessed as if these notions are, individually and collectively, the Holy Grail and justify attack on all ideas that stand in opposition to their point of view.

The question is now can this intolerant crowd once again become Liberals or whether contemporary “liberalism” will, as it now appears, to be converted to fascism and the destruction of our constitutional representative democracy – its tenets, ethos, habit, practice, civility, genius and institutions.  The choice: preservation of freedom vs. its lost.

Ironically, the present circumstances require that one might avoid colleges and universities that dumb us down.  Ditto “social media,” media commentators, traditional sources of news, academics and the Party of the Left.

Much of what you now see as assaults aimed at President Trump by the media, press, modern “liberals,” academics, Democrats, Hollywood, the entertainment world and identity groups is a clash between ill-liberalism and the existing, historic mores of our Nation.  Indeed, such a clash begins with God’s exile.  All form of evil prosper when God is denied.

We live in challenging times.  The question is this: Who are we and who will be?  Go with tradition, what has worked for a long time.  Don’t leave God.  Ride with the Wind.

Shalom.

PROFESSOR O’MALLEY’S DORM ROOM

a lumpy bed full of books

old essays by students

old books by former students

old checks from students repaying loans – never cashed

Phillip Harden, in Journeys of Simplicity

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These list the contents of beloved University of Notre Dame English Professor Edward O’Malley’s dorm room when he died in 1974.

He never earned a doctorate or published a book, yet his lectures were inspiring.  His dedication to students was total.  He tended not to grad students, preferring undergraduates whom he knew by first name.

O’Malley was not a fan of grades – giving more A’s one year than he had students while recommending to the Dean that he pass out the extras to students in need.

O’Malley “traveled light” in life – no excess baggage shall we say.

Simplicity.

When you live close to the ground there is little need for extras.

What will they find in your room when you pass away?  What will you have done for others in your time?  Will your surrounding speak to others of the essence of a life?  What will your objects say?  Will they tell of you?  Your heart?  This life?  Its purpose?

Shalom.

Postscript.  Those interested in understanding the status of America and its politics today would be wise to listen to Victor Davis Hanson.

Corruption. IRS loses emails concerning political bias levied against conservatives, the FBI loses emails regarding bias against President Trump, Hillary Clinton loses thousands of emails.  Coincidence?  Hard to imagine.  Too close to “the dog ate my homework.”

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mt 5:2

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I remember hearing this and initially thinking: How can one without the Spirit come into the Kingdom.  Of course, I have come to understand as I got older that what Jesus said meant something entirely different.

Yes, it took more life experience to realize that life is the invitation to grow in the Spirit.  We live in the midst of a spiritual journey.  In this we begin with a native spiritual disposition, a natural endowment: the joy of children – their life in a state of supernatural reality, with an instinct for good sitting within.  Their eyes are the eyes of innate Believers.  Yes, we have those eyes.

Soon enough the world imposes a materiality on the young.  Their vision blurs.  Their conscience becomes that of the concrete world in its one-dimensional structures and requisite consciousness.

In our mortal world we are soon enough diverted from what is innate and natural to a state of spiritual poverty.  From cradle to adulthood we grow poorer than we are made to be.

Indeed, our life will teach us that we must seek what we have been given: life in the full – and that means a spiritual existence and all its joys, insights and comforts.

Beware.  What is your spiritual state?  Have you remained poor, without growth in the Spirit?

You see your blessing is in this: poor as you might be – the Spirit and its riches await.  You are made for this journey is the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Journey on.  That is the primary purpose of your life – to come to the full form in the gift of life – a spiritual life full of understanding, wisdom, peace, contentment and certainty … a life in touch with God throughout – a life of building up, not tearing down.

Shalom.

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Ralph Ellison, in Invisible Man

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With the warmth of a wood-burning stove, I write alone in the frigid darkness while the wind howls.  Aaron Copland’s Own Town makes now the memories of the past.

Yesterday’s battles tug most when you are alone, when the earth is asleep and the ground is stone hard.

There is nothing gentle in these recollections.  Thank God the ones you loved and lost sit closest as the night takes its form.

I am a long way from the Boston I never left.  Yes, life’s markers are portable and, at times, inescapable.  Curses and blessings served on one plate.  Time teaches unforgettable truths.  Yet, joy survives in having lived it all out.

What is exterior is interior.

The trials grant us wisdom for future battles.  What was once opaque, is not.  In challenges – the gifts of insight and understanding, a sense of humor – and confidence.  Behind it all, faith waits cultivation.

Yes, Ellison is right – life is to be lived … and we are not to be controlled.  The Spirit cannot be jailed.  He must take his breath.  His heart must beat.  His dignity is of God, so too his identity.  You are his host.  He lives in you.

Shalom.

 

Merton … understood … the human person and transcendent human dignity … through faith and experience he knew to what the human person is called.  The way thereto he explored generously and fearlessly.

Basil Pennington, in I Have Seen What I Was Looking For

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Who among us has taken time to understand the human person and the transcendent reality of human dignity?  Not many, I bet is your answer.

If it is so that not many you encounter have taken the time to understand what it is to be a human person and the divine measure of transcendent human dignity – you are saying this: the ones around you lack a depth of faith and the depth and range of human experience each of us has access to in our mortal and spiritual existence.

Indeed to say those around us do not understand human existence or the divinity of the eternal grant of dignity to the human person goes a long way to explaining why the world is the way it is.

Odd isn’t it.  We are given to know and to experience, but we so often fail to abide by this gift.  Rather we hunker down determined to construct ourselves as if we are the omnipotent Gift Giver.

This, of course, is the story throughout the Ages.  We seem intent on substituting our dubious genius for God’s gifts.  That Dear Friends is evident in our devotion to ideology, to politics, power, control, status, self, wealth, title, etc.  That Dear Friends explains the glorification of the body, the disaster that the focus on sex has produced.  That, too, explains the unhealthy place of race and gender consciousness in this land.  Ironically, as Christ was killed, so too do we kill the unborn child, one another, marriage and the soul of so many.

Where are you in this scene?  Is that not the question as we begin a new calendar year?

Shalom.

Hymns.  I have taken to starting my day listening to hymns as I prepare the fire and ready the tea and muffin.  It is quite difficult to be captured by the rhythm and force of godlessness when one has such a daily beginning.

Interestingly, these hymns bring to mind many lovely days spent with my son – especially our days in Scotland – in the Highlands, and Balliter, on the Isle of Muir and in Iona, and in St. Margaret’s small chapel in Edinburgh Castle.  Neither of us have ever quite left Scotland – the place of our family origin.  May you have such peace that death holds no sway.

… the fact remains that for Christianity, a religion of the Word, the understanding of the statements which embody God’s revelation of himself remains a primary concern.  Christian experience is a fruit of this understanding, a development of it, a deepening of it.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thomas Merton on Zen

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Merton, like others, stressed the importance of acquiring the Christian experience – the full integration of Christ into one’s life.  That is, not merely treating Christian existence as the acquisition of a system of truths about God, or an explanation of how the universe came into being or how it might end.  Nor did he think that the Christian experience was meant to explain the purpose of Christian life or a set of moral norms per se.

He saw the Christian experience as more – more than “a world view,” or “a religious philosophy” sustained by a cult of believers, or a moral discipline, or a code of Law.  No, he saw the Christian experience as “a living … experience of the presence of God in the world and in mankind through the mystery of Christ.”

Yes, the integration of the reality of God’s existence through the mystery of Christ in one’s mortal life in this world.

Indeed the Christian experience is nothing less than the daily – moment to moment understanding that God is with us, in companionship, through the mystery of the gift of Christ.

Imagine, if you will, what one’s life and each breath can be like if this is the cornerstone of your human experience.  Surely if men and women acted on the strength of the Christian experience, all that is sordid, treacherous, hateful, etc. would pass from view or at the least be less present in the world.

In this coming new year, think about this.  An integrated Christian life is offered to you.

Shalom.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord!

Lk 2:11

Today is a reminder- and how we need it at this moment in our history!  The reminder: we have a Savior and He is Christ the Lord!

When you begin this new year be conscious of this question: Do those who seek your attention speak as Believers?  With the wisdom of a Believer?

To walk with consciousness of Christ is to speak within the Divine reality.  In this, we are humbly resigned to Christ’s example – in this, we gain confidence and patience … and come to know the blessing that is Christ our Lord.

Have a very Merry Christmas – and let this be the year that Christ is your foundational stone, your certainty and guide to all things in this life we share.

Shalom!

 

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