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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.

God works in history, therefore a contemplative who has no sense of history, no sense of historic responsibility … is not fully a Christian contemplative: he is gazing at God as a static essence … But we are face to face with the Lord of history and with Christ the King … light of the world … We must confront Him the awful paradoxes of our day …

Thomas Merton

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If there is one (and there is) central failure that puts us in the conflict, and confusion, and chaos … and danger and division, that we face today it is our failure to know and serve God as the Lord of History.

All of the immorality, hostility, bitterness, rancor, hatred and rank stupidity can be assigned to that one failure.

Likewise, the destructive behaviors we witness in special pleaders of unwise causes are the product of God’s exile, and in that absence – the geometric ignorance and needless destruction it produces.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show and one of The Rockford Files.  The former from the 1950’s and the latter from the 1960’s.  Each was a delight. Each well-written, and nicely acted. Each told an engaging story – the former in a family context, the latter in a detective format.

In the former we saw truths about husbands and wives, men and women, family, brothers, neighbors, boys and girls and human nature.  It was fun to watch. Truth told in a gentle and amusing manner.  It was nice TV … it sat a tone, was believable – represented a reality that was and could be: a relaxed and kindly family environment.

In the latter, we had a “who done it” yarn with the focus being the work of a not-so-successful, and unflappable private detective whose status-life was that of living in a trailer parked on asphalt adjoining a stretch of California beach.

Our hero detective was an anti-hero – an earnest man (yet not beyond employing a street-smart trick now and again) who was resigned to the riff-raff of life without losing his kind and understanding nature.  He was, indeed, an everyman with the wonderful grace to live life as it presented – without scorning what he saw.

Yes, in the 50’s and the early 60’s we effortlessly lived with God the Lord of History and in so doing, we were not out-of-control, frantic, required to “get-our-own-way.”  We were then, sublime, without anxiety or fits anger, public or otherwise … better yet there was no need for intolerant crusaders.  Social justice had yet to emerge to anoint any and all mediocre C-minus-minus people into obnoxious “know-it-all” crusaders.  In short, looking back you see that when God is recognized as the Lord of History … our life is easier and our relationships much more pleasant.

I’ll pass on the very unfunny bores of late night TV, and the likes of Chuckie Schumer and the talking heads of CNN, MSNBC, et al, the vacuous celebrities who have opinions about all manner of things never thoroughly considered, and on the minor leaguers of The Times, The Post etc.

Today we are so dumb and uninformed we don’t realize life (properly considered and experienced) is so much easier … death-defying anxiety and hostility is not mandatory.

Try thinking of God as essential – as the Lord of History … ignore those who speak as if God is either dead or indifferent to us … Such people are as common as a penny and just as valuable.

Shalom.

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.

(In) Adam’s fall … Man fell … into the multiplicity, complication and distraction of an active worldly existence … man’s mind is enslaved … with all that is exterior, transient, illusory, and trivial.  He is utterly exiled from God and from his own self. (Emphasis added.)

He … seek(s) God and happiness outside himself … his quest … becomes … a flight that takes him further and further away from reality. (Emphasis added.)

William Shannon, in Thomas Merton’s Dark Path

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William Shannon”s book explores contemplation and its role in Thomas Merton’s life.  In the above passage Shannon makes the point that Adam’s fall from grace was a departure from a contemplative disposition into the complications of worldly existence and the circumstances and condition which enslave us and our consciousness.  Yes, he contends that worldly existence, unlike Eden, take us away from God and our true self.

I cite this excerpt for the impact of his last statement: that we are in our exile taken further and further away from reality.

There is plenty of evidence today to support Shannon’s words.  Take for instance the daily reports of multiple parties being murdered somewhat randomly.  Or the random murders and assaults on police officers.  Or the opiate addictions that are widespread and growing – and the deaths they yield.  Or the unnecessary conflict generated between women and men and the division of “identity politics.” Or the stubborn and childish obstructionism of the sore-loser, shrinking Democrat Party. Or the focus on the tiny number of “transgendered” psychologically confused.  Or the pathetic behavior of faux federal District Court judges who write windy political opinions ripe for reversal on appeal.  Or the fascist Left which seeks to destroy free speech.  Or Planned Parenthood which expects large infusions of federal tax dollars to continue baby killing.  … further and further from reality is just about right.

The problem, of course, is that we have fallen, departed from our true self, sought happiness in all things exterior and futile.

Make no mistake even Church elders have joined the ranks of the fallen and misguided – in search of heaven on earth.  One rather hoped that their faith was stronger and, just perhaps, they were wiser.  But Pharisees are Pharisees, after all.

Today I live a quasi-monastic life.  I live in the quiet of the forest and the mountain.  In this I have no part of the herd of confused and under-developed crowd – each, unfortunately, seeking happiness in all things exterior, fleeting and now.

When others abandon their true self disorder takes reign and displeasure is their product, harm too – even murder, but surely division, chaos and foolishness.

Our loss is a spiritual loss – nothing else can explain the collapse of a culture such as we are seeing.  

Back to Eden, Friends.  There is no other option, nor path to be had if health, contentment and meaning is your desire.

Shalom.

Postscript – The vacuity of Barack O. and the corruption and apparent psychological disorder of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton ought to be sufficient to suggest we are collectively due for a rebirth and restoration.  Indeed, nothing comes to mind so quickly as this: we are in the First Century of Christianity once again.  Yes, calamity brings opportunity in our drama as the cycles reappear.  And to the point – even though the Left does not see nor understand this: Caesar in concentration (i.e., totalitarianism) is no cure nor way to freedom, prosperity or happiness. Nirvana is not earthly.

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not by yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Eph 2:8-9

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St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, short as it is, describes the plight of a human living in mortal existence in concert with a loving God.  It is a humbling portrait to behold.

In it, St. Paul reminds us that God has bestowed on us every spiritual blessing and that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we may be holy and blameless before Him.” (Emphasis added.)  Humbling, to say the least.

St. Paul notes that God made known the mystery of His will, “summing up all things in Christ.”  Yes, we have been given a great inheritance “with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession.”

Yet, as St. Paul reminds us before Christ we were “dead in … trespasses and sins;” that prior to Christ we “walked according to the course of this world” … as “sons of disobedience,” that we “lived in the lust of the flesh, indulging in the desires of the flesh and the mind … by nature children of the wrath …”

Yes, St Paul reminds us of our earthly shortcomings and that with Christ we are raised up … that our perfection is by the grace of God not by ourselves.

It humbles me to think, to know that without Christ I am lost and that so often in this mortal life I can lose contact with Christ, that my heart can be troubled and my desire of good can produce objection, frustration poorly expressed.  This I must pray might change.

As a mortal, even our desire for good can be expressed in the ways of mortals, imperfect humans … then, one becomes humbled and must seek both God’s mercy and forgiveness and a restoration of Christ as our foundation.  Man, it seems, cannot avoid missteps – Christ alone is our guide, our anchor, our health and perfection.  Humbling, indeed.

Forgive us our tresspasses even those that are the product of a desire for good.

Living in a manner that reflects our faith, shows Christ in us is our call, our task.

Shalom.

 

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; … that they may be perfected in unity … ” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 17: 21, 22

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” … that they may be one … perfected in unity.”  These are the words of Jesus as he lifted his eyes to heaven.

Have you thought what they might mean?

I suppose they could be a plea for unification, for our entry into relationship with the Father in a manner that the Son had that relationship.  In that sense, it could be social in nature.  It could beckon us into a spiritual state as well.

But what does it mean to be “perfected in unity?”  This, I find worthy of reflection … “perfected … in unity.”  Hum …

It occurs to me that, while these words might have several shared meanings, they suggest to me that we are called to perfecting our lives as humans and as spiritual beings – like Christ as human and divine (in that we are God’s children – His intended beings … that as His children we share in His Divinity – each being a sacred vessel.)

Such a thought reminds me of something Carl Jung, M.D. thought, namely: that happiness (i.e., full development) is found in the “unfathomable depths of our own being.” (Emphasis added.)  That is, that a human person is made to know the fullness of their being in matters internal, not external.  Our life is a journey to wholeness and that journey, in the context of Jesus’ words are a level of growth and introspection (perfection) that exposes us to the Divine and the unity that it brings – a unity that is within the human being and, at the same time – beyond mortal existence.

My point is this: we often miss the full range of what we are given in faith. Likewise, having missed this within the confines of religious existence, we live far less well in mortal life.  And finally, this need not be.

In the movie that is life – many miss the picture and its dialogue. Many also do not even know there is a movie.

Shalom.

Think about it – Armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a terrorist shot French police, killing one and wounding two others.  When will we come to our senses?  Have we reached a point where we finally cease to tolerate others who intend to destroy Western Civilization?  Can we actually appreciate what we have by daring to protect it?

This concludes the last in a series of posts on conversion.  This series has been offered to you so that you might see the manner in which conversion can appear to you in the present day and circumstance.  We are in need of restoration. Politics and the Left have led us astray, created deep division and godlessness, despair.  You can learn from Whittaker Chambers journey.

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… I tried to pray, it was as if the spirit from my boyhood … took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me, so that in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself(Emphasis added.)

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers had tried to pray as a boy and was unsuccessful.  Yet, when he needed God most – in his most desperate hours, when his world organized around the Communist narrative no longer held, … God guided him to prayer.

As Chambers writes “The secret springs of life, which had been lost so long in the desert of modernityjoined with impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.” (Emphasis added.)

He records that the two mirages: one, of the Almighty Mind and the other, the Communist political fiction that man has the power to plan and execute human salvation – were illusions which had dragged him into the desert.

His daily prayer, he reports, “tore through (him) … a transformation with the force of a river … (and he) became what (he) was … (as he) ceased to be what he was not.” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, this is conversion!

As Chambers writes “the whole web of the materialist modern mind” fell.  No longer, he writes, did modernity and its rationalism cover “the spirit of man,” thwart “the instinct of his soul for God.”  He saw in this conversion that it was a “myth” to think of “man’s material perfectibility” which, he saw, as the “modern intellectual mood which gives rise to Communism” and, by implication, man’s sick fixation on all things “political.”

In his illumination, Chambers claimed the truth of this axiom:

“Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.” (Emphasis added.)

This Dear Friends is conversion.  This Dear Friends is our state today.  This Dear Friends identifies the nonsensical babble of the transgender crowd, the feminists, the abortionists, the pagans, the anarchists, the Democrat Left, the “progressives,” “the social engineers,” the morally vacuous academics and college administrators, the “open border” fools, those who demand endless “entitlements” and “safe spaces,” those who attack and diminish the place of faith in civic life and discourse, etc.

We have been led into the desert of hyper-political secularism and the idea that the human person can create salvation.

It is time to come to the sacred springs of Truth. Absent that: disintegration and disaster.

Think about this.  It is vitally important for you and this Nation to do so.

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.

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

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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.

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