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Remember you are an actor in a drama of such sort as the Author chooses – if short, then a short one; if long, then in a long one.  If it be his pleasure that you should enact a poor man, or a cripple, or a ruler, see that you act it well.  For this is your businessto act well the given part, but to choose it belongs to Another.  (Emphasis added.)

Epictetus, in Enchiridion

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Can’t say more about this than – live the life you have been given … see hardship as that which teaches, makes you stronger – wiser.

Those who try to fashion their life and elect to avoid this or that or play a “pat hand” do damage to self and others.  Life is not static nor does it belong to only us.

Take heed.

” … act well the given part … “

Shalom.

 

 

 

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In his inimitable, frank language, Epictetus explained that his curriculum was not about “revenues or income, or peace or war, but about happiness and unhappiness, success and failure, slavery and freedom.”

James Bond Stockdale, in Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior

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Navy fighter pilot James Stockdale is the only three star Admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy to have spent years of captivity in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war and become a recipient of the Congressional Metal of Honor.

He holds a graduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University where his focus was on the Stoic philosophers, Epictetus included.

Epictetus, as the above indicates, maintained a school in Rome the purpose of which was to produce students who could speak of philosophical ideas without “idle” babble. As he said “Let others practice lawsuits, others study problems, others syllogisms: here you practice how to die, how to be enchained, how to be racked, how to be exiled.”

Mind you he lived in a harsh time.  Indeed, he was a slave who gained his freedom.  He faced (as did many) a hard life with great risk.  His desire was to help others find a way to live well in the midst of real challenges.  Philosophy was his vehicle – as it was with Admiral Stockdale.

Epictetus thought that a person was responsible for his own “judgments, even in dreams, in drunkenness, and in melancholy madness.”  His view was that each person brings about his own good, his own evil, good or ill fortune, his happiness or unhappiness.  He held the view that to be a victim one must consent to victimhood and that in virtue is serenity.  Indeed, how we chose to live our daily life was key to our contentment, wisdom, survival and prosperity.

Why do I write of this today?  To raise the point that we are not captive to the language and conditions of secular culture.  As human beings we have a sacred autonomy that allows us to author a life that is positive and strong in the face of what seems hard, unjust, dismissive, hurtful, disrespectful, faithless and harsh.

We are made to know our freedom, dignity, happiness and autonomy and to encourage and respect others who possess precisely that same nature as we do.  Seems to me we could use a good deal of what Epictetus is “selling.”

Be well.

Shalom.

 

 

God revealed a sublime truth to the world when He sang, “I am made whole by your life.  Each soul, each soul completes me.”  (Emphasis added.)

Hafiz

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So says the Persian poet from the 14th century.

What if your live makes God whole?  Would that make you more aware of your value?  Would that recognition influence how you lived, what choices you made?

Imagine this: many live as if they matter most but what if their Creator mattered most?

If such thought were carried by all – there would be no need to look for love and friendship, nor would there be the selfishness we see, or the violence and self-inflicted wounds, broken promises, betrayals and deceptions.

One simple idea can change life for the best – not just the better.

Shalom.

Our culture has lost any clearly defined spiritual standards and aims, and our cultural values have become impoverished.

Christopher Dawson, in The Judgment of the Nations

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Dawson wrote this in a book published in 1942, when World War II was in full bloom. Three years earlier T. S. Eliot took the view that we faced the choice between a Christian culture or a pagan culture.

The question of culture and our well-being has been with us for eight or nine decades.  Yet, isn’t it odd that those occupying space in the public square speak with no particular appreciation for what Dawson and Eliot and many others (to wit: Reinhold Niebuhr, Jean Danielou, Romano Guardini, Nicholas Berdyaev, Paul Tillich, et al) saw as the problem we faced in the West – namely, the disintegration of our culture.

I write about faith and culture and by necessity must address the words, thoughts, actions and inertia of those who command places in the public square.  Yes, I see a mix of theology, culture, history, religion, public policy, law, psychology, philosophy and literature as required to understand who we are today, what risk we run, what wrong turns we have made, and are making, what is lost, derided, discarded and abused by those who have our attention.

The ignorance of those in the public square is monstrous and embarrassing.  Political people alleging that a border wall is immoral while abortion is not as but one example.  Astonishing.  Simply, astonishing.  So many who speak with “certainty” minus doubt or evidence of serious inquiry.

What is my bottom line?

Throughout the centuries we have understood that faith grounds observation. 

No less a man than Albert Einstein offered this to validate the place of faith in intellectual inquiry and life – “God does not play dice” – i.e., mathematicians might say “Both God and the Pythagorean theorem … are believed to exist independent of the physical world; and both give it meaning.”

Faith is a necessary ingredient in human life, community, culture, peaceful existence, civility, full human development, human progress, knowledge, contentment, health, prosperity, intellectual growth and wisdom … and it is the absence of faith that generates the bulk of discord, abhorrent behavior, destruction, division, disorder, violence and hostility in our culture and that of the West today.

If a scholar have not faith, how shall he take a firm hold of things.

Mencius, 371-288 B.C.

The same can be said of citizens and those who claim to lead.

Shalom.

You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced and the day is at hand.  Let us throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly … not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy … put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13: 11-14

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A new year is here.  We may each set a course.  Darkness or Light – that is the choice we have.

Look around you, in this culture we have divorced ourselves from what has been a true and beneficial course.  We have abandoned what is good and taken to what we want for ourselves.  We have become quarrelsome, divided ourselves from one another.  We have normalized destructive behavior – indeed legalized such conduct.  Individual responsibility is replaced by idleness and dependence.  Sexuality has displaced love.  Families have been gutted.  Babies destroyed.  Addictions and suicides abound.

Our wisest course?  To put on Light and renew our faith – make faith the very center of our consciousness and each day.

For the Christian this means a relationship with Christ must be at the center of our existence.  Anything less will be opportunity missed and the continual destruction of what has been a faith-driven culture in which civility meant a regard for one another and community.

Think about this – a new year is an opportunity to live well and seek what is good and lasting.

Shalom.

Insanity is contagious.

Joseph Heller, in Catch 22

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Well, New Year’s Eve.  Resolutions, hopes and all that stuff.   Me?  I’d like a lot less insanity … and I lot more quiet.

Elizabeth Warren (of the high cheek bones) has announced she has formed and “exploratory” committee to assess whether or not she should run for President.

Oh, goody!

We need a faux Indian princess for President – especially one who is utterly unable to present herself to others but that she is screaming with the crinkled-up face that not even a mother could love.

Gee, I hope Lizzie does the old Cal Coolidge thing and dons the War Bonnet that created that infamously odd-ball photo of the taciturn Yankee (who, by the way was alsonot related to any American Indian).   History could be made, People!

Suggestion to the Princess: have the Exploratory Committee look for your husband.

The guy is M.I.A.  Frankly, I think in reality he is the “Invisible Man” from comic book lore.  Yes, when you think of sacred bliss with the Princess – being invisible qualifies for the heading “some guys have all the luck.”

Then there are the endless radio ads telling us of do-good community efforts – like early January 1st a.m. free rides for the completely intoxicated New Year’s Eve party-goers.

Imagine how many of these guys get dumped off at a house that isn’t their’s …

Yep, do-gooders … ain’t they something.

How about the do-gooder ad that introduces us to a guy (“Louie” who sounds about a half-step away from a dead-end) who tells us with glee that he had not paid his taxes in years and some do-good operation interceded and Ol’ Louie’s got out from under a huge debt just like that … shazzam!  Magic, I tell you!!!

Doesn’t that just make you so happy to have fully paid your taxes all these years!  After all, think of all we got to finance all the “great” things Father Government has done – all the efficiency and perfection they have authored.  Wow.

Louie missed out on being part of all that.  Poor Louie – that’s missing “all the good experiences” taxpayers have!

My hope for the future?  Fewer lunatics in public life, fewer people stampeding to “do-good” since their efforts are often less helpful than they think – and more humility, more responsible people who mind their own business and leave others alone, smaller government, fewer “advocates” of their particular insanity or fetish, fewer people who desire to “change” the world or make everything “better.”

Give me humility, responsibility, less non-stop public chatter and end to talking heads and CNN, MSNBC, PBS, CBS and the rest, and a renewed habit of wrapping fish in the likes of our “leading” newspapers.  Quiet would be just fine.

The alternative?  I join Yossarian in the hospital censoring out-going mail of all words but conjunctions.

Shalom.

Rainy Day and it begins with Sonny Criss and Blues in My Head.

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… Christ has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him … he bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you have come to share in the divine nature, and escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. (Emphasis added.)

2 Peter 1: 3-4

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We live in a noisy world.  A whole lot of nonsense spoken and visible – and we are without a filter.  That said, think about what nonsense you take in and the way it alters your state of being, your mood, your perception of the world.

Let’s me frank.  We are exposed to people who speak but know nothing.  People whose words are better ignored for the idiocy they convey.  Too many godless and childish voices and we do virtually nothing to avoid them.

Listen to Peter.  Christ is our screen – yet, we let people talk to us who know not much and surely not Christ.  Why would you let yourself listen to foolishness – to godless nonsense?  Do you let others serve you rancid food?  Of course, not.

Where is your discretion?

If you wish to digest what is good, to hear what is purifying and clean and points to eternity and the good that is freely given to you – then pay attention to Christ, to his disciples – to what is in Holy Scripture and what has good and has withstood the test of time.

Presently there is corruption all around and abundantly so in those with who dominate  public arenas.  Time to be discreet.  Sharpen your hearing and your sight by taking up the habit of reading Morning and Night Prayer (as Catholics we call this prayer of the hours).

Being engaged in a routine of morning and evening prayer orients your eyes and ears to what is good, grows your heart and soul – is an immediate guard to the depths of corruption and inanity that is ever-present in public discourse today.

Be wise.  Be a discrete listener and viewer.  Such discretion leaves the insanity and corruption to others.  You need not be drawn into all this mess for you have been given Christ.  Make this gift your foundation, your orientation to each day and what surrounds you.  Health, happiness and wisdom awaits you.

Shalom.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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A little child is born for us today; little and yet called the mighty God, alleluia.

Antiphon III, Morning Prayer – Christmas Day

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Today we are given the Gift of the Christ Child … and all the world is changed by this one, great gift from God.

In commemoration of this gift we exchange gifts with one another and the children in particular are showered with gifts as if they are the Baby Jesus.  It is as it should be.  But a larger question lurks.  What gift do we desire?  Is it Christ or are we given to other desires, other things, other gifts?  Stated yet another way – Can you receive the gift of the Christ child or God when other desires call out to you?

The Great Doctor of the Church St. Thomas Aquinas held the view that our happiness can be found in the contemplation of God.  The Great Mystic St. John of the Cross seeks union with God through a detachment from all other things.  Each is saying that our ultimate experience of God comes at the expense of all other desires.  Wherein is today’s age-old question – Can one possess Christ when desires for other things call to us?  On this Christmas Day is that not the question?  I think it is.

Today I will sit alone in silence.  Read Morning and Evening Prayer and remember Aquinas and St. John of the Cross and know in being alone one desire emerges above any other.  Today is the day that says – seek above all the Gift of the Christ Child for nothing satisfies as God satisfies.

Shalom.

 

Joy is to fun what the deep-sea is to a puddle.

Terry Pratchett, in A Hat Full of Sky

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Joy is not always easy to find.  Sometimes we are in a troff.  A point where it seems that there are more troubles than pleasures.  But look around.

Do you know that there is someone who depends on you for their happiness?  You may be the source of joy to someone dear to you and not realize that you are joy to them.

My son is joy to me.  His children are a joy to me … I bet they (small as they are) have no idea what joy they are to me.  Their presence fills me with delight, happiness and gratitude.

When you feel down – which we all do from time to time – ask yourself a question like this: What would my father/my wife/my children/my friends do without me?

The truth is this: without each of us someone we know and love would be crushed by our loss.  We are far more the source of joy to others than we realize.  No one is expendable who is loved by another.  And we are all loved by another – usually many others.

My point?  When you feel an absence of joy realize this: you are a life-giving joy to others who depend on you for their very existence!!!

Put this in the bank.  It is the absolute TRUTH!  You are a joy to others!!!

Shalom.

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

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