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The virtue of a man will be a state of character which makes a man good and makes him do his work well.

 Aristotle, in The Nicomachean Ethics

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Doing one’s work well.  Imagine if that was demanded of public officials.  If it were we could get a sense of the virtuous nature of those we pay to “govern” us.  Indeed, perhaps we might conclude from such a test that “we hire those with significant virtue deficits.”

Case in point: the Supervisor of Elections in Broward County, Florida.  The Supervisor is a woman who since her appointment in 2003 has consistently showed her ineptitude.

Illustratively, this former high school teacher and elementary school principal (yes, a life time “government worker”) – lost 58,000 ballots in 2004, left 1,000 votes uncounted in 2012, released elections results before the polls closed in 2016, destroyed 688 ballot boxes that were a subject of interest in litigation in 2016 and failed to report as required by law the total number of votes cast 30 minutes after the polls closed in 2018.

Doing one’s job well – this is not.  Aristotle would duly find virtue lacking.

So what does one do when a culture has an expansive government and a surplus of “government workers” who (thanks to the unionization of these workers) makes firing them virtually impossible … and active management of them utterly unlikely?

Well, another way of asking this question is this – what is one to do with government employees when work is not well done and virtue is absent?

Common sense would seem to suggest that down-sizing the public work force would be obvious in an age where automation and artificial intelligence can be readily employed to supplant those whose are inadequate, were supervision is lacking, and virtue absent.

Look at the calamity on display in Broward County and ask yourself: is this nonsense tolerable any longer???

P.S. – This nitwit in Florida makes $176,000 per year (as reported in the news).

Shalom.

Liberal California – Want to see the face of Democratic Socialism?  Look at the train wreck that is “liberal” California.

The Golden Gate state has piled up debt it cannot address, yields to “environmentalists” and leaves dead trees and uncleared brush to flame and fire with devastating loss of life and property, refuses to build dams to keep their agriculture prosperous, builds a billion dollar high speed train to nowhere, invites drug attics to populate San Francisco, establishes “sanctuary cities” and challenges those who prefer legal immigration.  Not much “good work” or “virtue” there.

Perhaps our future as a nation ought to aim at hard work well done, virtue and much – much smaller government that carries no unsupportable debt.

 

 

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Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

Christ is the only man to overcome the barrier erected by Satan.  He died in order to avoid participation in a system of scapegoating which is to say that satanic principle … His death therefore converts satanic disorder into order and opens up a new path on which human beings may now travel.  (Emphasis added.)

Rene Girard, in The One by Whom Scandal Comes

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Satan is the great divider.  He is the one who pits man against woman – woman against man, White against Black – Black against White, the faith against faith and vice versa …

Scapegoating is the age old tool of the divisive.  Those who wish to destroy.  The Marxist, the socialist, the fascist, the angry gender feminist, the racist – of any skin color.

Do you see the division that is present?  What do you do with it?  Do you confront it?  Denounce it?  Reject it and those who advance it?

If you profess to be a Christian, do you not in Christ have a duty, a sacred obligation to reject division and ideologies which virtually always divide and make enemies of those who are neighbors, those who might be our brothers and sisters.

Division is the work of Satan.  Divided we fall.

Shalom.

… there’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understoodAnd understanding someone else.

Brad Meltzer, The Inner Circle

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When you hear the word “intimacy” in our present culture you almost always think of it in a physical context – and hardly ever as Brad Meltzer refers to it.

This tells you something significant about our culture.

It tells you that in a material culture we are far more physical than interpersonal, cordial, communal, familial, or spiritual.

Just look at the drivel that emanates from the “entertainment” industry.  One denizen of that environ recently offered naked pictures of herself (ugh!) to “get out the vote” for Democrats.  Go figure?

Yes, we have destroyed, or badly injured, the idea of “intimacy” (and of sexuality) by our ignorance as to what intimacy is and what an absolutely critical, indispensable role it plays in human well-being, friendship, and cordial and communal relationships with others.

Frankly, there is no friendship without the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies it.  The health of a human being is dependent on intimacy.

We are social beings – meant to be known and to know others.  We are recipients of life and hence recipients by nature for life – bound to be received and to receive others.

Likewise we are a story people.  We live by narrative, learn by narrative, record narrative, gain wisdom and insight by narrative, worship through narrative.

Telling and receiving another’s story is sacred, and the bedrock of our psychological welfare and the psychological well-being of another.  That is the field of real intimacy.

Yes, we are contented and feel whole when another person hears our story and accepts it, receives it, carries it in their own unfolding life.

Today we are far from the intimacy Brad Meltzer identifies.

Our well-being and survival depends on moving toward the intimacy Mr. Meltzer identifies.  Short of that objective and disorder and discontent grows and grows, and brings with it homicides, suicides, adulteries, loneliness, corruptions, betrayals, hostilities, divisions, broken families and failed marriages, sexual predators, psychological illnesses, angers, addictions and depressions.

Get “intimacy” right or suffer the grave consequences.  We are made for one another – far more than merely what is material and physical.

Shalom.

… it is no sin to live a silent life …

The monk is … a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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I live as a monk … on a ridge at the edge of a forest and beside a large slopping pasture that sits at the bottom of a mountain range now in full autumn color posed against the blue November sky bolstered by the chill of brisk fall wind.

I live a quiet distance from a mass communication culture where those thrust ceaselessly at us are merchants of division, animosity, confusion, superficiality, self-interest and considerable ignorance.

A monk is counter-cultural.  His separation defines his values.  To stand outside the culture that divorces itself from God, that knows not sanctity, that neglects the spirit within us is to separate from disorder, to see the culture critically and keep peace with the Divine.

My cottage is my cloister where I may select what I read, hear, or see – a place where I may keep company with my thoughts and prayers and the things of a God who gave us our existence.

Having been planted on “the wrong side of the tracks” as a child, I was made ready to stand apart, to sustain a critical objectivity that refused “transient fashions and manifest absurdities.”  Leaving them was never to have fancied them at all.  Yes, it was a grace that liberates and leads me here.

In a solitary existence one finds the conditions for a full life, and life’s meaning – that is:

  • interior exploration and its sacred products – freedom, understanding and depth of being
  • the peace and health of silence and solitude
  • distance from distraction and disorder
  • contact with the Divine and what is Divine.

So I say (with emphasis added) what Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B. says in Essential Monastic Wisdom –  “…  find some where a place of silence and creativity, where one can listen to the voice of God and think one’s thoughts and be one’s own self.

Shalom.

Drest in a little brief authority, most ignorant of what he is most assured – his glassy essence.  Like an angry ape – plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make angels weep.

William Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure

[Drest – Old English for “dressed.”]

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The federal government transferred an 89-year-old inmate in a wheelchair to a maximum security prison which holds some of the most violent inmates presently incarcerated in the federal prison system.  The man was sent into the general population and promptly killed – beaten to death, his eyes gouged out and an attempt made to cut out his tongue.

The man had been an FBI informant while engaged in criminal activity in Boston.  His connection with the FBI resulted in a number of alleged Mafia figures being indited, tried and convicted.  The FBI allowed the man to continue his criminal activity while they benefited from his information.  The prison to which he was sent housed men who were involved with the Mafia.  The old man had been sentenced to prison for years – but not given the death penalty.

Some say the murdered man intended to share what he knew about the FBI and the workings of its unit that dealt with informants.

Makes you wonder what motivated the federal authorities to send him to a particularly dangerous place and put him in the general inmate population – that is – rather than place him in a segregated unit.

Dressed in the authority of his glassy essence, engaging in fantastic tricks in God’s presence – he of brief authority makes angels weep.  So comes the executioner.

What happens to man is less significant than what happens within a man.

Thomas Mann, in In Quest of the Bluebird

God help us all.

Shalom.

It is within your power to withdraw yourself wherever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.  (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius

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What gives rise to tranquility?  Your tranquility?

If you pause to think about your health and happiness is this not the fundamental question?  I think it is.

Our eyes are the avenue to the brain.  What do you see each moment, each day?  Do you live in an “ordered” realm?  Are your surroundings in chaos, disarray?  If so, how can your eyes not convey this disorder to your brain?  And what of noise?  What do you hear?  Does not noise itself affect tranquility?

Desire tranquility?  Ask yourself what effect the invasion of unwanted ads on the internet have on you?  When you think about it they are intruders – others pushing themselves into your life – ads: from the eyes to the brain.  Do you wish unwelcome intruders into your home whenever they desire to enter?

We live in a culture where intrusion and invasion are common.  Yes, tranquility is denied routinely.  What is one to do?

Wall off these intrusions.  Control your surroundings – have your place of home ordered.  Each thing has a place.  You need not that much.  The less you have the easier it is to know tranquility.  Give no space to the TV talking heads.  You do not know their life – whether it is utter chaos – which it probably is.  Why listen to sick, confused people?  They bring no tranquility – only chaos.  And celebrities?  Ugh!!!

And, problems.  Do you welcome those who bring problems into your life?  To do so does not bring tranquility.

And what about your interior journey?  Have you quietly and diligently examined your life experience and come to know the pluses and minuses of those so important to your development from birth to adulthood?  And what of the losses, betrayals, great disappointments?  Have you faced them honestly and learned what was intended to be learned?  And how about you?  Do you know what triggers your most salient thoughts, reactions, attitudes, convictions?

Finally, can you be silent and alone?  And most importantly, do you have a home in religious narrative?  Do you keep the company of history’s great contemplatives?

When you think about it – tranquility soothes the Spirit and we are all first and foremost spiritual beings.  Tend to that thought and act on it – and you will come to greater tranquility – no more anxiety, no more naked vulnerability to intrusions and the idiocy of the noise and disorder surrounding you.

Shalom.

Postscript – When we see another, do we see a man or a woman or do we see color, age, ethnicity, status, physical attributes?  Can tranquility come from such seeing?

 Understanding is the reward of faith.  Therefore seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.

St. Augustine, in On the Gospel of St. John

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Do we spend time “understanding” and, ironically, not knowing but more and more narrowly?  Are we a society and culture that would seek to know a great deal of nothing too useful?  A society that has much, and gathers minutia but not truth – truth of large things, encompassing things, deep things, lasting things, perpetual things, eternal things?

What if St. Augustine is correct – that one must first believe before one understands?

Imagine how wrong so many would be!  Imagine how much time we wasted.  How many people watched the wrong movie.  Built their home on less than sand.

To understand – believe …

Shalom.

 

St. Michael the Archangel defend us against the wickedness and snares of the Devil … thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.

The Prayer of St. Michael

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How do you prepare each day to meet the challenges of this world?  How do you become equipped to refute what is wicked, what is unjust, hateful – what advocates dishonesty or exclusion of others?

What do you say in the presence of words that divide and urge the injury of others?  What do you say to the civil “servant” or the elected official, or the powerful whose behavior is unacceptable, who fosters violence and exclusion?

Are you strong of voice in these times, and these encounters?  Or are you one who thinks that affluence purchases your silence because after all you have much to lose?

Facing Satan or his minions in high places or low, what would you say?  What do you say?  Would have the strength, courage and faith of St. Michael?  Do you have that strength, courage and faith?

If not, you’d be but a collaborator with the Evil One.  That said, you offer no friendship to others.

Why?  Why do you stand idly by and watch the destruction of souls?  Have you no heart?  No conscious?  No faith?

Shalom.

Only the honorable people resist injustice.  The rest – the honorless – are afraid of their own shadow.

Mehmet Murat ildan

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The Turkish economist and literary writer has it just about right.

But have you noticed that we don’t talk much about what it takes to be an honorable man in contemporary America today?

Maybe we ought to think about this – what is an honorable man?  It seems we live today without many such men.

I grew up in the immediate post-World War II America.  I lived on a street and in an extended family with men who served in the War.  The question of being an honorable man was not necessary – men had proved their worth, showed their courage and character in the demands of war.

My mother was born just in time for the Great Depression and, in short order, World War II.  She manifest courage and honor by necessity.

The affluence we have come to know in the post-War, post-Depression times seems to have scrubbed us of questions as to honor, courage, heroism and sacrifice.

Simply stated, I do not find many men of honor.

In my profession (the law), I see men who, despite the professional ethics that govern them, routinely fail to fight for their clients.  Yes, I see many cowards and fakers in the law.  Frankly people who would have never made it in the Boston I knew as a child.  There honor took many forms – be loyal to your people, help the other guy, don’t let anyone “bully” another weaker person, protect your family and women, respect others, work hard, don’t complain – just compete and get better at life, get stronger and wiser in the ways of the world.

I see things in public men and women that are, to me, astonishing – and in lawyers and judges, too – things that are disgraceful … but to whom no shame attaches.

It has come to the point that I see this dishonor in the “public people” – those that I have no regard whatsoever for … I turn from them as I might an offer of rancid food.

Somewhere along this timeline we are going to revisit what is it to be an honorable man.

“Selflessness.  Humility.  Truthfulness.  These are the three marks of an honorable man.”  So says, writer Suzy Kassem.

I might add – courage as well.

You know I lost so much in this life, I refuse to forfeit my dignity or watch others lose their’s.  Maybe that’s why I really loved the fight required in trying cases and arguing appeals – defending the interest of those poor and weak who live among us.

Shalom.

 

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