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Dedicated to Buddy and My Childhood Friends – Great People and Great Friends

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3:36

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Imagine if your life actually comes down to belief … and to performance based on belief, that it comes down to excellence in what you do, to virtue, and effort and sacrifice.

Yes, imagine life is a zero-sum game.  That if you fail to excel, fail to exert yourself – to try your very best to do things right, learn from mistakes, take responsibility for miscues, live honorably, befriend others, sacrifice when necessary, put others first, lead and encourage, learn your craft and do it well … imagine what eternity might be for you, if you fail to live as you optimally can. Imagine how unsatisfying your end days might be if you failed to enter the fray and give it what you had.

Imagine as a professed Christian what your burden may be if having professed belief in Christ as the Son of God you lived as it that was not so … as if your actions say “these are only words, but I do my own thing.”

U.S. Navy Seal Lief Babib writes in Extreme Leadership (a book he wrote with fellow Seal officer Jocko Willink) that “Seal training (and really, throughout a Seal’s career) very evolution was a competition – a race, a fight, a contest.”

You know I have often said that life in poverty, in public housing, with a Mom and no Dad or siblings, among tough hardcore people on the edge of survival was a state of combat – day after day with no margin of error.  I was, by the way, surrounded by friends in the same situation and they have been among the best people, strongest people and best friends I have had in my life … Brothers and Sisters to me, my family to this day.

Yes, necessity creates need for toughness and determination; and, whether people were consciously connected to this passage in the Gospel of John or not, these people lived a de facto zero sum game – gave life their very best, reached out to support and love one another, showed the courage to face life, accept its hardships and challenges and keep living as honorably as they could.

Now that is “seeing life” and experiencing the gift of life.  I contend that living life as it presents is in its very nature an act of faith, a life of courage. 

My friends are not snowflakes, weepers, cry-babies.  They do not look for government to do for them.  They do not seek handouts, make excuses, complain and whine.

They live and they laugh.  They raise good kids. Work hard.  Help others. Get up when they are knocked down. Learn from life, grow in it  – get wiser, gain understanding – excel as human beings.

They don’t need “selfies” to know who they are or remember where they have been. Celebrities hold no sway for them, but good people do.

They don’t count themselves “special.”  They are the polar opposite of Johnny Depp and Madonna.  They don’t need an audience and long ago realized entertainers are as jugglers – and jugglers come and go … while the best of us sustain to the end.

Shalom.

 

… the Light has come into the world, and men have chosen darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought by God. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 19, 20, 21

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I have been focusing on the Gospel of John and the teachings that Jesus brings us in it.  I do so for a particular reason and it is this: we in the United States, especially among elites – those of privilege … including the media and entertainment class, lawyers and the judiciary, and university teachers and administrators, have lost contact with God, or have rejected God, religious narrative and Christ and this underlies all of our problems and our deteriorating public discourse and the reduced quality of those serving in public life.

Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture.  About the intersection between faith and the culture in which we live.  There is no moral guide without faith and religious narrative.

The loss of recognition of faith’s invaluable importance to a healthy culture is crippling, destabilizing.  In its absence all sorts of ideas and wants are pushed forward without a glimmer of depth or understanding.  The subsequent foolishness is and can be both costly and utterly destructive.  We seem to have adequately demonstrated this quite clearly in the last five to six decades.

We are unhealthy, divided, crude and increasingly ignorant and wasteful.

Things have got to change.  We must return to the source of our wisdom and humanity – to faith – knowledge of it and life lived in it.

Look at the above words.  Read them.  Pause to think about them.

Do you see evil in this culture?  Among the most vocal advocates?  Or do you see good? Light?  Is faith banished or welcome?  Is God dismissed or welcome? Is Light manifest?

Or does one hear actors and celebrities, elected officials even – talking hatefully and doing so without hesitation?  Is the media truthful or are they not?

Those who are not truthful are not of the Light.  They destroy and there is no reason to give them ear.

Shalom.

Common Mistake – I recently watched an interesting report on the BBC about suicide among homosexuals.  The claim was made that it is a serious problem and that its cause is the denial of equality.

The common mistake?  Not all matters and forms of human behavior depend on “equality.”

There is far more to a healthy life than “equality.”  It is not the essence of human existence.

Indeed “equality” is invoked by political advocates without any evidence that they have studied the concept.  They use “equality” in an undifferentiated way.   Big mistake.  A mistake of ignorance.

The result in this case is this: neither “equality” nor suicide are understood.

Our ignorance grows seemingly in direct proportion to the growth of educational institutions and budget increases in education.

The Lord God planted a garden toward the East, in Eden … Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2: 8, 9

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… the tree of life …

We often miss this vital point in the story of Adam and Eve and their exile from Eden that results when they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

At Mass yesterday, Fr. Tucker pointed this out.  It is, frankly, a profound observation with extraordinary significance.

Yes, we were exiled for our disobedience.  Left to live far from the tree of life …. until 

Yes, until Christ was crucified – the Cross Our Tree of Life.  Such a wonderful and simple Truth from Fr. Tucker.

Think about this.  You have been brought back to Eden.  It’s enough to make a person obedient, thankful, faithful.

Beware of those who attack faith, the Church, religion and Believers – they have little understanding and are far from Truth and Life.

Shalom.

Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

Today’s Assault on Republican Congressman and Staff

[I wish I did not have to mention this.]

The man arrested for shooting a Republican Congressman, staff member and police officers is reported to be a Bernie Sanders supporter with troubling social media posts aimed at President Trump.  His posts show he is an ideologue and a devotee of Leftist policies and Leftist media celebrities.

Perhaps, Democrat politicians and the Leftist press and media types will realize their careless, inflammatory words and calls for “resistance” in the streets have a very dangerous consequence.  Hatred claims its victims.  It is best to watch what we said and how we say it.

Serious prayer and civil behavior is needed.

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… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …

Mt 20:28

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What will it take for us to be humble?  The Son of God came to serve, and ransom our life at the price of his own.

When will we see the essential, indispensable, central role of humility in human existence?  The foundation stone that it is for us, for a contented and peace-filled life?

Does it take tragedy like today’s devastating high rise holocaust in London?  Or the brutality of despotic regimes?

Yesterday, I saw for a second successive time the rudeness of a U.S. Senator (Kamala Harris, Democrat) asking questions of a witness.  No humility there.  No grace.  Rudeness, yes – not humility.  (Attention, Miss: the wise ones play hard, get their answer and are not rude in the process.)

Today, I saw the bright orange-red sun, a perfect orb, ascend over the mountains. Humbling.  Can anyone doubt God’s dominion?

Then, a friend sent me pictures of his four grandkids – two boy and two girls, Quads – four at one pregnancy.  All healthy.  All exquisite.  Perfect.  Little button noses, bright eyes, chubby little arms and hands and bellies.  Humbling.

The children’s Dad is a young guy who came to me when he was an undergrad at Notre Dame.  He sought me out to discuss becoming a lawyer.  Hesitant, he needed insight, encouragement, counsel.  I delivered.  He is now licensed in two states and occupies a seat in a Chicago law firm.  I’ve seen a college student become a lawyer and a father. Such a joy to witness.  Humbling.  Quads.  Very humbling.

I’ve seen my own son become a man, secure his Ph.D, in one of the hardest disciplines to tackle (the hybrid field of AI/neurals systems).  Humbling.  And seen him become not just a man with a doctorate but become a loving, patient, engaged, soft-spoken, fun-loving father of two little ones – a boy going on three and a girl of eight months.  Humbling.

Look, Friends – we are far better with humility than without.  Look around those without humility are bores.  They really crowd public life, politics especially … in the celebrity realm, and in media.  Bores, so often.  

Cherish the humble ones.  They are a clear “cut above.”  Do we not instinctively know this!

Shalom.

If this message is helpful.  Share it with others.  We are in this together.

“How full the days are, full of slow and quiet … Only here do I feel that my life is authentically human.

Thomas Merton

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Merton’s words in a journal entry of November 1964 when he moved into his hermitage – a place to dwell alone surrounded by nature.

In my solitude on the ridge I know what he means.  Never have I felt closer to reality, to God, to the ground of being … or more at peace.

I am away from disorder, chaos … and the flood of bad behavior, routine deceptions and the idiotic chatter – its self-destruction.

I think of ISIS.  North Korea.  The American Left.  The media, the press.  Iran. Russia’s global antics and Europe’s passivity and foolishness.

When good falls victim to evil has not the ground under you shifted?  Is it not wise to seek Eden once again?

In Eden there are no pagans, no herds of selfish people making unwise and suicidal demands.

Merton and the Ridge.

Shalom.

In living we are directly doing the will of God … our very existence is contact with His will … life is holy and a responsibility of God and man.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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If you can imagine that your existence is willed by God, that each moment of your existence fulfills God’s will – would you think differently … act differently … feel differently than you do?

If one’s very existence touches the will of God, would you make different choices in life than you now do?

Each day I awake and in due time look at the news of the world.  Typically, I see some article that tells of something like this: a man tried to drown his two twin children, or a school teacher threatened to flunk a student with whom she was sexually involved if that student “broke” off their “contact.”

Seeing these things, I am repelled – not just by the event but by the fact that these things are thought newsworthy.  

These reported stories make me ask: Why would I want to know this?  What effect does reading this have on me?  On others?  Do these stories not bring us down? Sow seeds of despair?  Turn our appetite for life sour?

I am sure that every day there are any number of horrible acts committed and that newspapers and the news media in-general have their pick of horrible stories to convey – but is there any glancing thought that feeding others these stories has a debilitating effect?

The mere reporting of such stores tells us that the lost souls offering these stories neither conceive of living as collaborating with God’s will, nor that life itself is holy, sacred, divine in its creation and ought to be respected as such.

The truth is if you look around you will see all sorts of actions which deny that life is holy, sacred and divine.  Having seen this so clearly, I have decided to ignore this crap.

My view is quite simple: why do I want to have my spirit be poisoned by the godless conduct of those gripped by evil and its manifestations?  I know such people and acts occur, but why must I be made a party to them each day? Consequently, I’ve come to “keep by distance” from these reports just as I reject a diet of rotten food.

Why bathe in other people’s dirty water, or each rancid food?

Shalom.

If this post strikes a positive cord for you, please send it to others.  The process of reclaiming the public square and public space calls for our participation … and that means you and me together.

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.

We see the world … as we are …

Stephen R. Covey

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These seven words are worth remembering.  There is truth in them.  Our actions, inactions, thoughts and concerns tell others who we are.

Thinking about this I am struck by two things: (1) how often we meet or are exposed to difficult or disordered people in this culture, (2) how often we can conclude that those we encounter have defaulted to a status far below their full growth and development.

This brings me to Carl Jung, M.D., and this opinion: we do little or nothing to present people with an understanding of what a human being is, and how we are formed and develop.

Jung’s life work provides a useful template which we neglect at great expense.

His view was that each person had to develop as the individual person they were created to be (i.e., individuation).  To explain this process, Dr. Jung focused first on the psyche.  

Jung divided the mind into a conscious and unconscious sphere.  The latter is divided into two components: what is personal and what is collective.  The personal is composed of lifetime experiences – including things forgotten or repressed.  The unconscious is comprised of universal and timeless images and understandings that are “inherited” and formed in archetypal patterns the denial of which creates disorder, keeps one from full development and individuation.

Jung’s view is that when one attends to the conscious (the center of which is the ego) and neglects the unconscious imbalance follows, and reaction appears in dreams, dream images and fantasies intended to encourage the full experience of human life.   Those who repress or neglect the unconscious sphere rely on ego alone and their assertiveness and disposition can be punishing to themselves and others upon whom they impose their will.  Yes, rely on ego and consciousness alone and disorder arises.

The latter, those egotists who impose their will, are abundant in politics and mass media today – giving rise to the hostility, bias and rather zany and self-destructive ideas advocated by the Left and ideologues today.

The practical point to be made is this: when you encounter those who advance strange ideas and insist on your allegiance to them, and turn hostile when you pause or refute their views you are likely facing one who is imbalanced.  One who does not manifest a healthy humility, is frantic when there is no reason for such a state – is probably short of the development they can, if the wish, achieve.

When you look about, when you encounter people and groups who are insistent and aggressive, who demonize those who do not agree with them – you are wise to discount their views.  Their behavior itself discredits what they advocate or propose.

Shalom.

Amazing – It is amazing to listen to the “Priests of Climate Change” who see those who disagree with them as heretics … and use scathing words to show their discontent.  So much for tolerance, civility and a democracy that allows for difference of opinion.

 

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.

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