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A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

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Touch comes before sight, before speech.  It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.

Margaret Atwood, in The Blind Assassin

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The political language today is disturbing, harsh – mean, hateful many times.  Those who speak seem unaware that words can injure, maim – diminish, divide, isolate, crush another’s spirit.  Public discourse alike is often banal – gibberish even.

This his makes me wonder what life might be like if we could only touch.

I recall touching my wife’s feet just before she died.  I knew instantly that this touch was the most loving thing I had even done.  I thought about Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.  Touch is love … or can be – love without words.

The eyes can speak as touch can.  Yes, the eyes are full of language.  They speak best when they express love, admiration, joy, acceptance, kindness and mercy.  The eyes show the heart and show its content.

I wish today that we did not speak as we do.  Today speech so often injures.  I, too, must remember this.

Imagine if we suspended language once a week for a day.  A verbal fast would bring peace in its silence, and thought reflected upon – tamed.  How we need this. A moratorium on the spoken word – peace at last for us one day a week.

I have come now to avoid listening to words willy-nilly, to “news” and commentary, to political people.  I prefer silence.  Life today is better with fewer words.

Recently a Dear Friend said to me: you write so well even when you are sad.  If this is so is it not the case that life does not end when breathing stops – and language is best when it is divine and from the loving heart, when it has “that kind touch” that never fades.

Shalom.

Discussion – The conversation after the Las Vegas shootings turns to preventing such acts.  Sounds fine.  But is that possible when a country supports and defends abortion?  Do we have the moral content to reduce such violence?  Character matters more than words.  Be careful to whom you listen.  

… you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a dimension all its own.  (Emphasis added.)

Chaim Potok, in The Chosen

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Imagine if we were prone to quiet.  Wouldn’t life be different.  More restful.  More peaceful.

We are a noisy culture.  Many speak who do not think.  Thinking – real thought, the kind of thought done in silence, ought to be a prerequisite to those who speak.  No deep and probative thought – no silence – no prolonged silence and no speaking.  That Dear Friends would be progress.

Think about it.  If all of us were instantly brought before God – all of us, the entire population of the planet: would we be a chattering mob of pests or a reverent people readied for silence in the present of the Divine?

Today I ask: Who authorized all these people to speak, to twitter, to email, to profess and proclaim in the newspapers and magazines?  On television and radio?  Who thought this was a good idea?  Who presumes that social media is useful?  Good?  Informative?  Brings insight?  Peace?  Intimacy?  Knowledge?  Wisdom?  Truth?  Who?

Some years ago my son and I spent the post-Christmas time in a lodge on the edge of a lake frozen, covered in show in deep winter.  At night fall we went to the edge of the lake – the only sound our feet in the frozen snow.  We stood still in the crisp winter air under the starlit sky and he said to me, “Dad, listen.”  After a pause, he said, “Silence.”  He’s a smart guy, my Son.

“I don’t think …”  “Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland

Silence is like fasting.  It nourishes and teaches.

Shalom.

 

 

 

The soul is healed by being with children.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Today my almost three year old Grandson spontaneously said on the telephone, “Grandpa, I love you.”

Anyone who doubts that there is a God and He lives in all of us – has never heard such a small voice speaking from the heart.

God or no God?  The wise money is on God … and always has been.  Your choice.

Shalom.

Reason is not the measure of all things, not the all-controlling power in the life of man, not the father of all assertions.  The cry of a wounded man is not the product of discursive thought.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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How often we hear this nonsense: “Oh, he is really smart.  He went to X or Y university.”  So what.

So often this sort of thing is uttered in politics as to a candidate for office, or one appointed to a government position or a judgeship.  Yet, never does one hear: he is a man of faith … she is a faithful women.

As Rabbi Heschel points out: the content of faith cannot be retained by a logician’s sieve – its content is too fine to be held by reason alone, it demands a greater receptacle: the human being – open to life as it presents, and fully engaged in heart, and head, and soul. 

Reason takes a place in secular culture that exceeds its weight.  It is over-valued in the abstract and routinely under-utilized by most – who prefer, sadly and often, their own ignorance, ideology, bias and narrow life experience – to reason, let alone faith and matters of the Spirit … the fullness of human existence.

Man does not do well by reason alone.  Faith soars at higher altitudes and plants at greater depths.

Shalom.

 the Renaissance … mark(s) a distinct change in European culture, which shifted its focus from the glory of God to the glory of man.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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Yes, the Renaissance shifted the focus from God to man.

The Renaissance was fueled by the extraordinarily foolish (secular progressive) notion that the Middle Ages were intellectually and artistically sterile. In this idea the brilliance of metaphysical realism was bid farewell.

We have suffered illusion ever since – providing extraordinary hopes for the perfection of the human person despite obvious, abundant proof to the contrary. Indeed, it is this central idea that has plagued Western Civilization now for five plus centuries in various iterations to the present day.  Yes, this is the fanciful thinking of the Liberal, the Marxist, Socialists, the Progressive today.

Thus, the long hangover.

To be drunk on man as God – as perfection is to severe one’s connection between transcendent reality and material existence – discarding the former in favor of the latter. Likewise, it elevates reason to absurd levels while reducing and eventually privatizing religion – reducing it to a mere superstition or, at worse, a suspect way of being.

The shift away from metaphysical reality – is a shift away from morality and virtue and a movement toward chaos.  As well, it forfeits religious narrative in favor of each person being a narrative unto himself or herself – leaving space for ideology to govern personal choices and provide insufficient meaning housed in power and politics alone.

As Philosopher Charles Taylor notes the shift moved the human being from a state of enchantment to disenchantment thereby making belief less prominent and I would add making life less full, less spiritual, less intimate while curtailing everyday access to imagination and diminishing access to wisdom, faith and the experience of God.  In short, we lost human territory – yes, sacred space … and for many eventually faith itself.

If you wish to understand what you live today and know the very base of your misgivings and discontent being mindful of the shift from metaphysical reality to the modern era of man over God ought to inform you rather well.  Restoring what we once had in metaphysical reality is, of course, the obvious adjustment needed.

Finally, isn’t it rather revealing that few (if any) in public life mention any mega-narrative that refers to the history we have lived?

Hard to proceed wisely when wisdom is absent in the opinion-makers who command the public stage.  Is it too much to ask that those who take the stage might know something about history and have some command of lessons that it presents?  But alas, watching the public discourse now more often resembles the Three Stooges at work.  We must have better.

Shalom.

Suggestion – Rod Dreher’s book (The Benedict Option) is a good, relatively short read which does a very nice job outlining the events that lead to our present state of being.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

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.

 

 

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.

… at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives – this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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So what if Merton is correct?  That God dwells within each of us?  Would it not be likely that The Creator might leave a mark on you in your creation?  A fingerprint so to speak?

If that is so, would you act differently each day?  Would you not be fortified when facing difficulties?  Could you ever truthfully feel alone?

Does it not follow that what Merton describes might well explain the heroic conduct we see now and again?  If it is true, can we not shake our heads in disbelief at all the mischief and thievery, lying, cheating, violence and betrayal that we see?

Would Merton’s observation not reshape our idea that X or Y is “an honest” man or woman?  Would an honest person not seem to travel with greater humility and greater tranquility for their reference to God?

If Merton is correct would a government and its political class seek to drive God and faith from culture and the public square?

Think for a moment or longer, if this is so – what effect does this have on you? How would this proposition change you?

Seeking God is the noble purpose – your noble purpose.  That which provides meaning to you – a meaning that exceeds the limits of mortal life and trumps all earthly objectives.

Shalom.

Piggy Bank No More – Europe’s NATO member nations owe years of back payments to NATO, payments obligated by membership in the mutual defense association.  President Trump has called NATO members out on their large outstanding balances. Rightly so!

One smug NATO minister kept talking derisively while the President was speaking. I’ll bet you he was from one of the countries behind on payments.

Isn’t it funny how others just think the U.S. will carry them – that they need not do their lawful share.  Let those days be over – suckers no more!  

Friends don’t let friends pay for all the dinners out year after year.  Such nations are doubtful allies.  The times they are changing.  At long last!

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