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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!

… (Thomas) Merton described himself as journeying towards his destiny “in the belly of a paradox” … He sought the monastic life because he desired hiddenness and solitude, but his writings brought fame and demands.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in Thomas Merton & the Monastic Vision

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When we flee the world in favor of aloneness or have aloneness thrust upon us, we most often find God and in finding God we find ourselves, others and the world. God, of course, is our solitude and in Him and with Him we then proceed … never to be without Him.

There is no hiding, though many do so in plain sight using status, title, appearance, celebrity, power, wealth or what-have-you to separate out from the mob.  As for the individual, there is no unitary escape, no disappearing act.

In seeking one’s particular solitude you will most surely find self and God – for solitude is the door to contemplation, to self-examination, reflection, infused wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, patience, love, forgiveness, intimacy, contentment … and in each of these the gateway to Truth, to what alone is True, to you and He who makes you as you have been made.

Once God is known aloneness is proved a lie, for then one is never alone and realizes that one was never alone.  Paradox ends, then – and all fits a divine rubic.

Our path – seek to withdraw as if to the desert, or sit under the lotus tree in quiet and soon enough God is present and hiddenness is impossible, unnecessary for then we are called to life as it is intended.

The Sacred Paradox is this: aloneness presents God and aloneness is no more.

Shalom.

May Saturday 7:40 a.m.  The pale, faint gray-blue sky provides a autumn presence and a cool wind.  Yo Yo Ma keeps me company.  The pastures and the forest are green from rain and the cows and newborn calves slowly eat their way down the slope.  

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… the tradition of Christian spirituality and mystical wisdom needs to be presented today …

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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When I look around the world, when I observe or interact with others in America today – I see, hear and experience flatness.  That is to say, I see people and hear discourse that is blunt, without depth or texture, message or coherence, insight or worth.  Yes, the human voice is reduced to superficial chirping and chatter, childish whining and predictable ideologically-formed complaint and carping.

This: the voice of those who have not integrated life – come to know and experience reality seen and unseen.  For them any thought of human experience itself as transcendent and immanent is lost or at least forgotten.  I conclude in this that Keating is right: we need to attend to our spiritual growth and its implicit depth and access to wisdom – and particularly that which is mystical in nature – that which exceeds scientific materialism or a lust for power, celebrity, status or identity tied to gender, sexuality, politics, grievance, class, race, economic measure or government “benefit” which always defines us down, reduces our dignity and sacred value.

We are not, at present, close to being a nation of integrated, whole, wise, meaningful and purposeful human beings.  Rather we are flat and unflattering in this flatness.

To be flat is to be without curve, of one plane, shallow and without depth, unvarying, uninteresting, dull, vapid, stale, deflated, monotonous.  And I add mundane.

We are (and have been for some time) inclined in the wrong direction – living on the surface and tilted toward mere material and self-centered existence and far, far from spiritual experience and the depth, insight and contentment it alone provides.

In affluence we have lost our value, access to ourself and divine experience.  Our health and survival requires that this must change.  Our present circumstances starve the soul and lead to extinction.  Any wonder that homicides, suicides, addictions, broken families, and a range of pagan pursuits prevail as they do today?

Shalom.

I listen to soothing Gregorian chants and sun emerges to fall on a well-moistened landscape after a steady spring rain – a reminder that God is the One Constant and we as mortals can never undo what He has done.

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… God is the Cause and Principle of all things.

Aristotle, in Metaphysics

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We tend to get trapped in today.  The calamities of today narrowed our vision and would have us forget God is eternal … His will is done … and life goes on.

There is plenty of evidence to support this.  I tell you one.

Novodevichy, is one of the most important religious sites in Russia.  There, on the outskirts of Moscow, a nunnery existed for many years.  In the period when Communist Russia was most hostile to religion it fell into disrepair until a Mother Serafina (a former scientist and grand-daughter of a Tsarist general turned Orthodox priest who was secretly consecrated an archbishop during the Stalinist purges and was subsequently killed by the state) took her religious vows as an aging widow breathed new life into the monastery at Novodevichy.

In five short years, Mother Serafina breathed new life and prosperity into this old monastery.  Women collected at this place, faith was restored and a discarded property flourished with farm, craft shops, restored worship center and quiet holy places for respite and prayer.  What was dying came to life.

Too often we think that the crisis of today, derails the God of everyday.  ‘Tis not true.  Stay in faith and of good cheer.  Our God outlasts all things – is before all things, is present to all things, lives forever beyond all things.

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?

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.

There was a time when people were not concerned about self.  It was a time of simply being.  (Emphasis added.)

Gerald May, M.D., in Simply Sane

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It is said by some that when Adam and Eve partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that this is the moment when consciousness is born, when man and woman see themselves as “self” – as living in a state of being “separate” and “apart” from God and one another.

That said, Dr. May in his book Simply Sane examines the evolution of the human being once he and she discovers the self and other.  

May sees this as a very significant turning point that posts a false state of being and creates very difficult tensions, and problems, for the human person.

In particular, May reminds us when we were less conscious of self we are more aware of being itself, and life and creation as we were but a part.  Says May, when we focus on self our awareness fades and thought clutters our mind.  This transition, I offer with May’s help, creates distance between one person and another, imposes particular burdens on a single person and makes intimate experience far more difficult for the distance consciousness of self fosters between one person and an other, or all others – and in relationship with the Divine. One might ask in this context, Can one know the “I Am” when one must be the I am?

Yes, in self comes estrangement.  In a way, consciousness of self makes another a potential threat, an enemy.  Perhaps this is why we seem to prefer that “God is dead” or forgotten in the present secular age.

I have come over the years to see the loss of intimacy as a major and very damaging issue in modern life.  My observation has me think about so many of the modern horrors and disordered behaviors and wonder if it is not the estrangement from our divine and whole being and the resultant loss of intimacy that gives rise to so many modern illnesses and murderous escapades.

I ask for instance: What explains the homicidal rage of ISIS?  What empowers the need for nation states, like Iran or North Korea, to fortify themselves against “others” as they do?  Why is a flawed ideology like Marxism so embraced by “educated” people who should know it’s ugly and brutal history?  Why is pornography so prevalent?  How can homosexuality can exist in a vowed religious community?  How can women justify the killing of an innocent, unborn child in the womb?  How can the Left justify their lying to secure political power at the expense of their dignity and honor?  How can once great nations, where freedom was secured and debate welcomed, become so divided, so at war with their citizens with whom they do not agree? How can obvious dangers be ignored and incidents be overlooked because they are at odds one’s distorted political view of what is “correct?”  How can people lie to themselves and live what is false and a lie itself?  Cover up and excuse horrible crimes?

Self.  Self more than other.  Thought replacing awareness.  The other as enemy. Estrangement. Loss of relationship.  Loss of intimacy. Distance from others. Distance from one significant other.  Sickness on display.  Sickness excused, justified.  Sickness.  Decay.  Decline.  Death.

Think about it.

Shalom.

Question: When can we prosecute Hillary for national security breaches, or at least get her psychiatric help?

We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us.

Marshall McLuhan

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Having just watched an excellent Frontline report entitled “Choice 2016” which carefully and insightfully chronicled the histories of our two most recent major candidates for President, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I am reminded of McLuhan’s genius.

Yes, we live in mass communication culture.  This is the tool we shaped, and now it shapes us.  Yes, the “airheads” of the medium dispatch the superficial but powerful images which we consume daily, weekly, monthly, yearly – over and over again.

These images form our view.  In this transaction, little of value or intellectual girth exists or is presented.

Think about it politically.  Look at our recent candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Hussein Obama, Donald J. Trump.  We are far from the Founding Fathers of this country, and further from the giants of political intellect that give rise to what America is and has been.

In today’s mass communication culture, the substance of the Left has little more intellectual depth than an image of Che Guevara on a tee shirt.

As for Conservatives – who among us can convey anything of substance of Irishman Edmund Burke who defines Conservatism and shows us its indispensable importance to a free civil society?

Thus, I offer you the critical tenets that comprise Conservatism:

  1. belief in a transcendent order – natural law which governs society and conscience and hence sees political problems at root as moral and spiritual
  2. belief in the depth, width and mystery of human existence and stands in opposition to narrow conformity
  3. belief that civil society is an ordered endeavor lest oligarchs rule
  4. belief in the intimate relationship between freedom and private property
  5. belief in prescription, custom and convention, and skepticism in those dedicated to the “reconstruction” of society, especially its perpetual “reconstruction”
  6. belief that “change” does not routinely bring progress and improvement.

For Conservatives, change must be ordered by prudence and Providence. Likewise, a Conservative is not governed by reason alone but seeks in society – a community of souls.

Further, he or she is wedded to the belief that life is good, a gift and worth living fully and deeply; that there are natural distinctions between people while equality of person is assured by the Divine and protected by law.

Additionally, he or she believes that when private property is attacked and diminished the central state becomes the “Master” of all – and God and the human person are reduced; and, that custom and convention are a check on man’s anarchic impulse to destroy what is good and seize power over all.

With this I ask you, do the Clintons, and Obamas, or Trumps, or the hand-puppets of mass communication media convey any insight worthy of your attention?

They may well convey earnest sentiments that we justifiably carry – but the question remains, are we or they learned?  Or in them do you become a tool being shaped?

Honestly, one wonders how it is that our current public figures pale in comparison to our Founders.  We had best begin to recognize the cost we endure in this image culture.

My advice: smarten-up.  Learn and think – and be very discreet as to whom you listen … Do not be a tool easily shaped.  Know what you believe and stand for and hold true to what has shown lasting value and divine wisdom.

Shalom.

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