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If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

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There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified … Repent, and … be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ … and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …”

… baptised … They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.

Acts 2: 36, 38, 41, 42

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Christian life is difficult.  Remember many who initially stood with Jesus left him. And but twelve Disciples assembled and one of them “jumped ship” while another denied Him three times.

The above words are those of St. Peter who denied knowing Jesus prior to the Crucifixion.  Yet, Peter devoted himself to Christ.  He rose in faith despite his failure.  He is just as we are.  Yes, a failure is not fatal when you have access to Christ – as we do.

No matter how dark the gathering clouds are – you have the Light of Christ inside you, and about you to impart strength and guidance.  In trials we grow most in faith.

When the hours are hardest, God is more consciously near.  See difficulty as a time when you draw closer to God, see more deeply, grow in confidence and wisdom and resolve, in faith and in Spirit. Never lose faith.

Shalom.

Combat – Living in and for Christ brings us first and foremost to witness Christ in how we live.  Yes, the task is to live as Christ would ask us to live.  That, Dear Friends, means a life not of combat with other mortals but with ourselves.  Yes, life in and for Christ brings us to spiritual combat – life in struggle with the dominant instincts of mere our human existence and the multiple challenges and demands of mortal life.  We journey in Christ from mere humanity to spiritual existence and its assent … mere mortals gaining traction over time in which our faith grows and we gain wisdom and our intended full identity.

 

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. (Emphasis added.)

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Sartre, of course, is wrong about being “condemned to be free” but he is correct in saying the human person is “responsible for everything he (or she) does.

Responsibility is largely honored in its absence now.  We can thank the Left for this. They talk about rights but never about responsibilities.  In health care they never see the sanctity of life as a gift and our responsibility to take care of ourselves, to eat properly, exercise, control our weight, avoid unhealthy vices, etc.

Indeed, the godless Left holds few “responsible” least of all themselves and those in their ranks who seek that others pay the tab for their irresponsibility. Of course, the Left does hold responsible those who expect each of us to be responsible.  Odd as it seems, even the godless Sartre is more to be trusted than the present day American Left.

I guess one can conclude that years of Leftist irresponsibility has made even Sartre a Conservative.  If you need a measure of how ill-conceived the positions and policies of the Left are – imagining Sartre a Conservative probably does it.

Shalom.

Remember – Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture – as such it must address the culture as it is.  And that now means as its political state the condition of which would be vastly improves if God and faith were given a rightful place.  Yes, if each living being saw life as a gift and took responsibility for it as such.

The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmented for some time now, a process that is accelerating … (we are) stripped of ancestral faith.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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What in particular has been lost?

To answer this question is to chart a course back to health and stability, joy, meaning and purpose, resolve, determination, responsibility, identity, intimacy, strength and courage.

So what is the answer?  Well here is part of it.  We once identified God with Creation – with our beginning, our origin, and this nexus of God and Creation placed God in the present moment of each day.  Having disconnected God from Creation, we are lost.

Lost, we are without stability, comprehension, understanding, hope and certainty.  We lack vitality.  We have nothing to fight for or to defend.

In our present state, our capacity for belief and the ability to have a full human experience are absent.  Yes, some among us have become like the Zombies in the Walking Dead – mindless, soulless stumble bums.

Losing the presence of God, nothing is sacred – when once all was sacred.

Having lost sacramental consciousness, the Spirit suffers – we are less than we have been created to be … more uncertain, anxious, frightened, confused.  We have been hollowed out.

Our medieval ancestors had it so much easier.  Imagine that.  They saw God in all things, revealing Himself through people and events, in places and things.  In contrast, we live starved of full human experience, and the experience of the Divine.  A pathetic and tragic disposition.  Those “with less” had so much more.

Think about it.  Without God we lose humility – sit and stand alone – dependent on self; this a desperate state given too frequently to addictions, suicides, violence, desolation, hopelessness – crushed by the burden of life without God, without belief.  In our midst stand sad clowns and crazies, and those in a stunned stupor – flat, nonsensical, troubled, unpredictable, explosive.

So what might one do?

St. Benedict reacted to the corruption and chaos produced by the fall of Rome by removing himself from the destruction and concentrating on his faith life, on Christ, prayer, living a modest, careful and caring life.  He dedicated himself to living his faith daily and in all things.

You can do the same and you need not flee to the desert or take a place in a cave.  No, you can “hunkered down” in place.  Make space between the confused and you, between you and Christ and those lost to belief.

The times call for a Benedictine presence.  Your witness can save others and sustain Christianity just as St. Benedict did.  Fear not.  This, too, shall pass.

Shalom.

 

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Jn 4:42

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These are the words of Samaritan men speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well after having spent two days with Jesus.

You may recall that Jesus visited with the Samaritans after his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

The Samaritan men, like the woman at the well, heard Jesus words and began to believe. Each one heard and believed.

We are entitled, indeed invited, to take these words into our heart and life.  But do we?

We have had access to these words for centuries.  Some of us have done as the woman at the well and the Samaritan men.  Some have not.  Regrettably now we are excising these words and removing Bibles and Crosses from college chapels (so at not to “offend” others).  

I often say to people that we are privileged to be back in the First Century of Christianity … that we have the choice to believe and renew Christianity.  This is a rare call … a sacred opportunity.  We live in a very special moment, a decisive moment in America and in the West.

The question is: Will we be as the Samaritan men and the woman at the well?

It is up to you.  Do you read His words?  Ponder them?  Do you show your faith? Do you stand with Christ?  Do you repudiate those who attack faith?  Christ? His Church?  Or do you affirm godlessness in your silence?  Or in your pursuit of self-centered desires?

Many, many in the public square tell us in their words that they do not believe, that they are hostile to faith and to Christ.  Only you can counter their destruction.

Shalom.

 

 

An Autobiographical Reflection

[Maybe it will help in your unique journey.]

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I know what I think when I hear what I say.

So, too, with writing – and more so with writing about one’s story – lived spontaneously breath to breath, scene to scene  – heartbeat to heartbeat, never planned.  In this is the gift of life in the moment, life in one long unbroken strand of time, and place, and experience.

Bobby Sylvester

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Living is story … autobiographical story with interludes of humor, unexpected twists, abject sadness, disappointment, unwarranted delights, war – interior and exterior – personal and communal.

Yes, swings of elevated joy and darkness darker than night … and fear and bliss, betrayal and unswerving loyalty, trust and distrust where losses seem to outrun gains at times … drama and science fiction, fantasy and detailed and specific certainty – or at least attention grabbing with focus on that one thing so odd, or so sublime … so eye and heart-catching that it reveals in time access to the puzzle – at least part of it.

Pieces of time and space and events that reveal a theme and explain the story as youth turns to age.

I have been conscious of my story and life as a story since that day in 1948 or it was maybe 1949 when my absentee father walked by me and never turned to say hello.

If movement and moment were a gripping paragraph that one thing might suffice as the beginning of my story, or its crystallization – it’s clarion theme, it’s overture and it’s one, first and true guidepost: we are abandoned, left … and from this we know that those who don’t love us, don’t love us.

Ah, what a gifted truth to have so young – preparation for what would come to pass.

I never left that point where by I lived within the story and watched it at the same time …

Oddly, I never felt merely a viewer – rather both a viewer and a participant in one body.

And there never was a script.  There was just being … just living the immediate instant while sustaining contact with the yesterdays produced in the same spontaneous manner. Life for me was and is: experience it – whatever “it” was or will be – and learn and grow in depth, insight, strength, faith, understanding, comprehension wisdom and tempered expectation.

As tragedy enters and exits overtime in-and-out, living takes on scope, humor and sensibility increase.  Faith might also grow.

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

May your story come to you – clearly, and give you strength, reveal purpose and meaning.

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.

 

 

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.

“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?

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