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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.

“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.

Dedicated to my Grandchildren, my Nation and to you.

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Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness.  But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, and those who forsake the Lord will come to an end.

Is 1:27-28

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It is Lent.  We are closing in on Easter and the Resurrection.  Is it not a good opportunity to take this time between now and Easter to reflect on the above and ask: What do I see around me?  What do I hear daily?  In the news?  On television?  What is the state of our culture? Our nation?  Our leaders?  Our public conversation?

Have we forsaken God?  Have we listened as if there is no God?  Have we deserted our faith?  Been led astray?  Become pagans and thought and acted as such?

What is the tone of public discourse?  Do those among us divide for the lust of power? Have some among us elevated ideology and politics above all else?

Who among us speaks with faith?  Shows the courage to offer an honest picture of who we have become and how that is so unflattering, so godless?  So destructive of person and nation?  

We live in urgent times.  In talking about the Jews and Jerusalem and Judah, the Prophet Isaiah is speaking to us, today at this hour, in this time.  You best take heed.

Nothing good, absolutely nothing good, comes to those who forsake God.

If you do not live first in faith, then who but yourself can you blame for the troubles we have and the decline we court?

Shalom.

Discouraging – It is truly discouraging to see so many House and Senate Democrats carrying Mr. Putin’s water in their efforts to delegitimize President Trump and anyone who dares to challenge the settled and corrupt ethos of political Washington.

It leaves one to conclude: (a) they are the unwitting handmaids of Mr. Putin, (b) they are showing their Leftist allegiance, (c) they love the sweet Washington honeypot that gives them privileges the voting public does not enjoy and keeps them from real work, (d) all of the above.  Whose team are these guys and gals on?  Putin’s?  Their own?  Both?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.  (Emphasis added.)

Amendment X, The Constitution of the United States

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Much of the discussion after the U.S. House of Representatives did not issue a vote to repeal (in initial part) Obamacare yesterday is of “failure.”  But is it failure?

The Left’s effort to seize control of one-sixth of the U.S. economy and force national health care on states and individuals subject to tax penalty is, as we know, an abject disaster and destined to implode.  Such is the lunacy of the Left’s utopian ideas and totalitarian instinct and desire.

So I ask, so what if it fails?  Might this not be an interesting turn of the worn?

Note that those who lament national healthcare’s poor health all assume that only a national program with the federal government “in charge” can provide for the health and wellbeing of each of us. Nonsense!

Where exactly has the federal government shown such genius?  In securing a balanced budget and our economic future?  Controlling their deficit spending? Protecting our borders?  Preventing leaks of national security information? Prosecuting Hillary Clinton and others for their violations of law?  Curtailing government growth?  Waste? Inefficiency?  Redundancy?

So what is my point?  Why not let things evolve as they will.  Why presume that states cannot determine how it is that they wish to attend to the health needs of their citizens?

Is it not ludicrous to think, as the Leftist totalitarians do, that the health needs of the citizens of Oxford, Mississippi, are the same as those of the citizens of New York City?

Indeed, is it not possible that somewhere in this land citizens might conclude, unlike the Leftist totalitarians, that it is not the responsibility of citizenship that one must subsidize the healthcare needs of those who make obviously poor personal choices – like drug use, abhorrent sexual practices, “unwanted” pregnancies (in an era of easy access to contraception materials) alcoholism, smoking, obesity, etc. 

What we have at this hour nearing the implosion of Obama’s ill-conceived national healthcare program is this: a clear indication that our choice is between disintegration and integration.  Meaning this: the Left divides and destroys all things which stabilize and sustain this country and its freedoms, while the Conservatives sustain an integrated whole and a civil social order by cherishing and preserving: custom, convention, the Constitution, morality, the rule of law, common sense, the autonomy of the states and the rights of sovereign citizen, the decentralization of federal power, economic freedom, free markets, religious freedom and a strong national defense.

In yesterday’s news there is opportunity.  And there is proof of this one thing: Granny Pelosi and her Leftist totalitarians unwittingly “celebrate” their unmasking as those who disintegrate.  While the Conservatives in the Republican Party show they know the way to an integrated civil society.

Yesterday we may have taken a significant step away from Soviet-style Marxist totalitarianism.  Could the death of Obamacare be the “fall of the Berlin Wall” and the birth of American freedom and renewal of individual responsibility?

We can only hope and pray.

Shalom.

“O ye who in a little bark, desirous to listen, have followed behind my craft; for haply, losing me, ye would remain astray.”  (Emphasis added.)

Dante, in Paradiso

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Isn’t this the point of immanence, and the predicament of many who profess to be Christians in our land today?

Too many seek to listen and follow but never believe sufficiently and live to set their small boat a sea in the waters far from land’s view.  Not all of these are laity, by the way.

There is no cheap grace.  No faith in “hedged bets.”  No comfort of Christ in a pagan culture that kills its young, distorts Holy Matrimony and mocks gender divinely created.

The expressions of religious sentiment over time tell us: many often seek in an earthly life the symbol of God as access to a guarantee of a “comfy” afterlife.  But no, the curve bends quite differently.  In the experience of God we are offered life lived in the grace of God.  In our earthly time, we must set a sea and trust in who and what God made in us and in all. Such is the gift of grace.

We live, in too many instances, in the smallest of scale, clinging to shore – afraid to believe fully and live as such.  In this, grace is forfeited in favor of our own dubious “genius,” power, and “wisdom.”

To dress this up in present day appearance, the shore dwellers drive the cars in the Catholic Church parking lots that have the bumper stickers that show their preference for the “pols” who favor abortion.  No grace, there.  Symbols but no sea.

If you believe: set a sea – your life and our nation today depends on it.

Our land cries for Believers, Evangelists, Disciples.  God calls to you!!!

Shalom.

Footnote – Catholics would do well to learn from our Evangelical brothers and sisters and our devout elder Jewish brothers and sisters.  That we may be one.

… in order to integrate himself anew, man must submit himself once more to a higher power … We must now experience immanently what the Middle Ages experienced transcendentally.

Nicholas Berdyaev, in The Meaning of History

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Surveying the American political landscape can be pretty dismal.  The common liberal refrain is to say, “Ugh, Donald Trump” as if he alone warrants disfavor.

Good God: Al Franken, Nancy Pelosi, Chuckie “Hair-Plug” Schumer, Slap-Happy Tim Kane, Susan Collins, Maxine Waters, Bernie “Never Had a Paying Job” Sanders, Little Harry Reid … The list is endless.

Is it any wonder that the policy process is disordered as it is?

Which brings one to Nicholas Berdyaev.

Berdyaev seeks the full development of the human person and includes in that his and her spiritual development.  He sees that asceticism plays a part in the fullness of the human person.

From his quote above, he sees that without a relationship with God, man cannot flourish. I would add: nor can peace be realized, community established and sustained, and wisdom prevail.

If there is one thing about the present political and cultural landscape that strikes me it is this: it is flat, material, quarrelsome, often foolish and distasteful, wasteful, counterproductive and utterly uninspiring.

Placing Berdyaev’s words on today’s landscape makes me wonder if those of us who are faithful might shift gears ever so slightly.  Our habit is to focus on The Father, and The Son – but less so on The Holy Spirit.  In the former we sit more materially than mystically.

Imagine the re-orientation if one and one’s culture and politics were to accommodate immanent experience.

In such a turn, people would live from the inside out – concern would shift from a collective culture of “free stuff” to desire that all might grow in individual responsibility and dignity.  Indeed we might pass from dependent serfdom to sacred being.

Imagine if each thought of himself, herself and others as sacred beings.  Yes, living in the The Spirit – life is recognized for the mystical experience that it is.

If you want to jump the curve from a nation of people who seek that others might care for their every need, accommodate their strangest infantile whim, ask yourself this: if we all felt that we were sacred beings responsible to live fully, in dignity and in joy, would we not cease the foolishness we now exhibit and enjoy the leadership of the wisest and most faithful among us?

Shalom.

This post is dedicated to Buddy Mahar, my friend and brother, whose genius is accepting life as it comes and facing the fight while not losing his soul, but rather enhancing it, and growing in instinct, insight, wisdom, love and courage.  Such a good friend and good man.  (See the Footnote.)

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How to live in the world pestered with lies and despair, not to flee but to fight and succeed in keeping the soul unsoiled and even aid in the purifying the world?

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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I differ with Rabbi Heschel’s wise words only in one respect – we may, in our best and heroic efforts, not spare the soul from being “unsoiled” but rather gain a goodness that out shines the dark marks of our human imperfection.

You see, for me, life is a journey to lesser imperfection and therein wisdom comes with humility and greater love and understanding.

Rabbi Heschel reminds us in explaining these words – the challenge implicit in them exceeds the strength of mere humans and, hence, requires the presence of The Ineffable … The Divine, of God.

Man cannot alone experience the growth we are built to know without God.  My experience tells me that the path to God in a very fundamental way requires that we accept life as a gift and, in confidence, live it come what may.  Life requires faith more than fact.

What do I mean?

There is no wisdom without faith.  Education alone does not win the day, for reason alone follows by nature what is not eternal everlasting and wise in all things seen and unseen, mortal and immortal.

Since the days of Socrates we in the West have thought that if you can think you can know how to live.  Not, so.  I say as one with a college degree, a law degree and two Master of Arts degrees – one who but reads does not possess wisdom, for who has not experienced life in its varied presentations, challenges, trials, joys, betrayals and moments of pure joy and excellence – excellence of the soul and heart – cannot know as wisdom does.

From Descartes forward we have focused on cognition, not the experience of living – on living fully.  Muted in this process, so few know what it is to be human, compassionate, courageous, fearless, humble, loving, selfless, sacrificial, heroic, brave, practical and insightful, tender and firm.

We excel when the full measure of mind and soul are engaged in all things, and condemned to failure and folly when only the mind is at work.

The culture we occupy “must grow out of the soil of daily living” just as the human person must grow from the soul out, from the interior to the exterior.

Yes, take in the experience of living for it is upon the faithful act of living life that we become fully human and excel as we are made to excel.  Incidently, is this not resonant in the moment, in the sounds of “populism” we have witnessed in the recent Presidential election?  Is it not clear in an Inaugural where God was invoked so appropriately?

We may be experiencing a Heschel moment – a great opportunity to repair our culture and ourselves.

Shalom.

Footnote – My pal Buddy “got” Trump right away before any commentators, media “geniuses,” political mavens, etc. got it.  Buddy’s background?  Like me the Irish Mob Boston neighborhood of Somerville.  Like me a post-WWII working class, first in our family to go to college.  We’ve been friends for 60 years – 60 years. Worked unloading freight cars in the summer.  Him?  A successful Division I basketball coach until the nitwits at Columbia gave him the “heave ho” because he “wasn’t Columbia material.” They were right. They couldn’t wipe his backside.     

“I’m the guy who does his job.  You must be the other guy.”

Sergeant Dignam, in The Departed

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I don’t know if its being from Boston or what, but this and other lines from The Departed, a movie about the Winter Hill Gang and the cops and characters that inhabited “by faire City” and my particular patch in Somerville, just ring so true. They convey a Boston attitude – a unique thing.

Dignam is, in the movie, that police officer who gives you this: sometimes there is not much distance between the hunted and the hunter.  And this, too: life is competitive – do your job.

Here Dignam is responding to a fellow officer who failed to deploy his surveillance apparatus properly so that all aspects of a criminal transaction could be recorded. But the thing that I like about Dignam’s words are: they are real, there is no fluff to them, they are straight at you.  His words tell you that life is life – live it, get it done, wring all the breath out of it – no slacking.  Truth is: living demands all you have – no days off.

Most people, by the way, take off as many days as they can.  Some specialize in taking an entire life off – politics has a bunch of those guys in it.

Want to have some fun?  Take this quote and carry it by day and night and I bet you a dozen Dunkin’ Donuts that you’ll find yourself uttering these words to yourself as you encounter the guy driving the car in front or you, when you meet your kid’s teacher or the school principal, read about some judge’s idiotic decision in a criminal or child custody case, listen to Nancy Pelosi or other air bubbles in politics or the “news” media, or talk on the cell to the person in “customer service,” or listen to another Obama (smartest man in the history of the human race) unsolicited lecture, etc.

We live in a sea with a lot more froth and less ocean than there once was.

“I’m the guy who does his job.  You must be the other guy.”

It is a divine gift to have a life – live it.

Shalom.

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