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… narcissistic orientation is one in which experiences as real only that which exists within oneself while the phenomena of the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are only experienced from a viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one.  The opposite pole of narcissism is objectivity … the faculty to see other people and things as they are … to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and wants.

Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving

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Narcissism.  We know it as selfishness and it is quite abundant.  Human beings are quite selfish.  We find it in families, professional associations, the entertainment industry, the media and other lines of work that have a public face.  It runs rampant in politics, in professional associations like Bar Associations and among the coveted and esteemed associations like the judiciary and the tenured faculty.

Selfishness is the root cause of corruption.  In selfishness others are mere objects or obstacles to one’s exclusive satisfactions.  Many people are imprisoned in this narcissism and they make others miserable.  There is no love or friendship with the narcissistic lot.  To them others are objects to be used or destroyed.

What is one to do?  For a calm and pleasant life – be very selective with whom you mix and mingle.  Maintain an objective point of view.  Be realistic.  See the world and others as they are not as you wish them to be.

Yes, there are good people who genuinely care about living a humble and kind life and thus treat others with the upmost dignity and concern.  Those people ought to be your circle of friends.  The others are to be kept at arm’s length or avoided altogether.  Narcissists, you see, are quite destructive to self and others.

When you think about it, do you not see the value of quiet, solitude, a small group of good friends, the value of a monastic disposition, life in God’s great space and beauty, the place of Christ in the life of a Christian?

Be realistic.  See what is.  Avoid unreal expectations or self-deception.  Things are what they tell you they are.  Acknowledging reality is the cornerstone of a life of peace, friendship, meaning, contentment, happiness, relative ease and love.  We live in a fallen world among many who are centered on self and self only.  Consider yourself so advised.

Shalom.

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There is a deep malaise in society.  We can send email and faxes anywhere in the world, we have pagers and cellular telephones, and yet in our families and neighborhoods we do not speak to each other.  There is a kind of vacuum inside us, and we attempt to fill it by eating, reading, talking, smoking, drinking, watching TV, going to movies, and even overworking.  We absorb so much violence and insecurity every day that we are like time bombs ready to explode.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Hanh is a Buddhist monk.  He is writing about the spiritual deficits in contemporary life and the cost our culture exacts from the health, grow and full development of the human person in a highly secularized society.

Here we are with a Vietnamese monk talking to us about the fundamental needs we are neglecting when virtually no public voice offers a similar critique of how we live, what personal costs accrue from how we live and the consequences of the policies we promote and institute.

Think about it, a person uses a handgun in a random killing and we focus on the gun.  If an arsonist sets a fire in which some people are killed do we focus on the match?

What am I saying?  Hanh is talking about the way we live and the personal, psychological and spiritual deficits that we foster and that are the impetus for so much of the disordered behavior we see and suffer from.  

When the heart and soul are neglected destruction follows.  We have so changed the experience of being human that we have lost our way – are less than we are made to be.

The level and kind of hostility and disordered behavior we witness is both striking and very alarming.

Things unravel fast when the basics are neglected.  We see this now.  Where is the competent public voice on this?

Shalom.

 

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

 “… My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  But it is for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”

Jn 12: 27, 28

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Jesus knew that His hour was near.  He knew the trial he would endure.  So do we.

We know that trials will come to us – that we will be neglected at times, maybe forgotten.  We will know loneliness and rejection – and being taken for granted.  This is just the way life unfolds at times.

We know as well that injury awaits, and pain and suffering also.  And we know that mortal life will end in time – maybe soon, maybe latter – but end it will.

But if we are with Christ we cannot be troubled.  Oh yes, being left by others works against the grain of our intimate needs and preferences – but those who are in relationship with Christ are intended to live for the glory of the Father not for the attention of others.

Yes, if Christians – we live as Christ. For us, there is no other goal in life but to live for the Glory of the Father.  Doing so, one can feel pain, rejection, loss and rise above it.  

This is our call and our eternal estate.  Fear not.  Find infinite peace in troubles and trials – such deeds (when man made) show the failures of others, their lack of belief.  There is no sting for you in their failure – but there is for them.

Shalom.

 

The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

… in every society where the distinction of ranks has been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; … one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system.  The former is … admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly … esteemed and adopted by … people of fashion.

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

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There you have it.  The common folks live by an austere morality – one that adheres to common understandings of what is good and reflects a system of belief, their faith.  In contrast, the elites live a lax system of morality – one in which they do what pleasures or advantages them regardless of the consequences to them, others or the society at large.

This is precisely the dynamic we experience here in the United States and the West today.  Make no mistake – lacking faith, the elites also lack courage – but selfishness they have in spades – always ready to assert their views no matter the obvious destruction they yield.  Indeed, they ruin life for the vast populace without a whimper or pause.  They lack conscience – although they “moralize” and relentlessly hurl acquisitions like “racists,” “sexists,” “bigot” etc. at those who dare to oppose their idiocy.

By elites, who do we mean?  Those at the top of the economic ladder (especially in social media and in the hi-tech industry), those in positions of political power, and those in academia, the celebrity class in Hollywood, in entertainment and media.

And those of the common weal?  The workers, homemakers, the middle class which the Left has abandoned completely – preferring to know them in passing as “a basket of deplorables.”

This is the cultural divide we now suffer.  At no time in American history has the fight between the “privileged” and the “common folk” been so apparent or meant so much.

In this collision much is at stake.  Our identity is at risk.  Will we be a sick or healthy society?  A fatherless-nation?  Will family survive?  Will drug addiction be common and accepted?  Will we continue “social engineering” to meet the fancy of sexual fetish, Marxist social theory and ideology, racial prejudice and gender division?  Will godlessness prevail over religious belief?  Will amorality win?

It is a daily source of both disgust and amazement that all the talk of our present problems hardly ever contains anything that resembles an informed comment.  One listens and thinks immediately: those talking have not paused for a moment to learn anything – they are, as a consequence, only adding to our collective ignorance when they open their mouths.  Yes, the elites are ill-formed, poorly educated and virtually always wrong.

If you wish to comprehend how an unsuspected individual like Donald Trump managed to get elected, you need only know this: the divide between the populace and the elites is real, it is close to its burning point and it has been forming from the 1960’s to the present.

People are knee deep in the horse-hockey of the Democrat Left and they don’t like it.

Finally, you might note that Adam Smith centuries ago laid out the basic conflict between the privileged and the populace – and we now see its explosive nature.  A little reading and real learning goes a long way in making sense of the chaos and insanity that visits us now.

Shalom.

Postscript – If you wonder why no one among the elites who violates law or ethical codes ever gets held responsible, the answer is simple.  Elites control the legal and political structure.  They protect one another.  All those not among the elites are dismissed out of hand, except that they are to be used for the advantage of elites.

Margaret adored her father, but (he) moved (out-of-state) when Margaret and her sister were small and started a second family.  Margaret recalled she rarely saw her father again … Margaret knew little of her mother …

Excerpt from a Funeral Program (Nov. 5, 2017)

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I spoke at a Memorial Service for a woman I knew who died recently at age 97.  She was a petite and pretty lady.  I knew her, her husband (who predeceased her), her two daughters and members of her extended family.

Margaret kept a nice home in a nice neighborhood, married an engineer who was successful.  She was cordial to me and others.  She had a social life, sang in a Church choir, worked at an herb shop, won awards for floral decoration, did some painting, belonged to the Women’s Club – always looked nice.

Seems like an exemplary life, a good and comfortable life.  Yet, she carried in her entire life the deep injury of loss of her mother and her father.  She was, in practical effect, abandoned – betrayed by her father and her mother at the very young age of two – sent to live with her grandmother in a crowded home where she was largely forgotten – but for her use as a servant girl.

The critical loss of one’s parents is devastating, disorienting – it left in Margaret a longing to be cared for, accepted, loved as a child is loved by her mother or her father.

Psychologist tell us to have a relatively normal and healthy life a child needs one “good enough parent.”  Margaret had no such parent.

This loss was a constant in her life; she always needed others to do for her.  This was her pathology.

No sooner had I met Margaret that she called to ask me if I might drive her car less than two blocks from her home to fill her automobile with gas.  Without hesitation I said, “No, Margaret – but you have a nice day.”   You see I knew from her daughter that she inevitably tried to usurp others into serving her in all manner of things, at any time – day or night – once compromised more and more expectations were placed on you,  yet nothing but the love of God could fill her void … only those who offered this love could assuage her hurt.  For her part she had to seek God, not the perpetual dependence on others as a source of affirmation.

We fail miserably when the government pursues policies that strip fathers from the family and leave women idle and alone to raise children by themselves.  Yet, that is the policy of the government and the Left.  Yes, we insure dependents and the illness it manifests so readily in the human person.  As for the Black family and poor Whites – government policy enslaves them and generates inter-generational disorder.  This need not be.

It is about time we acknowledged the devastating injury to the family caused by the government, Leftist champions of the Nanny State, and advanced by the law, legislators, the judiciary, a sundry “talking heads,” lightweight celebrities and media types, and odd ball academics.  Let’s be plain – villages do not raise a family – parents do!

Getting families right is a fundamental measure of the health and strength of a society.  Getting them wrong creates lasting injury and disorder and is astonishingly costly in human and monetary terms.  Failing families weaken a nation and make all easy prey.

The truth of the matter is this: that government which governs least governs best … because people prosper when they face their individual responsibilities and grow in experience, faith, maturity, confidence, pride and wisdom as a result.

We ought to be ashamed of what we foster – of the broken families we create.

Shalom.

When the apostles preached, they could assume even in their Pagan hearers a real consciousness of deserving the Divine anger.  The Pagan mysteries existed to allay this consciousness, and the Epicurean philosophy claimed to deliver men from the fear of eternal punishment.  It was against this background that the Gospels appeared as good news. (Emphasis added.)

C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain

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This from the chapter entitled “Human Wickedness.”  Reading it is some indictment of us today.

Think about it, Lewis notes that the Pagans 2000 years ago were conscious of their faults and thought themselves deserving of divine punishment. Further, Lewis points out that this was state of mind and consciousness that allowed the Gospels to be received as “Good News.”  

That said, one must ask: Are we anywhere close to such consciousness?  I think you know the answer.

We seem to lack the humility of the Pagans. This, I observe, is the price we pay for our intentional separation of man from God.  Indeed I would say that the last seven centuries have put us on a steady trajectory away from God and humility. Imagine having less humility than unbelievers.  Imagine today that we lack the consciousness to receive the Gospels as men and women once did when Christ appeared and Christianity flourished.  Such a thought is worthy of our contemplation.

It may well be that we need a radical abandonment of our egocentric life in favor of the humility we once possessed in earnest.  When we think less of ourselves we might think more of God.  That cannot be anything but helpful today.

Shalom.

 

 

Pain is weakness leaving the body.

A Navy Seal Instructor

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Imagine Christ on the Cross.  He’d have been a natural for the Navy Seals.  How about you?  What are you made of?  What are you capable of enturing?  Have you tested yourself?  Has life challenged you?  If so, did you see the struggle to conclusion?  Did you get up when knocked down?  Did adversity make you more determined?  Are you a “tough out”?

In St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (2 Tim 3:1-5) he writes of the last days as the most difficult time we face.  He says in those times: men will love themselves and money, that they will be boastful and arrogant … ungrateful, unholy.  That they will be unloving, malicious, without self-control … that they will hate what is good.  He says that they will be conceited, love pleasure more than God and that they will proffer their godliness but in actuality not live it. Most importantly, St. Paul says “Avoid such men as these.”

Look around you, what men do you see on the major news channels?  Are they men you can envision as Navy Seals or are they those St. Paul would have us avoid?

Ask this same question about your politicians?  Sports figures?  Celebrities? Actors? Public figures?  News media?  Critics?  Social “activists”?  Intellectuals? Professors? Judges? Lawyers? Doctors?  Public advocates?  Those running public organizations? Could you see Mark Zuckerberg as a Navy Seal?  Jeff Bezos?  Alex Baldwin? Anderson Cooper?  Or are these individuals that fit St. Paul’s advice?

In looking about I see far more people who fit St. Paul’s advisory, and I see that we have the very lax and costly habit of listening without discretion to anyone who has access to mass communication and that this is absolutely foolish to do.

Finally, do you fall into the first of the above paragraphs or the second? The best among us fit the first.  They may be few, but they are the best.

A life of faith, a life fully lived is not for the faint of heart.  Isn’t it interesting that those least likely to excel when troubles arise are so often those we see speaking?  

Shalom.   

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning … and there wisdom is the selection of wisdom.

Bergan Evans

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Many time people tell me that their brother, sister, mother, spouse does not seem to understand their plight in life.  The complaint I hear tells of the suffering and estrangement of being unable to experience a connection between those who you know well and for a long time and a person facing significant trials, angst, uncertainty, suffering and pain.

I always remind these people that one of the hardest things to do is to experience the experience of another.

Why is that?

Well, the primary reason is this: people do not examine their own experience in life fully.

Most people ignore the actual event of life.  They live what is easy, pleasant, necessary – but avoid the unpleasant things, challenges, the mystery of their own life and experience.  In that avoidance, one cannot take on another’s plight.  That being the case, two people who know one another – even reside with one another – cannot maintain an intimate connection with one another.  Sad and commonplace, but unnecessary.

The answer?  Live deeply, not on the surface.  Reflect on what is presented to you – whether good or bad, difficult or easy.

We are given a life so it may be fully lived, fully explored and experienced.  If you fall short, you reduce yourself and likely lapse into a smallness that leads to your own disorder … and your ability to befriend and love others, and to be compassionate is put out of reach.

It is easier to say you feel another’s pain, than it is to feel another’s pain.

Shalom.

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