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“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire for you, but you must master it.”

Gen 4:7

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These are the words of God to Cain.  They are worthy of our reflection.

Life has its ups and downs.  Yes, even its injustices.  We will be deceived and betrayed by some and circumstances will conspire against us from time to time. Anger is a normal byproduct of deceit and betrayal.  And of disappointment, too.

But know this: anger is the gateway to sin, and evil is often its destination.

In times of disappointment, deceit and betrayal it is best to seek quiet and settle your soul.  Best in these times to be alone with God.  Wise to ask when anger is stirred within us: shall I be as Cain, or shall I be the Lord’s?

It is human to sin.  We are imperfect beings.  But the best way is always to be the Lord’s in all things and all circumstances.

My recommendation? Start each day in Scripture.  Wisdom and strength reside there. The words tend the soul and calm the turbulent seas we all encounter.

In challenging times God’s words settle us and give us peace.  In hard times all is arid and barren, but the words of God are living water – our sustenance and source of our survival.  Life is in the soul, not the body.  Feed the soul each day and calm follows.

Shalom.

In times of public turmoil is it not best to quiet the soul and seek the leadership of those who have done just that – quieted their soul in reliance on God?  Leaders must retain calm to be worthy of our support.  Only those who rest on faith can offer that calm.

We often expect far more from politics and government than is justified … and far less of ourselves and those who would lead us.  Our God desires that each of us grow in Him. There are no substitutes for God if we desire to live well in mortal life with all its challenges.  God bless you all.

Trump Short Term Debt Ceiling Agreement with the Democrats – Smart move. Why? Trump has not been helped by the Congressional Republicans who are captive to the Washington-ways.  Like the Democrats they dislike that Donald Trump is an “outsider.” They now recognize that he is an independent force whose constituency is the American people who are sick of the inertia in Washington and policies that are destructive.  Yes, he represents the “basket of deplorables” – and they are not fans of Washington-ways. Frankly, this shows you that Trump (like military officers) are not wedded to politics and surely not Washington’s ways. Wake up: Mr. Ryan.  Wake up: Mr. McCornell.

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

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

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

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

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

If we wish to please the true God and to be friends to the most blessed of friendships, let us present our spirit naked to God.  Let us not draw on anything of this present world – no art, no thought, no reasoning, no self-justification – even though we should possess all the wisdom of the world.

Philokalia

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In a mass communication culture where we are assaulted with words, noise, chatter endlessly we would do well to think about the above words recorded by 4th and 5th century Orthodox Christians.

Yes, we are to know about the world, to gain knowledge – but we are not to be encased in reasoning, self-justification, art, thought or other artifacts of the present world – from trinkets and valuables, to politics and ideology because we are at ground zero spiritual beings … those tied to God by God’s creation of us and the world we occupy.

We are not consumers, pundits, lawyers, actors, CEO’s, professors … etc.  We are more than those things.  We have an eternal identity.

In today’s world it is wise to ask: how can I be exactly and precisely who God made me to be?  In this objective is health, stability, calm, contentment, quiet, patience, wisdom, morality, laughter, good judgement, ease, friendship, strength, loyalty, honor, love and salvation.

Ironically, in a culture that seeks to draw you in and under – the task is to stay afloat and aloft – above all the calamity, craziness, conflict and confusion.

Yes, the task at present: to live a monk’s life in mass culture, to take on independence and autonomy, gain humility and pleasure in all that God has given, all that God does, all that we have been made to be, all that God is.

Shalom.

If you find this helpful, please share it with others – friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues.

 We can all get better at living, gain peace, tranquility, stability and purpose – come to know joy as God provides it.

 

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.

And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him.

Gen 4:8

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Cain’s hatred festered. Was he not equal to his brother?  Should not life reward them each the same?  Welcome them, praise them, accommodate each exactly the same?

How fair or tolerable, he thought, is a life when not all are the same, each reach the same result, soar to the same height?

How can God create a condition where results vary from one to another?  Is there any justification for man to have this and women that?  For one person to excel in ways another cannot?  What is one to do when talents, and disposition, strength, wisdom, humor, stability, appearance, kindness, peace are not given in the same quantities and at the same time in this life?  How can one’s journey be distinct from another?  One’s days pose greater challenge than those of another?  Gifts and opportunities be distributed unevenly?

No right thinking person can conclude otherwise.  Is there not something that one must do to alter what one sees?  Is not silence a consent to this divine injustice, and violence a righteous dissent?  A sacred objection?

The hatred builds and justifiably so, he thinks.

The scales must balance, Cain thought.  And if they do not … if they do not, then something must be done.

Rage may be justified, he reasons … for isn’t it a good that one seeks, and does not seeking good justify anger, violence – ever homicide?  Does not blood balance the scales, rectify – teach a lesson to anyone who is favored?  Preferred?

Does not the one who has more deserve to die at the hands of the one who has less?  Is this not fair, and good – and equal in all regards?

… Cain went out from the presence of the Lord … yes, those who think as Cain go from the presence of the Lord .. and seek the company of others who find pleasure and meaning in resentment and its twin offspring: hatred and violence.

Your neighbor Cain lives close at hand.  His words sing out in many distinct voices.

Shalom.

Lord, teach us to accept your ways, to have confidence in your wisdom and to trust in You.  Keep us from Cain.  Draw us to You.

A little autobiography sometimes helps.  

In this short story I make this point: our life journey comes to us.  We do not invite its content, and we surely do not design it.  As I have said before we are recipients.  We receive life without having petitioned or plead for it.  To live it fully we must learn from all that comes our way.  This is especially true with hardships.  They must be faced, experienced in truth and integrated wholly.  It is absolutely indispensable that the events of our life be fully taken in – and this question always asked: what am I to learn from this?  Rest assured that there is no hardship that does not, when it is faced, grow us in wisdom, understanding, insight, character and confidence.

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Estrangement has both color and sound.

Bobby Sylvester

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His small hand reached for the doorknob and turned it slowly so as not to wake her.  Still not old enough for school.  Toe to top, his fair-haired head barely surpassed the keyhole.

Gently and quietly he opened the door just enough so he might enter.

There she was: his Mom in sleep – the shades drawn, a darkened room in midday. A child only, he knew his mother was ill and that she found sleep preferable to day.

Young as he was he met estrangement without knowing its name.  His Mom was sick, and love was stifled and inert.

Remembering years later, his heart knew the color estrangement.  It was the color of drawn shades – a dark and light-less room that turned all things gray and black … Its sound was the sound of nothing, a near-dead silence.

When trauma meets a child’s eyes, either the sorrow grows to wisdom, or fleeing the arrow that it might not pierce his heart he is wounded all the same and in his failed flight his exile is certain and confirmed.  In flight he will not know love – neither in its absence nor presence. In this a sentence too painful to await a natural death.

Shalom.

The way to knowledge, and self-knowledge, is through pilgrimage.  We imitate our way to truth, finding our lives – saving them – in the process.

Paul Elie, in An American Pilgrimage

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Life requires patience and, hence, faith.  Done well, as an act of faith, perseverance, and growth, living assembles truths over time and stacks them like firewood to warm and make secure in the frigid moments we encountered.

Seeking the truth is a personal experience.  No one does the pilgrimage for you. You are called to this.  It is a sacred call to each.

Many defer.  They have their problems, their sickness and they create great discord, calamity and foolishness in their committed deferral.

They are the constantly confused, the addicts, the convicts, the inaugural protesters, the rabid ideologues with small minds and muddled thoughts, the serial adulterers, the perpetual drunks, the free-loaders, the scammers, the habitual complainers.  They live in the past and in their disordered thoughts, resentments and excuses.  They father children and flee their responsibility.  They live off of others and expect to be coddled, excused, catered to.

Pilgrims.

Those who defer destroy.  All are equal, yet some choose to deny the sacred call to life. That is their choice, and hence – their responsibility.  They know nothing of truth and their words are nonsense, devalued by their own choosing.  They elect their own state of inequality and then demand what others rightly gained.  Their words need no heed.

Only a fool or devil encourages sickness.  Truth and contentment come from the journey – often a hard and difficult but necessary and satisfying pilgrimage.

There are no good answers gotten on the cheap.

We are formed as pilgrims.

Shalom.

The Holiness of Rain

The rain falls hard today in the mountains.  Hard enough to give it voice, a steady presence in a quiet room.  There is a peace in its persistence.  It seems to “hush” with its music, its patter –  coupled with its consistent, rhythmic din.  To match rain, the skies are close in; clouds and their gray dim the light as if to call us within.  Peace is at hand.  God visits today.  Being alone takes on its holiness, forcing the Truth of God’s eternal, everyday – day and night, year in and year out existence.

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” … my … pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself … I know I have seen what I was obscurely looking for.  I don’t know what else remains but I have now seen and pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

Thomas Merton

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These are Merton’s words upon visiting a cave adjacent to the ruins of ancient temple buildings near Polonnaruwa, Ceylon, and entering the cave to find large renderings of human beings and a giant reclining Buddha.

He felt in this excursion into this place an “inner clarity.”  He referred to this as “an aesthetic illumination” allowing him to see “beyond the shadow and the disguise.”

This was Thomas Merton’s last journey.  He was to die at 58 in a matter of days.

Is your life a pilgrimage?  Do you seek what you are created to seek.  Or are you captured by what is not Truth, not of the soul, of God, or of your divine nature?

Do not let the thought-police take you captive.  Your warden is a Loving Father.

For Merton the great stone figures were “in full movement,” beautiful and holy.

How does the world look to you?  What do you see?  Hear?  Feel?  Experience in the rain and the clouds?  Do you see “full movement” in motionless stones?

Shalom.

Where love reigns, there is no will to power; and where the will to power is paramount, love is lacking.

Carl Jung, M.D., in On the Psychology of the Unconscious

… we are right to open the eyes and ears of our young people to the wide world, but it is the maddest of delusions to think that this really equips them for the task of living … no one gives a thought to the necessity of adapting to the self, to the powers of the psyche, which are far mightier than all the Great Powers of the earth.

Carl Jung, M.D. in The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man

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I have taken to reading the biographical details of public commentators so to become familiar with who these people are and what their journey has been. Likewise I do the same thing to those who occupy positions as major political donors and various “think-tanks.”  Doing so, I am often under-whelmed.

Jung, in his words above, would remind us that those fixated on power cannot and do not love.  Additionally, he would have us learn that education is a lesser achievement than is knowledge of self and psyche.  Indeed, knowledge of self and psyche is (in Jung view) central and indispensable to human health and wholeness.

I might add that knowledge of self and one’s psyche breeds patience, understanding, compassion, wisdom, and is essential to leadership.

We live in a culture that “educates” and values power, while it neglects love (especially in the dispatch of religion, religious narrative, faith, God and spiritual development), and knowledge of self and psyche.  Indeed, these deficits endanger each of us and our nation.*

Look carefully at those who claim to lead.  Listen carefully to those who speak. Assess what is more important “education” or knowledge of self or and one’s psyche.  They may not possess the requisites in human or spiritual development to warrant your attention.

In this we might find we are far from health, truth, safety, one another and flourishing.

At stake is something simple to state and vital to our well-being: the accumulated wisdom of the ages.

Shalom.

* By the way, we can do without “progressive” ideas and think-tanks; their drive is for power and this breeds constant conflict and division – the exact opposite of the fruits of self-knowledge and the best of one’s psyche.

Peace does not dwell in outward things, but within the soul; we may preserve it in the midst of the bitterest pain …

Francis Fenelon

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Yes, true enough.  But what does this say to us?

First, peace relies on one’s interior journey.  That is where the exterior is integrated and where, in that process, we grow in depth, understanding, wisdom, courage, mercy and maturity.  That said, this calls most frequently on faith and the place of religious narrative in one’s life.

But what more does this say?

Pain, disappointment, deception – even betrayal and abandonment are part of life among mortals who are in all states of immaturity, selfishness, fear, hurt, disorder, foolishness and the like.  So, yes – the interior journey provides a housing for the hurt that diminishes the injury that others and life invokes.

Faith and the interior journey: they neutralize the toxic nature of pain and make of it the best things that we are in being fully human and divinely created beings.

It is so often pain and disappointment that opens the doors of the heart and soul, and faith narratives which most frequently provide the template and context in which, relying in the ancient and ageless truth they impart, that hold the key to heart and soul.

Shalom.

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