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I would like to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

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There is wisdom in what John O’Donohue says.  Indeed his words tell of our growth and mission in life, our divine identity – how we have been made to be.

A very smart and pleasant young doctor confided in me recently that he and his wife often wondered if they were doing enough with their skills to help others.  This, of course, is a wonderful way to think.  Their interest was to use their skills to help others.

Implicit in this desire is a proper and good orientation to life.  Their desire to serve registered with some urgency – they wanted not to waste a day in which they were not doing their best for others.

He asked my thoughts.

I offered him this: patience.  I assured him that life will unfold as it is intended and in the process he and his wife would know with a compelling certainty that there was a next step to which each would be called.  In what I said I was stating what O’Donohue has said, namely – be as the river and let life flow and in the flow unfold.

When you think about it – there can be no wisdom without a practiced patience and the peace and humility that patience brings.

The river does not get impatient, nor does it create its own sea into which it might flow.  Rather it merges with the circumstances of its path, the terrain it traverses.  Our life is no less river-like.

Yes, we can have a broad direction.  We can elect an orientation – to teach, to write, to paint, to build, to care for others or what have you.  But the details for our life await in life’s flow.  Our purpose is told to us over time, played out in time.

Yes, we know with reflection and life experience who we are.  This is a process that takes a lifetime – with definition being more refined as years pass.  But the key to the larger nature of our journey is to let the journey happen.  We are all on a sacred mission, called to be – and in this we must first of all relinquish command and let life happen to us.

Be as the river that flows and unfolds.

Shalom.

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The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century.  It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of life-style, and spiritual development. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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We live in an overtly secular culture.  For the most part our public discourse is godless.  Day-to-day there is no shortage of reports of heinous behavior – a father and mother torturing their small child, a ritualistic killing associated with an immigrant gang – one sad and cruel act after another.  Likewise we are engaged in one task after another – almost nonstop – day-to-day, week to week, month to month – year after year.

We are not living as a monk lives.

Where they have silence – we have endless noise and chatter.  Where they have solitude – we have immersion in the mass.  Where they have a simple life – we have a complex life. Where they tend to their spiritual wellbeing – we are dominated by our material existence.

We are NOT monks.  But maybe we need to be.

What level of comfort, contentment, peace, good cheer, health and calm does your life in secular culture bring?

On a scale of zero to ten with zero being “none” and ten being “perfectly fulfilled in these things,” my guess is that few among us confidently exceed 5 at best – likely three or four.

Why do I say this?  We are otherwise engaged.  And this present engagement keeps us from access to our whole and true self – our self as we are made to be: stable, at peace, content, insightful, patient, wise, healthy, congenial, secure, comfortable, un-worried, calm, at ease …

Simply stated each of us is made for the ways of monastic consciousness.  Yet, look around you – look in the mirror – are you not more or less fully engaged in the things of secular cultures?  Do you not act and think like a secularist – a sort-of human machine, fully and uncritically absorbed with the never-ceasing dance of secularism and all its inane lunacy?  Are you not sucked into listening to whomever appears on the Boob-Tube?

Dear God!!!  Do you not want to escape this in-crazed nonsense of the mindless, lost secular herd?

Be the monk you are made to be.  Silence.  Solitude.  Simplicity.  Spirituality.

Shalom.

The American Left is getting their version of the Dickens “Christmas Carol” this year when American corporations give generous bonuses to their entire work forces after the Trump tax reform legislation.

“See Tiny Tim, people do have kindness in their heart … the government is not needed to see people caring for one another!”

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Each one has to find … peace from within.  And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.  (Emphasis added.)

Mahatma Gandhi

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Finding peace in a mass communication culture must be intentional.  That is, to find peace one must set about to discretely select what one hears and what one does not hear, what one does and what one does not do.

Yes, we must work.  But if one seeks the calm that is “peace within” one must consciously and intentionally secure time that produces peace, quiet, healthy inattention to that which captures us, occupies the mind, worries the heart.

Christ sought peace by withdrawal to the desert.  He sought it in time alone, in quiet – in prayer.

Although I live in the quiet of a mountain ridge, I must consciously disengage from the habit of being busy – cleaning the house, running errands, talking on the cell, etc.

We live in a culture that draws us into it.  We are stimulated each day by news, and messages, noise, responsibilities, attractions.  But are these matters not obstacles to peace, tranquility, comfort, a slower heart beat, less stress, less preoccupation.  Most people live in worry and do not live in the moment.  Missing the moment one loses the peace of that moment, the grace of one’s heart beat.

Look at the political world – people are frantic.  No one leads who is frantic.

The ideologues are, to put it plainly, unhealthy – on the verge of insanity.  Their shrill proclamations are the voice of sickness, constant discontent, unhappiness – even anger at times.  People like Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren are visibly hectic and “on edge.”  Is this any way to peace?  No.

Shalom.

Tip of the Hat – A tip of the hat to Senators Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) for the gracious manner in which they conduct their public business.

It is a delight to see gentlemen in public life.  Bravo!  We are well served by men such as these.

 

 

 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the word of the Lord, because you know the labor in the Lord is not in vain.  (Emphasis added.)

1 Cor 15:58

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St. Paul is addressing the people of Corinth.  He speaks of courage.

I often say to others that “all courage flows from faith.”  Yes, St. Paul makes this point: to stand firm in life – in ordinary and troubled times – one must have faith, be of faith – trust in the word of the Lord.

There are similar passages in the Old Testament that make this point as well.  You see, that is the dynamic of faith in times that require courage of each of us.  We live in such times today.

There are many among us who prefer we listen to them, adopt their faithless views.  Much of what has been propounded by those without faith (the abortionists, the racists, those wedded to power and control, those who put their trust in gender and sexual practices – to mention but some) speak without belief – speak and act without reference to God, indeed speak as if God does not matter, does not exist or is “the enemy.”

Those of us who believe must summon the courage to speak in opposition to what is godless, destructive, divisive – even evil.  Yes, in faith comes courage and in courage we speak.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman whose thoughts went only to gender.  Her sight was very narrow – all matters centered on her concern about her gender and sexuality.  She saw her existence through that narrow bodily prism.  It was like talking to a brainwashed fanatic.  She had no point of reference but her gender and sexuality.  She had been reduced to much less than who she has been divinely made to be.

This is the nature of absurdity that the Left has given us in their “identity politics.”  People no longer see who they are – and like intemperate, spoiled children they scream and hold their breath in fits of rage and lunacy having abandoned all sense they have been given.

People like this are akin to “the possessed,” the demonic.  There is no discourse with them, nor do their words warrant our time or attention.  Sadly they discredit themselves.

Yes, we face this challenge: to restore common sense and maturity to those whose disposition is godless and hostile.  Failing to do that we will not have a nation or a community, friendship and peace.

The biggest part of our present task is to reject the poisonous fruit of “identity politics” which has propounded what is false, reductive, divisive and attempts to make normative that which is not.  Our best approach: do not listen to those who are possessed.

Yes, as St. Paul says – give yourself to the word of the Lord and have the courage to speak and witness truth to what is false and destructive.

Shalom.  

“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.

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.

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