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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.

Would any seed take root if he had not believed His promise when God said,

“Dears, I will rain.  I will help you.  I will turn into warmth and effulgence,

I will be the Mother that I am and let you draw from My body and rise, and rise.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

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If there is no God, how can these words from the 13th century survive, interest us, speak to us, make us think, perhaps alter our consciousness, orientation to daily life, and the meaning of our existence?

Aquinas thought that contemplation and solitude were among the greatest gifts we are given.  But alas we are very busy, and noisy.  So easily distracted, indeed to a state of exhaustion and impatience.

He became a Dominican monk and lived a vow of poverty with complete devotion to God.  Even in the 13th century this was a radical departure from what was.

His family kidnapped him and held him in isolation for two years in their castle to try to dissuade his choice of a monastic life.  This only strengthened his will and his faith.  In his solitude and forced imprisonment, he memorized Holy Scriptures.

Released he became a master at the University of Paris and focused his attention on Aristotle’s writings on metaphysics.  From this he learned how to make the profound seem simple to his audience.

In his studies his faith deepened and matters like the growth of a seed or the expanse of the human being came to form and to his understanding and he shared his insights with all.  To this day his words survive.

Are you not the seed promised life-giving water and eternal warmth?

Shalom.

Tomorrow’s Post: How the Democrat Left lost and Trump became President.

To be in harmony with the wholeness of things is not to have anxiety over imperfections.

Dogen

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I was asked this week to share a story about a law school classmate of mine on his 70th birthday.  In doing so, I recalled how each of us laughed easily at ourselves and all the people and events we encountered in the world around us.

The imperfection of humans (ourselves included) and the things we create always seemed quite obvious to me and to my classmate.  Hence, we laughed a whole lot.

One time my son asked me how I maintained the disposition I have, and I answered, “I see the world as an episode of MASH (one of his and my favorite television shows) and I’m in it.”

Yes, there is reverence in irreverence.  Yes, doing good amid the chaos is possible and it is more the everyday challenge than one might initially think.

We are by nature and design perfectly imperfect.  But, oh, how we try to ignore that fundamental reality!!!  And what disaster flows from it!

Disaster?  Yes.

Some examples.  “Political correctness.”  Obamacare.  The quest for physical appearance, the Fountain of Youth.  Marxism.  Just about any government program.  Saving the planet from “Global Warming!!!

In seeking perfection we can create great tension and great anxiety.

Yes, it is good to seek the good we are, to maintain beauty.  But at what price?  Does the good we seek not also include our tranquility?  It seems that it must.

Often the task of coming to imperfection as an accepted and natural state requires a process of re-parenting.  That is: unlearning the habits and demands of those who tutored us in the illusion of perfection.  Thank God that has not been the case in my life.

Fortunately, I grew up in a family and a community that was utterly realistic, that saw the calamity we humans so often generate (most frequently in the name of “perfection).  We surely never “bought into” the utter fiction of the “hierarchy of elites” who fashioned, like Ms. Hillary, that they know best and we are a “basket of deplorables.”

So, slow down.  Accept the human being that you are.  Ignore those who “sell” perfection for they peddle snake oil, illness, unease, tension, foolishness.

Life is composed of tatters, shreds of this and that.  Find the ease, the humor, the implicit instability, creative imperfection of it all.  Live in joy by living what is.  Dispatch those who keep you in constant tension and anxiety.  Let them drive themselves crazy.

Laughter lubricates very nicely.

Shalom.

… we are diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights …

Brandon Victor Dixon

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John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre on Good Friday, April 14, 1965 – five days after the South surrendered to the North ending the American Civil War.

How the worm turns.

Politically oriented actors and American theatres do not mix well.

One might imagine that an actor with a highly privileged secondary education at the very discriminating and very expensive St. Alban’s Preparatory School at the Episcopal Washington Cathedral and an Ivy League bachelor’s degree might know something about American history, bigotry, religious narrative, Christ, constitutional government, fellowship, friendship, manners and good taste.  But alas that is apparently not the case as far as Mr. Dixon and his thespian colleagues are concerned.

You see, said Mr. Dixon, of the extraordinary class of the privileged, chose bad taste and hostility as his voice in addressing one theatre patron, elected Vice President Michael Pence, in a manner that further extended the divisions that the Democrat Party of the Left and its mavens have been exploiting now since 1968.

Dixon’s words well impressed that he has, as his trade requires, learned the lines of the Left oh so well.  He is, as he says, not an American but a diverse American – a declaration that says: my identity is special and covers claims that villains among us crouch ready to attack me, and my way of being.  Balderdash.

The trite lessons of division are precisely what lost in the past electoral event so that being One in America might prosper.

Indeed, our thespian presents as one of the snowflakes who feel anxious and alarmed, fearful that others will deprive them of their idiosyncracies, that they may not be catered to like prize tea roses – fragile and pure.

One wonders how fragile and defenseless claims attend to the urban rioters in Portland, Oregon, who are much of the same disposition as the privileged Mr. Dixon.

And, indeed, there is the Hilliarian invocation of the need to “protect the children,” and “the planet” and extend their “inalienable rights” to any habit or articulation pursued regardless of its destructiveness or demands on others – like those of faith, the Little Sisters of the Poor, illustratively.

What we have here is Mr. Dixon casting aspersions on a man he does not know and all those Fellow Americans who voted in good faith for him and his running mate.

Mr. Dixon’s words convey the Leftist tactic of character attack and assassination, not the olive branch of good will and promised cooperation, or the appropriate and adult extension of friendship and offers of collaboration.  Mr. Dixon and those with his politics seem to make “war not peace” their habitual refrain.

The fact is this: the Left is bent on getting its own way at the price of continued destruction and hostility … nary a thought of “malice toward none.”

John Wilkes Booth, an actor, shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday, April 14, 1965 …  Lessons ignored too often require repetition.

Shalom.

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