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The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on a surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

Douglas Adams, in The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

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Trump meets Putin and people are going bonkers.  The President didn’t hold Vladimir’s feet to the fire, didn’t get after him for causing the defeat of Dear Hillary.  Disaster – the end of the world nears!!!  Oh, my!

Well let’s think about our recent Presidents and maybe we’ll get some useful perspective.

John Kennedy was an unconstrained philanderer.  Lyndon Johnson ran the war in Vietnam from the White House and when political winds turned against him he “cut and ran.”  The strangely asocial Richard Nixon put his hands to a burglary of the Democrat Party HQ.  Peanut farmer Jimmy Carter managed the use of the White House tennis courts and lasted one term.  Bill Clinton was a sexual predator with a taste for fast and loose money.  George W. Bush was the most incurious President in my lifetime.  Barack “We are the People We have been waiting for” Obama was an unmitigated failure.  So I ask, what do we expect of Presidents?  And, do they not reflect us and our culture?

Perspective people, perspective.

As to Trump and Putin.  Does anyone expect a man to fall in-line with his opponents’ mantra when he has been the subject of concerted efforts of corrupted bureaucrats-turned-partisan-politicos to slander him and run him from office using false dossiers with Russian fingerprints on them, and skip over the lawlessness he has been subjected to with the relentless onslaughts from the media, Leftists and socialist Democrats intent on dissolving the nation’s borders, the Constitution, and the Republic so they might rule over all?

Smarten-up.  Trump is a guy from Queens – from the streets where real people live.  Like them, he knows when others throw punches and he ain’t about giving in or giving up.  His fellow citizens are attacking him, the Presidency, our electoral system, and the Nation.  They are a greater threat to the country than Putin at the present time.

You fight one fight at a time – it’s street smarts.  There was a significant subtext to his meeting with Putin and that’s that.  In not yielding to his power-craven Leftist opponents he is doing us all a favor.

Perspective.  One, we ain’t that cool.  Two, lots of dirty hands in public life today.  Three, our culture has been badly misshaped by the Left.  Four, the history of recent Presidents has few saints and some blank sheets.  Would that it be not be so. 

Shalom.

 

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July 6th, 2018 – Hope it is a good one for you!

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If you want something too much it’s likely to be a disappointment.  The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk – and feisty gentlemen.

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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Re-reading a favorite book or watching a movie you have already seen can restore a perspective you once possessed and need to acquire again.  Yes, the pace of present day secular culture occupies us so thoroughly that we can easily lose our orientation, perspective, way of being when we are at our most relaxed best.

The above words are those of Gus McCrae, a crusty old witty and practical ex-Texas Ranger with a philosopher’s disposition and a desert dry sense of humor.

Old Gus proceeded through life with joy.  He never missed the fun, nor fooled himself as to the world he lived in, the nature of people in it, or himself.  He was hassle-free.  I do not mean problem-free – for the world is the world even for honest and balanced characters in Western novels.

Seeing Gus’s humor and wisdom, sense of justice and courage, fidelity to friends and principles reminds me of how not like Gus so many people are now.  The contrast is striking.  Gus stood tall – saw what was before him and never shunned the call to honor.

Unlike many with public voice today, Gus was not a complainer – not a whiner, and in contrast to the multitude of Left and liberal voices we hear – he was not sour, frantic, perpetually irritated, obnoxious, and demanding.

Gus had fun with life – the Left and the liberals do not.  The Left today is disgruntled or angry about anything and everything that is not what they want, do, think, believe, expect, or demand.

Mind you, Gus’s life on the Western frontier in the late 19th century was hard and unpredictable.  But Old Gus took all the hurdles, bumps, twists and turns with same panache that Sinatra sang – smoothly and self-assuredly while resigned to the magistry and mystery of it all.

How we’d help ourselves to be like Gus: funny, witty, courageous, sober, loyal, grateful, clever, loving, generous, and wise.

Right now, those most vocal among us are anxious or offended, or hostile, or loud and unhappy – unpleasant and constantly frantic.  No Gus for them.  Unlike Gus – they take nothing in stride.

Life in the West in the late 19th century, or life today in cyber-secularism?  Where’s my horse and gun?

Shalom.

God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

Shalom.

 

 

That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make  people sane.

Erich Fromm, in The Sane Society

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It is a little ironic for me to utilize the words of a Left-leaning secular humanist like Fromm but – assuming his words have merit, accuracy and hence a quality of timelessness such that they can be invoked in any era – it seems to me they offer an opportunity for today.

The opportunity?  The opportunity to ask of ourselves in the West and in the United States if some of our prominent ideas and their political advocacy conveys what is ill or what is well.

I think of abortion.  I think of children born to women who are not married.  I think of the collectivist nature of liberal orthodoxy, “borderless” borders, the application of equality that seems to shun individual responsibility and the recognition that people are of vastly different capabilities and drives, a disdain for police officers, a dismissal of religion, the reverence afforded the celebrity – the people in visual media, in the press … and such.  The list could go on.

On many fronts, it is reasonable to ask – Are these common acclamations contributing to sanity or insanity?  Do we look like a healthy or ill society?  Have we put the propositions of the Left to this test?  Fromm himself would ask this.  One wonders why we do not.

Yet for example, that a bundle of people think that there are endless numbers of “genders” neither makes it so, nor makes it sane.

My point is Fromm’s point – a collection of people saying or doing the same thing makes what is said or done neither true nor healthy, per se.  Time to put advocacy and ideology to the test.  Good for us?  Healthy?  Destructive?  Foolish?  Sane?

One wrong idea can make a whole people sick.  Destroy harmony and community, a nation, even.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him and healed them.

Lk 6:19

Yes, it is virtue that is the measure.  Life seeks the advancement of virtue and the health and fulfillment of the whole person.

Shalom.

Without a life of the spirit our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.  The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible reality – not as we imagine it, but as it really is.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I am sure if you look about you see as many do that people have become difficult, coarse and quite narcissistic – self-centered.  Likewise you see, like others, hostility and incoherence – just look at the news and the unimaginable crimes – a woman kills her infant child and hides the body, a mass shooting of innocents by a troubled young man.

There are, alarmingly, many signs of disorder – individuals whose behavior and utterances indicate they are “lost,” disoriented, without sensible purpose or direction.  Just look at addictions and the vast spread of drug use – broken families, illegitimate births, killing unborn children in the womb, violent crime.

These things do not arise all by themselves.  They are a manifestation of a life without any spiritual context, that is a life of illusion, life without substance – or meaning … and aimless, a life that is destructive of self and others.

In such circumstances reality, sanity, health, stability, relationships, contentment, and nation are lost to us.

You look and see the problems growing and see in others behavior that gives you caution, concern and seeks that you keep your distance and be on guard?  All of this is attributed to but one thing: No God.

All of course is made worse by the ignorance of those in media who are as lost as anyone, and by politicians on the Left who manifest some of the same traits and many ideas that are void of wisdom – but do us harm, and further chaos.  The Left discounts God and the essential nature of spiritual life and all that it propounds — –  their work and words are simply the product of their self-deception and their narcissism.

God identifies the order of things.  Deny this and life and nations disintegrate rather rapidly.  Better return to the beginning.

Shalom.

How to hold to the moral and religious values in the face of all sorts of challenges …  What happens to people, emotionally and spiritually when they compromise certain important principles – start down the road to rationalization and self-justifications?  (Emphasis added.)

William Carlos Williams, M.D.

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These are a words of novelist and medical doctor commenting on his writing.  Like others (Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, John Cheever, etc.) Williams saw their work as novelist to be presenting the reader with questions as to their moral and spiritual development in the midst of life’s slippery slopes that fragment and damage the essence of full, healthy and honorable human development and existence.

Our culture today evokes the challenges Williams saw.  Compromises are abundant in an exclusionary secular culture that diminishes faith and prefers God be exiled.

Nothing good comes of diminished faith and life with God in exile.  And that is where we are at this time in America.

While you may be sensitive to the godless challenges posed by radical humanists – the question is posed: what do you do to sustain your healthy and full growth as a human being?  What do you do to maintain a mature emotional and spiritual state while others around you have abandoned their better instincts for selfish and injurious objectives and disposition?  How do you sink your self into quiet contemplation?  Come to the vital questions that authors like Williams and Percy and O’Connor present?

Lest you think you can rely on academics, the media, or the entertainment industry to offer this opportunity to you, I give you these words of analytical psychiatrist Robert Coles who notes: “I have seen plenty of arrogance and selfishness in … “humanistic” professions – snobbishness or self-importance and meanness or hardness of spirit in doctors … clergy … educators … the … arts…”  And he added that “Years … of education … have not prevented many … from becoming dogmatic, smug, and fiercely antagonistic to those who happen to disagree …”

Let’s face it.  You have the sacred call to grow to fullness and no one but you can see that this happens.  If your culture lacks the moral and spiritual content and character you desire – then it’s on you to attend to its failure, to correct the situation.  On you!

Shalom.

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

If there be any man who is not enlightened by the sublime magnificence of created things, he is blind.  If there be any man who is not aroused by the clamor of nature, he is deft.  If there be any one who, seeing all these works of God, does not praise him, he is dumb; if there be any one who, from so many signs, cannot perceive the First Principle, that man is foolish.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Bonaventure, in Intinerarium Mentis in Deum

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I am sure I live among disordered people – for each day I get up I am presented with evidence that we are surrounded by people who have absolutely no idea of nature, its immutable presence and the confides of its boundaries.

What do I mean?  I give and example: men are men and women are women –and while they share common characteristics they are not the same and are not interchangeable.  Each has their blessings, gifts, innate and unique talents and insights, and ways of seeing and being … and this is a beautiful thing.

When a culture loses an understanding and appreciation of nature, it loses its sanity and on the way to insanity it generates hostility and manufactures abject foolishness.

Need an illustration of the insanity?  Airlines are re-thinking the policy of allowing “comfort” animals on commercial passenger flights – because passengers are now bringing animals like small ponies as their “comfort” animals.  (Yes, this is true.)

In public policy matters, the “small pony” is exhibited by any number of iterations arising from feminism and homosexual advocacy.  Men and women are not meant to be “at war” and there is no such psychological designation as “homophobia.”  Notwithstanding that there is no such diagnostic category as “homophobia,” it has entered the public lexicon as if it is “a truth,” an actual psychological disorder.

This is a problem.  You see when nature is denied, truth is denied.  Consequentially, what flows is that which is unnatural and false.  Reality becomes unexamined fantasy.

If we have any particular group to “thank” for this is it people in the intellectual community who latch on to fantasy and ignore truth.  Their ideas now presented as mainstream suggest to me that rather than affording them the cap and gown of university achievement – consigning them to wear red bulbous nosed and large rubber feet seems more fitting.

The tragedy of denying nature is the tragedy of becoming less educated, less wise, less insightful, less truthful, less human, less stable and less sane.

We are, it seems, as St. Bonaventure says – blind, deaf, dumb and foolish.  Not a good development and one reason why I listen to few people and spend my time in nature, with cows, mountains, sky, and beauty.

Shalom.

Never Understood – The Democrats have filed a lawsuit claiming that the Russians, Wikileaks and members of the Trump campaign conspired to defeat the Democrat candidate in the last Presidential Election.

I have never understood their claim that Russians favored the Republican candidate over the Leftist Party’s candidate.  Let’s face it – the Democrat Party is the political party of the Left.  For heaven sakes, it had a Socialist seeking their Party’s nomination and their last President had a C.I.A. Director who voted for a Communist for President at one time.

How is it that the Party of the Left would be the Party that the Russians wished to get defeated?  What sense does that make?

 

“Now then, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and  you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Emphasis added.)

Ex 19: 5, 6

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Thus God spoke to Moses.  His words return to us.  Putting them to test today cannot but give you pause.

Have we obeyed God?  Have we kept His covenant?  Do we look like a nation of priests and a holy nation?  It would be hard to say “yes” to these questions.

Today we welcome a harlot as a center of attention in a story involving her accepting a large financial payment for not talking about a sexual encounter a dozen years ago with a prominent man.  Abortions are more welcome than unborn children.  Judges reign who have been adulterers and married three times.  A former President accepted a cash “gift” for pardoning a fugitive billionaire.  An F.B.I. director and his colleagues lie and unlawfully leak information in pursuit of destroying a political figure they do not like.  A candidate for high office has her multiple misdeeds ignored.  A select prosecutor hires a staff with adulterers and others who have convicted people while withholding information that would have proved their innocence.  The prosecutor himself put four men in jail for a long time who were subsequently freed because of their innocence.

These are not the acts of holy men and women, nor are they in conformity with God’s covenant.  Shame.

But how long will you let those in authority who act in your name cast you aside, impose on you their sinful deeds?  Do you not aspire to something better?

Shalom.

Oh Goody.  A national coffee shop chain is requiring all its employees to spend a day in race sensitivity training and former Attorney General Eric Holder (a lawyer with no special training in psychology, cultural criticism, history, religion, theology, sociology, etc.) will be the instructor.

Now I’m no expert on racism, but I’d bet it is reasonable to define a racist as one who thinks constantly about race and racial division.  That said, the public Mr. Holder seems fixated on race and racial division.  Is this the best one can do?  How about working on seeing all people as (surprise) just people?  God’s children?

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

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