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… words we have half digested are the distillations of great questions that must be faced if one is to live a serious life: reason-revelation, freedom-necessity, democracy-aristocracy, good-evil, body-soul, self-other, man-city, eternity-time, being-nothing.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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This from a short chapter in Bloom’s book titled “Our Ignorance.”  The point that Dr. Bloom makes is that these couplets over the stretch of human history are the sorts of couplets to examine if one is to know what a life is, how communities are formed, how one might distinguish truth from what is false and come to insight, contentment, purpose, meaning and the like.

Good enough, to start.  Yes.

Bloom is telling us that words and their application over time convey vital lessons – carry wisdom from age to age and he is saying we have lost touch with these couplets and their value and are the worse for it.

In his discourse he shows how this decoupling manifest itself in the present age by focusing on the intimate desires that have heretofore been (throughout the ages) repressed but now set loose to our disadvantage.  Of course, he focuses on sexual desires and shows how the loss of stable points of reference such as the couplets he mentions leave us in a hideous and utterly disordered state as to our sexuality and its healthy and life-giving nature.

In a compelling short 13 page chapter he shows how being uncoupled for the collected wisdom and good health habits leave us unable to sort good from bad.

Today we see this in spades – Weinstein and the entertainment industry, Lauer and common media, the ravages of adult female teachers exploiting underage male students, killing of unborn children, the focus on body as all-important and political, assorted gender advocacy as the ground of all being, etc.

Bloom shows us how the abhorrent becomes normative to the un-doing of a formerly stable culture and its essential institutions like family and marriage.  This is America today – the uninformed promote disorder and produce destruction … 

I offer a case in point from today’s news.  It is reported in different news sources that a wealthy fellow in California who is active in Left politics employed a young black male “sex worker” and furnished the “worker” a drug injection which killed the young man.  According to the news accounts, not much has been done to hold the older man responsible for the death.

Reading this story I could not help but see that when standard modes of healthy living are abandoned and dark, ugly, sick, exploitive conduct is treated as normative – we lose the ability to see that a life was lost, another is being wasted, exploitation is a community standard in California, and intimate and sacred sexual expression between a man and a women has been bastardized, debauched.

Professor Allan Bloom is a pretty smart guy.  Your faith entrusts you with the good and just things in life.  As a faithful person – you’d better start claiming your sacred space lest we all be absolutely lost.

Have you not had enough of this destruction and decadence?

Shalom.

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… there is no real teacher who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul …

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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If you want to understand what has gone wrong in America you need understand that higher education (and now elementary and secondary education as well) proceeds without regard for the soul – nay, it repudiates the existence of the soul … and this proposition alone explains the hostility and idiocy of the American Left as it emerges in politics, media, entertainment, the press, the academy and even among religious institutions.

The question of course comes: can a society hold itself together without regard for the soul and all the harm that comes from its exclusion?

Look around, the evidence is quite clear – and the answer followers.  The answer is “No.”

You think I am wrong?  Look at families or shall I say the fragments of family.  The protection of child sacrifice.  The presence of sexual assault, child abuse, gang murders, mass shootings, avarice and greed, foul language, intergenerational public dependence, addictions, pornography, adulteries, public corruption as it emerges in our high offices – among the law-keepers and those charged with keeping us safe.

Look too at the greed of ex-Presidents and their spouses who must glorify themselves while filling their pockets with money and and their lives with fine possessions.  Contrast that with President Truman who carried his own luggage to the train station when he departed from the White House.

There is nary a moment in the news that does not say to us: we are soulless.

Universities are sadly and tragically disordered and corrupted.  Things must change.  Those who preach moral disorder must be ignored, challenged, discredited.  We have gone in the wrong direction for some time – and the destruction is widespread.

The restoration of belief and faith, and morality, and virtue, honesty and honor, and community, and fellowship, and family, and religious worship, and humility, and sacrifice, mutual and self-respect, civility and individuality responsibility is essential and immediate.

… there is no real human being who in practice does not believe in the existence of the soul …

Shalom.

Observation – When some men and women in the U.S. Congress sat on their fannies as others stood in shared respect of mothers and fathers whose teenage daughters were murdered by violent teen gang members –  we see the soulless … and we saw this in the recent State of the Union Address.  Shameful.

No one can govern who is soulless.  Pay no attention to the soulless except to rebuke them.

It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful, they are found because it is possible to find them.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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These are the words of “the father of the Atomic Bomb,” – a brilliant man, delightful and well-liked and a physicist.

Last night I watched a riveting documentary entitled The Day after Trinity.  It was about the effort to collect a large team of physicists, mathematicians, chemists, and related scientists to conduct research and then make the Atomic Bomb which was subsequently used on our Japanese World War II enemies.

The documentary was the story in some ways about a Faustian Bargain, one made by innocents so easily captured by the hard and most interesting questions of science.

It is hard in watching this not to realize that man without morality, without a Spiritual base in life cannot fully appreciate what he has done until it is done.

Without a moral framework and a spiritual existence – we are easy prey.  This, by the way, explains how colleges and universities can capture our young with foolish, destructive ideas.  The truth of the matter is this: few people 18 or 19 years of age have lived sufficiently to have the judgement and courage to resist or refute failed and self-destructive fantasies promulgated and preached by their seniors in academia.

Indeed, they are too inexperienced to resist the easy conversion to ideas that make of them nothing more than herd animals.

The reduction of the young is a simple task of conversion for the idealists and ideologues who envision a utopia and enforce its development through the totalitarianism of “true believers.”  This is precisely where we are today in America with the Left and the Democrat Party.

Strange days, these days.  No one remembers Oppenheimer.

Shalom.

Reading is bound in silence … constant and attentive reading done devoutly purifies our inner self.

Peter of Celle, in The School of the Cloister

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The digital world has begun to diminish the world of the book.  This is a great loss.  The quiet of reading attends to the heart.

Have you noticed the demise of bookstores?  Amazon has a great deal to do with this.  Indeed their presence in the world of commerce has dehumanized commerce – taken us from people to people exchange to anonymous, impersonal event.  Our response?  We glorify the father of Amazon.  Yes, we applaud dehumanization.

Personally, I try to avoid buying anything from Amazon – preferring to engage with people in the marketplace.

I prefer what feeds the soul and makes us whole.  Reading is one such thing.  Ironically those who read live in a de facto monastery – set themselves off and aside in the quiet that is reading, the growth and contemplation that comes with it.

As Peter of Celle wrote in the 11th Century: “(Reading) continuously tells of the clash of virtue and vices … Reading is the food, light, lamp, refuge, solace of the soul, the spice of all spiritual flavors.  It feeds the hungry, gives light to the one sitting in darkness, offers bread to the one fleeing a shipwreck or war, comforts the contrite heart.”  (Emphasis added.)

Don’t you wish those in who speaks so publicly and so often in our secularized mass communication culture showed the slightest evidence that they have read something and thought deeply about it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the unread political class, the media types and the grossly over-values celebrity cabal just shut up.

Do you read regularly?  If not, why do you suppose others ought to listen to you?

Shalom.

“What then will you give us, Lord?  What are you going to gift us?  “Peace I give you.  Peace I leave you,” says the Lord.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in On the Song of Songs

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You may always know that crime is committed by those without peace.  Yes, the disturbed – sometimes the very prideful – those who think so very much about themselves.  The present-day F.B.I. adulterers of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page – a classic example of Judas, so sure of their genius and purity that they (and their colleagues) could tip the scales of justice and defy the national electorate in their choice of President.

We don’t often mention Judas these days.  But we should.  Honor cometh to the peaceful.  The Lords gives us peace.  The miscreants lack peace and ergo lack honor.

This is, sadly, the state of the elites.  So much for “education” today at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, et al.  Ditto legal education at-large.  By the way, we saw evidence of this in the 1950’s when Patrician Secretary of State Dean Acheson could not fancy that one of his breed (Alger Hiss) was a Communist spy.

Mr. Trump saw the failures of the elites and this is precisely why those who claim “privilege” so vehemently attack him.  He commits the offense of exposing them as they are.

Our necessary corrective?  Restore our faith.  Make it that which governs us.

Lacking that, we will rot from the top echelons down.  Thus, history declines once great nations.

Shalom.

 

The charism of the monastic community is one of simplicity and truth.  The monk … abandons routines, the clichés … the empty formalities of the world …

The purpose of monastic detachment … is simply to leave the monk unencumbered, free to move, in possession of his spiritual senses and his right mind, capable of living a charismatic life in freedom of spirit.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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Without thinking, we live tied to the world.  The question is must we be tethered to its ways, subsumed by its noise, demands, foolishness, rules, structures, dysfunction – encumbrances?

More to the point is health and happiness possible within these encumbrances?

When captured by the world does one have any remote chance of being in possession of his or her spiritual senses and right mind, free to live spiritually?  I would say, “No.”  That is “no” without reservation.

The move complexity, the less simplicity.  The less simplicity, the more discomfort and illness.

How can one ever expect to know himself or herself – understand what it means to be a full human being, spiritually alive when we give way to the complexity of secular culture and its demands on us?  In godlessness, God is lost to us – to our consciousness.  In short disorder breeds illness – emotional, social, psychological, physical.

Have you ever stopped to consider that much of your personal distress is the result of being in contact with those who are disordered, who literally have no idea of what being human entails?

When you are engaged with disordered people, your life becomes disordered.  If a person does not know themselves, has not examined who they are – how much health and stability can they offer others?

There is wisdom in what Merton say – who among us would not be healthier and more contented in a life of simplicity and truth?  The answer: “None of us.”

In short our peace, health and happiness flourishes in simplicity and truth.  Knowing self quiets us, holds disorder at-bay and brings us to peace and to God.

Shalom.

Fan Belt Inspectors – The way the upper levels of the F.B.I have behaved makes them look like “Fan Belt Inspectors” not the nation’s elite criminal investigative agency.

Let’s see – key investigators (both married) having an affair and teaming up (according to their emails) to do what they can to apparently forestall the election of a Republican president. A significant member of the agency in some form of contact with a Democrat “operations research” firm.  The agency’s failure to turn over documents to Congressional Committees who oversee their work.  The inexplicable loss of five months of emails requested by those Committees.  James Comey and the absurd handling of “the Clinton Matter.

Hardly apt to build one’s confidence in their impartiality and competence.

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Emphasis added.)

Ps 37: 1-4

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The application of these words could not be more applicable to today and American secular culture and its politics.

Hollywood female celebrities dress like streetwalkers and adult-age female teachers sexually assault underage male students.  Men in media and entertainment prey on female colleagues and young children, while men in politics and the workplace prey on staff members and associates.

Immoral and destructive ideas are advanced as public policy.  Government is seen as savior and God is shunned, faith dismissed.

We have been given divine guidance.  Turning our back on evil and wrongdoing is our task.  Drawing closer to God in darkened times is our mission.  Rejecting what is bad, impure, immoral, wrong, destructive and those who promote such things is our obligation.

How do you live?  Do you seek what is good?  Do you delight in the Lord and do what is healthy and right?  Or do you conform to the worse things and the ideas of lost souls who advocate what is unhealthy and godless?

Remember, you are a sacred being made for what is good and life-giving.

Shalom.

Mental Toughness – Looking at Tom Brady and his Head Coach you see two people who are mentally tough, determined, disciplined … these are traits accessible to each of us.  But who among us seizes these?  I can tell you this: starting from real deficits, as I did, presented those choices to me early on.  Fortunately I had people around me – my mother, members of my family, and friends who lived by these traits.  Yes, when your back is against the wall – these three things get you through life.  Seize what you are given.  Live despite the obstacles.  Happy sailing.

 

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

Prayer at Dressing

Bless to me, O God, my soul and my body;

Bless to O God, my belief and my condition;

Bless to me, O God, my heart and my speech;

And bless to me, O God, the handling of my hand.

Strength and busyness of morning, habit and temper of modesty, force and wisdom of thought, and Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Old Celtic Prayer for the Morning

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The Celtics lived close to nature, to one another and to God.  Do you?

This lovely morning prayer “Bless to me, O God” was passed along to author Alexander Carmichael by Catherine Maclennan who said in the giving “My mother taught us what we should ask for in prayer, as she heard it from her own mother, and as she again heard it from the one who was before.”

Morning Prayer.  Do you have a morning prayer?  Do you offer a morning prayer?

These matters were routine in our origins.  Why let what is so good die?  A fire in winter is better warm and alive, than cold and dead.

Life without God is cold and dead.  Live again!  Morning prayer.  Be smart – do it.

Shalom.

Celebrity and Politics.  Robert de Niro is a gifted and accomplished actor and film director and a seemingly likeable fellow.  But why his views on Donald Trump or politics in general warrant any public attention is worth pondering.

He has no particular education to qualify him as someone more informed than any other private citizen.  His views on politics would seem to carry no greater weight than the neighborhood barber, butcher or candlestick maker.

Celebrity does not confer any particular expertise on public matters.  Do we welcome the opinions of celebrities as to brain surgery?  I think not.

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.

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