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The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

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Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you … O my friend, why do you, who are a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens, care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul … (Emphasis added.)

Socrates, in The Apology

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It is safe to say the above is worth thinking about given the present state of our political and public life. I suspect those most vocal and most stirred up today would not have a clue that Plato wrote The Apology or that it reported on the trial of Socrates.  Forget any greater recollection of Socrates and his point of view.

Yes, in substance and knowledge we are lacking – yet, so much more in manners, insight, discretion and morality.

Today, listening to public discourse (advocacy and reporting, in particular) is presently best done only now and again to get a “flavor” of the state and content (such as it is) of the conversation, lest you find yourself: (a) aggravated and quite discouraged, and (b) utterly misinformed and subsequently anxious for your welfare and that of your children, grandchildren, family members, friends and nation.

That said, the point of presenting the above words is to highlight that Socrates reminds us of the primacy of wisdom and truth and our soul … and of God, and a personal relationship with God.

Imagine for a moment what benefit we would claim, if those in the public square were well-educated in the classics and in the pillars of Western Civilization, possessed manners, valued wisdom, truth and the soul – and, above all, God … and had a personal relationship with God.

In such a magnificent state, so many utterly obnoxious public figures would vanish and, assuming a public that was properly educated and mannered, our present need for all sorts of government crutches would likely be greatly diminished in favor of the blessings of individual responsibility anchored in personal confidence among our neighbors.

We appear to be a long way from Athens and the negative consequences are many.

Think about that.

Shalom.

 

 

… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

Why does anyone tell a story?  It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.  (Emphasis added.)

Madeleine L’Engle

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So says author Madeleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time and so many other wonderful works).

Yes, life has meaning.  Yes, life has meaning for each of us – from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the ill.  Each of us live a life of meaning … and we are not called into life willy-nilly – without purpose or sanctity.  We are holy beings – everyone.

Finding meaning is the issue.  Finding meaning and experiencing the intimate and amazing reality that we (each one) has a reason for being and for living a full life – beginning to end.

Where to find meaning?  One place in story.  In the written and oral stories of the human being throughout history – in our mortal and eternal existence.

Story.  The best and most revealing story we possess as Christians and Jews is our religious narrative.  It, more than any other story within our reach, is laden with meaning for each of us.  Each recorded episode of God and his people, of Christ and his disciples records the meaning of life for each of us.

Yet, there are those among us whose actions seem to say: “I know not my meaning – I have no value, no meaning, no purpose – I am lost – irretrievably lost.”

This is a national cultural crisis.  It is immediate – it is now.  And it need NOT be so.

Sadly, we see the above words of hopelessness in the addicted, the criminal, the thief, the serial adulterer, the sexual predator (man or woman), the pornographer, the pimp, the prostitute, the liar, the cheat, the cruel ones, abusers … in those who take their own life.

We can even hear these words of hopelessness among those good men and women who have lived more objectively than subjectively – those who cultivated the mind at the expense of the heart.  These are good people who have missed the story and its life-sustaining nature.

Sadly about 45,000 people a year now take their own life here in the United States.  Yes, there are about twice as many suicides in the U.S. as there are homicides – and the number of suicides is growing rapidly.  Such is the price of godlessness in our exclusionary secular culture.  

We have lost our way.  Those with power and authority have forsaken faith – turned their backs to God and abandoned religion and our religious narrative at a very, very great price.  You see our unhappiness and self-destruction is the product of life without meaning – which is to stay: life without God, without attending to our religious story.

If there ever was a time when we had to reverse course it is now.  Come back to a life-giving story.  Come back to your faith narrative.  Demand it be welcomed in the public square.  Play an active role in our cultural recovery and restoration by adopting your religious story as a guide, and active ingredient in your daily life, thoughts and actions.

Our country needs you.  Others need you, too – especially our children.

Shalom.

If this post speaks to you, act on it – share it with others but do take your faith seriously.  Learn you story in its content and insight.  As usual, I appeciate your comments.  Thank you for reading Spirlaw.

 

Whoever does not honor the son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jn 5:23

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These are the words of Jesus.  They are spoken after Jesus encouraged a lame man on the Sabbath to arise from his mat and walk and the man did – thereby prompting faithful Jews to take exception with the man because it was “not lawful … to carry (the) mat” on the Sabbath, and to find fault with Jesus for telling the man to do so (and effectively curing the man’s disability).

There are two things that struck me in this story.  One, the faithful Jews knew their law and lived by it.  That is – their faith governed their life.  And, two – Jesus spoke what he knew to be the truth – that he was the Son of God sent by his Father.  He, too, lived by faith.

So why write about this?

We live in a time when many live by ideology, or their own particular and individual desires or personal interests.  Indeed, many who live this way condemn those who do not share their views.

We have a good deal of political notions advanced as if they are holy and divine.  Not so.  They are mostly individual perceptions advanced as if they are the bedrock of moral existence, superior to other’s points of view.

It seems to me, upon reflecting on the above story, that we are best when we ask: Do I live by the tenets of my faith?  Or do I merely advance my own ideas regardless of my professed faith?  In short, does a professed Christian live as a Christian?  A Jew as a Jew – honoring their tradition and professed beliefs.

It seems to me this is worth some reflection.

Shalom.

Amazing and Ironic – In a new book by former White House aid to President Obama,  Ben Rhodes writes that his boss viewed himself as special, above the fray – an exemplar for what is good and wise – with views that are just best of others to adopt.

The irony is this: that idea of being “special” and better and wiser than the electorate is precisely the view held by those in Washington who have sequestered themselves away from the common man and common woman who comprise this country – and who deem that they too are “better,” “wiser” and “a cut or more” above the voters.

The even greater irony?  Donald Trump won because he demonstrated he is more like the voter than the permanent Washington crowd and those who deem themselves “elite – and thereby “privileged.” You know real humility never hurt anyone – but ah, is it hard to find among the “special people.”  

If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the layers of our psyche until we reach the center of core of our being.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Quiet begets interior silence.  In quiet being itself appears as thoughts fade.  In quiet we hear the sound of silence that is deep inside us.  In this is God, awareness of God.

In interior silence social need falls to the Spirit – without others we are nearer our own being and that of all things and beings.  In interior silence eternity exceeds mortality – yes, reality becomes eternity, and all things now and beyond are of God and God.

This interior silence has no words nor need for words.  It is.  IT SIMPLY IS.

In interior silence we are subsumed with the “IS” and its inexhaustible ALL.  This: the experience of the Triune God – our center – the center of being here and beyond.  There is in this eternity and tranquility – our meaning, our purpose, our reason for being, peace and certainty – ease of being, the exceeding of all doubt or pain.

Shalom.

 

A Reflection

The drama of the archetypal life of Christ describes in symbolic images the events of a conscious life – as well as in the life that transcends consciousness – of a man who has been transformed by his higher destiny.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Letters (Volume 11)

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Who among you sees Christ in your life?  That is – associates Christ in your very existence?

Do you not know that Christ is the pre-existent Son of God in the manner that you are His pre-existent child?

Rest assured that Christ is our sacred archetype … that we are as Christ and are to live and be, and die as and with Christ – as He was, and is and will be forever as to each of us.

As an archetype, Christ leads us from ego to Self, True Self amid the divine drama of mortal life.

In life we choose: salvation and health or a godless life stuck in our ego – never knowing Christ or God or our own person in the full.

Our best choice: a life of meaning and purpose, contentment and tranquility, wisdom and happiness, or one of calamity and continual unhappiness and discord.

Yes, we each have eternal roots.  Our origin is in God, not in each of us one by one.

We are, as Christ, called to the direct experience of life in the full – conscious and unconscious, material and spiritual, mortal and eternal.

With Christ as our template we see Light brighter than the works of the son of darkness.

The life of Christ: your guide, your template, your Divine Gift – your very identity.

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.

O taste and see the Lord is good …

Ps 34:8

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Tasting and seeing.  Are these not acts of experience … of ingesting, of taking into oneself?

Yes.  Of course, they are.

Is this not exactly the essence of the Incarnation?  Is this not the essence of Christ in human form?  Is this not the message Jesus brings to his peers, his neighbors, the strangers he encountered, the people of authority, the wealthy and the poor of his day, the well and the ill?

Is this not the message he brings to us?

We are to experience God.  Ingest God.  In this experience we close the gap between the Creator and the created.  This is God’s intention in offering Himself in Christ.

Believe me, once you come to understand that it is the experience of God that is offered to you – you will not be burdened by the weight of this world, its trials and trivial activities, its gossip, its corruptions, its temptations, its hostilities, its divisions, its anxieties and its evil.

The experience of God will change the way you live, bring you above the quarrels of those who do not have that experience.

In the experience of God is contentment – no matter the storms that swirl about you.  In the experience of God the words of God are fulfilled in you.

Yes, we are made to taste and see God.  In this we understand St. Athanasius who said, “God became man so that man might become God.”  Yes, we will see that we dwell in God, that we are One with God – divided and lost no more.  Does Jesus not show us exactly this!!!

Taste and see.

Shalom.

Oh, Goody!  U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, (Democrat, N.Y.) is introducing legislation today to decriminalize marijuana under federal law.  It is reported that in the legislation there will be special federal funding to assist women, racial minorities and homosexuals in entering the marijuana business.  (Apparently, hetrosexual White males do quite well in this business as is.)

Chuck Schumer.  What a guy!  Wears his eyeglasses on the tip of his nose (the old Ben Franklin look).  My pause with Dear Charles rest on this: bifocals, Chuckie!!!  We are way past the 18th Century, Charles – come and join us.  By the way, be careful with the kite and the metal key in thunderstorms … don’t want you getting hurt.

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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