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Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory

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Lewis wrote this in 1939 when Britain and France declared war on Germany.  As sabres rattle, we come to this again.  Culture exists under the shadow of the Infinite.

The question for us is this: we knew this in 1939, but do we know it now?

It is hard to answer that question in the affirmative.  We kill the unborn child. Sanction illicit relationships.  Rely on reason, not God.  Favor pride over humility. A dropout makes a “social network” that takes the place of face to face contact and we think it is grand.  Loyalty is missing.  Character is not easily seen. Morality is breeched.  Excuses and lethargy are abundant.  Education shows it is not worth the price.  Many are lost.

The road ahead is the road restored.

When sabres rattle you’d best be standing under the shadow of the Infinite.

Shalom.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

If we wish to please the true God and to be friends to the most blessed of friendships, let us present our spirit naked to God.  Let us not draw on anything of this present world – no art, no thought, no reasoning, no self-justification – even though we should possess all the wisdom of the world.

Philokalia

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In a mass communication culture where we are assaulted with words, noise, chatter endlessly we would do well to think about the above words recorded by 4th and 5th century Orthodox Christians.

Yes, we are to know about the world, to gain knowledge – but we are not to be encased in reasoning, self-justification, art, thought or other artifacts of the present world – from trinkets and valuables, to politics and ideology because we are at ground zero spiritual beings … those tied to God by God’s creation of us and the world we occupy.

We are not consumers, pundits, lawyers, actors, CEO’s, professors … etc.  We are more than those things.  We have an eternal identity.

In today’s world it is wise to ask: how can I be exactly and precisely who God made me to be?  In this objective is health, stability, calm, contentment, quiet, patience, wisdom, morality, laughter, good judgement, ease, friendship, strength, loyalty, honor, love and salvation.

Ironically, in a culture that seeks to draw you in and under – the task is to stay afloat and aloft – above all the calamity, craziness, conflict and confusion.

Yes, the task at present: to live a monk’s life in mass culture, to take on independence and autonomy, gain humility and pleasure in all that God has given, all that God does, all that we have been made to be, all that God is.

Shalom.

If you find this helpful, please share it with others – friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues.

 We can all get better at living, gain peace, tranquility, stability and purpose – come to know joy as God provides it.

 

Today’s Assault on Republican Congressman and Staff

[I wish I did not have to mention this.]

The man arrested for shooting a Republican Congressman, staff member and police officers is reported to be a Bernie Sanders supporter with troubling social media posts aimed at President Trump.  His posts show he is an ideologue and a devotee of Leftist policies and Leftist media celebrities.

Perhaps, Democrat politicians and the Leftist press and media types will realize their careless, inflammatory words and calls for “resistance” in the streets have a very dangerous consequence.  Hatred claims its victims.  It is best to watch what we said and how we say it.

Serious prayer and civil behavior is needed.

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… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …

Mt 20:28

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What will it take for us to be humble?  The Son of God came to serve, and ransom our life at the price of his own.

When will we see the essential, indispensable, central role of humility in human existence?  The foundation stone that it is for us, for a contented and peace-filled life?

Does it take tragedy like today’s devastating high rise holocaust in London?  Or the brutality of despotic regimes?

Yesterday, I saw for a second successive time the rudeness of a U.S. Senator (Kamala Harris, Democrat) asking questions of a witness.  No humility there.  No grace.  Rudeness, yes – not humility.  (Attention, Miss: the wise ones play hard, get their answer and are not rude in the process.)

Today, I saw the bright orange-red sun, a perfect orb, ascend over the mountains. Humbling.  Can anyone doubt God’s dominion?

Then, a friend sent me pictures of his four grandkids – two boy and two girls, Quads – four at one pregnancy.  All healthy.  All exquisite.  Perfect.  Little button noses, bright eyes, chubby little arms and hands and bellies.  Humbling.

The children’s Dad is a young guy who came to me when he was an undergrad at Notre Dame.  He sought me out to discuss becoming a lawyer.  Hesitant, he needed insight, encouragement, counsel.  I delivered.  He is now licensed in two states and occupies a seat in a Chicago law firm.  I’ve seen a college student become a lawyer and a father. Such a joy to witness.  Humbling.  Quads.  Very humbling.

I’ve seen my own son become a man, secure his Ph.D, in one of the hardest disciplines to tackle (the hybrid field of AI/neurals systems).  Humbling.  And seen him become not just a man with a doctorate but become a loving, patient, engaged, soft-spoken, fun-loving father of two little ones – a boy going on three and a girl of eight months.  Humbling.

Look, Friends – we are far better with humility than without.  Look around those without humility are bores.  They really crowd public life, politics especially … in the celebrity realm, and in media.  Bores, so often.  

Cherish the humble ones.  They are a clear “cut above.”  Do we not instinctively know this!

Shalom.

If this message is helpful.  Share it with others.  We are in this together.

“How full the days are, full of slow and quiet … Only here do I feel that my life is authentically human.

Thomas Merton

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Merton’s words in a journal entry of November 1964 when he moved into his hermitage – a place to dwell alone surrounded by nature.

In my solitude on the ridge I know what he means.  Never have I felt closer to reality, to God, to the ground of being … or more at peace.

I am away from disorder, chaos … and the flood of bad behavior, routine deceptions and the idiotic chatter – its self-destruction.

I think of ISIS.  North Korea.  The American Left.  The media, the press.  Iran. Russia’s global antics and Europe’s passivity and foolishness.

When good falls victim to evil has not the ground under you shifted?  Is it not wise to seek Eden once again?

In Eden there are no pagans, no herds of selfish people making unwise and suicidal demands.

Merton and the Ridge.

Shalom.

In living we are directly doing the will of God … our very existence is contact with His will … life is holy and a responsibility of God and man.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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If you can imagine that your existence is willed by God, that each moment of your existence fulfills God’s will – would you think differently … act differently … feel differently than you do?

If one’s very existence touches the will of God, would you make different choices in life than you now do?

Each day I awake and in due time look at the news of the world.  Typically, I see some article that tells of something like this: a man tried to drown his two twin children, or a school teacher threatened to flunk a student with whom she was sexually involved if that student “broke” off their “contact.”

Seeing these things, I am repelled – not just by the event but by the fact that these things are thought newsworthy.  

These reported stories make me ask: Why would I want to know this?  What effect does reading this have on me?  On others?  Do these stories not bring us down? Sow seeds of despair?  Turn our appetite for life sour?

I am sure that every day there are any number of horrible acts committed and that newspapers and the news media in-general have their pick of horrible stories to convey – but is there any glancing thought that feeding others these stories has a debilitating effect?

The mere reporting of such stores tells us that the lost souls offering these stories neither conceive of living as collaborating with God’s will, nor that life itself is holy, sacred, divine in its creation and ought to be respected as such.

The truth is if you look around you will see all sorts of actions which deny that life is holy, sacred and divine.  Having seen this so clearly, I have decided to ignore this crap.

My view is quite simple: why do I want to have my spirit be poisoned by the godless conduct of those gripped by evil and its manifestations?  I know such people and acts occur, but why must I be made a party to them each day? Consequently, I’ve come to “keep by distance” from these reports just as I reject a diet of rotten food.

Why bathe in other people’s dirty water, or each rancid food?

Shalom.

If this post strikes a positive cord for you, please send it to others.  The process of reclaiming the public square and public space calls for our participation … and that means you and me together.

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.

God works in history, therefore a contemplative who has no sense of history, no sense of historic responsibility … is not fully a Christian contemplative: he is gazing at God as a static essence … But we are face to face with the Lord of history and with Christ the King … light of the world … We must confront Him the awful paradoxes of our day …

Thomas Merton

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If there is one (and there is) central failure that puts us in the conflict, and confusion, and chaos … and danger and division, that we face today it is our failure to know and serve God as the Lord of History.

All of the immorality, hostility, bitterness, rancor, hatred and rank stupidity can be assigned to that one failure.

Likewise, the destructive behaviors we witness in special pleaders of unwise causes are the product of God’s exile, and in that absence – the geometric ignorance and needless destruction it produces.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show and one of The Rockford Files.  The former from the 1950’s and the latter from the 1960’s.  Each was a delight. Each well-written, and nicely acted. Each told an engaging story – the former in a family context, the latter in a detective format.

In the former we saw truths about husbands and wives, men and women, family, brothers, neighbors, boys and girls and human nature.  It was fun to watch. Truth told in a gentle and amusing manner.  It was nice TV … it sat a tone, was believable – represented a reality that was and could be: a relaxed and kindly family environment.

In the latter, we had a “who done it” yarn with the focus being the work of a not-so-successful, and unflappable private detective whose status-life was that of living in a trailer parked on asphalt adjoining a stretch of California beach.

Our hero detective was an anti-hero – an earnest man (yet not beyond employing a street-smart trick now and again) who was resigned to the riff-raff of life without losing his kind and understanding nature.  He was, indeed, an everyman with the wonderful grace to live life as it presented – without scorning what he saw.

Yes, in the 50’s and the early 60’s we effortlessly lived with God the Lord of History and in so doing, we were not out-of-control, frantic, required to “get-our-own-way.”  We were then, sublime, without anxiety or fits anger, public or otherwise … better yet there was no need for intolerant crusaders.  Social justice had yet to emerge to anoint any and all mediocre C-minus-minus people into obnoxious “know-it-all” crusaders.  In short, looking back you see that when God is recognized as the Lord of History … our life is easier and our relationships much more pleasant.

I’ll pass on the very unfunny bores of late night TV, and the likes of Chuckie Schumer and the talking heads of CNN, MSNBC, et al, the vacuous celebrities who have opinions about all manner of things never thoroughly considered, and on the minor leaguers of The Times, The Post etc.

Today we are so dumb and uninformed we don’t realize life (properly considered and experienced) is so much easier … death-defying anxiety and hostility is not mandatory.

Try thinking of God as essential – as the Lord of History … ignore those who speak as if God is either dead or indifferent to us … Such people are as common as a penny and just as valuable.

Shalom.

It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire.  Perfect tranquility consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations

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If you live in a crowded metropolitan area, tranquility may not come easily.  But, oh is it needed.

I notice when I reappear in the Washington metro area that the pace is quickened and signs of hectic people are easy to see.  Relaxed is not an adjective I associate with those who live in the urban sprawl.  Tranquility isn’t plainly visible – that’s for sure.

But who can live in constant motion, in non-stop stimulus, among frantic people rushing to catch up or get on schedule?

Yes, we can recede and, yes, we can seek tranquility – a quieting of the heart and mind. But that is, or must be, a decision that requires intention: the commitment to secure the peace within, the quiet available to you.

Think about what you face each day: the demands, the pace, the noise, the stimulus, the commitments, the uncertainties, the responsibilities, the obstacles. Hard to be tranquil.

Take time to rest, to know silence.  And seek to know your inner life, who you are – what makes you “tick.”  It is not just a quiet mind that is needed, but knowledge of who you are and a soul at rest that is no longer neglected.  God bless.

Shalom.

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