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The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline to the religion of solitude.

Aldous Huxley

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It will be 90 degrees again here to today.  In the mountains a breeze persists.  The pastures are green and bathed in sun to make them softer to the eye.

I listen to a CD entitled “Celtic Landscapes” – recordings from nature in Ireland and Scotland.

Last night I saw a Mama bear and her two small cubs.  They were given the order by Mama to take to the trees.  They did.  The little spuds hung one above the other on thin branches near the tree trunk.  No one moves unless Mama says so.

I hung my Scottish flag on the garage this morning then ate homemade raisin rumcake with a cup of dark roast.  All is good on the ridge.

I love the solitude.  The more disorder in mass culture, the better the silence and solitary life in nature.

A thunder storm erupts on the CD.  We shall have our’s this afternoon.

All the flowers are watered and trimmed.  The roses have a good number of blossoms ready to bloom.  The grass is cut.  The St. Andrew’s Cross flies free.

You see there are things that give comfort.  They are near.  They settle the soul and create space between disorder and peace of heart and the quiet of the soul.

Know this: mass culture is sick and it breeds discontent.  It takes its price from you.

Shalom.

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When you learn to be alone you’ll discover the difference between alone and lonely.

L. J. Vanier, in Ether: Into the Nemesis

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Coming to the ability to be alone is like climbing a very steep and very high mountain with tough terrain and turbulent weather.  Yes, being alone is not the first thing we come to embrace – more like the last thing we come to embrace.

I used to dread being alone.  Why?  I just lost so many people in my childhood – it was like being in battle and seeing those on your side, those you needed disappear leaving you with dwindling odds for survival.

Yes, loss at an early age is a serious awakening that brings more fright than confidence.

But then there is age.  When you have weathered many storms, you somehow grow in strength and confidence.  You can only bury so many people before you realize “you are still standing … and each battle has made you wiser and stronger … and ready for the final days whenever they appear.”

At some point being alone is tolerable and supplies you a state of peace that awakens you spiritually.  At some point, alone comes to mean God, what is eternal and joins you with those long gone but not missing really.

When you can be alone and yet with the others you have known, you have approached the summit.  At the peak of the climb there is no sadness, no loneliness – just the fruits of the hard climb up the craggy mountain.

Some people never climb the mountain.  In this the mountain becomes a demon and fear settles deep in the valley of one’s soul.

For me, I’ll take the mountain and the peace it brings – brings in such an odd way of suffering and challenges.

… Jesus led them up the mountain.  There he was transfigured.

Mt 17: 1, 2

Shalom.

I often listen to Gregorian Chants to start the day.  It separates me from the world – its chatter and foolishness.  I recommend it.  It connects you with what is calm and eternal.
Who after all wishes to sail on “a ship of fools?”

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We have committed ourselves to exile, that is, we are outside secular boundaries … (Emphasis added.)

Life of Syncletica, in Monastic Wisdom: Writing on the Contemplative Life

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When a culture gives you disorder and the company of fools and “disassemblers” – those who find truth a stranger to them, is it not better to remove yourself and maintain both peace and sanity … contact with what is true and divine?

When you separate from a sick culture, your values are sustained, you retain autonomy, dignity, sanity, integrity, virtue, peace and contentment.  More so, you live as a mortal within eternal reality.  You remain calm and free of the nonsense, destruction and duplicity that is a godless culture.  Yes, you leave the inmates in their self-made asylum.

Enter Gregorian chants.

In separation we are cognizant of the falsity and chaos of the existing culture – but we do not concede its rule over us.  We remain free to be who we were made to be – contentment follows.

In separation we reside in our own cloister, our mind and heart prosper – our soul lives in us and in our thoughts and deeds.

In separation, we dismiss the gossip of the culture, its useless and truth-less “news,” its imagined celebrity status and faux leadership class.

In separation, the cyber world is an option, but trivial – never a master.

In separation – reading and prayer, thinking and quiet, silence and nature, caring and love of others come to form.  God is nearer, beauty is alive.  Hope prevails despite the best efforts of others to destroy all tranquility and our irreplaceable inheritance.

Separate.  Sustain what is sacred and sane.

Shalom.

 

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.”  

Prayer is lifting up our minds and hearts to God.

The St. John’s Daily Prayer Book

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What might comprise a daily prayer?

  • Expressing our love of God
  • Thanking God for our blessings
  • Seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins
  • Asking that His Grace shine on us, our loved ones and others

One may pray silently.  That is called mental prayer.  Or one can give voice to prayer.  Prayer invokes both heart and mind in each of us.

Starting a day with simple prayer is a wonderful habit and the very best way to begin a new day.

In quiet times I may well simply sit and thank God for all He has done for me, profess my love of Him, and ask for His forgiveness.

Yes, each of us must be forgiven.  We are sinners to whom God generously provides His mercy.  Indeed if you read the prayers of the Doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas you will see his initial recognition that he knows himself a sinner who receives God’s attention and mercy through no merits of his own earthly deeds.

It is so helpful to give yourself time to pray.

Shalom.

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.

 

In order to be enchanted we must be, above all, capable of seeing another person – simply opening one’s eyes will not do.  (Emphasis added.)

Jose Ortega y Gasset, in On Love, Aspects of a Simple Theme

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In his book A Secular Age, Charles Taylor tells us that those in secular culture have lost their capacity for enchantment.

To be enchanted is to be charmed, enraptured – capable of being taken by delight.  The word itself is rooted in the Latin word incantare meaning: to chant magic words.

What Taylor is saying is that in a secular existence one cannot easily be enraptured, taken by the mysticism of sacred things, lost in sacred words.  In terms of Ortega y Gasset – Taylor is saying that one is unable to know a love of another completely.

Mind you Ortega y Gasset reminds us that to take another in one must do so not with eyes but with heart.

Considered fully, Taylor makes a very serious observation; in secular culture we are unable to be fully human, to know the love of another as fully as we once could.  Taylor is saying in secular existence we lessen or lose the capacity for intimacy, for relationship with others – lose the capacity for deep intimate union with others.  In this we are less human, less fully developed, less able to experience the mystical experience of faith or the wholeness of our being.

Taylor’s view seems right to me.

I listen to the contemporary music of the 1940’s and 50’s and I hear ballads that express the love one can have for another.  The content of the music of those days was overflowing with descriptions of the rapture of love of another.

I hear very little today that conveys such sentiments.  No now, I mostly hear coarse lyrics, and I see marital infidelity, divorce, abortion, the rise of pornography, harsh language on the public airwaves and little that models healthy devotions of man to woman, and woman to man.  It is my view that feminism has actually deprived woman of their humanity and men and women are much the worse for this.

Secularism levies a heavy price.  No wonder we manifest such unhappiness and loneliness.  Maybe it is time to reject secularism in all its crippling forms.

Shalom.

Absolutely shameful.  Congressman Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, indicated today that there was no intelligence material alleging any collusion between Russia and candidate Donald Trump that would have justified the opening of an F.B.I. investigation of Candidate Trump.  He made this comment after reviewing the existing intelligence reports that would have contained such information should it have existed.

Mr. Nunes also said that two former associates of Candidate Hillary Clinton (the former Secretary of State in the Obama administration) were disseminating information to people in the State Department – leaving Nunes and others to wonder if Hillary might have been the impetus for investigating her opponent Donald Trump.

This is all absolutely shameful and fitting a totalitarian regime.  Very serious stuff.

 

 

 

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. 

 

I looked for you in everyone and they called me on that too

I lived alone but I was only coming back to you …

and springtime starts but then it stops in the name of something new

and all my senses rise against this coming back to you …

Leonard Cohen, in Coming Back to You

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Each of us has someone – and probably more than one someone – that we have lost to mortal time.  For many, the years of loss have piled up while the memories persist and set in us deeper roots.

It need not be springtime to feel those losses – but in springtime when all is new and delicate and beautiful, those losses seem to move about like the warming breezes – turning our attention to the touches we knew, the embraces we shared, the laughter we had and all those days together.

Spring is “the coming back” time.  I give you this –

So take your walk, and sit a bit when the breezes beckon you

 for in the Spring when warm sets in, I’m coming back to you.

Shalom.

 

Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, not in the force of thought, moral principles, and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life.  (Emphasis added.)

William Ellery Channing, in Self-Culture

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Yes, as Jean-Paul Richter said so simply in Titan – character is higher than intellect as intellect is function and life is the functionary.  And, yes – character comes from the soul.  It does not come from “rules of the road,” ethics, social relations, ideology, the ideas we hold, the fads of the day, self-interest, wealth, status, etc. – and it surely does not arise from finding oneself on the television or sitting on the op-ed panel of some once useful newspaper that is now far less than it ever may have been.

That said, character is less visible now in American culture than it was as short a time ago in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Character seems to have faded in the image culture, in a secularized land, the culture of mass communication and affluence … in the culture of the poorly-educated college graduate and the narrowly trained intellect for it is as Richter said that intellect is function and life is functionary.  Yes, living engages the soul and from the soul comes character.

It follows that a life of challenge challenges the soul and character is coaxed out of these experiences and only in character is knowing known … wisdom presented.

In our present state intellect (in its most diminished state today – so clearly seen in talking heads and people we encounter who speak of things they do not know) there is not much sign of character.

It used to be the case that America attracted immigrants who saw in this land (as was reflected in its people) those who had character – and who took on all the odds to journey here where acculturation to our ways was expected and liberty to prosper was freely offered.  But alas that is not the case now.

Now, people travel here, and like our entitled native born college-“educated” class who make a life of complaining about this country (that which used to be their country) – we find our newest entrants and our offspring seeking the largess of government and complaining that this or that is wrong, “unfair,” disadvantaging in some way (as to gender, sexual practice, race, ideology, etc.)

In all of this it seems we must say: character and individual achievement is far less visible than it was 60 years ago.

So what is the warning?  Forget all the fluff, live from the soul outward for if the soul is denied character is lost.  Without character we become, frankly, quarrelsome and unlikeable – easily defeated.

I see, frankly, so few who exhibit the character that says of a person – “I am a soulful person. I see my origin in the grace of God.  I live beyond the narrow confines of the superficial, and the mass culture.  I take what comes and do the best I can with it for I seek to succeed as an individual, a sacred being who has been given a life and access to a land of liberty and opportunity.”

As for me, I avoid the herd and “popular culture” and my life is quieter and more meaningful in its relative solitude.  Yes, after years of putting the soul to the test, I am as whole as I might reasonably aspire to me – knowing full well that there is still hardship to come, character to be grown, and a soul that lives here and beyond.

Shalom.

 

 

 

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