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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.

The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

Vaclav Havel

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Salvation.  The heart + reflection + meekness + responsibility.  So observes Vaclav Havel.

Don’t see much of this around Washington these days.  Salvation is a word rarely heard since we began barring God from public conversation.  We can thank the marshmallow middle and the strident Left for that basic act of dislocation – as to the latter their inevitable preference for error.

Heart, reflection, meekness, responsibility.  Little of this here today.  Heartless is more the form.  Reflection, like thoughts of salvation, appears permanently shelved in favor of the instant news cycle where comments issue as frequently as pulse beats as politicos and “talking heads” tommy-gun out the “latest inside scoop” replete with “unnamed sources” (a delightful name for twins today, by the way).

Meekness, my God!  None of that here.  Washington is more a mob at Filene’s Basement tearing the bargain “name brand” apparel from one another in a melee resembling Wrestle-Mania gone mad.  Meekness, it seems, is too orderly and vulnerable for Washington today.  Gone is the obvious power of a calm and measured voice.

It follows there are few signs of responsibility – at least among the those who daily carp and complain, and report and exploit.

We could use some Vaclav Havel.  Inmates running an asylum never works well.

Shalom.

Footnote – Vaclav Havel is among the most interesting figures of the late last century and early 21st century.  A writer, philosopher, political dissident and politician who served as the last President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1902) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1903-2003).  A widely-esteemed and admired man or faith, courage, talent, heart, thoughtfulness, insight, humility, service and responsibility.  Don’t you wish we had such a presence here today. ‘Tis time to tell the children to be quiet.

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning … and there wisdom is the selection of wisdom.

Bergan Evans

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Many time people tell me that their brother, sister, mother, spouse does not seem to understand their plight in life.  The complaint I hear tells of the suffering and estrangement of being unable to experience a connection between those who you know well and for a long time and a person facing significant trials, angst, uncertainty, suffering and pain.

I always remind these people that one of the hardest things to do is to experience the experience of another.

Why is that?

Well, the primary reason is this: people do not examine their own experience in life fully.

Most people ignore the actual event of life.  They live what is easy, pleasant, necessary – but avoid the unpleasant things, challenges, the mystery of their own life and experience.  In that avoidance, one cannot take on another’s plight.  That being the case, two people who know one another – even reside with one another – cannot maintain an intimate connection with one another.  Sad and commonplace, but unnecessary.

The answer?  Live deeply, not on the surface.  Reflect on what is presented to you – whether good or bad, difficult or easy.

We are given a life so it may be fully lived, fully explored and experienced.  If you fall short, you reduce yourself and likely lapse into a smallness that leads to your own disorder … and your ability to befriend and love others, and to be compassionate is put out of reach.

It is easier to say you feel another’s pain, than it is to feel another’s pain.

Shalom.

Surgery was a success.  Total knee replacement.  No pain killers needed.  In rehab – things going well.  Learned I have strong bones and a high pain threshold.  Interesting.

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” … the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel, of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor 4:4

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Last Monday while in the hospital awaiting a late morning surgery, I was asked several times by nurses if I had fasted as required and each time I was asked when I last ate or drank anything, and I replied “6:50 p.m. on Sunday.”

Just prior to surgery the anaesthetist asked me that same questions.  My response did not vary.

However my friend Marty who drove me to the hospital added, “He had Communion this morning.”  The doctor turned sort of pale.  “When?” he asked.  “About 6 a.m.,” was the reply.  “We have to reschedule to a later time today,” said the Doctor.

I apologized for the inconvenience.  I felt embarrassed.  I felt like an idiot for not thinking of the Communion offering as “food.”  A few hours of humbling silence followed.  I thought, I am a lawyer, how could I not see that issue?

In those hours of waiting I realized that years ago I would have seen the Communion offering as simply a wheat product.  But not now, not now as I routinely live … and believe.

My blindness to wheat was actually a proclamation of the sight of belief that I had acquired … quitely, earnestly over years of my conversion to Catholicism and my many, many days of attending Mass, and all that I experienced in the Mass, in my life and in my faith.

My faith had blossomed.  My sight had replaced the blindness that is of this world.

It is so very funny, strange, special how God delivers us and when He does.

How grateful I am for the sight I have been given.  I was blind and now I see!

Shalom.

A little autobiography sometimes helps.  

In this short story I make this point: our life journey comes to us.  We do not invite its content, and we surely do not design it.  As I have said before we are recipients.  We receive life without having petitioned or plead for it.  To live it fully we must learn from all that comes our way.  This is especially true with hardships.  They must be faced, experienced in truth and integrated wholly.  It is absolutely indispensable that the events of our life be fully taken in – and this question always asked: what am I to learn from this?  Rest assured that there is no hardship that does not, when it is faced, grow us in wisdom, understanding, insight, character and confidence.

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Estrangement has both color and sound.

Bobby Sylvester

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His small hand reached for the doorknob and turned it slowly so as not to wake her.  Still not old enough for school.  Toe to top, his fair-haired head barely surpassed the keyhole.

Gently and quietly he opened the door just enough so he might enter.

There she was: his Mom in sleep – the shades drawn, a darkened room in midday. A child only, he knew his mother was ill and that she found sleep preferable to day.

Young as he was he met estrangement without knowing its name.  His Mom was sick, and love was stifled and inert.

Remembering years later, his heart knew the color estrangement.  It was the color of drawn shades – a dark and light-less room that turned all things gray and black … Its sound was the sound of nothing, a near-dead silence.

When trauma meets a child’s eyes, either the sorrow grows to wisdom, or fleeing the arrow that it might not pierce his heart he is wounded all the same and in his failed flight his exile is certain and confirmed.  In flight he will not know love – neither in its absence nor presence. In this a sentence too painful to await a natural death.

Shalom.

… that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me and I in You, that they may also be in Us …

Jn: 17:21

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” … that they may all be one … “

We often think we must find God, as if God is hiding somewhere or is distant and far from us.  But does God require our search?  What if God is nearer than we are to ourselves?

What if God is in “the all?”  What if the Creator is in “all” that is created – in the visible and invisible, in us and without us – in all time, without absence or pause?

In Jesus words, he is saying that we can be one with God, in God as The Son is in the Father.  Does this not suggest an “allness,” a divine inclusiveness?

In Eastern religions, the human is thought to be able to go beyond all ignorance, fear and change to a stable state in which “All things are Buddha,” the Divine is known and experienced in “all things are without self.”  Yes, where we dissolve into the One that Jesus speaks of in the above words.

Imagine this simple thought: If God makes all, is God not in all, is God not All? And from this, we might ask: Are we not in God and is God not in us?  And this: Is our search necessary?

If we are in God as the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son, would we not change in a drastic and fundamental way how we lived, thought, interacted, spoke?  Would we listen to the godless and uninformed?  Would we pursue matters of discord or division? Would we experience loneliness?  Despair?  Or would we not live in calm, with a quiet inside, softness in our voice?   Would we ever lack for intimacy?

Finding God in All.  Think about it.

Shalom.

… Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done to you according to your faith.” (Emphasis added.)

Mt 9: 28, 29

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Here Jesus is speaking to two blind men who approached Him.  They wanted to see.  He asked if they believed.

What if a good and contented life were as simple as believing and, in believing, seeing – seeing the world anew, seeing more completely, seeing what you have missed for so long … seeing with the eyes of faith, and living in the Spirit?

Imagine if your lack of belief made your life more confusing, less coherent, less settled, less joyful, less happy, more conflicted, more lost, more wasteful, and more difficult.

What a waste to have shunned belief in favor of unbelief and all the discord that it piles on a person, relationships, a family, a community, a nation.

Such a simple proposition, so easily ignored and at such great a cost.

This Christmas season renew your experience of The Christmas Carol.  Ask yourself: Do I believe?

Believe and your life will conform to the faith you have been given.

Shalom.

Footnote: CNN had a panel assembled to “discuss” the Trump victory.  It was quite obvious that those assembled are from the We-Know-Better-Than-The-Peasants Brigade.

David Gergan (a/k/a David Gurgle) was especially haughty and “superior.”  He of Harvard (where but there or Yale) was beside himself, just incredulous that people voted “for him” (Donald J. Trump).  The arrogance is staggering.  The absence of humility stunning.

Makes one think we have wasted a whole-lotta-moolah on college education and have much too much room for “experts” who so resemble macaws.

And yes, I have three advanced degrees – so I am not without some bona fides in raising this issue.

Mr. Gergan has been out of the work force for some time.  Can we make that official?

The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to the land I will show you.” … Abram wen as the Lord directed him …

Gen 12: 1, 4

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I have often been asked in different ways how it was that I became interested in my faith, and I have always answered in the same way: “I have always accepted the life God presented to me.”

I often add this: “I have come to realize that living the life God gives you – in particular, the challenges that are presented – is a basic and fundamental act of worship, of obedience, of faith … and evidence of one who believes.

Mind you I did not reason this view, rather it emerged very early in my life – there was no conscious decision-making.  I realize this as a grace and have come to believe that this is a grace that we are all granted – that is, we are made to desire God and given that God creates life, it seems indisputable that God would come to us in the moments, days, months, years, joys and challenges that arise in our life.

I believe this to be absolutely true.

When you think about it, does not God give us so many simple opportunities to say “Yes” to Him?

I think about being born into a family, as I was, that received me with unconditional joy and unreserved welcome.  Too young as infants to know this, I began in a family who demonstrated a faithful acceptance of the new life that God has presented to them.

Yes, contrast that acceptance with abortion.  And this is why abortion is a significant barometer of who a person is, and whether they are faithful.

The ground of your faith is in accepting the life God presents to you – doing as Abram so willingly did.

Shalom.

He had performed … many signs, yet they were not believing in Him … they could not believe because Isaiah said … “he has blinded their eyes and he hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart …”

Jn 12:37, 39, 40

One of the fundamental aspects of life in the past 100-150 in the West has been the changing landscape of belief – its decline, its variation, and the emergence of unbelief and of phenomenology – the study of human experience and the conscious perceptions that foster human behavior, influence belief or its absence or dissipation.

If there is but one thing we might be wise to attend to in this chaotic and disintegrating age we live in the West today, it is belief – and the rise of unbelief.

When you think about it belief and unbelief are central to human relationship, the nature and quality of human existence, the perceptions that govern individual and collective conduct – especially government conduct, policy and behavior – both things pursued and things shunned.  Is it not, as a result, important to take account?

Yes, the conflicts we have in our culture and politics are based in belief and unbelief.

But what separates the two?

Charles Taylor in his book A Secular Age gives a brief way to distinguish belief from unbelief.

To him belief as manifest in humans has these characteristics:

  • an understanding that human fullness comes to us from another loving source who gives freely
  • it prompts the practice of devotion, prayer, charity and self-giving
  • it produces an understanding that one is far from fullness in its perfect state – i.e., it fosters humility
  • it reminds us that as humans we are bound to lesser things and goals – i.e., that we are not the source of life nor the embodiment of perfection
  • it evokes knowledge that power and fullness come through relationships
  • it teaches that the reception of fullness transforms a person for the better
  • that morality is heteronomous.

In contrast, unbelief carries these characteristics:

  • the power to reach fullness is within oneself, one’s own ability and doing – i.e., that we are agents of our own fullness
  • that reason exceeds nature and elevates above all else the human person as a rational agent
  • that our genius for reason allows us to be fully self-governing with laws as the vehicle of our genius
  • that morality is autonomous
  • that reason fully engaged creates a reverence for our own power and for power itself – coming in turn to see fullness as power fully employed
  • that in this context (construal) we are individualized and relationships with others less likely and less necessary – we become in reason and power atomized, divided.

Perhaps in this, you can sense the crisis we face.

Are we to form a more perfect union as unbelievers?  Know peace?  Community? Love? Brotherhood?  Pursue the full development of the human person and come to know happiness and contentment as unbelievers?

From the look of things it hardly seems likely.

” … he has blinded their eyes and … hardened their heart …”

Shalom.

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