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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.”

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Jn 4:42

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These are the words of Samaritan men speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well after having spent two days with Jesus.

You may recall that Jesus visited with the Samaritans after his encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

The Samaritan men, like the woman at the well, heard Jesus words and began to believe. Each one heard and believed.

We are entitled, indeed invited, to take these words into our heart and life.  But do we?

We have had access to these words for centuries.  Some of us have done as the woman at the well and the Samaritan men.  Some have not.  Regrettably now we are excising these words and removing Bibles and Crosses from college chapels (so at not to “offend” others).  

I often say to people that we are privileged to be back in the First Century of Christianity … that we have the choice to believe and renew Christianity.  This is a rare call … a sacred opportunity.  We live in a very special moment, a decisive moment in America and in the West.

The question is: Will we be as the Samaritan men and the woman at the well?

It is up to you.  Do you read His words?  Ponder them?  Do you show your faith? Do you stand with Christ?  Do you repudiate those who attack faith?  Christ? His Church?  Or do you affirm godlessness in your silence?  Or in your pursuit of self-centered desires?

Many, many in the public square tell us in their words that they do not believe, that they are hostile to faith and to Christ.  Only you can counter their destruction.

Shalom.

 

 

” … 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.

 

Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

… those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Mt 23:20

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Make no mistake there are distinct, substantive differences between our two major parties.

Do not be deceived the last electoral result highlighted the very real difference between the common citizen and the elites: those with power, money, status – the intellectual and celebrity class, globalists, the media, the perpetual Washington insiders whose class status is far different from Mom and Dad in small town U.S.A. , and between the ideologues, “special pleaders,” and mere citizen taxpayers.

Frankly, the privileged class lost and the most politically-focused of them (the Left and the Washington wags who are used to being “important”) are offended and not taking their bite of humble pie very well.  Yes, their obstruction and rhetoric is destructive – having gone beyond civil debate.  Actually, their behavior mimics the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature who fled their state and hid from their official duties so as to thwart the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Like all actions people take, the angry objection to the voters choice of President tells us about those who are upset.  One thing it says is this: politics and power is a high priority for them – probably too important for their and our wellbeing as a nation.  Make no mistake a subset is NOT greater than the whole.  No one is more important than the nation.

It is always hard to speak to your Brother and Sister when they must be reproached – but speak we must – speak calmly, in a soft voice, as a friend, with authority and care. Reconciliation is the goal and it must always be.

Losses are difficult for many.  Those of us who have lived modestly and, in my case, on the “wrong side of the tracks” amid the very serious conflicts one can encounter – we are used to life’s ups and downs.  We learned long ago that no one wins all the time and that it is the losses which actually teach us the best lessons, impart the greatest truth and wisdom.

The one thing that we need now is a calm conversation with those who are most displaced by their perceived loss.  For civility to return, maturity must be cultivated and in this instance it means those hurt must listen to the voices of those who care for their welfare and that of this nation.  Yelling, fighting, anger will only inflame and put much at risk … including each of us.

Remember the opposite of love is not hate – but rather: indifference.  We cannot afford to draw battle lines, engage in nasty and dishonest behavior, retribution, character assassination, or violence.   Honest, calm conversation is the need.  An end to extreme language that excites ideologues and flames the fire … it must cease today, now.

I hope we are all to the task.  It is the humble who are exalted.  They are strongest who life has humbled.  Make no mistake – in the end the humble remain standing while the prideful fall. 

Shalom.

Postscript – I am always amazed that the “talking heads” on T.V. and many elected officials talk and talk without ever citing an authority – the words of someone whose insight and wisdom they share.  You have to conclude that they are talking through their hats, haven’t cracked a book since the 3rd grade.

You wonder: why would I listen to these people?  They really do not warrant my time.  They do not.  Happy landings.

 … words have power.  Words can light fire in the hearts of men.

Patrick Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind

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Yes, words can inflame and we have been very loose with our words, caustic, harsh, antagonistic, divisive, hateful.  Our words can and do provoke others.

Republicans were hunted down yesterday by someone fueled by ideology. Words, harsh words – played a role in this act.

We had best take an honest account of our self.  We have demonized others, labeled them, made them targets, counted them “deplorable.”

This has been building for four or more decades.  This has got to stop.

One can only pray that we are kind enough and strong enough to put a stop to the hatred and demonizing that is so prevalent.  God help us all.

Shalom.

[Note: I had prepared a longer analytical post on violence and culture, but given the present inflammatory climate I have opted to offer what I hope is a helpful and more unifying post in the hopes that we might look critically at our self, our culture, and what we and others say.]

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.

… at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives – this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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So what if Merton is correct?  That God dwells within each of us?  Would it not be likely that The Creator might leave a mark on you in your creation?  A fingerprint so to speak?

If that is so, would you act differently each day?  Would you not be fortified when facing difficulties?  Could you ever truthfully feel alone?

Does it not follow that what Merton describes might well explain the heroic conduct we see now and again?  If it is true, can we not shake our heads in disbelief at all the mischief and thievery, lying, cheating, violence and betrayal that we see?

Would Merton’s observation not reshape our idea that X or Y is “an honest” man or woman?  Would an honest person not seem to travel with greater humility and greater tranquility for their reference to God?

If Merton is correct would a government and its political class seek to drive God and faith from culture and the public square?

Think for a moment or longer, if this is so – what effect does this have on you? How would this proposition change you?

Seeking God is the noble purpose – your noble purpose.  That which provides meaning to you – a meaning that exceeds the limits of mortal life and trumps all earthly objectives.

Shalom.

Piggy Bank No More – Europe’s NATO member nations owe years of back payments to NATO, payments obligated by membership in the mutual defense association.  President Trump has called NATO members out on their large outstanding balances. Rightly so!

One smug NATO minister kept talking derisively while the President was speaking. I’ll bet you he was from one of the countries behind on payments.

Isn’t it funny how others just think the U.S. will carry them – that they need not do their lawful share.  Let those days be over – suckers no more!  

Friends don’t let friends pay for all the dinners out year after year.  Such nations are doubtful allies.  The times they are changing.  At long last!

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