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… “political correctness” is one of the most dangerous intellectual afflictions ever to attack mankind … PC has enormous appeal to the semi-educated … But it also appeals to pseudo-intellectuals …

Paul Johnson, in Forbes (April 19, 2016)

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Noted British historian Paul Johnson takes out after “political correctness” in a way that I have not seen anyone do here in the U.S.  It seems, unlike Johnson, our public voices are fearful that some claimants to PC nonsense might take an exception. So much for the state of courage, intellect and common sense here and now.

Johnson reminds us that “any empty-headed student” can “claim some hurt” and the “dons and professors” will “wave the white feather” and extinguish free speech and public debate.  So much for the “leadership” and courage of trembling elders occupying university administrations.

Of course PC doesn’t stop at the campus edge, but rather gets repeated and applied to the populace by ready bureaucrats, regulators, school boards and legislators.

Johnson smartly sees that Donald Trump’s “vulgar, abusive, nasty, rude, boorish, and outrageous” presentation is precisely what is needed to confront PC.  As Johnson notes: America has had a long history of “vigorous, outspoken, raw and raucous” political speech and PC thinking does squelch that freedom to our great detriment.

Yes, Johnson sees Trump as a sharp contrast to the spineless and pusillanimous American political figures of the last decade (and, by implication, in the West with nations conceding their freedom to super-legislative, international bodies of PC focused and inept softies).

And herein is Johnson’s most critical observation – in Brexit and the Trump election we are seeing an expression of individual freedom and a rejection of the Nanny State, its PC idiocy and special pleading proponents whose only interest is tilting public life and benefit to them … and the devil with individual freedom … For them “equality” and “tolerance” are but PC clubs to beat the life out of liberty.  Think about it, is it any wonder that religion is the enemy of the PC crowd? Or why they hold this nation worthless?

I have said to many who object to Mr. Trump this: if you only look at Trump you are missing the movie … the larger story is about individual freedom and the authority of the nation state that is constrained by a free people and an astute Constitution in a federalist representative government of autonomous states.

Living faith in culture requires attention to the nature of culture and its expression in politics.  PC places freedom beyond reach and pulls totalitarian impulses to the fore.

Shalom.

News – It seems that Senator Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane have hired legal representation because of an investigation into Mrs. Sanders securing a large bank loan for the college of which she was President shortly before it closed its doors and may have failed to accurately report the college’s financial state in the loan application.  Socialism Venezuela style?

 

… the Light has come into the world, and men have chosen darkness rather than Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought by God. (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3: 19, 20, 21

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I have been focusing on the Gospel of John and the teachings that Jesus brings us in it.  I do so for a particular reason and it is this: we in the United States, especially among elites – those of privilege … including the media and entertainment class, lawyers and the judiciary, and university teachers and administrators, have lost contact with God, or have rejected God, religious narrative and Christ and this underlies all of our problems and our deteriorating public discourse and the reduced quality of those serving in public life.

Spirlaw is a blog about faith and culture.  About the intersection between faith and the culture in which we live.  There is no moral guide without faith and religious narrative.

The loss of recognition of faith’s invaluable importance to a healthy culture is crippling, destabilizing.  In its absence all sorts of ideas and wants are pushed forward without a glimmer of depth or understanding.  The subsequent foolishness is and can be both costly and utterly destructive.  We seem to have adequately demonstrated this quite clearly in the last five to six decades.

We are unhealthy, divided, crude and increasingly ignorant and wasteful.

Things have got to change.  We must return to the source of our wisdom and humanity – to faith – knowledge of it and life lived in it.

Look at the above words.  Read them.  Pause to think about them.

Do you see evil in this culture?  Among the most vocal advocates?  Or do you see good? Light?  Is faith banished or welcome?  Is God dismissed or welcome? Is Light manifest?

Or does one hear actors and celebrities, elected officials even – talking hatefully and doing so without hesitation?  Is the media truthful or are they not?

Those who are not truthful are not of the Light.  They destroy and there is no reason to give them ear.

Shalom.

Common Mistake – I recently watched an interesting report on the BBC about suicide among homosexuals.  The claim was made that it is a serious problem and that its cause is the denial of equality.

The common mistake?  Not all matters and forms of human behavior depend on “equality.”

There is far more to a healthy life than “equality.”  It is not the essence of human existence.

Indeed “equality” is invoked by political advocates without any evidence that they have studied the concept.  They use “equality” in an undifferentiated way.   Big mistake.  A mistake of ignorance.

The result in this case is this: neither “equality” nor suicide are understood.

Our ignorance grows seemingly in direct proportion to the growth of educational institutions and budget increases in education.

The Lord God planted a garden toward the East, in Eden … Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2: 8, 9

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… the tree of life …

We often miss this vital point in the story of Adam and Eve and their exile from Eden that results when they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

At Mass yesterday, Fr. Tucker pointed this out.  It is, frankly, a profound observation with extraordinary significance.

Yes, we were exiled for our disobedience.  Left to live far from the tree of life …. until 

Yes, until Christ was crucified – the Cross Our Tree of Life.  Such a wonderful and simple Truth from Fr. Tucker.

Think about this.  You have been brought back to Eden.  It’s enough to make a person obedient, thankful, faithful.

Beware of those who attack faith, the Church, religion and Believers – they have little understanding and are far from Truth and Life.

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.]

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.

… in every society where the distinction of ranks has once been completely established, there have been always two different … systems of morality current at the same time; … one may be called the strict … the other the liberal, or … the loose system.  The former admired and revered by the common people, the latter … by … people of fashion.  (Emphasis added.)

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

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This is Smith writing in 1776.  His book had a huge impact.  Its date coincided with the founding of the United States.

What Smith said then is as useful now as it has been over the last 241 years. Smith knew people.  He knew power, and he knew politics.

What he said then is visible to us today.

We have groomed a collection of elites.  These are the privileged people – the super-rich and the very affluent.  We see them in national politics, among ex-Presidents, on the bench, in the media, in entertainment, among those newly wealthy in the computer and internet industry, within the highly-educated class and in the tenured positions at once prestigious colleges.

These are people who live well above the income level of the common person – their morals are not the morals of common people.  Regrettably their privileged lives convince them that they know better than the commoners and that this licenses them to enforce their morals (such as they are) on the rest of us … along with their public policies.

Ah, but their interests are not our interests.  They do not suffer when factory jobs disappear and when small towns no longer present a place to work and raise a family free of addictions, dependency and hopelessness.

This privileged class manifests less need for faith than the commoner.  Hence, their morals are unlike the commoner.  Surely not better, but rather uniquely destructive, divisive and unhealthy.

As Adams says so well, the morals of the privileged are ruinous …  and because they are wealthy, the elites can sustain years of disorder far longer than the commoner.

That said, when a nation loses its identity to illegal invaders, when abortion is a form of “birth control,” and the spread of terrorism takes the life of innocents, of children and unarmed men and women – the time for the loose morals and destructive policies and preferences of elites comes to an end.  THIS IS BRIXET AND THE HILLARY CLINTON AND DEMOCRATIC DEFEAT AT THE POLLS.  This is how one explains that the Democrats captured only 64 of the over 3000 counties in the U.S. in the last presidential election.

The heinous photo of a minor female “entertainer” holding the severed head of President Trump tells you three important things: one, the morals of the privileged are not the morals of the common person; two, the curve is bending back on the Liberals (the privileged class in both political parties) and their attitudes and disposition; and three, the relentless attacks on the President are the elites clutching at control, attempting to retain power at all costs … power over the common person.

Ah, but the times may well be changing.

Shalom.

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.

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