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A guy needs somebody to be near him.  A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.  Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s as he’s with you.  I tell ya, a guy gets lonely an’ he gets sick.

John Steinbeck, in Of Mice and Men

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Like many people yesterday and last night I watched television coverage of the Parkland, Florida high school murders.  Frankly, the most significant and most revolting aspect of this tragedy is simply this: no one – not one person – knew Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old student who committed these murders!

Most troubling: no school official seemed to know anything about a young men who was within their jurisdiction.  No teacher appeared to tell us who he was.  No school counselor appeared to tell us who he was.  The school principal never appeared at all.  Those who previously disciplined the student did not appear.

The police chief spoke – he could offer no personal information on the lad.  Not where he lived. Who were his parents.  Whether he had full or half-siblings.  How long he lived in the community.  Who he had known.  What he might have done in school.  What grade level he had been in.  How long he was in the school or the Parkland educational system.  Whether he has received psychological or counseling services through the school or benefited from medical or mental health or social services referrals.

This kid was an absolute stranger to these people.

Listening to the coverage – it was as if this fellow just appeared out of thin air.

The state “dignitaries” likewise knew nothing about this young man.  The Florida Governor was a blank sheet as to Nikolas Cruz.  Ditto the Florida Attorney General, the Parkland School Superintendent.  No one knew Nikolas Cruz – No one.

As you sit today and ponder what happened in Parkland, Florida, yesterday – there is one thing you can know for sure – those who had charge and care of student Nikolas Cruz did not care for him, did not know him … and in effect put him on course to these murders.

A gun did not kill these murdered students.  Oh noabject, inexcusable indifference of adults did.  Shame on those who failed this young person.

Let’s face the truth, Friends – we have become a culture devoid of intimacy.  Simple caring and acts of friendship are fewer – far fewer – than they once were.  And yet we fool ourselves while dividing ourselves into small self-centered and angry groups separated by race, politics, gender, sexual “preferences”, ethnicity … at the same time we shun God and those who believe in God.    

Indifference and those who are indifferent killed these high school students the very same way they killed Nikolas Cruz.

Some Ash Wednesday in the year 2018!!!  If we ever needed God, we need God now!!!

Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

Shalom.

The Aftermath.  One day after the Parkland tragedy and the hysteria commences: talk of mental illness without any indication that Mr. Cruz was ever diagnosed … and talk of banning guns … Yet, not any evidence of introspection.

It is always easiest to point blame away from ourselves.

Let’s be plain.  Parkland is a small town of 23,000 people.  Until the 2000-2010 it was a town of 8000 plus (according to Wikipedia).  The school was probably the largest government entity to have direct daily contact with its population.

Are we to assume that this small town threw a mentally impaired kid (without a family) out of school with no concern for what he might do or whom (including himself) he might hurt?  If so – forget mental illness and guns – these people need to focus on their conduct and responsibility. 

 

 

 

 

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The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and prefered answers, not because they are obstinate but because he knows others are worthy of consideration.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Who killed liberalism?  The Liberals … with the assistance of “education” turned into indoctrination of fruitcake social applications of Marxism.

Enter the nonsense of community-organization, feminism, “homophobia,” race baiters, multiple genders, sexism, white “privilege,” disarmament, socialism, redistribution, environmentalism, central government as omnipotent, etc.  All possessed as if these notions are, individually and collectively, the Holy Grail and justify attack on all ideas that stand in opposition to their point of view.

The question is now can this intolerant crowd once again become Liberals or whether contemporary “liberalism” will, as it now appears, to be converted to fascism and the destruction of our constitutional representative democracy – its tenets, ethos, habit, practice, civility, genius and institutions.  The choice: preservation of freedom vs. its lost.

Ironically, the present circumstances require that one might avoid colleges and universities that dumb us down.  Ditto “social media,” media commentators, traditional sources of news, academics and the Party of the Left.

Much of what you now see as assaults aimed at President Trump by the media, press, modern “liberals,” academics, Democrats, Hollywood, the entertainment world and identity groups is a clash between ill-liberalism and the existing, historic mores of our Nation.  Indeed, such a clash begins with God’s exile.  All form of evil prosper when God is denied.

We live in challenging times.  The question is this: Who are we and who will be?  Go with tradition, what has worked for a long time.  Don’t leave God.  Ride with the Wind.

Shalom.

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Emphasis added.)

Ps 37: 1-4

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The application of these words could not be more applicable to today and American secular culture and its politics.

Hollywood female celebrities dress like streetwalkers and adult-age female teachers sexually assault underage male students.  Men in media and entertainment prey on female colleagues and young children, while men in politics and the workplace prey on staff members and associates.

Immoral and destructive ideas are advanced as public policy.  Government is seen as savior and God is shunned, faith dismissed.

We have been given divine guidance.  Turning our back on evil and wrongdoing is our task.  Drawing closer to God in darkened times is our mission.  Rejecting what is bad, impure, immoral, wrong, destructive and those who promote such things is our obligation.

How do you live?  Do you seek what is good?  Do you delight in the Lord and do what is healthy and right?  Or do you conform to the worse things and the ideas of lost souls who advocate what is unhealthy and godless?

Remember, you are a sacred being made for what is good and life-giving.

Shalom.

Mental Toughness – Looking at Tom Brady and his Head Coach you see two people who are mentally tough, determined, disciplined … these are traits accessible to each of us.  But who among us seizes these?  I can tell you this: starting from real deficits, as I did, presented those choices to me early on.  Fortunately I had people around me – my mother, members of my family, and friends who lived by these traits.  Yes, when your back is against the wall – these three things get you through life.  Seize what you are given.  Live despite the obstacles.  Happy sailing.

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mt 5:2

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I remember hearing this and initially thinking: How can one without the Spirit come into the Kingdom.  Of course, I have come to understand as I got older that what Jesus said meant something entirely different.

Yes, it took more life experience to realize that life is the invitation to grow in the Spirit.  We live in the midst of a spiritual journey.  In this we begin with a native spiritual disposition, a natural endowment: the joy of children – their life in a state of supernatural reality, with an instinct for good sitting within.  Their eyes are the eyes of innate Believers.  Yes, we have those eyes.

Soon enough the world imposes a materiality on the young.  Their vision blurs.  Their conscience becomes that of the concrete world in its one-dimensional structures and requisite consciousness.

In our mortal world we are soon enough diverted from what is innate and natural to a state of spiritual poverty.  From cradle to adulthood we grow poorer than we are made to be.

Indeed, our life will teach us that we must seek what we have been given: life in the full – and that means a spiritual existence and all its joys, insights and comforts.

Beware.  What is your spiritual state?  Have you remained poor, without growth in the Spirit?

You see your blessing is in this: poor as you might be – the Spirit and its riches await.  You are made for this journey is the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Journey on.  That is the primary purpose of your life – to come to the full form in the gift of life – a spiritual life full of understanding, wisdom, peace, contentment and certainty … a life in touch with God throughout – a life of building up, not tearing down.

Shalom.

The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century.  It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of life-style, and spiritual development. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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We live in an overtly secular culture.  For the most part our public discourse is godless.  Day-to-day there is no shortage of reports of heinous behavior – a father and mother torturing their small child, a ritualistic killing associated with an immigrant gang – one sad and cruel act after another.  Likewise we are engaged in one task after another – almost nonstop – day-to-day, week to week, month to month – year after year.

We are not living as a monk lives.

Where they have silence – we have endless noise and chatter.  Where they have solitude – we have immersion in the mass.  Where they have a simple life – we have a complex life. Where they tend to their spiritual wellbeing – we are dominated by our material existence.

We are NOT monks.  But maybe we need to be.

What level of comfort, contentment, peace, good cheer, health and calm does your life in secular culture bring?

On a scale of zero to ten with zero being “none” and ten being “perfectly fulfilled in these things,” my guess is that few among us confidently exceed 5 at best – likely three or four.

Why do I say this?  We are otherwise engaged.  And this present engagement keeps us from access to our whole and true self – our self as we are made to be: stable, at peace, content, insightful, patient, wise, healthy, congenial, secure, comfortable, un-worried, calm, at ease …

Simply stated each of us is made for the ways of monastic consciousness.  Yet, look around you – look in the mirror – are you not more or less fully engaged in the things of secular cultures?  Do you not act and think like a secularist – a sort-of human machine, fully and uncritically absorbed with the never-ceasing dance of secularism and all its inane lunacy?  Are you not sucked into listening to whomever appears on the Boob-Tube?

Dear God!!!  Do you not want to escape this in-crazed nonsense of the mindless, lost secular herd?

Be the monk you are made to be.  Silence.  Solitude.  Simplicity.  Spirituality.

Shalom.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Matt 5:6

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So speaks Jesus.

My son and I have wonderful conversations about life and living in this land at this time.  The conversations have among their themes seeking truth – wondering how it is that the culture and many in leadership positions or in positions of influence (as in the media) seem uninterested in truth and what is right and good.

A good life is oriented to seek truth.  Ones who seek truth are, in a real sense, seeking the Divine – that is with man but rises above man.  Yes, seeking the Eternal and Everlasting – seeking God.

The desire for good, for what is right – is planted within.  Its expression is a natural thing – a good itself, a reassuring sign that one seeks properly, that one seeks what is meaningful and meaning itself.

For what do you seek?  Do you seek what is false and cannot satisfy?  Look at those whose life is chaos – they seek not for what is good.

What does the culture hold out as worthy of our attention?  Status?  Celebrity?  Wealth?  Influence?  Power?  Beauty?  Pleasure?

Be smart.  See clearly that secular culture seeks these things mentioned.  But it does not seek righteousness … it does not seek God.

Remember: nothing but Truth satisfies.  That is: nothing but God satisfies – as God is Truth.  What do you seek?

Shalom.

 

 

Love the truth and let nothing but the truth issue from your mouth, in order that the spirit which God has settled in this flesh of yours may be found truthful in the sight of men … Liars ignore the Lord and defraud him since they do not return the Spirit received from him, namely a Spirit in which there is no lie.

The Shepherd of Hermas

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The Truth starts with one’s self.  The question is simple: do you acknowledge the truth about yourself?  Are you truthful about your life?  Do you see yourself truthfully?  Do you see your parents in the light of total honesty?  Do you do the same when it comes to your children?

The truth calls for brutal honesty.  In this is the seed of contentment and the fruit of humility and mercy – the baseline of sanity and stability.

Know who you are and proceed shortfalls and all for then what needs repair will be repaired.  No truth – no comfort.

Look at your society – especially those who dispatch news and points of view about our public existence – the world near and far.  Are they truthful?  Once you find they are not – turn away, dismiss those who fail to speak truthfully.  Those who lack truth – defraud self, others and God.  They sow discontent, confusion, division and disorder.

Today we live in a state where truth is lacking – in equal measure to the rejection of God.

Beware of those with double standards – they crucify the truth and mercy, too.  And beware of the propagandists who deal only in what is not true.  Remember also how “quaint” were the Clinton-years and ways were lying was “spinning” and hence “clever” and “acceptable.”  Shame on those who made peace with lies!

Look about – many in public discourse do not attend to the truth – they often say what they desire you to think so you might yield to their point of view – no matter how destructive.  “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  Yes, we are lied too by those in “high places.”  Shame on them.  Lie to me once – you are dead to me forever.

Those who deceive show their illness – it is the sickness of godlessness.  This lesson – older than dirt.

Love the truth of the matter.  In that way, life is easier – less confused, far better for its purity and satisfaction.  To live in truth is to live in God.

Shalom.

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflections of our own acts.  We must find our real selves not in the froth stirred up by the impact of our being upon others around us, but in our own souls which is the principle of all our acts.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I often hear people say that we are a sick society.  And so it seems.  One is hard pressed not to see the sickness of celebrities in our mass communication culture.  If one needed evidence we have plenty in the last months: Spacey, Weinstein, Franken, Lauer, Rose, Weiner, et al.

As far as I can tell, I see little comment about the effects of celebrity on the human person.  Little evidence that images can be very powerful and very destructive.  Few say much about how others use social media to gain attention, or how we are a visual culture and image, as a result, is significant.  Have you not noticed in political protests how people “dress for the occasion” – with black clothing and masks, or with pink “pussy” hats as the Leftist feminists have done?

Merton’s quote helps us understand the sickness of celebrity in mass culture, and the disorder it conveys to the public at-large.

As Merton says: our identity resides “in the invisible depths of our own being … not in the outward reflections of our acts.”  To be celebrated is not being.  To be celebrated is not to exist.  Our identity is in our soul and that speaks to spirituality, self-examination, faith and the wisdom of religious narrative.  Absent the latter we lose contact with our self and reality.  Therein rests the sickness of secularized mass communication culture.

We are made for time in solitude, for knowing our own divinely endowed dignity.  We are sickened and reduced when joined at the hip to mass communication culture and the images and celebrity it projects.

Your health and comfort is turning a blind eye to mass communication culture, its celebrity and image.

Shalom.

Truth – Funny thing about truth.  A friend asks your opinion and you tell them what you understand is true – and even decent people shy away from it, get defensive, hostile.  They prefer what is their comfortable view to what might be true.  People are weak – choosing to live the lies and compromises of a comfortable existence.  Yes, corruption and weakness take many forms – a common experience, one that isolates the true and honest from those with lesser strength.  So be it.  And we fail to get an honest and strong culture.  Keep your distance, lest you be compromised and reduced.  Let the dead bury the dead.

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