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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.

“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.

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.

… he who finds me finds life … all those who hate me love death.

Prov 8: 35, 36

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It is a simple admonition – plain and concrete.  Yet, it seems we live in an age in which many substitute ideology and bias and neglect the quest for wisdom and understanding.

I think in particular of the news media and the American Left.  And yes, it seems they hate all that does not match their ideology and yes, they lead to death.

Surely the division they breed shows this, as does the tenure of their most Leftist politicians and public policies.  One need only think of Obamacare, or the folly of the “Arab Spring,” or the abject weakness shown in the Syrian “line in the sand” regarding chemical weapons, or the fiasco and lies that surround the unnecessary deaths as Benghazi, or the Russian “reset,” or the inability to balance a budget, or the hateful efforts to destroy the Trump Presidency, or the insult that would have many Americans labeled “redeemable.”  The list goes on.

Ideology is the enemy of wisdom, and death is its yield.  The Nazis and Communists have shown this.  The latter in its many iterations across the globe in the last 100 years.

If you seek life, seek wisdom.  If you seek death, ignore the quest for wisdom.

When you live in an age where ideology is foisted on you, you’d best reject it and those who live by it.

In Christ there is wisdom and the way to life.  Ideologues, in contrast ignore, God and wisdom – and calamity results – on the way to death.

Shalom.

Hubris – Pride is poisonous.  It is ever present in America today.  You see it endlessly at college commencements when some celebrity or Leftist politician tells the graduates to “change the world.”  Horse-hockey.

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard graduates that they needed to create a world where everyone has a purpose.  This from a guy without a college degree. Did it not occur to him that perhaps God established such a world long, long ago? Or that telling Harvard graduates this most likely only added to their Crimson hubris?

Why do we want more nitwits running amok?

We don’t need more pride, we need more humility.  And, “No thanks, Lefty – you’ve done enough damage.  Keep your idiocy to yourself.”  I wonder if the person that invented the mousetrap felt compelled to tell others to “change the world?”  

Blog for May 23, 2017, will be posted in the midday.

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President Trump at the Western Wall.  This is a remarkable vision.  Why have we not seen this before now?  We can be grateful for the emergence of faith in public affairs – how else can you see an American President stopping in Saudi Arabia and then in Israel.

Faith has a place in all life, and activity without it is doomed to fail.  Has not our recent past and the woeful tone of opposition politics today shown us this. 

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When man subverted order he did … more than … diminish his own humanity … compromise his destiny … he … presents the unhappy spectacle of a being in revolt against Being …

Etienne Gilson, in The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy

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Gilson thought of God as Being itself.  As such, everything in the cosmos combines into one meaningful whole and all is contingent on God who is the reason for the existence of all things, all persons, all life.

Ask yourself if you act as if this is so?  It puts you to a significant test, a serious self-examination.  Are you bogged down in meaningless matters, governed so easily by emotions and worry?  Swept up in useless, insignificant daily sensations and alarms?

Likewise, look at the news, at politics, at those with easy access to mass communication – what do they have to say about that matters?  Are they conscious of their own contingency?

Contingency breeds humility – our scale reduced to proper size: a tiny part of a timeless whole – of Being itself, of God the Creator who is always and forever.

If you do not live in proper context and dimension you come to prefer self to God and condemn yourself to error and discord, restlessness and worry, loneliness and separation.

A life well lived fulfills your design as God has presented it … authors contentment and prepares you for harmony with all things.

Do you see in this what you need to do to know contentment?  Can you see how lost we are today?  Especially those you show their godless confusion and seek that we might follow them, tolerate their self-destruction so that it can then destroy us?

Embrace the best way of living and that is under God’s authority where peace prevails when the rain and wind comes to gale force and all seems darker yet.

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.

… the time was approaching … when the Ego … would be mere putty in the hands of something much larger than any human being … a strangely impersonal (and inhuman) construction of social and political reality, that would have enormous, compelling, even definitive sway over all within its grasp … the state’s (moral and political) power (would) become for the individual a commanding and pervasive presence … enforcing its institutional will on … all … (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in Secular Mind

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In the above Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist who held three endowed chairs at Harvard University, is commenting on George Orwell’s classic 1984 (written in 1948) in which Orwell foretold of man’s loss of self to the state and its impersonal and often brutal, a-spiritual, conforming power.

We are, of course, precisely where Coles said we would be in his 1999 book –A Secular Mind.

We are – notwithstanding, the useless, uneducated, destructive chatter of “talking heads,” newspaper editorial boards, Leftists intellectuals, “progressive” politicos, feminist and sexual “special pleaders,” the mindless celebrity class, and misplaced vaudevilleans of late night television – just a Coles predicted … at risk of losing our Self.

The problem we face is not merely political.  No, it is far more.  It is cultural.  As cultural, it is fundamental.  It poses this question: what is and shall be a fully developed human being?

In particular, the force of the state on the human being always invokes this question: what is it to be human?

Of course, the history of the Communists’ gulags and the adjacent death camps of totalitarian states tells us that centralized, ideological governments and politics never advance the fullness of the human person.  Their concern is control of the mass, not the sacred reality of being a human being.  Hence, all central states (our behemoth included) incline to homogenize and reduce the human to dependent or servant and in doing so they seek to reduce the role of faith, exile God and curtail religious freedom.

The impulse which elected Trump is the impulse to salvage human existence in the face of the growth of the central state.  The hatred this has stirred up on the Left and among the statists Republicans (i.e., globalists, and vested elites) and those who make their very nice living as media handmaids of the governing class is precisely a defense of the large state and its imposition on the human person and critical subversion of faith and spiritual existence.  Think, for example, of the Obama IRS which took active, lawless aim at religious tax exempt citizen organizations.

That is where we are …and I add I see no one in mass communication culture who has called this to the fore.  Rather, I see debates over this or that policy, the appointment of this or that person to do X or Y.

We have a more comprehensive problem … one requiring a broader scope of intellect and a greater knowledge of psychiatric welfare and spiritual development.

Alas, the politicos and media-types are least likely to possess anything like the knowledge, experience, insights or analytical tools to navigate us through very troubled and dangerous waters.

We have an interesting challenge in the present moment.  The discussion must be broader than politics.  It must be cultural and fundamental.

Shalom.

I listen to soothing Gregorian chants and sun emerges to fall on a well-moistened landscape after a steady spring rain – a reminder that God is the One Constant and we as mortals can never undo what He has done.

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… God is the Cause and Principle of all things.

Aristotle, in Metaphysics

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We tend to get trapped in today.  The calamities of today narrowed our vision and would have us forget God is eternal … His will is done … and life goes on.

There is plenty of evidence to support this.  I tell you one.

Novodevichy, is one of the most important religious sites in Russia.  There, on the outskirts of Moscow, a nunnery existed for many years.  In the period when Communist Russia was most hostile to religion it fell into disrepair until a Mother Serafina (a former scientist and grand-daughter of a Tsarist general turned Orthodox priest who was secretly consecrated an archbishop during the Stalinist purges and was subsequently killed by the state) took her religious vows as an aging widow breathed new life into the monastery at Novodevichy.

In five short years, Mother Serafina breathed new life and prosperity into this old monastery.  Women collected at this place, faith was restored and a discarded property flourished with farm, craft shops, restored worship center and quiet holy places for respite and prayer.  What was dying came to life.

Too often we think that the crisis of today, derails the God of everyday.  ‘Tis not true.  Stay in faith and of good cheer.  Our God outlasts all things – is before all things, is present to all things, lives forever beyond all things.

Shalom.

 

(In) Adam’s fall … Man fell … into the multiplicity, complication and distraction of an active worldly existence … man’s mind is enslaved … with all that is exterior, transient, illusory, and trivial.  He is utterly exiled from God and from his own self. (Emphasis added.)

He … seek(s) God and happiness outside himself … his quest … becomes … a flight that takes him further and further away from reality. (Emphasis added.)

William Shannon, in Thomas Merton’s Dark Path

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William Shannon”s book explores contemplation and its role in Thomas Merton’s life.  In the above passage Shannon makes the point that Adam’s fall from grace was a departure from a contemplative disposition into the complications of worldly existence and the circumstances and condition which enslave us and our consciousness.  Yes, he contends that worldly existence, unlike Eden, take us away from God and our true self.

I cite this excerpt for the impact of his last statement: that we are in our exile taken further and further away from reality.

There is plenty of evidence today to support Shannon’s words.  Take for instance the daily reports of multiple parties being murdered somewhat randomly.  Or the random murders and assaults on police officers.  Or the opiate addictions that are widespread and growing – and the deaths they yield.  Or the unnecessary conflict generated between women and men and the division of “identity politics.” Or the stubborn and childish obstructionism of the sore-loser, shrinking Democrat Party. Or the focus on the tiny number of “transgendered” psychologically confused.  Or the pathetic behavior of faux federal District Court judges who write windy political opinions ripe for reversal on appeal.  Or the fascist Left which seeks to destroy free speech.  Or Planned Parenthood which expects large infusions of federal tax dollars to continue baby killing.  … further and further from reality is just about right.

The problem, of course, is that we have fallen, departed from our true self, sought happiness in all things exterior and futile.

Make no mistake even Church elders have joined the ranks of the fallen and misguided – in search of heaven on earth.  One rather hoped that their faith was stronger and, just perhaps, they were wiser.  But Pharisees are Pharisees, after all.

Today I live a quasi-monastic life.  I live in the quiet of the forest and the mountain.  In this I have no part of the herd of confused and under-developed crowd – each, unfortunately, seeking happiness in all things exterior, fleeting and now.

When others abandon their true self disorder takes reign and displeasure is their product, harm too – even murder, but surely division, chaos and foolishness.

Our loss is a spiritual loss – nothing else can explain the collapse of a culture such as we are seeing.  

Back to Eden, Friends.  There is no other option, nor path to be had if health, contentment and meaning is your desire.

Shalom.

Postscript – The vacuity of Barack O. and the corruption and apparent psychological disorder of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton ought to be sufficient to suggest we are collectively due for a rebirth and restoration.  Indeed, nothing comes to mind so quickly as this: we are in the First Century of Christianity once again.  Yes, calamity brings opportunity in our drama as the cycles reappear.  And to the point – even though the Left does not see nor understand this: Caesar in concentration (i.e., totalitarianism) is no cure nor way to freedom, prosperity or happiness. Nirvana is not earthly.

 

This concludes the last in a series of posts on conversion.  This series has been offered to you so that you might see the manner in which conversion can appear to you in the present day and circumstance.  We are in need of restoration. Politics and the Left have led us astray, created deep division and godlessness, despair.  You can learn from Whittaker Chambers journey.

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… I tried to pray, it was as if the spirit from my boyhood … took my hand and knelt and prayed beside me, so that in the act of seeking oneness with God, I became one with myself(Emphasis added.)

Whittaker Chambers, in Witness

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Chambers had tried to pray as a boy and was unsuccessful.  Yet, when he needed God most – in his most desperate hours, when his world organized around the Communist narrative no longer held, … God guided him to prayer.

As Chambers writes “The secret springs of life, which had been lost so long in the desert of modernityjoined with impulses, broke free and flowed unchecked.” (Emphasis added.)

He records that the two mirages: one, of the Almighty Mind and the other, the Communist political fiction that man has the power to plan and execute human salvation – were illusions which had dragged him into the desert.

His daily prayer, he reports, “tore through (him) … a transformation with the force of a river … (and he) became what (he) was … (as he) ceased to be what he was not.” (Emphasis added.)

Yes, this is conversion!

As Chambers writes “the whole web of the materialist modern mind” fell.  No longer, he writes, did modernity and its rationalism cover “the spirit of man,” thwart “the instinct of his soul for God.”  He saw in this conversion that it was a “myth” to think of “man’s material perfectibility” which, he saw, as the “modern intellectual mood which gives rise to Communism” and, by implication, man’s sick fixation on all things “political.”

In his illumination, Chambers claimed the truth of this axiom:

“Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.” (Emphasis added.)

This Dear Friends is conversion.  This Dear Friends is our state today.  This Dear Friends identifies the nonsensical babble of the transgender crowd, the feminists, the abortionists, the pagans, the anarchists, the Democrat Left, the “progressives,” “the social engineers,” the morally vacuous academics and college administrators, the “open border” fools, those who demand endless “entitlements” and “safe spaces,” those who attack and diminish the place of faith in civic life and discourse, etc.

We have been led into the desert of hyper-political secularism and the idea that the human person can create salvation.

It is time to come to the sacred springs of Truth. Absent that: disintegration and disaster.

Think about this.  It is vitally important for you and this Nation to do so.

Shalom.

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