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3:03 a.m. – how nice it is to awake in the full night of silence to think about faith

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Faith is a backward-looking virtue.  It concerns who we are … “the mystical chords of memory.”

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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In faith you are connected with those who have come before you – with a stream of being that reaches to the very distant past, the sacrifice of others, their fidelity.  Their story is our story.

In faith we belong to others – to Saint Peter and Saint John – to Abraham and Martha and Mary and Lazarus … to Aquinas, St. Augustine, to Simon of Cyrene, the men on the road to Emmaus – to centuries of faithful Jews and Christians.

In faith we have identity … a place in a long story that has no end.

In a world too often focused on the immediate, the immaterial, on desire, immersed in anxiety, loneliness, doubt and worry – we have in faith: certainty, confidence, cause, connection, and a call to life.

In faith we have as Aristotle says “another self,” – in faith is solidarity and union with one another now, in the past and in what is to come.  In faith we know love – a love that runs to what has come before, what is now, and what will be in all the tomorrows yet to come.

In faith, particular differences do not matter for the faith others possess is the faith we possess.  Ethnicity, race, age, social status, wealth and such do not matter to those who share a faith.

The broad identity of faith is the union of belief.  We are, in faith, what we believe.  Therein is our solace, our identity, our purpose, our meaning, our stability and our happiness.

Shalom.

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  Happy St. Patrick’s Day

[2:09 a.m., Sunday, March 17, 2019]

Today’s Blog is dedicated to my Irish brothers – Buddy Mahar, Jerry Shannon, John Downey, Mike O’Brien, Marty Donovan, Mike Ryan, Fr. Jim Beattie, John Connelly, Georgie Shannon, John Flynn, Johnny Corbert, Danny Crowley, Fr. Mark Hughes, Br. Tom Shaughnessy, the Roddy Brothers, Tommie Mahoney,  John Boyle, Br. Malachy Borderick, Henry Murray, Jackie Alywood … 

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It was … reliance on home and family … dependence on faith and friendship, that gave Irish Catholics the unyielding determination to support lost causes and leaders long after all hope had been lost, all efforts failed, and all others had abandoned the struggle.

Thomas H. O’Connor, in The Boston Irish

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My lineage is from Scotland.  I grew up with the Boston Irish – and am as thankful for that good fortune as I am for any number of blessings I have enjoyed amid the tumult along the way.

In approaching my recent birthday in the month of December, I seemed to be involuntarily fixed on a simple thought: Why had I found it so easy to be combative – standing with those who were in difficult straits and not apt to be heard by the powers that be … why did I so easily fight for strangers who needed my support and counsel?

I wondered: was this something God desired or was I out of step with His intentions for me?  Had I followed Him or let myself and this combative nature lead me out of some inclination that I might better have left unattended?

As fate of the Divine would have it, I was (by chance) reading Tom O’Connor’s book on the Irish Boston and the author helped me realize that (as he reports) the Boston Irish were among the most steadfast of all the Irish who immigrated around the world.  Bingo!

If God had wanted me to be less than combative and independent, a risk-taker in public matters and the law – He would not have placed me among my peers, my beloved, loyal, funny, independent, faith-filled, tough, witty Irish pals nor would He have led me to Irish pals throughout my life.  Consequently, I now rest contented … I am, in my advocacy and general nature, who God intended me to be.  I am one of them.

As many childhood friends tell be “Bobby, you never changed.”  God and my Irish friends anchored me in who I was … such is grace so made present.

… the Irish did not break.  Against all odds, in the face of irrefutable logic, contrary to the rules of law and the dictates of society, the Irish would refuse to accept any measure or policy that felt conflicted with their faith, their values, or their ideals. (Emphasis added.)

I gratefully share my life and Catholic faith with these dear brothers and so many who like them manifest the courage and love that the pursuit of good so requires.

God bless the Irish!

Shalom.

 

The more the powerful and independent consciousness becomes, and with it conscious will, the more is the unconscious forced into the background.  When this happens, it becomes easily possible for the conscious structure to be detached from the unconscious images.

Richard Wilhelm, in The Secret of the Golden Flower

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To be whole and have psychic health, full development and contentment, our conscious life must be attached to our unconscious life.  Without an unconscious life, life and our experience of it is distorted, limited and chaotic.

Indeed, it seems that this is precisely where we are in our country today.

Look at the celebrity and political class and those in control of higher education (the “teaching” intellectuals) and you see not mature and insightful individuals but narrow people full of self-assertion, anger and extreme and destructive notions.

Yes, being stuck in conscious alone is a superficial state of being, a fragmented and  unhealthy state of being.

Carl Jung in a 1931 essay noted that the disconnection of consciousness from the unconscious makes for the modern man who Jung identifies as “unhistorical” – that is void of any of the broader lessons of human history.

Jung’s observation might explain the measure of ideas offered and advanced by the American Left today as well as the limited use that can be made of public discourse among those engaged in news reporting and commentary.

I find nothing so much as the separation of conscious and unconsciousness to explain what I see among public personalities, see in the conduct and discourse of the elites.  Sadly, this reminds me of the tragic decline in the German culture in the inter-War years.

Disordered development creates great risk for cultures – and a failed education system and rejection of faith makes for increasing the risk of serious error and destruction.  And make no mistake religious narratives all over the world instruct us in symbols and metaphors that open us to our unconscious.  Ban or undermine religion and we increase our collective and individual danger.

Our individual full psychological and spiritual development is critical, indispensable to our flourishing and survival … and a sign of how far we are from health is evidenced by our reaction to the horrible shooting of people in New Zealand last night.  Immediately our public commentators see it as a product of political opinion when it is rather an indication of psychological sickness – disorder all too common to its counterparts around the world.

Shalom.

 

“Genetically, two black people are more likely to more different to be each other than a black person and a white person … while the physical differences are clearly visible between a white and a black person, the total amount of difference is much smaller than between two black people.”  (Emphasis added.)

Adam Rutherford, in A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

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The Left with its “identity politics” is (as it is with their absolutism of socialism and Communism) utterly and thoroughly well behind the scientific curve.

Yep, our knowledge of genetics tells us that we all share genetic markers from a very small pool of the first humans on the planet as well as a whole lot of people over the entire life of humans on the planet.  The consequence?  Bye, bye ethnic, class, race, religious, and status distinctions that are used to separate us one from another.

Yes, the divisions we create are nonsense.  We are more alike than different one from another.  Translation?  Threat the “Dividers” with the contempt they so rightly deserve.

Don’t be fooled into embracing their trap of “division” which makes us vulnerable to their control.  No. No. No.  We are scared beings.  Each of us … and far more alike than different.  Let’s start living this reality.  Let’s understand we share a common past and its accumulated wisdom.  Live right.  Do not be duped by those who divide.

Shalom.

 

 

… narcissistic orientation is one in which experiences as real only that which exists within oneself while the phenomena of the outside world have no reality in themselves, but are only experienced from a viewpoint of their being useful or dangerous to one.  The opposite pole of narcissism is objectivity … the faculty to see other people and things as they are … to be able to separate this objective picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires and wants.

Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving

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Narcissism.  We know it as selfishness and it is quite abundant.  Human beings are quite selfish.  We find it in families, professional associations, the entertainment industry, the media and other lines of work that have a public face.  It runs rampant in politics, in professional associations like Bar Associations and among the coveted and esteemed associations like the judiciary and the tenured faculty.

Selfishness is the root cause of corruption.  In selfishness others are mere objects or obstacles to one’s exclusive satisfactions.  Many people are imprisoned in this narcissism and they make others miserable.  There is no love or friendship with the narcissistic lot.  To them others are objects to be used or destroyed.

What is one to do?  For a calm and pleasant life – be very selective with whom you mix and mingle.  Maintain an objective point of view.  Be realistic.  See the world and others as they are not as you wish them to be.

Yes, there are good people who genuinely care about living a humble and kind life and thus treat others with the upmost dignity and concern.  Those people ought to be your circle of friends.  The others are to be kept at arm’s length or avoided altogether.  Narcissists, you see, are quite destructive to self and others.

When you think about it, do you not see the value of quiet, solitude, a small group of good friends, the value of a monastic disposition, life in God’s great space and beauty, the place of Christ in the life of a Christian?

Be realistic.  See what is.  Avoid unreal expectations or self-deception.  Things are what they tell you they are.  Acknowledging reality is the cornerstone of a life of peace, friendship, meaning, contentment, happiness, relative ease and love.  We live in a fallen world among many who are centered on self and self only.  Consider yourself so advised.

Shalom.

Liberalism moves … toward radical individualism and the corruption of standards that the movement entails.  By destroying traditional social habits of the peopleby dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes, by licensing the opinions of the most foolish, by substituting instruction for education, by encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom, the upstart rather than the qualified … Liberalism can prepare its way for … the artificial, mechanized or brutalized control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos.

Robert H. Bork, Sloughing Toward Gomorrah; Modern Liberalism and American Decline

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Bork makes the case that modern liberalism (as distinguished from classical or traditionalism) is destroying America.  It is an impressive case.  Yet, I see few in politics (but for some conservatives) who make this case.  And, I see few in politics who represent traditional or classical liberals and offer thoughtful opposition to modern liberalism.

Likewise, I see few clerics, few in the media, in academia or the law who offer a critique of modern liberalism and school us as to the damage it has done and is doing.

Recently I watched a documentary that purported to explain the political mess in Washington whereby collaboration and congeniality among liberals and conservatives has ceased. The documentary blamed the paralysis on Americans who held traditional values and ignored the ruckus caused by proponents of modern liberalism.  It ignored the fact that for every action there is a reaction.  Such blindness does not help.

In looking briefly at Bork’s criticism of modern liberalism one might see what the documentary misses:

  • corruption of standards: think FBI and the Justice Department as each has been revealed to us
  • destroying traditional social habits of the people: think the destruction of the family, the dispatch of religion from the public square, abortion, infanticide and the hyper-sexualization of culture
  • dissolving the natural collective consciousness into individual constitutes: think identity politics
  • licensing the opinions of the most foolish: think cable news, TV networks, major metropolitan newspapers, and attention given the views of “entertainment” celebrities
  • substituting instruction for education: think Leftist ideology and the indoctrination centers that primary and secondary schools and colleges have become
  • encouraging cleverness rather than wisdom: think late-night and midday television “pundits”
  •  the upstart rather than the qualified: think Ocasio-Cortez and her cohort
  • artificial, mechanized or brutalized control: think of national health care, the Green New Deal, Venezuela and the attack on the U.S. Constitution.

Sloughing to Gomorrah indeed.

Shalom.

 

 

 

In our time we should emphasize what unites rather than what divides.

Pope John XXIII

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These are the words of Pope John XXIII on his death-bed.  I cite them today because they fit so well the circumstances we face now.

There is great division in this land.  It seems as if people desire that we be divided, fragmented, at odds with one another … divided and separated from God and faith, self and one another.  Today hostility is heightened and friendship diminished.

This brings me to my long-term concern with how one lives one’s faith in a secular culture – now that one is apt to be estranged from spiritual existence in a culture that manifests so much discontent, anger and self-destruction.

My own course has been an attempt to understand both God and culture.  To look at our history as a nation and Western Civilization, to see the challenges we face, review our failures and our successes, look closely at our psychological health and development and our nature as spiritual beings.

It follows that my reading encompasses history, philosophy, psychology, theology, mythology, literature and the like.  But my inquiry has also experienced and thought about monastics and their ability to live faith and grow spiritually and as healthy humans notwithstanding the shape of the world over many centuries.

What I have come to understand is this: (1) if you wish to live your faith and do so deeply, you need to know how a culture can deter you from faith and your spiritual development, and (2) in seeking to live your faith in a secularized culture, you would be wise to learn from the monastic experience for it has over many years allowed men and women to grow spiritually and in contentment through their separation from the culture at-large, their silence, solitude, study and simple life style.

I might add that if you wish to assist others in finding faith in secular culture it becomes necessary to identify those things in culture which make a healthy spiritual existence quite difficult and those things which incline to foreclose one’s spiritual development and ultimate peace and contentment that daily living of one’s faith allows.

In short, what I am saying is this – to live faith in secular culture – you do well to take an informed assessment of the culture, become familiar with the nature of monastic existence and make use of its framework so you might exist within a secular culture while living fully in your faith.  Yes, in this you will be living at an arm’s length or more from the present culture as it is endlessly extended to you in a mass communication and the highly visualized and extensively noisy storm of images and words.

In practical terms it is wise to adopt a monastic disposition in an intrusive secularized culture. 

Shalom.

Postscript – In the 1950’s we held the Communists in check when they invaded Korea, would we do less in facing them in our own country?

Thank God we are the imperfect image of a perfect God.  With this in mind I ask those who read the blog to forgive me for anything I may have written that might be off-putting.  And I ask you to think of me as the whole body of my writing and my desire to ask the questions that must be asked, speak as bluntly as is needed, risk being wrong in order to try to be right.  I ask you to see in me this core: I wish that we might speak candidly and seek a good and healthy result for one another, our self and our family, friends and neighbors – known and unknown.

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Friends are always chance meetings.

Steve Guttenburg

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There is a grace in the “chance meeting.”  I had such a meeting today.

By total chance I encountered a fine man seated next to me at the local coffee shop.  And what an informative and delightful conversation ensued!

Yes, chance meetings are gifts – in some sense divine in nature.  There is in life always things that suggest the mystery of life itself … how fate finds us, messengers appear, friends emerge in the guise of strangers.

In my circumstances today, I had a delightful conversation with a man who has embraced life, let it come to him … a man who studied the experience of his life and enkindled in this insights, wisdom and the deep experiences of living fully.

It follows that we spoke of many things – but one in particular was our care for children, those younger than us who seem less able to ask questions that give them meaning, understanding, maturity, insight, belief, stability, courage and gratitude.  Like me, my breakfast mate has been a father to successful children, had a mother who imparted to him great care, sacrifice, critical lessens, encouragement and love.

Here we were two who shared much that is common to all people but too often overlooked by many.  In this we lamented that others (even those who do not know personally) suffer without insight and direction, without clear purpose and meaning.

You know you have a friend when one you meet is one who lives in care of others, in gratitude for what he has, and compassion for those who seem lost, in need of care and confidence.

Yes, today God was present in the gift of a chance meeting. 

Look around you.  We have more family than we recognize.  More brothers and sisters than we realize.  The sanctity of Chance Meetings make this so.

So today, I have had the care of God in this chance meeting.

Be of good cheer.  Life is better than you may realize.  We need one another to know what it is to be fully grown and eternally grateful.

Shalom.

 

Late start to my writing day.  Bitter, rainy and cold.  So much like life in Boston in the late fall, winter and near Spring – often providing a St. Paddy’s day snowfall.

Something about the raw chill of it all that bespoke life as it really is.  Such weather prohibits fictions of what life actually is.  You bones speak the truth … they are ancient in origin.

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… contemporary belief may be powerless to do more than “borrow light  and lightness from ancient lamps” and provide a sliver of hope for the few who are still driven “to take comfort in the periodic company of like-minded others, who day … ‘share the thing ancient that will not quite die.”

Roger Luden, borrowing from John Updike in Luden’s Believing Again.

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If you were to sit a bed watch for a dying culture you would ask: “Who believes?”  And, “Do I believe?”

One can make a plausible case that a death watch may well appear in a culture like our’s which moves intentionally away from religious belief.  Ah, yes – such is our moment.

As expected we are influenced in mass culture by unbelievers – the mavens of privileged,  immoral chaos, and self-exaltation.

I cannot tell you how to believe.  But I can tell you that belief is a gift if you dare seek God or look for the ancient sacred things destined to remain even if we die within.

I can tell you that my belief began when I was a child and observed the calamity so present in the conduct of others, the institutions and shallowness and lunacy they unwittingly displayed all the while those running them were thinking they “were something” other than small potatoes.

My vision has only been more confirmed with the ages – and now: mothers seek to “choose” to kill their children – born and unborn … and humans can mate with virtually anything, anywhere, anytime.  No sanctity there, people.

Believing.  What has your life told you of this?  What does today say of this?

The blind among us cannot see … and many are blind despite their eyesight.  In a dying age those who are sick cannot be saved but the children can be made stronger, wiser and more immune to human nonsense.

Shalom.

Listening to the musical legacy of Abbess St. Hildegard von Bigen, 12th Century mystic, writer, diplomat and counselor to Bishops, Kings and Popes.  Beautiful.

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Spiritual development is the birthright of every man and woman … the world as a whole tends to neglect and forget the knowledge of how to pursue and live a spiritual life. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Can there be wisdom and leadership without a spiritual component to one’s life?  No.

We are more than intellect.  We are spiritual beings.  Denying this, we are left less intelligent, less human and less healthy – flat and without insight necessary to make wise decisions on complex matters – or any matter.

Contemplation is the way to spiritual development for a contemplative life and life itself is a spiritual experience.

Contemplation leads to the full experience of the human experience.  In mass culture or any culture, contemplation requires that one lift himself or herself above the fray of mundane existence which so often captures us moment to moment, hour to hour, day after day – year after year.

Yes, attending to the demands of the world keeps the Christian from the mystery of Christ and the timeless message of the Gospel, and from knowing our self.

There is no full development of the human person without contemplation, no self-examination either – and hence no fullness of being, of human being.

In contemplation, the self is examined and understanding follows, and one is no longer trapped by the errors, follies, divisions, temptations and corruptions of the mundane world and the voices of its most vocal members.

Indeed, does contemplation not require the voiceless silence of solitude!  Yes, in contemplation there is a silent respite from all that interrupts our healthy, full development and greatest state of being.

In contemplation, God is real and immanent and those who are disoriented are no longer free to be housed within us.  Free – free at last.  Thank God Almighty “free at last.”

Shalom.

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