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the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taster receptors.  Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors – either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice.  But people have so many powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., in The Righteous Mind

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Well if you want to understand the basic rift between the Left and others (moderates, Conservatives, and “neutralists”)?  Haidt gives you that understanding.

The Left is secularized – removed from faith, anchored in material existence, the narrows of intellect and ideology devoid of psychological or spiritual depth and the understanding and experience that each provides.

In matters public and political they are so narrowly focused, they neglect or dismiss our natural desire for liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity (as Haidt notes).

You see, esteemed Social Psychologist Haidt is telling us that as a matter of innate design the human person thirsts for morality that attends to more than fairness and equality.  Mind you, this thirst is an involuntary desire.  Hence, we are “hardwired” for a morality that extends beyond the shallows of the Left.

The distinction that Haidt describes explains why the Left is intolerant and must force their views on others much as totalitarians do.

Ironically, on an even playing field (i.e., one not corrupted to protect their views) the Left is destined to fail because the public’s natural moral appetite is larger than what they offer.  Humans are more complex than the Left reckons.  No, we are not all like them or their ideology.

Think about the many positions the Left advances or defends and you realize that their positions are at odds with the innate moral desires of the human person at-large.

Once that thinking is done, you can see how the Left forestalls the full development of the human person.  Indeed, they create unnecessary conflict (and division) by attempting to impose exceedingly narrow views on others that are, as a consequence, antagonistic to our broader moral needs.

Haidt, applied to our present situation, leads to greater understanding of the unhealthy antagonism that the Left generates.

You would be wise to get to know Haidt and his excellent scholarly work.

Shalom.

 

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God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

Shalom.

 

 

The 4th of July is our beginning, our heritage!

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 There was no American nation, no army at the start, no sweeping popular support for rebellion, nor much promise of success.  No rebelling people had ever broken free from the grip of a colonial empire … And so, we must never forget, when they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor,” it was not in a manner of speaking.  (Emphasis added.)

We call them Founding Fathers, in tribute. … it has meaning in our time as never before.

David McCullough

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These words appear on the jacket cover of Mr. McCullough’s superb biography of John Adams (John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001) – a book that tells, in eminently readable detail, of the colossal, selfless, grinding work and courage, genius and fellowship among a small handful of brave men willing to chart a course of national independence from the power of a mighty Great Britain in late 18th century.

“Old Dead White Men” indeed!  Shame on Leftists who know nothing and have accomplished even less for dismissing these brave men.

Yes, shame on them – their ignorance is only matched by their substantial ego.

We can only wait patiently for these sons and daughters of the post-1968 nihilistic cabal to pass away.  Then, perhaps – just perhaps, we will restore our senses and return to actual learning, real education (sans snowflakes,”safe” spaces, etc.), and a love of liberty, this land, our sacred heritage and each another.

I cite one story to suggest the price these “old dead White men” paid in forming our nation and crafting our Constitution.

John Adams of Massachusetts, having traveled from Boston to Philadelphia on horse back to be separated from his wife, children, extended family and professional work for months on end – endured enormous worry for his loved ones when a deadly small pox epidemic swept through Boston.  Letters their only communication.

Yes, men sacrificed as did their families and worked day and night, day after day to establish and defend this daring independence from Britain.  The burdens were plenty and hard problems and choices abounded at the same time they sat apart from their home and family.

Perhaps this 4th of July we might just gather our thoughts and begin to see how blessed we have been because of the efforts and sacrifice of these men and their families … and perhaps, you might just remind the perpetual complainers that they are an embarrassment to our Founders.

“Old dead White man,” my fanny!

Shalom.

Every baptized Christian is obliged by baptismal promises to renounce sin and to give himself completely, without compromise, to Christ, in order that he may fulfill his vocation, save his soul, enter the mystery of God, and there find himself perfectlyin the light of Christ.”  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Life and Holiness

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When you look and observe all sorts of disordered behavior, hostility, division and antagonism – you might ask: How can this be, we were once a united nation and when we disagreed we did so in a civil and respectable manner – a way that did not make us enemies?

Now if you are a Christian, the above words of Thomas Merton might help you understand why we are where we are, and how we might restore what we once knew and enjoyed.

The “how?”  We have forget the gifts of our baptism.  We forget the extraordinary significance of being one with Christ, being a Christian.  Having forgotten our legacy and its inheritance, we reverted to self and selfishness – to godlessness – a life without Christ at the center of our being.

For a Christian, our separation from Christ is a guarantee for calamity, disintegration, division, antagonism, hostility, unhappiness, sin and destruction of all that is good.  Abiding by our Baptismal gifts – we prosper, find strength and happiness – build friendship, family and community – and know joy and humility and courage.

Yes, in baptism we are “called out of darkness.”  In its neglect we court darkness – and see it surround us today.  Ah, but you can change that!!!

Shalom.

 

 

 

… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another.  It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing and fostering effective selfexpression and communication.  Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners as well as a matter of good health.  (Emphasis added.)

P. M. Forni, in Choosing Civility

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One reason I have come to the open space of the country is this: the disordered nature of people is, at the least, disquieting and often so distasteful that one risks being sucked into useless conflict with the immature and uninformed.

Unpleasant conversations with fools has never been a favorite pastime with me.

Yet, today the public discourse is so poor that I have turned away from anything but a glancing pass over the “news of the day.”

We have hit a new low with female Senators swearing in public, and entertainment celebrities crudely voicing in tantum-like manner their profanity laden dislike of party A or policy B – as if anyone really cares what they have to say.

Not-so-astonishingly, the cable and network “news” people, like lemmings, fall right into line – mimicking the ill-bred and poorly educated actions and views of the foul-mouthed celebrity.  Of course, the crass conduct of Leftist advocates makes matters all the worse as to civil discourse.

As to the latter point, the destructive objectives of the Leftist advocates is patently clear when they “game” the system by offering this or that feigned outrage simply to get their own way.  No civil discourse there.  It is all the aim for power.  And that means always – an idiotic and destructive policy turn in which faith in democracy and civil discussion are both lost.  Indeed we are at that juncture now.  

I am often surprised that those who push an ideological agenda have not met with forceful response.  Knowing human nature, I suspect that relative passivity may not sustain.

These are unpleasant times.  Civility is lost, and democracy and community are on the wane.  We listen to those we ought to ignore.

Shalom.

Trust – Trust is a funny thing.  There are not a whole lot of people in your life that you can trust for the entire length of your life.  More people jump ship than stay the course.  That’s just people.  Most seek an advantage or cannot sustain the exactness required for a trusted friendship.

A long term trust-relationship requires complete honesty and that means honest self-reflection and continual growth.  There are more people who cannot meet the terms of a trusted relationship than can meet those terms.  Cherish the trusted relationships you have … do not expect to have a great number of them.  Indeed, does this not underscore the place of a faith narrative, God as we have come to know the idea of God?  When all else fails – you and God can do wonderful things together.  Imagine me painting or writing – is that not God and me in a state of trust?

 

 

Insofar as society is itself composed of de-individualized human beings, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individuals … A million zeros together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.  (Emphasis added.)

Carl Jung, M.D., in The Undiscovered Self

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Carl Jung is talking about the process of “individuation” whereby one grows in maturity and wholeness by moving from an ego-driven being to a healthy whole self.  The point being that a whole person discovers his or her true self and whole identity – and moves from the narrow, shallow state of egotistical existence and behavior to that of a full person able to value self and recognize others (who have grown fully) as mutually sacred and equal persons.

Ego – selfish.  Self – selfless.  Ego – prideful and disordered.  Self – humble and whole.

The process of individuation without access to symbol systems (like religious narratives and ritual) does not easily access the wealth and wisdom of human history and humanity in that history.  Indeed, without familiarity with the wholeness recorded and presented in such as religious narrative – one is left to live in the ego – a state of immature development – and disorder follows.  Such is our situation today.  

We live in a mass communication culture with social media being a common form of personal discourse.  Think about it, millions of un-individuated individuals chattering away – a collision of ego-driven undeveloped people.  This is a prescription for chaos and confusion – discord and trouble.  As Jung says “A million zeros joined together do not  … add up to one.”

In our present mass communication, secularized culture, we are captured by de-individuated people … and chaos ensues.  Case in point – a large percentage of those in television and print news are simply not worthy of our attention.  Celebrity itself impedes full development.

As much as we show technical competence, we suffer from a lack of subjective growth and development as human persons.  That, it seems, is the most destructive issue we face – we are not as grown and insightful as we could be – and once were.

The rectifier?   Greater attention to religious narrative and ritual and greater attention to subjective inquiries and personal introspection.

Shalom.

Cheap race is grace we bestow on ourselves … grace without the Cross …

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship

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The Philadelphia Eagles were invited to the White House in honor of their winning the last NFL Super Bowl.  Apparently a number of players did not want to attend – as a form of protest or political statement.  President Trump withdrew their invitation.

Quite honestly, I am glad he did this.  Why?

My answer is this: Cheap Grace.  Now, what am I saying?  Too many people in the celebrity class (professional athletes and entertainers, in particular) use their public presence to complain about this or that “injustice” and do so while enjoying the unique opportunities that they have been afforded and the substantial financial benefits they receive.

Think about it.  A man in the NFL has the God-given size, speed, strength, agility, intellect and discipline to earn substantial income playing a game.  Most of them have been given a college education free of charge while others might pay $200,000 for that education.  Yet of late these privileged athletes use their notoriety to “protest.”

Recently, a number of NFL players have refused to stand for the National Anthem – claiming this or that “injustice.”  Well, fine.  But I ask this question: What have they done to secure the freedom they have?  What sacrifices have they made?  Have they fought in battle?  Lost a limb in Iraq or Afghanistan?  Have they served in the military at all?  Do they have any idea that the freedom they enjoy was secured by the heroic and selfless efforts of those who came before them?  It seems not.  Do they see the men and women who serve us now in uniform?  Do they see the price police are paying with their lives?  It seems they do not.

Cheap grace.  Not having done anything to secure the freedom they enjoy – they complain, make a public display – grown men acting childishly.  Gifted athletes acting like “snowflakes.”

Life is hard for most people.  The price of freedom is high and paid by many, many men who have come before these pampered athletes and their celebrity counterparts.

For the life of me I do not understand how we can be anything but contemptuous of those who complain so freely when, on the contrary, they have much for which to be thankful.  Shear selfishness.  Hello, narcissism.

We have been too easy on those most fortunate who yelp and complain from their stations of substantial privilege.  Their ingratitude is astonishing.

There is absolutely nothing flattering about one bestowing God’s grace on oneself.  Better they have humility than such childishness.

We earn our way by a Cross that is carried.  First, Christ.  Then each of us.  Such is life and honor.  Dismiss these childish whiners.

Shalom.

When will they learn?  Does anyone on the Left understand that Donald Trump like many working class guys throws an elbow when you throw a punch?  And how about a taste of reality – under Donald Trump minority unemployment is at lows that have not been seen either before or in many years. 

We make ourselves real by telling the truth.  Man can hardly forget that he needs to know the truth, for the instinct to know is too strong in us to be destroyed.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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The Left has come to a very significant hurdle, a road block.  What is it?  The public at large does not trust or respect it.  Their day is about to be up.

After five decades they have pushed their ideology too far.  They are now seen as untruthful – governed by an ideology that breeds hostility, creates conflict and division.  They show their arrogance.  They think for too much of themselves.  Their support is dwindling.

In most ironic way, a fellow like Donald Trump exposes their untruthfulness, their sense of entitlement.  He provokes their wrath and deceit.

Yes, this time will be remembered as “the period of fake news exposed.”  Hollywood has been seen for what it is – the land of the bacchanal and excess.  The media, the press and academia has shown their narrow-mindedness, and extreme partisanship – the truth “be damned.”

People at the top of Washington power centers in the FBI, the IRS, the Department of Justice, the judiciary, the Congress and the intelligence agencies show their distance from the public they serve and their willingness to play “loose and fast” with the law and truth.

You see Tom Merton is absolutely correct – “the instinct to know the truth is too strong in us to be destroyed.”  Why is that?  Because God is Truth, Christ is the living exemplar of Truth; and, those who deny the truth of the matter are destined to failure – and their failure and rejection is near.  Good bye, “fakers.”

Make no mistake those in the Republican Party who have made peace with their Leftist colleagues who savaged truth will also come to a reckoning – the voters response.

Life is funny.  The unusual happens.  Reckoning comes in ways one hardly can predict.  To me it always seems that God reigns and God has a real sense of humor salted with irony.  Trump is exhibit “A.”  The godless Left “resistance” mimics a collective nervous breakdown.  Life has its moments and teaches Truth can never be extinguished.

A Dear Friend of mine (a guy I grew up with in Boston) asked me (with a laugh in his voice) early on in the last presidential campaign cycle: “What do you think of this guy Trump?”  Knowing he and I grew up among some very strange, strong and plainly spoken people, I replied: “I never knew he went to high school with us!”  He laughed.  We both were saying this: This guy is more like the people we know than any of the privileged “Blue Suits” we see far too often.  He saw this guy’s appeal and alerted me to something that was afoot with this unusual character in the public square.

Good bye, Blue Suits, eggheads and all.  Hello, Truth.  The times they are a-changing.

Shalom.

 

 

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflection in our own acts.  We must find our real selves … in our own soul … the principle of all our acts.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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This from a wonderful essay entitled “Being and Doing” in Merton’s No Man is an Island.

His words are very useful in a mass communication, digital and social media culture where images and acts are often center stage and narcissism is a real problem (as reflected in its prominence in therapy and as daily exhibited in the news and on TV).

As to our present climate public acts are so a part of others need for attention.

In the present era we seem to be besieged by those who need to sustain a public image at all costs.  We seem to have a culture that accommodates projecting images as the normal form of being while passing completely on the critical important core of one’s self – the soul.

As Merton noted in his 1950’s essay – “I need not see myself, I merely need to be myself.”

Yes, Merton gives us in eleven words the heart of health, meaning and contentment – not our image (and surely not our narcissistic actions and proclamations) but our eternal soul.

How smart he was.  Imagine now how we are surrounded by narcissism and self-promotion.  How many say nothing of value and cannot maintain day-to-day coherence.

How public figures have convenient double standards that say subliminally: I have no guide but ideology invoked and applied to bolster my personal preference.

It is, I think, fair to say – we have many lemmings, but few Mertons.  Therein is our illness, agitation, confusion, calamity, untruths, treacherous deeds and great unhappiness.

Shalom.

 

 

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