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“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.

Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire.  Perfect tranquility consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations

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If you live in a crowded metropolitan area, tranquility may not come easily.  But, oh is it needed.

I notice when I reappear in the Washington metro area that the pace is quickened and signs of hectic people are easy to see.  Relaxed is not an adjective I associate with those who live in the urban sprawl.  Tranquility isn’t plainly visible – that’s for sure.

But who can live in constant motion, in non-stop stimulus, among frantic people rushing to catch up or get on schedule?

Yes, we can recede and, yes, we can seek tranquility – a quieting of the heart and mind. But that is, or must be, a decision that requires intention: the commitment to secure the peace within, the quiet available to you.

Think about what you face each day: the demands, the pace, the noise, the stimulus, the commitments, the uncertainties, the responsibilities, the obstacles. Hard to be tranquil.

Take time to rest, to know silence.  And seek to know your inner life, who you are – what makes you “tick.”  It is not just a quiet mind that is needed, but knowledge of who you are and a soul at rest that is no longer neglected.  God bless.

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.

I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and may therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it. (Emphasis added.)

Arthur Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation

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Schopenhauer.  Written in 1819.  Emphasis added, and needed today.

Mass communication.  Too much noise.  TV.  Endless cable channels.  Voice mail. Email. Facebook.  Twitter.  I-phones.  Cells.

Words, endless words.  Ideological noise.  Partisan noise.  Noise for the sake of noise. People as deranged parakeets.  Talking heads.  Chatter.  Mindless chatter. Incoherent chatter. Useless chatter. Thoughtless chatter.  Daily chatter, hour by hour chatter, minute by minute chatter.  People talking who have nothing to say.  People talking who relentlessly subtract from the sum of human knowledge.

Is there anything to be learned from anyone on Morning Joe?  Network news? CNN?  The Washington Post?  The New Your Times?  Charles Schumer?  Nancy Pelosi?  Maxine Watters?  Bernie Sanders?  Pat Leahy?  Al Franken?  The various partisan hacks and “special pleaders” that occupy television time?  Or from the professorial class, God-help-us?

The more noise, the dumber and more psychologically unhinged we get.  Yes, the more noise the sicker and more misguided we get.  The noise we hear is a lodestone, a weight, a drag on peace, sanity, common sense, wisdom, effective action, problem-solving, intimacy, friendship, community, cooperation, full human development.

When we are all talking, no one is listening … and thinking is NOT going on.

You know why got Comey fired?  Two things.  One, he talked too much.  Two, he got too close to the utterly disordered lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Their chaos takes its victims (remember Vince Foster) just as noise itself dumbs us down, supplies the means to a national stupor.  Think bathrooms as a “human rights” issue.  Noise kills.

The President would be wise to stop talking.  Better his deeds speak for him.

The Presidency and leadership is like courtship.  The mystery and beauty of a woman is enhanced by her quiet presence.  Fewer words attract.  In reserve, words gain greatest effect.  The quiet ones think before they speak and in speaking have greater effect, reflect more often that they thought before they spoke.

Few are worth listening to.  If you hear or read something and you are not called into substantive question or reflection then words have failed you.  If words merely feed your bias, they do little for you.

The best we can hope for is less talk and more quiet.  No great deeds come for perpetual talkers – only noise, chaos, confusion, errors do they produce.

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.

 

Here’s some advice: stay alive.

Suzanne Collins, in The Hunger Games

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Well, Russian bombers buzzing the coast of Alaska.  The President of Venezuela suspending the nation’s highest Court and its legislature.  The Middle East in turmoil. Daily domestic stories of sporadic killings committed here and there by one or another of our lost and disordered soul (of which we have an unnecessary surplus).

Plenty of insanity to dampen one’s optimism and rile one’s disposition.

Perhaps, some humor offered as “good advice” is due.  I do my duty.

I offer two, quite obviously, helpful insights for you.  One, social media and newspapers adhere to a simple marketing plan to gain readers and it is this: when you write for fools you are assured a large audience.  Two, when dining in a North Korean restaurant never ask for a doggie bag.

As to number one, I add – my “audience,” such as it is, is miniscule and highly distinguished – yes, people of impeccable taste … well, okay – idle individuals with spare time.

Hope today you find something amusing amid the wide, contemporary range of the very disturbing.  Laughter staves off the crying, and the need for heavy meds or multiple marinis.

My “secret” strategy – stay away from the maddening crowd as encountered in any form – face to face, via media, ads, cities, major highways and interstates, subways, public transportation, airplanes, airports, live sporting events, concerts, theatres, affluent suburbs and “wealthy neighborhoods” and urban war zones, etc. and discount anything that “talking heads” and academics say on television.

Shalom.

Parting Observation – Aaron Hernandez, a former star NFL football player, lost his father when he was a teenager and hung himself yesterday in a cell where he was serving time for murder.  My father deserted me and my mother when I was an infant. By the grace of God and the sacrifice, strength and love of my mother, the presence of members of her extended family and some dear friends and their families, I am alive today.  Go figure.

Dedicated to Grandson Jack: The King’s Voice in a Small Child

 – Mindfulness helps you go home to the present.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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Age introduces the present, the immediate – especially when you live alone, in the quiet of the forest and the mountain.  In mindfulness the present moment is your home.  In age you are home alone.

Being in the immediate moment is a gift.  Yes, and being in the quiet too is a gift. The senses heighten when you are alone in silence and in nature.  Quiet says “now, this second, this breath.”

Today the gray clouds hover everywhere.  They still the heart.  The birds are quiet. You can hear the silence.  It says “forever.”

In life we conquer little – and surely neither silence nor forever.

Acutely aware of silence I hear the voice of grandson Jack happily shouting “Hi, Bobby Bob … Hi, Bobby Bob.”  His unrestrained joy and excitement, his indigenous, spontaneous love of his Grandpa Bobby Bob rings in the present, never fades into yesterday.  It is the call of the King to his lowly subject.

Yes, Jack sings of mindfulness in those words, his loving call and unbridled excitement. His little voice cloaks the old man in royal purple robe and anoints one simple, regular life in the magical love of the Young for the Old.

Alone with reminders of aging, I take up the task of ordering the cottage. Sweeping here. Making the bed.  Washing the dishes.  Folding the laundry.

Putting all very quietly in order, I think of those who prepare the altar for communion -their silent movements are in the present and in the forever. Mindfulness.  Peace.  Eternity.

Jack’s excited call focuses me on the immediate now and forever – one in the same.  His words a call to communion.  In this sacred present there is no end, no yesterday – love never dies and a child’s words sing sacred truth – one voice a heavenly chorus … the words of forever and a day.  Jack calls me to the present, to communion – to forever and The Mystery that Is … and the rain falls and his little voice calls to comfort and assure: “Bobby Bob … Bobby Bob …”

Shalom.

Calm down.  Both your sins and your good deeds will be lost in oblivion.

Czeslaw Milosz

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Do you want to identify who is out-of-control, who need NOT be listened to under any circumstances?  Those who speak as if their words and deeds – and they themselves survive oblivion.

These are the sick and confused and they are everywhere.  In friendship, family, work, neighborhood, the pulpit, politics, Hollywood and entertainment (such as it is), the news business, on television, in academia, on the radio, in the professions, on the bench …

Yes, so many people are better NOT heard at all.  Silence is far, far the better than their voice.  You see silence knows more than speech.  Silence comforts while most speech falsifies and disturbs.

So to Meryl Streep, Eamon, John, Farrar, Joe Mulligan, Pope Francis, Bernie (never had a job in my life) Sanders, all the crew at MSNCB and CNN et al, at The New York Times and The Washington Post, on the nightly news, in the Democrat Party, on the Left, in the acting community, and to the guests on Tucker Carlson (most of whom seem hand-picked from the especially-looney bin) – “calm down  – you just don’t matter.”

Consider this the first rule of surviving the assault on a civilization.  You can thank me later.

Shalom.

Postscript – Do not underestimate the possible role of Leftists and anarchists in the desecration of Jewish cemetary markers.  The Left is hyper-political and devoted to division and undermining the unity in this nation.  These divisive acts of destruction were common in Europe to sow seeds of animosity among the native population.

I’ve began to realize you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a quality and dimension all its own.

Chaim Potak, in The Chosen

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Television.  Advertising.  Billboards.  Cell phones.  Protesters.  Celebrities.  Gossips. Politicians.  Urban masses.  Intellectuals.  Experts.  Complainers.

They cannot learn because they do not listen.

Babble.  They babble and rant.  In their chatter they subtract from the sum of human knowledge and bludgeon tranquility.

I often arise and write before the sun comes up.  It is quiet.  Silence reigns.  I hear the wind  – when it is barely in motion and when it howls.  I hear the silence of the sun as it rises – regal, certain and unafraid …  while mere humans think their voice holds the world in place.

Escape the madness.  Listen to the silence …  Learn from it.

Shalom.

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