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What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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I like the symmetry of this.  Our gift from God is being itself.  However our gift to God is in our being not just singularly but collectively.

What we become in reflected in each of us and in the culture in which we reside.  Just as we prosper in who we are, what we do, what we think, what we believe and how we order our life and time – so too is culture assessed in a similar manner.

As to culture today – we are not much of a gift to God.  Indeed, we live as if we reject this gift of being.

We have normalized all sorts of abhorrent behaviors.  We make violence lawful – think: killing children.  Yes, mothers engaged in child sacrifice.  Hideous.  Marriage is not honored as it once was – and families are in tatters.  Drug use is common, suicide and child abuse too.

Intimacy is scarce.  Vulgarity is not.

We care less about others and more about our self.  We have dumbed education down.  We have ideology but not belief.  One political party relies on division, Father Government and variants of destructive Marxism fantasies.  Envy and hatred are common.  Humility is rare.

What is one to do?  Separate yourself from godlessness.  Turn your back on it.  Close your ears to it.  Live independent of it.  Keep your distance from it.  Learn to live in silence, quiet, peace.  Learn your faith.  Recall its wisdom and employ its truth daily.  Speak softly of what is good.  Help those who come to you.  Be candid in describing what you see and the truth you know.  Make each breath count for what is good.  Stay close to God who brought you into being and ignore all those around you who have no God but themselves or some nonsensical idea or fetish.

A time for choosing what is good is here.  You are either a gift to God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

Washington Post.  The newspaper reports in a long article today that Nikolas Cruz was identified as a troubled child in his early school years.  The story reports that getting a child into the proper setting was a long and involved process that took years to accomplish.  Likewise, the newspaper article says that places in the right settings were fewer than needed for troubled children.  It also reports that Broward County had used many of the placements for youngsters who would have likely been referred for prosecution.  The paper suggests that some groups wanted to interrupt the “pipeline” from school to jail that beset certain ethnic groups.

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You never have to change anything that you got up to write in the middle of the night.

Saul Bellows

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Live your life like you wrote it in the middle of the night.

Victor Davis Hanson tells a funny story about his wife.  Apparently she was watching Donald Trump the candidate on television.  For her it was a case of “first impression.”  She called to her husband to come see “this guy,”  He joined her and she asked something like this: “Listen to this guy – do you think he has any guilt in saying what he says?”  Mr. Hanson says, “No, none at all.”  Mrs. Hanson, a “middle of the roader” as to politics, says – “I think I could vote for this guy.”

Trump lives his life as if he got up in the middle of the night to write it.  Freedom.  The soul fully engaged, no self-deception – living what you got.

This scares the heck out of the programmed and the pretenders.  It is as if – unfamiliar with Truth – the imposters are confronted with reality – with what they have steadfastly ignored, and avoided.

When you think about it freedom is in sharp contrast to the figures we see in political life: the fearful, contrived, scripted, cranks, whack-jobs, the predatory heavy breathers, social climbers, the inbred sons of the wealthy, the wannabe’s and others seemingly washed ashore after some colossal hurricane to stand damp, disheveled, dazed and confused.

Leadership requires authenticity.  Those who lead are real.  Not ideologues.  No, they live what comes and make headway.  They are unperturbed.  They have not just seen the movie, they lived the movie.

Yes, there are good people in public life – but they connect with others because they write their story having gotten up in the middle of the night to do so.

Much of life is in the middle of the night.  Sleep not.  Freedom waits.

Indeed, how can those who are not free themselves lead a free people?  Most public figures today prefer you to be the sleep they are.  Ah, the night is so liberating – in its sacred quiet and moonlight.  It is not conquered, you know.

Shalom.

 

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

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.

The American Left is getting their version of the Dickens “Christmas Carol” this year when American corporations give generous bonuses to their entire work forces after the Trump tax reform legislation.

“See Tiny Tim, people do have kindness in their heart … the government is not needed to see people caring for one another!”

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Each one has to find … peace from within.  And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.  (Emphasis added.)

Mahatma Gandhi

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Finding peace in a mass communication culture must be intentional.  That is, to find peace one must set about to discretely select what one hears and what one does not hear, what one does and what one does not do.

Yes, we must work.  But if one seeks the calm that is “peace within” one must consciously and intentionally secure time that produces peace, quiet, healthy inattention to that which captures us, occupies the mind, worries the heart.

Christ sought peace by withdrawal to the desert.  He sought it in time alone, in quiet – in prayer.

Although I live in the quiet of a mountain ridge, I must consciously disengage from the habit of being busy – cleaning the house, running errands, talking on the cell, etc.

We live in a culture that draws us into it.  We are stimulated each day by news, and messages, noise, responsibilities, attractions.  But are these matters not obstacles to peace, tranquility, comfort, a slower heart beat, less stress, less preoccupation.  Most people live in worry and do not live in the moment.  Missing the moment one loses the peace of that moment, the grace of one’s heart beat.

Look at the political world – people are frantic.  No one leads who is frantic.

The ideologues are, to put it plainly, unhealthy – on the verge of insanity.  Their shrill proclamations are the voice of sickness, constant discontent, unhappiness – even anger at times.  People like Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren are visibly hectic and “on edge.”  Is this any way to peace?  No.

Shalom.

Tip of the Hat – A tip of the hat to Senators Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) for the gracious manner in which they conduct their public business.

It is a delight to see gentlemen in public life.  Bravo!  We are well served by men such as these.

 

 

 

The mistake that you make … is thinking one can live in a corrupt society without being corrupt oneself.

George Orwell

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A glance at the condition of the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation or the current Special Counsel’s activities might give just pause to think about Orwell’s statement.

Likewise the past administration’s suspension of drug interdiction that allowed Middle East terrorists to smuggle drugs into our country so as to placate the Iranians and preserve the dubious agreement to further Iran’s nuclear program also prompts reflection on Orwell’s proposition.  Ditto, “Fast and Furious” whereby the Justice Department gave guns to Mexican drug gang members that eventually were used to kill an American law enforcement officer.  And then there is the IRS targeting conservative organizations and forestalling their applications for tax exempt status might also cause some soul-searching as to Orwell’s comment.

Think about where we are today in this culture.  Think about the daily drumbeat designed to discredit a duly elected President because one either doesn’t fancy him, or because one is “offended” that their candidate did not win, or because he does not fit the Washington-way where everyone participates in a privileged event for “insiders” – members of the governing-club, the Skull and Bones of politics.

You know when you attend church this Holy Season and kneel to pray, I wonder if you’ll think of today’s events and how they might implicate those who remain silent.

When you hear “Silent Night” sung, I wonder if you might ask yourself: Am I to remain silent today?

Shalom.

Stumbling, Bumbling, Fumbling – That’s your Federal government – that’s the GSA’s (General Services Administration) handing over private emails belonging to private citizens to Special Counsel Mueller who had no legal approval to seize these emails.

It seems Mr. Mueller and others know less about ethics and law than required. It is the Gang that can’t shoot straight looking for the Gang that can’t shoot straight – when all they need to do is to look in the mirror.

Wonder why people have no confidence in the Department of Justice,  the FBI, the Special Counsel and government at large?  They see what they see.

Remember it takes only one clown to make a circus.  Seems we have more on hand than required.

The object of contemplation is the whole of human reality, which, subjected to perpetual necessities of love and death, is not subjected, however, to the right of perpetual recurrence.

Czeslaw Milosz

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I wonder why people listen to me.  Perhaps it is because I think about the world, human experience in our shared point in time and cumulative history.

That is to say I have made a habit of taking experience in, wondering about what I see, felt, observed and what others encountered and how life speaks to them.

Yes, I spend time in contemplation – hence time with history, incident, my heart and soul, the individual and the aggregate, religious narrative, psychology, story, good writers, others, being alone, in the quiet, listening, in my faith, with my Self, in prayer, consciously with God.

In all of this I think: what do I see?  What is happening?  What registers on the faces, in the actions and in the hearts of others?  What gives authentic joy – makes one blissful … and brings us to sorrow?  What evidence is there of love and its absence?  Contentment and dis-ease?  Stability and disorder?  Tenderness and hostility?  Truth and its opposite?

I have been like this all my life – since a small child … because life presented incidents that questioned my existence, as loved ones died early – and far too often.

Contemplation gave some depth and range – immersed me in life’s events and living itself.  Yes, gave me immersion and perspective that regularly produced laughter and tears, grew understanding and the ability to diminish fear and shrink death to something manageable.

In thinking about life my voice had words that others received.  People actually listened to me and often laughed a legitimate laughter of joy at something I said – as the product of my experience and contemplation.

I was once a child, then young – full of strength enough to collide with life and history’s moments.  In age my heart has grown, laughter multiplied, friends became plentiful, gratitude ever present, love lives inside and leaps between me and others.

In a contemplative life there is neither regret nor blackened heart, eternity is real and close at hand.  Oddly, people listen – receive me and my words.

Shalom.

Whacked-Out.  Want to see how lost we are?  Look at the boorish behavior of the political elites and entertainment “celebrities,” and female teachers engaging sexually with their under-aged students.

Is this not evidence enough that the “sexual revolution” has worn itself out?

No more pampering of the boorish louts and misguided under-developed – children still when well past thirty.  Enough of them and their childish disposition, action and ideas.  They only succeed in making life more chaotic.

Back to normative behavior, people!

Touch comes before sight, before speech.  It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.

Margaret Atwood, in The Blind Assassin

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The political language today is disturbing, harsh – mean, hateful many times.  Those who speak seem unaware that words can injure, maim – diminish, divide, isolate, crush another’s spirit.  Public discourse alike is often banal – gibberish even.

This his makes me wonder what life might be like if we could only touch.

I recall touching my wife’s feet just before she died.  I knew instantly that this touch was the most loving thing I had even done.  I thought about Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.  Touch is love … or can be – love without words.

The eyes can speak as touch can.  Yes, the eyes are full of language.  They speak best when they express love, admiration, joy, acceptance, kindness and mercy.  The eyes show the heart and show its content.

I wish today that we did not speak as we do.  Today speech so often injures.  I, too, must remember this.

Imagine if we suspended language once a week for a day.  A verbal fast would bring peace in its silence, and thought reflected upon – tamed.  How we need this. A moratorium on the spoken word – peace at last for us one day a week.

I have come now to avoid listening to words willy-nilly, to “news” and commentary, to political people.  I prefer silence.  Life today is better with fewer words.

Recently a Dear Friend said to me: you write so well even when you are sad.  If this is so is it not the case that life does not end when breathing stops – and language is best when it is divine and from the loving heart, when it has “that kind touch” that never fades.

Shalom.

Discussion – The conversation after the Las Vegas shootings turns to preventing such acts.  Sounds fine.  But is that possible when a country supports and defends abortion?  Do we have the moral content to reduce such violence?  Character matters more than words.  Be careful to whom you listen.  

Meanwhile, for myself I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude – to disappear into God, to be submerged into His peace, to be lost in the secret of His face.

Thomas Merton, in The Intimate Merton

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In time the world becomes too busy, too distracting, too unsettling.  There is a progression.  We grow from full engagement in the hubbub of it all to its content – that which is known and experienced in quiet … silence.  It is as if you must be still to hear and to see, and to know.  This cannot be forced.  It must mature, evolve.  Perhaps that is why our steps grow slower and the mountains and clouds, the wind in the trees become so engaging.

I can sit and lose time itself in this quiet as if the meaning is in the sound of the air and the strength of the mountain and the freedom of the clouds.  Once busy, I am content with the clouds, the air and the mountains.

In the quiet my family comes to me.  Old friends in distance places visit in the quiet.  Those now at rest live once again.

In the quiet I have company.  My mother.  Mrs. Shannon.  My Uncle Don and my Uncle Ray.  Sylvia.  My grandmother and grandfather.  My Great Aunt Dot and Great Uncle Frank.  Even the trips to Scotland and Italy with my son are alive again.  We stand in Vatican square and eat under the night sky in Siracusa, stand silently in Mary Queen of Scots small chapel, walk the grounds of Melrose Abbey and gaze through the windows of Iona.

The church in quiet has been the very first step toward silence.  We taste this as children and it repeats with each visit on into the years, decades gather – each visit a trip stacked like firewood – one by one to warm the winter freeze, tame the wild North wind, fill the heart with warmth and certainty.

I shall go to Notre Dame in November and its call is this: to sit quietly, alone in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with its beauty, with its stained glass windows made years ago by French nuns.  But it is the quiet that brings the peace.  It is the quiet.  There my friends will gather from all the days past as old days live again – and all will be as it is made to be.

Shalom.

Note – The Intimate Merton is a book containing entries from Thomas Merton’s life journals.  The above entry was made on December 13, 1946.  It is grouped by editors Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo with entries in Part II of the book under the designation “Becoming a Monk and Writer.”

Update – Apparently the news story about the CBS lawyer posting on social media that she had no sympathy for those murdered, shot and injured in Las Vegas because they were likely Republicans and “gun toters” was accurate.  CBS fired the named lawyer.  Aside from her words being extraordinarily wicked, it amazes me that a person with a Jewish heritage cannot understand the killing of unarmed innocents.  It is just this callousness that comes with partisan politics on the Left.  Very sad.  Bridges must be built, relationships repaired.  We are in this together – one Nation under God.  Make friends of one another, not enemies.

Difficult subject.  I have tweaked this several times in the hopes of not alienating others while trying to focus on restoring some good to our present circumstances.

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The psychology of the individual can never be exhaustively explained from himself  alone: … clear recognition is needed by the way (one) is also conditioned by historical and environmental circumstances … individual psychology is not merely a physiological, biological, or personal problem: it is also a contemporary problem. (Emphasis added.) 

Carl Jung, M.D. in “Psychological Types” (Collected Works, Vol. 6)

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Mass murder in Las Vegas.

Disorder does not spring up by itself no more than a flower blossoms without a seed.

The individual person does not (even in the best of times) possess much self-understanding.  In our mass communication culture, where God and religious belief is minimized or attacked, disorder is magnified.  Today we seem intent on division and antagonism.  Political correctness is not a moral structure.

When “isms” proliferate disordered conduct can displace healthy and trusted beliefs.    Those in authority can even advance chaos.

An individual’s disorder is conditioned by history, personal environment and culture – all the more when faith is lost and society has gone astray.

Evil seems to flourish when antagonism is more common.  We pay a very heavy price for division and godlessness.

It is a time to draw together, to seek what we share in common, to build friendships and foster individual responsibility so each might know prosperity and the contentment of personal achievement. 

It takes discretion and determination to avoid disorder today.  Only those with considerable self-understanding maintain a healthy distance.  Religious narrative and a relationship with God are critical today.

You had best see who you are and what precisely your culture conveys … and most certainly turn away from those who advance disorder.  Destruction is the obvious product of disordered people.  We need to get well.  To listen carefully and choose wisely.

The healthy person today will be more likely he or she who resembles as to modern society and disordered godless mass culture the disposition of a monk in plain clothes.

Shalom.

If you find this post helpful, please pass it along to others.  Thank you.

Being Reported – It is being reported by several news organizations that a senior attorney at CBS expressed an absence of sympathy for those shot in Las Vegas because “country music fans often are Republicans – (and) gun toters.”  One can only hope this is not accurately reported.  Yet, it is surely the case that political hostility must be reduced by all.

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