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The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline to the religion of solitude.

Aldous Huxley

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It will be 90 degrees again here to today.  In the mountains a breeze persists.  The pastures are green and bathed in sun to make them softer to the eye.

I listen to a CD entitled “Celtic Landscapes” – recordings from nature in Ireland and Scotland.

Last night I saw a Mama bear and her two small cubs.  They were given the order by Mama to take to the trees.  They did.  The little spuds hung one above the other on thin branches near the tree trunk.  No one moves unless Mama says so.

I hung my Scottish flag on the garage this morning then ate homemade raisin rumcake with a cup of dark roast.  All is good on the ridge.

I love the solitude.  The more disorder in mass culture, the better the silence and solitary life in nature.

A thunder storm erupts on the CD.  We shall have our’s this afternoon.

All the flowers are watered and trimmed.  The roses have a good number of blossoms ready to bloom.  The grass is cut.  The St. Andrew’s Cross flies free.

You see there are things that give comfort.  They are near.  They settle the soul and create space between disorder and peace of heart and the quiet of the soul.

Know this: mass culture is sick and it breeds discontent.  It takes its price from you.

Shalom.

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If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the layers of our psyche until we reach the center of core of our being.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Quiet begets interior silence.  In quiet being itself appears as thoughts fade.  In quiet we hear the sound of silence that is deep inside us.  In this is God, awareness of God.

In interior silence social need falls to the Spirit – without others we are nearer our own being and that of all things and beings.  In interior silence eternity exceeds mortality – yes, reality becomes eternity, and all things now and beyond are of God and God.

This interior silence has no words nor need for words.  It is.  IT SIMPLY IS.

In interior silence we are subsumed with the “IS” and its inexhaustible ALL.  This: the experience of the Triune God – our center – the center of being here and beyond.  There is in this eternity and tranquility – our meaning, our purpose, our reason for being, peace and certainty – ease of being, the exceeding of all doubt or pain.

Shalom.

 

The monk is a man who lives in seclusion, in solitude, in silence outside the noise and the confusion of a busy worldly existence.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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A monk lives in response to existing culture.  His thinking is both critical and healthy.  He sees that a present culture does not promote his values, virtue or an integrated, well-formed life.

A monk seeks wholeness and a depth of spiritual existence that cultures usually ignore in their all-consuming demands and expectations.  A monk seeks to understand life and people.  He seeks psychological, emotional and social fitness.  His path is to Truth and to God.  Clarity, peace and wisdom come to him.

His days are composed of work and prayer, silence and listening – quiet, reading and worship.  He finds time to contemplate life at large, its meaning, its best use and ways of being.

The ways of a monk are the perfect counterpoint to the disintegration that is today’s secularized America.

Today we are rife with conflict, antagonism turned to hatred in many instances, division, hostility, abandonment of virtue and morality, to the intrusion of state and the destruction of critical institutions, the lost of a nation’s boundaries and heritage, and its common understandings.

Chaos displaces the order of common understanding and mutual respect.

Each day brings evidence of disorder and often brutality – conduct whereby those who might otherwise lead discredit themselves.

We are no longer unified and living as neighbors guided by good.  Too many force their views on others, advance their disorder on others as if our acquisition of their strife and sickness normalizes them – makes true what is false.

At a time like this – in a culture like this … think of those who go “off to the mountain as the fish to the sea.”

Maybe you can learn from the way of monks.  Can you not acquire their ways in forms that create healthy distance between you and what is destructive?

Your health, wholeness, peace and wisdom resides in the ways of the monk.  In your culture today comes disintegration, illness, hostility, confusion, amorality, untruth and self-destruction.  Your life need not be composed of these things.  

Shalom.

A Book of Interest – You might like a short book entitled Essential Monastic Wisdom: Writings on the Contemplative Life by Hugh Feiss, a priest in the Order of St. Benedict.  It is a fine resource for those who wish to make healthy adjustments in the face of rank disorder and destruction that is exclusive secular culture today.  Peace be with You. 

 

Our cultural elites, the modern liberals, have contempt for democracy because it produces results and elects politicians they disapprove of.

Robert H. Bork, in Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline

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American liberals in their various iterations have diminished what we once possessed: a civil society whose public and private institutions reflected our common cultural inheritance – that of European Christendom.

The evidence of this runs the gambit from law and the judiciary, to family, morality, sexual mores, politics and political practices, university and secondary education, vehicles of mass communication, entertainment, the press and even some of our religious institutions.

The degeneracy that this brings is clear in so many ways – one being the image this weekend of former F.B.I. Director James Comey hawking his recent book.

Poor Mr. Comey.  He is want of personal understanding of himself.  Consistently his public utterances tell us: “something is wrong with this fellow.”

His actions only seem to confirm his disordered state and bolster the idea that he is the just result of modern liberalism’s own inbreeding.  Yes, the ideas of elites which bear little resemblance to that of the common man and woman are visible in many on the Left who assume public leadership and voice.

Here in Mr. Comey is a lawyer who while under oath in testimony given the Congress tells of appropriating government documents and leaking them to a Columbia law professor to share with The New York Times in order to get a “Special Counsel” appointed to investigate/delegitimize an elected President.

What lawyer would disclose his illegality and questionable objectives without any apparent recognition that he is describing his own lawlessness?

Likewise how could the head of the F.B.I. mismanage the Hillary Clinton national security mess so completely as to make it utterly clear to the public that “the fix” was in and the F.B.I. administrative cabal of Leftist political partisans surrounding Mr. Comey were far from pedigree conspirators or reasonably decent and honorable barristers?

In his actions and interviews, Mr. Comey offers himself as the poster child for the incoherence, corruption and incompetence that is the modern liberalism of the cultural and political elites wearing the “Democrat” label.

Toto, we are a long way from European Christendom, America as it once was, and from decency and wisdom.

Our restoration will evolve only insofar as we individually return to faith, have the courage to speak up, and to reject the poisonous fruit of modern liberalism.  Indeed, it has done sufficient damage as is.

Shalom.

 

 

Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul, not in the force of thought, moral principles, and love, and this may be found in the humblest conditions of life.  (Emphasis added.)

William Ellery Channing, in Self-Culture

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Yes, as Jean-Paul Richter said so simply in Titan – character is higher than intellect as intellect is function and life is the functionary.  And, yes – character comes from the soul.  It does not come from “rules of the road,” ethics, social relations, ideology, the ideas we hold, the fads of the day, self-interest, wealth, status, etc. – and it surely does not arise from finding oneself on the television or sitting on the op-ed panel of some once useful newspaper that is now far less than it ever may have been.

That said, character is less visible now in American culture than it was as short a time ago in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Character seems to have faded in the image culture, in a secularized land, the culture of mass communication and affluence … in the culture of the poorly-educated college graduate and the narrowly trained intellect for it is as Richter said that intellect is function and life is functionary.  Yes, living engages the soul and from the soul comes character.

It follows that a life of challenge challenges the soul and character is coaxed out of these experiences and only in character is knowing known … wisdom presented.

In our present state intellect (in its most diminished state today – so clearly seen in talking heads and people we encounter who speak of things they do not know) there is not much sign of character.

It used to be the case that America attracted immigrants who saw in this land (as was reflected in its people) those who had character – and who took on all the odds to journey here where acculturation to our ways was expected and liberty to prosper was freely offered.  But alas that is not the case now.

Now, people travel here, and like our entitled native born college-“educated” class who make a life of complaining about this country (that which used to be their country) – we find our newest entrants and our offspring seeking the largess of government and complaining that this or that is wrong, “unfair,” disadvantaging in some way (as to gender, sexual practice, race, ideology, etc.)

In all of this it seems we must say: character and individual achievement is far less visible than it was 60 years ago.

So what is the warning?  Forget all the fluff, live from the soul outward for if the soul is denied character is lost.  Without character we become, frankly, quarrelsome and unlikeable – easily defeated.

I see, frankly, so few who exhibit the character that says of a person – “I am a soulful person. I see my origin in the grace of God.  I live beyond the narrow confines of the superficial, and the mass culture.  I take what comes and do the best I can with it for I seek to succeed as an individual, a sacred being who has been given a life and access to a land of liberty and opportunity.”

As for me, I avoid the herd and “popular culture” and my life is quieter and more meaningful in its relative solitude.  Yes, after years of putting the soul to the test, I am as whole as I might reasonably aspire to me – knowing full well that there is still hardship to come, character to be grown, and a soul that lives here and beyond.

Shalom.

 

 

 

God’s first language is Silence.  Everything else is a translation.

Thomas Keating

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Do you want to know why the U.S. Dow Jones Average dropped over 700 points yesterday?  To much frantic action: the Congress passes a $1.7 trillion dollar federal government budget which no one voting on it has read, China responses to our recent tariff position, the President changes the head of his National Security Council and losses his private attorney in the hideous Robert Mueller nonsense, Facebook and other social media companies pose security concerns and become unlawful speech censors.  Too much “stuff” in one day.

People cannot absorb multiple stimuli at once.  (Indeed, this sort of scatter-short activity says: there is an absence of control and measured behavior – rather we look like we are governed by blindfolded people swinging at a Pinata with a baseball bat.)

At times like this (and we are in one) silence speaks it truth.  This, of course, is another way of saying God calls – for the soul needs its peace.

We live in chaos.  Those who are supposed to offer reassurance and leadership do not.  When serious matters are in play and we look like we are the hands of the “fruit loops” group – you’d best retreat to silence … it makes the best space between yourself and calamity.

In short – there is silence … and then there is Babel and its folly.

Shalom.

 

Faith will come to him who passionately yearns for ultimate meaning, who is alert to the sublime dignity of being, who is alive to the marvel of matter, to the unbelievable core within the known, evident, concrete … Faith is … given to him who lives with all his mind and all his soul.  (Emphasis added.)

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man is Not Alone

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This from Rabbi Heschel in one of his very readable two volumes on the Philosophy of Religion (the other being God in Search of Man).

The point this Professor of Ethics and Mysticism makes is a simple one: man is not just his mind.  It follows that life cannot be fully experienced if it is confined to the mind alone – indeed meaning cannot be secured through the mind alone.  On the contrary the experience of human existence requires the engagement of more than the mind.  It requires that the soul be engaged.

In reading Milosz (a biography of Nobel Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz) I came to a point where the conditions of post-War Poland were described in the early stages of Communist Russia’s occupation of that country (thanks to the United States and England consigning Poland to Iron Curtain captivity) in this manner:

“A steep decline in moral standards was observed in the early post-war period; it manifested itself in cruel and ruthless behavior and in the ease with which people would commit murder.  Incidents of theft and rape were daily occurrences … ”   (Emphasis added.)

Think about this – the horrors of the Second World War followed by the submission to a godless Communist totalitarianism produced a reign of violence – that in some ways describes the present day daily news in our own country.

To me the point to be made is the point Rabbi Heschel makes: a fully developed life requires the engagement of the soul – the appreciation of the dignity of being itself – of one’s own being and that of others.  Likewise, Heschel is saying absent the experience of the Divine (of God, of supernatural reality) morality is lost and chaos and meaningless destruction results.

Over the decades I have read widely about secularism and cultures and about the relationship between faith and culture, and the full and healthy development of the human being in culture, and one thing emerges across the disciplines that apply to such a sweeping inquiry (i.e., from history, to literature, psychology, cultural criticism, philosophy, moral development, biology, biography, theology, politics, law and the like) and that one thing is this: without a reference to God and religious narrative bad things tend to accelerate, often people manifest discontent, self-destructive conduct, perhaps mental illness, addictions and violence – and once stable societies decline while their essential institutions are impaired or destroyed.  I add, by the way, that this inquiry resulted in my greater engagement of religion and produced a far more tranquil and satisfying existence.

In plain and simple terms: humans must tend to their soul – religious narrative seems a reliable (perhaps necessary) source of human and societal peace and flourishing … Said another way: humans seem to need or benefit from a relation with the Divine … we are, it seems, simply made this way and the neglect of this tends to bring unnecessary chaos and destruction.

Shalom.

For those who have the opinion that our culture has diminished the role of faith in it, I make a suggestion: be able to explain to people what faith does to further development of the human being, and be able to identify ways in which we long for a meaning in life that exceeds mortality and allows one to rise above the injustices, setbacks, challenges and losses that come to us.

The bottom line is this: be able to explain why the disorder and chaos we encounter can be properly and well addressed by a renewal of faith – an active faith lived day in and day out.

In the beginning and in the end – faith is context and everyone needs a context in which to receive life in all its joys and tribulations.  This is the essence, by the way, of religious narratives – they provide context.  You exist within an on-going story of mankind throughout history – religious narratives rest on that proposition.  Ignore them at your own peril.

To maintain monastic culture, monks limit their contact with the surrounding culture by means of cloister or separation 

Hugh Feiss, in Essential Monastic Wisdom

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Separation from existing culture in order to maintain one’s values, virtues – indeed to stay free of insanity, brutality, immorality and a range of toxic disordered and destructive dispositions in culture is a sacred act.

Monks have pursued such separation for good reason over the centuries.  We see in this practice – necessity, common sense, faith, peace and preservation.

A sacred separation comes from maintaining a critical eye on existing culture.  When cultures destroy people, institutions and what is good, those who seek healthy and peaceful existence separate.

In separation one preserves heart, mind and soul.

In separation one spends time carefully – at work, in quiet, in community, in silence, in thought and prayer – while the world about turns on itself much as Syrian bombing of unarmed civilians does today or as the American Left does by destroying standard identification of gender in favor of disintegration, confusion, disorder, untruth which they much prefer.

In separation there is no more gossip, useless “news,” talking heads, daily destruction of what is good and essential to peaceful existence.

In separation: prayer emerges, reading too, careful listening, care of self and others, soft discourse, contemplation, faith comes alive, consciousness of God is daily sustenance.

In separation you meet yourself, become re-assembled, restored to wholeness – stripped of the “needs” of the frantic culture.  In separation, life is simpler … life is life.

In separation: God, your own self, your thoughts, others and all that is under heaven.

Shalom.

Condolesse Rice wants to “modernize” the Second Amendment.  Easy for her to say – she’s among the elites — life for them does not carry the burdens the rest of us face.  Perhaps, Ms. Rice might think of the unarmed civilians in Syria whose government is bombing them daily, killing them – men, women and children.  

A little note to Ms. Rice – maybe you might want to civilize people before you “modernize” the Second Amedment.  Those of us who are not in “the elite” live far different lives than you do.  In short words – put a sock in it, no one needs to hear from you.

What (other than pride) makes you think you know anything and must be heard from?

 

Solo cello plays.  God’s morning canvas is muted – all the richness is shown in subtle tones.  The moist low hanging clouds have not ascended.  They wrap themselves around the mountains – a morning embrace.  The sky and land are softened and wordless silence speaks.

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There is a widespread sense of loss here, if not always of God, then at least meaning.

Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age

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The careful observer sees what Taylor sees today.  Despite all the chatter, we are lost.  Appearances to the contrary, notwithstanding the incessant breathless media mouths – meaning evades their words.  They are incapable to connecting a single dot one to another.  They possess no such skill, no sense of what a lived life is, what came yesterday and the yesterdays well before – the long string of yesterdays and the message they have offered throughout the centuries.

There is this pervasive unacknowledged sense of loss.  The words of breathless public speakers are trite, inane, senseless, contradictory, idiotic.  They stand as symbols of failure – in thought and feeling.  Their incoherence our gate to renewal.

The clueless are legions upon legions.

What is one to do in such an age and time?  Surely, escaping from the insanity – the sea of words that say nothing worthy of your time.  Escape.  But how?

Listen less.  Detach.  Withdrawal: essential and immediate.  Find silence and your heart and soul will whisper to you, speak softly – call you back to health and the insight that brings stability, understanding and wisdom.  God dwells in silence.

The task today is separation.  From that tranquility and God’s presence within you and about you.  There is simply no other way to stay dry and warm but to get out of the cold dark sea that swirls around you.  Come, wrap yourself in a soft blanket and let the sun fall on you.

Shalom.

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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