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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.

… (Thomas) Merton described himself as journeying towards his destiny “in the belly of a paradox” … He sought the monastic life because he desired hiddenness and solitude, but his writings brought fame and demands.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in Thomas Merton & the Monastic Vision

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When we flee the world in favor of aloneness or have aloneness thrust upon us, we most often find God and in finding God we find ourselves, others and the world. God, of course, is our solitude and in Him and with Him we then proceed … never to be without Him.

There is no hiding, though many do so in plain sight using status, title, appearance, celebrity, power, wealth or what-have-you to separate out from the mob.  As for the individual, there is no unitary escape, no disappearing act.

In seeking one’s particular solitude you will most surely find self and God – for solitude is the door to contemplation, to self-examination, reflection, infused wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, patience, love, forgiveness, intimacy, contentment … and in each of these the gateway to Truth, to what alone is True, to you and He who makes you as you have been made.

Once God is known aloneness is proved a lie, for then one is never alone and realizes that one was never alone.  Paradox ends, then – and all fits a divine rubic.

Our path – seek to withdraw as if to the desert, or sit under the lotus tree in quiet and soon enough God is present and hiddenness is impossible, unnecessary for then we are called to life as it is intended.

The Sacred Paradox is this: aloneness presents God and aloneness is no more.

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.

Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his Own Self in all beings, loses all fear … When a sage sees this great Unity and Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?

Upanishads 

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Why have humans throughout the ages sought contemplation?  Silence? Meditation?  How is it that people have sought and recorded mystical experiences the details of which have been shared with succeeding generations?

With life in a mass communication culture that bombards us with its noise and images in virtually all places and at all times, might there be in mysticism, contemplation, meditation, and silence a wholesome, life-giving alternative?

More importantly, might such things be the last vestige of freedom in, and freedom from, contemporary mass culture?

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has studied the brains of those who have had mystical experiences.  He has found that in the rear portion of the brain there are two areas: one on the left which seems to help a person realize that they have a limited and physically defined body and that on the right there is a portion of the brain that defines and maps the space that surrounds a person.

One side defines the limits of the body-physical, the other the limits of the body-spacial.

Most interestingly, Dr. Newberg discovered that when a person achieves a mystical state each of these two areas appears to “close down.”  That is, a person dissolves the physical and spacial limits natural to them.  In effect, the person loses a sense that he is self-contained; that in this loss, the person is no longer confined in a small discrete space of being.  Rather, in losing self as commonly presented, he expands the self into the vastness of being in a larger and endless sense of being.

Can it be that what we have recorded over time as mystical experience is natural, present to us and, that in an age that foolishly dismisses religion, neuroscience tells us we are freer than we know and that this freedom rests on religious experience?

God plays cards so much more wisely than man.  The laugh, fittingly, may be on us – and especially on the small-minded legions of authoritarians on the Left who seek in many forms to dictate our every breath.

Ain’t irony wonderful.

Shalom.

Observation – There is something divine about living on a ridge, among the woods, and pastures, hills and mountains and perfect quiet.  In this alone is The Divine – no words are needed and the heart is filled with peace and joy.  I am in this – with all others past and present and those to come.  My body does not bind, and space is open and endless.  Who says that there is nothing eternal, no eternity?  Only he or she who does not yet know and acknowledge The Truth.  We enter Lent – and the Truth is at hand.

We should know that we are gods.  If we think like gods we become like gods, if we think like demons we become like demons.

The Words of a Headmaster of a Hindu School for Religious Scholars

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Suspended.

We are suspended between what is good, and what is not.  Such a plight presents a heart-felt tension on a daily basis.

My life on a mountain ridge is peaceful.  There is open space, wide and endless skies, a new sunrise each morning with colors and streams of light that are never the same from day-to-day.  In the evening, sunsets – each with their own shadows and hues.  And there is the wind – sometimes it howls, and other times it has a gentle voice, a soft and comforting voice of a sweet and lovely lady.

I live away for the crowds and the strife that was my life, my way of being.

As a lawyer I fought.  It was so easy.  I knew combat from a childhood “on the wrongs side of the tracks.”  We all knew that for we all held the short straw and others held us in contempt.

Lately I have realized that kneeling in preparation to receive the Body of Christ is the only thing I do each day that offers me the profession of humility – the declaration of my natural state, by actual state of being.  Suspended between the gods and demons, kneeling I speak the very essence of reality.

Suspended between gods and demons.  In the quiet of the ridge, I am close to God.  In this, I love and value life and others more deeply.  Finally, I know the blessing of love.  Yet, suspended I still remain, hoping that the demons depart …

Shalom.

 

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