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It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

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A cold rain falls here on the ridge.  Listened to Down’east sea ballads sung by Gordon Bok – all songs of the Maine Coast.  Suitable for a gray sky and a determined cold rain.  The fire is my friend today.  I hear it best in the silence that is a gray November day.

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Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.

Charles M. Shultz, in Charlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom

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What might you say if you were to be asked: What makes for a good life, a contented life amid the daily demands one faces?

Here would be my response:

  • come to seek and enjoy silence
  • make time alone for contemplation
  • come to value, not plenty, but frugality – a step to de-consumption
  • welcome humility – make it your home
  • discreetly separate from chaos and those who cause it
  • seek intimacy – we all want to be known and understood by others
  • relax regularly
  • seek truth (religious narratives are full of truth and wisdom)
  • believe – A Belief System is Essential to a healthy and contented existence – it is a “contextualizer” – it helps you understand and integrate human experience.

Shalom.

 

Only solitude has taught me that I do not have to be a god or angel to be pleasing to You, that I do not have to become a pure intelligence without feeling and without human imperfection before You will listen to me.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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We neither need be god nor angel, nor pure intellect or perfect.  God loves us and accepts us as we are: human and imperfect.

Yet, what public figures or those in leadership positions or those who insist that they must lead show any signs of what Merton is saying?  Who among those cited have the humility and understanding conveyed by Merton?  Answer: no one.

Given the acceptance of a loving God, we chatter endlessly – much as if to avoid any interior examination.  Ironically there is no leadership to be offered by those who lack the humility that comes from what Merton rightly says.

The endless chatter of the public class says one thing: they are neither whole nor intact.  Run from such people – pay them no heed.  Lacking humility – they lack wisdom and missing each they cannot offer anything much but division and folly … and they do so as we can plainly see.

Chatter is wasteful noise to avoid individual growth and the recognition that we are all, in essence, the same – with the same value to a loving God.  There are no hierarchies of privilege and heritage, and education and wealth that ought be honored.  Indeed, one who serves in leadership must stand with others and not above others.

It is the quiet one who leads.  It is the common one who possesses what Merton describes.  For it is the quiet one who walks with God and others.

Shalom.

…the life of grace on earth is the beginning of the life of glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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Eternity dominates temporal time.

We live a counter-Eden – miles of endless shopping malls and think temporal time distinct.  Independent … but are we only blind, a blink of an Age?

If so, are we going to be surprised?

Faith Forestalled.

The mirror looks at us while we think we look at the mirror.

Best we live in the infinite – in eternity – even as we set our life by the clock we made.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

… it is no sin to live a silent life …

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

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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I live as a monk … on a ridge at the edge of a forest and beside a large slopping pasture that sits at the bottom of a mountain range now in full autumn color posed against the blue November sky bolstered by the chill of brisk fall wind.

I live a quiet distance from a mass communication culture where those thrust ceaselessly at us are merchants of division, animosity, confusion, superficiality, self-interest and considerable ignorance.

A monk is counter-cultural.  His separation defines his values.  To stand outside the culture that divorces itself from God, that knows not sanctity, that neglects the spirit within us is to separate from disorder, to see the culture critically and keep peace with the Divine.

My cottage is my cloister where I may select what I read, hear, or see – a place where I may keep company with my thoughts and prayers and the things of a God who gave us our existence.

Having been planted on “the wrong side of the tracks” as a child, I was made ready to stand apart, to sustain a critical objectivity that refused “transient fashions and manifest absurdities.”  Leaving them was never to have fancied them at all.  Yes, it was a grace that liberates and leads me here.

In a solitary existence one finds the conditions for a full life, and life’s meaning – that is:

  • interior exploration and its sacred products – freedom, understanding and depth of being
  • the peace and health of silence and solitude
  • distance from distraction and disorder
  • contact with the Divine and what is Divine.

So I say (with emphasis added) what Fr. Hugh Feiss, O.S.B. says in Essential Monastic Wisdom –  “…  find some where a place of silence and creativity, where one can listen to the voice of God and think one’s thoughts and be one’s own self.

Shalom.

It is within your power to withdraw yourself wherever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.  (Emphasis added.)

Marcus Aurelius

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What gives rise to tranquility?  Your tranquility?

If you pause to think about your health and happiness is this not the fundamental question?  I think it is.

Our eyes are the avenue to the brain.  What do you see each moment, each day?  Do you live in an “ordered” realm?  Are your surroundings in chaos, disarray?  If so, how can your eyes not convey this disorder to your brain?  And what of noise?  What do you hear?  Does not noise itself affect tranquility?

Desire tranquility?  Ask yourself what effect the invasion of unwanted ads on the internet have on you?  When you think about it they are intruders – others pushing themselves into your life – ads: from the eyes to the brain.  Do you wish unwelcome intruders into your home whenever they desire to enter?

We live in a culture where intrusion and invasion are common.  Yes, tranquility is denied routinely.  What is one to do?

Wall off these intrusions.  Control your surroundings – have your place of home ordered.  Each thing has a place.  You need not that much.  The less you have the easier it is to know tranquility.  Give no space to the TV talking heads.  You do not know their life – whether it is utter chaos – which it probably is.  Why listen to sick, confused people?  They bring no tranquility – only chaos.  And celebrities?  Ugh!!!

And, problems.  Do you welcome those who bring problems into your life?  To do so does not bring tranquility.

And what about your interior journey?  Have you quietly and diligently examined your life experience and come to know the pluses and minuses of those so important to your development from birth to adulthood?  And what of the losses, betrayals, great disappointments?  Have you faced them honestly and learned what was intended to be learned?  And how about you?  Do you know what triggers your most salient thoughts, reactions, attitudes, convictions?

Finally, can you be silent and alone?  And most importantly, do you have a home in religious narrative?  Do you keep the company of history’s great contemplatives?

When you think about it – tranquility soothes the Spirit and we are all first and foremost spiritual beings.  Tend to that thought and act on it – and you will come to greater tranquility – no more anxiety, no more naked vulnerability to intrusions and the idiocy of the noise and disorder surrounding you.

Shalom.

Postscript – When we see another, do we see a man or a woman or do we see color, age, ethnicity, status, physical attributes?  Can tranquility come from such seeing?

Be strong and of a good courage, fear not … for the Lord thy God … he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Duet 31:6

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When uncertainty or troubles near – step back, pause, sit in quiet.  There you will come to a peaceful pace – where you may return to the God who made you and is faithful to you.

Yes, times can present reason for concern.  Hostility makes an appearance now and again.  But you have a certainty in all times and all circumstances.

I find that coming to quiet in these times is the one essential and first thing.

In difficult times, go to quiet.  God is there – within and about you.  There you can know peace and patience and come to trust in what is good and always will be good.

This life we are given is a good life and that never changes.  Yes, others can present difficulties – but your stability is in God who created you.

Seek shelter where good resides.  You have a home within and it is a good and peaceful place.

Shalom.

Humility is the virtue of men, their only defense; to walk humbly with God, never doubting, whatever befall, that His will is good, and His law is right.

Paul Elmer More, in Pages from an Oxford Diary

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It seems that without God and a consciousness of God in our culture and our life, humility becomes a rarity.  In such circumstances much of what we do, our transactions with others and our interactions become more difficult and less pleasant.

When humility is the common realm things go more smoothly.  In humility we become the friend of one another, even one another’s servant.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge reminds us that there is not much chance of finding the truth if humility is not present at the beginning of the quest.

Yes, humility is at the heart of learning and also its objective.  The more we know, the more we are humbled.  The more we experience life fully – in joy and sadness, in victory and defeat – the greater humility is gained.

Today humility seems less common than it once was.  In such a state, I find solitude is preferable to the crowd.  The quiet humbles with its voice, so divine.

We would be better off if humility were a common presence.  Humility quiets the appetites and desires, and staves off anxiety.  It produces the calm that welcomes others.  Humility brings access to joy and fellowship – even fellowship with utter strangers.

Think about this.  With humility sedatives are not needed.  Ease is restored to life when humility resides within and is shared among us.

Shalom.

Quiet is peace.  Tranquility.  Quiet is turning down the volume knob of life.  Silence is pushing the off button.  Shutting it down.  All of it.

Khaled Hosseini, in The Kite Runner

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We live among the seriously disordered.  We hear them everyday.  Such is the nature of a mass communication society.  Yes, the voices of hatred and anger and bigotry are many and the standards of morality and civility are honored in the breech.

What is one to do?  Seek silence.  Decide not to listen to too much.  Once you get the drift that there is something wrong with Mr. X or Ms. Y – just turn the button off.  Stop listening.  Count Mr. X and Ms. Y among the loons.

There are many Mr. X’s and Ms. Y’s.  They are always complaining.  That is what unhappy people do.  What Marxists do.  What malcontents do.  What spoiled children do.  What disordered people and ideologues do.  What bigots do.

The wise choose tranquility … and take account for their own safety and security.

Shalom.

Sunday, September 9, 2108 –  in the rain, and wind, the fog and the cold … where forest meets pasture – I write drawing on my biographical experience – my own lived life and what it is for me to write.  My hope is that this will connect with you, give you something you did not have before you read this post.  Give you a sense of how personal writing is.

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William Faulkner… once characterized his approach (to writing) as “oratory out of solitude” … Of this approach (Walker) Percy made a new thing altogether.  The solitude of The Moviegoer isn’t the solitude of a rebel or an independent, but of a man who is alone in a crowd.

Paul Elie, in The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage

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Percy, the converted Catholic medical doctor turned extraordinary Southern novelist, who wrote the award-winning novel The Moviegoer and said of the power of writing and of fiction in particular that he could “banish alienation through the … alliance … of character, reader and author.” Now look specifically at this in Paul Elie’s words above: Walker’s solitude was that “of a man who is alone in a crowd.”

That so explains my history and my writing.  I write from a strong sense of what it is to be alone, and, yet, at the same time possess the gift of a facile nature as to social existence and being with others.  I suspect that each of us must know suffering or we do not know life … Indeed, I cannot imagine the experience of The Divine without our suffering and disappointment – and the sublime reality of solitude … including the task of knowing we are alone.

Before I began blogging, I had faithfully maintained journals for years – every page filled beginning to end.   Social as I was – writing was self-examination and a reach for others.

While I was always comfortable with people – my ease with others and interest in them was a compensatory gift from God that was designed to offset the pains of desertion, death, betrayal, loss, poverty and the witness of my mother’s suffering in difficult circumstances.

Yes, writing was a way to understand myself and all that surrounded me.  My blogging is more of the same.  Seems that God had this path in mind for me – some hard experiences to teach and grow me – so I might be with others in a helpful way.

My blogging is an offset to being the lonely man in a crowd.  I think if you review what I write you may well see that proposition within the writing – ironically, like Walker Percy, I reach our from an “aloneness” within – in order to make contact with others to banish the alienation of my history, wounds and disappointments.

For me my “alliance” is: my history, self-understanding, the world as it inflicts sufferings on us and you, the reader.

If you never read anything I wrote I would be left with the past, the sounds, knowledge of myself that never reached another human being, and a world that dispenses suffering in ample quantity.  Too much to bear by one’s self.

If no one ever read the blog – I would be a voiceless disciple, a man mumbling alone, an unheard voice.

Like others, I write an “oratory out of solitude” so I might live and help.

Shalom.

I welcome any thought you might have on this particular post.

 

 

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