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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!

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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.

Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself.

C. S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory

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Lewis wrote this in 1939 when Britain and France declared war on Germany.  As sabres rattle, we come to this again.  Culture exists under the shadow of the Infinite.

The question for us is this: we knew this in 1939, but do we know it now?

It is hard to answer that question in the affirmative.  We kill the unborn child. Sanction illicit relationships.  Rely on reason, not God.  Favor pride over humility. A dropout makes a “social network” that takes the place of face to face contact and we think it is grand.  Loyalty is missing.  Character is not easily seen. Morality is breeched.  Excuses and lethargy are abundant.  Education shows it is not worth the price.  Many are lost.

The road ahead is the road restored.

When sabres rattle you’d best be standing under the shadow of the Infinite.

Shalom.

 

Jail is preferable.  There they only limited you physically.  In a mental ward they tampered with your soul and worldview and mind.

John Kennedy Toole, in Confederacy of Dunces

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Well this is precisely the challenge today.  A challenge, however, with a twist. Now the mentally ill are the wardens of the asylum and their souls have long since been lost to use. Think “The Honorable” Maxine Watters, Member of Congress, and her colleagues or any number of entertainment celebrities who speak as if they are sane and stable. Think even of the Federal Judiciary and many others masquerading as “authority figures” in the bureaucracy, educational institutions, in the media – you know, the Ivy-“educated” without a whit of life experience, humility or common sense.

Now the government and those with public visibility in mass culture expand the asylum’s walls and the common citizens are imposed upon, deprived access to their soul, made sick by those who are indeed the sick ones.  So many examples.  Daily examples. For instance, Teen Vogue magazine has an article intended to serve as a guide to anal sex. Yes, no joke here.  Yes, the depraved, godless Left has done its best to dismantle what was once a relatively sane, faithful culture where freedom was cherished, God welcomed and courage and honor quite common.

In the present age the question soon enough is this: how do you retain sanity and soul when put upon by the insane and soulless?

This was, of course, John Kennedy Toole’s underlying question.

If asked this question as to how to retain sanity and soul, I would say: simply be.

I would add from my experience these suggestions: live in the private citadel of faith, attend to metaphysics, be moral, pick your company very carefully, avoid cities, the masses, popular culture and most regulations, live modestly, keep good counsel, pursue a simple life, blow up the T.V., beware of technology and “social networks” – use them sparingly or not at all, read good things – books that give you depth, insight, greater self-understanding and a feel for history, neglect neither your psyche nor your soul, listen to classical music – Yehudi Menuhin’s violin for example, cherish nature and silence, learn to live in solitude, read about what was once our great and honorable nation, dig into art, try writing in a journal – wonderful to summon up the best within your while defining the sickness that surrounds you, exercise, eat wisely, stay close to beauty – bask in it for it is a divine reality, don’t give heed to talking heads, pray that humility grows in you, ignore most contemporary figures – they know far less than all that you have forgotten in a lifetime about 50 years longer than they have been alive, keep skepticism handy, stay close to God, know absurdity when you sense it and pass its plate to others without tasting – give time and warning to only those you know to have common sense and a quest for the good that is Divine.

Let no one tamper with your soul.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … his delight is in the law of the Lord … the Lord knows the way of the righteous.  But the way of the wicked will perish. (Emphasis added.)

Prov 1: 1, 2, 6

Shalom.

Note: When you watch the political opposition to Donald Trump do not miss this: those in the political establishment (Republican and Democrat) do not wish Mr. Trump to succeed because they like the landscape and their privileged “insider” status “just fine, thank you.”

Yes, understand that their opposition to Donald Trump is opposition to all those who voted for him and the views that they hold.

Truth of the matter is that this is a low grade civil war – on one side the “insiders” who think of themselves as better than the common person (a/k/a those “basket of deplorables”) and on the other side – about one half of the voting public – just regular tax-paying Joes and Marys.  Interesting moment in America’s history.

The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmented for some time now, a process that is accelerating … (we are) stripped of ancestral faith.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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What in particular has been lost?

To answer this question is to chart a course back to health and stability, joy, meaning and purpose, resolve, determination, responsibility, identity, intimacy, strength and courage.

So what is the answer?  Well here is part of it.  We once identified God with Creation – with our beginning, our origin, and this nexus of God and Creation placed God in the present moment of each day.  Having disconnected God from Creation, we are lost.

Lost, we are without stability, comprehension, understanding, hope and certainty.  We lack vitality.  We have nothing to fight for or to defend.

In our present state, our capacity for belief and the ability to have a full human experience are absent.  Yes, some among us have become like the Zombies in the Walking Dead – mindless, soulless stumble bums.

Losing the presence of God, nothing is sacred – when once all was sacred.

Having lost sacramental consciousness, the Spirit suffers – we are less than we have been created to be … more uncertain, anxious, frightened, confused.  We have been hollowed out.

Our medieval ancestors had it so much easier.  Imagine that.  They saw God in all things, revealing Himself through people and events, in places and things.  In contrast, we live starved of full human experience, and the experience of the Divine.  A pathetic and tragic disposition.  Those “with less” had so much more.

Think about it.  Without God we lose humility – sit and stand alone – dependent on self; this a desperate state given too frequently to addictions, suicides, violence, desolation, hopelessness – crushed by the burden of life without God, without belief.  In our midst stand sad clowns and crazies, and those in a stunned stupor – flat, nonsensical, troubled, unpredictable, explosive.

So what might one do?

St. Benedict reacted to the corruption and chaos produced by the fall of Rome by removing himself from the destruction and concentrating on his faith life, on Christ, prayer, living a modest, careful and caring life.  He dedicated himself to living his faith daily and in all things.

You can do the same and you need not flee to the desert or take a place in a cave.  No, you can “hunkered down” in place.  Make space between the confused and you, between you and Christ and those lost to belief.

The times call for a Benedictine presence.  Your witness can save others and sustain Christianity just as St. Benedict did.  Fear not.  This, too, shall pass.

Shalom.

 

If we wish to please the true God and to be friends to the most blessed of friendships, let us present our spirit naked to God.  Let us not draw on anything of this present world – no art, no thought, no reasoning, no self-justification – even though we should possess all the wisdom of the world.

Philokalia

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In a mass communication culture where we are assaulted with words, noise, chatter endlessly we would do well to think about the above words recorded by 4th and 5th century Orthodox Christians.

Yes, we are to know about the world, to gain knowledge – but we are not to be encased in reasoning, self-justification, art, thought or other artifacts of the present world – from trinkets and valuables, to politics and ideology because we are at ground zero spiritual beings … those tied to God by God’s creation of us and the world we occupy.

We are not consumers, pundits, lawyers, actors, CEO’s, professors … etc.  We are more than those things.  We have an eternal identity.

In today’s world it is wise to ask: how can I be exactly and precisely who God made me to be?  In this objective is health, stability, calm, contentment, quiet, patience, wisdom, morality, laughter, good judgement, ease, friendship, strength, loyalty, honor, love and salvation.

Ironically, in a culture that seeks to draw you in and under – the task is to stay afloat and aloft – above all the calamity, craziness, conflict and confusion.

Yes, the task at present: to live a monk’s life in mass culture, to take on independence and autonomy, gain humility and pleasure in all that God has given, all that God does, all that we have been made to be, all that God is.

Shalom.

If you find this helpful, please share it with others – friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues.

 We can all get better at living, gain peace, tranquility, stability and purpose – come to know joy as God provides it.

 

“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.

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