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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.

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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.

 

 

Ask not that events should happen as you will, but let your will be that events should happen as they do, and you shall have peace.

Epictetus

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Hear the words of a man who lived 100 years before Christ.  Once a Roman slave, he gained his freedom, studied as a Stoic and devoted his life to philosophy – not as a theoretical proposition but rather as a way of life.

What he says here is good for today.  No doubt you have seen the chaos and dreadful conduct of many.  Indeed, you may have said to yourself or others –“the high tide has come and with it damage … it shows no signs of subsiding … when it leaves it will take many things with it – some very good things.”

Epictetus would have us not be so discomforted by these things over which we have no control for he saw that life is like that – with disorder and damage that we are powerless to avoid but that we will our self to peace notwithstanding.

We live in difficult times.  Disorienting times.  The air is flush with strange notions and odd ideas, and acts decry fetishes and self-destruction.

Yes, we live in rare times where wisdom and ignorance collide and good and evil struggle face to face.  Epictetus is ripe for these times.  Indeed he has lived throughout the ages in the head and heart and works of others.

He has been tutor to many.  Think of Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations and of contemporaries: Tom Wolfe (A Man in Full), V.S. Naipaul (A House for Mr. Biswas), James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) and J.D. Salinger (Franny and Zooey).

Words of ancient men from distance cultures do not survive the centuries but that they carry truth and have utility.  Yet, we neglect these gifts … and the voices of the unwise: the special pleaders, children, advocates, talking heads, ideologues and those who thirst for power and celebrity spoil the air we breathe.

… peace notwithstanding … that is our task.  Epictetus awaits.

Shalom.

 

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.

Lao-tzu

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The older I get, the more I settle into quiet and keep things as simple as possible.

I have no taste for crowds, fast roadways, complicated gadgets, air travel and such.  My diet is simple and ample.  Time with friends and family matter so very much.

The quiet seems right.  It leads to peace and prayer and conversation with God – a rendering of spontaneous gratitude for all I have been given, for the love I have received and the experiences large and small – the memories of people, places and events.

Now I see how grandchildren carry hope for tomorrow and bring that hope to me.  I see in them hope alive in their days, and their joys and pleasures, and a love so readily shared – so openly proclaimed by these little people.  Wonderful, so wonderful.  For me, they are proof of God’s existence and signposts for who we are meant to be, and how we are meant to live.

In the quiet and the solitude I am acutely aware of the confusion and pain that others create out of pride and their own disordered thinking.  Full of energy and themselves they make matters worse by insisting on changing things “for the better.”  They are not quiet people.  They seem to prefer the crowded clown car of the circus – yet, they always fight one another to be the driver.

In quiet I know both joy and sadness, I hear my breath and feel strongly the experiences that gave me depth and comfort, improved my vision, produced understanding – led me to faith and to God.

Now the voices of those I love are symphonies for me.  The memories of those I loved who have died are my favorite movies.  The memories of yesterdays my treasured photos.

Now I do not need much and in my days little tasks bring appreciation and satisfaction – sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, keeping the grounds clean … I notice the pleasure of such things – the cool afternoon breeze off the mountains and the changing landscape as the sun moves west and fades slowly into tomorrow.

Proper quiet gives the fullness of being.

Shalom.

I do think that living your life to the fullest is a little flawed … why is jumping out of an airplane inherently better than reading a book?

… why is living a life that looks good on instagram inherently better than a life lived quietly?

John Green

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… a life lived quietly

We are a people in something close to perpetual motion.  In America it seems that there is a default setting to “do something,” stay “engaged,” keep in motion, “move up,” stay on the go” … etc.

If I am correct, I ask: “Why?”  Is action better than inaction?  Could it always be so?

Personally, I like my very smart son’s admonition: “don’t just do something – stand there.”

His oft-repeated observation is that people seems always inclined to “do something” … anything … in the face of some stimulus perceived to be a “problem.”  (Indeed this is the conviction of virtually everyone who enters political life or occupies a middling-to-top spot in a bureaucracy.  Displaying, I might add, the wasteful and idiotic disposition to think that doing is always “better,” “right,” more “useful” than not doing a darn thing.  Let’s be completely honest here: the political and bureaucratic “doers” are at best self-justifying, i.e., if they did nothing they would lose their identity, status, sense of importance, and God-forbid maybe a cubicle, and a public paycheck.)

If anyone doubts the wisdom of doing nothing or at least far less than political types and bureaucrats do – I remind you only of the plight of “education” in our land.  Thanks to the “genius” of Jimmy Carter his creation of the U.S. Department of Education in short order has overseen the destruction of American education by “doing stuff.”

Like John Green I feel no compulsion to “do something,” “be in perpetual motion.”

Like my son I see others “reason” this way: “I must do something.  This is something.  I think I’ll do it.”  Mind you, the something done is never put to this modest test: “Is this worth doing?”  Mostly, you can well imagine, such “Pavlovian” conduct is usually worthless at best except that it devours time, spends money and gives the middling mass “something” to do.

I much prefer quiet and inaction to the presumption of action.  Likewise, I prefer quiet to noise, no one to the company of anyone, solitude to the maddening mob, nature to suburbia or exurbia and the inane movement and madness of large cities.

No rock climbing for me.  No bungy-jumping from a bridge.  No triathlons required.  I have silence and solitude, beautiful landscape, books, prayer, my faith, contemplation, thinking, a few special people, grandkids, a son and daughter-in-law and the simple chores of a house lived-in and land lived on.

Shalom.

Failure of Liberalism – Chicago is Murder-City and it is a city that is destined for bankrupcy.  Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Newark, Los Angles, et al show us that Liberalism is dead and on the way to its extinction it kills innocents within its boundry.

The Nanny State, creation of inter-generation dependents is a deadly mistake.  It is time to blow the whisle on the government as God.  People are made for self-reliance, self-discipline, economic freedom, personal responsibility.  Diversions like sexual politics and identity politics destroy people and places.  Governments making “promises” they cannot afford nor keep is exposed.  Time to shut the door on Liberals and the Left.  Back to normalcy.

 

Attachment is the great fabrication of illusions; reality can only be obtained by someone who is detached.  (Emphasis added.)

Simone Weil

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Saw a PBS Frontline documentary about boxing promoter/manager Don King.  It was fascinating.  King made a fortune-plus but those who fought did not.  It was pretty clear to many (TV executives, Congress, law enforcement officials, state boxing commissions, fighters and their trainers, etc.) that King was getting rich at his fighters’ expense.  But no one did anything to correct the abuses.  Sort of reminded me of Washington and how the Clintons and their minions get a perpetual free pass.

That brings me to Simone Weil (one of my wife Sylvia’s favorite writers).

Weil makes a very good and wise point – in a world where compromise and corruption take up common residence “being part” of “elite” structures is best avoided if you wish to live in contentment.

The wise person puts himself or herself in the best position to survive independently.  It is far better to be largely self-sufficient than encased in an organization, an onerous structure.

I worked by myself as a lawyer.  I now live in solitude.

While social (I knew all kinds of people), I was never a joiner.  Never had the desire to climb the ladder.  I enjoyed being a friends to many, yet a level of self-sufficiency was my route and allowed me to be a confidant to others.

Was asked one time by a Judge if I was interested in applying to fill a vacancy on the local Court.  My response: “Thank you, but I’ve never been a fan of Pontius Pilate.”  Pilate was stuck in a system that required his compliance with its ways.  “I see no guilt in this man” but … “Good bye, Jesus.”

I see many who are tethered to a group, a system or such, and so often I see them discouraged at having to comply with the culture that pervades their milieu.  Imagine a life of daily discontent – it is bound to make for long days and serious angst.  Some prisons have invisible walls.

In life you have time and a grant of dignity in your sacred birth.  Wasting time you cannot get back again, or besmirching your dignity and the sacred gift of your birth seems like a poor choice.

One makes haste slowly in life.  The purest sound is often a holy silence.  Detachment is often a better course than attachment.  Be a friend to many – but include yourself in that.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up and slipped out to a solitary place … Mk 1:35

Shalom.

Imagine – Imagine how the local F.B.I. must feel in watching the those at the top of the ladder mishandling everything and anything related to the Clintons and their associates and having to see the rank partisanship from those at the top of their pyramid.  Difficult to see and experience.

… we seek nothing but the particular place willed for us by God …

Then we discover what the spiritual life really is … It is the silence of our whole being in compunction and adoration before God, in the habitual realization that He is everything and we are nothing, that He is the Center to which all things tend, and to Whom all our actions are directed.  That our life and strength proceed from Him, that both in life and death we depend entirely on Him, that the whole course of our life is foreknown by Him and falls into the plan of His wise and merciful Providence; that it is absurd to live without Him, for ourselves, by ourselves … and in the end the only thing that matters is His glory.

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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In the Mass readings today we hear God lamenting that His children have moved away from Him and we hear Jesus advise us to move away from those who do not receive or listen to his words.

Our dilemma is that we live in an age where many of the most public and most vocal have moved away from God and do not listen to the words of His Son.  Likewise the culture in its digital discourse and mass communication is crowded with those who operate largely by themselves – without reference to God.  Indeed, that is the bulk of present day discourse and we are obviously affected negatively by this.

What is one to do in such circumstances?

Yes, we are assured in the Old Testament reading of today (from Hosanna) that God will act mercifully as to those who rebel.  And, we know that Jesus in today’s Gospel (from Matthew) would have us separate from those who do not receive his words or listen to him.  So we have a plan: be merciful, yet separate from those who reject the Savior’s words.

But how is this to be done?

Merton offers a way: seeking time in silence and the company of God in that silence.  For in that silence the primacy of God is known and experienced and we are in the form that we are designed to know and in which we will find peace when all about are in discord and distress.

Yes, our confidence is in God and our task is to stand apart form those who reject God outright, and in their rejection of the Son, reject the Father.  Our remedy for this is silence – a singular silence where God is heard – much as the Son shows us in his regular retreats to the quiet of the desert.

In silence we can find stability, meaning and fulfillment.

Shalom.      

 

It has been said that no great work of literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude.  We may lay it down as an element of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God.

Austin Phelps

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We are social beings.  We prefer others to being alone.  But is that where our peace is?

Think about it.  You have met hundreds of people and you are with scores of people weekly.  You have extended family members but no matter whether family or friends or those you encounter in number – you have only a few people with whom you share completely and who share with you in the same manner.  There are but few you can count on.

Maybe we miss the point that we are made for time with God, time alone with God.

You know when you get to be 70 being alone is a common part of each day, your months and each year.  Many of those who have been close to may well have died or retired and moved away. – and your children, as adults, are busy with their work, life and family.  What once was, is no longer – you spend time alone.

But that is likely how it is meant to be.  Age is a time to sum up – to reflect, take account of a life lived.

The “taking account time” is time with God.  Use it wisely.  Be at peace.

You cannot maintain yesterday’s status quo.  Life moves like the ocean tide and you are like the wave which laps on the shore and dissolves in the sands of time.  There is no shame or sadness in this – it is God’s way to eternity and Him.

Shalom.

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