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Sleet, snow and a warm fireplace in the mountains – a quiet day of classical music, tidying up and starting the Christmas cards.

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It is tragic to see how blatantly [one] bungles his own life and the lives of others, yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Aion (Collected Works, Vol. 9, Part II)

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Jung speaks of the individual, yet what he says is no less true of the aggregate.

Yes, Jung’s words can be applied to us in the aggregate as a body of people, a nation … and frankly ought to be as a means of introspection, self-examination and correction.

Frankly, President Trump’s “drain the swamp” precisely captures the sentiments of the vast voting public who knows we are way off course.  Indeed, the midterm election to the extent that the Trump’s political party gained seats in the Senate and the minority party gained seats in the House by running more middling candidates is an indication that voters realize Washington is a swamp, with swamp creatures and swamp-like behavior.

I write about faith and culture and have a background in law, theology, politics and public policy.  That said I have strung together a handful of tragic “bungles” manifest in today’s culture … things that we are not acknowledging which can lead to tragedy.

Here they are:

  • we are a populace with little knowledge or appreciation of Western Civilization or America’s history and its unique government structure
  • we have departed from a belief in God and the practice of faith – and lost any sense that there is a natural order to things material and spiritual
  • our affluence has bred softness, arrogance and the expectation of entitlement
  • our “elites” are afforded status and attention they do not warrant
  • we have a very poor understanding of the psychological and spiritual development needed to be a healthy, mature human
  • the role of family has declined while dependence on government, immorality, division has increased
  • we are largely ignorant of the U.S. Constitution and abuse it routinely by shaping it to political demand
  • professions like law, news reporting, university teaching and government service have lost their integrity
  • we have neglected our military and allowed our adversaries to gain an advantage on us
  • secularism has dramatically altered for the worse the experience of being human.

Time to look at ourselves honestly and stop bungling ourselves into tragedy … or extinction.

Shalom.

Elites – Look at England.  The British people wish to leave the EU and restore their national sovereignty and their Prime Minister cannot and will not negotiate a break with the EU.  Much like our situation in America – the elites are disconnected from the population, do not recognize the value of the average citizen – rather they scorn them.  This is much the remarkable position of Democrats and life-long swamp denizens.

 

 

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Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

Christ is the only man to overcome the barrier erected by Satan.  He died in order to avoid participation in a system of scapegoating which is to say that satanic principle … His death therefore converts satanic disorder into order and opens up a new path on which human beings may now travel.  (Emphasis added.)

Rene Girard, in The One by Whom Scandal Comes

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Satan is the great divider.  He is the one who pits man against woman – woman against man, White against Black – Black against White, the faith against faith and vice versa …

Scapegoating is the age old tool of the divisive.  Those who wish to destroy.  The Marxist, the socialist, the fascist, the angry gender feminist, the racist – of any skin color.

Do you see the division that is present?  What do you do with it?  Do you confront it?  Denounce it?  Reject it and those who advance it?

If you profess to be a Christian, do you not in Christ have a duty, a sacred obligation to reject division and ideologies which virtually always divide and make enemies of those who are neighbors, those who might be our brothers and sisters.

Division is the work of Satan.  Divided we fall.

Shalom.

Follow me and allow the dead to bury their own dead.

Matt 8:22

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Let the dead bury the dead.  This phrase has followed me for some time.

As you recall these are the words of Jesus to a man who he encouraged to follow him.  The man’s hesitance led him to say he first wanted to go home to his father and Jesus gave him the above rely.

What does this say?  Well it is an emphatic way of saying that those who are spiritually dead are to be left to their own dilemmas and those who are spiritually alive are invited to be with Jesus.

Frankly, this is no less valid today than it was when Jesus spoke these words.

I am sure that you have tried to help people along the way and probably done so often and attended to those in need over a lengthy period of time – only to see that the person in need never made much progress – but rather remained in the same situation in which they sat when you first began to walk with them, help them, encourage them.

Let the dead bury the dead.

Many among us simply refuse to live in the spirit.  They neglect their spiritual development.  Often the are stuck in a dependent state – many times on the public dole.  Indeed, sustaining “hand-outs” very frequently instills dependence that kills the spirit and results in a life being far, far less than it it could be.  This is very much the difference between socialism and the “nanny state” and a free society that offers help but expects those helped to become responsible for their own welfare and well-being.

In a spiritually healthy society – there are NO “handouts” – only “hand-ups.”

Better to give a person a hand-up than a hand out.  The former enlivens the spirit.  The latter kills the spirit.  The former develops adults and the latter sustains the immature.

Let the dead bury the dead.  You cannot push a car up a hill with a rope.

Shalom.

Early November Morning, Mulching Leaves … such are the chores of life amid the trees and the hills, and the brisk autumn wind.

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Usually grace begins by illuminating the soul with a deep awareness, with its own light.

Diodicus, in Spiritual Perfection

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Grace – the Divine action within us.

If I were asked to describe grace I’d go right to something that happened to me when I was a small child – not old enough for kindergarten – probably about two or three.

As a small child my mother suffered from depression and often remained in her bedroom with the window shades drawn.  We lived then with my grandmother and grandfather – by mother’s Mom and Dad.

I remember the darkness of her room and I remember feeling that I must be careful to be at my best so that I might help my mother.

This sense of needing to help my mother blossomed to an attitude that I did not want to add to my mother’s hardships.  I became ever sensitive to giving her no reason to worry about me.  I was always considerate of her throughout my life.  She deserved nothing less and God supplied me with the insight I needed to love and care for her as I grew in age.

What I am talking about is not the result of reasoning for I was too young for such thoughts.  Nor was it because of others cautioning me.  Rather, it was just a recognition – a sense that I would help my mother – not give her reason to worry about me, cause her pain or worry.

Yes, this was grace illuminating my soul … giving me an awareness that a boy of my age could not come by through his own capacity to reason at such an early age.

Grace is real.  It supplies you with insight and understanding that is perfect for the situation you face.

I do not know how God dispatches grace to this person and perhaps not another.  I know only this: I was given insight that I could not have mustered on my own – and I have come to believe that it was indeed the grace of God – an awareness that God desired I have so I might serve my mother as a loving and reliable son.

That relationship with my Mother was such a blessing to me – she got well in the course of her life and was a wonderful mother to me – I often say: she saved my life.

Shalom.

Want to be dumbed-down?  Watch TV and accept without discretion what people say.  Case in point: Joy Behar of The View offered this stunningly stupid opinion: the Republicans won more seat in the U.S. Senate because of “gerrymandering.”

God, good!!!  Memo to Ms. Behar: under the U.S. Constitution every state is represented by two Senators.  Ergo – it is impossible to gerrymander when each state is afforded two Senators elected state by state.

Behar and the people on chatty-TV shows – along with many in the news media and the press subtract from the sum of human knowledge when the open their mouth.  Any performance of the White House press corps pretty much establishes this all by themselves.  Yesterday’s behavior of that crew destroyed any reason for holding these “Q and A” briefings anymore.  We have enough foolishness floating around, no need for more.

 

 

An Election Day Blog …

 or How Politicians Keep Sharing Their Insanity

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God alone, who is eternal and incomprehensible, is the whole solace and comfort of the soul.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas a Kempis, in Imitation of Christ

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Ohio Governor John Kasich offered this opinion today: government’s job is to touch the souls of people.

Little does he know that this is precisely the sort of sentiment or opinion which is fundamentally disorienting and antagonistic to our democracy.

Let me explain.  Neither the human being nor the government is God.  We set ourselves up for disaster by thinking we can do what God alone does. When we think this way we  pursue policies which are doomed to fail and undermine confidence in public institutions.

In the olden days a view like Kasich expresses would be dismissed as hubris (excessive pride) and dispatched as childish.  But now public figures across a broad spectrum are quite full of themselves and chatter this nonsense to one another.

Alas, the Left posits this stuff relentlessly.

Doubt me?  I offer this: Marxism and it promise of perfection, equality and rule by the masses … contrasted, of course, with the gulags and feeble economies of the Soviet Union or North Korea, the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao’s China, and the reformist slaughters in Cambodia, etc.

So much for the state touching the souls of its people … so much for man replacing God.

Thomas a Kempis was right in the 15th century when he wrote the above.  He is right today just as he was then.

Our failure to understand such a simple truth tells you very succinctly how it is that we have the problems we have today – all of which are rooted in man thinking he or she is God.

Poor Mr. Kasich, a former Catholic who offers this: he drifted away from religion as he “didn’t find God in Church.”  Given his thoughts as to government and souls – he must have found God in the mirror … an utterly common experience for those Left of center and beyond.  Indeed, Stalin and Lenin seemed to have had a similar mirror in which to gaze.

When you hear people think government is God – you know two things: (1) this guy thinks he is God, (2) only a loon thinks he is God.

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?

The man who has been made in God’s image is the inner man, the incorporeal man, incorruptible, immortal one.

Origen, in Homily on Genesis

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Want to understand disorder and those who are disordered?  Just listen to Origen’s words above which date back to the Second Century after Christ.

His point is this: we are made in God’s image and that means we are in essence and fundamentally the man within us, the interior man.  In this, where God resides in us, we are as God: incorporeal – more than bodily man, here we are incorruptible – that is good at the core of our being.  We are in this life God – immortal – cannot die except that we pass from mortal life to eternal life.

So the disorder ones are those who know not their interior being – have never examined themselves thoughtfully, who – in contrast – live an exterior life – one of appearance, one that seeks status and advantage and fame and wealth, and cannot deny their most corrupt passions and desires – however sick and self-destructive they might be.

For them: more drugs, more sex, more rock and rock – more “free” stuff – more dependence, less autonomy, less dignity, less responsibility – childhood forever – all demands met – no God – no morality – ideology governs – and the ideologues say “kill the infidels who dare to have faith.”

Friends, we live among disordered people and they make life very dangerous and quite its contrary.   Their living denies life – they are the dead who must bury the dead.

This is precisely the circumstances we live in today.  Without God insanity becomes sanity, and bad becomes good, chaos becomes peace – Yes, lies prosper and pass as truth.

Shalom.

If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine …he must take up his cross and come with me.  Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but it a man let himself be lost for my sake, he will find his true self.  What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self ?

Matt 16: 24-26

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Picking up our Cross is exactly what we are asked to do – just as Christ did.  Our Cross is the life we are given – not a life we design and work to exclude or avoid the unpleasant aspects, the injuries, hard work, betrayals and misfortunes – but all of life that comes to us.

How many Catholics and Christians have I seen that try to live “designer” lives – lives that fashion to the exclusion of life’s difficulties?  Many.  Too many.  They are faint believers at best.

The test of a Believer is this: do you have the faith in God that allows you to accept the life you have been called to live with the confidence that God has His needs and reasons to send these challenges your way?  Do you carry your Cross?

It is that simple.  Live life – and live free and in faith with your Creator.

Shalom.

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