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Christianity (is) not … a matter of getting … ideas straight but rather of getting (one’s) life straight.

Robert Barron, in The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path

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Ultimately people want to live well, have peace, experience love, be free of troubles, worries, sickness and injustice, be able to laugh, enjoy friendship, and realize the value of their own good work.

Life is about “getting life straight.”  And that is a faith matter.

Yet, in the course of my lifetime, I have seen interest in faith (particularly Christianity) decline and, in the void that is created, I have seen people seek meaning in ideology and satisfaction the prosperity that has come to us mid-last century in a free market economy with peace at hand.

However as to ideology, I am most troubled.

Ideology is a body of ideas reflecting the “perceived” needs of an individual, group, class or culture.  Needs, mind you, of this mortal existence.

Unlike faith, it is earth-bound and reflects the desires of a class of individuals.  Its goal is not the realization of a full life but rather it is smaller than that – it seeks only the self-authored, contemporary desires of a group – often pursued with force so to impose a narrow and self-interested view of life on all others.  Apropos, politics, propaganda and public tantrums are three of their favorite coercive tools.

Ideologues, you see, care only that their views (which comfort them) be forced on others – never time-tested and never challenged.  Totally accepted as totalitarians demand.

Imagine living with someone who, exposed to an idea, assumes (because they like the idea and feel empowered by it) to make of that idea their world view and the “thing” that  governs their world as they experience it – as if this idea is the prism through which all experiences are, and must be, filtered.

I guarantee that living with such a person is close to living in North Korea or a re-education gulag.  This is where we are today as to ideology – in its public and private hues and noises.

Convince a potential ideologue a hammer is a “hat” and that person will spend the rest of life trying to fit that hammer to their head and expect you to do the same.  Yes, they will abandon all reason in favor of foolishness.  Me?  I’ll take faith – you can keep the hammer.

Shalom.

 

 

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He, the eternal, dwells concealed in the heart of all beings.  Though himself devoid of all senses, he is the illuminator of all the senses, the source of their powers.

The Mahanirvana Tantra, 6th Century B.C.

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The Tantra records the mystical practices of Hindus and Buddhists.  The above, dating back 600 years before the birth of Christ, records the view that God dwells in each of us.

When you live your daily life do you think of God dwelling within you? 

Do you perceive that others might carry that belief?  Does the demeanor or actions of others so suggest this?

The idea of an indwelling God has been spoken of and written about throughout the Ages.  I give an illustration.  One finds this in the Svetasvatara Upanishad of 400 B.C., in Ovid’s Fasti written in 5 A.D., in Epictetus’s Discourses in 110 A.D., in Plotinus’s Ennead, Ephraim the Syrian’s view, in the works of Meister Eckart in the 13th Century, the words of St. John of the Cross in the 16th Century, in the works of St. Francis de Sales in the 17th Century and Baruch Spinoza in the same Century, in Emerson and Huxley, Buber and Gandhi, etc.

The indwellingness of God has been common wisdom for centuries, but how much evidence of this do you see among men and women today?

The notion of God within humbles the sane person … and we could use a large dose of humility today.  All life is made far more charitable and kind by humility of self as manifest in contact with others.  Humility is the proper disposition for those who realize that God dwells with me and thou.

Abandoning the indwelling God does not erase God’s presence in us.  Rather it just submits God to the indignity of our behavior.  In this, we are like a person with a house guest who speaks not a word to the visitor, nor does he feed him, or offer him a place to sleep or to wash his face.  Such a “host” says neither “Hello,” nor “Goodbye” – and never wishes him “God’s speed.”

Are you such a host of the Divine Creator?

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.

… a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise … the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I?  Where have I come from and where am I going?  Why is there evil?  What is there after this life?

Saint John Paul II, in On the Relationship Between Faith and Reason

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We are more alike than we are different, yet we let charlatans galore promote things like “identity politics” which divides us from one another and from God.  Shameful, isn’t it.

Yes, Saint John Paul II has identified the four essential questions that lead to one’s full human development – our stability, maturity, wisdom, compassion and the ability to care for self and others.

Yes, these questions help us know who we are and, in that, present the Divine to us, open us to our spiritual identity.  In these questions we become what we are designed to be: both human beings and spiritual beings. 

As Saint John Paul II reminds us these are the questions addressed in sacred writings through the ages – in the sacred texts of Israel, in the Veda and the Avesta, in the work of Confucius and Lao-Tze, “in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha” … “in the poetry of Homer and the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles” and the works of Plato and Aristotle.

These questions lead us to meaning and truth.

Make no mistake those who demand your attention, who seek to govern, lead, entertain, amuse, teach, preach, propose public policy and especially advocate fundamental public change ought to be given no quarter unless they display they are fully grown and schooled in the wisdom that is derived from these vital questions.

For too long we have granted empty-headed children posing as adults the privilege of being heard.  Our culture’s decline is evidence of doing so.  No more!

Be discreet.  Expect those who would lead to have grown spiritually, to be humble and wise – facile and clear with words that convey something of their person, their heart and their soul – and be possessed of good humor, sensible insight and frankness – yet encouraging and optimistic despite the challenges of the day.

Shalom.

 

 

the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taster receptors.  Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors – either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice.  But people have so many powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., in The Righteous Mind

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Well if you want to understand the basic rift between the Left and others (moderates, Conservatives, and “neutralists”)?  Haidt gives you that understanding.

The Left is secularized – removed from faith, anchored in material existence, the narrows of intellect and ideology devoid of psychological or spiritual depth and the understanding and experience that each provides.

In matters public and political they are so narrowly focused, they neglect or dismiss our natural desire for liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity (as Haidt notes).

You see, esteemed Social Psychologist Haidt is telling us that as a matter of innate design the human person thirsts for morality that attends to more than fairness and equality.  Mind you, this thirst is an involuntary desire.  Hence, we are “hardwired” for a morality that extends beyond the shallows of the Left.

The distinction that Haidt describes explains why the Left is intolerant and must force their views on others much as totalitarians do.

Ironically, on an even playing field (i.e., one not corrupted to protect their views) the Left is destined to fail because the public’s natural moral appetite is larger than what they offer.  Humans are more complex than the Left reckons.  No, we are not all like them or their ideology.

Think about the many positions the Left advances or defends and you realize that their positions are at odds with the innate moral desires of the human person at-large.

Once that thinking is done, you can see how the Left forestalls the full development of the human person.  Indeed, they create unnecessary conflict (and division) by attempting to impose exceedingly narrow views on others that are, as a consequence, antagonistic to our broader moral needs.

Haidt, applied to our present situation, leads to greater understanding of the unhealthy antagonism that the Left generates.

You would be wise to get to know Haidt and his excellent scholarly work.

Shalom.

 

I often listen to Gregorian Chants to start the day.  It separates me from the world – its chatter and foolishness.  I recommend it.  It connects you with what is calm and eternal.
Who after all wishes to sail on “a ship of fools?”

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We have committed ourselves to exile, that is, we are outside secular boundaries … (Emphasis added.)

Life of Syncletica, in Monastic Wisdom: Writing on the Contemplative Life

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When a culture gives you disorder and the company of fools and “disassemblers” – those who find truth a stranger to them, is it not better to remove yourself and maintain both peace and sanity … contact with what is true and divine?

When you separate from a sick culture, your values are sustained, you retain autonomy, dignity, sanity, integrity, virtue, peace and contentment.  More so, you live as a mortal within eternal reality.  You remain calm and free of the nonsense, destruction and duplicity that is a godless culture.  Yes, you leave the inmates in their self-made asylum.

Enter Gregorian chants.

In separation we are cognizant of the falsity and chaos of the existing culture – but we do not concede its rule over us.  We remain free to be who we were made to be – contentment follows.

In separation we reside in our own cloister, our mind and heart prosper – our soul lives in us and in our thoughts and deeds.

In separation, we dismiss the gossip of the culture, its useless and truth-less “news,” its imagined celebrity status and faux leadership class.

In separation, the cyber world is an option, but trivial – never a master.

In separation – reading and prayer, thinking and quiet, silence and nature, caring and love of others come to form.  God is nearer, beauty is alive.  Hope prevails despite the best efforts of others to destroy all tranquility and our irreplaceable inheritance.

Separate.  Sustain what is sacred and sane.

Shalom.

 

Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works

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Jung knew the importance of seeing the spiritual content of life and life’s events.  We are not so readily inclined.  He derived meaning and understanding from this.  Our inability to do so, leaves us confused and, in the worse cases, destructive of self and others.

It seems to me this is where we are today.  Likewise we have few (if any) commentators who are capable of seeing and discussing the spiritual and psychological elements of our present moment and its fractious nature.

This circumstance makes me think of Mary and Joseph and their newborn child’s flight into Egypt.

You may recall that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and urged him to flee lest Herod kill the child.  This itself has meaningful value as a simple story.

What we see in this is the fear felt by the ruling authority vested in a rigid status quo – the fear that “change” other than what they offer or demand, however aluminating otherwise, may be costly to their status quo.

Thinking of today – this may well explain the daily hostility we see aimed at President Trump by media, comfortable elites and his political adversaries.  His presence disturbs their psychological comfort, their status, the world as they have come to know it.

It is always wise to ask deeper questions when one sees reactions at that are overt, persistent and hostile.  Such reactions signal that a fundamental cord has been struck, i.e. something important is afoot.

Likewise when ones sees those sworn to serve lawfully acting in a lawless manner – one confirms again – this is a significant moment.  I think, in particular, of the challenges to the U.S. Constitution – another grave sign that fundamental stakes are at play.  And I think of legal guardians acting unlawfully.

More to the point, when the Constitution is easily attacked its opponents tell us they do not realize that this document is as much a spiritual document as it is a political document.

Indeed, seeing only with political eyes produces destructive consequences for the Constitution is by all measure a document that reflects the soul and identity of a free people and their nation.  Damaging it, damages our individual and collective self – our identity and relationship to one another as one people united and free.

So often we miss the spiritual and psychological aspects of life in one’s historical moment.  Such a mistake is always costly and wrought with conflict that could be avoided if we just recalled our larger context – namely, the narratives of our heritage and what they tell us.

Shalom.

 

If we remove the obstacles, the ego-self with all its paraphernalia, and surrender to God, we penetrate through the layers of our psyche until we reach the center of core of our being.

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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Quiet begets interior silence.  In quiet being itself appears as thoughts fade.  In quiet we hear the sound of silence that is deep inside us.  In this is God, awareness of God.

In interior silence social need falls to the Spirit – without others we are nearer our own being and that of all things and beings.  In interior silence eternity exceeds mortality – yes, reality becomes eternity, and all things now and beyond are of God and God.

This interior silence has no words nor need for words.  It is.  IT SIMPLY IS.

In interior silence we are subsumed with the “IS” and its inexhaustible ALL.  This: the experience of the Triune God – our center – the center of being here and beyond.  There is in this eternity and tranquility – our meaning, our purpose, our reason for being, peace and certainty – ease of being, the exceeding of all doubt or pain.

Shalom.

 

… it came to pass … that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world would be taxed …

Lk 2:1

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This census, of course, required each person in the Roman Empire to assemble in their ancestral village or town … and this was a prelude to Jesus birth in Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary journeyed from their home in Galilee in accord with Caesar’s directive.

How many note the significance of Jesus being born at a time when the entire Roman population was assembled as a whole?  My point being that the birth of Jesus has characteristics to it that proclaim something quite special in this birth.  Illustratively, the birth of Jesus heralded the assembly of all.

Yet, there is more.  Jesus birth in a manger among farm animals makes the statement that the child’s presence exceeds mortal reality – but rather speaks to all creatures and creation.  Yes, Christ is for and of the whole of this world and the next.

Indeed, shepherds and kings come to his place of birth.  Is this not a proclamation that in Christ the humble and exalted are but one in the same?

Yes, the circumstances of this birth speak to us of its universal and eternal importance – but do we think of this in our own time?  Is this a point of reference for us?  Does this magnificent birth inspire us?  Motivate us?  Lead us in our daily existence?  I dare say: “it does not.”

Does not the star that led others to Bethlehem speak to the cosmic significance of this holy birth?  Does it not say that each birth is God’s intention?  Yet, who are we now?  Do we see these things?  Are we comforted and governed by them?

Shalom.

 

We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given by God.

1 Cor 2:12

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The foundation of our health and human prosperity is in the Spirit.  Yet, the culture we live in promotes the mind as if our well-being resides in the head.

Nay, it resides in the heart and in the soul.

A full life relies on our spiritual development, not our intellectually development.  I say this as one who was a college degree, a law degree and two graduate degrees (one in international affairs – American foreign policy and economic policy, and the other in theology).

That said, I make this point: in my career and in my personal life – seeing with the eyes of a Believer made the greatest contribution to my personal and working life.

Plainly speaking – the experiences of my life were more revealing and more instructive because of my spiritual life and its development.  I found greater understanding and greater peace – and yes, wisdom – because I cultivated my spiritual development, became more faithful, placed an importance on worship and directed my reading to those things that would help me grow in the Spirit.  In doing so, novels revealed truth to me, psychology and cultural criticism, philosophy, comparative mythology, and history opened for me.  Likewise biographies of those who traveled hard roads and experienced God were a great help, as were the words of Carl Jung, M.D., and Thomas Merton and Joseph Campbell, and St. Augustine, Thomas Keating and others, and, of course, Scripture.

What is my point?  Our culture would have us confine our self to the head, but the brain is a secondary organ and does not lead us exclusively to the greatest and most significant understandings.  The heart and soul are the key to a good and satisfying life.

It is the Spirit upon which we ultimately rely and the Spirit enlivens the heart and soul.

Attend to the Spirit, for we are of God – and God is pure Spirit.

Shalom.

Democrats – Another Democrat public official (the Attorney General of New York) resigned because of his history of physical abuse of women.  He adds to the list of Democrat money-raisers and politicians who have been exposed as women abusers yet claimed to be champions of women.  It would be nice if this was a surprise – but it is not.

 

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