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The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

V. S. Naipaul, in A Bend in the River

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At any moment that you look around at those “in charge” or the celebrity, you run the risk of seeing at the top of the pile those who are nothing – because they choose to be nothing.  They may be school headmasters, judges, elected officials, public figures, teachers, TV hosts or their guests, etc.

Seeing those who are nothing by choice in command positions initially leaves an uneasy feeling in one’s stomach.  It is the way your vulnerability registers within you.  Then, the mind kicks in and one thinks “this is a huge mistake … but perhaps this is common in human history over the centuries.”  Sobriety appears in the form of this cold shower.

Only the sober acceptance of this “mistaken” state of being – the fact of this huge miscue – can one begin to seek in self and some others the things that are good and true, eternal and meaningful.  It is not that you are disappointed but rather that you are liberated from the illusion that he or she who has a title is “something.”

Mind you, this is less a cruel joke than a liberating moment – a time when one realizes that the emperors are often more like fools, frauds and slackers than cosmic heroes.  With this you are left with your dignity and drawn into the quest to find your way – using the wisdom of the ages, the words of sages, the ancient tales, the myths with lasting truths.  This is not exile but a homecoming.  Your odyssey comes into focus – you follow in the footsteps of the ancients.

Shalom.

Fox News Educates.  Well former Oval Office occupant Barack Obama endorsed the value of Fox News recently when he said in an interview that – had he listened to Fox News, he would not have voted for himself.  Now that is an endorsement of Fox’s educational value!  Perhaps mandatory viewing of Fox might be the way to go – with candidates and the public.

 

 

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Knowledge can only be gotten in one way, the way of experience.  There is no other way to know.

Vivekananda, in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda

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A culture does itself harm when it glorifies formal education at the expense of experience, for it is experience that teaches, imparts wisdom, provides confidence, humanizes, teaches you about your adversary, brings you into contact with God.

We are a culture that glorifies education and mistakenly elevates certain once venerable colleges as being magically able to make mere graduates “wisdom figures.”  Ridiculous.  Silly.

Those with wisdom have lived and experienced.  It is in experience that we learn – the greater the challenge the more wisdom we acquire.

Look with care at those on the public stage.  Most of those who appear know little – have no particular expertise, have lived unexamined lives, are far from wisdom and maintain personal lives of chaos and confusion.  They have nothing but foolishness and self-promotion to offer.  They lack insight, are at best trite … not worth your attention.

In contrast, you are far better served by maintaining your spiritual life, coming to know your ancient text and its story.  A Christian’s relationship with God is rich in wisdom and truth – something, incidentally, that those in the public space seem to lack, or willfully neglect.

Your religious narrative and the faith to live what is presented to you are all that is needed to prosper and grow in wisdom and courage.

Shalom.

… the individual psyche is not just a product of personal experience.  It is also has a pre-personal or transpersonal dimension which is manifest in universal patterns and images … found in all the world’s religions and mythologies … the archetypal psyche has a structuring or ordering principle which unifies the various archetypal contents.  This is the … archetypal wholeness which Jung … termed the Self.

The Self is the ordering and unifying center of the total psyche (conscious and unconscious) just as the ego is the seat of subjective identity while the Self is the seat of the objective identity.  The Self … subordinates the ego to it.  (Emphasis added.)

Edward F. Edinger, M.D. in Ego and Archetype

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We never seem to contextualize the rampant disorder we live with daily in American culture or the world.

Think about what we see daily: accounts of inexcusable violence, homicides, abhorrent sexual behavior, addictions, suicides, unchecked nihilism, political hostility and abject corruption (especially among the Left), the disintegration of the family, racial hostility, the killing of the unborn, the explosion of gross obesity, social conflict, the growth in the dependent class.

We report these things as if they are each unrelated to the other.  Wrong.  These are related to one another.  They give us a clear portrait of psychological, social, emotional and spiritual sickness.

The above passage leads us to this reality: our psychological health has the ego subservient to the Self.  That said, we know that our normative development has the ego give way to the Self – and it is the Self with its stabilizing content of religious and mythological record which leads to our full human development and health.  Plainly stated – stop at ego and you are not whole.  Yes, we share an objective identity and those who live their subjective identity live an immature existence that keeps them unsettled and breeds disorder.  

Today we live among legions of people whose ego dominate who they are.  This is the root of the disorder and chaos we suffer daily.  In the ego we lose track of (or ignore or bar) the religious and mythological content of the human psyche.

Doubt this?  Hillary Clinton.  Can anyone be more egotistical?  She and her husband create disorder wherever they go.  In the political sphere, however, they are not alone.  Then there is Hollywood – Weinstein and the parade of predators.  Then the legion of married female teachers with children who sexually victimize their underaged male students.  Then violence and chaos in Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles and other cities.  Then sniveling administrators up and down the education chain – from elementary schools to universities.  And let’s not forget the badly compromised news media and the pathetic state of the judiciary.

Our problem (in large part) is this: we live in our ego, our lives are incomplete and our conduct juvenile, sick, shameful, violent, chaotic.  We are NOT whole … Yet imagine this: these demonstratively disordered people demand our attention, want to be listened to, to lead us.  Total bananas.

Beware.  Be discrete and discerning.  And most of all – think of the cost to your health and the health and peace of a nation whose leaders and citizens wall themselves off from religious narrative and the wisdom of ancient stories – the content of which are housed in our psyche.  Is it any wonder we see the chaos, carnage and corruption we now witness?

Shalom.

We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it normalizes by mass media and rendered unproblematic.

Bell Hook, in Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism

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I have been alarmed recently by the loose talk about racial conflict.  Some talk of the need for violent racial conflict aimed at “white oppression.”

Words can inflame.  Their use requires care.

The above words are ideological.  Their base: racism, feminism and socialism.

Ideology is a no guide to good.  It narrows the sight and hardens the heart.  Where ideology appears, faith better serves.  You see if peace is to prevail, God is required.  Our best actions do not separate by gender, race, antagonistic political fiction.

I know of no problem that can be solved without kind, honest, conversation.  I know of no peace that is made without care, no embrace that binds without humility and love.

People do bad things.  All people.  This is the human dilemma since the beginning of time.  It is embodied in the story of Adam and Eve – the Fall from Grace, Original Sin.

Our only path to love and fellowship is through growing our relationship with good, becoming wiser, more humble, thoughtful friends and neighbors.  Peace can never be insured through divisive ideology.  Ideology is the language of the lesser heart, its pitch is calibrated to hatred.  Yet, relationship with God dissolves anger, raises us up by bringing us to our knees.

There is an inmost center in us all where truth abides in fullness.

Robert Browning, in Paracelus

Shalom.

Lord, give us the strength of faith to know the truth about ourselves so we might live in peace as one.

Jung felt that the pursuit of wholeness was essential for redressing the split between the conscious and the unconscious.  Although the differentiation … is a natural part of psychiatric development, a total break between the two realms can cause psychic problems.

Curtis D. Smith, Ph.D., in Jung’s Quest for Wholeness

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Dr. Smith, a Jungian psychologist whose focus is human development and the history of religion, goes on to quote Carl Jung, M.D., who said the “more powerful and independent consciousness becomes, and with it conscious will” the less well and whole we are. In this state, psychic problems follow.

Why do I bring this up?

Well it is quite simple.  I hear from people quite often that they see and encounter people whose actions seem disordered, selfish, troubled, and without concern for others, irrational.  Indeed, Jung is talking about this very issue – about people who are “unconscious” – cut off from their whole being.

Dr. Jung is talking about human wholeness – the unification of the whole human person – the person’s full human development (intellectual, social, emotional, interpersonal, spiritual, etc.) as the object of our creation and existence; and I am concerned that culture can either advance or impede this development.  Further (having studied the relationship between faith and exclusionary secular culture) I see that we produce an abundance of unhealthy, even disintegrated individuals, and that unnecessary chaos, conflict, suffering, division and isolation abound.  May I reference Harvey Weinstein and the legions of married female teachers engaged in sexual conduct with their underage students as “a for instance.”

Consistent with Jung, when man becomes the exclusive focus of man the individual self becomes all important and man’s reason is cultivated at the cost of the unconscious aspects of his being.  Said another way, when man is focused exclusively on man his psyche (soul) is forgotten and problems manifest.

Yes, in our secularized culture we have become one-dimensional, trapped in self and materiality but devoid of a metaphysical intelligence (and spiritual maturity) and hence fall short of the capacity for a full range of experience and human development.  Frankly, we are not well.  We are fragmented at best – lack the capacity for introspection, self-examination, intimacy, and the ability to receive others.  To the contrary, we objectify others and cannot fully comprehend the bizarre actions (even tragedies) that surround us.

Case in point: we are mystified by the actions of Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock.  His autopsy shows no brain damage to explain his rampage and the authorities can find no particular motive, personal social footprint or provocation for his actions.

Unable to see as other than diminished secularists, they ignore the Unibomber in explaining Mr. Paddock.  They do not recall the Unibomber’s rage arouse from his parents who demanded he forsake other people and things, from childhood on, in favor of constant study.  His parents made him a slave of his intellect.

Yes, in a single fit of rage as a teenager he screamed this to them: “You never let me have a friend!”

It is hard to imagine a more chilling indictment of one’s parents nor a more dreadful, socially starved existence.  He, like Paddock, was a greatly diminished person, one far from wholeness – asocial, isolated, alone.

The neglect of our God-given fullness is the cause of the serious disorder among the godless from top to bottom of the social strata.  We are devoted to self and self alone – and far less well for it.

If we continue in this way, our suffering and murderous chaos, abhorrent interpersonal behavior, group violence, corruption and cover-up, and our isolation one from another will continue us on a destructive, evil path.

When God is neglected, the soul cannot be well.  We prove this daily.

Shalom.

… your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to come from an incomplete understanding of sin … you seem actually to demand … that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Spirit be translated at once into all flesh … you are leaving out the radical human pride that causes death …

Flannery O’Connor, in a December 9, 1958 Letter

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One distinguishing fact about the Left and others who seek omnipotence in government is this: they put unjustified confidence in the human being and man-made institutions and efforts.  Yes, they are disoriented.

They, like the letter writer O’Connor is responding to, somehow think that an ideology (however distorted or errantly applied) will give us heaven on earth.

Have these people been watching the movie I’ve seen for seven decades?  Have they not watched Seinfeld or met Woody Allen?  It seems clear that they have not grasped the essence of the Judeo-Christian narrative or the sweep of recorded human history.

Just today, I awoke to the “can’t make it up” mea-culpa of an rotund, aging leftwing Hollywood mogul (who loves his mother, perhaps a little too much) and has been (for years) asking would-be starlets to watch him take a shower.

He, of the “pro-feminist” persuasion, puts in plain view this: we inflate the expectation of the human person and in this intoxication quickly conjure up insane propositions as if all that occurs in moviemaking paves the way to earthly nirvana.

No, it does not.  We are not to be exalted, but to be humbled.  We do more damage than we think, create greater division, exhibit more insanity, destroy more good things than we ever imagine.  Hence my son’s favored expression: don’t just do something, stand there.

Yes, there you have it – a refutation of the Liberal in six easy words: don’t just do something, stand there.

If sanity is to root in present American culture – humans will cool their heels, and their expectations will subside in inverse proportion to their growth in humility, kindness, friendship, faith and self-effacing humor.

Today’s bumper-crop of disordered behavior and sickness ought to teach that much of what those with demonstrated maladies advocate is precisely adverse to our welfare and prosperity.  If you see them wearing a raincoat, leave your umbrella home.

Shalom.

 

 

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.

 

The Seven Story Mountain … is a journey away from the world through the process of purification of those vices that hold the person back from God as well as an interior exploration of the ground of human existence, which is the presence of God through grace.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in The Seven Story Mountain

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The Seven Story Mountain is Thomas Merton’s account of his journey in faith – his turn to Christianity, to Catholicism and to life as a monk, a contemplative and writer.  It recounts his interior journey and its relationship to his exterior existence, the world and to others.

Lawrence Cunningham’s above description is that of the journey to God, its path and trajectory is a good guide for anyone who desires to draw closer to God and find in that the solace that only a relationship with God can produce.

Mind you, in moving “away from the world” one is simply breaking the dominating chains of the mortal world and its ways in favor of what is above the mortal, what is divine and eternal.

Notice that Cunningham identifies a “process of purification” that takes us from the vices of our human imperfection and clears the way for our relationship with God.  Yes, the more our errant ways deflate, are reduced – the more buoyant we become, the more we have a course to naturally seek what is good, best in us – what is evidence of the presence of God, God within and without us.

Notice that our closeness to God rests in an interior exploration of our human experience and that this would have us say about life experience: why does this event or experience resonate with me?  Why does this make me sad, or angry? Why does this give me joy?  What experiences have I had that seem to be triggered by a particular external experience, and why?  What is the origin and essence of this experience and why is it such?

The interior journey – a matter of taking what is experienced inside – awakens the good within, our longing for it and the upset we feel when good is denied, when evil intrudes.

We are, as God’s children, made to seek what is good, to realize the good within, to seek the God within and without who is Pure Good, Love itself.

While Cunningham is describing Thomas Merton’s journey, Merton’s journey is your journey as well.  Be not afraid.  Seek what is The Good, for you are called to that Good and the longer you resist that call, the harder, more unsettled and upset you become, the further lost you are.

Come home.  Know peace and contentment … there you love freely and in wisdom.

Shalom.

An Autobiographical Reflection

[Maybe it will help in your unique journey.]

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I know what I think when I hear what I say.

So, too, with writing – and more so with writing about one’s story – lived spontaneously breath to breath, scene to scene  – heartbeat to heartbeat, never planned.  In this is the gift of life in the moment, life in one long unbroken strand of time, and place, and experience.

Bobby Sylvester

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Living is story … autobiographical story with interludes of humor, unexpected twists, abject sadness, disappointment, unwarranted delights, war – interior and exterior – personal and communal.

Yes, swings of elevated joy and darkness darker than night … and fear and bliss, betrayal and unswerving loyalty, trust and distrust where losses seem to outrun gains at times … drama and science fiction, fantasy and detailed and specific certainty – or at least attention grabbing with focus on that one thing so odd, or so sublime … so eye and heart-catching that it reveals in time access to the puzzle – at least part of it.

Pieces of time and space and events that reveal a theme and explain the story as youth turns to age.

I have been conscious of my story and life as a story since that day in 1948 or it was maybe 1949 when my absentee father walked by me and never turned to say hello.

If movement and moment were a gripping paragraph that one thing might suffice as the beginning of my story, or its crystallization – it’s clarion theme, it’s overture and it’s one, first and true guidepost: we are abandoned, left … and from this we know that those who don’t love us, don’t love us.

Ah, what a gifted truth to have so young – preparation for what would come to pass.

I never left that point where by I lived within the story and watched it at the same time …

Oddly, I never felt merely a viewer – rather both a viewer and a participant in one body.

And there never was a script.  There was just being … just living the immediate instant while sustaining contact with the yesterdays produced in the same spontaneous manner. Life for me was and is: experience it – whatever “it” was or will be – and learn and grow in depth, insight, strength, faith, understanding, comprehension wisdom and tempered expectation.

As tragedy enters and exits overtime in-and-out, living takes on scope, humor and sensibility increase.  Faith might also grow.

I know what I think when I hear what I say.

May your story come to you – clearly, and give you strength, reveal purpose and meaning.

Shalom.

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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