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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.

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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.

 

 

Technical knowledge is not enough.  One must transform techniques so that the art becomes artless art, growing out of the unconscious.

D. T. Suzuki, in Zen and Japanese Culture

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How do you fully live?  Yes, how do you access and activate the unconscious – awaken the essence of the human legacy?  Same question really.

He met the conformity of culture as structured by man but never conceded its control over his breathing, his heartbeat, his life here – as it preceded him and stretched into eternity.

He always had one foot outside the box.  His wry comments and independent judgment kept him free and gave him a sharper vision than most.  He saw behind the silk scene – people, after all, were not clever in concealing their shallow and predictable motives.

He was not often fooled.

Having access to the unconscious, getting to know it in detail made his life art – artless art, a movie from birth to mortal death … and then the everlasting sequel, a seat above in the presence of a warm May sun.

He was never much for formulas.  A blank canvas was more his comfort. Something to write on, to scribble freehand what came to heart, mind, wrist and hand.  Free flowing.

Operating on the margin of the box – turning the rules into sources of amusement and dismemberment so to say: “You do not have me yet.”  Life in the present structures as a game of escape and evasion, lest he suffocate, dry up and become weak and brittle.

Victory.  Life as artless art in all its ease, in each breath, in listening, hearing and seeing.

The experience of experience in its full range – from joy to sorrow and back again, never a dark day in triumph over the warmth of the sun reflected in the others, the friends, the children, love, laughter, kindness, the beauty, the quiet, the memories, the experience in yesterday and today.

… artless art …

Shalom.

“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  And he said to them, “What things?”

Lk 24: 18, 19

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This is an exchange between Jesus and one of two men he encountered on the road to Emmaus after his crucifixion.  Neither of the two men recognized Jesus. They were both down trodden.  They had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah who would redeem Israel.

The interesting thing about this exchange is how Jesus approached it.  Having been the subject of the crucifixion, he said “What things?”

Why is this important and interesting?  It is an example of two things: one – He uses words to prepare them to recognize Him when they sit and break bread together.  That is, He prepares them for a remarkable and hopeful and reassuring experience – the experience of His Truth and their hope fulfilled.

Secondly, it illustrates that what is said cannot always be taken literally – for the apparent meaning it would seem to profess.  “What things” in this instance does not seek knowledge of what had transpired but “sets the table” (literally) for Jesus revealing Himself to them in the Eucharist.

Why would I explore this?  One reason: we are too literal … we hear in a very narrow way and as a result we lose access to the story of life, to the essence of what is revealed by the words we choose and the underlying meaning of those words.  In such a state, we are easily influenced by those who command communications – we are easily managed and our impressions easily formed by others who seek control over us.  In the above case – the authorities sought to dash the hopes and beliefs of others for fear that Believers would diminish the power of those in positions of authority.

We had best listen more clearly.  We are missing life, its depth, and forfeit access to its wholeness and its expansiveness.  In the above, Jesus is using “What things” to bring these two men to a greater understanding, life’s full experience. Do not be too literal – meaning often exceeds the words we hear.

Shalom.

Dedicated to my Grandchildren, my Nation and to you.

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Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness.  But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, and those who forsake the Lord will come to an end.

Is 1:27-28

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It is Lent.  We are closing in on Easter and the Resurrection.  Is it not a good opportunity to take this time between now and Easter to reflect on the above and ask: What do I see around me?  What do I hear daily?  In the news?  On television?  What is the state of our culture? Our nation?  Our leaders?  Our public conversation?

Have we forsaken God?  Have we listened as if there is no God?  Have we deserted our faith?  Been led astray?  Become pagans and thought and acted as such?

What is the tone of public discourse?  Do those among us divide for the lust of power? Have some among us elevated ideology and politics above all else?

Who among us speaks with faith?  Shows the courage to offer an honest picture of who we have become and how that is so unflattering, so godless?  So destructive of person and nation?  

We live in urgent times.  In talking about the Jews and Jerusalem and Judah, the Prophet Isaiah is speaking to us, today at this hour, in this time.  You best take heed.

Nothing good, absolutely nothing good, comes to those who forsake God.

If you do not live first in faith, then who but yourself can you blame for the troubles we have and the decline we court?

Shalom.

Discouraging – It is truly discouraging to see so many House and Senate Democrats carrying Mr. Putin’s water in their efforts to delegitimize President Trump and anyone who dares to challenge the settled and corrupt ethos of political Washington.

It leaves one to conclude: (a) they are the unwitting handmaids of Mr. Putin, (b) they are showing their Leftist allegiance, (c) they love the sweet Washington honeypot that gives them privileges the voting public does not enjoy and keeps them from real work, (d) all of the above.  Whose team are these guys and gals on?  Putin’s?  Their own?  Both?

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