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Happy Father’s Day

Fatherhood is at the core of the universe, at the center of being and its mystery.  Shame on those who ignore their children for the damage done and the opportunity lost.

Grandpa Bobby Bob

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So it is Father’s Day.  You know I looked for a quote that might sum up fatherhood.  Didn’t find one, and doubt that I could.  Fatherhood is larger than all the words known to us.

Fatherhood has a mystical quality to it.  One is father in ways that are more than merely intellectual.  No, fatherhood resides and operates in the realm of mystery.  Fatherhood introduces a man to supernatural reality.  When one attends to his children – God is visible, eternity exists and everlasting love takes its form.  Fatherhood stretches into time, from here to time immortal.

Fatherhood transforms.  I give you proof.

Acquiring the experience of another person is one of the hardest things one might do, love notwithstanding.  Yet, I have seen my son come to fully understand me when he himself became a father to two beautiful children (one a toddler, one an infant – a boy and a girl – a prince and a princess, if you don’t mind).

Try as I might have to convey to him how important he was to me – when he became a father he understood what I tried to impart as to his importance to me.  Now he “gets it.” Now, I get that unexpected call from him to ask: “Dad, are you okay?  Just called to see how you are.”  And I get, “Love you, Dad.” Yes, love unites us in ways that make son and father best friends forever, inseparable, indivisible.

I tell my friends, I have seen my son transformed by becoming a father, and a very good Dad at that: engaged, loving, calm, instructive, helpful, gentle, thoughtful, playful, guiding, a giant “best friend” to two Little People … a giant with a soft voice and an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

His Ph.D. notwithstanding, I tell him and his wife that what they do as parents is the most important thing they will ever do.  I see in his two Cupcakes – contentment, ease, comfort, confidence in their young explorations – wonders in their eyes and smiles on their faces, love and joy in their every breath.

My son’s fatherhood anoints me Grandpa Bobby Bob (as I am so named by Grandson Jack, not yet three).  Life has no greater honor for a man than to be Dad and then Grandpa.

Fatherhood transforms.  It is in the mystery of life – more than sociological designation or a name on a birth certificate, more than a formality … it is a blessing bestowed on us by design, an opportunity of a lifetime, a source of meaning now and forever.

Happy Father’s Day!

If we wish to see a strong and good society – let all men who have children be first and foremost: good and responsible fathers.  Life’s problems are fewer to those who have been well-fathered.  Men, do your sacred job – your children and this nation depend on it.

Shalom.

 

 

… those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Mt 23:20

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Make no mistake there are distinct, substantive differences between our two major parties.

Do not be deceived the last electoral result highlighted the very real difference between the common citizen and the elites: those with power, money, status – the intellectual and celebrity class, globalists, the media, the perpetual Washington insiders whose class status is far different from Mom and Dad in small town U.S.A. , and between the ideologues, “special pleaders,” and mere citizen taxpayers.

Frankly, the privileged class lost and the most politically-focused of them (the Left and the Washington wags who are used to being “important”) are offended and not taking their bite of humble pie very well.  Yes, their obstruction and rhetoric is destructive – having gone beyond civil debate.  Actually, their behavior mimics the Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature who fled their state and hid from their official duties so as to thwart the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Like all actions people take, the angry objection to the voters choice of President tells us about those who are upset.  One thing it says is this: politics and power is a high priority for them – probably too important for their and our wellbeing as a nation.  Make no mistake a subset is NOT greater than the whole.  No one is more important than the nation.

It is always hard to speak to your Brother and Sister when they must be reproached – but speak we must – speak calmly, in a soft voice, as a friend, with authority and care. Reconciliation is the goal and it must always be.

Losses are difficult for many.  Those of us who have lived modestly and, in my case, on the “wrong side of the tracks” amid the very serious conflicts one can encounter – we are used to life’s ups and downs.  We learned long ago that no one wins all the time and that it is the losses which actually teach us the best lessons, impart the greatest truth and wisdom.

The one thing that we need now is a calm conversation with those who are most displaced by their perceived loss.  For civility to return, maturity must be cultivated and in this instance it means those hurt must listen to the voices of those who care for their welfare and that of this nation.  Yelling, fighting, anger will only inflame and put much at risk … including each of us.

Remember the opposite of love is not hate – but rather: indifference.  We cannot afford to draw battle lines, engage in nasty and dishonest behavior, retribution, character assassination, or violence.   Honest, calm conversation is the need.  An end to extreme language that excites ideologues and flames the fire … it must cease today, now.

I hope we are all to the task.  It is the humble who are exalted.  They are strongest who life has humbled.  Make no mistake – in the end the humble remain standing while the prideful fall. 

Shalom.

Postscript – I am always amazed that the “talking heads” on T.V. and many elected officials talk and talk without ever citing an authority – the words of someone whose insight and wisdom they share.  You have to conclude that they are talking through their hats, haven’t cracked a book since the 3rd grade.

You wonder: why would I listen to these people?  They really do not warrant my time.  They do not.  Happy landings.

 … words have power.  Words can light fire in the hearts of men.

Patrick Rothfuss, in The Name of the Wind

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Yes, words can inflame and we have been very loose with our words, caustic, harsh, antagonistic, divisive, hateful.  Our words can and do provoke others.

Republicans were hunted down yesterday by someone fueled by ideology. Words, harsh words – played a role in this act.

We had best take an honest account of our self.  We have demonized others, labeled them, made them targets, counted them “deplorable.”

This has been building for four or more decades.  This has got to stop.

One can only pray that we are kind enough and strong enough to put a stop to the hatred and demonizing that is so prevalent.  God help us all.

Shalom.

[Note: I had prepared a longer analytical post on violence and culture, but given the present inflammatory climate I have opted to offer what I hope is a helpful and more unifying post in the hopes that we might look critically at our self, our culture, and what we and others say.]

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.

God works in history, therefore a contemplative who has no sense of history, no sense of historic responsibility … is not fully a Christian contemplative: he is gazing at God as a static essence … But we are face to face with the Lord of history and with Christ the King … light of the world … We must confront Him the awful paradoxes of our day …

Thomas Merton

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If there is one (and there is) central failure that puts us in the conflict, and confusion, and chaos … and danger and division, that we face today it is our failure to know and serve God as the Lord of History.

All of the immorality, hostility, bitterness, rancor, hatred and rank stupidity can be assigned to that one failure.

Likewise, the destructive behaviors we witness in special pleaders of unwise causes are the product of God’s exile, and in that absence – the geometric ignorance and needless destruction it produces.

Yesterday, I watched an episode of The Ozzie and Harriet Show and one of The Rockford Files.  The former from the 1950’s and the latter from the 1960’s.  Each was a delight. Each well-written, and nicely acted. Each told an engaging story – the former in a family context, the latter in a detective format.

In the former we saw truths about husbands and wives, men and women, family, brothers, neighbors, boys and girls and human nature.  It was fun to watch. Truth told in a gentle and amusing manner.  It was nice TV … it sat a tone, was believable – represented a reality that was and could be: a relaxed and kindly family environment.

In the latter, we had a “who done it” yarn with the focus being the work of a not-so-successful, and unflappable private detective whose status-life was that of living in a trailer parked on asphalt adjoining a stretch of California beach.

Our hero detective was an anti-hero – an earnest man (yet not beyond employing a street-smart trick now and again) who was resigned to the riff-raff of life without losing his kind and understanding nature.  He was, indeed, an everyman with the wonderful grace to live life as it presented – without scorning what he saw.

Yes, in the 50’s and the early 60’s we effortlessly lived with God the Lord of History and in so doing, we were not out-of-control, frantic, required to “get-our-own-way.”  We were then, sublime, without anxiety or fits anger, public or otherwise … better yet there was no need for intolerant crusaders.  Social justice had yet to emerge to anoint any and all mediocre C-minus-minus people into obnoxious “know-it-all” crusaders.  In short, looking back you see that when God is recognized as the Lord of History … our life is easier and our relationships much more pleasant.

I’ll pass on the very unfunny bores of late night TV, and the likes of Chuckie Schumer and the talking heads of CNN, MSNBC, et al, the vacuous celebrities who have opinions about all manner of things never thoroughly considered, and on the minor leaguers of The Times, The Post etc.

Today we are so dumb and uninformed we don’t realize life (properly considered and experienced) is so much easier … death-defying anxiety and hostility is not mandatory.

Try thinking of God as essential – as the Lord of History … ignore those who speak as if God is either dead or indifferent to us … Such people are as common as a penny and just as valuable.

Shalom.

… at the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives – this little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.

Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

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So what if Merton is correct?  That God dwells within each of us?  Would it not be likely that The Creator might leave a mark on you in your creation?  A fingerprint so to speak?

If that is so, would you act differently each day?  Would you not be fortified when facing difficulties?  Could you ever truthfully feel alone?

Does it not follow that what Merton describes might well explain the heroic conduct we see now and again?  If it is true, can we not shake our heads in disbelief at all the mischief and thievery, lying, cheating, violence and betrayal that we see?

Would Merton’s observation not reshape our idea that X or Y is “an honest” man or woman?  Would an honest person not seem to travel with greater humility and greater tranquility for their reference to God?

If Merton is correct would a government and its political class seek to drive God and faith from culture and the public square?

Think for a moment or longer, if this is so – what effect does this have on you? How would this proposition change you?

Seeking God is the noble purpose – your noble purpose.  That which provides meaning to you – a meaning that exceeds the limits of mortal life and trumps all earthly objectives.

Shalom.

Piggy Bank No More – Europe’s NATO member nations owe years of back payments to NATO, payments obligated by membership in the mutual defense association.  President Trump has called NATO members out on their large outstanding balances. Rightly so!

One smug NATO minister kept talking derisively while the President was speaking. I’ll bet you he was from one of the countries behind on payments.

Isn’t it funny how others just think the U.S. will carry them – that they need not do their lawful share.  Let those days be over – suckers no more!  

Friends don’t let friends pay for all the dinners out year after year.  Such nations are doubtful allies.  The times they are changing.  At long last!

We venerate the song of the tragedians.  It contains truth about suffering, not often God: yet God has revealed himself by means of this truth.

Reinhold Schneider

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The soul-sick and lost kill children.  I am not surprised by this.  I wonder why others are. How can they be surprised?

In an unsolicited grant of grace I learned as a small child that life can be hard and lonely – that what was once there can disappear, that betrayal comes to innocents and disappointments land deeply within, that the world can present difficult moments and some can seem a crushing weight, a dent too deep to be restored.

However, like Reinhold Schneider says … “yet, God has revealed himself by means of this truth.”  My life is testament to this, living proof of this truth.

And so too, in the Manchester Murders of the Innocents – we see not the evil doers but the good that we are made to be.  Would we cry for the loss of a small child if we were not good?  Would we swear to rid ourselves of those whose intent is evil?  Would we cry for those lost across the sea?  Or vow to arms when it is peace we want?

In tragedy we hear the Cathedral bells more clearly and lift our eyes aloft.

In yesterday, grandfathers pray for their small grandchildren and ask that God might help them keep safe his little ones.

For too long we have played a peripheral game on the far outer edge of reality in a discussion that is surreal.  How many human rights can you stack on the head of a pin?  This question while London bleeds and Paris burns, and Europe fades from view.   

Life – all life – conveys knowledge of God.  Yet, we indulge our fetishes and focus on the tragedians and bury our dead.  Our sight clouded and hearts numbed. Avoiding reality while deaths multiply and sacred faiths are targeted.

Perhaps Manchester, in the shadow of our historic overture to an Arab-Israeli-American alliance, will bring us to our senses and reminds us that we have strayed from God and faith and seeded debate to the godless and their prideful desires and ideas.

Illustratively, perhaps a new generation of leaders will turn to those before who as exiles from their native land and its precious faith wrote of Christ as Wisdom, the role of the Spirit in the world, the place for mystical understanding in mortal life, the integration of life in worship, the sacred destiny of the cosmos.  I think, in example, of the Russian Orthodox intellects like Nicholas Berdyaev, Vladimir Lossky and others who saw clearly not evil but God who prevails above all disorder and in whom all can turn to good, and peace, and purpose, meaning and understanding.

In faith, we expel evil.  Politics alone provides no impetus for action being short of clear faithful vision and the infused wisdom and courageous resolve it brings.

Let not the Manchester murders of Innocents be in vain.  Rather, let it call us to repel evil and build the brotherhood of all faithful souls.  Return to faith … and march on we must.

Shalom.

Blog for May 23, 2017, will be posted in the midday.

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President Trump at the Western Wall.  This is a remarkable vision.  Why have we not seen this before now?  We can be grateful for the emergence of faith in public affairs – how else can you see an American President stopping in Saudi Arabia and then in Israel.

Faith has a place in all life, and activity without it is doomed to fail.  Has not our recent past and the woeful tone of opposition politics today shown us this. 

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When man subverted order he did … more than … diminish his own humanity … compromise his destiny … he … presents the unhappy spectacle of a being in revolt against Being …

Etienne Gilson, in The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy

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Gilson thought of God as Being itself.  As such, everything in the cosmos combines into one meaningful whole and all is contingent on God who is the reason for the existence of all things, all persons, all life.

Ask yourself if you act as if this is so?  It puts you to a significant test, a serious self-examination.  Are you bogged down in meaningless matters, governed so easily by emotions and worry?  Swept up in useless, insignificant daily sensations and alarms?

Likewise, look at the news, at politics, at those with easy access to mass communication – what do they have to say about that matters?  Are they conscious of their own contingency?

Contingency breeds humility – our scale reduced to proper size: a tiny part of a timeless whole – of Being itself, of God the Creator who is always and forever.

If you do not live in proper context and dimension you come to prefer self to God and condemn yourself to error and discord, restlessness and worry, loneliness and separation.

A life well lived fulfills your design as God has presented it … authors contentment and prepares you for harmony with all things.

Do you see in this what you need to do to know contentment?  Can you see how lost we are today?  Especially those you show their godless confusion and seek that we might follow them, tolerate their self-destruction so that it can then destroy us?

Embrace the best way of living and that is under God’s authority where peace prevails when the rain and wind comes to gale force and all seems darker yet.

Shalom.

Remarkable Reception for President Trump in Saudi Arabia.  The Saudis are to be applauded for the warmth and dignity they display.  This could be a significant turning point.  So much for the notion that President Trump is the Devil incarnate.

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… the state threatened to become not only militarily and politically triumphant but psychologically so: the custodial Superego for millions … their Egos an instrument, pure and simple, of the state’s bureaucratic manipulation.

Robert Coles, M.D. in A Secular Mind

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Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist, is commenting on Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz’s observations in his book entitled A Captive Mind in which he explores the consequences of (Communist) centralized state power over the individual person.

Doctor Coles ends his book about the secularized mind by focusing on the apparent need for the modern state to secure social and psychological control over its population.  And, Coles focuses on the prospects of neurochemistry and medical science in doing so.

As to the latter point, Coles draws on advances in neuroscience, biology and medicine – particularly on developments in pharmacology – reminding us that Sigmund Freud thought that in time the mind itself might be reduced to simple matter and ministered to (and perhaps altered substantially) by medications. That is to say, that the experience of being human would change rather significantly.

This, by the way, has been a theme expressed over time by a number of people from Orwell, to Huxley, to Stanislaw Witkiewicz and others, and displayed in Phillip Dick’s 1968 movie Blade Runner.

The notion of centralized control over the person leads me to think more critically of the divisions between those who despise Donald Trump and those who voted for him.

In thinking about this I see Trump as an unimportant focus.  It is not he himself that matters but rather the significance of the divide between those who voted for him and those who are clearly threatened by him, and seem to hate him.

It seems to me that the divide is what is important.

That said, I think one can make a reasonable observation that the difference is in part the distinction between those who favor centralized power and those who do not.  In effect, we are talking about those who favor government control over the social and psychological nature of the human person and those who oppose the same.

Illustratively, the Left favors imposing their “views” on others – i.e., forced “tolerance.” Some in the middle ground default to continued growth in government to the extent that sovereignty and national identity and nation itself is devolved to international organizations and competing cultures (i.e., globalists).

In opposition to this, of course, are those who favor less government and preservation of nation, individual freedom and continued American economic prosperity and ethos, and constitutional Federalism.

We have simply stated: globalists vs. nationalists.

So the question today is not Trump but what underpins the divide?  Why his adversaries violently oppose him?  Why the hatred and effort to drive him from office?

My view is that it has to do with a very fundamental question: Will we live in a country where control over the human person expands as the power of the central government and international organizations expands or will we not?

Shalom.

… the time was approaching … when the Ego … would be mere putty in the hands of something much larger than any human being … a strangely impersonal (and inhuman) construction of social and political reality, that would have enormous, compelling, even definitive sway over all within its grasp … the state’s (moral and political) power (would) become for the individual a commanding and pervasive presence … enforcing its institutional will on … all … (Emphasis added.)

Robert Coles, M.D., in Secular Mind

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In the above Dr. Coles, an esteemed research psychiatrist who held three endowed chairs at Harvard University, is commenting on George Orwell’s classic 1984 (written in 1948) in which Orwell foretold of man’s loss of self to the state and its impersonal and often brutal, a-spiritual, conforming power.

We are, of course, precisely where Coles said we would be in his 1999 book –A Secular Mind.

We are – notwithstanding, the useless, uneducated, destructive chatter of “talking heads,” newspaper editorial boards, Leftists intellectuals, “progressive” politicos, feminist and sexual “special pleaders,” the mindless celebrity class, and misplaced vaudevilleans of late night television – just a Coles predicted … at risk of losing our Self.

The problem we face is not merely political.  No, it is far more.  It is cultural.  As cultural, it is fundamental.  It poses this question: what is and shall be a fully developed human being?

In particular, the force of the state on the human being always invokes this question: what is it to be human?

Of course, the history of the Communists’ gulags and the adjacent death camps of totalitarian states tells us that centralized, ideological governments and politics never advance the fullness of the human person.  Their concern is control of the mass, not the sacred reality of being a human being.  Hence, all central states (our behemoth included) incline to homogenize and reduce the human to dependent or servant and in doing so they seek to reduce the role of faith, exile God and curtail religious freedom.

The impulse which elected Trump is the impulse to salvage human existence in the face of the growth of the central state.  The hatred this has stirred up on the Left and among the statists Republicans (i.e., globalists, and vested elites) and those who make their very nice living as media handmaids of the governing class is precisely a defense of the large state and its imposition on the human person and critical subversion of faith and spiritual existence.  Think, for example, of the Obama IRS which took active, lawless aim at religious tax exempt citizen organizations.

That is where we are …and I add I see no one in mass communication culture who has called this to the fore.  Rather, I see debates over this or that policy, the appointment of this or that person to do X or Y.

We have a more comprehensive problem … one requiring a broader scope of intellect and a greater knowledge of psychiatric welfare and spiritual development.

Alas, the politicos and media-types are least likely to possess anything like the knowledge, experience, insights or analytical tools to navigate us through very troubled and dangerous waters.

We have an interesting challenge in the present moment.  The discussion must be broader than politics.  It must be cultural and fundamental.

Shalom.

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