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The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

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July 6th, 2018 – Hope it is a good one for you!

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If you want something too much it’s likely to be a disappointment.  The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk – and feisty gentlemen.

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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Re-reading a favorite book or watching a movie you have already seen can restore a perspective you once possessed and need to acquire again.  Yes, the pace of present day secular culture occupies us so thoroughly that we can easily lose our orientation, perspective, way of being when we are at our most relaxed best.

The above words are those of Gus McCrae, a crusty old witty and practical ex-Texas Ranger with a philosopher’s disposition and a desert dry sense of humor.

Old Gus proceeded through life with joy.  He never missed the fun, nor fooled himself as to the world he lived in, the nature of people in it, or himself.  He was hassle-free.  I do not mean problem-free – for the world is the world even for honest and balanced characters in Western novels.

Seeing Gus’s humor and wisdom, sense of justice and courage, fidelity to friends and principles reminds me of how not like Gus so many people are now.  The contrast is striking.  Gus stood tall – saw what was before him and never shunned the call to honor.

Unlike many with public voice today, Gus was not a complainer – not a whiner, and in contrast to the multitude of Left and liberal voices we hear – he was not sour, frantic, perpetually irritated, obnoxious, and demanding.

Gus had fun with life – the Left and the liberals do not.  The Left today is disgruntled or angry about anything and everything that is not what they want, do, think, believe, expect, or demand.

Mind you, Gus’s life on the Western frontier in the late 19th century was hard and unpredictable.  But Old Gus took all the hurdles, bumps, twists and turns with same panache that Sinatra sang – smoothly and self-assuredly while resigned to the magistry and mystery of it all.

How we’d help ourselves to be like Gus: funny, witty, courageous, sober, loyal, grateful, clever, loving, generous, and wise.

Right now, those most vocal among us are anxious or offended, or hostile, or loud and unhappy – unpleasant and constantly frantic.  No Gus for them.  Unlike Gus – they take nothing in stride.

Life in the West in the late 19th century, or life today in cyber-secularism?  Where’s my horse and gun?

Shalom.

When you learn to be alone you’ll discover the difference between alone and lonely.

L. J. Vanier, in Ether: Into the Nemesis

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Coming to the ability to be alone is like climbing a very steep and very high mountain with tough terrain and turbulent weather.  Yes, being alone is not the first thing we come to embrace – more like the last thing we come to embrace.

I used to dread being alone.  Why?  I just lost so many people in my childhood – it was like being in battle and seeing those on your side, those you needed disappear leaving you with dwindling odds for survival.

Yes, loss at an early age is a serious awakening that brings more fright than confidence.

But then there is age.  When you have weathered many storms, you somehow grow in strength and confidence.  You can only bury so many people before you realize “you are still standing … and each battle has made you wiser and stronger … and ready for the final days whenever they appear.”

At some point being alone is tolerable and supplies you a state of peace that awakens you spiritually.  At some point, alone comes to mean God, what is eternal and joins you with those long gone but not missing really.

When you can be alone and yet with the others you have known, you have approached the summit.  At the peak of the climb there is no sadness, no loneliness – just the fruits of the hard climb up the craggy mountain.

Some people never climb the mountain.  In this the mountain becomes a demon and fear settles deep in the valley of one’s soul.

For me, I’ll take the mountain and the peace it brings – brings in such an odd way of suffering and challenges.

… Jesus led them up the mountain.  There he was transfigured.

Mt 17: 1, 2

Shalom.

Without a life of the spirit our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.  The life of the spirit, by integrating us in the real order established by God, puts us in the fullest possible reality – not as we imagine it, but as it really is.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I am sure if you look about you see as many do that people have become difficult, coarse and quite narcissistic – self-centered.  Likewise you see, like others, hostility and incoherence – just look at the news and the unimaginable crimes – a woman kills her infant child and hides the body, a mass shooting of innocents by a troubled young man.

There are, alarmingly, many signs of disorder – individuals whose behavior and utterances indicate they are “lost,” disoriented, without sensible purpose or direction.  Just look at addictions and the vast spread of drug use – broken families, illegitimate births, killing unborn children in the womb, violent crime.

These things do not arise all by themselves.  They are a manifestation of a life without any spiritual context, that is a life of illusion, life without substance – or meaning … and aimless, a life that is destructive of self and others.

In such circumstances reality, sanity, health, stability, relationships, contentment, and nation are lost to us.

You look and see the problems growing and see in others behavior that gives you caution, concern and seeks that you keep your distance and be on guard?  All of this is attributed to but one thing: No God.

All of course is made worse by the ignorance of those in media who are as lost as anyone, and by politicians on the Left who manifest some of the same traits and many ideas that are void of wisdom – but do us harm, and further chaos.  The Left discounts God and the essential nature of spiritual life and all that it propounds — –  their work and words are simply the product of their self-deception and their narcissism.

God identifies the order of things.  Deny this and life and nations disintegrate rather rapidly.  Better return to the beginning.

Shalom.

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one …

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

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Battles between good and evil are won on the margins.  This is a lesson few Americans seem to understand.  Good compromising with its opposite is no victory … it is a lost …

Compromised moral structures result in the disappearance of morals and the institution of corrupt practices – and corrupt lifestyles. In this the abnormal becomes normative.

Look around, the Liberals and the Left have brought us six decades of gradual roads moving us to the destruction of the family, marriage, childhood, virtue, truth, decency, community, intimacy, imagination, honor, sacrifice, morality and meaning.  It their places: the bacchanal – anything goes, self and pursuit of pleasure is king!

But make no mistake – the battle is won or loss on the margins.  Accept same-sex marriage and holy matrimony is lost.  Accept abortion on demand and motherhood is lost – and euthanasia is right behind – hastened by homicide, suicide and drug addictions.

To fight and win on the margin one must address the son who is using drugs or living a dangerous lifestyle.  Yes, when evil is in play – one speaks up and stands for what is good, and right – what is healthy and moral and elevates the human person, preserves their soul.  Remain quiet and compliant and you can kiss your culture goodbye while saying “Hello” to Hell.

This is where we are today.

Shalom.

Most of the time, we are lost in the past or carried away by future projects or concerns.  When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, we can see and listen deeply …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Today with all its fury, demands, confusion, transgressions, noise, deceit, foolishness and injuries has a way of capturing us.  But we need not be locked into its mischief and destruction.  Indeed it is quite unhealthy for us to be captured by all the chaos and malfeasance, the untruths and disorder.

‘Tis much wiser and far healthier to be mindful.  To focus on our interior.  Seeking quiet and listening to it gives rest, understanding – transcendence, yes, liberation.

In the fury of today, do you hear your breathing?  Most would answer, “No.”  To them I say: “You are NOT mindful.  You have been captured by chaos.  You are forfeiting your life – cheating yourself out of the life you have been given.  Making yourself sick.  Settling for far less than you have been given.”

Cistercian monk Thomas Merton had an affinity for the existential writer Albert Camus.  He saw in Camus “a man who … loves the world yet stands apart from it with a critical objectivity which refuses to become involved in its transient fashions and its more manifest absurdities.”  (Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World in Action).

So many are captured by the chaos.  The digital world, much like the organs of mass “communication” (or shall we say “miscommunication“) that sow chaos and confusion – reduce us drastically from whole to but fragments.

Better to hear your breath.  Be mindful.  Stand apart.  Maintain critical objectivity – you can dismiss most of what is going on around you … there are so few healthy voices after all.

Shalom.

… in every society where the distinction of ranks has been completely established, there have been always two different schemes or systems of morality current at the same time; … one may be called the strict or austere; the other the liberal, or, if you will, the loose system.  The former is … admired and revered by the common people; the latter is commonly … esteemed and adopted by … people of fashion.

Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

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There you have it.  The common folks live by an austere morality – one that adheres to common understandings of what is good and reflects a system of belief, their faith.  In contrast, the elites live a lax system of morality – one in which they do what pleasures or advantages them regardless of the consequences to them, others or the society at large.

This is precisely the dynamic we experience here in the United States and the West today.  Make no mistake – lacking faith, the elites also lack courage – but selfishness they have in spades – always ready to assert their views no matter the obvious destruction they yield.  Indeed, they ruin life for the vast populace without a whimper or pause.  They lack conscience – although they “moralize” and relentlessly hurl acquisitions like “racists,” “sexists,” “bigot” etc. at those who dare to oppose their idiocy.

By elites, who do we mean?  Those at the top of the economic ladder (especially in social media and in the hi-tech industry), those in positions of political power, and those in academia, the celebrity class in Hollywood, in entertainment and media.

And those of the common weal?  The workers, homemakers, the middle class which the Left has abandoned completely – preferring to know them in passing as “a basket of deplorables.”

This is the cultural divide we now suffer.  At no time in American history has the fight between the “privileged” and the “common folk” been so apparent or meant so much.

In this collision much is at stake.  Our identity is at risk.  Will we be a sick or healthy society?  A fatherless-nation?  Will family survive?  Will drug addiction be common and accepted?  Will we continue “social engineering” to meet the fancy of sexual fetish, Marxist social theory and ideology, racial prejudice and gender division?  Will godlessness prevail over religious belief?  Will amorality win?

It is a daily source of both disgust and amazement that all the talk of our present problems hardly ever contains anything that resembles an informed comment.  One listens and thinks immediately: those talking have not paused for a moment to learn anything – they are, as a consequence, only adding to our collective ignorance when they open their mouths.  Yes, the elites are ill-formed, poorly educated and virtually always wrong.

If you wish to comprehend how an unsuspected individual like Donald Trump managed to get elected, you need only know this: the divide between the populace and the elites is real, it is close to its burning point and it has been forming from the 1960’s to the present.

People are knee deep in the horse-hockey of the Democrat Left and they don’t like it.

Finally, you might note that Adam Smith centuries ago laid out the basic conflict between the privileged and the populace – and we now see its explosive nature.  A little reading and real learning goes a long way in making sense of the chaos and insanity that visits us now.

Shalom.

Postscript – If you wonder why no one among the elites who violates law or ethical codes ever gets held responsible, the answer is simple.  Elites control the legal and political structure.  They protect one another.  All those not among the elites are dismissed out of hand, except that they are to be used for the advantage of elites.

Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.  (Emphasis added.)

Mother Teresa

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They placed Nikolas Cruz’s younger brother in a facility for a mental health evaluation.  He is 18 years old, Nikolas is 19.

You know the thumbnail story of their lives – given up for adoption, a history of personal difficulties, thoughts of fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty, adoption, living on the edge – a home life that required the police to respond to their house multiple times a year, a failed school life, being ostracized, rejected by peers, self-mutilation, despair, confusion, learning problems, thrown out of school, abandoned – left to their own destruction.

They say Parkland is a family town where people care for each other.  Hard to see that in Nikolas and his brother, in the way the school system took a very deprived kid and threw him our of school with no oversight or care.  Hard to see the good people of small town U.S.A. in a good light when we know these kids lived a variant of being unwanted all their lives.

Parkland was not too long ago a smaller town without the Yuppie homes with big rooms.  I gather from news reports that remnants of its earlier status might be known by the few trailers that still house some families.  One imagines a sharp contrast between what might have been a short time ago and what is now.

Nikolas and his brother are lost kids, kids who likely needed care – maternal, paternal, familial, adult care … who needed real institutional support and particularized education and preparation for adult life.  Like all of us as children: they needed stability – the loving consistent care of an able adult, encouragement, predictability at home and in their small childhood world – truth is they needed love and care more than the lessons of rejection, alienation, confusion, defeat, loneliness and despair which seems to have come their way over and over again.

The story of the Parkland tragedy is at its core a story about lost children – and specifically lost boys in a culture and time that them.  It is a story that indicts not those who are unwanted but rather those around them who took no care to shepherd these lost sheep.  Shame in this Lenten Season!!!

I know these kids, I might have been one but for a mother who cared and sacrificed, two uncles and a loving grandmother, a great aunt and uncle, kind neighbors and childhood friends who accepted me and are today (now 68 years) still my brothers and sisters.

I am quite honestly sick and tired of those I see in public life, in positions of authority – with some exceptions.  They’d be best to leave us alone – go off and experience the realities of a hard and precarious life that humbles you by having you ask of yourself as I did as a child: what will happen to me if my mother dies?

If we demonstrate anything daily, it is this – all the talking heads and celebrities, and politicians, entertainers, media folks and those in authority everywhere – those who lay claim to our attention … might want to stop (as we all might) and ask: Do I see the Lost Sheep?  And what do I do when I see them?

Shalom.

 

The American Left is getting their version of the Dickens “Christmas Carol” this year when American corporations give generous bonuses to their entire work forces after the Trump tax reform legislation.

“See Tiny Tim, people do have kindness in their heart … the government is not needed to see people caring for one another!”

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Each one has to find … peace from within.  And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.  (Emphasis added.)

Mahatma Gandhi

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Finding peace in a mass communication culture must be intentional.  That is, to find peace one must set about to discretely select what one hears and what one does not hear, what one does and what one does not do.

Yes, we must work.  But if one seeks the calm that is “peace within” one must consciously and intentionally secure time that produces peace, quiet, healthy inattention to that which captures us, occupies the mind, worries the heart.

Christ sought peace by withdrawal to the desert.  He sought it in time alone, in quiet – in prayer.

Although I live in the quiet of a mountain ridge, I must consciously disengage from the habit of being busy – cleaning the house, running errands, talking on the cell, etc.

We live in a culture that draws us into it.  We are stimulated each day by news, and messages, noise, responsibilities, attractions.  But are these matters not obstacles to peace, tranquility, comfort, a slower heart beat, less stress, less preoccupation.  Most people live in worry and do not live in the moment.  Missing the moment one loses the peace of that moment, the grace of one’s heart beat.

Look at the political world – people are frantic.  No one leads who is frantic.

The ideologues are, to put it plainly, unhealthy – on the verge of insanity.  Their shrill proclamations are the voice of sickness, constant discontent, unhappiness – even anger at times.  People like Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren are visibly hectic and “on edge.”  Is this any way to peace?  No.

Shalom.

Tip of the Hat – A tip of the hat to Senators Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) for the gracious manner in which they conduct their public business.

It is a delight to see gentlemen in public life.  Bravo!  We are well served by men such as these.

 

 

 

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