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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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Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941: Remember, Be Vigilant

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History shows that the vital collaborationofreligionandculture has been the normal condition of human society from the beginning.  (Emphasis added.)

We have a secularized scientific world culture which is a body without a soul; while on the one hand religion maintains its separate existence as a spirit without a body. (Emphasis added.)

Christopher Dawson, in Religion and Culture

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The fundamental problem with America today is the estrangement of religion from contemporary secularized culture.  Yes, the vital nexus is broken – and all sorts of disorder flows from this severance.  

When the nexus is severed the culture is without a soul.  Manifestations of this severance run from the altar to the state house, from the person to politics, from family to the workplace, from the school house and university to daily mass media and what passes now as “entertainment.”

Life without a soul is high risk.  Yes, such a life can be deadly when it is not just confused, sad, anxious, sick and injurious.

How can one describe the brokenness of a soulless culture?

Recall the 1966 novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys.  In it the lead character is Charlie Gordon, a simple and sweet man of limited IQ who wishes only to be liked.

When Charlie is given the opportunity to take part in an experimental procedure that might heighten his intellect, he eagerly takes the opportunity thinking that the key to happiness is a higher intelligence that will bring him more friends.  

The process is a “success” and Charlie’s IQ rises from 68 to 185!  However with his increased intellect he sees more and suffers more – unable to understand what he encounters, the prior cruelty imposed on him by others, the shame he has brought his family and such.  Yes, in intellect alone he suffers more – suffers intolerably.

Note: the mind is not the human heart.  And culture without faith is not pleasant, indeed far from pleasant. 

This is precisely the point that Christopher Dawson makes and it is where we are today.  And make no mistake without religion we are no better off than Charlie who, with a high IQ, cannot make sense of the world he now recognizes as it actually is.

You wonder why we are in the spot we are in?  We lack the context of religious narrative in which to comprehend life and find purpose, meaning and contentment in it.

A soulless culture is punishing to those without faith.

Restore the nexus … or peace will be lost to you.

Shalom.

 

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

A lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

Attributed to Mark Twain

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Like others, I was not too keen on President Trump’s daily tweeting.   Many who take an exception to these tweets focus on Donald Trump the person and voice concern that tweeting is “not presidential,” that his tweets make him look “narcissistic.”

Yet, rather than focus on Mr. Trump think about his election itself and what it tells you about the state of our culture and our politics.

Donald Trump beat a wide range of Republican contenders to win the nomination and beat a well-known an established political figure in the general election.

As to his Republican challengers: he beat the Bush family candidate, Senators, a former CEO, a noted and accomplished surgeon, the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin and others.  In doing so he ran a Populist campaign that spoke to the middle class and attracted disaffected middle class Democrats.  He attracted Catholics and Evangelicals.

As to the general election he beat the candidate of the Left, the media, the academy, the feminists, the unions, the inside-Washington crowd, the homosexual cabal, Hollywood, the entertainment industry, the abortionists, anarchists, atheists, major newspapers, race-conscious advocates, the tech industry billionaires, Washington lobbyists and the entrenched Democrats in the massive federal bureaucracy, and the professional pols in both the Republican and Democrat Parties.

Think about it.  His election tells you something about America today.  It surely says – discontent is brewing.  Indeed, the divisions generated by the “identity politics” of the Left have succeeded and widening the divide between people in this country.  That division creates two groups: the elites/insiders and the rest of us.

This is where tweets come in.

Donald Trump’s tweets are a remarkably able and inexpensive way to offset the daily “news” and “commentary” owned by the array of Leftist and others mentioned above.

His tweets are strategic and very effective – they are the truth putting on its shoes before the lie can take flight.

Like it or not, it is a brilliant stroke employed by an outsider and underdog and the “basket of deplorables” dig it big time.

Indeed, it makes one ask – are we seeing the Left being exposed to light, and becoming unglued in the process?  If we are, one might see a swing back to the middle and normalcy – and the demise of the Democrat Left and all their noisy radical cohorts.

Be careful not to fixate on one aspect of a very interesting picture.  There is always more to unusual events than merely one factor.

Shalom.

Postscript – If you wonder how faith relates to the above – remember faith plays out in the context of culture as it is composed at any point in time and as it evolves and devolves over time.  That is surely reflected in the history of Christianity.  It is no less so today and seeing things like the use of tweets as a means of communication are part of our present composition.

 

I awake to the sun almost above the mountains and the voices of those singing Gregorian chants for Advent.  I am content.  I am close to loved ones.  I have grandchildren whose very life tells of God and what is good, eternally good.  I have enough life in my past to know that I am blessed to have come this far and had so many gifts presented to me.  So many memories, so clear that I can relive them – see them once again.

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“The only ultimate reality is God.  God lives and dwells in us.  We are not justified by any action of our own, but we are called by the voice of God … 

Thomas Merton

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These are the words of Monk Thomas Merton speaking in Calcutta in 1968, months before his death.

Who among you recognizes that God is the ultimate reality?  That He dwells in us?  That we are called to existence by the voice of God?

Look about.  How many so foolishly believe that their action justify them – make them someone – when it reality they are already someone.

If there is one most alarming thing I see today it is godlessness and the advocacy of those who show no humility, no reverence.  Rather, with a smidge of “education” which does little more that indoctrinate the dull to mindless Marxism, these loud ones of the Left parrot their superficial mantras and foist their views on others.

So much for the once esteemed universities and colleges.

Dear George Carlin was right “Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”

What to do?  The road is clear, visible, here in front of us and it is presented in a most timely manner.  Turn the godless Leftists in all their iterations away.  They are the few.  We are the many.  We have quite enough of “unbelief.”  It has done sufficient damage to warrant dismissal.

Here in Washington, D.C. the public transit system will not allow the Catholic Archdiocese to purchase advertising space to offer Christmas greetings to transit riders.

Shall we be Moscow?  Or Havana?  Or North Korea?  Or shall we be the United States?

Is enough, not enough?

Shalom.

Another Dullard – Joy Reid, a CNN personality, offered this gem recently: rural Americans are destroying democracy.

Ms. Reid has her B.A. in film-making from Harvard.  (Whoop-dee-do!)  From film-making to demographer/political philosopher/constitutional scholar!  Shazzam!!!  No humility visible there.  Wait ’til the people in Iowa and rural Maine learn that they are destroying American democracy.  Won’t they be surprised.

Memo to Ms. Reid: A B.A. from Harvard is just about as good as a high school diploma.

The Left Takes Another Torpedo Hit – Matt Lauer of NBC has been fired because of his sexual conduct in the workplace.  It seems that sexual miscreants end up as Democrats in the Congress or as self-righteous Lefties in the media and Hollywood.  Who would have thunk it!?#!???  Democrat.  What a bunch they are!

The object of contemplation is the whole of human reality, which, subjected to perpetual necessities of love and death, is not subjected, however, to the right of perpetual recurrence.

Czeslaw Milosz

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I wonder why people listen to me.  Perhaps it is because I think about the world, human experience in our shared point in time and cumulative history.

That is to say I have made a habit of taking experience in, wondering about what I see, felt, observed and what others encountered and how life speaks to them.

Yes, I spend time in contemplation – hence time with history, incident, my heart and soul, the individual and the aggregate, religious narrative, psychology, story, good writers, others, being alone, in the quiet, listening, in my faith, with my Self, in prayer, consciously with God.

In all of this I think: what do I see?  What is happening?  What registers on the faces, in the actions and in the hearts of others?  What gives authentic joy – makes one blissful … and brings us to sorrow?  What evidence is there of love and its absence?  Contentment and dis-ease?  Stability and disorder?  Tenderness and hostility?  Truth and its opposite?

I have been like this all my life – since a small child … because life presented incidents that questioned my existence, as loved ones died early – and far too often.

Contemplation gave some depth and range – immersed me in life’s events and living itself.  Yes, gave me immersion and perspective that regularly produced laughter and tears, grew understanding and the ability to diminish fear and shrink death to something manageable.

In thinking about life my voice had words that others received.  People actually listened to me and often laughed a legitimate laughter of joy at something I said – as the product of my experience and contemplation.

I was once a child, then young – full of strength enough to collide with life and history’s moments.  In age my heart has grown, laughter multiplied, friends became plentiful, gratitude ever present, love lives inside and leaps between me and others.

In a contemplative life there is neither regret nor blackened heart, eternity is real and close at hand.  Oddly, people listen – receive me and my words.

Shalom.

Whacked-Out.  Want to see how lost we are?  Look at the boorish behavior of the political elites and entertainment “celebrities,” and female teachers engaging sexually with their under-aged students.

Is this not evidence enough that the “sexual revolution” has worn itself out?

No more pampering of the boorish louts and misguided under-developed – children still when well past thirty.  Enough of them and their childish disposition, action and ideas.  They only succeed in making life more chaotic.

Back to normative behavior, people!

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

Shalom.

 

When it comes to faith, “The heart has reasons that reason does not know,” Pascal says.  Those reasons … can become known to the mind … and insight and understanding is what happens when reasons of the heart are known to the mind.

John S. Dunne, in The Circle Dance of Time

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So begins John Dunne’s concise recitation of the human’s natural drive to find life’s meaning.  Yes, the human being has a natural spiritual drive to find beyond the limits of the mind and reason the transcendent nature of this life and the next.

Our present age prompts me to ask: have we diminished this natural quest?  Are we further from fulfillment of our human promise?  Are we less than we are made to be?  Are our addictions, homicides, suicides, broken marriages and disordered lives, mistreatment of unborn children, fractured families, sexual assaults and gross sexual disorientations not an indication that we are less than whole humans in a culture that is far less than well?

Recently Sean Parker, the former President of Facebook, talked publically about how he and others who initially developed Facebook knew that they were developing a product which would be “addictive” to its users – especially to children who used it.  Indeed, we see now suicides among its teens users, use of Facebook to “bully” and attack and exile others.  And, no one held to account for the damage caused, lives lost.

Aside for asking us to what degree is technology harmful as it is presently developed and used … yet, another question emerges and it is this:  Have we lost the capacity to know the reasons of the heart that exceed reason and the mind?  Could we even understand John Dunne or Pascal?

Asking these two questions asks this: do we know the endless stories recorded throughout human history which illuminate the meaning and purpose of this life and beyond?  Do we understand who man is?  Who woman is?  Who the child is?  What a marriage is?  What a family is?  What a community is?  Honor?  Virtue?  Fellowship?  Courage?  Selfless sacrifice is?  Do we experience The Divine?  Imagine eternal existence?

Once we did.  Now one wonders if anyone understands that there is a relationship between Buddha’s victory over the Bo Tree and his consequential view of transcendent reality?  Understand Dante’s vision of the Triune God in the Celestial Rose?  Or know of the foretelling of Christ’s crucifixion in the ancient German story of the pagan Othin who hung on a tree and in this penetrated darkness?

My point?  This: have we lost our way to the reasons of the heart? 

Does a nation of addictive tweeters lose God and in losing God lose the substance of Self … become reduced to mere mortal adjuncts to small machines which capture us and dull life, and impair much of what is human and hence transcendent?

Think about this.  Don’t go gently into that costly dark night.

Shalom.

Postscript – Many among us state this view: technology makes life more complicated not less so.  The machines load more and more functions onto smaller and smaller platforms sold at higher and higher prices.  A phone for $1000.00 dollars.  Progress?  I think not.

I have come to two firm observations.  One, just as the computer did NOT deliver a “paperless” office, technology has not made life easier – rather it has captured the human being and stole his and her time.  Two, life in the country among the cows beats being captured by machines … and it ain’t even close.

The object of life is surely not to have others take your time from you.

 

Margaret adored her father, but (he) moved (out-of-state) when Margaret and her sister were small and started a second family.  Margaret recalled she rarely saw her father again … Margaret knew little of her mother …

Excerpt from a Funeral Program (Nov. 5, 2017)

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I spoke at a Memorial Service for a woman I knew who died recently at age 97.  She was a petite and pretty lady.  I knew her, her husband (who predeceased her), her two daughters and members of her extended family.

Margaret kept a nice home in a nice neighborhood, married an engineer who was successful.  She was cordial to me and others.  She had a social life, sang in a Church choir, worked at an herb shop, won awards for floral decoration, did some painting, belonged to the Women’s Club – always looked nice.

Seems like an exemplary life, a good and comfortable life.  Yet, she carried in her entire life the deep injury of loss of her mother and her father.  She was, in practical effect, abandoned – betrayed by her father and her mother at the very young age of two – sent to live with her grandmother in a crowded home where she was largely forgotten – but for her use as a servant girl.

The critical loss of one’s parents is devastating, disorienting – it left in Margaret a longing to be cared for, accepted, loved as a child is loved by her mother or her father.

Psychologist tell us to have a relatively normal and healthy life a child needs one “good enough parent.”  Margaret had no such parent.

This loss was a constant in her life; she always needed others to do for her.  This was her pathology.

No sooner had I met Margaret that she called to ask me if I might drive her car less than two blocks from her home to fill her automobile with gas.  Without hesitation I said, “No, Margaret – but you have a nice day.”   You see I knew from her daughter that she inevitably tried to usurp others into serving her in all manner of things, at any time – day or night – once compromised more and more expectations were placed on you,  yet nothing but the love of God could fill her void … only those who offered this love could assuage her hurt.  For her part she had to seek God, not the perpetual dependence on others as a source of affirmation.

We fail miserably when the government pursues policies that strip fathers from the family and leave women idle and alone to raise children by themselves.  Yet, that is the policy of the government and the Left.  Yes, we insure dependents and the illness it manifests so readily in the human person.  As for the Black family and poor Whites – government policy enslaves them and generates inter-generational disorder.  This need not be.

It is about time we acknowledged the devastating injury to the family caused by the government, Leftist champions of the Nanny State, and advanced by the law, legislators, the judiciary, a sundry “talking heads,” lightweight celebrities and media types, and odd ball academics.  Let’s be plain – villages do not raise a family – parents do!

Getting families right is a fundamental measure of the health and strength of a society.  Getting them wrong creates lasting injury and disorder and is astonishingly costly in human and monetary terms.  Failing families weaken a nation and make all easy prey.

The truth of the matter is this: that government which governs least governs best … because people prosper when they face their individual responsibilities and grow in experience, faith, maturity, confidence, pride and wisdom as a result.

We ought to be ashamed of what we foster – of the broken families we create.

Shalom.

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.

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