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Dedicated to Buddy and My Childhood Friends – Great People and Great Friends

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 3:36

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Imagine if your life actually comes down to belief … and to performance based on belief, that it comes down to excellence in what you do, to virtue, and effort and sacrifice.

Yes, imagine life is a zero-sum game.  That if you fail to excel, fail to exert yourself – to try your very best to do things right, learn from mistakes, take responsibility for miscues, live honorably, befriend others, sacrifice when necessary, put others first, lead and encourage, learn your craft and do it well … imagine what eternity might be for you, if you fail to live as you optimally can. Imagine how unsatisfying your end days might be if you failed to enter the fray and give it what you had.

Imagine as a professed Christian what your burden may be if having professed belief in Christ as the Son of God you lived as it that was not so … as if your actions say “these are only words, but I do my own thing.”

U.S. Navy Seal Lief Babib writes in Extreme Leadership (a book he wrote with fellow Seal officer Jocko Willink) that “Seal training (and really, throughout a Seal’s career) very evolution was a competition – a race, a fight, a contest.”

You know I have often said that life in poverty, in public housing, with a Mom and no Dad or siblings, among tough hardcore people on the edge of survival was a state of combat – day after day with no margin of error.  I was, by the way, surrounded by friends in the same situation and they have been among the best people, strongest people and best friends I have had in my life … Brothers and Sisters to me, my family to this day.

Yes, necessity creates need for toughness and determination; and, whether people were consciously connected to this passage in the Gospel of John or not, these people lived a de facto zero sum game – gave life their very best, reached out to support and love one another, showed the courage to face life, accept its hardships and challenges and keep living as honorably as they could.

Now that is “seeing life” and experiencing the gift of life.  I contend that living life as it presents is in its very nature an act of faith, a life of courage. 

My friends are not snowflakes, weepers, cry-babies.  They do not look for government to do for them.  They do not seek handouts, make excuses, complain and whine.

They live and they laugh.  They raise good kids. Work hard.  Help others. Get up when they are knocked down. Learn from life, grow in it  – get wiser, gain understanding – excel as human beings.

They don’t need “selfies” to know who they are or remember where they have been. Celebrities hold no sway for them, but good people do.

They don’t count themselves “special.”  They are the polar opposite of Johnny Depp and Madonna.  They don’t need an audience and long ago realized entertainers are as jugglers – and jugglers come and go … while the best of us sustain to the end.

Shalom.

 

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.

Delight in smooth sounding platitudes, refusal to face unpleasant facts … the utter devotion of the Liberals to sentiment apart from reality … played a definite part in unleashing upon the world … horrors and miseries (World War II).

Winston S. Churchill, in The Gathering Storm

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Wars have their prelude, their component miscues and misadventures, their self-delusions and grand deceits.

One thinks of this now as many troubling signs emerge.

Russia is in Syria propping up a brutal regime, Iran pursues both nuclear weapons and expansion while supporting insurgents in foreign lands, North Korea strives for a nuclear arsenal and European countries seed authority to stateless Brussels bureaucrats while terrorists roam their homeland largely unabated.

In the United States, we enlarge the national debt, fatten the dependent population and the expand the expectations of citizens for more and more national benefits.

Some European nations are beginning to resume required national military service, yet attention turns to “global warming” as if nothing is more important. Fantasies absorb us.

In our once mature and sane representative democracy, college students require pampering and “protection” from free speech while some assault civility and those with whom they disagree.  On campus, hate is protected by cowardly administrators.

In the public square God is unwelcome while obesity looms and one wonders where the next “Greatest Generation” has gone.

As Churchill rightly notices, the antics of the Liberals pave a nasty road to a tragic destination.

Hard to dispute this today.  Indeed, we have lost touch with truth, and consequently, with reality.  But neither truth nor reality have lost touch with us.

At the foundation of moral thinking lie beliefs in statements the truth of which no further reason can be given.

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory

When immorality prevails, we have stopped believing … without belief, truth and reality are lost and the storm gathers.

Shalom.

Postscript – An “unfunny”* female “comic” thought it amusing to be photographed holding the “head” of President Donald Trump.  Darling …

It is, thank God, always the case that people “self-report” – tell you who they are. So with this woman we see the Left is quite comfortable with those who behead their enemies. Charming …

(* “unfunny” is a state of being whereby a person does not have a humorous impulse in their body … if you see these people coming, run quickly in the opposite direction … if you encountered them in a social setting, make yourself disappear as soon as possible)

Christianity is not a matter of opinion, but an external fact, entering into, carried out in, indivisible from, the history of the world.

John Henry Newman, in Difficulties of the Anglicans

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From the first Eucharist to now there has not been one hour in the history of the world that someone, somewhere has not been receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

I have recently been watching the recorded conversations between William Buckley and Malcolm Muggeridge, each Christian – each Catholic.  The conversations date back to the 1970’s and 1980’s.  They are fascinating.  They probe, in part, the dismissal of belief and of Christianity by many.  They lament its loss and deplore the consequences that result.

I, too, have been alarmed and actually surprised how many in the United States and in Europe can dismiss Christianity and pin their hopes on collectivism, socialism – two impulses, and schemes, that nowhere have shown success, or produced excellence of any sort.  Gulags, yes – they have done well to imprison their charge, produce totalitarian regimes and execute millions when it proved “necessary” in order for one man or small group to retain power.  But success, harmony and wellbeing it has not furthered.

I think we do not know and appreciate the gifts of Christianity.  Likewise, I think that when we dismiss Christianity, we cancel what is unique and humanizing in the history of the world, what orders reality to the Truth about humans, and human existence and excellence.

I give but one example and it comes from Plato.  Plato, whose thoughts are infused into Christianity, opined that one was not to look to the immediate and the everyday but rather to focus on the universal and the ultimate.  He shifted human focus to a larger spectrum.  In this, Plato shifted our view of reality to the soul where excellence and virtue resided.  He saw this as the way to the Supreme Soul that is God – the ultimate in excellence and virtue.

Plato also envision that God’s nature was oneness and goodness.  In this, human life was linked to morality and to divinity, to God.

Each of these propositions are housed in Christianity.  Yet, can you imagine how easily we come to dismiss Christianity (actually oppose it) without anyone posing competent inquiry to those who blithely deny Christianity and the existence of God?  This seems to me a scandal and a reflection of widespread ignorance and the abject failure of our educational system.  Indeed, better to have no schools given what they produce.

We are, it seems to me, reckless and ignorant at the present moment.

Today, one longs for an intelligent and fervent defense of Christ, Christianity, our heritage, and the existence of God … but in its place we talk of access to “potties” and fixate on trivia and sexual fetishes, government subsidizes and this or that bacchanal.

Having seen all my life the lunacy of institutions and those who are apt to command them, even I am amazed at what I now see as the disordered nonsense of most public conversation and politics.  Where, oh where, is there a hint of Plato or Newman???

Shalom.

Dear Friend’s Correction – My Dear (and very bright and truly lovely) Friend Carol commented that I may not (in the text) be correct in saying the Eucharist has been shared hourly somewhere since its inception.  She may be right.  (I am always willing to defer to smart people who are earnest and very nice – I’d be a fool to rely on my our limitations.)  FYI – in my comment in the text, I rely on a point made by Malcolm Muggeridge in his conversation with Bill Buckley on Firing Line – a comment that went unimpeached.  By regard for Carol and my assessment of my own limitations allow me to place Carol above Buckley and Muggeridge.  Tally ho!

The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth.

Joseph Campbell, in The Hero of a Thousand Faces

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We live so that we might grow in wisdom and understanding become fully human and in this come to know God and in that know both meaning and purpose.

Alas many opt for not growing.  They reside exclusively in their ego and stand on the smallest plot of life and land.  Without growth they are godless and utterly destructive of self and others.  They are a common bunch and the worse among them attack and diminish the mere thought of faith – particularly Christianity and, of course, the West and its Civilization.

We have many godless and dumb in our midst.  In their unchecked ignorance they attack what is time-tested and good.  Without morals, they know not good from evil.  We give them far too much attention.  When Believers are fewer in number, their voices soften when they should be the loudest and the strongest … for the ignorant threaten survival having long ago crippled civility.

We would be wise to anchor ourselves to Truth.

Recall if you will the end of Dante’s Paradiso when Bernard beckoned Dante look upward and Dante reports that he had already fixed his eyes on the lofty Light “in which Itself is true.”  Further, he notes that his vision was greater than speech … this Light “Different it is from all that are known … beyond the unknown as well.”

We are in decline.  We think we know more than we do.  Truth is: we have dumbed-down.  Most of what you hear is nonsense.  Many that you meet are disordered – to be avoided and when that is not possible we must correct, challenge, confront.

Few realize the coin we see has two sides: one our destruction, the other our rebirth. The mad crowd of the badly mistaken delivers the former, while the faithful few know rebirth … yet, who speaks loudest, whose voices multiply and go unchecked?

A faithful one speaks.  Silence is collaboration.

Shalom.

Observation – President Trump would be wise to worship regularly.  We need to see faith in play.  The divide we know how requires that his leadership be tethered to his faith, our faith – that indispensable place of faith in life, culture and governance.  Let the godless Left be clearly visible – make them carry their destructive and godless ways and see if the public at-large wishes to be housed in their small and unseaworthy boat.

Please share this post with others if you are so inclined.

(In) Adam’s fall … Man fell … into the multiplicity, complication and distraction of an active worldly existence … man’s mind is enslaved … with all that is exterior, transient, illusory, and trivial.  He is utterly exiled from God and from his own self. (Emphasis added.)

He … seek(s) God and happiness outside himself … his quest … becomes … a flight that takes him further and further away from reality. (Emphasis added.)

William Shannon, in Thomas Merton’s Dark Path

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William Shannon”s book explores contemplation and its role in Thomas Merton’s life.  In the above passage Shannon makes the point that Adam’s fall from grace was a departure from a contemplative disposition into the complications of worldly existence and the circumstances and condition which enslave us and our consciousness.  Yes, he contends that worldly existence, unlike Eden, take us away from God and our true self.

I cite this excerpt for the impact of his last statement: that we are in our exile taken further and further away from reality.

There is plenty of evidence today to support Shannon’s words.  Take for instance the daily reports of multiple parties being murdered somewhat randomly.  Or the random murders and assaults on police officers.  Or the opiate addictions that are widespread and growing – and the deaths they yield.  Or the unnecessary conflict generated between women and men and the division of “identity politics.” Or the stubborn and childish obstructionism of the sore-loser, shrinking Democrat Party. Or the focus on the tiny number of “transgendered” psychologically confused.  Or the pathetic behavior of faux federal District Court judges who write windy political opinions ripe for reversal on appeal.  Or the fascist Left which seeks to destroy free speech.  Or Planned Parenthood which expects large infusions of federal tax dollars to continue baby killing.  … further and further from reality is just about right.

The problem, of course, is that we have fallen, departed from our true self, sought happiness in all things exterior and futile.

Make no mistake even Church elders have joined the ranks of the fallen and misguided – in search of heaven on earth.  One rather hoped that their faith was stronger and, just perhaps, they were wiser.  But Pharisees are Pharisees, after all.

Today I live a quasi-monastic life.  I live in the quiet of the forest and the mountain.  In this I have no part of the herd of confused and under-developed crowd – each, unfortunately, seeking happiness in all things exterior, fleeting and now.

When others abandon their true self disorder takes reign and displeasure is their product, harm too – even murder, but surely division, chaos and foolishness.

Our loss is a spiritual loss – nothing else can explain the collapse of a culture such as we are seeing.  

Back to Eden, Friends.  There is no other option, nor path to be had if health, contentment and meaning is your desire.

Shalom.

Postscript – The vacuity of Barack O. and the corruption and apparent psychological disorder of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton ought to be sufficient to suggest we are collectively due for a rebirth and restoration.  Indeed, nothing comes to mind so quickly as this: we are in the First Century of Christianity once again.  Yes, calamity brings opportunity in our drama as the cycles reappear.  And to the point – even though the Left does not see nor understand this: Caesar in concentration (i.e., totalitarianism) is no cure nor way to freedom, prosperity or happiness. Nirvana is not earthly.

 

Wisdom is meaningless until your own experience has given it meaning … and there wisdom is the selection of wisdom.

Bergan Evans

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Many time people tell me that their brother, sister, mother, spouse does not seem to understand their plight in life.  The complaint I hear tells of the suffering and estrangement of being unable to experience a connection between those who you know well and for a long time and a person facing significant trials, angst, uncertainty, suffering and pain.

I always remind these people that one of the hardest things to do is to experience the experience of another.

Why is that?

Well, the primary reason is this: people do not examine their own experience in life fully.

Most people ignore the actual event of life.  They live what is easy, pleasant, necessary – but avoid the unpleasant things, challenges, the mystery of their own life and experience.  In that avoidance, one cannot take on another’s plight.  That being the case, two people who know one another – even reside with one another – cannot maintain an intimate connection with one another.  Sad and commonplace, but unnecessary.

The answer?  Live deeply, not on the surface.  Reflect on what is presented to you – whether good or bad, difficult or easy.

We are given a life so it may be fully lived, fully explored and experienced.  If you fall short, you reduce yourself and likely lapse into a smallness that leads to your own disorder … and your ability to befriend and love others, and to be compassionate is put out of reach.

It is easier to say you feel another’s pain, than it is to feel another’s pain.

Shalom.

Judaism is a theology of the common deed, of the trivialities of life, dealing not so much with the training for the exceptional as with the management of the trivial.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, in Man Is Not Alone

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Rabbi Heschel offers us a simple and powerful observation.  In what he says is this: he reminds us that our faith makes the small deeds of each day holy.  Yes, each breath is sacred.

This point of view gives us a divine and eternal contact in the simplest things – those things done quietly, things often unnoticed – taken for granted.

I see the implicit holiness of my grandchildren in their being itself.  Jack, at two years five months, and Fiona at six months.  She beams her smile instantly and often and looks at the world in wide-open eyes – seemingly happy with all she sees.  Jack bubbles with excitement and joy.  If you wish to see his cowboy boots or his green toy tractor or his Teddy Bear – he runs full speed to his room and back so he might share his belongings and himself with you.  Joyful Jack – full speed ahead.

Yes, we are designed to make the everyday holy.  You see it in children so very clearly. Let them remind us of our innate holiness so we might remind others of their sacredness.

In all things glorify God.  In the quiet of this certainty, life gains its meaning and its immutable, everlasting value.

Shalom.

Today’s Blog is Dedicated to Friend Bernie Klim – Zen Master and Catholic Brother – born March 29, 1930, died October 4, 2015.

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We touch with … our mindfulness …

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ

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Not being self, but just being … as in being one’s true, whole, undivided, divinely created being – either male or female (no alternatives or fabricated hybrids required).

How does one do this in the context of an errant, badly disordered, ideological and secularized, godless culture?  Answer: by simple and easy defiance.  And what, pray tell, is that?

We might learn from our Buddhists cousins.  And how?  By thinking of, and practicing, mindfulness.   That is: by separating yourself from the swell and noise of contemporary secular culture which divides you from your whole being, divides and distracts you, makes you but a fragment of who you are fully made to be.

In Buddhism mindfulness is the focus on each particular moment – that is the practice of being attentive to each moment and one’s life in it.  It is the attention to the immediate and a disgorging of the temptation to forfeit the now to tomorrow or yesterday.

In mindfulness one lives deeply in the instant – united to the present.  The fruits of this attentiveness are understanding, love, gratitude, contentment, peace, unity with others and access to eternity.  Yes, in mindfulness one exceeds mortality within a mortal moment.

In mindfulness one’s wounds are healed and tranquility, wholeness and stability is restored.

For the Christian mindfulness comes to the woman who touched Jesus cloak and was healed.

She, in one divine moment, made contact with divine reality … and in this: deepest of experience, understanding and unconquerable love.  In one attentive moment of focus she experienced Truth and was healed, restored, saved, made whole.

This is mindfulness – a dimension that knows no state control – a liberation that frees one to live beyond the prisons of the godless who govern and attempt to control.

Christ and Buddha show us a quiet liberation and its divine freedom.

Be, simply be.

Shalom.

 

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