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Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.

Cormac McCarthy, in All the Pretty Horses

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I’ve never been a “wisher.”  The life seemed so much more demanding than something that allowed for wishing.

You know, stuff hits you right in the face.  It happens early and it happens quickly and repeatedly on the right and wrong side of the tracks.  Me? I didn’t have the budget for wishing.  God had another agenda for me.  Hard reality. Wounding reality.  A strange way to love me, but love for sure, for hard things brought me to the experience of the battle and the gift of prayer.

Yes, prayer.  Not desperate prayer.  Not urgency.  No – but prayer of closeness, prayer of real relationship as in: “Okay, God – I see what’s here, walk me through this – you lead and I’ll follow You.”  Man, troubles are gifts.  They are the everyday sacred space between “the wish and the thing” where the “world lies waiting.”

Never fear to live.  Doing so is a common mistake.  Most people hunker down, cower, reach for a place to hide – in ego, in control, avoidance, fantasy, status, power, wealth, food, alcohol, drugs, sex, possessions.  Truth is they avoid the world that lies waiting.  They construct barricades against life.  Opt for pretending.

Listen carefully.  Most people who speak never pass the “I’ve lived” test.  Those who have hidden have nothing to tell you.  That said, your ear will hear the pitch of the ones who speak out of the pain they have lived – they are to be comforted and they can share their experience of living in a world that lies waiting.  

Life is to be lived.  Get after it.  Don’t hide.  Live.

Shalom.

The claim of equality … is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior … he suspects … mere difference of being a claim to superiority.

C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

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We talk a great deal about “equality” – but like most things common to mass secularized culture – it is often invoked but rarely examined.  The presumption that we understand its meaning is simply accepted.  The likelihood that it may do damage is not contemplated nor examined.

The above are the words of Satan (Screwtape) as spoken to his nephew.

As Satan describes in this discourse – he places a lie at the center of human existence so that each may be divided from another and a perpetual division and conflict may ensue. Yes, the idea of equality was for Old Screwtape a device intended to create discord.

In present day American it seems that he has succeeded.

Think about the endless claims for equality that are raised by those with all sorts of injuries, disadvantages, personal fetishes and preferences.  All who match under the “equality” banner … divide the population and put community and family at odds.

Think about it, if one is treated adversely would not one who believed in what God created in him or her – not proceed to prove their worth?  Now people are too willing to accept their “inferiority” and in contrast impede their ability to excel, achieve.

Had I, a fatherless child, living in poverty believed that I would have been immobilized.

In contrast, I never assumed my inferiority nor thought I could not manage to succeed. In consequence (with but modest skills) I pursued goals, gained experience, kept an open heart and a healthy disposition and moved down the line handicaps and all.

Equality.  Think about it.  Have you noticed that those who counsel this thinking always seem to spare themselves from the greater mass – choosing to live far more privileged lives than the ones they deem to suffer from inequality?

Yes, such things speak to gimmick not sacred cause.  Screwtape smiles.

Shalom.

Funny.  Wouldn’t it be funny if old Bean Pole Mueller succeeded in driving Donald Trump from office only to have Trump run in 2020 and win the presidency again.

Having grown up with Boston’s Winter Hill Gang, I’ve seen revenge – a meal so delicious when served cold.  Those boys didn’t get you with the corrupted organs of the state, they were more direct.

One guy throws rocks from behind a curtain and another looks right at you and whacks you.  I detect a substantive difference.  I suspect crime novelist George V. Higgins would too.  Gimme the old days and the old ways.  We accounted for Screwtape then.  Not so much now.

Keep your head up and your eyes on God.

 

 

 

Jail is preferable.  There they only limited you physically.  In a mental ward they tampered with your soul and worldview and mind.

John Kennedy Toole, in Confederacy of Dunces

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Well this is precisely the challenge today.  A challenge, however, with a twist. Now the mentally ill are the wardens of the asylum and their souls have long since been lost to use. Think “The Honorable” Maxine Watters, Member of Congress, and her colleagues or any number of entertainment celebrities who speak as if they are sane and stable. Think even of the Federal Judiciary and many others masquerading as “authority figures” in the bureaucracy, educational institutions, in the media – you know, the Ivy-“educated” without a whit of life experience, humility or common sense.

Now the government and those with public visibility in mass culture expand the asylum’s walls and the common citizens are imposed upon, deprived access to their soul, made sick by those who are indeed the sick ones.  So many examples.  Daily examples. For instance, Teen Vogue magazine has an article intended to serve as a guide to anal sex. Yes, no joke here.  Yes, the depraved, godless Left has done its best to dismantle what was once a relatively sane, faithful culture where freedom was cherished, God welcomed and courage and honor quite common.

In the present age the question soon enough is this: how do you retain sanity and soul when put upon by the insane and soulless?

This was, of course, John Kennedy Toole’s underlying question.

If asked this question as to how to retain sanity and soul, I would say: simply be.

I would add from my experience these suggestions: live in the private citadel of faith, attend to metaphysics, be moral, pick your company very carefully, avoid cities, the masses, popular culture and most regulations, live modestly, keep good counsel, pursue a simple life, blow up the T.V., beware of technology and “social networks” – use them sparingly or not at all, read good things – books that give you depth, insight, greater self-understanding and a feel for history, neglect neither your psyche nor your soul, listen to classical music – Yehudi Menuhin’s violin for example, cherish nature and silence, learn to live in solitude, read about what was once our great and honorable nation, dig into art, try writing in a journal – wonderful to summon up the best within your while defining the sickness that surrounds you, exercise, eat wisely, stay close to beauty – bask in it for it is a divine reality, don’t give heed to talking heads, pray that humility grows in you, ignore most contemporary figures – they know far less than all that you have forgotten in a lifetime about 50 years longer than they have been alive, keep skepticism handy, stay close to God, know absurdity when you sense it and pass its plate to others without tasting – give time and warning to only those you know to have common sense and a quest for the good that is Divine.

Let no one tamper with your soul.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked … his delight is in the law of the Lord … the Lord knows the way of the righteous.  But the way of the wicked will perish. (Emphasis added.)

Prov 1: 1, 2, 6

Shalom.

Note: When you watch the political opposition to Donald Trump do not miss this: those in the political establishment (Republican and Democrat) do not wish Mr. Trump to succeed because they like the landscape and their privileged “insider” status “just fine, thank you.”

Yes, understand that their opposition to Donald Trump is opposition to all those who voted for him and the views that they hold.

Truth of the matter is that this is a low grade civil war – on one side the “insiders” who think of themselves as better than the common person (a/k/a those “basket of deplorables”) and on the other side – about one half of the voting public – just regular tax-paying Joes and Marys.  Interesting moment in America’s history.

… the ‘natural’ hierarchy of species no longer applies.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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Franaszek is describing the world seen by the narrator in Czeslaw Milosz’s poem A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto.  In the poem Milosz is writing about the liquidation of the inhabitants in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis in May 1943.

Yes, we have known a condition in which “the ‘natural’ hierarchy of the species no longer applies.”  You could say we are in such a time, or on its cusp.

I think of the Middle East and Syria, of ISIS, the destruction caused by the ill-conceived “Arab Spring,” terrorism exported to the West, the dismemberment of Venezuela, the eradication of national boundaries and nationhood itself, North Korea, and the exile of faith, religion and God in secular culture.  But I also think of the hyper-political hostility here on our shores: among the Left, the media, the press, and various leftist groups and special pleaders none of whom seem versed in history and its wise lessons.

Natural hierarchies collapse when metaphysical inquiry is lost for when it is lost so too is morality, and meaning, and virtue, and value, wisdom and compassion, community – indeed, humanity itself.

Sadly we face this on other shores and within this country.  It is most present in what now presents as the Democrat Party, the media, academia and popular mass culture.

You can see in today, the world that Milosz saw and experienced along with Koestler, Orwell, T.S. Eliot, Beckett, Solzhenitsyn and others.

A world without metaphysics is a world with but one leafless tree.

Shalom.

 

Bravo!  President Trump in his Speech in Poland raised this critical issue: The West and America are unique and worthy of respect and existence.  The issue is now will the Left and the Marxists be seen for their errors, mistakes and godlessness and will they repent?  

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… philosophers of the Enlightenment sought to use reason alone to establish a new basis for political and social life, one that was separated from the past.  They tried to create a secular morality that any reasonable person could understand and affirm … they extolled the freely choosing individual. (Emphasis added.)

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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In his book Simply Sane, psychiatrist Gerald May, M.D. tells the story of a heroin addict whose addiction was tied to the frustration he experienced when that he was not as “responsible” as he expected he ought to me.  That is to say, each of life’s frustrations promoted him to seek a way to feel powerful and full, whole and strong.  His route to the experience of autonomy was heroin.  For others, of course, it is alcohol.  For others sex.  Still for others, make-believe – or consumption, or prescription medication, or status, or the stage, showing-off, or wealth … yes, even violence, spousal or child abuse.

So much for the Enlightenment and the notion of the individual’s power, wisdom, discipline – his or her ability to cope with their own poor choices and a world full of others who get to “freely choose” … only to enhance the odds of calamity and disappointment in each individual life.

In Chicago last weekend,  some of those “the freely choosing individuals” managed to “freely choose” to shoot 100 other “free choosers.”

Look around you.  Is it not possible that we have over-estimated people’s capacity for all this self-acclaiming navigation?

Think, Bill Cosby.  He was a “Free Chooser.”  Think about abortion mills, lot of “free choosing” going on there.  How about the federal “genius” who attempted to “rescue” children from a religious cult in Waco, Texas, and managed to burn to death scores of those same children while getting several federal agents killed as well.  Another “free chooser.”  Nitwits beyond imagination.

Don’t you think we have demonstrated the obvious limits of the human person? Are we not worse off for having ushered God out of the spotlight in favor of “freely choosing individual?”

Look about in politics, lots of delusional “free choosers” there?  No shortage of calamity. No a surplus of humble (hence wise and less dangerous) good old people – each skeptical of the omnipotence the Enlightenment (we might call it the “Stupid-ment”) ascribed willing-nilly to the imperfect human being.  Ya, that heroin addict might have been sober and content to expect less of himself and others.  It is, afterall, hard enough just being … just being a human being.

It always strikes me as real idiocy that we do not understand the wisdom and power of humility.  I often gag when I hear the graduation speaker or college prof tell the audience” “go and change the world!” Balderdash.  Wisdom would say: be skeptical of your alleged genius, focus on doing no harm – cherish established wisdom and the traditions which house it.

Shalom.

By the Way: Memo to the Enlightenment Wizards – We now know from brain studies that reason has nothing to do with moral development or initiating moral choice, rather these matters are instinctive.  Yes, the human person is designed to seek good and reason only fortifies the instinct or justifies the errant decision to override what is instinctive. “Freely choosing individual” … my Aunt’s banana!!!

The loss of the Christian religion is why the West has been fragmented for some time now, a process that is accelerating … (we are) stripped of ancestral faith.

Rod Dreher, in The Benedict Option

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What in particular has been lost?

To answer this question is to chart a course back to health and stability, joy, meaning and purpose, resolve, determination, responsibility, identity, intimacy, strength and courage.

So what is the answer?  Well here is part of it.  We once identified God with Creation – with our beginning, our origin, and this nexus of God and Creation placed God in the present moment of each day.  Having disconnected God from Creation, we are lost.

Lost, we are without stability, comprehension, understanding, hope and certainty.  We lack vitality.  We have nothing to fight for or to defend.

In our present state, our capacity for belief and the ability to have a full human experience are absent.  Yes, some among us have become like the Zombies in the Walking Dead – mindless, soulless stumble bums.

Losing the presence of God, nothing is sacred – when once all was sacred.

Having lost sacramental consciousness, the Spirit suffers – we are less than we have been created to be … more uncertain, anxious, frightened, confused.  We have been hollowed out.

Our medieval ancestors had it so much easier.  Imagine that.  They saw God in all things, revealing Himself through people and events, in places and things.  In contrast, we live starved of full human experience, and the experience of the Divine.  A pathetic and tragic disposition.  Those “with less” had so much more.

Think about it.  Without God we lose humility – sit and stand alone – dependent on self; this a desperate state given too frequently to addictions, suicides, violence, desolation, hopelessness – crushed by the burden of life without God, without belief.  In our midst stand sad clowns and crazies, and those in a stunned stupor – flat, nonsensical, troubled, unpredictable, explosive.

So what might one do?

St. Benedict reacted to the corruption and chaos produced by the fall of Rome by removing himself from the destruction and concentrating on his faith life, on Christ, prayer, living a modest, careful and caring life.  He dedicated himself to living his faith daily and in all things.

You can do the same and you need not flee to the desert or take a place in a cave.  No, you can “hunkered down” in place.  Make space between the confused and you, between you and Christ and those lost to belief.

The times call for a Benedictine presence.  Your witness can save others and sustain Christianity just as St. Benedict did.  Fear not.  This, too, shall pass.

Shalom.

 

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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.

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