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… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

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‘Tis raining – and cool.  A steady shower.  The wind persists and the fields are all green.  In the cottage The Chieftains join the Belfast Harp Orchestra.  The music matches the rain and the heart is happy and the soul is at rest.  Peace be with Ye.

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… if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be?”

Mt 6:23

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From today’s Gospel reading.  Light and darkness.

One of the present challenges today, given the harsh political language and the enormity of communication devices in our culture, is the question posed in the Gospel of Matthew in these words of Jesus – does the darkness live in you or the light?

By what words do you speak?  Is there a lightness to your voice?  Can you reassure in faith?  Do the words you hear change who you are or wish to be?  Being made an enemy, do you make others an enemy in return?

Given access to light eternal, do you elect darkness?

Lord, let me see the Light that it might live in me.  That I may shun the darkness and turn my heart to Light.  When darkness gathers, may I be Light.

Shalom.

Prayer Request – Political commentator Charles Krauthammer, M.D., passed away yesterday at age 68.  He leaves behind his words of wisdom, his friends of whom there are many, his colleagues, and his wife and adult son and extended family members.

May we pray for the consolation of his family, friends and colleagues and give thanks for his life, his work, his friendship, kind presence, his humor and his shared insights.

In a good life, death’s sting does not overcome the good that has been done.  In this, we celebrate and give thanks for a good life and a good man.

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline to the religion of solitude.

Aldous Huxley

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It will be 90 degrees again here to today.  In the mountains a breeze persists.  The pastures are green and bathed in sun to make them softer to the eye.

I listen to a CD entitled “Celtic Landscapes” – recordings from nature in Ireland and Scotland.

Last night I saw a Mama bear and her two small cubs.  They were given the order by Mama to take to the trees.  They did.  The little spuds hung one above the other on thin branches near the tree trunk.  No one moves unless Mama says so.

I hung my Scottish flag on the garage this morning then ate homemade raisin rumcake with a cup of dark roast.  All is good on the ridge.

I love the solitude.  The more disorder in mass culture, the better the silence and solitary life in nature.

A thunder storm erupts on the CD.  We shall have our’s this afternoon.

All the flowers are watered and trimmed.  The roses have a good number of blossoms ready to bloom.  The grass is cut.  The St. Andrew’s Cross flies free.

You see there are things that give comfort.  They are near.  They settle the soul and create space between disorder and peace of heart and the quiet of the soul.

Know this: mass culture is sick and it breeds discontent.  It takes its price from you.

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.

That millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make  people sane.

Erich Fromm, in The Sane Society

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It is a little ironic for me to utilize the words of a Left-leaning secular humanist like Fromm but – assuming his words have merit, accuracy and hence a quality of timelessness such that they can be invoked in any era – it seems to me they offer an opportunity for today.

The opportunity?  The opportunity to ask of ourselves in the West and in the United States if some of our prominent ideas and their political advocacy conveys what is ill or what is well.

I think of abortion.  I think of children born to women who are not married.  I think of the collectivist nature of liberal orthodoxy, “borderless” borders, the application of equality that seems to shun individual responsibility and the recognition that people are of vastly different capabilities and drives, a disdain for police officers, a dismissal of religion, the reverence afforded the celebrity – the people in visual media, in the press … and such.  The list could go on.

On many fronts, it is reasonable to ask – Are these common acclamations contributing to sanity or insanity?  Do we look like a healthy or ill society?  Have we put the propositions of the Left to this test?  Fromm himself would ask this.  One wonders why we do not.

Yet for example, that a bundle of people think that there are endless numbers of “genders” neither makes it so, nor makes it sane.

My point is Fromm’s point – a collection of people saying or doing the same thing makes what is said or done neither true nor healthy, per se.  Time to put advocacy and ideology to the test.  Good for us?  Healthy?  Destructive?  Foolish?  Sane?

One wrong idea can make a whole people sick.  Destroy harmony and community, a nation, even.

And the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him and healed them.

Lk 6:19

Yes, it is virtue that is the measure.  Life seeks the advancement of virtue and the health and fulfillment of the whole person.

Shalom.

You wake up in this here world, my sweet li’l mister, you got to wake up tough.  You go out that front door tough for a morning’ and you stay tough ’til lights out.

Daniell Woodrell, in The Death of Sweet Mister

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You wanna’ know how Trump worked the North Korea deal?  Toughness.  Toughness in language.  Toughness in the New York City real estate business.  Toughness in his Queens childhood.  Toughness in the streets.

You don’t get toughness in the privileged class.  They value the soft life where nobody starves and nobody gets killed.

Expecting the privileged to wrestle a guy loose from his missles is expectation misplaced.  Yale and Harvard Law ain’t the the bloody streets.  Ain’t fist fights and flying F-U’s.  They don’t teach toughness there.  Those guys ain’t missing any teeth.

Think about it – that last crew in the WH had to pay Iran billions and never derailed ’em from their nuclear dreams.  The privileged think one pays for peace … Ya right!  Those are the kids that pay the school yard bully not to hit them.  Pathetic.  Paying a bully says: “fear,” “weakness,” “push-over” – breeds their disrespect of you – – – makes it all the more dangerous a place to be alive.

Lesson No. 1 – don’t expect the privileged to fight for you.  ‘Taint never happening.  Never.  Too soft, too much to lose.  The status quo keeps them on top as the danger grows.  Now you know why globalism is globalism.

The last WH crew didn’t never have a fight.  Didn’t never face down the Murphy Twins who loved to go at you two on one for no particular reason.  The last crew didn’t live a street war between the McLaughlins and the guys in your neighborhood.  The last crew didn’t live in “public housing” with its asphalt and treelessness.

When you think about toughness – you realize too many here are too soft.  You realize that there is a basic fault line between the guy in the street, people living in small towns where the factory closed and the money left – and the folks in Washington – those in authority and in the permanent bureaucracy … that difference: tough versus soft.

In the world as it is and always has been – you’d better be tough or you get your lunch eaten and your money taken.

Shalom.

I do not need to see myself, I merely need to be myself.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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We are a very visual culture.  “Selfies” are likely the clearest/sickest evidence of this.  Pornography adds to this point, as does addiction to computer use and computer games – and children “texting” naked pictures of themselves to one another.

Merton asks why we are so anxious to see ourselves?  His answer – we “do not fully believe in (our) own existence.”  Merton furthers this by saying not believing in one’s self is the result of not believing in God.  His point: you cannot just be if you do not believe?

Fair point – good point.

Merton’s view is as good as any I have encountered.  Useful.  Current.  Significant.  Valuable. Important to each of us.

Have you ever asked yourself – “Why selfies?”  Or this – “Would there be a celebrity culture without a hyper-visual culture?”

As Merton says above – just be.   

You do not need to see yourself to be yourself.

Shalom.

Note on Celebrity Culture in a Hyper-Visual Society – Last night talented actor Robert DiNero offered a profanity-laced lecture about politics and his opionions about same to a captive audiece and the public at-large.  Think about it.  Mr. DiNero barely graduated from high school but by being merely a “Big Screen” Hollywood actor he gets to pepper us with his pedestrian views as if he is “expert” on these matters.

In our visual culture, we now see public policy lectures from the folks who once comprised the drama geeks in your high school experience.  Good bye Washington, Adams, Lincoln & Co.  We’ll listen to the celebrites for our insight.

 

Why does anyone tell a story?  It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.  (Emphasis added.)

Madeleine L’Engle

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So says author Madeleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time and so many other wonderful works).

Yes, life has meaning.  Yes, life has meaning for each of us – from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the ill.  Each of us live a life of meaning … and we are not called into life willy-nilly – without purpose or sanctity.  We are holy beings – everyone.

Finding meaning is the issue.  Finding meaning and experiencing the intimate and amazing reality that we (each one) has a reason for being and for living a full life – beginning to end.

Where to find meaning?  One place in story.  In the written and oral stories of the human being throughout history – in our mortal and eternal existence.

Story.  The best and most revealing story we possess as Christians and Jews is our religious narrative.  It, more than any other story within our reach, is laden with meaning for each of us.  Each recorded episode of God and his people, of Christ and his disciples records the meaning of life for each of us.

Yet, there are those among us whose actions seem to say: “I know not my meaning – I have no value, no meaning, no purpose – I am lost – irretrievably lost.”

This is a national cultural crisis.  It is immediate – it is now.  And it need NOT be so.

Sadly, we see the above words of hopelessness in the addicted, the criminal, the thief, the serial adulterer, the sexual predator (man or woman), the pornographer, the pimp, the prostitute, the liar, the cheat, the cruel ones, abusers … in those who take their own life.

We can even hear these words of hopelessness among those good men and women who have lived more objectively than subjectively – those who cultivated the mind at the expense of the heart.  These are good people who have missed the story and its life-sustaining nature.

Sadly about 45,000 people a year now take their own life here in the United States.  Yes, there are about twice as many suicides in the U.S. as there are homicides – and the number of suicides is growing rapidly.  Such is the price of godlessness in our exclusionary secular culture.  

We have lost our way.  Those with power and authority have forsaken faith – turned their backs to God and abandoned religion and our religious narrative at a very, very great price.  You see our unhappiness and self-destruction is the product of life without meaning – which is to stay: life without God, without attending to our religious story.

If there ever was a time when we had to reverse course it is now.  Come back to a life-giving story.  Come back to your faith narrative.  Demand it be welcomed in the public square.  Play an active role in our cultural recovery and restoration by adopting your religious story as a guide, and active ingredient in your daily life, thoughts and actions.

Our country needs you.  Others need you, too – especially our children.

Shalom.

If this post speaks to you, act on it – share it with others but do take your faith seriously.  Learn you story in its content and insight.  As usual, I appeciate your comments.  Thank you for reading Spirlaw.

 

Insofar as society is itself composed of de-individualized human beings, it is completely at the mercy of ruthless individuals … A million zeros together do not, unfortunately, add up to one.  (Emphasis added.)

Carl Jung, M.D., in The Undiscovered Self

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Carl Jung is talking about the process of “individuation” whereby one grows in maturity and wholeness by moving from an ego-driven being to a healthy whole self.  The point being that a whole person discovers his or her true self and whole identity – and moves from the narrow, shallow state of egotistical existence and behavior to that of a full person able to value self and recognize others (who have grown fully) as mutually sacred and equal persons.

Ego – selfish.  Self – selfless.  Ego – prideful and disordered.  Self – humble and whole.

The process of individuation without access to symbol systems (like religious narratives and ritual) does not easily access the wealth and wisdom of human history and humanity in that history.  Indeed, without familiarity with the wholeness recorded and presented in such as religious narrative – one is left to live in the ego – a state of immature development – and disorder follows.  Such is our situation today.  

We live in a mass communication culture with social media being a common form of personal discourse.  Think about it, millions of un-individuated individuals chattering away – a collision of ego-driven undeveloped people.  This is a prescription for chaos and confusion – discord and trouble.  As Jung says “A million zeros joined together do not  … add up to one.”

In our present mass communication, secularized culture, we are captured by de-individuated people … and chaos ensues.  Case in point – a large percentage of those in television and print news are simply not worthy of our attention.  Celebrity itself impedes full development.

As much as we show technical competence, we suffer from a lack of subjective growth and development as human persons.  That, it seems, is the most destructive issue we face – we are not as grown and insightful as we could be – and once were.

The rectifier?   Greater attention to religious narrative and ritual and greater attention to subjective inquiries and personal introspection.

Shalom.

One of the symptoms of alienation in the modern age is the widespread sense of meaninglessness.  Many patients seek psychotherapy … because they feel that life has no meaning … these people are experiencing the disruptive effects … of an upheaval occasioned by a major cultural transition … there is increasing evidence of a general psychic disorientation.  We have lost our bearings.  Our relationship to life has become ambiguous.  The great symbol system which is organized Christianity seems no longer able to command the full commitment of men or to fulfill their ultimate needs.  The result … feeling of meaninglessness and alienation from life.  (Emphasis added.)

Edward F. Edinger, M.D., in Ego and Archetype

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Analytical Psychiatrist and Professor Edinger is right on target with his observation.

Wealthy designer, merchandiser and wife Kate Spate dead at 55, a suicide.  Celebrity chef and T.V. personality Anthony Bourdain, age 61, dead – a suicide.  Each in the past week.  Wealthy people.  Successful people.  Celebrities.  Neither had money problems nor drug problems as far as we now.

This news raises the question of meaning in our Age, in our culture.

I have come to believe that one is not likely to find life-sustaining reason without a symbol system and religion is the very best and time-tested symbol system.

Symbols systems allow us to see life more clearly, experience it more deeply, come to understanding.

Symbols give us iconic images and tell stories of human kind – of power and corruption, sacrifice and meaning, produce deep, rich, eternal meaning in man’s actions, thoughts, choices, intimacies, family, community, group, life’s work, parenting, marriage, culture, nation and lifetime.

Symbols tie us to our ancestors and create a bridge from mortal to eternal existence.

Symbol systems have been in existence since man began to walk the earth.  Symbols systems have sustained humans through life’s inevitable struggles and deadly challenges.  Symbol systems unite one person to another – people to a group.

Symbols systems move through time, are added to over time – while maintaining the basic message as to meaning in human existence.  Like myths, symbols provide insight,  set boundaries, create roles, confirm individual and collective identity.

Yet, we seem now to have shelved or abandoned religion, our principle symbol system.

Today suicides, addictions, sexual predators, broken families, corruption in high-places, aimlessness seem more prevalent.  Each suggests to me – a loss of meaning produced by a absence or neglect of a symbol system.  For without a symbol system we are easily lost, most-assuredly less certain, without the wisdom of the Ages and the truths that have withstood the test of time.

Without a symbol system, we live superficially by ego, never evolving to our true self and acquiring the confidence and stability it brings.  In such a culture we fear for our children and grandchildren’s well-being.  We grow concerned that life without meaning takes a brutal toll on others, and puts our family members at risk.

Think about the place religious narrative and ritual has had as a symbol system.  Ask yourself this: How have religions survived and served us over such a long time?  And ask: Are they not symbol systems?  Do they not add to our understanding?  Insight?  Stability?  Provide a very helpful context for living in a peaceful and optimistic manner?  Give us life-sustaining meaning?  Wisdom?  Help build our character and give us ease?

If you have not had a place for faith in your life – do think about religious narrative as the best symbol system mankind has.  Engage the narrative.  See if it does not help you discover your identity and value, give you strength.

Oh, and by the way – ideology is NO substitute for a symbol system.  The voices of the ideologues are frantic voices of people with no particular stability – merely egos seeking power, control as their “Holy Grail.”  The emergence of ideology in public life is the barometer of how lost we are.  Take heed.

I wish for you: meaning and contentment, a life that is understood, and the experience of life’s many daily gifts received each day.

Shalom.

Prayers – for Charles Krauthammer, M.D., journalist and author who writes today to his friends and colleagues that he is approaching his death as his cancer has reoccurred.  He is one of the gentlemen in Washington – smart and kind.  Prayers too for his wife and son.

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