It is very well to insist that man is a “social animal” – the fact is obvious enough.  But there is no justification for making him a mere cog in a totalitarian machine –  

In actual fact, society depends for its existence on the inviolable personal solitude of its members.  Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or mechanical units, but of persons.  To be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both of these imply a certain interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity  … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in Thoughts in Solitude

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Well, we are about to have a real brou-ha-ha over the appointment of a new Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The President has nominated a person whose view seems to be that the U.S. Constitution, as written, must be honored – that it is not a judge’s job to “make” new law but rather honor the plain meaning of the Constitution as written.

This view is opposed by the Left. They prefer (and have become accustomed to) winning political objectives through law suits and Court action when they cannot secure these objectives through the legislature or through the political (electoral) process.

This brings us to Merton.

He notes that we have arrived at a point in time whereby the individual can be made into a “cog in a totalitarian machine.”  Indeed, this is the risk one runs when a group desires that their views and preferences be imposed on others, especially in areas that are deeply personal and about which reasonable people can differ.

The point Merton makes is that society is composed of free people who take individual responsibility for their own life.

This is the underpinning of our rights and protections in our Constitution.  This is the root of a free representative Republic.  This is the articulated view of the current nominee to the Supreme Court.  His emphasis is on protecting the sanctity of the individual and the Constitution.  In a very real sense that is the underlying dispute between Conservatives, moderates and “neutralists,” and the Left today.

One sees in the opposition to this nominee and his way of seeing and understanding the Left is worried.  Their concern is that his way of thinking will result in the abandoned of their preferences in matters of social policy secured through Judicial activism.

I do not know how this will sort itself out – but I do know that (for me) I am tired of waking up every day to the non-stop yelling and screaming, hyperbolic assertions of the Left and the endless “demonstrations” that manufacture and perpetuate discord.  Likewise, I do not see the judicial system as a means to create social (or public) policy – a task resting with the Legisature.

I prefer quieter times, a Court that protects the Constitution, and the baseline expectation that each free person will be individually responsibility for their own life.

I favor the sacred person to a “cog.”  I find the former is a more satisfying and liberating state of being than the latter.

Shalom.

 

 

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All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Simone Weil

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Life isn’t hard if you just listen to people who are smart and leave us some valuable guideposts.  Of course as people – we tend to charge ahead hitting objects head-first without a helmet.

And, then – there are things that find us – hardships, inconveniences, bad deeds and thoughtless things done by others others.  These produce the occasion to sin – to react harshly and “get even.”  But the greatest frontier as to sin – is us, each of us.

We are sinners.  Every one of us.  (That’s why God and mercy are so necessary to our existence, our over-arching story.)

Think about this: when you sin, ask yourself what void has this sinful act uncovered in me? 

Many of the sins we see are “deficits” we experience related to the want of intimacy, or power, or status, or identity, or a place in the group or the world.  Once you discover this, sin can be defused – and then, all the more, when you realize God is vital to your full grow and development – your contentment, peace and relationship with others comes into full form.

The more sin is defuse – the more others become your brothers and sisters.  That joy awaits you.  God speed.

Shalom.

 

… the Lord spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet …

Ez 2:2

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In this Old Testament verse, the Prophet Ezekiel records how he was moved to assume responsibility to go to the Israelites who had consistently rebelled against their God.

Think about Ezekiel.  He was a faithful man and in his relationship with God he was moved to address the waywardness of his fellow Jews.  In this he accepted a difficult course – that of a Prophet.  He was willing to speak God’s truth to those who had strayed from that truth – from their God.

Is there not always a place for Prophets?

Are we ourselves not often in rebellion as to God?  Do we not prefer our desires to God’s intention for us?  Do we not place politics above faith?  Ideology above belief?  Are we not today the Israelies of yesterday?

Are we, as Believers, not called as Ezekiel was called?  If not you, then who?  Who might speak God’s truth to those who demonstrate they rebell and corrupt what is good?  Is our silence ever justified in such circumstances?  What if Eekiel remained silent?

Someone must speak God’s truth.  Today requires more than one voice speaking God’s truth.  A Nation of professed belief in God requires the voices of those who believe.

Shalom.

the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taster receptors.  Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors – either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice.  But people have so many powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.  (Emphasis added.)

Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., in The Righteous Mind

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Well if you want to understand the basic rift between the Left and others (moderates, Conservatives, and “neutralists”)?  Haidt gives you that understanding.

The Left is secularized – removed from faith, anchored in material existence, the narrows of intellect and ideology devoid of psychological or spiritual depth and the understanding and experience that each provides.

In matters public and political they are so narrowly focused, they neglect or dismiss our natural desire for liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity (as Haidt notes).

You see, esteemed Social Psychologist Haidt is telling us that as a matter of innate design the human person thirsts for morality that attends to more than fairness and equality.  Mind you, this thirst is an involuntary desire.  Hence, we are “hardwired” for a morality that extends beyond the shallows of the Left.

The distinction that Haidt describes explains why the Left is intolerant and must force their views on others much as totalitarians do.

Ironically, on an even playing field (i.e., one not corrupted to protect their views) the Left is destined to fail because the public’s natural moral appetite is larger than what they offer.  Humans are more complex than the Left reckons.  No, we are not all like them or their ideology.

Think about the many positions the Left advances or defends and you realize that their positions are at odds with the innate moral desires of the human person at-large.

Once that thinking is done, you can see how the Left forestalls the full development of the human person.  Indeed, they create unnecessary conflict (and division) by attempting to impose exceedingly narrow views on others that are, as a consequence, antagonistic to our broader moral needs.

Haidt, applied to our present situation, leads to greater understanding of the unhealthy antagonism that the Left generates.

You would be wise to get to know Haidt and his excellent scholarly work.

Shalom.

 

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

# # #

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

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom.

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves, and then he said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you are making it into a den of thieves.”

Mt 21: 12-13

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We often overlook the ways Jesus tells us about ourselves as human beings.  Here we see Jesus act in an angry manner.  In the very next passages from the Gospel of Mark he condemns the barren fig tree.  Both of these actions come after his celebrated entry into Jerusalem where the crowds welcomed him waving palm branches and laying their cloaks on the road he traveled.

What can be said of these situations as they are juxtaposed?  They seem at odds.  But they do tell us something very instructive about our human existence.

It can be reasonably said that Jesus, having experienced the popular political response from those who reflected their orientation to the importance of earthly, imperial status and power, is moved to cleanse the Temple of those who subvert and discredit the reality and superiority of a spiritual “kingdom” which exceeds man and mortal being.  

Yes, Jesus is showing us that secular orientation to power cannot be our preference or default stetting.  Rather he shows us that the Father has created us for much more – that is: what is eternal and peace-giving (no matter the conflict, age, governing system, or suffering that might appear).

In these sequential events he shows us that man is (and always has been) made to react  forcefully when evil appears and alters the Truth of our existence.  He is, in these acts, showing us who we are.  He shows us the impulse that is an archetypal reality – a characteristic of the human being.  As a corollary one might say that those who avoid conflict at all costs are far from the fullness of their being and faith.  We are made as we are made.

It is so important to look at these episodes sequentially and in-depth – and ask: What is Jesus showing me about being human and being faithful?

Shalom.

More Ignorance in “High” Places – Yesterday, a U.S. Senator (Democrat and lawyer) released a press release “informing” us that some of the the signers of the Declaration of Independence were “immigrants.”  Good gracious.  When we declared our independence we were a colony of England – hence the Signers were English subjects.

A college education and legal training just aren’t what they used to be – nor is the U.S. Senate apparently.

Independence Day, July 4, 2018

We live in a unique Nation whose Constitution unites freedom of religion with freedom of speech.  Faith and Liberty united in one Nation.  Unique.  We had best preserve this and refute those who would destroy what we have.  God Bless America.

# # #

Only those men are never separated from the Lord who never question His right to separate Himself from them.  They never lose Him because they always realize they never deserve to find Him, and in spite of their unworthiness they have already found Him.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

 + + +

God cannot be domesticated.  God is Pure Spirit.  And, the Spirit goes where the Spirit wishes.  In this your spirit must be as clean and free as His in order to follow Him.

Our Constitution underscores this reality.  Yes, our Constitution is not just a legal or political document – it is a Spiritual document.  

In the coming days President Trump is going to nominate a person to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is quite possible the President may nominate Federal Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Judge Barrett is a Catholic, a married mother of seven children, and former Professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

If she is advanced as the nominee, we will face a significant test.  The test?  Will Judge Barrett’s religion be targeted as “objectionable.”  If we hear this, we will see that those who voice this objection are undermining the very central message of the U.S. Constitution: that we are a Nation of religious freedom that is to be protected – indeed, to be honored and revered.  Our Founders knew faith led a just and free people.

Keep in mind that we are not human being seeking spiritual experience, but spiritual beings who seek human experience.  This is precisely what our Founding Fathers knew and intended to reinforce in drafting the Constitution.  In the next few weeks we shall see if we are still governed by this understanding – its wisdom.

Happy Independence Day!

Shalom.

 

His presence is affirmed and adored by the absence of everything else.  He is closer to us than we are to ourselves, although we do not see Him.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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There are times for each of us that we feel absolutely alone.  Sometimes this feeling lasts for a long period of time.  We may have lost someone we loved, or have grown old and know that our grown children now are absorbed by their family’s needs and their work.

Maybe we have endured illness alone, or are retired and feel adrift.  Perhaps we have lost a friendship or been excluded by others.  In these times we feel lost and abandoned – very alone and lonely.

Yet, in these times that we are alone, we are alone with God.  In this state we may have been cleansed of things that we sought as if they were the Divine, the source of our meaning and purpose.  Things, no matter how good they are, are NOT God.

Yes, in those lonely moments we are with God and God is with us.  These stark moments are precisely the time that you can come to realize that all the things you loved and became accustomed to – kept you from an intimate, eternal relationship with God, your Father and Creator.  These lonely times are really a time of turning, of discovery – a time to draw closer to God, to come to know God as the center of your life, the source of your being.

In what seems like loss is, properly considered, gain of the one thing – that which endures, stabilizes, gives meaning and purpose, restores contentment and offers joy.  So often the things we have depended upon come to show us that they are not God, not what is most satisfying and most important to our happiness and existence.

Fear not, God is near – God is always near.

Shalom. 

God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

+ + +

It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

Shalom.

 

 

The 4th of July is our beginning, our heritage!

# # #

 There was no American nation, no army at the start, no sweeping popular support for rebellion, nor much promise of success.  No rebelling people had ever broken free from the grip of a colonial empire … And so, we must never forget, when they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor,” it was not in a manner of speaking.  (Emphasis added.)

We call them Founding Fathers, in tribute. … it has meaning in our time as never before.

David McCullough

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These words appear on the jacket cover of Mr. McCullough’s superb biography of John Adams (John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001) – a book that tells, in eminently readable detail, of the colossal, selfless, grinding work and courage, genius and fellowship among a small handful of brave men willing to chart a course of national independence from the power of a mighty Great Britain in late 18th century.

“Old Dead White Men” indeed!  Shame on Leftists who know nothing and have accomplished even less for dismissing these brave men.

Yes, shame on them – their ignorance is only matched by their substantial ego.

We can only wait patiently for these sons and daughters of the post-1968 nihilistic cabal to pass away.  Then, perhaps – just perhaps, we will restore our senses and return to actual learning, real education (sans snowflakes,”safe” spaces, etc.), and a love of liberty, this land, our sacred heritage and each another.

I cite one story to suggest the price these “old dead White men” paid in forming our nation and crafting our Constitution.

John Adams of Massachusetts, having traveled from Boston to Philadelphia on horse back to be separated from his wife, children, extended family and professional work for months on end – endured enormous worry for his loved ones when a deadly small pox epidemic swept through Boston.  Letters their only communication.

Yes, men sacrificed as did their families and worked day and night, day after day to establish and defend this daring independence from Britain.  The burdens were plenty and hard problems and choices abounded at the same time they sat apart from their home and family.

Perhaps this 4th of July we might just gather our thoughts and begin to see how blessed we have been because of the efforts and sacrifice of these men and their families … and perhaps, you might just remind the perpetual complainers that they are an embarrassment to our Founders.

“Old dead White man,” my fanny!

Shalom.

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