I don’t know how the kind of faith required of a Christian … in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on (the) experience … of unbelief.  (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of May 30, 1962

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We have had a difficult time understanding what provoked Stephen Paddock to kill defenseless people at a Las Vegas outdoor country music concert.  Mr. Paddock’s action has been lost to law enforcement, public officials, media mavens, security experts and the mental health community.  But the truth is it is not that difficult to explain or understand.

Flannery O’Connor gives us the answer: we live in a treacherous age of unbelief.  It is a treacherous time in which God has been exiled.  Ms. O’Connor reminds us that without God life has no meaning.

Mr. Paddock’s brother, from whom he was estranged, said Stephen Paddock had “no politics, no religion.”  We know that Mr. Paddock had two short failed marriages, that he was a CPA – bright, good with numbers – yet, a loner with seemingly no close friends or neighbors who have come forward to tell us who he was.  He was a successful gambler, not a joiner.

Loner, smart, wealthy, no religion, no close relationships: a godless life – one without belief.  This a barren existence – a daily suffering.

One has to enter the depth of relationships to experience love, to find meaning in life – to see the animation of God in self and others.  Mr. Paddock was largely estranged from others, even his brother with whom he had prior business relationships.  Without God such estrangement is murderous and suicidal.

Mr. Paddock’s strength was his intellect but intellect narrows existence – in itself, it keeps the person in the head while starving the heart and soul.  Nothing promotes unbelief like the exclusive emphasis on intellect.  (Does this not explain a great deal about the failure of the education system and the educated class, their disposition and ideas – and their trusted tutors and favored ideologues.)

An exclusively intellectual life sterilizes life; it kills feeling and intimacy while isolating one from others.

In a purely intellectual life that neglects God and social, emotional and spiritual growth – one cannot see the divine image in others.  Mr. Paddock acted from that base – that was the genesis of his motivation and his mass murders and suicide.  Over-intellectualized, unbelief, personal under-development, isolated asocial existence were the seeds that took root in Mr. Paddock and produced his ethos and his final life-ending acts.

That said, the lesson for us must be this: we are so out of touch with the critical role of religious belief in contemporary life that we have created estrangement that kills and destroys in many forms – daily in this land … and we cannot even name it when we see it and suffer its consequences.

Forget all the “isms” – we have a greater problem in this land.

Finally, the answers to riddles often are conveyed in the facts offered.  In the Las Vegas killings innocent people were attending to the music of America, country music, with its stories of hard work, marriage, family, the land, faith, small children and small towns, first loves and love lost, hardship and reconciliation – these were Mr. Paddock’s target.  He made that which he did not have his targets.

Yes, a man without these intimate things confessed his godless alienation in this heinous massacre. 

Time to wake up – and get serious about what we have created and what we excuse and tolerate.  We are not the people we have been made to be.

“I do believe; help my unbelief.”  (Mk 9:24)

Shalom.

Please share this post with others if you wish.  Restoring belief is very important.

 

 

 

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All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and change is painful. (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of December 9, 1958

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We are willful.  We prefer our ways to the ways of He who made us. This one thing accounts for our disorder, and eventually to a demise.  It is for each of us the single challenge in our life.

Done well life is a process of submission to God.  Yes, we grow when we decline so He might gain. In shorter the shadow we cast, the greater we are – the healthier we become, the more certain and the calmer we are.

Look around you.  We now have organizations that work to advance selfishness, sin – one preferred method of rebellion and godlessness or another … and we have many who co-exist with those who advocate disorder and sickness.  The enablers can sink this culture, jeopardize our health and wellbeing.

The tug-of-war between good and evil is a consistent part of the human story from the beginning of time.  Flannery O’Connor reminds us in this December 1958 letter that God does not miraculously meddle in each and every human affair, rather He offers the grace to grow, mature, come to faith and meaning through life experience, the sacraments, belief, worship.  In grace we grow in dignity and our implicit responsibility is to defend and preserve the sacred value of life itself.  Yes, this may put us at odds with others … but is it not Jesus who asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt 12:48)

To reject grace is to reject God and life itself.

Look about.  Do you see bad being called “good?”  This is the condition of our time, and the ageless challenge: good or evil – life or death, God or His adversary?

Shalom.   

 

… your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to come from an incomplete understanding of sin … you seem actually to demand … that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Spirit be translated at once into all flesh … you are leaving out the radical human pride that causes death …

Flannery O’Connor, in a December 9, 1958 Letter

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One distinguishing fact about the Left and others who seek omnipotence in government is this: they put unjustified confidence in the human being and man-made institutions and efforts.  Yes, they are disoriented.

They, like the letter writer O’Connor is responding to, somehow think that an ideology (however distorted or errantly applied) will give us heaven on earth.

Have these people been watching the movie I’ve seen for seven decades?  Have they not watched Seinfeld or met Woody Allen?  It seems clear that they have not grasped the essence of the Judeo-Christian narrative or the sweep of recorded human history.

Just today, I awoke to the “can’t make it up” mea-culpa of an rotund, aging leftwing Hollywood mogul (who loves his mother, perhaps a little too much) and has been (for years) asking would-be starlets to watch him take a shower.

He, of the “pro-feminist” persuasion, puts in plain view this: we inflate the expectation of the human person and in this intoxication quickly conjure up insane propositions as if all that occurs in moviemaking paves the way to earthly nirvana.

No, it does not.  We are not to be exalted, but to be humbled.  We do more damage than we think, create greater division, exhibit more insanity, destroy more good things than we ever imagine.  Hence my son’s favored expression: don’t just do something, stand there.

Yes, there you have it – a refutation of the Liberal in six easy words: don’t just do something, stand there.

If sanity is to root in present American culture – humans will cool their heels, and their expectations will subside in inverse proportion to their growth in humility, kindness, friendship, faith and self-effacing humor.

Today’s bumper-crop of disordered behavior and sickness ought to teach that much of what those with demonstrated maladies advocate is precisely adverse to our welfare and prosperity.  If you see them wearing a raincoat, leave your umbrella home.

Shalom.

 

 

Touch comes before sight, before speech.  It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.

Margaret Atwood, in The Blind Assassin

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The political language today is disturbing, harsh – mean, hateful many times.  Those who speak seem unaware that words can injure, maim – diminish, divide, isolate, crush another’s spirit.  Public discourse alike is often banal – gibberish even.

This his makes me wonder what life might be like if we could only touch.

I recall touching my wife’s feet just before she died.  I knew instantly that this touch was the most loving thing I had even done.  I thought about Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.  Touch is love … or can be – love without words.

The eyes can speak as touch can.  Yes, the eyes are full of language.  They speak best when they express love, admiration, joy, acceptance, kindness and mercy.  The eyes show the heart and show its content.

I wish today that we did not speak as we do.  Today speech so often injures.  I, too, must remember this.

Imagine if we suspended language once a week for a day.  A verbal fast would bring peace in its silence, and thought reflected upon – tamed.  How we need this. A moratorium on the spoken word – peace at last for us one day a week.

I have come now to avoid listening to words willy-nilly, to “news” and commentary, to political people.  I prefer silence.  Life today is better with fewer words.

Recently a Dear Friend said to me: you write so well even when you are sad.  If this is so is it not the case that life does not end when breathing stops – and language is best when it is divine and from the loving heart, when it has “that kind touch” that never fades.

Shalom.

Discussion – The conversation after the Las Vegas shootings turns to preventing such acts.  Sounds fine.  But is that possible when a country supports and defends abortion?  Do we have the moral content to reduce such violence?  Character matters more than words.  Be careful to whom you listen.  

Evil is in opposition to life … it has … to do with killing … Evil is also that which kills spirit.

Rollo May, M.D., in People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil

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Killing the Spirit.

Dr. May goes on to discuss Erich Fromm’s thought that necrophilia “includes the desire of certain people to control others – to make them controllable, to foster dependence, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictably and originality, to keep them in line.”  (Emphasis added.)  May reminds us that those who wish such control “avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into automatons, robbing them of their humanity.” (Emphasis added.)

Such is evil.  Some among us seem intent on control.  Are hostile to individual freedom, constitutionally protected rights, federalism, religion and religious liberty, God and religious belief.  It appears at time that others oppose the ideals this nation has long promoted and the nation itself – its existence.

Can a political movement be evil?  We know the answer is “yes.”  We saw it in Nazi Germany, in Mao’s China,  Fidel’s Cuba, in Lenin’s reign and Stalin’s too.  We saw it in Cambodia.  See it in North Korea and elsewhere.

Anywhere that the Spirit is denied or subverted there is evil.  And mind you, the more a person submits to sin the more evil emerges in its many iterations – its horror and depravity.

Jesus said, “I come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”  (Jn 10:10)

Shalom.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, if there is one good that I hope comes of this it is: that we might see one another as individuals, people, God’s children, sacred beings, friends, neighbors and show one another respect, kindness, warmth, regard.

Meanwhile, for myself I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude – to disappear into God, to be submerged into His peace, to be lost in the secret of His face.

Thomas Merton, in The Intimate Merton

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In time the world becomes too busy, too distracting, too unsettling.  There is a progression.  We grow from full engagement in the hubbub of it all to its content – that which is known and experienced in quiet … silence.  It is as if you must be still to hear and to see, and to know.  This cannot be forced.  It must mature, evolve.  Perhaps that is why our steps grow slower and the mountains and clouds, the wind in the trees become so engaging.

I can sit and lose time itself in this quiet as if the meaning is in the sound of the air and the strength of the mountain and the freedom of the clouds.  Once busy, I am content with the clouds, the air and the mountains.

In the quiet my family comes to me.  Old friends in distance places visit in the quiet.  Those now at rest live once again.

In the quiet I have company.  My mother.  Mrs. Shannon.  My Uncle Don and my Uncle Ray.  Sylvia.  My grandmother and grandfather.  My Great Aunt Dot and Great Uncle Frank.  Even the trips to Scotland and Italy with my son are alive again.  We stand in Vatican square and eat under the night sky in Siracusa, stand silently in Mary Queen of Scots small chapel, walk the grounds of Melrose Abbey and gaze through the windows of Iona.

The church in quiet has been the very first step toward silence.  We taste this as children and it repeats with each visit on into the years, decades gather – each visit a trip stacked like firewood – one by one to warm the winter freeze, tame the wild North wind, fill the heart with warmth and certainty.

I shall go to Notre Dame in November and its call is this: to sit quietly, alone in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with its beauty, with its stained glass windows made years ago by French nuns.  But it is the quiet that brings the peace.  It is the quiet.  There my friends will gather from all the days past as old days live again – and all will be as it is made to be.

Shalom.

Note – The Intimate Merton is a book containing entries from Thomas Merton’s life journals.  The above entry was made on December 13, 1946.  It is grouped by editors Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo with entries in Part II of the book under the designation “Becoming a Monk and Writer.”

Update – Apparently the news story about the CBS lawyer posting on social media that she had no sympathy for those murdered, shot and injured in Las Vegas because they were likely Republicans and “gun toters” was accurate.  CBS fired the named lawyer.  Aside from her words being extraordinarily wicked, it amazes me that a person with a Jewish heritage cannot understand the killing of unarmed innocents.  It is just this callousness that comes with partisan politics on the Left.  Very sad.  Bridges must be built, relationships repaired.  We are in this together – one Nation under God.  Make friends of one another, not enemies.

Difficult subject.  I have tweaked this several times in the hopes of not alienating others while trying to focus on restoring some good to our present circumstances.

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The psychology of the individual can never be exhaustively explained from himself  alone: … clear recognition is needed by the way (one) is also conditioned by historical and environmental circumstances … individual psychology is not merely a physiological, biological, or personal problem: it is also a contemporary problem. (Emphasis added.) 

Carl Jung, M.D. in “Psychological Types” (Collected Works, Vol. 6)

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Mass murder in Las Vegas.

Disorder does not spring up by itself no more than a flower blossoms without a seed.

The individual person does not (even in the best of times) possess much self-understanding.  In our mass communication culture, where God and religious belief is minimized or attacked, disorder is magnified.  Today we seem intent on division and antagonism.  Political correctness is not a moral structure.

When “isms” proliferate disordered conduct can displace healthy and trusted beliefs.    Those in authority can even advance chaos.

An individual’s disorder is conditioned by history, personal environment and culture – all the more when faith is lost and society has gone astray.

Evil seems to flourish when antagonism is more common.  We pay a very heavy price for division and godlessness.

It is a time to draw together, to seek what we share in common, to build friendships and foster individual responsibility so each might know prosperity and the contentment of personal achievement. 

It takes discretion and determination to avoid disorder today.  Only those with considerable self-understanding maintain a healthy distance.  Religious narrative and a relationship with God are critical today.

You had best see who you are and what precisely your culture conveys … and most certainly turn away from those who advance disorder.  Destruction is the obvious product of disordered people.  We need to get well.  To listen carefully and choose wisely.

The healthy person today will be more likely he or she who resembles as to modern society and disordered godless mass culture the disposition of a monk in plain clothes.

Shalom.

If you find this post helpful, please pass it along to others.  Thank you.

Being Reported – It is being reported by several news organizations that a senior attorney at CBS expressed an absence of sympathy for those shot in Las Vegas because “country music fans often are Republicans – (and) gun toters.”  One can only hope this is not accurately reported.  Yet, it is surely the case that political hostility must be reduced by all.

… you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a dimension all its own.  (Emphasis added.)

Chaim Potok, in The Chosen

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Imagine if we were prone to quiet.  Wouldn’t life be different.  More restful.  More peaceful.

We are a noisy culture.  Many speak who do not think.  Thinking – real thought, the kind of thought done in silence, ought to be a prerequisite to those who speak.  No deep and probative thought – no silence – no prolonged silence and no speaking.  That Dear Friends would be progress.

Think about it.  If all of us were instantly brought before God – all of us, the entire population of the planet: would we be a chattering mob of pests or a reverent people readied for silence in the present of the Divine?

Today I ask: Who authorized all these people to speak, to twitter, to email, to profess and proclaim in the newspapers and magazines?  On television and radio?  Who thought this was a good idea?  Who presumes that social media is useful?  Good?  Informative?  Brings insight?  Peace?  Intimacy?  Knowledge?  Wisdom?  Truth?  Who?

Some years ago my son and I spent the post-Christmas time in a lodge on the edge of a lake frozen, covered in show in deep winter.  At night fall we went to the edge of the lake – the only sound our feet in the frozen snow.  We stood still in the crisp winter air under the starlit sky and he said to me, “Dad, listen.”  After a pause, he said, “Silence.”  He’s a smart guy, my Son.

“I don’t think …”  “Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

Lewis Carroll, in Alice in Wonderland

Silence is like fasting.  It nourishes and teaches.

Shalom.

 

 

 

The soul is healed by being with children.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Today my almost three year old Grandson spontaneously said on the telephone, “Grandpa, I love you.”

Anyone who doubts that there is a God and He lives in all of us – has never heard such a small voice speaking from the heart.

God or no God?  The wise money is on God … and always has been.  Your choice.

Shalom.

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you’d be surprised by how well things work out.

Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture

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I’ve never been a fan of whiners so the well-healed NFL football players, coaches and owners who put their social complaints on the captured audience of ticket-holders and television viewers have lost my interest and respect.  Shame on them.  Nothing admirable about them – nothing.

Just watched Patriots Day about the Boston Marathon Bombing.  Excellent movie.  More than that a terrific story about tough-minded, loving men, women and children who rallied together as one to see that those who killed innocent people were apprehended and punished.  It is a story about courage, toughness, achievement, honor, resolve, determination, individual strength, shared mission, sacrifice, community, love.

I grew up in Boston in a very testy public housing complex.  I know these people.  Many have been my friends for 64 years and more.  They are my family.  They would sacrifice for me and I for them.  Several recently faced tragic medical situations, I kept in touch: encouraging and caring.  I prayed for them and, as is always the case in tragic situations, I drew closer to God and became more thankful for all that we are generously given – especially for friends, neighbors, the capacity to care for others – and love God and others more than self.

Today, I see the legions of complainers in American culture today and am sickened by this – disgusted with them.  I knew a far different life.  I knew the life of taking what you get and moving forward, proving the obstacles non-existent, defying others who thought less of me by being more a person than they were.  I was not a genius but I was a hard worker, determined, tough, a realist who saw the near-empty glass and said: “Damn, I’ll fill the thing and more like it.”

I knew the bigotry that befalls the guy from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  The thoughts others affix to the poor neighbor and its residents.  This was my badge of courage – a badge shared by others in my same situation.  I saw life being raised with one parents and not much money.  I lived that life.  Became the first in my family to go to college.  First to graduate from college, go to law school, become part of a profession.

I became an Army officer.  Went on to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, worked in the U.S. Congress on foreign policy matters, had a successful law practice helping the poor, the sick, the under-represented.  People wrote articles about my work, about me.  I walked my wife through a devastating illness that took her life at age 29.  I left law in my late 50’s to earn a graduate degree in theology at Notre Dame, became a Catholic convert and vowed religious Catholic Brother.  I raised a successful son with his own Ph.D.  By the grace of God, he is a better man than I am – talented, smart, a terrific son, father and husband.  Ya, I was busy … I had no time to whine nor taste for it.  Like those around me, I saw bigotry and said “Screw you, I’ll show you who I am and what I can do.”  Their bigotry was motivation to me.  I didn’t sit on my fanny or make a political statement: I lived and defied those who discounted me and my friends.

At the end of the movie Patriots Day the men and women who participated in the hunt for the hate-filled brothers who killed and maimed children and adults spoke of visiting those wounded and without limbs and made this point: none were bitter – but rather they were optimistic, courageous – ready to strive, to live and prosper.  Yes, working class people I know are – not whiners … they are Boston Tough. 

Damn it, we ought to learn from them.

Shalom.

 

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