The Inner Struggle

The Responsibility of “Carrying” …

Michi Haruka”, by Kobudo, from the album “Ototabi”  (2013)

As we go through life, if we are lucky, we never lose the, perhaps subconscious, sense of “carrying” our family name, the sense that everything we do or say reflects on our family, either for good or for bad. We carry, in our name, the honor and reputation of our family, and of our ancestors and their community. We carry their moral code and their social beliefs.

A snug harbor ... a maritime coastal town.

A snug harbor … a maritime coastal town.

I have a distinct memory of, as a child, and as a young teen, having been gratuitously accorded community gifts of respect, tolerance and unsolicited opportunities to be of service – little jobs and small responsibilities as the moment presented.

This was all a result of the familiar conduct within the community of my father, and my grandfather, and my great-grandfather, and their forefathers, all the way back to the mid 18th century, all of whom were known and respected in the community.

Along with these gratuitous gifts came the implicit expectation that I would behave myself in such a way as to “be a credit to my family”. I had an implied “responsibility” to express the truth of the value system of my ancestral community in my day to day behavior within that community.

When we young men (and some young ladies as well) “stepped off the reservation” the adults were not shy about taking corrective measures, even in the absence of our parents, because I was Robert’s kid, Bernhart’s grandson, Wilhelm’s family … and then we would get “straightened out” all over again when our parents eventually heard about how we had behaved.

With those gratuitous gifts of “membership” in our community came responsibilities … expectations that we would behave in a manner deserving of the gifts. There was no “free lunch”. As an older teen, a couple of years before I joined the NAVY, I learned that responsibilities went both ways, both up and down the community “chain of command”. We discovered that as a result of a misadventure involving “messing about in boats”, a normal summer activity of young people in any coastal town.

In a popular story, Mole and Rat are rowing up the river in Rat’s boat. They are discussing nautical things and life in general when Rat is heard to utter, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. (The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: Ch. 1: The River Bank)

east coast small craft

Anyway, we, a mixed group of young people, headed out in a couple of small boats for an afternoon “expedition” of swimming and fishing and a picnic or shore lunch if we caught anything.

But we navigators failed to accurately gauge the state of the tide and in taking a “shortcut” which would have been perfectly safe an hour earlier we managed to clip some rocks and snapped a sheer-pin and disabled 1 of the small boats. We were definitely off the well traveled lanes and not likely to be found by accident.

Now, some things never change, and no red-blooded young man willingly asks for help in front of young ladies he is seeking to impress. Instead of sending the other boat with the good prop back to town for help we instead decided to haul out and camp while we repaired the engine ourselves.

This was well before the days of cell phones and such and we completely forgot about the fact that our failure to return on time more or less, would create rather a stir.

When we finally made it back, several hours later, in pitch darkness, on a flood tide, we discovered that all the local lobster boats and small craft and half the town had turned out to search for us through every nook and inlet up and down the shore. While everyone was overjoyed to find us all OK there were also serious “grounding” repercussions for our failure to keep everyone informed about what we were involved in.

lobster boats

Their (adult) responsibility was to look after us and search for us when we didn’t show up and they went all out. Our responsibility was to make sure we kept our folks aware of what was going on and we really blew it that time. Privileges and responsibilities tie families and generations together in a web of caring, a web of values.

Those beliefs and that code are our “tribal values” if you will. If we are lucky, as we grow up and join larger groups than our immediate tribe, we discover that those larger groups have the same values as our tribe. Not a coincidence, these shared beliefs, that similarity, that “familiarity”, is probably what attracted us to that group in the first place. Joining that larger group seamlessly expands the boundaries of what we now feel is “our family”, our “tribe”.

So, what’s the point of this? Well, our tribe turns out to be very large. I won’t go into the whole human race part of things, but I want to talk about carrying the name of “Christian”. We are part of the family of Christ. We are Christians and we carry GOD’s name. And we have a comprehensive set of “family values”, our community values, inherent in being part of over 2000 years of Christian family. And we have a command and a responsibility to not carry GOD’s name in vain.

When we carry GOD’s name in keeping with the Manufacturer’s Instructions, we bring honor and glory to our family. The body of Christ, and the meta-values of the Christian community form a basket of safety within which we are free to live our lives as a credit to our family. We respect a set of spiritual fences within which the sheep of His flock are safe.

Not behaving according to Christian values is sinful, and harmful to ourselves and to others, it is evil, the absence of GOD. 

But the absolute worst sin is doing evil in GOD’s name, whether it is murder and torture in the name of holy war, or abuse and exploitation of others as part of our position in the community, or teaching bad doctrine to “little ones” or accepting moral relativism in giving evil a pass because it is not “tolerant” to criticize bad behavior.

Evil is evil is evil, and pretending that it is not while carrying the name of GOD is the most heinous sin. Thou shalt not carry the Lord’s Name in vain.

I believe that Satan’s greatest tool is that he always makes sin look good, he makes it look attractive. That is how he sells the biggest lie, the biggest lie is that we can do without the sacred. The deadly lie is that we think we can find our fulfillment and our happiness in our own pleasure and gratification.

That “Pleasure as the way of ultimate fulfillment is the ultimate lie” is obvious after only a little thought. Humans always crave change, we are wired to notice change, not stasis, and for pleasure to be good we must always crave more, not less pleasure.

In seeking only pleasure without boundaries we necessarily fall into self worship, and ultimately, as we grow older, it leads to tremendous weariness of pleasure – and then despair as we look at our future without pleasure, without our neighbor, and without the sacred … our future alone.

One of our traditional tribal meta-values is to love the other as ourself. That is the exact opposite of finding our end in seeking pleasure. As soon as we love “the other” as ourself we have to accept boundaries as necessary to the realization of “do onto others as you would have done unto ourself”, another traditional tribal meta-value. If we love GOD, the creator of all, then we must see in the face of the other the face of GOD.

We are all “the other”, and GOD our Creator loves us all infinitely. We cannot love GOD with our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole will and our whole soul if we still love ourselves above others. As children of GOD we are necessarily required to emulate GOD’s values, that is “love for all” and to see our brothers and sisters as our Father sees them. We are all, each of us, a Shekhinah.

The Shekhina(h) (Biblical Hebrew: שכינה‎ šekīnah; also Romanized Shekina(h), Schechina(h), Shechina(h)) is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “dwelling” or “settling” and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. And we are each and everyone of us a dwelling place of the spirit of GOD, more or less, as we adhere to His precepts and strive to do His will.

Without the Sacred there is quite literally only death, sooner or later, for every human being, for all eternity.

So read the signs … they are not complex … its not “rocket science”. The signs were as clear for the 1st century Palestinian peasant as they are for us today if only we will look and listen.

Cheers

Joe

 

 

 

 

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The Inner Struggle

From the Point Of View Of Spirit …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

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The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516

Today I have used images taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, The Isenheim Altarpiece is an altarpiece sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516.

I will not just copy everything they have to say about it but suffice to say go on over and visit it and read the article, it is worth one’s time to understand better the past history which contributed to Western European Civilization’s rise, especially since we are in such a hurry to blow it all away in our modern progressive wasteland.

So after the last blogpost it might appear we have swerved off the road, but in fact all of the items, objections, observations, and situations complained about, and judged, and questioned in that post are firmly rooted in my own biases, attractions, beliefs, and narratives in and about this material world.

In short, my ego, my “self” is intimately enmeshed in all my observations and conclusions, MY plans, MY dreams, MY opinions, MY understanding. I don’t believe that I am uniquely blessed. I believe that we all share these attachments to the material, especially if we strongly believe that this time based material reality is all there is.

Viewed through my human nature, all these things are ultimately important, but viewed through my soul nature they are really seen to be unimportant and irrelevant, mere distractions on the path. And yet … and yet … we insist on refusing to see what is right before us. We dive into the unreal and forsake the real for the sake of our passions, our tastes, our desires, our egos.

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Grunewald – Isenheim Altarpiece – First View

Barabbas is in each one of us. We are scoundrels, experts in selfishness, boasting, lust, violence and greed. We are bandits, taking God’s many gifts and ungratefully neglecting them and squandering them.

We take for granted the most precious realities of life: family, life, nature, health, faith, and the sacraments.  We squander our talents, our money, our time, and the love others offer us.

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Grunewald Isenheim Second View

We are quick to criticize and judge, to steal others’ honor and sully it with our moral and intellectual myopia. What do we, who are so flawed, so weak, so slow to repent, and so reluctant to serve — what do we deserve?

Certainly not God’s love, certainly not his continued forgiveness, certainly not redemption, hope, peace, and heaven. Strictly speaking, we deserve to be cut off from the kingdom against which we have so often rebelled — just like the murderous insurgent Barabbas.

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Grunewald Isenheim Third View

And yet, Jesus overlooks what we deserve. It is Passover, and the angel of justice passes over the sinner to wreak his punishments on the Lamb of God instead. Look at the Lord with the eyes of Barabbas. Is there any heart that loves you more than His Sacred Heart? Is there any heart more trustworthy than the heart that died so that you might have abundant life? John Bartunek, LC, ThD.The Better Part”, pp321

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Grunewald’s Risen Christ

We insist on refusing to see what is right before us — we refuse to see reality through the eyes of our spirit/soul — we clutch at our “self” and our passions, appetites, vices, and sins, because, as Screwtape says (about half way down one of my posts): “you must remember that he (us) takes Time for an ultimate reality”.

As we walk through this “valley of death”, this mortal world full of evil both without and within, we find that the closer we cling to the visible, material, temporal vision, the more we fear.  Because when you really look at everything around us, the happenings, and events, and personal relations, and national relations, the EVERYTHING in TIME, the more we fear.

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Mathis Gothart Grunewald’s “St. John The Baptist” illum oportet crescere me autem minui (Vulgate, John 3:30 ), “He must increase, but I must decrease.

Because, if we actually pull our collective heads out of the “sand” (or wherever) the more we have to acknowledge that there is not one damned thing we can do about any of it and if this is all there is then we may just as well end it all. If this is all there is then what is really the point? 

This morning I visited another WordPress blog which I follow at “Finding Hope”  Often I am encouraged and given hope reading what this person writes. This time I found there a story specifically about this struggle with “What’s The Point”. It brought me to tears and to prayer:

A Prayer of Sorrow

” I have fallen, Lord, once more. I can’t go on. I’ll never succeed. I am ashamed.  I don’t dare look at you. And yet I struggled, Lord, for I knew you were right near me, bending over me, watching.

But temptation blew like a hurricane, and instead of you I turned my head away. I stepped aside, while you stood silent and sorrowful. Lord, don’t look at me like that.

For I am ashamed and sorrowful. I am down, shattered, with no strength left. I dare make no more promises. I can only stand bowed before you.

 Come, Child, look up. Isn’t it mainly your vanity that is wounded? If you loved me you would grieve but you would trust. Do you think that there is a limit to God’s love? Do you think that for a moment I stopped loving you? But you still rely on yourself.

 You must rely on me. Ask my pardon and get up quickly. You see, it’s not falling that is worse, but staying on the ground.”

Wow …

If we are not careful we find ourselves angry with God because “He is doing this to me!” and we can’t bring ourselves to recognize our own failings and faults, and that God is not really “doing this to us” but just watching us sorrowfully from His eternal NOW as we do these spiteful things to “punish” Him.

And then consider how much of what we do daily is out of spite and passive aggression.  Spite at family members, spite at neighbours, spite at friends, spite at groups of people we “have a bone to pick” with, spite at other drivers, spite at other folks in public places or in the news, spite at professional groups, anyway, you get my drift.

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Matushka Juliana Schmemann, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Our spiritual point of view completely obscured by passion , resentment and pride, so we do and say things we later regret or find are mistaken in their target and intent. “Every evil screams out only one message: “I am good”! And not only does it scream, but it also demands that the people cry out tirelessly in response: ‘You  are good, you are freedom, you are happiness’ “(Father Alexander Schmemann)

All of these passions painting layer upon layer of darkness on the vision of our soul/spirit, completely obscuring reality. These “little sins” of spite, of holding grudges and passive aggression until vengeance be meted out are really great big sins of pride, of our ego, of needing to be seen and heard and esteemed, even by God, if we still remember Him.

My mother (God rest her soul) went to her grave, “died unshriven”  as they say, or bás a fháil gan sagart” as our Irish ancestors would say, that is “not having confessed sins to a priest and been given absolution”  after 32 years of rejecting God and the church and the sacraments. Because she just couldn’t accept that God’s plan for her life did not align with her plan for her life. After my father died, at 57,  my mother (always a very stubborn woman) rejected the church, priests, God, religion, holding out for her plan, until vengeance be meted out.

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Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In her early life, although we were poor, she did her best to raise us children so that we never wanted for anything essential, even including making our clothes.  She looked out for us with devotion and worshiped my father as her eternal love.  She died a unhappy woman at 92 still holding out for the material reality of her plan and rejecting the soul/spirit view of eternity.

God gave her 32 more years after he took Dad, to come to an understanding of reality and we discussed it and argued about it countless times for 32 years. I must have been a real pain in the ass when all she really wanted was to be left alone in her bitterness.

In some ways she reminded me, in the last 30 years of her life, of “The Old Woman and The Onion” fable which appears in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov“.  My mother refused to give up her narrative and her plan regardless of the cost.

And all that misery and bitterness because she took TIME for reality and could never bring herself to accept that this world didn’t matter, that she had to give up HER plan for life and accept God’s plan:

15Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 John 2, Douay-Rheims Bible)

We would be better to write poems of Love to God:

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Ah, Love, let us be true to one another!
For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

(Mathew Arnold, English Poet, 1822 — 1888)

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“An Taiseirl (The Resurection)”, Noirin Ni Riain and The Monks Of Glenstal Abbey, from the album “Vox de Nube”, (1996)

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Inuit Snow Goggles

It seems obvious at this point what reality is and what the choice is that must be made, between a short syllable of time or all eternity, to devote our short lives to chasing happiness and success in this world or take off our goggles and pursue eternity.

But in order to detach from the important material things which fill up our lives and leave us bitter and afraid we have to abandon our “self”–ishness and trust God. Selfishness is rooted in “FEAR” of loosing something good for ourselves or missing out on something which might make us happy, or whatever … we often do not even know what it is we are afraid of loosing or missing out on, but we are sure someone else is getting it and we are not.

The main obstacle or hurdle to overcome when approaching the spirit/soul point of view is self love. It is immensely difficult to develop detachment from this world while fully immersed in the pool of self love where this time based world is everything.

By immersing oneself in the world of spirit, outside time and space, where everything material is unimportant we are able to appreciate and understand just what an infinitesimal part of reality is the part with time, which we choose to believe constitutes all of reality.

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Air Force One

So we have to give up our self and trust God, a difficult target when we have so much trouble trusting our family or our friends, or the folks at work or at the corner store.

Trust; trust God, who knows us so much better than we even know ourselves since he conceived us and created us and he loves us more than we love ourselves and he wants nothing more than our absolute happiness and well being. He knows what we need.

So in conclusion (for now)  “LET IT GO!” We have to move from “My will be done” to “Thy will be done”. Our future depends on it. Salvation does not arrive on Air Force One. Or any other means of conveyance.

Cheers

Joe

 

100-canadian-landscapeWe fight the long defeat because results are not as important as our Father’s delight. We fight the long defeat because we are not the authorities over “success.” We fight the long defeat because the final victory is coming.

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