The Inner Struggle

Duty … Virtue … Suffering (part two)

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

Personification of virtue

Personification of virtue (Greek Ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey By Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17885872

What about virtue? Virtue (Latin: “virtus”) is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness.

“Virtue”, then, is the sum of the traits and qualities through which we are enabled to perform our duty. The opposite of virtue is vice. This is the state of life when we do not practice the virtues and do not “do our duty” to the best of our ability.

For clarity, I think that there is “Virtue”, a virtuous life as it were, as a state of being, and there are virtues which are traits of personality or training which, when efficaciously employed, lead to a “state of virtuous existence”. I don’t know if that is true, or even linguistically correct, but it is how I see things.

Book of Job, "Naked Came I..."

Book of Job, “Naked Came I…”

The four classic cardinal virtues (from antiquity) are temperance, prudence, courage, and justice. Christianity adds the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love (charity) from 1 Corinthians or more accurately from God through scripture and revelation. Together these make up the seven virtues of Christianity.

Buddhism’s four brahmavihara (“Divine States”) could be regarded as virtues in the classical European sense. The Japanese Bushidō code is characterized by up to ten virtues, including rectitude, courage, and benevolence.

So we progress through the execution of duty by exercise of virtue and onward to the discovery that this exercise of virtue in our doing of our daily duty engenders suffering in both our own spiritual life (controlling our vices or self discipline) and in our relations with others (who do not espouse the same goals, morality and virtues).

So what of suffering? Even though man knows and is close to the physical sufferings of the animal world, we also use the word “suffering” to express the sense of mental or spiritual suffering which seems to be essential, and unique to the man’s nature.

This mental and spiritual suffering is as deep as man himself, because it manifests in its own way that depth which is proper to man. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself.

Hamachidori“, by Ryutaro Hirota, played by Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra & Kazumasa Watanabe, from the album “Konomichi―Favorite Japanese Melodies (Japanese Melody Series)” (2004)

I think it might be said that man transcends himself, that is, becomes part of something greater than himself, when suffering enters his life. This happens at different moments in life, and takes place in different ways. Suffering assumes different dimensions, different manifestations, but whatever the form suffering seems to be inseparable from man’s earthly existence. It might not be too much of a stretch to think that man exists to suffer.

Saint John Paul II

Saint John Paul II

Assuming that throughout life man walks on the long path of suffering, it is in this suffering that we meet man (mankind) in a special way on the path of his suffering.

It is probably no surprise that as our Progressive culture moves further and further away from the divine experience of God and more and more towards the worship of self that we more and more reject the experience of suffering and the necessity of suffering.

We, in our Progressive society, exist in the midst of a fantasy that “no one should have to suffer”, or at least we give lip service to the idea while trying our individual best to avoid any personal suffering.

The suffering of others seems to be less important as long as we don’t have to do any suffering ourselves. So, to relieve suffering we turn to antidotes to suffering: drugs, medicines, rituals, sensual pleasures and gratification of appetites, counseling and camaraderie, pursuit of desired “goods”.

Medicine, in our culture, is the science and the art of relieving suffering by “healing”, and presents the best known area of the human struggle to answer the universal condition of suffering, the area identified with precision and counterbalanced by methods of “reaction” to suffering, that is to say therapy.

Unfortunately, this is only one area, the concern with physical suffering. The analysis of symptoms (diagnosis) is less than precise, and, outside of setting bones and sewing up of wounds, the offered treatments or therapies are even less precise, offering in most cases only small percentages of improvement and countless side effects.

In our societal fantasy about not suffering, and in our “Modern Medicine” we completely miss the mark. We seem to be not even conscious of the necessity of suffering and what we lose in chasing a suffering-free existence. For the mass of man the field of human suffering is much wider, more varied, and multi-dimensional.

Man suffers in different ways, ways not always considered by modern medicine, even in its most advanced specializations. Suffering is more than sickness, more complex than injury and deeply rooted in humanity itself. A sense of what we are thinking of here comes from the distinction between physical suffering and moral suffering.

This distinction is based upon the double dimension of the physical and the spiritual nature of the human being, of the body nature and of the soul nature and points to the bodily (physical) and spiritual (soul) aspects as the immediate subject of suffering.

Insofar as the words “suffering” and “pain”, can, up to a certain degree, be used as synonyms, physical suffering is present when “the body is hurting” in some way, whereas moral suffering is “pain of the soul”.

Saint Theresa of Calcutta

Saint Theresa of Calcutta

Pain of a spiritual nature, not only the “psychological” dimension of pain is a part of both moral and physical suffering.

The vastness and the many forms of moral suffering are probably greater than the forms of physical suffering, and at the same time, seem to be less identified and less reachable by any recognized therapy.

Let us, for just a moment, look into Sacred Scripture for some universal examples of situations which bear the mark of suffering, especially moral suffering. This story of suffering exists in every sacred tradition, on every continent, in every culture in history, from ancient times right up to the present.

It is significant that the physical aspect of suffering is simply assumed and unremarked in Sacred Tradition. What gets the lions share of the focus is the aspect of moral suffering.

Moral sufferings, the danger of death, the death of one’s own children and, especially, the death of the firstborn and only son; the lack of offspring, nostalgia for the homeland, persecution and hostility of the environment, mockery and scorn of the one who suffers, loneliness and abandonment; the remorse of conscience, the difficulty of understanding why the wicked prosper and the just suffer, the unfaithfulness and ingratitude of friends and neighbours; and the misfortunes of one’s own nation.

In treating the human person as a psychological and physical “whole”, Sacred Scripture often links “moral” sufferings with the pain of specific parts of the body: the bones, kidneys, liver, viscera, heart, and so on. In fact one cannot deny that moral sufferings have a “physical” or somatic element, and that they are often reflected in the state of the entire organism. As we see from these examples, we find in Sacred Scripture an extensive list of variously painful situations for man.

This varied list does not exhaust all that has been said and repeated on the theme of suffering in the “book of suffering” of the history of man (this is an “unwritten book”), as read through the history of every human individual, in every time and place. It can be said that man suffers whenever he experiences any kind of evil.

In the vocabulary of Sacred Scripture, suffering and evil are identified with each other. In fact, that vocabulary did not have a specific word to indicate “suffering”. Thus it defined as ” evil” everything that was suffering. Only the Greek language, and together with it the New Testament (and the Greek translations of the Old Testament), use the verb “I am affected by …. I experience a feeling, I suffer”

Thanks to this verb, suffering is no longer directly identifiable with objective evil, but expresses a situation in which man experiences evil and in doing so becomes the subject of suffering. Suffering has indeed both a subjective and a passive character. Even when man brings suffering on himself, when he is its own cause, this suffering remains something passive.

This does not mean, however, that suffering in the psychological sense is not marked by  “activity”. there are, in fact, multiple and subjectively differentiated “activities” of pain, sadness, disappointment, discouragement or even despair, according to the intensity of the suffering subject and his or her specific sensitivity. In the midst of what constitutes the psychological form of suffering there is always an experience of evil, which causes the individual to suffer.

Parts of the portion of this post on suffering are paraphrased from: APOSTOLIC LETTER, “SALVIFICI DOLORIS“, OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF, JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, TO THE PRIESTS, TO THE RELIGIOUS FAMILIES AND TO THE FAITHFUL OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE CHRISTIAN MEANING OF HUMAN SUFFERING, 1984.

More thinking and more to follow I think but enough for now …

Cheers

Joe

 

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Politics and Economics

It’s the Economy Stupid …

Ballad Of A Thin Man”, Bob Dylan, from the album “Highway 61 Revisited” (August, 1961)

Reviewing our Year End financials prior to discussing it all with our accountants. It appears that we lost money this year, the first year we have made a loss since year one of this pilgrimage.

Fortunately it is all still in the “paper loss” part of the ledger where the amortization of assets exceeded the net profits for the year. So far we can still pay the bills and put food on the table.

Alberta Premiere Rachel Notley

Alberta Premiere Rachel Notley

Two years into an classic NDP economic massacree and looking down the road I wonder how many more years of losses we will have to face while Rachel and her merry band of communists do their level best to destroy any semblance of an economy in Alberta, which Province once supported the healthiest economy in Canada.

One wonders what the “have not” Provinces will do (under Canada’s generous re-distribution scam) now that the Province which they were sucking the blood from has become a have not Province as well.

There is no Province left in Canada with a positive economy (that is, an economy in surplus) so is this the place where the Socialists discover that taking other peoples production only works as long as there is someone producing. Anybody? Anybody?

Move over E.U. and Venezuela, we need some room on the Group W bench for Canada. It should be an interesting time watching the biggest spending government in the history of Alberta implode as it tries to come to grips with running out of other peoples money. Interesting, that is, as in May you live in interesting times.

Carbon Tax, Electrical Generation Companies closing half their generation stations, Oil industry departing for more favorable venues, “Might as well move to B.C. now,” I heard one oil exec say. “If we’re going to get screwed, at least we’ll have an ocean view.”, royalty reviews, higher taxes on business. Hello, Saskatchewan and North Dakota, said the oil companies to Alberta — don’t let the door hit you in the face on our way out.

Now, let’s look at expenditures. There’s already $103 million to education, plus a reversal of all cuts announced by the Tories (much of this goes to pay teacher salaries, the highest in the country for the lowest quality of education). Then there’s keeping open the costly young offenders’ centre in Calgary, which, will now leave two half-used, expensive facilities staffed with government employees.

4 horsemen of the ApocalypseAnd then there’s the restoration of 1,600 were-soon-to-be-laid-off employees of Alberta’s health-care system (the most expensive, and among the worst performing in the country). And 2 years of new NDP hiring all taken together is heading past the 3000 new government jobs level. That’s why Edmonton booms while the rest of Alberta is in it’s death throes. But that is where the votes are, right Rachel?

That’s just the start of the many campaign promises now being fulfilled on the backs of producers. These include tuition freezes, lunch programs, smaller classes, more health-care coverage, a cut in school fees, more beds, more home care in case you don’t want those beds, job creation for unemployed youth, support for wind power (German Companies are singing) and small breweries (AUPE loves their beer, right?) — just basically more of everything.

What’s noticeable about this equation? The ones who generate the wealth, who take the risks, and make the investment — those on the black part of the balance sheet — are in the dumper, while the gains are all to the mainly unionized, revenue-draining red side of the balance sheet.

AUPE is running Alberta. Does this all sound like the kind of expenditures you would make when all the economic indicators the rest of the universe uses to make smart decisions about budgetary issues are all pointing in the other direction? Obviously, it is easy to spend other people’s money and of course, maybe, maybe, even the Socialist NDP sincerely believe they are helping people …  they take their collective actions all “with the best of intentions” … but as C.S. Lewis opines:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
– C.S. Lewis

Not exactly the 4 horsemen but for a modern western economy, totally dependent on energy and exports it is about as close as one gets.

Cheers

Joe

Blind leading the blind over the cliff edgeStupid is as stupid does

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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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