Life in a small town, The Inner Struggle

The Four Freedoms … Responsibility and Ownership.

“River Flows In You”, Yiruma, from the album “Yiruma Piano Collection” , (2001)

So, my resolution after my  last post was, going forward, to avoid pointing fingers, avoid divisiveness, and avoid setting up others as the bad guy, the enemy, the Strawman supporting MY argument. To strive to avoid badmouthing and criticizing and pointing out the faults and failings of others in ways that pump up my own pride and ego.

In the words of my Grandfather … “Joe, if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” To which my young self would usually reply … “But then there would not be much to say.” To which my Grandfather would then inevitably reply “That would be a nice change.” And Dad would laugh. Funny thing, the little vignettes which one ends up remembering out of all the adventures of one’s childhood.

I have repeatedly referred to GOD’s will in pointing out where many of my thoughts and my personal narrative stray from the will of GOD. And I have strayed a lot, usually in the same ways and about the same things, a kind of personal repertoire of sin. Knowing that an action or a thought is not in conformity with GOD’s will, I still fall into these habits and same old internal dialogue. Isn’t it about time to actually make a serious effort to stop.

So, going forward I resolve to work at “Living in the Divine Will”. What is the Divine Will and how do I conform my entire life to the Divine Will?  GOD has given me a template and a set of instructions and they are really pretty simple, ten basic Commandments. The Scriptures, and the Magisterium of the Church flesh out the details. And we have it from Scripture, the most important Commandment:

27And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. 28And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:27-28)

Now going forward I aim to look at what is good about what I see around me, even if that “good” is merely the absence of a more evil “bad”.  I want to take a look at the “Idols” of my personal world view … those things and persons and ideas which I have “worshipped” as ends in and of themselves, without GOD entering into the picture. I aim to try to illustrate how I can easily go astray whenever I lose sight of the fact that “All Good is Gift”.

So first, some Idols …  mostly things and a few people who I have thought to be “Just Awesome” and by their worship cementing the “superiority” of my ego in the firmament of my personal pantheon, all backed up by “facts” with which I can “Prove” that my judgements are correct and therefore not sinful. The First Idol … beautiful technology …  Ooooh, Aaaaah

150625-N-SN160-356 EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Jun, 25, 2015) The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, join their signature Delta formation with the Canadian Air Demonstration Squadron, the Snowbirds, for a photo shoot over Evansville, Ind. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform at 68 demonstrations at 35 locations across the U.S. in 2015. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Lindsey/Released)

150625-N-SN160-356
The Idol of beautiful Technology:  EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Jun, 25, 2015) The U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, join with the Canadian Air Demonstration Squadron, the Snowbirds, for a photo shoot over Evansville, Ind.  (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Lindsey/Released)

And what about the International Space Station, over 20 years old  now and still ticking amidst all the usual controversy and budget wars and disputes between the players. I linked to the Canadian Government Site where we can see the entire space program as one big photo op.

ISS at 20 …

And then all the rest of the “Goods”… trains, and planes, and automobiles, and toilets and sewers, and water systems, and cell phones, and stoves and refrigeration, and microwaves, and furnaces, and the internet, and supermarkets with every kind of food imaginable, good and bad, available in all seasons, 365 days a year and 24/7 in some places, and coffee shops, and bakeries and cake shops, and wine stores, and swipe cards and financial payment networks.

And the communications and transportation networks that make that all possible, and all the fuel to run the electrical generators, and the electrical grid so the lights and our large screen LCD TV’s all come on whenever we want them.

Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute

And fuel for the furnaces and to fire the engines, and fuel the planes, and fly us to our annual holidays in our favorite resort,  and last but not least in this litany a great medical/health system standing by to give everyone with a health problem free health care services.

The truth is that all this “stuff” is a tribute to courage, will power, determination, grit, hard work and sheer brain power, there is just so much good stuff, and these great things make us feel proud of ourselves when we take the time to think about it all, and all of these great things in some way become Idols. We did this … we must be great.

“Eternity’s Sunrise”, Bill Douglas, from the album “Eternity’s Sunrise”, (2000)

Canada’s budget for the Space Program is about 260 million a year and falling. It’s really a question of balancing optics and priorities, and cutbacks, and needing to make savings in one area because of uncontrollable growth in other areas.

And Canada’s budget for Health Care in 2018 was … who knows, we are always way over budget … but we do know that total health expenditures in 2018 in Canada reached $253.5 billion, or $6,839 per per man woman and child in Canada. In 2018  overall health spending reached 11.3% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). This s the biggest Idol in Canada. This is the Idol we all worship and sacrifice to, and sometimes it pays off and the gods give us a blessing, like my own recent surgery on my broken ankle.

It’s a question of optics and priorities. and “Free” Health Care is a huge vote magnet. And a 2 income family of 5 is paying $34,195.00 a year in taxes for “free” healthcare. And I and my wife (2 incomes) have been paying into this “free” system for about 45 years now, every year, year after year. There ain’t no free lunch, this is our sacrifice to our Idols.

The problem is that true “Freedoms” come with “Responsibilities”, and that is not the the same as “Rights”.

Free Republic of Albertastan

Back in ancient times, about 20 years ago, back before the Communists overthrew the government here and set up their little experiment in Social Equality, I and my optimistic friends used to entertain pleasant fantasies about a new kind of country.

We dreamed about setting up an independent Republic of Albertastan,  a kind of little Rohan of the west nestled under the looming Rockies, lots of open space for training and adventure, lots of internationally valuable resources, and with easily defended borders where everyone is welcome.  BUT the iron clad criteria for citizenship are:

#1: Prima Fascia evidence of real life Service and Sacrifice (eg. multi-tour military service with honourable discharge or equivalent non military service – equivalency to be determined by a panel of expert “citizens” and no one else)

#2: The criterion for eligibility for candidacy for political service is “citizenship” (see #1) and candidate acceptability determined on a scale relating brain power and willingness to work and accept basic subsidiarity and accountability in a hierarchy (no free rides ’cause you’re smart and/or good looking and/or related to someone and/or are a political hack, and so on and so forth). Wanting the position is an automatic fail. Only one position, one term,  per person, per lifetime. No exceptions.

#3: No person regardless of sex, creed, parentage, wealth, or belief system gets an exemption for any reason from #1 and #2. No person covered in #3 gets any say whatsoever in how the republic is run or what kind of programs are offered. Folks covered by #3 get normal respect for human life and dignity, as normal human beings, and as they have been recognized for, Oh … several thousand years … Natural Law is the foundation of civil law in this republic.

Those were the rules, the constitution as it were, of the Free Republic of Albertastan … real simple, easy to remember, and no exceptions, and everyone is welcome.

Albertastan Border Patrol

Any one who finds they don’t like this setup, or objects to any of the above or decides he or she or it demands his or her or it’s special “rights” and “privileges” will be given an escorted free ride to the nearest border crossing, 1 Gallon of water, a hamburger, and a map showing how to get to the nearest “other” place.

They would also be given a solid understanding that if they are still in sight in an hour they will be paint balled until they are out of site.  Well, it was a rather juvenile fantasy after all, but that didn’t mean that we were not proud of ourselves for “thinking” this all out … simple answers for simple people.

And we didn’t ever take into account the large Federal military presence, all under Liberal control of course as it was when we all served back in the 70’s. We just thought of them as our “little brothers”.

Freedom of Speech

But, the goal of setting up the Free Republic of Albertastan, the thought behind the dream, was in order to guarantee to all the inhabitants of Albertastan “The Four Freedoms”.

At that time we were concerned about the erosion of the Freedoms under the national and provincial government of the day, and all of us remembered the 80’s very well.

The four freedoms refer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s January 1941 Four Freedoms State of the Union address in which he identified essential human rights that should be universally protected, and Roosevelt proposed that the government would do it for us.

Freedom of Worship

The Four Freedoms images are a series of four 1943 oil paintings by the American artist Norman Rockwell. The paintings—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear—are each approximately 45.75 inches (116.2 cm) × 35.5 inches (90 cm), and are now in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Wikipedia tells us: “Throughout his political career Roosevelt championed the cause of human rights.[6] In his annual State of the Union address to Congress of January 6, 1941, which was delivered at a time when Nazi Germany occupied much of Western Europe,[15] he asked the American citizens to support war efforts in various ways.

He stated his vision of a better future, founded upon four freedoms: “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,”[2][16] some traditional and some new ones: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Freedom From Want

That was then, this is now. Most people have no memory of WWII, or the Nazis or the evils of statism.  Heck, most people have already forgotten 9/11. Many people seem to think that “Nazi” is what you call someone who disagrees with you on Twitter. Public memory is short and folks are mostly content and concerned with their immediate needs and wants. But there is a background undercurrent of change in our culture.

As a society we have already, mostly willingly, ceded Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship to the control of government and social media, that “erosion” we were worried about in our Albertastan fantasy. We no longer are willing to go to the line for someone else’s right to their point of view or their choice of world view. We seem to want more and more to shut down dissent.

We are still doing pretty good in the “Freedom From Want” category. We Nord-Americanos are doing pretty much better than most of the rest of the world when it comes to want. I think the next thing to erode will be Freedom From Fear, as a result of the loss of the first two freedoms over the last two decades.

Freedom From Fear

But the truth about all of this is that all these things we think we treasure are really Idols. None of them matter when looking at eternity. I mean they ARE nice and highly desirable, ideals even, but not as an end in and of themselves, except perhaps Freedom To Worship, but even that, when denied brings eternity into a much sharper focus, as we perhaps are witnessing in the underground Catholic Church in China. Maybe Faith benefits from some persecution.

What does it matter in eternity? So what does a country boy see out there in the “REAL” world? What are the “world problems” that I think might affect myself, my family and my life here in rural flyover country, what gets on the radar?

I am thinking about peace and conflict, and how I choose to drink at springs of peace or springs of conflict. After the data dump of calm emotion over the last couple of weeks, about observed events, I am thinking that I chose to observe and judge, and attribute, courtesy of lots of folks with nothing to do but emote about what is wrong in their life  and “create content”. Well guess what? I am doing the same damned thing.

Am I one of those “emoticons in suits”? Well, maybe an emoticon in Levis, and pretty thread bare Levis at that. No suits around here any more – that was all in a previous life, long, long ago. Don’t even have a tie anymore.

It’s 06:48 now and the sun is coming up on a cool dawn. With quiet time for second thought, the truth is, there are not really any problems anywhere which directly affect my immediate life … my “real” world is full of beauty, and peace, waiting for room in my soul … if I make the time and make the room to just let it in, if I don’t fill it up with other stuff.

So, I pray for “Purity of Heart”, that purity that goes beyond simple passions and pleasures. Speaking of purity here I am intending to evoke the purity which not only implies an absence of sin but goes much further to invoke the absence of all earthly affections. And I begin the quest to “Live in the Divine Will”.

I think I have quoted St. Bernard somewhere in a past posts like this: “Quid hoc ad aeternitatem,” as old Saint Bernard of Clairvaux used to mumble when faced with the usual parade of travail, what does it matter in the light of eternity?

Cheers

Joe

I hear the snakes are back in Ireland … hmmm

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Life in a small town, The Inner Struggle

The Never Ending Story …

Kojo No Tsuki” (Rentaro Taki), performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Michio Mamiya, & Patricia Zander, from the album “Japanese Melodies” (1990)

Aizu Castle

Aizu Castle

Why do we suffer? In the movies the hero usually wins in the end, albeit occasionally dying heroically for others, as in the movie “Armageddon”.

But it does seem that in the “real” world, outside of the story teller’s fantasies, it is usually the bad guys who seem to always end up on top.

Why does this seem to be the case? In this world, at least, no good deed goes unpunished. All the ruined castles of our dreams are stark testimony to this sad fact.

I have observed this and wondered about it for decades, once it became apparent that there were good guys and bad guys and good causes and bad causes outside my own narrow personal concerns.

In my teens I left the church of my birth and headed out into the wide world on my own. In my attachment to my own intelligence, my human imagination, my pride, I couldn’t conceive of a God who created the whole universe and everything in it, that still had time for a person called Joe, some lonely grain of sand on the beach of life.

The idea of being loved personally by God was “inconceivable”. I measured everything in human terms, my own yardstick. Now, at 66 years young, I find myself with a completely different point of view. I have seen enough and read enough, and thought enough to understand that although it “seems” that the bad guys always win, in fact this is a never ending story.

After the entire history of the world, the bad guys are still trying their best to overcome “good” in their own narrow interest, no matter how big it appears to be to those of us experiencing it personally in the here and now.

Still trying, never actually winning, no matter how loudly they brag, or threaten, no matter how often they declare victory, no matter how often they declare the case closed, the matter settled, that “all right thinking people” know the truth … they never actually win.

Just witness Child Justin’s recent embarrassments concerning splash-back about “groping” and pedophile friends getting arrested. Paraphrasing Jesus “virtue signalling is its own reward”.

Total victory always eludes the bad guys, and this story, through all of historical time, this entire struggle, is but a split second in eternity … The Angelic creatures, the Heavenly host, exist in God’s eternal now and their choices are instant for eternity and irrevocable.

But we, we mortals are truly blessed, mankind has been gifted by our Divine Father with a lifetime, an existence within time, a time for rousing, a time for choosing, a time for conversion, a time for repentance.

Someone famous and holy once remarked that “our entire life is but a single night in a bad hotel”. Another remarked “What does it matter in the light of eternity, “Quid hoc ad aeternitatem” in Latin.

Our default condition is love of self, this is our “natural state. And uniquely amongst all the created, we are gifted with intelligence, free will and time, time enough for change, for conversion, for repentance.

I am reading a book right now called:

THE MYSTICAL CITY OF GOD,  THE DIVINE HISTORY AND LIFE OF THE VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD MANIFESTED TO MARY OF AGREDA FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF MEN.

Translation from the Original Authorized Spanish Edition BY FR. GEORGE J. BLATTER under his nom de plume Fiscar Marison COMPLETE EDITION CONTAINING ALL FOUR VOLUMES WITH GENERAL INDEX AS WELL AS SPECIFIC TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR EACH VOLUME ILLUSTRATED

Edited by Paul A. Böer, Sr. VERITATIS SPLENDOR PUBLICATIONS et cognoscetis veritatem et veritas liberabit vos (Jn 8:32) MMXIII

I have a hard copy in 4 volumes and also an eBook on my Kindle. It was heavy going at the start but I have reached chapter 13 in volume 1 now and it is much easier. And it is very much to the point regarding why things are as they are in the world as we know it.

Mary of Jesus of Ágreda (Spanish: María de Jesús), OIC, also known as the Abbess of Ágreda (2 April 1602 – 24 May 1665), was a Franciscan abbess and spiritual writer, known especially for her extensive correspondence with King Philip IV of Spain and reports of her bilocation between Spain and its colonies in New Spain (now New Mexico and Texas). Also known as “The Blue Nun”, she was a noted mystic of her era.

She is an “Incorruptible” and her body is  on display at her Abbey in Agreda. The skeptics of this world have no rational or scientific explanation for the documented fact of multiple cases of “Incorruptibility”. The Communist Party of Russia (a few of the modern “Bad Guys”) tried to replicate it with the body of Lenin using modern embalming and makeup techniques.

Anyway, I would not have given her book a second glance at age 16, I knew everything already back then. But now it sings a True song.  I am going to quote at length from it, and also from St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, because I watched the new movie Paul, Apostle of Christ” a couple of days ago and was much impressed.

So if that sort of stuff is not your cup of tea then just give it a pass. When and if you are ready for it it will sing to you as well … here goes: from volume 1 pp 109 vs 112 thru 113

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

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Venerable Mary of Agreda, incorruptable

Venerable Mary of Agreda, In 1909 her casket was opened for the first time after her death in 1665. Her body was found to be completely incorrupt.

” … the eternal Father conferred with the other Persons of the blessed Trinity in regard to this petition. He also partly revealed to the holy angels the decree of this divine consistory, saying, in regard to the sacraments resolved upon: “Lucifer has raised the banner of pride and sin and will persecute with all his malice the whole human race.

With cunning he will pervert many men, availing himself of their own passions for their destruction.

In the blindness of sin and vice men will prevaricate, heedless of danger. But his lying pride, his sins and vices, are infinitely distant from our nature and wishes.

We will therefore bring out the triumph of virtue and sanctity; for this purpose the second Person will assume human nature; He will exalt and teach humility, obedience and all the virtues, and thus will secure the salvation of mortals.

Being true God He will become humble and submissive. He will be the Just Man, the Model and Teacher of all virtues. These alone shall be accredited before our tribunal and shall always triumph over vices.

We will raise up the lowly and humble the proud (Math. 11, 28) ; we will make labors and endurance praiseworthy in our sight; we resolve to help the afflicted and the sorrowful. Let them be corrected by afflictions and thereby advance in our grace and friendship and, according to their capabilities, reach salvation in the practice of virtue.

Blessed will be they that weep (Math. 5, 3), and happy the poor and those that suffer for justice sake and for Christ, their Chief; and the insignificant ones shall be magnified, the meek of heart exalted.

The peaceful shall be loved as our sons. Most dear shall those be to us, who forgive and suffer injuries and love their enemies. We will assign to them copious benedictions of our grace and an immortal glory in heaven.

Our Onlybegotten will put in practice these decrees, and those that follow Him shall be our chosen ones, our cherished ones; they shall be refreshed and rewarded by Us; their good works shall be engendered in our own mind, which is the first cause of all virtue.

We give permission to the bad ones to oppress the good, thus helping them to gain the crown, while for themselves they increase the punishment. Let there be scandals (Math. 18, 7) for the common good; unhappy be those that cause them, and blessed they that are proved by them. The vain and the proud will afflict and despise the humble; the great and the powerful will oppress the lowly and abject ones. They will give benediction instead of curses (I Cor. 4, 12).

While they are pilgrims, they shall be rejected by men, but afterwards they shall be ranked with the angelic spirits, our sons, and they will enjoy the seats and crowns, which the unfortunate and unhappy apostates have lost. The stubborn and the proud shall be condemned to eternal death, where they will recognize their foolish proceedings and their perverseness.

113. “In order that all may have a true model and superabundant grace, if they wish to use it, the Son will descend, capable of suffering and as a Redeemer, and He shall save men (whom Lucifer defrauded of their happy state); and He shall raise them up through his infinite merits.

We have resolved and determined upon the salvation of men, through a Redeemer and Teacher, who shall be able to propitiate and to teach, who shall be born and live poor, shall die despised, condemned by men to a most ignominious and frightful Death; who shall be esteemed a sinner and a criminal, and yet shall satisfy our justice for the guilt of sin.

On account of his foreseen merits We will show mercy and kindness. All will understand, that those who are humble and peaceful, those that practice virtue, that suffer and yet forgive, are the followers of Christ and our sons. Nobody will be capable of entering by his own free will into our kingdom, unless he denies himself, and, taking up his cross, follows his Chief and Master.”

*****

Venerable Mary of Agreda. The Mystical City of God: Complete Edition Containing all Four Volumes with Illustrations. Veritatis Splendor Publications. volume 1 pp 109 vs 112 thru 113.

and

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The Mystical City Of God

The Mystical City Of God, by Venerable Mary of Agreda

” … As soon as Lucifer with his followers entered hell, they assembled in general council, which lasted to the morning of Thursday.

During this time Lucifer exerted all his astuteness and diabolical malice in conferring with the demons and concocting plans to offend God so much the more deeply, and to obtain revenge for the chastisement, to which he had been subjected.

They came to the conclusion and resolved that the greatest vengeance and injury against God would be to impede the effects of the love, which they knew God bore toward mankind.

This they hoped to attain by deceiving men, and persuading them, or even, as far as possible, compelling them to neglect the friendship of God, to be ungrateful toward Him, and to rebel against his will.

123. “This we must strive to do,” said Lucifer, “toward this end we must apply all our forces, all our solicitude and knowledge. We will subject the human creatures to our influence and will, in order to destroy them. We will persecute this race of men and will deprive them of the reward promised to them.

We will exert all our vigilance, to prevent them from arriving at the vision of God, which was denied us unjustly. I will gain great triumphs over them; I will destroy them all and subject them to my designs. I will sow new sects and errors, and set up laws contrary to those of the Most High in all things.

I will raise up from among men false prophets and leaders, who will spread these doctrines (Act 20, 30) and I will scatter this seed through them and afterwards I will assign to them a place in these profound torments. I will afflict the poor, oppress the afflicted, and persecute the timid.

I will sow discord, excite wars, and stir up nations against each other. I will raise up proud and haughty men to extend the dominion of sin and after they shall have executed my designs, I will bury them in this eternal fire, and in so much the greater torments, the more faithfully they followed me.

This is my kingdom and this is the reward which I will give to those who follow me.” 124. “I will wage fierce war against the incarnate Word, for although He is God, He is also man, and therefore of a lower nature than mine.

I will exalt my throne and my dignity above his; I will conquer Him and will humble Him by my power and astuteness. The Woman who is to be his Mother shall perish at my hands. What is one Woman against my power and greatness?

And you, ye demons, who were injured together with me, follow me and obey me in the pursuit of this vengeance, as you have followed me in disobedience I Pretend to love men, in order to destroy them; serve them, in order to ruin them and deceive them; help them, in order to pervert them and draw them into these my hellish regions.”

No human tongue can explain the malice and fury of this first council of Lucifer and his hosts against the human race, which although not yet in existence, was to be created. In it were concocted all the vices and sins of the world, thence proceeded lies, sects and errors; all iniquity had its origin in that chaos and in that abominable gathering, and all those that do evil are in the service of the prince of this assembly.”

Venerable Mary of Agreda. The Mystical City of God: Complete Edition Containing all Four Volumes with Illustrations. Veritatis Splendor Publications. Volume 1 pp 117-119 vs 122 thru 124.

*****

 

And St. Paul has something similar to say:

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The Light of the Gospel

1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways.

We refuse to practiceth cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Treasure in Jars of Clay

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you. 13Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,

14knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

*****

Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 4

I suppose that is pretty much enough inner struggle for now …

So, more cancer stuff to follow, as I make more progress in my new Cancer book.

Cheers

Joe

Pop Quiz! “Science”  Good Guys or Bad guys?

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The Inner Struggle

What is Truth?

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

So, as mentioned previously, I am charting a new course in my blog posts. Trying to stay away from writing about sayings and doings and opinions of others, which are unverifiable, and ultimately unknowable by myself. I am trying to avoid every attitude and word likely to cause unjust injury … and to take a page from my grandfather, namely: “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything.” Or as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said:

As a result, I find myself momentarily with a dry well, since I am finding that a lot of my motivation for writing was personal angst about the goings on in the world and in the church. For now I am going to focus on sharing sources of insight I have found and sharing where I found them. None of this new approach is rooted in my own brilliance in self assessment but rather in the discovery, feeling serendipitous, of useful books by other greater writers and thinkers. The challenge has become “How do I apply their insights to improving myself?”

The last couple of posts were from a book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, this post is drawn from Ulrich L. Lehner, “God Is Not Nice: Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For”.

Ulrich L. Lehner, Dr.theol., Dr. phil. habil.

Ulrich L. Lehner, Dr.theol., Dr. phil. habil.

In particular, the conviction of absolute or objective truths is almost universally seen as suspicious or symptomatic of bigotry. Can the Church survive without belief in truth? If I believe in absolute truth, such as the truth of my faith, it does not follow that I must treat others badly or support religious persecution.

In fact, every statement of truth states something absolute, because the nature of truth is that it is absolute. The claim that truths are “relative” is philosophically not coherent, because it is itself a truth claim: the person who says there are no objective truths is nevertheless stating that her sentence is true.

You could ask a relativist: “And your belief that truth is relative, do you think that is the right approach to things? Are you convinced of your approach?” “Well, yes.”

“Well, then, why do you push your truth claim onto me? How can you be convinced of your truth if truth is relative? If it is relative, your truth is relative, and thus you should not be convinced of anything at all because that would mean that there is something better than relative truth claims.”11

Believing in absolute truth does not mean fundamentalism or intolerance or forfeiting the search for truth—quite the opposite: if I am convinced of a truth, I will not enclose it in a shrine but seek to understand it better, especially if this truth is a person, Jesus, as Christians believe. When I speak about truth claims, I am thinking specifically of these: “Jesus Christ is God and Savior” and “God exists.”12

Both are truth claims, and many Americans would respond, “Yes, I agree, but it’s true only for us.” Again, such a statement is self-contradicting: either it is true or it is not. Your neighbor can say it’s wrong or it’s true, but not that it’s true for you—that statement simply does not make sense.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

We are afraid of denying somebody else’s truth claim because we fear being labeled intolerant or bigoted, although it is a sign of tolerance that I accept other views that I know are incorrect. Tolerance presupposes a truth claim: I am tolerant of Aunt Lucy’s conspiracy beliefs because I love her, but I think she is utterly wrong.

Disagreeing with somebody is not the same as hatred or bigotry or intolerance. A relativist, it should have become clear, cannot hold strong convictions and hold them to be true, if she does not want to contradict herself. Yet most do not see this contradiction because they have stopped contemplating the world. If I am a relativist, I will not easily see the intellectual weakness of my stance: I believe in being tolerant, but I do not know that I have given up the idea of truth and thus of tolerance itself.

Truth claims and convictions do not mean that we have to go at one another’s throats. Truth does not preclude prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—the cardinal virtues are only possible because there is truth, and without truth they are mere chimeras. Without having roots in reality, humans have no truthful convictions but mere opinions.

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ

But what is a person who is not planted in truth and reality? Max Picard saw this in his little book “The Flight from God”.13 We modern men and women, writes Picard, are no longer in real communication with our neighbors, not even with those we love. We uphold external relations, but we run away from the big existential questions, such as, “What is the meaning of life?” that point to God. We tend to exchange the quality of things for mere quantity.

Consequently, nothing has value in and of itself. Only through the realism of faith can we regain trust in reality and see it as it actually is. Yet if we keep running away from God, we cannot give up the enslavement to “having things” and to viewing everything from the selfish perspective of its use for us.

Only with realism do we have truth, and only with truth do we have conviction and imagination. Realism teaches humility, which means, literally, “closeness to earth,” and thus prepares us to accept the notion of asceticism. The latter entails giving up goods that we are entrusted with, such as food, comfort, and the like, and doing things we do not normally want to do.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has compared asceticism to physical exercise: we have to do it frequently to prepare our soul for God. We empty ourselves and surrender our will to receive God’s. Asceticism plows the soil of the soul so that it can be fertilized by grace: one dies to oneself so that Christ can live in oneself.

Christian asceticism, however, is also the utmost realism there is in the world: it perceives that the highest value is God, takes him most seriously, and sees everything in the order it was created or is connected. It aims at keeping mind and will connected to reality and protects us from falling into the trap of viewing God as a vending machine, as the eternal, faceless “principle of the universe,” or as a mere set of moral guidelines.14

Ulrich L. Lehner, “God Is Not Nice: Rejecting Pop Culture Theology and Discovering the God Worth Living For”  (pp. 14-17). Ave Maria Press. Kindle Edition.

Cheers

Joe

“Quid hoc ad aeternitatem,” as old Saint Bernard of Clairvaux used to mumble when faced with the usual parade of travail, what does it matter in the light of eternity?

 

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The Inner Struggle

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of Christ Jesus

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

Resurrection, Romolo Tavani

Resurrection, Romolo Tavani

Acts 10:34a, 37-43 Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

“Quid hoc ad aeternitatem,” as old Saint Bernard of Clairvaux used to mumble when faced with the usual parade of travail, what does it matter in the light of eternity?

Cheers

Joe

1A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

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The Inner Struggle

Good Friday …

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

Yesterday, Good Friday, I watched “The Passion of The Christ” again. This film is as powerful now as it was the first time I watched it. I think most people in the West have probably watched “The Passion of the Christ” at least once. For others, it is more than once. And yet for others, myself included, it is an annual Lenten“ritual”.

Oh Lord, You have created me for Yourself, to love You and to enjoy You, infinite Good, ineffable Beauty; do not permit me to lose sight of this sublime end toward which I must tend; do not permit me to wander among the wretched satisfactions that vain, feeble creatures can offer me. (I don’t remember where I read that but it is too beautiful to be mine)

Yesterday was “Good Friday”, the end of Lent. Lent is about sorrow, contrition, and repentance.  Recent scripture readings and meditations have sensitized the soul’s faculties to the clear realization of my sinfulness, and of God’s most wondrous prerogative, namely God’s mercy, and the revival of our adoption by Christ who: “desires not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Cf. Ezek. 33:11) … “this realization of mercy becomes the impetus of the soul’s advancement in virtue, the inspiration of its power for good, and its daily shield in its struggle for eternal life“. (John A. Kane, “How To Make A Good Confession”, pp 14)

I see “conversion” as a dawning awareness of the real truth of my sinfulness, a spiritual coming of age, where my soul experiences an ever intensifying consciousness of my preferential option for self worship, self gratification and of “sinning” in the pursuit of pleasure, consolation, satisfaction as ends in and of themselves.

The Passion of The Christ by Igor Zenin

The Passion of The Christ by Igor Zenin

The essence of this “conversion” is the turning of my soul and my faculties from sin towards identification of, and identifying with, the will of God, and a concomitant experience of remorse in understanding the lifelong predilection for self centered thoughts, habits, activities and attachments.

I had an intense AHA! experience early yesterday morning. The realization, in my own tiny way, of the pain God feels when his creatures turn away from his love and his care for them and his desire for them to live “the good life” in his orbit and under his protection.

This is what I do, in my selfishness, when I, essentially, tell God to “Just bugger off and leave me alone!” I want to do my own thing, to be me, to act out my own plan regardless of the consequences and the impact on others. I only care about me. It is manifest in a total absence of fraternal charity.

And then, when things go wrong, as they inevitably do, when I find myself in a place where I cannot control my life, where it is  all just happening to me and there is nothing I can do about it, I get focused on my little pain from some small source and I think that is everything there is and it is the greatest pain ever. My pain is special.

But God feels all the pain of all the behaviour of all His love children, those creatures He created, out of love, to share His love with, and who He holds in His hands and holds their everything in existence, so they can misbehave with impunity, so they can torture Him and kill Him, His  hateful creatures, hurting Him continuously and without pause, for all our time, in His eternal now.

I don’t think a human creature can even begin to realize the pain they cause God by disobedience, and the malice of self worship, until that human starts to get past the attachments to “self”  and the self-righteous anger response when that belief, that worship of “self” is threatened or challenged in some way. The only thing that teaches me, that reaches me, is the pain of overwhelming loss of precisely those things or thoughts to which I am most attached.

Jesus Christ, circa AD 30

Jesus Christ, circa AD 30

This painful experience fans the flames of my soul’s ever intensifying awareness of the preponderance of self worship, self gratification, self aggrandizement, and the serious attachment to all things and experiences centered on healing the wounds of my self regard, my self image to which I find myself so inordinately attached.

Attachment … to all the things of this world, but especially those things and experiences which reinforce my self regard, my self-worship. Becoming aware of this I feel sorrow and contrition for my conduct, now and throughout my whole life. I remember every little thing, from childhood to late in life looking back over my personal tale of woe, my misbehavior, my willfulness, and I am sorry.

The contrition experience gives rise to a desire for repentance, a desire to make atonement for past sins, a transformation of my mind, an up-welling of the supernatural drowning the natural in an intensifying struggle. How to atone? How to repent?

Repent, atone, by cutting adrift all those elements, all those attachments, which contribute to the healing of the wounds of my self love, to papering over of those ugly wounds inflicted by self worship, to whitewashing my black heart.

My attachments are a significant part of the framework within which I view “reality” and is it really real? As I have remarked before, some famous guy once said: “it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know that bites our ass in the end”. I have great difficulty identifying and isolating attachments. I desire to see my soul as God sees it, the better to repent for a lifetime of all-purpose sin, my repertoire, my curriculum vitae of “being human”.

Identifying and isolating my attachments has been greatly assisted by my now 15 month long program of fasting … never realized just how much I was attached to food, and the activities surrounding food, until I started fasting. Now it has become obvious that all attachments hide like this, they hide in plain sight within the normal every day experiences of life until I isolate them by choosing a new and different direction for my habits, thoughts, actions.

“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash”.  Those were the immortal words of Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan in Top Gun.  Of course, he was talking to Maverick, played by Tom Cruise. But that’s a movie, a Hollywood fantasy, it sells well because its what I would like to believe about my own life and abilities, when reality is truly somewhat different.

Odds are, when I use this phrase, especially when I am talking to myself,  I’m talking to someone with considerably less ability, to back up the checks being written, with real life performance. Because I have great difficulty identifying and isolating attachments. Let’s count the ways I’ve used this phrase:

… to someone (myself) who was daring others to take action on some outlandish behavior, just because I didn’t really like those others, at that moment in time …  no other reason … to that person (myself) who is making a rash decision because … just because, because I thought I could …  no other reason, just asserting my specialness … to someone (myself) who just had a wild time in (fill in you last port of call), loudly, confidently, exclaiming, “Really!  When am I going to be in (fill in you last port of call) again?”

Captain Jordan in Top Gun, as I know now, knew that it was all fool’s gold.  Nothing special here at all, just me, myself, and I, stroking my own ego, my own fantasy that I am special. People (myself) that do outlandish things inevitably learn, hopefully, eventually, that they can’t make irresponsible decisions without facing the music. So back to the escapist fantasy. How did it all work out for Maverick?  Crash and burn? Yup, and the real tragedy was that the rubber cheques took Goose and his family down with Maverick. Realization couldn’t bring them back or restore the magic.

It is only in the contrast of my losses and pain that I start to recognize the attachments of my life. This is that process which is described by the Greek wordMetanoia“, that is, changing my mind, and through that my reality. So conversion, contrition and repentance involve and devolve into an internal discussion, a meditation about real “reality” and  how attachments seem to be the lens through which I interpret and act upon events and stimuli in my life and relationships … attachments … all the attachments.

So, how am I to move towards being detached from “the things of this world”, the creatures and treasures which I look to for consolation and pleasure when indulging my self gratification and self worship? I think I have to enter into and accept repentance as pretty much a constant mindset, a basic understanding of the enormity of my life of sin and the greater enormity of God’s eternal mercy and love for me. The eternal is what matters, and only reference to the eternal gives meaning to this world and the perishable material things and creatures of this world.

I am living in my material shell as an eternal “soul”, as the ghost in the shell. The shell is not the “me”. The shell is just the collection of lenses, sensor systems and actuators for the self, but it is not the self. I, me, the “ME”, occupy the shell and look at, interact with, and think about the perishable material plane, and the “things of this world”, but as an eternal soul, not as the shell … which is actually what I really am, that ghost in the shell is where that which makes me “I” actually resides, actually exists.

So, all my life is no more than one night in a bad hotel. More thinking and more understanding required … about repentance as a newly understood way of life, like the Prodigal Son, a new way of life full of painful daily reminders of previous offenses against my Father. I will conclude this with a rather long excerpt from Father John A. Kane:

Fr. John A. Kane

Fr. John A. Kane, 1912 – 1962

“Repentance (from the Greek metanoia) is the mind itself changed and transformed. It is the supernatural conquering the natural. It is the assumption of the spirit of Christ according to the words of St. Paul: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 2:5)

Thus it is evident that penitence, in its entirety, is perennial. It has not always the same quality, however. It assumes different phases, and in this respect it is like a lifelong grief. The first outbreak of sorrow will subside. The wilderness of desolation will bloom again with fragrant flowers. In resignation to the divine will, the soul will be flooded with light, peace, and joy.

Then it will glory in the consciousness that it is suffering with Christ. Its sorrow is now more abiding; it has taken root in the very depths of the soul’s consciousness; it clings to the soul far more tenaciously than the first convulsive paroxysm of grief.

Without any external evidence, sorrow has silently transfigured the soul’s life, uniting it more fully, more consciously with its God. A calm and permanent sorrow, which at first terrorized the soul, now lovingly embraces it and gradually sinks into its extreme depths, while externally there may have been no sign of its existence.” (John A. Kane, “How To Make A Good Confession”, pp 11-12)

Cheers

Joe

Quid hoc ad aeternitatem, as old Saint Bernard of Clairvaux used to mumble when faced with the usual parade of travail, what does it matter in the light of eternity?

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