Life in a small town

The Power Of Faith …

The Return Of The King” Howard Shore, composer, from the soundtrack of “The Return Of The King”, part 3 of “The Lord Of The Rings”, released on December 17th, 2003.

I do believe, Lord; help my unbelief; increase my faith” (Mk 9, 23 – cf Lk 17,5)

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” Tolkien, “The Return of the King

I haven’t written anything since before last July 17th … I have been rather thinking and wondering if I have anything worth sharing and how can I tell … as Thomas a Kempis said “We think sometimes to please others by our company, and we rather offend them with those bad qualities they discover in us.” … and then, in our self regard we take offense that they have been offended by our bad qualities.

What is worthwhile?

I watched “Indivisible” last night. It helped me to re-focus my head on what matters.

Honor, Faith, Loyalty, Competence, Selflessness, Integrity, Courage, Discipline, Sacrifice,  Tradition,  virtues to live by. The virtues we strive to live by, for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, onto death or the end of the world in spite of everything the world throws at us in it’s effort to deny life. The thing that all of these virtues or qualities have in common at their root is they are all about “Giving”  to others. Giving away what we have and are for the benefit of others, even unto death. To develop these “characteristics” one has to live them, repeat them, over, and over, and over, until the repetition ingrains them so deeply into every cell of our being that thought never enters into it. it just IS the way you live, as natural as breathing.

Aristotle makes this point about the virtues in general, with courage as one of the virtues he addresses. As he notes in his Nicomachean Ethics, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  For Aristotle, the key to virtuous behavior (to include courageous behavior) is habituation. We have to habituate ourselves to facing fear and reacting courageously. A great deal of military training focuses on exactly that — the formation of certain military virtues through repetitive training.

The corollary is, of course, that choosing self indulgence also becomes ingrained. We become what we do. “Giving” to others or “Taking” from others for ourselves are the two sides of the coin. We choose what we become. It is so simple that few acknowledge it, because to do so would mean having to take responsibility for our lives. Not being responsible has become, in our modern culture, literally a “get out of jail free” card. We can do and demand whatever we want and if anyone tries to stop us or hold us accountable THEY are the bad guy.

Honor and loyalty are kind of like a religion, a part of our religion. It is a religious experience.  It’s a belief in the standards, values, morals espoused by an organization and an adherence to them, [but] . . . it’s not a mindless adherence. . . . Duty, honor, sacrifice: You have a duty, and by properly executing your duty you cause an honor to be associated with yourself,  your profession and your beliefs. “Now do I swear fealty and service to the Lord, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my Lord release me, or calls me home, or the world’s end“.

Much of what follows here came out of “Divine Intimacy“, by Fr. Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. , Copyright 1953 Monastero S. Guiseppe – Carmelitane Scalze, (Discalced Carmelite Monastery in Rome), 2014 edition”.  So my thoughts going forward are focused on the “end of all things” and how to make the best of the remaining time we have in  this world.

All things are possible to him that believeth” (Mk 9,22). Before Jesus performed a miracle, any miracle, He always asked for an act of faith. “Do you believe that I can do this unto you?” (Mt 9,28), and when faith was sincere, the miracle took place immediately. Jesus never said “My power and omnipotence has saved you, or cured you, but rather your faith, this to give us to understand that faith is the prerequisite to benefit from His power.

He, the all powerful Creator of the universe and everything in it, will only use His power for the benefit of those who firmly believe in Him, hence, there were no miracles for Nazareth.  4And Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and in his own house, and among his own kindred. 5And he could not do any miracles there, only that he cured a few that were sick, laying his hands upon them. 6And he wondered because of their unbelief, and he went through the villages round about teaching. (Mk 6,4-6),

The more lively our faith the more powerful it is with the very power of God. Like everything in the Gospel, Jesus’s words are literally true, as mentioned in previous posts, it’s either all a lie, or it’s all true, it’s either all an evil con game, or it is all absolutely true. We choose to believe, or not to believe … we choose.  If the word of God is ineffectual in our lives  it is only because our faith is very weak.

In life we meet with many difficulties, and for us they are real  mountains. Difficulties in our spiritual life; faults we struggle to overcome; virtues we never seem to be able to acquire; difficulties in our everyday life; insufficient means of support, duties which surpass our abilities or our strength. And we stop , we are discouraged, at the foot of these mountains. “It is impossible, I cannot do it.”. It would require only a little faith, and provided our faith is living, certain, resolute, supernatural, and that it counts only on God and trusts in His Name alone, this faith will confront every difficulty with courage.. “Nothing is impossible to him that believeth.” and where belief stops, self love begins, and with self love begins every evil under the sun.

Although the difficulties we encounter are serious ones, discouragement is never justified. We get discouraged because we consider our powerlessness: on the one hand we remember our past failures and bitter life experience, and on the other hand we imagine situations coming up which are beyond our strength, making them appear like huge cliffs which crush, smother and paralyze us.

And, then there you are, sitting on your living-room floor, with no path forward visible in the darkness around. And the demons of our doubts are prattling on about the only “logical” choice is to stop wasting resources and end it.  That is often why God permits these very difficulties to teach us not to trust in ourselves … sometimes these difficulties cannot be solved by any human means.

And God permits all this to teach us, to force us, to practice the virtue of faith.

Cheers

Joe

Freedom and Faith

 

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The Inner Struggle

Simplicity of Spirit …

“Yamanakabushi” performed by Jean-Pierre Rampal & Yuzuko Horigome, from the album “Yamanakabushi: Japanese Melodies”, Vol. 3, (1982)

a tranquil streamSome thoughts today on “Simplicity”, the quest for which is an uphill battle which never ends in a world that worships the complex and “it’s complicated …” as a rationalization of every form of duplicitous, dishonest and even harmful behavior. The exploitation of “the other” for the benefit of “the self” necessitates an entire Olympiad of gymnastically complex contortions to protect our self image and to deny the reality of our conduct and intentions.

What is one to do in this duplicitous world? To approach in some way true simplicity of spirit we are required to avoid every form of duplicity. We must avoid duplicity of mind by a passionate search for truth. We must love and accept the truth even when the truth requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of beliefs, sacrifice of views, sacrifice of attachments to both creatures and ideas and modes of thought. How successful are we in this pursuit, even when embarked honestly upon it? How passionately do we desire peace?

Sacrifice also must be embraced when truth reveals our defects, and errors, and wounds our egos ,and harms our self love, revealing things, actions, and beliefs which do not redound to our credit, which even may detract from our self image and our public image. We are so wedded to ourselves and our narcissistic self image that even in prayer we often fall into delusional reveries about why we are “not bad people”. But is there peace in being “not bad people”?

To find peace, we must embrace the most candid, honest, sincerity, fleeing vigorously from every falsehood with the same intensity of passion with which we search for truth. This is not easy in our modern world where the entire focus of existence is deception and self aggrandizement. Our fear and avoidance of simplicity is perhaps the hallmark of our age, the leitmotif of our society and our culture.

William ShakespeareBut, duplicity poisons peace, and gives rise to our multiplicity of fears all stemming from our total lack of simplicity, the complex monkey on all our backs. William Shakespeare nailed it in Hamlet’s soliloquy:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There’s the respect
that makes Calamity of so long life:
Benedict Cumberbatch as HamletFor who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time,
the Oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s Contumely, [F: poor]
the pangs of despised Love, the Law’s delay, [F: disprized]
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his Quietus make
with a bare Bodkin? Who would Fardels bear,
to grunt and sweat under a weary life,
but that the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from whose bourn
no traveller returns, puzzles the will,
and makes us rather bear those ills we have,
than fly to others that we know not of.

(“Quietus” is an old English term for Death or suicide – could we call our Canadian Euthanasia bill the Quietus bill? It will certainly “quiet us”.  a “Bodkin” is a “blade” and”Fardels” are “troubles”)

Truth and true peace is to be found in sincere simplicity of spirit … in that simplicity no fears can arise to plague us … rejecting the complexity of our will and all the fears thereof, and embracing the simplicity of God’s will, the sincere pursuit of only good, not “our good”, but “Good”.

Cheers

Joe

empty oneself of every trace of belief in one’s “goodness”

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The Inner Struggle

Dieing to Self …

… And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. …

He that loveth his life shall lose it“, or, “He that loveth his life loses it“—i.e., that the loss of life is not in the future only, but that in the present, in every moment when a man loves and seeks to save his own life, that is, seeks to preserve and advance his temporal life, power, and glory, he is then, and by that very seeking, actually losing it.  The words of this verse are familiar to us from the earlier Gospels. The disciples had heard them laid down as the law of their own life and work. They now hear the mysterious words again, and they are asserted as the law to which even His life is submitted.

There is, even in His human nature, a physical and emotional life which would shrink from sacrifice and death. Jesus IS fully human. But in self-sacrifice and death is His own glory and the life of the world. There is in ALL human nature a principle which would seek as the highest good the life of the body and of the soul, as in pleasure, comfort, wealth, power, glory, sensual delight, and so on. This is the temporal domain, this life, as distinct from the higher life of the spirit, and human nature would shrink from sacrifice and death. But the true principle of life is of the spirit, not the body, and only in the sacrifice of the desires of the lower physical and emotional life, the death of “Self” is that spiritual life realized.

And we don’t REALLY believe this fundamental, foundational, concept – that we MUST put away the self in order to do good in the world. Everything we do and think revolves around the core of “How does this do good for me?” What’s in it for me? How does this make me look to others? How does this give me more power, or make me look smarter or … well we all know what I mean here.

When I rant about the corruption of bureaucrats and the self interested venality of our leaders, am I really justified? Or, am I just upset because someone else figured out how to get away with putting a really big scam over the other voters who simply MUST be stupid to let these wieners get away with this. Regardless of the truth of the observations why do I think I am justified in getting torqued about someone else’s peccadilloes? Should I not be spending some of that valuable time and energy sorting out my own planks instead of whining about the politicians splinters?  How is my complaining helping this “death of self” that is needed to produce “much fruit”?

Verily, verily, the unexamined life is not worth living.

Cheers

Joe

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Disclaimer for nitpickers: We take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately

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