The Inner Struggle

Looking in the Mirror … 2020 Vision …

Today is +20 and cloudy … is this a weird summer or what?  A week ago it was +10, pouring rain and howling a gale enough to blow roofs off and now it’s back to “normal” weather … what ever that means, well maybe that’s over the top, but it rather does focus the mind on the fact that we have very little control over all the things around us that matter and any control we think we have is only one crisis away from being lost.

Stephen Covey 2010 …

So continuing on from my “Sins of The Tongue” post last week, so many of my posts over the years have been whining about things that I perceived to be wrong with the world and our culture. What can we do about it? Frankly, very little. This is obvious at an instinctual level but was articulated by Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his analysis of our circle of control vs our circle of concern.

In short, he posits that normally we have a much larger circle of concern than circle of control and hence are worried about things in the larger sphere over which we have no control and this lack of control and the anxiety thus created causes all kinds of problems for us.

To find balance and peace we have to discover that place (head space) where our circle of concern matches our circle of control. So we can’t fix the world. So what?  We can fix ourselves. Lets start with fixing ourselves, that is well within our circle of control. We venture into perilous waters when we fail to master ourselves.

Being ruled by our passions results in all kinds of trouble and difficulty. So that path which falls within our circle of control and which should fall within our circle of concern is to conquer oneself and regulate one’s life without determining or directing oneself  through any tendency that is disordered or perverted.

We have been created. Notwithstanding all the fairy tales about primordial slime and chance conjunction of amino acids and lightening strikes and so on and so forth there has never been one wit of actual Empirical Evidence, that is to say the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation, to support that “story”. It is all conjecture and speculation, and it stems entirely from man’s desire to be the Supreme Being (Actual) and answerable to no one, to remove that highest authority standing in his way of doing and thinking whatever he wants.

Even Darwin, the formulator of the theory of evolution by natural selection, in 1859,  never dreamed or intended for his “theory” to become a “quasi factoid”, the foundation of and justification for the narrative denying of the existence God, any more than the developer of the “COVID Virus test” currently being used by “authorities” to test for COVID believed that his test could be used for that purpose. In fact he denied that it could be used for that purpose in testimony before congress.  It’s really all about changing the focus of where “authority” lies … denial of a higher authority than our current crop of government and business masters. and always, always, always beating the drum of fear uncertainty and doubt to reinforce the whip hand of the masters.

All these unproven “theories” have morphed into “Every right minded person knows this to be true”, just ask Karen on Facebook.

St. Thomas Aquinas

In the rest of this post I have paraphrased from sources (I think) which I must have read long ago because I can find no reference to this information anywhere else. I think I first wrote about this back in 2015 and the Wayback Machine has returned no idea of where I got it, but it has a flavour of Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, here it is:

*****

We have been created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save our immortal soul. And all the other things on the face of the earth are created for man, that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them in as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them in so far as they hinder him from achieving it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we do not seek health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest. We should constrain ourselves in desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created. We strive to become inured to the desires for material goods and pleasures such that they do not obscure or interfere with the path to self control.

So in examining the ways in which one can go wrong, misbehave or actively do evil it is convenient to appreciate the concept of mortal and venial sin (Big sins and Little sins). As in the physical world where there are mortal dangers which can and will kill us, and lesser or venial dangers which can injure us and make us sick, so too in the spiritual and personal world of sin there are mortal sins and venial.

A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing and wilful violation of God’s law in a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander. These are all things gravely contrary to the love we owe God and, because of Him, our neighbour. We know these are wrong and serious and we know they are a violation of both God’s law and of the natural law which stems from God and is know by all beings. 

it is also obvious that we can sin by thought, word and deed. To purify oneself I presuppose that there are three kinds of thoughts in me: that is, one my own, which springs from my mere liberty and will; and two others, which come from without, one from the good spirit, and the other from the bad. 

Now it appears that there are two ways to obtain merit in the bad thought(s) which comes from without, namely: Firstly, a thought of committing a mortal sin, which thought I resist immediately and it remains conquered. Secondly, when that same bad thought comes to me and I resist it, and it returns to me again and again, and I always resist, until it is conquered. This second way is more meritorious than the first. A venial sin is committed when the same thought comes of sinning mortally and one gives ear to it, making some little delay, or receiving some sensual pleasure, or when there is some negligence in rejecting such thought.

There are two ways of sinning mortally. Firstly, when one gives consent to the bad thought, to act afterwards as he has consented, or to put it in act if he could, and secondly, when that sin is put into act. This is a greater sin for three reasons: first, because of the greater time; second, because of the greater intensity; third, because of the greater harm to the two persons.

But what about sinning in word, that is “Sins of the Tongue”? Obviously, there are many, many ways to sin by word. One must not swear, either by Creator or creature (that is to misuse an oath when overwrought or angry), if it be not with truth,necessity and reverence. By necessity I mean, not when any truth whatever is affirmed with oath, but when it is of some importance for the good of the soul, or the body, or for temporal goods. By reverence I mean when, in naming the Creator and Lord, one acts with consideration, so as to render Him the honour and reverence due.

It is to be noted that, though in an idle oath one sins more when he swears by the Creator (as in anything created on earth – that is animals, people, or material phenomena) than by the creature, it is more difficult to swear in the right way with truth, necessity and reverence by the creature than by the Creator, for the following reasons.

Firstly, when we want to swear by some creature, wanting to name the creature does not make us so attentive or circumspect as to telling the truth, or as to affirming it with necessity, as would wanting to name the Lord and Creator of all things. Secondly, in swearing by the creature it is not so easy to show reverence and respect to the Creator, as in swearing and naming the same Creator and Lord, because wanting to name God our Lord brings with it more respect and reverence than wanting to name the created thing. Therefore swearing by the creature is more allowable to the perfect (the well developed and disciplined mind) than to the imperfect (the passionate and undisciplined mind) , because the perfect, through continued contemplation and enlightenment of intellect, consider,meditate and contemplate more that God our Lord is in every creature, according to His own essence, presence and power, and so in swearing by the creature they are more apt and prepared than the imperfect to show respect and reverence to their Creator and Lord. Thirdly, in continually swearing by the creature, idolatry is to be more feared in the imperfect than in the perfect.

What about habits and patterns of speech?  Consider how one must not speak an idle word. By idle word I mean one which does not benefit either me or another, and is not directed to that intention. Hence words spoken for any useful purpose, or meant to profit one’s own or another person’s  soul, the body or temporal goods, are never idle, not even if one were to speak of something foreign to one’s state of life, as, for instance, if a religious speaks of wars or articles of trade. But  in all that is said there is merit in directing well, and sin in directing badly, or in speaking idly. Nothing must be said to injure another person’s character or to find fault, because if I reveal a mortal sin that is not public, I sin mortally; if a venial sin, venially; and if a defect, I show a defect of my own.

But if the intention is right, in two ways one can speak of the sin or fault of another. Firstly: When the sin is public, as in the case of a public prostitute, and of a sentence given in judgment, or of a public error which is infecting the souls with whom one comes in contact. Secondly: When the hidden sin is revealed to some person that he may help to raise him who is in sin — supposing, however, that he has some probable conjectures or grounds for thinking that he will be able to help him.

So we come to sinning by act or deed. Taking together the Ten Commandments, natural law, the precepts of the Church and the recommendations of superiors, every act done against any of these authorities is, according to its greater or less nature, a greater or a lesser sin.  Our acts are an example. One commits no little sin in being the cause of others acting contrary to the authorities.

So what is a method for “looking into the mirror” and making a general examination of our conduct, words and thoughts? It is contained  in five points.

  • First,  to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits we have received.
  • Secondly, to ask for the grace to know our sins and cast them out.
  • Thirdly, to ask an account of our soul (to remember our conduct) from the hour that we rose up to the present, examining hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order mentioned above.
  • Fourthly, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the faults.
  • Fifthly and finally, to firmly resolve to amend one’s ways with God’s help.

*****

Look into the mirror and consider the five steps as many times a day as seems necessary to facilitate remembering one’s conduct, perhaps at every meal and break at first when getting used to this pattern. Thus do we examine our life.

I’ve been fascinated by Socrates’ bold statement that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  He doesn’t fool around, no “nuances” for Socrates. He doesn’t say that the unexamined life is “less meaningful than it could be” or “one of many possible responses to human existence.” He simply and clearly says it’s not even worth living.  Why does he make such strong, unequivocal statement?  Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth.

We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Cheers

Joe

cropped-sunrise.jpg

Sonrise …

 

 

 

 

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Pen as Sword - Social Commentary

Models … and Socratic Dialogue …

St. Mathew and the Angel

St. Mathew and the Angel

Failed and failing models have been with us for most of history. In the Catholic world, today is the Feast of St. Mathew. Little is known about St. Matthew, except that he was the son of Alpheus, and he was likely born in Galilee.

He worked as a Roman tax collector, a profession which was a hated during the time of Christ. According to the Gospel, Matthew was working at a collection booth in Capernaum when Christ came to him and asked, “Follow me.” With this simple call, Matthew became a disciple of Christ.

From Matthew we know of the many doings of Christ and the message Christ spread of salvation for all people who come to God through Him. The Gospel account of Matthew tells the same story as that found in the other three Gospels, so scholars are certain of its authenticity. His book is the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament, Mathew, Mark, Like, and John

Many years following the death of Christ, around 41 to 50 AD, Matthew wrote his gospel account. He wrote the book in Aramaic in the hope that his account would convince his fellow Jews that Jesus was the Messiah and that His kingdom had been fulfilled in a spiritual way.

Destruction of Jewish Temple, AD 70 by Roman Legions.

Destruction of Jewish Temple, AD 70 by Roman Legions.

It was an important message at a time when almost everyone was still expecting the return of a militant messiah brandishing a sword, and restoring dominance to the Kingdom of Israel. That was the “Model” generally accepted by the majority of Jews in Palestine at that time.

The foundational failure of that archetypal Model was worked out in agony and suffering when Roman Legions destroyed Jerusalem in 70 ADSome reports put the death toll of the conquest of Jerusalem at over 600,000 from both the actions of the Roman conquerors and the fratricidal combat between various disagreeing factions amongst the Jewish defenders.

Even when facing death the factions of believers of conflicting sub-models couldn’t let their models go. So folks really get attached to their model being right and will not accept anything else even on pain of death. Not testing our models can be, and often is, deadly. So, how to test our models?

Father Hunwicke presents a nice little Socratic Dialogue on his site today.

Now Catholics have a model regarding Jesus Christ being the only Child of the Virgin Mary. One of the interesting things about Models (previous post here) is that the elements of a Model or a “Worldview” can be identified and considered in a logical and rational manner, devoid of subjective emotionalism and moral relativism. Design and construction of a worldview can be analyzed without having a physical creation present to hammer on.

We can employ and enjoy “Gedankenexperiments” which rely on generally accepted rules of conduct and logic to maintain the focus on truth, the subject of the discussion, and give direction of the discussion. The name of this particular experiment is “Socratic Dialogue”, named after Socrates, of course, one of the early practitioners of such logical discussion.

Perhaps the biggest flag regarding the validity or failure of any model is the willingness or unwillingness of the developers and adherents of the model to engage in these sorts of discussions. Father Hunwicke’s short piece perfectly illustrates the fruitless pursuit of discussing most “soft” models with the developers and adherents of same.

The statement “all right minded people know this to be true” no more imparts truth, than the man in a dark room yelling that “there is no sun” blots out the sun. Still it shines … and here is the dialogue … with pretty typical results …

*****

Haereticus: The Gospels make it quite clear that Jesus had brothers.
Catholicus: They don’t. “Adelphoi” can mean kinsmen. It doesn’t have to mean uterine (that is, born-of-the-same-womb) brothers.
Haereticus: So you say. But that’s the obvious meaning if anyone talks about “Jesus’ brothers” in any language, isn’t it?
Catholicus: Not at all. Mark’s and Matthew’s Gospels, in their accounts of the Crucifixion, both talk about “Mary the mother of James and Joses [or Joseph]”. If this Mary had been the same as Christ’s own mother, it would have been very odd for them not to refer to her as the Mother of Jesus. The “obvious” and natural inference is that the “Mother of James and Joses” was a different Mary from “Mary the Mother of Jesus”.
Haereticus: So what?
Catholicus: Well, in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55, the places where those “brothers of Jesus” are mentioned, the full text reads: ” Jesus the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses [or Joseph] and Judas and Simon”. We’ve just seen that this James and this Joses are apparently the sons of some Mary who was not the same as Mary the Mother of Jesus. And they’re the first two on the list here. The list is thus clearly not itemizing individuals who were uterine brothers of Jesus.
Haereticus: Well, I still think it’s obvious that …
Catholicus: If it’s so “obvious”, you’ve got some explaining to do. Throughout the second century the Gospels were increasingly regarded as ‘canonical’ and authoritative. If it is so “obvious” that James and the rest of those listed in the Gospels were uterine brothers of Jesus, then the tradition that Jesus was Mary’s only child must have arisen well before those Gospels came to be regarded as authorities. Otherwise, when somebody started saying “she never had any more children”, somebody who had read the Gospels would have said “Aha, you’re wrong: here’s a list of his brothers”. So, if you’re right about it being so “obvious”, you’re going to have to admit that Mary’s perpetual virginity is so early a tradition as to predate the acquisition of authority by our Four Gospels; which modern scholarship dates to the beginning of the second century at the latest. I’ve got you either way.
Haereticus: That’s all gobbledygook. It’s obvious …
Catholicus: That’s the problem with you Prods and you Liberals. You’re impervious to evidence and to reason.
Haereticus: Of course we are. “Reason is the Devil’s Whore”. Martin Luther said so. It’s obvious.

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The Inner Struggle

Looking in the Mirror …

Today is +5 and raining … is this a weird winter or what?  A couple of days ago it was -20 and howling a gale and now it’s almost swimsuit weather … well maybe that’s over the top, but it rather does focus the mind on the fact that we have very little control over all the things that matter and any control we think we have is only one crisis away from being lost.

So the last several posts have been mostly about things that are perceived to be wrong with the world and our culture. What can we do about it? Frankly, very little. This is obvious at an instinctual level but was articulated by Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his analysis of our circle of control vs our circle of concern. In short, he posits that normally we have a much larger circle of concern than circle of control and hence are worried about things in the larger sphere over which we have no control and this lack of control and the anxiety thus created causes all kinds of problems for us.

To find balance and peace we have to discover that place (head space) where our circle of concern matches our circle of control. So we can’t fix the world. So what?  We can fix ourselves. Lets start with fixing ourselves.

As mentioned in a previous post, we venture into perilous waters when we fail to master ourselves.  Being ruled by our passions results in all kinds of trouble and difficulty. So that path which falls within our circle of control and which should fall within our circle of concern is to conquer oneself and regulate one’s life without determining or directing oneself  through any tendency that is disordered or perverted.

We have been created. Notwithstanding all the fairy tales about primordial slime and chance conjunction of amino acids and so one and so forth there has never been one wit of actual evidence to and for that story and it stems entirely within man’s desire to be the supreme being and answerable to no one, to remove that highest authority standing in his way of doing and thinking whatever he wants.

We have been created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save our immortal soul. And all the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them in as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them in so far as they hinder him from achieving it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we do not seek health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest. We should constrain ourselves in desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created. We strive to become inured to the desires for material goods and pleasures such that they do not obscure or interfere with the path to self control.

So in examining the ways in which one can go wrong, misbehave or actively do evil it is convenient to appreciate the concept of mortal and venial sin (Big sins and Little sins). As in the physical world where there are mortal dangers which can and will kill us, and lesser or venial dangers which can injure us and make us sick, so too in the spiritual and personal world of sin there are mortal sins and venial.

A serious, grave or mortal sin is the knowing and willful violation of God’s law in a serious matter, for example, idolatry, adultery, murder, slander. These are all things gravely contrary to the love we owe God and, because of Him, our neighbor. We know these are wrong and serious and we know they are a violation of both God’s law and of the natural law which stems from God and is know by all beings.  it is also obvious that we can sin by thought, word and deed.

To purify oneself I presuppose that there are three kinds of thoughts in me: that is, one my own, which springs from my mere liberty and will; and two others, which come from without, one from the good spirit, and the other from the bad.  Now it appears that there are two ways to obtain merit in the bad thought(s) which comes from without, namely:

Firstly, a thought of committing a mortal sin, which thought I resist immediately and it remains conquered. Secondly, when that same bad thought comes to me and I resist it, and it returns to me again and again, and I always resist, until it is conquered.This second way is more meritorious than the first.

A venial sin is committed when the same thought comes of sinning mortally and one gives ear to it, making some little delay, or receiving some sensual pleasure, or when there is some negligence in rejecting such thought.

There are two ways of sinning mortally. Firstly, when one gives consent to the bad thought, to act afterwards as he has consented, or to put it in act if he could, and secondly, when that sin is put into act. This is a greater sin for three reasons: first, because of the greater time;second, because of the greater intensity; third, because of the greater harm to the two persons.

But what about sinning in word? Obviously, there are many, many ways to sin by word. One must not swear, either by Creator or creature (that is to misuse an oath when overwrought or angry), if it be not with truth,necessity and reverence. By necessity I mean, not when any truth whatever is affirmed with oath, but when it is of some importance for the good of the soul, or the body, or for temporal goods. By reverence I mean when, in naming the Creator and Lord, one acts with consideration, so as to render Him the honor and reverence due.

It is to be noted that, though in an idle oath one sins more when he swears by the Creator (as in anything created on earth – that is animals, people, or material phenomena) than by the creature, it is more difficult to swear in the right way with truth, necessity and reverence by the creature than by the Creator, for the following reasons.

Firstly, when we want to swear by some creature, wanting to name the creature does not make us so attentive or circumspect as to telling the truth, or as to affirming it with necessity, as would wanting to name the Lord and Creator of all things.  Secondly, in swearing by the creature it is not so easy to show reverence and respect to the Creator, as in swearing and naming the same Creator and Lord, because wanting to name God our Lord brings with it more respect and reverence than wanting to name the created thing.

Therefore swearing by the creature is more allowable to the perfect (the well developed and disciplined mind) than to the imperfect (the passionate and undisciplined mind) , because the perfect, through continued contemplation and enlightenment of intellect, consider,meditate and contemplate more that God our Lord is in every creature, according to His own essence, presence and power, and so in swearing by the creature they are more apt and prepared than the imperfect to show respect and reverence to their Creator and Lord. Thirdly, in continually swearing by the creature, idolatry is to be more feared in the imperfect than in the perfect.

What about habits and patterns of speech?  Consider how one must not speak an idle word. By idle word I mean one which does not benefit either me or another, and is not directed to that intention. Hence words spoken for any useful purpose, or meant to profit one’s own or another person’s  soul, the body or temporal goods, are never idle, not even if one were to speak of something foreign to one’s state of life, as, for instance, if a religious speaks of wars or articles of trade. But  in all that is said there is merit in directing well, and sin in directing badly, or in speaking idly. Nothing must be said to injure another person’s character or to find fault, because if I reveal a mortal sin that is not public, I sin mortally; if a venial sin, venially; and if a defect, I show a defect of my own.

But if the intention is right, in two ways one can speak of the sin or fault of another. Firstly: When the sin is public, as in the case of a public prostitute, and of a sentence given in judgment, or of a public error which is infecting the souls with whom one comes in contact. Secondly: When the hidden sin is revealed to some person that he may help to raise him who is in sin — supposing, however, that he has some probable conjectures or grounds for thinking that he will be able to help him.

So we come to sinning by act or deed. Taking together the Ten Commandments, natural law, the precepts of the Church and the recommendations of superiors, every act done against any of these authorities is, according to its greater or less nature, a greater or a lesser sin.  Our acts are an example. One commits no little sin in being the cause of others acting contrary to the authorities.

So what is a method for “looking into the mirror” and making a general examination of our conduct, words and thoughts? It is contained  in five points.

  • First,  to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits we have received.
  • Secondly, to ask for the grace to know our sins and cast them out.
  • Thirdly, to ask an account of our soul (to remember our conduct) from the hour that we rose up to the present, examining hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order mentioned above.
  • Fourthly, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the faults.
  • Fifthly and finally, to firmly resolve to amend one’s ways with God’s help.

Look into the mirror and consider the five steps as many times a day as seems necessary to facilitate remembering one’s conduct, perhaps at every meal and break at first when getting used to this pattern. Thus do we examine our life.

I’ve always been fascinated by Socrates’ bold statement that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  He doesn’t fool around, no “nuances” for Socrates. He doesn’t say that the unexamined life is “less meaningful than it could be” or “one of many possible responses to human existence.” He simply and clearly says it’s not even worth living.  Why does he make such strong, unequivocal statement?  Socrates believed that the purpose of human life was personal and spiritual growth. We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. As another philosopher, Santayana, observed, “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Cheers

Joe

cropped-sunrise.jpg

 

 

 

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

 

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