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Category: Reflections

Hearing for the first time…

Hearing for the first time…

We are far greater than the limitations of our bodies. It’s moments like this that show our transcendent natures…

Christy Keane’s daughter Charly was born deaf. She’s still an infant, but recently got hearing aids. We’ve seen older children and adults get emotional when they hear sound for the first time, but Charly is so young, she doesn’t understand what’s happening or how to react. Her facial expressions are precious.

Compare these reactions of Charly and a 29 year old:

With this:

Daryl Davis AMA

Daryl Davis AMA

Daryl Davis is a African American gentleman that’s been the impetus for the many KKK members to question, and leave, the Klan. He’s doing an AMA on reddit, and this was one of his best quotes:

Despite what you may have read in the numerous press articles about me converting KKK members, I NEVER set out to convert anyone. I simply set out to ask a question I had formed in my mind as a kid: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” Growing up, we all are told, “A tiger doesn’t change its stripes, a leopard doesn’t change its spots,” etc. I believed that and I didn’t think anyone was going to change, so that wasn’t my initial goal. I just wanted the answer to my question. But over time, though repeated interactions with various KKK members around the country, some of them began questioning their own beliefs as a result of their interacations and conversations with me. Then they began quitting, and I was astounded. Exposure and one-on-one dialogue is the KEY to solving a lot of issues in this country, not just racial ones. We live in echo chambers in which we surround ourselves with people who will reflect back to us, the very same thing we say to them. Therefore we block out anything from the outside as being inferior to what we learn in our little bubbles. I like traveling outside the bubble. Even people with good intentions, tend to shut out those who may hold different opinions. I am willing to listen all all.

This came on the eve of spending some time reflecting on how I was spending my online time. I had basically come to the conclusion that social media’s ‘discussions’ are pretty much useless to my becoming a better person and simply causes me more angst. What really mattered to me was when I got involved in programs at my local parish and started teaching. That actually changed lives. I saw it happen. I vowed to spend less time reading posts, arguing, and spend more time DOING.

Wrath

Wrath

It should not surprise us that we feel the prick of injustice so deeply when it happens to us. When we were created, we were in a world without sin. We were created with an innate instinct for justice, rightness, fairness, and truth. All the qualities of love. We were meant to live in harmony and peace forever – with each other, with nature, and with God. Yet by original sin, evil, and thus, injustice and even death entered the world.

But we continue to seek justice, fairness, and love in all our relationships. We feel that violation when injustice is met upon us or others. We see the evil of it – but wrath, hatred, and violence are born when the desire for fairness is twisted beyond justice.

But, as Sirach says, “Remember your last days” and “remember death and decay”. In doing so, we realize that the wrongs of this world, in the end, are as nothing. All we do, all we have, all we say, will eventually turn to naught in time. Do not let the evil of anger and wrath take hold of your heart for earthly things that are passing away.

And thus, even death itself can be turned into a thing that brings life by reminding us that the things of the created realm are temporary, fleeting, and ultimately come to naught. Such is the power and wisdom of God to turn even decay and death into something that gives life.

Sirach 27:30—28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

What is your ‘yes’?

What is your ‘yes’?

This painting hangs in my room. I bought it in Florence and had it framed after visiting the Convent of San Marco.


Fra Angelico’s painting of the Annunciation – Florence 1440

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:26–38

 

Reflection for the day:

The ‘Yes’ of Mary changed our lives. The ‘yes’ of every single person that raised, taught, helped, loved, or befriended us have changed our lives too.

Where are we being asked to say ‘yes’? Where do we need to say ‘yes’?

Pornography and intimacy

Pornography and intimacy

The Gottman Institute has become a renowned organization when it comes to analyzing relationships and marriage using the latest science. His studies have been cited and mentioned on such shows as NPR and This American Life.

But Dr. John Gottman has made an about face on his stance on pornography – specifically internet pornography. In a heartfelt open letter to colleagues (some that have suggested pornography is ok or even to be encouraged as he did himself), he states his stance unequivocally:

In summary, we are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony. This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our readers around the world to understand what is at stake.

Pornography destroys relationships, distorts healthy sexual expression, and damages the ability to form healthy intimacy. Even divorce lawyers are seeing the trend:

In an informal meeting survey in 2002, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers questioned 350 divorce attorneys and found that roughly 60 percent reported that internet porn played a significant role in the divorces, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases.

It’s not just lawyers who are picking up on the trend. In 2005, Dr. Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in sexual addiction, pornography, or betrayal trauma, brought her research on porn and its connection to divorce before the Senate. According to Manning’s research, 56 percent of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

John Mathews*, Family Law and Divorce Attorney, has also found porn to be a prevalent problem within his practice. Mathews explains that, in most cases, spouses deny porn use. But during discovery, a process wherein each spouse is given a list of questions to answer under oath, and during the back and forth between spouses as he tries to understand the complaints, he sees clearly the role porn plays in crumbling marriages.

Mathews explains that porn is most often cited amongst complaints of “Constructive Desertion,” meaning the spouse is at fault for emotionally abandoning their partner and withdrawing from sexual intimacy. Mathews says that he has had several cases in which a husband can’t stop engaging with porn, causing him to withdraw from quality time that could be spent with his wife. Most often, Mathews explains, porn use takes its toll by creating false expectations for physical intimacy. “I have had many cases where the husband won’t even touch his wife and several cases in which the spouses have not had sex in three or four years,” Mathews says.

Pornography is an addiction – on in which you have become addicted to the chemicals of sexual stimulation our own bodies generate. If this is destroying you, I’d urge you to take the following actions:

  1. Recognize that intimacy is not just sexual expression. Sexual acts only have meaning to us when they draw us into a relationship with another. Outside of that, they leave us feeling more empty and alone afterward. Something that captures this idea for me is this, “Stop spending all your time fretting about who you want to get into bed with. Spend your energy on who you want to wake up to instead.”
  2. Seek out a professional counselor or professional tools that recognize pornography as an addiction and treat it as such. Even Gottman has changed his tune on this topic. Professional help is important. Like gambling or substance abuse addictions, it’s very hard to impossible to solve it yourself. You need support and assistance.
  3. You will fall. Seek our the grace of confession and resources of a local parish. Be open and honest in your struggles and ask for grace in the sacrament to strengthen and heal you.
  4. Know it is possible. The expression and truth of real intimacy is far, far greater than just a mere physical expression of sexuality. When sex is wrapped in relationship – it is transcendent.
Rebuilt…

Rebuilt…

“The sacraments are celebrated every day in the Catholic church. The sacraments give us the grace we need to put us in right relationship with God – nourishing and strengthening us for our discipleship walk. But for some, the ceremony of the sacramental life of the Church is what they do instead of growing and becoming a disciple.”

Presidential authority and how democracy can die

Presidential authority and how democracy can die

During the Obama presidency, there were many that were angered by the number of executive orders he issued to work around the gridlocked of Congress.  One notable one was not enforcing deportation laws. Today, many on the other side of the political spectrum are angry at the executive orders that Trump are issuing. Here in Oregon, there is currently a lawsuit against the Trump administration for pulling funding for ‘sanctuary’ cities.

Executive orders are a strange beast. They can be easily passed by the president (without the approval of Congress) but have the full force of law, based on the authority derived from statute or the Constitution itself. Recent presidents have issued in the 100-300 range, which is nowhere near the 1000’s that were passed by some previous presidents (usually during war/Great Depression).

But they set a bad precedent – not for Republicans vs Democrats – but for citizens. Instead of forcing our politicians to follow the rule of law, we seemingly let them violate the checks and balances in our government to ‘get what we want’. It’s important not to let our politicians break the rule of law. The rule of law protects CITIZENS from POLITICIANS. It makes our politicians do their jobs – which is to make, pass, enforce, and abide by the rules of law. When we give them a free pass to violate the very laws/checks and balances, then we as citizens lose the ability to control our own government. We only hurt ourselves. Just like giving a kid scissors to run around the house just to shut them up, we will end up paying a much worse price later for short-term gains.

I plan on holding my politicians to a higher standard. Do what we hired you to do – the hard work of working out our laws and getting them passed. I for one will sacrifice getting something now vs later in order to preserve the important safety guards to hold our government accountable.

Why you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook

Why you shouldn’t get your news from Facebook

So where can you get your news? In general, one can start with this chart to know the rough bias of the source:

I usually hit up the BBC for general news, then start cross referencing facts between varied sources on a particular subject to get the spectrum of the ‘facts’. If more than a few jive and come from sources on both sides of the left/right bias line – then I consider it credible. I don’t consider sources more than one tick from center to be credible without serious distortion of the facts.

Facebook posts, however, is news curated by your friends. I love you all, but we’re not the most unbiased nor always check our sources and facts when we post (myself included). I must consider my sources.

The comment chain is where you can lose faith in humanity. Some people like posting inflammatory stuff to “circle their wagons”. These things become pits to vilify others, feel better about themselves, as well as become an echo chamber to entrench and deepen their own opinions. I’ve seen downright sexism, racism, threats and recommendations of violence spewed from people on both sides of the far right AND left of the political spectrum. If you’re one of these people – it’s time to check yourself. If your posts are nothing but hate, rejoicing in the destruction of others, and tirades of outrage – you are not helping.

These comment chains are like nuclear reactors. You take enough radioactive material of the same kind together, and on its own, just being close to more of itself, it turns into lots of heat, pressure, and radiation that kills anyone coming near it. The end result is to make everyone reading it more polarized as your circle of ‘yes men’ entrenches – because you’re no longer being challenged to deal in a civil way with others that disagree with you. Not that things aren’t wrong. They are. But a real effect of this last election has been to damage genuine dialog that seeks to understand the other, learning how to make convincing arguments that respect others and might actually change the mind of a reasonable person via facts and logic or building bridges between people that disagree. If you truly no longer believe that’s possible, then please make some effort or find those to help because the other logical courses of action (besides talking) are destruction.

We can still have a very strong personal identity and mission. But just as the bias of these news sources – the way we convey even actual truth can take perfectly good news and make it completely useless or even wrong. Exercise: Take one actual event and find it on each of these sites. Witness how they change wording, titles, and commentary from far left to far right. It’s a fascinating exercise each of us should do. I often challenge myself by going left/right to see the opposite spin – the goal is learning how to listen to a take I don’t agree with but not flip out.

Being outraged is easy. Being angry is easy. Wanting to hurt others or see them hurt is easy. It is harder to use your brain. It’s harder to build a common good. If an article makes me incensed or angry, my ‘Am I being played?’ light comes on and I go to more sources. I practice not immediately been swept up (which makes you easy to control), but to internally learn how to question or make meaningful counter-arguments.

If you believe you’re ‘open minded’ because you consider yourself a Democrat/left-leaning/etc – then I’ll challenge you with the fact I’ve read at least one person I know here in Portland that claimed all these things yet believes they have a right to use whatever means (even physical violence) without punishment because ‘those people are just wrong and I need to resist with everything I have.’ Violence begets more violence – and only makes whoever is physically stronger and willing to do what others won’t ‘right’.

If we can’t learn how to get along and civilly dialog with those we don’t agree with – then we have no hope as a nation nor as a people looking for the common good. As my old history prof said, “Democracy is not about getting everyone to agree – that will never happen. What it does is give us a form of government in which everyone gets some of what they want – enough to get along – without having to kill the other side like we did for millennia.”  Instead, we are headed back to that attitude if it increasingly becomes all about ‘me’. It doesn’t help that our news has learned that outrage sells and fuels the idea of all-or-nothing ideals using inflammatory headlines. If we continue, we will pick even more and more radical people to lead us to our own destruction. All the while controlled and directed by a steady and constant fuel of ‘outrage’ that makes us act emotionally, not with our brains.

It is also not Christian. God does not delight in the death or destruction of even one sinner:

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. – Lk 15:7

Christ came not to judge the world, but to call all to himself:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.. – Jn 3:17

If our job is to continue the work of Christ, we do the same. We do not judge nor condemn but spread the good news. The news each can live in the light and truth without shame. That we do not need to live in the darkness of our past. It can be brought out and healed. We can live free from the darkness of the evil in our lives. Evil has a way of hurting us so that our decisions in the future are tainted by hiding from, or hiding the shame, of that hurt. It breaks up our relationships. And in the light, even if we fall again, that darkness can be healed and forgiven. Nobody is beyond forgiveness. Nobody is beyond hope.

Everything is its own reward

Everything is its own reward

From the book “Everything is its own reward” by Paul Madonna

In hard times, beauty can seem frivolous – but take it away, and all you’re left with – is hard times.

All the places we went.
things we did.
At one point I tried to arrange them,
construct some sort of narrative.
I was looking to find sense in what happened,
fully believing I could.

The days passed slowly, while they years flew by.

Leave a little emptiness
A space
for when what you’re waiting for
arrives.

Right now I’m so damn happy. And I’ve been alive long enough to know it’s all so damn fleeting.

Everything is its own reward.

I kept meeting people that claimed to be artists but never made anything. Always the same excuses: time, money, space. So I decided I’d use only supplies that fit in my backpack. I could draw and write anywhere, anytime, so if I didn’t, I’d be to blame.

In this episode, Michael attempts to construct a time machine to escape debt and dinner party obligations.

He said the only things he regretted was having not written down all the excuses people had given him for not doing whatever it was they had said they would do. “Priceless insights! With them, I could’ve held a mirror to the world”

The portions of his brain not used to imagine her in compromising positions

“What? I didn’t say anything.” “You didn’t have to, you’re saying it in my head.”

He was like a shark of conversation – if he stopped talking he would die.

Words spoken then forgotten
turn up again like tiny shards of glass
from broken bowls
hidden in the rug missed by the vacuum
pierce your toes in the early hours of the morning
as you wander the hall
wondering why it is you can’t sleep

There had been a confrontation followed by a cooling off period. Memories became distorted, imaginings of what could have happened grew exaggerated. It’s what happened in absence, and the longer it went on, the greater the crash that would come from giving it another try. It was like trying to correct your posture. You know that you slouch, so you straighten your back and vow to forever sit up right, only to find a moment later, you’re hunched over again.

It despairs her to know that the world is not flat. That if she sailed off one shore, she would hit another. That she can’t just keep … going.

Sometimes I pack a bag and just walk around the neighborhood.

You were starting to have second thoughts about all the friends who complimented you on being self-deprecating.

There will always be someone who walks into the middle of the street then curses at the cars that have to screech to a halt to avoid hitting them.

They change the definitions of words you believed in slowly, so that what you ended up fighting for was the opposite of what you wanted.

Freedom to act outside the rules is no protection against doing so.

and in my head, I go.

What about those thoughts that say you can do anyeverything?

I am not an industry

I’ve found my hand, but not my voice.
I’ve begun to make my name, but not my fortune.

All my offerings of beauty are little more than decoration
If through them my demons are not set free.

What are you looking to get? To give? What will help you feel closer to whatever it is you feel far from?

It takes perpetual work to keep life simple. There are ways of being that I could return to, but they’d result in little but trouble.

“I think that’s the first thing to rule people out, whether they’d still do it if there was no money.””Reality doesn’t have to be like that.”

“Reality doesn’t have to be like that.”

There are so many things I can do – so I don’t do any.

We want something to tell us how to live (that doesn’t mean we’ll listen)

Are you really sorry, or is that just what you tell people when you can’t tell them the truth?

Revisit old themes

Does the smell of the air today remind you of another time? Inhale through your nose. And the next time a day like this comes around you’ll be transported back to now.

“All this wondering why,” she says. “It’s a pain. Makes you think you’re doing something important, that you’re smart or covering all your bases, when all it does is spin you in ever darkening circles. I’m convinced that why is no longer the question – or the answer. Maybe I’m just progressing through interrogatives, but at this point, the question I’m asking is, how?”

How do you get smarter faster?

How can you know what you don’t know?

I walk around – Touching everything I love once.

Changing because you were caught doesn’t make you honest
Changing because you were forced to confess and now live under watchful eyes doesn’t make you fixed.
Change because you can’t live being who you are – and change alone.

No matter which direction you choose, in 5 years you’ll be happy you did.

We were talking about how you can’t make decisions out of fear, or potential discomfort. That if you do, you don’t really ever go back.

There is a fine line between inconvenience and hardship

In what country do you live? What home?

You got older, and things happened (all windows of the cars on you street got smashed out)

Rich said he felt better after a friend told him, “Everyone has a box for problems in their heads, and no matter what’s going on in your life, the box will always be full.” It made me feel better too – so I’m passing it on.

Trying to turn the disillusionment into cash

All weird camera angles – And no story

I listened to the news of the world too early and so the rest of the morning I walked around feeling that everything was bad. Then through a store window I saw a book of drawings I just had to have. They made me happy so I bought them. Out on the sidewalk I realized that the only thing I can do about the state of how people have to live is offer what I can, whatever I have to offer, and go from there.

Pope Francis gives a surprise TED Talk, calls for a ‘revolution of tenderness’

Pope Francis gives a surprise TED Talk, calls for a ‘revolution of tenderness’

Pope Francis gave a surprise Ted talk this last week

Keeping with the intent of the week-long conference to share strategies to make the world better, Francis’s contribution to that conversation was to urge the people gathered here to use their influence and power to care for others.

“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” he said to applause. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”