The Gospel Truth

A Race for the New Social Fabric

February 9, 2015
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At lunch I was reading New York Times’ William Rhoden’s paean to the late basketball coach, Dean Smith. Instead of focusing on his impact on coaching or his impact on college basketball, Mr. Rhoden was compelled to delve into Smith dancing to the tune of the racial social fabric.

I seldom read Rhoden’s column because of his obsession with social issues, especially his race in sports.    However he is not the greatest offender in this regard.

The female columnists in USA Today, such as Christine Brennan, have the same problem focusing on sports through the self-centered prism of their own worldviews.

My advice to them is get a job writing on the editorial page and leave sports to what happens on the court or between the lines.

The sports page used to belong to the games and the performances of athletes.  Now it is the fodder for agenda-driven social issues that chase most of us to the comics page.

Sure I like a nice profile on where athletes came from and some of their struggles with diseases, broken homes and the lot but please stick to the games they play.

Just beneath the aforementioned Rhoden column was another offbeat article that was unintentionally laced with a sense of irony that dripped from each word as the story unfolded.

I am talking about Jere Longman’s piece on a unique kind of race that had taken place in Philadelphia a week or so ago. Some 350 people paid from $20-$30 apiece to “run” in a one step race.  (Beer and food was also part of the price.)  That’s right! The starting and finishing lines are just on stride away.  Everyone had the same exact “running” time–one second.   Age divisional winners were chosen by lot since all the contestants had identical times.

This Philadelphia race, aptly christened the Instant Gratification Run can be construed as an existential comment on our new emerging American society where instant gratification is almost not fast enough.

This is the participation trophy, and “the competition is bad ” social theorem come to its most logical conclusion and by acclamation should serve as the perfect metaphor for the Obama Presidency.

I say that because no president has done more to discourage achievement in school, business and society at large.   He preaches about, not equality of effort, hard  work, or production but equal reward.

So in a country whose own president once admitted to Barbara Walters that he was “lazy,” a race that requires no preparation, fasting, or self-discipline should stand head and shoulders above any personal achievement. This is a race that mirrors our national obsession of  equality of result, instead of effort.

Obama’s America gives out food stamps and other people’s money to millions who have been conditioned to believe that they are morally entitled to the largesse of people who invest wisely, deal with harmful stress or work long hours.

The Racialism as a part of the American social fabric Mr. Rhoden cares so much about has been passe for years now. History passed it a longtime ago and Obama’s election left it stone cold dead.

This is the new social fabric–leadership that demeans accomplishment–you didn’t build this.

It reflects a Progressive Party that tampers with the traditional social fabric, provided by the marriage of one man to one woman.

It is a country now that has cast aside all the moral commandments that regulated the darker side of our nature–a side they can never see because they have become willfully blinded by their own agendas and social prejudices.

It is now a country that can tell religions that do not follow its secular and atheistic lead that their views have no place in public society and should be solely relegated to the privacy of their sanctuaries, confessionals and homes.

In the place of private enterprise, the traditional family, and Christianity they offer the free lunch, free college, free universal medical care—-al the needs that their people had without any regard as to how they will pay for any of it. They have killed the Golden Goose and broken all of her eggs.  They have eviscerated, dismembered and incinerated American Exceptionalism with passion and glee.

In President Obama’s long, endless presidency, change has evolved into transformation that will most likely end in national suicide.

I shall not be surprised to see him remove the stars and stripes of war and patriotism from our flag and replace it with the sloth…a symbol for our times.

Liberty started in Philadelphia and now it looks as if it has run its course and will end in Philadelphia…at least in a metaphorical sense.


The Banality of Nudity

January 26, 2015
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One of the great conflicts in human existence has been the clash between free will and individual conscience. It is a never-ending battle that often wages in the soul of any conscious human being.

When I was 19 the temptations of the flesh nearly overwhelmed me in the Augustinian sense of the word.

Southern author Pat Conroy has the most graphic description of the workings of lust in the mind of an 18-year altar boy at Midnight Mass in 1962, in his autobiographical novel The Great Santini.  The contrast between the spirit and the body has never been better described.

I read a religious pamphlet that said that people like me could not wear paper bags over our heads. We had to encounter the world, as it was—sinful, imperfect and filled with the workings of the world, the flesh and the devil.

The  Catholic Church has not been very helpful in that regard. It only emphasized the negatives.  I was to abstain from any impure actions, desires and looks.  Prayer seemed to be my only defense…and of course the paper bag.

Yet as I grew older the temptations multiplied as women shed two-thirds of their clothing on the street and virtually all of it on the beach. In denying my body its natural instincts I made it a constant source of temptation, fear and anxiety.

This was years before Saint John Paul II’s revolutionary tract on the Theology of the Body, which in essence taught men how to look at the feminine form…even in their her nude state with respect, appreciation and even joy.  He stressed that nudity in itself was good but stressed the proper context and how it was received by any onlookers.

This was basically the point the priest writing in the pamphlet 50 years ago was making when he suggested that I thank God for making them so beautiful. It took me a long while but eventually I came to adopt this attitude in my thinking.

The human body, especially the female body, has had a variegated place in human history. Each page seemed to have the apple juice of Eden all over it.

Modernism has always had its own concerns for nudity and self-expression that lacked the moral framework of John Paul. It has led to a virtual cult of the body.

On the way to early Mass on any Sunday, I have always marveled how religiously devoted the gaggle of runners, bikers and walkers were, as they plied their energies to stave off the inevitable.  I have always wondered if they took as much care and concern for their souls as they did for the bodies.

The body used to be referred to as the temple of the Holy Ghost. Now millions flock to health clubs and spas that have become the new temples for the body.     According to one critic, to idolize physical perfection is to treat our body as a god.   It is a narcissistic self-love that seems devoid of Divine love.

Attitudes toward the human body involve many other aspects. Where freedom is present, nudity cannot be far behind.  It is the nature of things. Personal and social nudity seems to have ubiquitously breached the usual parameters of tradition, culture and modesty.

One place to find a lot of nudity is the notorious California Esalen Spa.  In her personal memoir spa specialist Sharon Thom wrote in a revealing article Fig Leaf in the Wind, explaining that the freedom of being nude at their resort was a great leveler.

While some nudity is a given in massage therapy, one therapist in training had to bear all for her instructors and fellow students.  It was a valid part of the training.   It was the most liberating event in her life. You can’t hide behind clothes anymore, because you don’t have any ON!! 

As for sports one would be surprised to find how many people have reverted back to the Greek Olympics where all their athletes, men and women competed in the nude. Many people currently play tennis, golf, swim, bike and hike without the need for clothing, except maybe a helmet for bikers.

Naturism is the philosophy of living in harmony with nature without any feelings of  lust or shame.  Nude Beaches and nudist resorts are the most common venues for social nudism.   The World Naked Bike Ride is held annually in cities all over the world. America is fast becoming a series of nudist enclaves where people betray an Edenic return to the Garden.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Burning Man Festival, a postmodern carnival of the absurd where nudity is fully acceptable. The weeklong event is held every year in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada, beginning the Monday before, and ending on, the American Labor Day holiday.  And of course National Nude Day is celebrated every July 14th now.

New York Times theater reviewer Ben Bratley commented a few years ago full nudity has been a customary part of the mainstream Western theater since the 1960s and ’70s… But I have never been confronted with as many male chests, buttocks and genitalia as I have in visits to Broadway and West End theaters during the last six months.

Probably the most famous play, where famous actresses have bared all on a regular basis, is The Graduate. The play was written by Terry Johnson.  Anne Bancroft played Mrs. Robinson, a middle age woman who seduces much younger Dustin Hoffman, in the movie.  While Bancroft used a body double for her nude scene in the movie, actresses who played Mrs. Robinson on the stage didn’t have that luxury.   Such theatrical luminaries as Linda Gray, Kathleen Turner, Morgan Fairchild, Anne Archer and Lorraine Bracco are among the actresses who have bared all in this play.

The only personal experience I have had with nudity on the stage was in 1995 when my wife and another couple saw the Broadway play Indiscretions, starring a frumpy Kathleen Turner.   It was based on a farce by French playwright Jean Cocteau.   In one scene a young man sits happily in a bath basin soaping himself. A young woman, dressed in what might politely be said to have barely covered some of her Victoria Secrets sauntered down a long and perilously high spiral staircase.

As the tensions in our foursome started to tighten in our second row seats, all I could think was, one of two things was going to happen.  She was going slip off her Teddy and get in the tub or he was going to stand up.  I am not certain I was relieved or disappointed when the latter happened. I looked at my wife and the other couple who seemed to be staring straight through the moment. I found out later the young actors were Jude Law and Cynthia Nixon.

Performance Art is on the periphery of the increasing nudism in Western culture. These artists often use the human body as live sculpture and even architecture.   They range from the esoterically astute Serbian Marina Abramović, who explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind to the mildly deranged Karen Finley whose claim to fame is cavorting on stage in her chocolate covered body.

Abramovic’s latest exhibit was at MoMa in New York City a few years ago where pairs of mixed naked couples, stood facing each other in a narrow doorway. To enter the next room visitors had to squeeze between them.

Ever since Lady Godiva, in the 11th-century, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to a legend, rode naked – only covered in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants, especially women have used their naked bodies to protest injustices, alleged and sometimes imaginary throughout the world.  Women from the pro-animal PETA in this country to Ukraine’s FEMEN, women are still baring their breasts and other body parts to raise consciousness toward their respective causes.  Recently one of the latter was arrested at the Vatican.

To illustrate how far it has gone, there is no better example than in the recent book, The Seven Deadly Virtues. In the chapter, written by on Chastity by Matt Labash, he cited an exhibit during the 2000 Republican National Convention where there was a Q&A session with legendary porn actress Nina Hartley. The politically opinionated Hartley held court, wearing nothing but a serious demeanor.

The reaction of the crowd of mostly men was a mixture of boredom, insouciance and polite acceptance. To paraphrase the late Hannah Arndt American culture suffers from the banality of nudity—over-exposure to the point that God’s greatest creation will lose the human respect it just;y deserves.  While not of the above is overtly immoral, nudity’s ubiquity is our cultural reality.  We should all make our moral peace with it because it is not going away and there is a shortage of paper bags.


Going to See the Russian

January 13, 2015
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Nearly 10 years ago, my thespian daughter had a supporting role in a play, Going to See the Elephant. She played the traveling wife from a larger urban community with a sick husband. The lead character was an older woman, who was tied to her farm in Osbourne County, Kansas shortly after the end of the Civil War.   Though her life was the personification of routine and drudgery, she still had a vivid imagination of someday being able to visit foreign lands.

The title of this 1982 play, which my daughter’s short-lived theater company, The Orange Girls produced was an American idiom that indicated overwhelming emotion, and according to Belle “Maw” Wheeler it was a colloquial term for daydreaming that created a reverie that gave people a respite from the boredom and drudgery of their mundane lives. Presumably the Elephant represented exotic travel to faraway lands…from Kansas, such as India or maybe even Africa.

I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to most places that I have always longed to see such as Rome, Dublin, London and even Malta, I never had any desire to go see any elephant in India or even in the San Diego Zoo.

But recently I had this yearning to see the Russian…Vladimir Tarasenko, who is the latest young phenomenon to skate for the St. Louis Blues Hockey team. Vladimir Andreyevich Tarasenko was born on Dec 13 1991. in Yaroslavl, Russia.   Only in his 3rd season, Tarasenko, the team’s leading scorer with 23 goals was just named to the NHL All Star Game.  He is also a former Russian league scoring champion and a Russian Olympian to boot.

There seems to be something special about him that inspired my Elephant Moment.  Perhaps it was his Russian origins, his size or the cool grace with which he plays the game.  Perhaps I think he will be the next Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player in hockey history, whom I saw lace up his skates twice.

I am not what you call a hockey fan by any stretch of the imagination. The last hockey game I attended was probably in the last century. The Blues changed players so often I could not develop any attachment or interest in any special player. I did see the aforementioned Wayne Gretzky when he briefly played here as well as stalwart, Brett Hull whose father I think I saw play when I was young.

Well last night my yearning was satisfied when I saw Tarasenko lead the Blues to a 7-2 victory over the same team, the San Jose Sharks whom they had beaten by an identical score just a week ago.

What impressed me most about him was not just his size, but also the smoothness and fluidity with which he transversed the rink. It was more of art form, germane to the European game than the pure brute strength of North American hockey. In fact virtually the whole team demonstrated the grace and speed with percise passing in stark contrast to the type of goon hockey that has characterized the sport in the NHL for so long.

The influx of several European players is largely responsible, including several Russians. They have taught the North Americans how to really played the game.  This reminded of one of  late comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s best lines: I went to a boxing match the other night at the Garden and a hockey game broke out!

Last night’s game was almost uninterrupted by penalties and there were no fights at all.  The crowd was energized and very much alive but not angry, drunk or rowdy.

While Tarasenko did not score a goal for me, he did assist on the first two scores and was always lurking around the maw of the goal for a scoring opportunity.

I went to the game with an unusual combination of multi-generational family, including my younger son, my youngest granddaughter and my only son-in-law.   While we had the complete family out for dinner the evening before, this evening had a special meaning for me.

There was a diversity of family relationships, each with its own innate character and hierarchy.  While I was the patriarch of the 11 family members at dinner, this night I was not only the “patriarch”– in reality the family matriarch rules the family–I was a father, grandfather, and father-in-law.  My son Matthew was a son, uncle, and brother-in-law.  Tim was a father, a son-in-law and a brother-in-law.  Olivia…now 12 was a daughter, granddaughter and niece.

Even though I was “plugged up” to protect what little natural hearing I have left, I was able just to feel our special family aura in my soul.

At the first period intermission, my son and I went on a hunting expedition—there were no elephants in the trade center that night to see the exhibit on the third level, dedicated to the St. Louis Browns, a team with which I have had a strong posthumous relationship.

Over 30 years after they left for greener pastures in Baltimore, a few others and I founded a Historical Society (1984) in their honor.  Four years ago I joined with announcer Bob Costas, St. Louis Cardinals’ owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and the late Tom Phillips, in funding the exhibit as part of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.   This had been my first chance to actually see the exhibit and my name on the plaque that joins the two-glassed cases that is stocked with Brownie history, legend and lore, including two of my short histories of the team.

The entire evening was one of those moments that I will treasure until the end of my days. I guess I had one of Véronique Vienne’and Fr. Richard Rohr’s Naked Moments.  (see last Post) I owe it all to the Russian.


The Naked Moment

January 7, 2015
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At a local restaurant before the end of the year we met a young server, a twenty-four year old woman who had spent the last few years living in New York City. She had gone there to write the great American novel.

She proceeded to tell us about her story, which was a love relationship between a woman of Hopi Indian decent and her husband, set in Montana. Unfortunately I don’t remember any of the manuscript’s details except that she did not have any title for it.

In early December as irony would have it, I was reading one of the two novels I had purchased during our summer trip to Martha’s Vineyard.   Local author Philip R. Craig had written both of them.

In his Vineyard Prey, he had a long paragraph about the Hopi Indians and their concept of time. Their language did not include any words or concepts for small segments of time, such as seconds, minutes and hours.

The language only had concepts that events were not happening any more, were still happening or may happen in the future. They also held that people are no longer here or are here or may be here in the future. Craig’s protagonist, J. W. Jackson opined it was a good language to hide in with perfect honesty.  I passed this all on to the aspiring young novelist, thinking she might be able to conjure a title out of it.

In discussing this whole idea with my younger son, he taught me about the difference between Chronos and Kairos.

Chronos means living by the clock that is always being manipulated by appointments, schedules etc while the second one measures not in seconds and minutes but in moments, which may be brief or last a long time.

In these pages I have already confessed that my life has been ruled by the arbitrary concept of time that we use to organize our lives.   My mother had me early for every date, appointment or event that I was scheduled to attend.  I wish I had some of those wasted moments back or at least had the foresight and understanding to have treasured them.

Now in the twilight of my life I regret having wasted so many magic moments in anxiety, fear and distrust.

This is not to say that living by Chronos is a bad thing.   For millions of adults it is a superior way to function in a fast-driven society that holds a premium on punctuality and good manners.   It is also the best way to stay gainfully employed.

However too much of even a necessary thing can lead to a rigor mortis of the soul where one never really enjoys his sojourn on this earth and quite frankly in my case enjoys events after they have happened.   That’s why my memories have become so important to me as I have entered my uncharted waters of growing old.

My son also mention the idea of living in the moment…not after it. I will admit that anticipation of a moment can be exhilaration…only if it is not accompanied by an anxiety about the moment failing to live up to its promise.

I started reading Véronique Vienne’s short book, In The Art of the Moment in which she explores ways to get the most from life, one moment at a time. Her signature essays—short and sweet, yet insightful—are invitations to appreciate the uniqueness of each moment.

She tells us to feel the excitement of being here right now!  She encourages her readers to savor the fullness of life in brief, joyful installments. Don’t wait for a second chance to get it right, she says. Each moment is both the last time and the first time because no two days are ever alike.

Each brief chapter in her book is a reminder that time is not running out. One does not have to rush to experience a sense of joy, wonder, and adventure. It is there for the taking, whenever one is ready for it. Anyone can claim the now while washing the car, taking a child to volleyball practice, buying a new pair of shoes, or daydreaming about opening a small bookstore across the street from the hardware store.

One of course cannot make a living in or for the moment.  Moving to Colorado and joined a community of Lotus Eaters would only turn the moment in a life of of neglect and debauchery.

Moderation must govern our affair our inclination to smelling the roses, relishing spontaneity, random adventures and off-the-cuff improvisation and sharing your vitality with random strangers, while experiencing wonder and the enormous pleasure of the BIG WOW.

One can even raise each moment to a higher plane than its Horacian imperative to seize the moment  and suck out the marrow of life as Robin Williams’ character in The Dead Poets Society professed.   As the Catholic prayer, The Morning Offering teaches one can sanctify one’s daily actions, thoughts and feelings and offer them to God in thanks of the precious gift of life.

A friend recently introduced me to some of the ideas of the highly controversial Franciscan monk, Richard Rohr. While some of his ideas on God as Universal Consciousness seem way off the Catholic radar, his consistent attempts to penetrate the mystical truths of the Catholic faith are an invitation to take one’s faith to a higher level.

His writings are deep and may even border on the mystical but for a novice without any historical, metaphysical or theological background, they can easily lead someone greviously astray.

But as Dante had his Aeneas to guide him through the nether world of eternal life, caution should accompany anyone making a conscientious journey through some of Father Rohr’s ideas.

One of Father Rohr’s ministries is working with men, beaten down by a society that seems to have marginalized them.  While this is laudatory, his advocacy of homosexual marriage seems to work at cross-purposes because the reason so many men become homosexuals is because of the breakdown of the family unit and I would add the feminist movement of the 1960s.Young boys need strong, caring fathers to teach them how to love and respect women.

These historical factors have confused me as to their true sexual identity causes many to be more comfortable with their own gender than the opposite sex.  That’s where he should be offering his insights in my opinion.

But this is not to deny that there is some apparent wisdom in his concept of seizing the moment, or as he calls it in his 2009 book, The Naked Moment. I see a lot of fascinating ideas that can easily be absorbed into my Catholic faith.

As Reviewer Rick Heffern put it in the liberal Catholic paper, The National Catholic Reporter, Rohr’s book, subtitled Learning to See as the Mystics See, extols the spiritual benefits of learning to live comfortably with paradox, with the process of conversion, with learning to change our minds as life comes at us with its messiness and disorder.

He claims that if your religious practice is nothing more than to remain sincerely open to the ongoing challenges of life and love, then you will find God — and also yourself.

It’s a bold claim, but Rohr offers sound reasoning to support it. Great people, he says, keep adjusting to what life offers and demands of them.

Rohr also rests his thinking on his belief that God’s love is so ingenious and victorious that I find God is willing to turn the world around to get me facing in the right direction. God seems to be totally into change. I know this every time I see how divine grace maneuvers around my sinfulness and human events, and how the entire universe itself is continually changing states from solids to liquids to gasses to seeming emptiness.

Rohr presents the Christian contemplative and mystical traditions as enduring examples of ways of living animated by non-dualistic thinking.  By that he means that we cannot always divide the world into them and us, black and white etc.  As St. Paul instructs us we see the world but through a glass darkly.  To me that is hardly 20-20 and does compel us to cut sinners…including ourselves some slack.

In a critical review of Rohr’s somewhat fuzzy Orthodoxy, The Oxford Review’s Bryce Andrew Sibley underscores that Rohr is fond of the theology of John Duns Scotus. It is fair to say that between Scotus and St. Thomas, and therefore between Scotists and Thomists, there exists a significant difference with regard for human reason.

In stark contrast to Thomists, Scotists manifest a marked distrust of the native intellectual powers of the soul. This leads them, in some cases, to a greater trust in the will and the emotions, not only in theological discourse but also in the spiritual life.   Romanticism can be traced back to this way of thinking.

While I applaud Father Rohr’s attempt to join the great mystics of the Church, mysticism is a dangerous road that is potholed with vanities, serious errors and despair. One can barely penetrate a mere scintillia of God’s divine essence or wind up babbling to himself in an empty parking lot.

It has been my experience that one must put everything, including Catholic Orthodoxy to the Test of Reason. A search for God has to be as of the mind as it is of the heart. Reason and Faith (Ratio et Fides) are God’s inseparable dancing partners.

Rohr has failed that test because he leads too much with his heart and not enough with his reason, thus exposing the historic weakness of a Christian liberalism that tries to unilaterally dance around the permanent things with clever movements and esoteric lexicology.


A Silent Night on the Western Front

December 17, 2014
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In early December my wife and I attended the musical play All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.   This musical play marked the 100th anniversary of  what is arguably the second most ironic event in the history of the world.   In what would amount to the bloodiest war in recorded history, where 16 million human beings perished, thousands of soldiers found it in their hearts and souls to recognize the approaching birth of the Prince of Peace.  When it was over they returned to their savage crucifixion of each other on a cross of pride and greed.

The Mustard Seed Theater’s rendition at Fontbonne University was a marvelous 65 minutes of a capella musical entertainment and history that documents a true and all too brief period of time during the First World War on Christmas Eve.

At dawn, only months into the war, after hearing and trading carols across the trenches, a German soldier crossed the lines of the Western front into no-man’s-land wishing a Merry Christmas in native tongues.  Seeing that he was unarmed, British and French soldiers eventually did the same.  They ended up meeting in the middle where they exchanged gifts of puddings and cigarettes, sang songs, played a little soccer, and together buried their dead.

According to the MST summary the script is based on the actual letters of men from various regiments, brigades and infantrymen who lived it.  Along with commentary on the incredible events of that Christmas Eve in 1914, the letters also describe, in vivid detail, the enthusiasm of the young soldiers as they leave for the war, evocative descriptions of their surroundings, the thrill of receiving parcels from home, the devastating loss of friends, and the making of new ones across enemy lines — if only for a short time.

The songs that range from ballads, traditional folk songs, patriotic songs and Christmas carols include, Will Ye Go to Flanders?, a Scottish folk song, Pack up you Troubles, The Old Barbed Wire, an English traditional song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, a 12th century chant, “Wassail”, and over a dozen more.  Twenty-three songs in all are beautifully presented in an intermission 60 minutes that fly by.

My favorite Christmas hymn, which they sang in three different languages, has always been Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) It was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village on the Salzach river. Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.

The Christmas truce (Weihnachtsfrieden; Trêve de Noël) was a series of widespread but unofficial cease fires along the Western Front around Christmas 1914. In the week leading up to the holiday, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing.

Men played games of football (soccer) with one another, giving one of the most enduring images of the truce. However, the peaceful behaviour was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

In the lead up to Christmas 1914, there were several peace initiatives. The Open Christmas Letter was a public message for peace addressed To the Women of Germany and Austria, signed by a group of 101 British women suffragettes at the end of 1914 as the first Christmas of World War I approached.

On 7 December 1914, Pope Benedict XV had begged the combatants for an official truce between the warring governments. He asked that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang. This attempt was officially rebuffed.

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols.

The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across No Man’s Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently killed soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held.

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) is a 2005 French film about the World War I Christmas truce of December 1914, depicted through the eyes of French, Scottish and German soldiers. It was written and directed by Christian Carion. It was screened out of competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.  I have seen it twice and it is a very powerful rendition of this short-lived anomaly where martial soldiers put aside their animosities and relished in the peaceful reverie of universal brotherhood where their similarities and common humanity displaced their ethnic and political differences

That Christmas Eve was a brief lesson for all human beings.

For me the moment of truth in the movie revolved around the drafted German soldier, a famous opera tenor Nikolaus Sprink and his Danish wife, soprano, Anna Sørensen. The unofficial truce begins when the Scots begin to sing festive songs and songs from home, accompanied by bagpipes. Sprink and Sørensen arrive in the German front-line and Sprink sings for his comrades.

As Sprink sings Silent Night he is accompanied by a piper in the Scottish front-line. Sprink responds to the piper and exits his trench at the risk of snipers, with a small Christmas tree singing Adeste Fideles. Following Sprink’s lead the French, German, and Scottish officers meet in no-man’s-land and agree on a cease-fire for the evening.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday cease fires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

The truce was short-lived the high officials and generals wanted the killing to recommence. War was their business and death was their product. The slaughter resumed and did not stop until 16 millions human beings had perished in its bloody wake.

I said that this was only the second most ironic event in world history. This begs the question as to what was the first most ironic event. The answer has to be Good Friday that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death on Calvary.

According to the Christian faith mankind had executed the Prince of Peace. According to the Gospels Jesus had come into the world, not to live but to die and in doing so, assume the sins of the world and expiate mankind from its original guilt. His death completed the circle of life–moments of peace and joy amidst years of blood and violence–that the silent night alluded to in 1914.  The undying hope for all mankind is that. as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen had written, there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.


The Yellow Ball of Revenge

December 3, 2014
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The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath signified for the first time that French citizens formerly stood in opposition to Louis XVI, and the National Assembly’s refusal to back down forced the king to make concessions. It eventually led to the virtual destruction of the old but decaying edifices of Western Civilization. The gods of science would eventually usurp the power and influence of the Triune God of Christianity.

Amid the uproar and chaos of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, what has been virtually unheard and unrecognized has been the soft voice of science…that is Forensic Pathology.

It loomed largely as the deciding and irrefutable force in Officer Wilson’s No True Bill decision that to date has failed to satisfy the blood lust of the angry mobs that would burn down half of St. Louis County were it not for the serious demonstration of para-military forces in the area.

The world witnessed what was likely to have happened without that a belated demonstration show of force when Governor Jay Nixon reneged on his “promise” to protect life and property in St. Louis.   Several small businesses were incinerated or looted.

There was a time when science was literally a god in the academic and intellectual community.  It was purported to be the one discipline that Americans could rely on a 100% of the time. Science was devoid of the alleged superstitions of religious faith and the undying prejudices of a flawed humanity.

Thanks to Darwin and Big Government money honest science has surrendered its lofty status to political Faddism, masquerading as valid science.  The seductive charm of millions in research grants has prostituted a goodly portion of Science, giving us such chimera as Man-made Global warming and Climate Change.

This has served to corrupt and remove Science forever I suspect from the Panthenon of our secular gods.

In the Brown case valid science proved that a man who had the full leverage of his 290 pounds attacked Officer Darren Wilson within the entrapment of his own vehicle. About the same height and maybe 60-70 lighter than his assailant Wilson was struck in the face a few times.

When he threatened to shoot Brown if he did not back off, Brown went for his gun.

I think most reasonable people can assume Brown was not merely going to admire its handiwork but pump a full load into the officer’s body.

Wilson could have waited for the back up, which had never gotten his message due to the interior struggle.

Or he could have given pursuit to “protect” society at large from this behemoth of a young man who had already been the subject of a strong-arm robbery at a local convenience store just moments before their deadly encounter.

Just as they do on TV the officer yelled for Brown to Freeze! He turned and apparently embolden by the marijuana in his system (Toxicology) he challenged the cop to shoot him and then started charging. Wilson fired several times…hitting Brown a few times, mostly in his arms, which were never up in the standard surrender pose. Now about 10-15 feet apart, he stopped and then perhaps enraged by the officer’s audacity to have shot him, lowered his head and bull charged to the officer.

As his police training had taught him, Wilson fired until Brown stopped literally dead in his tracks having suffered a fatal shot to the top of his head.

Despite the cold and clear explanation of the scientific evidence, protesters still keep shouting that they want Justice for Michael Brown, ignoring that officer Wilson is also deserving of justice for his life and future hang in the balance.

County Prosecutor Bob McCullough, a Democrat had just been elected for the fourth time this past November. While he was highly respected many protestors used him as a target to extend their political agenda while loudly ignoring the truth of the violent incident.

They have raised Michael Brown to an iconic status that he does not deserve. He is dead now, not because of Officer Wilson’s right to self-defense but because of social and historical forces much greater than his short existence.

When I started doing talk radio in the early 1980s on WGNU, a unique station with about 30 different hosts from all walks of life with a diversity of personal opinions, I learned the root of all the racial strife that has permeated this country since its founding in 1787.

Many of my callers were black and at that time I was seriously sympathetic to their history of racial strife.

But after a year or two of arguing that we had to find a common ground somewhere, I learned that the more militant callers did not want equality or even justice. They wanted payback—-a simple revenge–they would do to whitey…what his forbears had done to them 200 years ago.

Revenge is endemic to the human soul. It is a poison that mocks the very meat upon which it feeds to paraphrase the Avonian Bard.

After the murder of President Lincoln by Southern sympathizers–the worst thing they could have ever done—the Radical Republican Congress replaced their slain leader’s magnanimous plan of reconstruction with a draconian agenda of retribution that devastated the South for generations to come.

They forced a proud and once elite Southern society to accept as social and political equals a largely unsocialized and uneducated (through no fault of their own) body of human beings whom the Supreme Court had recently defined as “personal property” or “chattel,” not human beings. (Dred Scott v. Sanders)

Anyone who understands the fallen nature of all men and women knows that this was a recipe for violence and years of hatred.

Saner heads knew that immediate political, social, and economic equality became a political daydream that had no chance of surviving without a large military presence…which existed until the vagaries of American politics raised its ugly head and removed the safety net of the black freedmen, putting them at the bloody dispatch of the KKK and other vigilante groups.

The ball was now in the South’s Court and all of its “black citizens”were relegated to an even harsher more deadly form of slavery several generations after Lincoln until the Civil Rights Movement tried to establish a modicum and civility between the races.

That quickly devolved into the Black Power Movement and its blatant attempt to seek revenge on white people…

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poor People replaced the millions of proud black husbands with a welfare check. In effect this effectively destroyed the sociological building blocks of the black community. It quickly led to a socially unsustainable illegitimacy rate that has undercut the infrastructure of a free and orderly civilization.

Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008 election was purported to show how much progress we had made. Unfortunately this president and his departing Attorney General are both products of the arena of racial politics.  Their policies seemed designed on an opaque agenda of high-priced payback to a white-dominated imperial society that in their minds has oppressed billions of people throughout its 227 year history.

Obama seems inner-directed to repeal of all of American history from its original sin of the 3/5 Compromise to the imperial wars of the Bush administration.

Despite the black community fratricide on the flower of its youth with thousands of black-on-black violent crimes, the Obama administration is determined to effect the unilateral disarmament of the American society country, transforming it into a divided nation with the relevancy of Belgium on the world stage.

Just think about what the DOJ has concentrated on. It will not enforce our existing Immigration and Border Security laws, while trying to open our borders to millions of immigrants who will lower the standard of living of all Americans, black and white.

Attorney-General Holder has vowed to “reform” all the police forces in the country. In real language he wants to undermine the power and effectiveness of the local constabulary.

Ferguson, Missouri is a prime example. New Orleans and Cleveland have already had run-ins with the AG to their detriment.   To understand the future we are facing, I suggest everyone read former LA policeman Joseph Wambaugh 1971 book, The New Centurions to get a full understanding of why the left is doing this to the police departments in American.

Obama has shrunken the army to pre-WWII levels and he has attempted to legislate a ban on all guns for law-abiding people. If he gets his way our #1 right that is “the right to life” is in serious jeopardy.

Therefore the historic forces that put Michael Brown in his grave are far greater than the community relations in Ferguson.  With serious French visions of 1787 this country has been entangled in the gummy nets of a horrific tennis match—the yellow ball of revenge–throughout its history.

Ferguson has undeservedly become the new background for a Revolution that has been brewing for several generations.

Brown is not an icon to freedom and justice but a reminder of the sordid legacy of a nation that was once a bright and shinning light to all the oppressed people of the earth but has now allowed its historical promise to be caught in a dangerous game of revenge and payback that will eventually double fault its doors of freedom.


In Defense of Stupidity

November 17, 2014
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Most people have heard the name Jonathan Gruber, an Economics Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the first time, even though he has spent the last few years touting his expertise in health care as one of the architects of ObamaCare and several state plans in New England.

Well that has all changed!

Lately he has been the subject of several news stories because of his casual remarks about his superlative work on ObamaCare and the administration’s lack of transparency about the Affordable Health Care Act.  Gruber’s main point was that transparency in elections, especially for the Democrats was a sure ticket to defeat.

With regard to the ACA Gruber intimated, no voter in his right mind would have ever voted for a bill where the young and healthy had to pay for the poor’s health care while simultaneously losing their own health care plans.

To avoid this conundrum the government was compelled to lie to the public in good conscience and because of the abject stupidity of the American people.

In retrospect, it would seem that the stupidity comment would only apply to the millions who voted for President Obama’s re-elections. The millions who clearly saw through the fraud of ObamaCare have nothing to be ashamed of and should not take offense at the Democratic game plan.

Gruber’s new recognition has been entirely negative. It has resulted in his being nearly ostracized from the political milieu as well as having much of his financial pipeline cut off. Most Democratic politicians from Nancy Pelosi, who praised his brilliance in 2009 to President Obama, have not only denied him but jettisoned him under the WH bus while others have rewritten him completely out of political history.

For all practical matters, Jonathan Gruber is a non-person who never worked for the Obama camp.

It has been estimated that Gruber has collected well into six figures in fees from the state and federal governments since 2011.

Given this unexpected fallout, one may question the intelligence and common sense of Dr. Gruber himself.

Or perhaps he has just fallen on the sharp short of his personal arrogance…his hubris in trying to con the body politic.

His comments also tell us a lot about the liberal opinion of the people they pretend to serve and honor.

The term useful idiot comes to mind. In political jargon, it is a term, often attributed to Vladimir Lenin, for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

The Democratic Mind even has a greater disdain for the intelligence of Republican voters. According to Chris Mooney book, The Republican Brain, and other scientific ideologues, they are convinced that conservatives suffer from a genetic cognitive impairment that causes them to favor small government. So all this is in the DNA. This is an observation that only a left-wing ideologue could fathom!

Stupidity has always been part and parcel of the American character.  Democracy could not live without it!  Starting with Christopher Columbus who “discovered” America while he was looking for India, which happened to be 1000s of miles in the other direction. And then there was the fatal stupidity of George Armstrong Custer who led the 7th Cavalry into a trap of several thousand Indians at the Little Big Horn. I need only mention the names of a few of our presidents, such as Nixon, Carter and Obama to show how stupidity has reigned in the White House.

Stupidity is also at the core of our comedy entertainment. Let’s face it: stupidity is funny…very funny. In the best comedy teams in history from Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Laurel and Hardy and Burns and Allen, the one who always got the laughs was the stupid one, not the serious straight man.

The lovable stupid character, Forrest Gump captivated the hearts but maybe not the minds with esoteric statements like stupid is as stupid does.

Many people may think old Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is stupid for saying things like when you come to a fork in the road…take it or I observed a lot by watching.  The man has an innate brilliance that someone like Dr. Gruber could appreciate and Berra has written far many more best-selling books than Gruber.

Stand-up comedian Ronald Dee “Ron” White is best known for his show, You Can’t Fix Stupid.

Of course when Obama leaves office, we hope to fix some of his stupid mistakes.

Serious actor Jeff Daniels is reprising his role as Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dummer.

Why is this actor, renown for his roles in Gettysburg or his award-winning HBO show, The Newsroom doing it?  Ostensibly to demonstrate his great range as an actor. This sequel led all films its first weekend, having grossed $38.1 million in revenues.

Stupidity is as American as apple pie!

But for those that may still think that being stupid or laughing at stupid jokes is somehow un-American, I refer to a couple of scientific studies that have conclude that stupidity is just another viral disease.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Nebraska have discovered a virus that makes you just a little bit dumber. The scientists stumbled upon the previously unknown “stupidity virus” in the throat cultures of healthy subjects during a completely unrelated experiment.

The 44 % of people who tested positive for the virus performed seven to nine points lower on IQ tests that measured attention span and how fast and accurately people process visual information.

When the Nebraska researchers injected the virus into the digestive systems of mice, they got the same result. The rodents blundered around mazes, appeared flummoxed by new toys and seemed oblivious to new entryways in and out of their cages.

Of course as is true in all science except studies on global warming, opposing views are always expected. In Forbes Magazine, Purdue University virologist David Sanders said he would need to see this replicated before he’d believe the claim. The claim went viral in a manner of hours.

As Wired put it Researchers at the John Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska have discovered a virus that infects our brains and makes us more stupid.

What’s misleading here is the story never reveals who is being quoted saying “makes us more stupid.” The implication is that it’s the scientists or someone in authority. But there’s no such phrase in the paper or the press release from Johns Hopkins University, nor does the story seem to include an interview. The source may have been Newsweek with its story, “American Researchers Discover Stupidity Virus.”

They really don’t speculate as to how this is transmitted and whether we should be quarantined after watching reruns of the Three Stooges or PeeWee’s Playhouse.   But we should be prohibited from laughing in someone’s face.

All things considered Jonathan Gruber’s blatant arrogance adds yet another chapter to the growing saga of the Obama Administration and its distrust and contempt for the American people.

In exposing his own ignorance and abject stupidity by jeopardizing a multi-million dollar gig with the federal government as one of their most brilliant health care expert, Gruber openly revealed the liberal contempt for the American people.

His words demonstrate clearly that doctrinaire liberals condescend to the American voter. They secure their own lucrative livelihoods through mendacity, deception, false promises and character assassination. It is a formula that they have employed in some manner since the days of FDR and Harry Hopkins.

Their overt elitism is a standard characteristic of liberals, not only in government and academia but also in its allies in the mainstream media as ell as their capitalistic cronies.

They all dine from the same trove of arrogance, greed and lust for power.

This is not a new idea. Liberalism as it is practiced today traces its roots back to an early Christian heresy.

Gnosticism dates back just after the beginning of the Christian Church.  Gnosticism has affected the culture and church of the time and has evolved over the centuries into the Marxism and liberalism of today.

The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” Liberals under its influence are often blinded by their own elite confidence in what they deem to be their intellectual superiority to people who work for a living. They erroneously believe that their command of enlightened ideas unfathomed by the masses privileges them to sit in rule of their subjects.

Obama keeps reminding the American people that he is not a king or a prince.  Left unsaid is that he wishes he were!  With unrestricted use of the Executive Order, he still may get his wish.   I would not be surprised to find a dog-eared copy of The Prince by his bedside.

As for Professor Gruber it appears as the joke immanent in American stupidity falls squarely on his slumping shoulders.  It has been nice knowing you Johnnie!


Uncertain Truths

November 5, 2014
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According to a recent issue of the NY Times CLIVE JAMES is dying, but he’s pretty good-natured about it. Once a three-fisted drinker and smoker, Mr. James, 75, was found to have leukemia in 2010, with the added complications of emphysema and kidney failure. His condition is irrevocable.

James is a polymath, who found his way from a poor, sewer-free suburb of Sydney, Australia, to become a beloved writer, entertainer and figure in British life

What interested me was his relaxed and almost casual way of looking back at his life while at the same time contemplating what the future might have in store from him.

As the Times so lyrically put it, he can look back with astonishment and amusement, and look forward with a trenchant eye.

I am amazed at how much at peace and detached he is from the reality that his life is nearing its completion.

My entire life I was taught either overtly or subtly to fear my death because of the serious Judgments that followed each human being’s death.

Of course this was during the old days that the proponents of Vatican II have deliberately sought to stricken from the Church’s history.  Their laudable goal was to replace it with a kinder, gentler Church that appealed to more people and did not tax them with too many rules and strictures.

Ever since the 1960’s I have found my soul torn in two between these two sales pitches.

While the one uses Hell and Damnation to terrify and frighten us, the other uses a Big Easy way of getting saved without a great deal of effort on our part.

While the 10 Commandments reigned in one, the corporal works of mercy seem to have the big edge in the other.

The first seemed to imply that only a small percentage of God’s creation actually get into Heaven. Their Sears Catalogue of serious sins seemed to second that opinion.

When you are sixteen years old and have a body flowing with relentless hormones a pretty girl can easily morph into a vehicle headed down the road to hell and damnation

The new church has almost eliminated the word “sin” from our vocabulary.

This explains why so few people feel the need to go to Confession or what we now call reconciliation. I go twice a year just to play it safe.

While the first attitude has given us generations of stiff, sour and basically neurotic Catholics, the other has opened the gates for an exodus of faithful who seek an even  easier fulfillment in another religion.

It has also given the breakdown of marriage and the family, sexual promiscuity and a confusion of what even constitutes a marriage. That pretty girl who used to turn my head is now seen as a more aggressive object of pleasure and delight. And she knows it!

This conflict still tears at my innards sometimes. The first left me with a terrible unease that I do not miss at all while the second one gives me not much more than uncertain truths, supported by a world of doubts.

James Clive does not seem bothered by any of that. He simply says: I should have been a more honorable man, but the regrets don’t overwhelm me, he said. They’re such a good subject for writing.

My bifurcated situation is akin to the Broadway musical A Year With Frog and Toad, written by brothers Robert (music) and Willie Reale (book and lyrics), based on the Frog and Toad children’s stories written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The musical follows the woodland adventures of two amphibious friends, a worrywart toad and a perky frog, with their assorted colorful hopping, crawling and flying companions, over the course of a year.

At times my old faith makes me fearful like Mr. Toad and my new faith brings out more the joy and wonder of being alive. Both seem valid to me. I am fearful of letting go of the former while frustrated for not being able to fully enjoy the latter.

On a personal note my 12-year old granddaughter will play the frog in an upcoming St. Louis presentation of this musical.

To alleviate my stress I have taken it upon myself to study for the most important final exams of my life. I am not kidding when I say I still study for everything, including my thrice-annual blood test.

James did address his own eschatology saying:

An afterlife? Both Virgil and Dante set some of their greatest work in another world, he replied. But Shakespeare didn’t, and his is the attitude I prefer. There is enough of heaven in a hedgerow, and enough of hell in the perfidy of man.

I believe in Heaven and Hell but with a bit of a twist. I have written several times in this space about Heaven and my high hopes to be able to walk one of its beaches someday and embrace all the people who have meant sometime special to me in my life, including even those who may have shared nothing more than a long conversation.

My view on Hell is optimistically cautious.  An old Jesuit friend once told me–it was two weeks after his ordination in 1969 that as Catholics we had to believe in a Hell but we did not have to believe that anyone, other than Lucifer and his minions ever went there.

I like the sound of that because it makes a certain kind of sense. Other than Mary and Jesus, the Angels are the only ones who had a perfect choice between good and evil. I do not believe human beings always fully understand the gravity of their decisions.

Oh we may feel that something may not be right about an action but under the pressure of any moment, most people can think of a plausible rationalization that would provide a reasonable doubt in God’s moral court.

And even if I am wrong, the eternal part of Hell is the game breaker. Lucifer was so proud that literature has quoted him as wont to say that he would rather reign forever in hell than serves for one day in heaven.

This tells me that he knew the score on his level. How many human beings ever get that clear a choice! Again this is one of my uncertain truths.

Purgatory makes the most sense to me. We are all imperfect beings. The Book of Genesis and any daily newspapers attest to that fact.

We must be perfect to see God and unless we have suffered the most excruciating pain imaginable that is not going to happen.

To explore what my vision of Purgatory is, I wrote Gaby’s People for the local stage…I hope… *Instead of the tradition habitat of punishment and suffering for sin, my Purgatory is more to enlighten the person of his or her weaknesses and negative behaviors that separate him from their final destination. Using a massage spa as my venue for healing, understanding and reconciliation with the absolute truth of one’s life I found it more consistent with my understanding of God as all-merciful and all-loving God.

I saw it as a place of forgiveness, self-awareness and redemption, rather than a place of pain and temporal torment.   It is probably the place most people will wind up after this life is done.

Most people I know never think of any of the above. When their time comes they seem to easily adapt an attitude like Clive James…confidant…self-satisfied and ignorant of what may follow.   I don’t know if that’s the kind of bliss I long for…but that’s just another one of my uncertain truths.

 

*Gaby’s People is under competitive consideration by a local theater group.  If anyone would like to read the play just contact me and I will send you an e-copy.


A Little Snow on the Roof

October 2, 2014
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I was at a wedding over 40 years ago.  Since I was by myself I was sitting at a table of friends of the bride’s family.

Since I didn’t know any of them and was suffering from terminal shyness I didn’t offer anything to the conversation.

But I did listen intently to the comments of these middle-aged married couples.  One man in particular said:  Just because there is a little snow on the roof, doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire in the basement.

I think I understood what he meant and as I have gotten older…much older I have come to appreciate his comments even more.

Yet in retrospect I think there is much more meaning hidden in his comments than a basic allusion to age and libido.

His words were almost axiomatic to me in that just because one has aged, does not eliminate him or her from the full joys of livings—all the joys of living…not just sexuality.

Our hormones work on many levels, not just below the belt.  We should try to maintain that fire in the belly for life, not just sex.

I just finished reading Sister Joan Chittister’s book Uncommon Gratitude, which says that we should issue a Alleluia to each new day and accept it as God’s special gift for us to dig, mine and prod until we have sucked all the marrow out of its bones.

This is a Christian twist on Roman poet Horace’s mandate to Carpe Diem….seize the day!

Most people would probably not recognize this classic phrase had it not been for the untimely suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams and the reprise of his most popular role as the unorthodox prep school teacher, John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

I recent saw the film for the third time.  I easily understood Keating’s enthusiasm and love of teaching. He wanted his students–all very bright young men–not to be forced into square holes by parents, their school or the culture at large.  He advised them to go for the gusto as Budweiser used to promote.

The only problem and one he tragically failed to fully comprehend is that a room full of young men will often seek not the truth and beauty that may have been on his fertile mind but the pleasurable and hormonal experiences of the flesh at such an early age that would not be able to properly understand or handle the emotional consequences of their seizing of the day.

Where Keating failed his students was in not telling them they had some necessary prerequisites before the marrow could be even tasted. His students first needed to learn discernment, self-discipline and good judgment. In other words they needed emotional maturity.

Traditional society has tried to regulate and channel with mixed results these sexual urges in young men especially for centuries. A teacher like Keating is their worst enemy and greatest fear.

Fools will always rush in where angels fear to tread is no cliché.

When I was in high school we studied a similar idea, found in Robert Herrick’s poem,

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
 

Old Time is still a-flying:

And this same flower that smiles to-dayTo-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,

The higher he’s a-getting,

The sooner will his race be run,

And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,

When youth and blood are warmer;

But being spent, the worse, and worstTimes still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,

And while ye may, go marry:

For having lost but once your prime,

You may for ever tarry.

I doubt if there were ever any more seductive poem than Herrick’s revival of the carpe diem genre. Of the 17th century bachelor’s 2500 poems this is the best remembered.  The over-riding message of Herrick’s work is that life is short, the world is beautiful, love is splendid, and we must use the short time we have to make the most of it.

The major problem with this way of thinking and living is that it too quickly turns to hedonism and the consequences can often be tragic as in the Williams’ movie.

In my mind the idea of Carpe Diem especially in our society is totally wasted.  Thanks to science and medical technology most lives are not short and fleeting.  Most people can look forward to 80-90 years of substantially active and happy living.

Baseball great Mickey Mantle lamented near the end of his 64-year life that had he know he would have lived as long as he did, he would have taken much better care of himself.   No male member of his family had lived past age thirty-nine.  Mostly the family history of working in the zinc mines in Oklahoma was largely responsible for that.

As a nineteen-year-old player Mantle had gone for all the gusto he could swallow and became an alcoholic in the mix.

Youth in deed is wasted on the young.

I think the idea of Carpe Diem should be reserved for the elderly in their golden years.  By that time their family responsibilities have usually been fulfilled. By that time they should have emotional maturity necessary for good judgment.  If they have taken good care of themselves and sexual urges do not seem as demanding then these are the years to go for the gusto and enjoy each day like it might be the last day on earth…because it very well be.

Sister Joan Chittister and her co-author Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury have another suggestion. They believe that gratitude should dominate our waking hours as we grow closer to our divine destination.   The authors cite several things that we should be naturally grateful for, such God, peace, wealth, health, faith, family and friends.

But they take the gratitude much further.  We should thank God for everything that happens to us, even our daily crosses of physical and emotional sufferings should be met with a joyful alleluia.

To them life is an exercise in learning just how to sing Alleluia here so that we can recognize the face of God  hidden in deep recesses of time.  Some quiet reflection should help us see that the past is never gone from us. Our past lives with its joys, sufferings and challenges have made us what and who we are.

Old age then is also a time for a reflection on the past to see how it has shaped our present lives and to understand the providential links that have brought us to this time in the eternal scope of things.

Teachers and I can say writers and coaches as well since I have done all three often never see the results of their efforts in shaping the minds, hearts and souls of the young people who briefly cross their paths.

I know this is heavy mental stuff but if we don’t do it we run the dark risk of failing to see the importance of our lives to those around us.


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A Walk for Eternity

September 24, 2014
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Walking has become a national obsession. Year round the malls, streets and tracks are dotted with sweating men, women and children in a colorful array of sports togs, feverishly trying to beat the time clock of life’s grim reader. Charities make millions every year sponsoring walkathons for causes of all kinds.

I walk primarily to get where I am going and for the walker’s high that I sometimes get when I walk fast and for a long distance. My wife and I made the “walk” down Constitution Ave in 2008 in recognition of the 50,000,000 lives wasted because of the Roe v Wade decision promulgated in 1973.

Like wit Mark Twain I believe that the game of golf is a pefectly good way to spoil a good walk.

These are just a few of the many different motivations that compel people to lace up their Nikes, don their Under Armours and hit the streets. Did you ever wonder why people walk and how important and varied it is to human life?

Leave it to Adam Gopnik of New Yorker magazine to explain all the variegated reasons from exercise and self-defense to recreation and thinking for human bipedalism.  I especially found his idea of solitude while walking intriguing!

Walking can also be a sermon. On the opening night of my parish’s Lenten Mission years ago, the visiting priest asked us, what was Jesus’ ‘best’ homily? His Sermon on the Mount or quite possibly the Last Supper immediately came to mind.

While he said both were excellent answers, there was something much better. A priest for 40 years, he had only recognized Jesus’ best sermon 10 years ago.

Before answering his question, he talked on the beauties and importance of the many walks in life, from the graduation walk, the walk down the aisle on a wedding day to the leisure stroll with friends and family.

Father said Jesus’ best homily depicted the most important walk in the history of the world and it was on the walls of every church he had ever walked into–the Stations of the Cross.

In meditating on the stations, Father found that they were a microcosm of the Catholic faith. And every time he looked at that walk on the wall it if was as if Jesus was saying to him, Come Follow Me.” (Mark 1:17)

The first lesson is that we must stop judging people for what they have and who they are because we are all God’s children. On His second stop Jesus is telling us to stop our complaining. Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing and yet He was tortured and sentenced to death but never complained.

At stops three, seven and nine Jesus falls to the ground but despite His pain and suffering He got up again–He never quit… In the battles of the flesh and the spirit, we must never give up.

In the middle of His walk, Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to help Jesus carry His burden. Similarly, many of us have been called as caregivers and helpers to ease the burdens of those close to us who may have a difficult time carrying their crosses of disease, old age or personal affliction.

At stations four, sixth and eight, Jesus had sound advice for a world that preaches that happiness can only be found only where there is no pain or suffering.

Jesus’ touching encounter with Mary, who found immense joy within the pangs of the suffering of childbirth, echoing the profound words of St. James’ Epistle, Count it all joy my brethren, when you meet various trials for you know that the testing of your faith, produces steadfastness. (Jas.1: 2-3)

To the compassionate Veronica He leaves His image in blood and sweat that she would joyously treasure forever. To the women of Jerusalem, His message was for them to stop their weeping over His suffering but focus on their children because children who bring joy, laughter and renew the spirit of life.

At the 10th stations Jesus tells us to love the material things of the world but don’t make them the center of your being.

At the next stop Jesus talks about pain. Father said everyone is handicapped in some way. Jesus never complained during His long ordeal. He offered it up to His Father for us.

Jesus also invites us to join Him in the cross of suffering, not because suffering is wonderful but by offering up our pains and suffering for others they will serve as a vehicle of His healing grace.

Before we can finish our walk we must let go of our bitterness, grudges and forgive those who have wronged us.

While Jesus’ walk was to His death on the Cross our walk is a way to life eternal. Next time you go into a Church, take a few moment to “listen” to His best homily.

How many listen more to the anchors on commercial TV or NPR radio for their truth.  I was in a parking lot at the Jewish Community Center a few weeks ago and I saw a confusing bumper sticker. This one said: I am against the death penalty. That’s all well and good but it was the following proof that nearly knocked me over.

Look what it did to Jesus!  Wow what a revelation! The death penalty killed Christ and not His own people, who rejected everything He stood for fear of their loss of power.   I would love to have asked the auto owner, where would we all be had Jesus not lost His life on the Cross? Would man’s salvation had been achieved had Jesus died by a “drive-by-shooting” or died of cardiac arrest at the age of 65?

Not only The New Yorker missed the importance of Jesus’ walk for salvation but even my own Catholic Newspaper, the St. Louis Review published an atrocious cartoon of Jesus hanging on the Cross with the caption that read: This is what the death penalty did!” So even the Catholic press entirely missed the message of Jesus’ long walk to Calvary.

The bottom line then is that in order to find our eternal home, we not only had to hear the talk but put pick up our crosses daily and do the walk.


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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