V E T E R A N S D A Y
In moments that appear to be lucid, I tell myself that in times like these there has to be something for which one is willing to get shot, and for which, in all probability, one is actually going to get shot. What is this? A principle? Faith? Virtue? God? The question is not easy to answer, and maybe it has not answer that can be put into words. Perhaps this is no longer something communicable, or even thinkable. To be executed today (and death by execution is not all uncommon) one has no need to commit a political crime, to express opposition to a tyrant, or event to hold an objectionable opinion. Indeed, most political deaths under tyrannical regimes are motiveless, arbitrary, absurd. You are shot, or beaten to death, or started, or worked until you drop, not because of anything you have done, not because of anything you believe in, not because of anything you stand for, but arbitrarily: your death is demanded by something or someone undefined. Your death is necessary to give apparent meaning to a meaningless political process which you have never quite managed to understand
-Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Equal Justice Initiative
‘African Americans bravely served in the U.S. military for generations. But instead of being treated as equal members of society, thousands of black veterans were accosted, attacked, or lynched.’
Society of Professional Journalists
“Aside from deep understanding and technical knowledge of the military and veteran issues, vets bring with them objectivity, neutrality, and ability to work in crises—all valuable attributes for newsrooms.”
The new nonprofit Military Veterans in Journalism wants to bring more military knowledge and experience into the media
Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has been in a perpetual state of fighting, in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. About 7,000 American troops have been killed and at least another 50,000 wounded. One study estimates the U.S. federal price tag of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts at $5.9 trillion.
Despite more than 18 years of war, America’s newsrooms have been shockingly negligent in hiring reporters who know these conflicts and their impacts best—our veterans.
Only 1.1 percent of media workers in the U.S. are post-9/11 military veterans while about 7 percent of Americans have served in the military, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
‘The Church came into existence as a community that preserved the dangerous memory of Jesus—totally without reproach but was rather utterly new and beyond anything that could have been previously imagined. This new radical community has held together over two thousand years, as a community based, at bottom, on mutual love and not, as with other human institutions on fear.
The Church’s contemplation of this dangerous memory is what we call ‘theology’, which is actually founded on the marriage of sacred Scripture with philosophy—particularly classical Greek philosophy. This is important. A religion . . . that is without theology quickly becomes fundamentalist as it begins to interpret Scripture in a literal way, full of cultural bias and with little rational underpinning.
Fundamentalism is always culture-bound, whereas, although the story of Jesus is historical, set in a particular time, place and culture, a teaching essentially transcultural.’
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
‘When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us at give us light—then we find out whether or not we live by faith.’
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Ghandi recognized, as no other world leader of our time has done, the necessity to be from from the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essential greedy, lustful, and cruel.
He recognized the impossibility of being a peaceful and nonviolent man, if one submits passively to the insatiable requirements of a society maddened by overstimulation and obsessed with demons of noise, voyeurism, and speed.
Gandhi believed that the central problem of our time was the acceptance or the rejection of a basic law of love and truth which had been made knows to the world in traditional religions.
His whole, his political action, finally even his death, were nothing but a witness to this commitment: “If love is not the law of our being, the whole of my argument falls to pieces.”
-Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction
The most inward and loving of all,
he came forth like a new beginning,
the brown-robed brother [St. Francis] of your nightingales,
with his wonder and good will
and delight in Earth.
Rilke, The Book of Hours III, 33
This is the miracle of love: to discover that all creation is one, flung out into space.
This is the principle of nonviolence, and I want to recommend it to you with all the enthusiasm I can command. . . .
If human beings go to war, it is because they fear someone.
Remove the fear, and you re-establish trust, and will have peace.
Nonviolence means destroying fear.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
—John Steinbeck, The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957)
‘Exactly when we began a style of production and consumption that would eventually ravage planet earth, he decided to love the earth and live simply and barefoot upon it. Francis of Assisi is a Prime Attractor to what we really want, what we definitely need, and who we finally are. And, apparently, he did it all with a “perfect joy” that comes from letting go of the ego!’ -Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
The change in my own inner climate. -Thomas Merton
Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?
In We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves―with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. We have, he reveals, turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life.
UK, US and European studies claim our meat consumption should be reduced by 90%, and dairy consumption by 60%. Two meals a day should be vegetarian, and think about a family climate plan. One couple a month out from their wedding day came up with theirs at book signing:
- Vegetarian meals
- Vegan meals 2x per week
- Driving less than 1,000 miles a year
- Only two kids
Jonathan’s response? “Holy crap. I don’t have a plan.”
“An ode to collective action, persuasively asking readers to take a hard look at our own role in the climate crisis and its solutions.” ―Kate Wheeling, The New Republic
Sam Sanders interviewed Jonathan on “It’s Been a Minute”. Follow the link to about 16:00 into the program.
Climate change is about how we treat each other
by Eric Holthaus
’What this moment needs, more than anything, is moral clarity. […] American media was curiously obsessed with President DT’s stubborn insistence that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama.
Seen through the lens of climate inaction, against a backdrop of unfettered economic growth, one can only conclude that climate change is an intentional act, in which the media is complicit.
‘We need to know, viscerally, that we can no longer abandon our neighbours in their time of greatest need. We need to relearn our interdependence. There is the alternative. The way to write this story that doesn’t end in apocalypse.’
I would rather sense you
as the earth senses you.
In my ripening
what you are.
No miracles, please.
Just let your laws
from generation to generation.
You train your eye, and your vision lusts after color. You train your ear, and you long for delightful sounds. You delight in doing good, and your natural kindest is blown out of shape. You delight in righteousness, and you become righteous beyond all reason. You overdo liturgy, and you turn into a ham actor. Overdo your love of music, and you play corn. Love of wisdom leads to wise contriving. Love of knowledge leads to faultfinding.
When the delights become a religion, how can you control them?
Chuang Tzu, who wrote in the fourth and third centuries B.C., is the chief authentic historical spokesman for Taoism.
The realm politics is the realm of waste.
I know that now all my own poems about the world’s suffering have been inadequate: they have not solved anything, they have only camouflaged the problem. And it seems to me
you live your life like a candle in the wind
that the urge write a real poem about suffering and sin is only another temptation, because, after all, I do no really understand.
-Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
Some say it’s naive to think we can turn love into the governing principle of our civilization; I say it’s naive to think we’ll last another 100 years on this planet if we don’t try. Swords into plowshares: we can to turn a war economy into a peace economy. Where [he] has harnessed fear, we must harness love.-Marianne
Admonitions, 27:Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance.Those who live in love have a wisdom about them, particularly in their sense of priorities. They know what is important.
Day by Day with St. Francis:Those who are fearful see things that aren’t there, and tend not to grasp the truth when it is presented to them.
In love there is no fear; indeed, perfect love casts out fear.
1 John 4:18
‘Occasional churchgoing and the recitation of has prayers have no power to cleanse this purulent wound.’ -Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
‘Lord, the great cities are lost and rotting.
Their time is running out…
The people there live harsh and heavy,
crowded together, weary of their own routines.
Beyond them waits and breathes your earth,
but where they are ti cannot reach them.
They don’t know that somewhere
wind is blowing through a field of flowers.’
-Rilke, The book of Hours III, 4/5
This is a new time, and we must bring forth something new within ourselves in order to deal with it. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
We are not poor. We are just without riches,
we who have no will no world:
marked with the marks of the latest anxiety, disfigured, stripped of leaves.
Around us swirls the dust of the cities,
the garbage clings to us.
We are shunned as if contaminated,
thrown away like broken pots, like bones,
like last year’s calendar.
And yet if our Earth needed to
she could weave us together like roses
and make of us a garland.
For each being is cleaner than washed stones
and endlessly yours, and like an animal
who knows already in its first blind moments
its need for one thing only…
to let ourselves be poor like that…as we truly are.
-The Book of Hours III,16
“…a discovery that respects the hiddenness and in communicability of each one’s personal secret, while paying tribute to his presence in the common celebration.”
-Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration
“You cannot be a (wo)man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in Gaia unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice seems to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to a prejudice–a ‘pre-judgment.’ It is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven.”
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
[G7 in France]
But deliver us from evil, past, present, and to come.
We must strive to overcome evil, but even our best efforts will require Gaia’s help.
The Lord said to Evil, “‘Where did you come from?’ Evil answered, ‘From prowling about on the earthmovers going back and forth on it.” Job 1:7
Cosmology: Part I
The Change of a World View
Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
Today, every academic, professional discipline—psychology, anthropology, history, the various sciences, social studies, art, and business—recognizes change, development, and some kind of evolving phenomenon. But in its search for the Real Absolute, much of Christian theology made one fatal mistake:
It imagined that any notion of God had to be unchanging, an “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it.
There’s little evidence of a rigid God in the biblical tradition or the image of Trinity—where God is seen as an active verb more than a substantive noun. But many Christians seem to have preferred a stable notion of God as an old white man, sitting on a throne—much like the Greek god Zeus (whose name became the Latin word for God or “Deus”)—a critical and punitive spectator to a creation that was merely a mechanical clock of inevitable laws and punishments, ticking away until Doomsday.
We need a new way of thinking about the universe and our place in it. To begin our two weeks on this theme, I offer a clear and concise description of our changing worldview from Australian theologian Denis Edwards (I waited in a long line once just to thank him for his fine work):
Our theological tradition has been shaped within the worldview of a static universe. The great theological synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas [1224–1274], for example, was formed within a culture which took for granted that the world was fixed and static, that the Sun and the Moon and the five known planet stars revolved around the Earth in seven celestial spheres, moved by angels, that beyond these seven spheres there were the three heavens, the firmament (the starry heaven), the crystalline heaven, and the empyrean, and that there was a place in the heavenly spheres for paradise. It was assumed that human beings were the center of the universe, that Europe was the center of the world, and that the Earth and its resources were immense and without any obvious limits.
By contrast, we are told today that the universe began with a cosmic explosion called the Big Bang, that we live in an expanding universe, with galaxies rushing away from us at an enormous rate, that the Earth is a relatively small planet revolving around the Sun, that it is hurtling through space as part of a Solar system which is situated toward the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, that we human beings are the product of an evolutionary movement on the Earth, and that we are intimately linked with the health of the delicately balanced life systems on our planet.
The shift between these two mindsets is enormous. It needs to be stressed that most of our tradition has been shaped by the first of these, and even contemporary theology has seldom dealt explicitly with the change to a new mindset. . . .
We have no choice but to face up to the ecological crisis which confronts us. Religious thinkers . . . are searching for a new synthesis of science and faith, a new cosmology, and a “new story.” 
 Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Paulist Press: 1991), 3-5.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Evolution Is Another Name for Growth,” “Evolutionary Thinking,” Oneing, vol. 4, no. 2 (CAC Publishing: 2016), 111-112.
Image credit: Starry Night Over the Rhône (detail), Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Saint Paul calls is the “servitude of corruption” and which, in fact, holds the whole world of man in bondge by passion, greed, the lust for sensation and for individual survival, as though one could become rich enough, powerful and clever enough, to cheat death.
Unfortunately, this passion for unreality and for the impossible fills the world today with violence, hatred,, and indeed, with a kind of insane and cunning fury which threatens our very existence.
Trees are all clothed and benches are out, and a new summer has begun.
Between You and Me.
I have what you have not. I am what you are not. I have taken what you have failed to take and I have seized what you could never get. Therefore, you suffer and I am happy, you are despised and I am praised, you die and I live; you are nothing and I am something because you are nothing. And thus, I spend my life admiring the distance between you and me. [Seeds of Contemplation, 1961]
Fr. Richard Rohr:
In very real ways, soul, consciousness, love, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Each of these point to something that is larger than the individual, shared with God, ubiquitous, and even eternal—and then revealed through us! Holiness does not mean people are psychologically or morally perfect (a common confusion), but that they are capable of seeing and enjoying things in a much more “whole” and compassionate way, even if they sometimes fail at it themselves. [Just This, 2017].
Mark Twain, looking back on his life:
“There isn’t time so brief is life for bickering, apologies, heart-burnings, calling to account there is only time for loving, but in an instant, so to speak, for that.” 
“Brother body is poor…that means we must be rich for him.
He was often the rich one; so may he be forgiven
for the meanness of his wretched moments.
Then, when he acts as though he barely knows us,
may he be gently reminded of all that has been shared.
Of course, we are not one but two solitaries:
our consciousness and he.
But how much we have to thank each other for,
as friends do! And illness reminds us:
friendship demands a lot.” [Written between 1908 and 1923.]
Thomas Merton (insert medium of choice):
“I am certainly no judge of television, since I have never watched it. All I know is that there is a sufficiently general agreement, among men whose judgement I respect, that commercial television is degraded, meretricious, and absurd. Certainly, it would seem that TV could become a kind of unnatural surrogate for contemplation: a completely inert subjection to vulgar images, a descent to a sub-natural passivity rather than an ascent to a supremely active passivity in understanding and love. It would seem that television should be used with extreme care and discrimination by anyone who might hope to take interior life seriously. 
‘The city we now live will not last.’ [Heb 13:14]
‘Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand.
Go forth to what? To uncertainty,
to a country with no connections to us
and indifferent to the dramas of our life.
What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct,
a dark need, the incapacity to understand.
To bow to all this.
To let go-
even if you have to die alone.
Is this the start of a new life?’ -Rilke
‘The pale flowers of the dogwood outside this window are saints. The little yellow flowers that nobody notices on the edge of that road are saints looking up into the face of God.The leaf has its own texture and its own pattern of veins and its own holy shape and the bass and trout hiding in the deep pools of the river are canonized by their beauty and their strength.
The lakes hidden among the hills are saints, and the sea is a saint who praises God without interruption in her majestic dance.
The great, gashed, half-naked mountain is another of God’s natural saints. There is no other like him. He is alone in his own character; nothing else in the world ever did, or ever will, imitate God in quite the same way. That is his sanctity. -Thomas Merton
Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life
Scientists reveal 1 million species at risk of extinction in damning UN report
“Human society is in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems, the world’s leading scientists have warned, as they announced the results of the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken.”
The knock-on impacts on humankind, including freshwater shortages and climate instability, are already “ominous” and will worsen without drastic remedial action, the authors said.”
“The research included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports.
A new United Nations science report says nature is in trouble and 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of going extinct. [May 6]
The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.
The findings are not just about saving plants and animals, but about preserving a world that’s becoming harder for humans to live in, said Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British scientist who headed the report.
“We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric” of humanity, Watson told The Associated Press.
It’s also an economic and security issue as countries fight over scarcer resources. Watson said the poor in less developed countries bear the greatest burden.”
A liar no longer needs to feel that his lies may involve him in starvation. If living were a little more precarious, and if a person who could not be trusted found it more difficult to get along with other men, we would not deceive ourselves and one another so carelessly.
But the whole world has learned to deride veracity or to ignore it. Half the civilized world makes a living by telling lies. Advertising, propaganda, (politics) and all the forms of publicity that have taken the place of truth have taught men to take it for granted that they can tell other people whatever they like, provide that it sounds plausible and evokes some kind of shallow emotional response.
-Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island 
Humbly, we are asked to keep the flow real between what is taken in and what is let out. We have only to breathe to remember our place as al living inlet. Experience in, feelings out. Surprise and challenge in, heartache and joy out. In a constant tide, life rushes in, and in constant release, we must let it all run back off. For this is how the earth was made magnificent by the sea and how humankind is carved upright, again and again, by the ocean of spirt that sets us free.
-Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening 
There is something in me that knows what to do. It not only knows what to do, It impels me to act upon what It knows. This very acceptance flows forth into action through me. Always there is an inner, quiet, persistent confidence, a nonresistant but complete acceptance, an inward flowing with the stream of Life, knowing that It carries me safely and surely to my destination and to the accomplishment of every good purpose.
-Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind 
We are guided continually. We choose to follow what is good, and right, and just.
But love laughs at the end of the world, because love is the door to eternity; and, before anything can happen, love will have drawn her over the sill and closed the door, and he won’t bother about the world burning because he will know nothing about love.
-Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas 
The history of our own time has been made by dictators whose characters, often transparently easy to read, have been full of repressed guilt, self-hatred, and feelings of inferiority. They have managed to enlist the support of solid masses men moved by the same repressed drives as themselves. The wars they have waged with one another have been the sacrifice which the cases, degraded by totalitarianism, have offered up in fanatical self-idolatry, which never completely manages to assuage the nausea brought about by the self-hatred.
-Thomas Merton, The Living Bread 
The whole mechanism of modern life is geared for a flight from God and from the spirit into the wilderness of neurosis.
-Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island 
The Silent Life.
The world of our time is in confusion. It is reaching the peak of the greatest crisis in history. Never before has there been such a total upheaval of the whole human race. Tremendous forces are at work: spiritual, sociological, economic, technological, and, least of all, political. Mankind stands on the brink of a new barbarism, yet at the same time there remain possibilities for an unexpected and almost unbelievable solution, the creation of a new world and a new civilization, the like of which has never been seen. We are face to face either with Antichrist or the Millennium, no one knows which.
-Thomas Merton, 1957
Pride goes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
We live in an age of bad dreams, in which the scientist and engineer posses the power to give external form to the phantasms of man’s unconscious. The bright weapons that sing in the atmosphere, ready to pulverize the cities of the world, are the
dreams of giants without a center.
Their mathematical evolutions are hieratic rites devised by
shamans without belief.
One is permitted to wish their dreams had been less sordid!
Thomas Merton, Emblems of a Season of Fury
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
-Naomi Shihab Nye
“As a nation, we have begun to float off into a moral void, and all the sermons of all the priests in the country (if they preach at all) are not going to help much. We have got to the point where the promulgation of any kind of moral standard automatically releases an anti-moral response in a whole lot of people. It is not with them, above all, that I am concerned, but with the ‘good’ people, the right-thinking people, who stick to principle, all right, except where it conflicts with the chance to make money. It seems to me that there are very dangerous ambiguities about our democracy it its actual present condition. I wonder to what extent our ideals are now a front for organized selfishness and systematic irresponsibility. If our affluence society every breaks down and the facade is taken away, what are we going to have left?”
Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction