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Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Spice' Hits Russia, and American Legalization Starts to Crack

The Vice Channel is reporting that the 'designer drug' known as Spice has hit the Russian streets.  Heroin is doing what it has done in the US: the bad effects are becoming widely known and unpopular, so as the users die off, new ones are less likely to get started.
Spice hit the US streets a few years ago, but its 'bad trips' have helped curtail its abuse.  Besides, with marijuana legalization basically a reality in much of the US, pot is still a much more attractive alternative.

Of course, Russia is also fighting an additional battle, one that we in the West are also dealing with, but in a different way.  If you watch this RT video, you'll notice one of the dealers has a 'Salafi-style' beard:
Russia has a large Shia Moslem community, which the Saudis have spent years infecting with Radical Sunni (a.k.a. Salafi, Wahabi, etc.) Islam.  Saudi success meant years of conflict in Chechnya.  If these guys are Salafis, then chances are they are tangled up in Russia's own 'War on Terror.'
Of course, the Great Legalization Crusade in America is happening at a time when, as the same channel reports, the Dutch are gradually shutting off the spigot on marijuana:
The rest of Europe is tired of dealing with the expenses of Holland's permissive attitude.  There is also the growing sense that the time to play is over as the 'guest workers' are gradually becoming a force of their own to be dealt with and, after this summer's race roils in France, Sweden, and Italy, Europeans are beginning to realize that they might have to come back from holiday and start doing something about their culture of infertility.
As for the US, Colorado is already starting to have its regrets over the legalization process, which now has a majority of the consumption not in cigarettes and pipes, but in 'edible' forms to avoid the nasty smoke.  Attempts to stop the distillation of marijuana have been stymied, and for good reason: the only reason anyone uses marijuana is to get high.  Again, that attitude with any other drug, or alcohol, would get you public consternation.  Here, we accept that it is nothing but an intoxicant.
While other states are toying with legalization, the fervor is over as other states see Colorado's problems.  Already, people are now worried that these edible marijuana products are going to end up in Halloween treats for children.
Is that far-fetched?  With so many people hyping the benefits of marijuana, even for children, how many people out there might try to 'share the benefits?'
The mental illness of the drug world is tragic.  We will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'The Pill'

Yes, I am still alive.  Doing a lot of thinking, which actually is not as conducive to writing as much as one might expect.  In this format, 'thinking out loud' can lead to all kinds of mostly-permanent problems.
The internet has its own 'permanent record.'  And, particularly these days, few humans seem to possess the 'mercy gene' which allows for minor foibles to go unpunished.  There is a totalitarian mentality these days, perhaps mostly because we are so much more afraid of the world than we were before.
However, that's not what I'm posting today.  Rather, a reader of this blog sent me a very interesting article:
Of course, it contains all of the usual bromides... the 12 Steps are too hard, the overall success rate of AA is only 5-8%, etc.
Another bromide is that 'harm reduction is successful with heroin addicts.'  That should be rewritten to say that harm reduction is successful at making addicts slightly less of a public nuisance.  They are still addicted and are not free.  It is like having padded manacles or gentle slavery. 
So, a pill is developed that will 'help' reduce the effect of alcohol, thus reduce the amount of drinking.
I swear these folks have never talked to an addict.  It isn't about the drinking.  Or the using.  It is about the suffering.
Sure, the pill may reduce the effect of alcohol, particularly on those alcohol abusers and hard drinkers that get carried away like the way many people lose themselves occasionally at the dinner table.  That's not addiction.  It is gluttony.
The addict will find a work-around.  Sure, he may stop drinking with the pill, but watch his pantry or his computer screen or his bank account... the addiction moves into another activity that releases the endorphins and 'relaxation response' that drinking once did without the pill.
Addicts don't need alcohol to get high.  They just need a high, and they can get it lots of ways.
Heck, I've seen raging alcoholics give up their drink overnight and remain on a rage bender for years.  yes, there's another pill for that, and soon our friend can take a whole pantry of meds and literally fry his liver doing what the 12 Steps do organically.
Maybe that can be AA's new message-sharing strategy-
The 12 Steps are the Green way to recovery.
Yes, I am kidding.
Sure, the recovery rate in AA is low... because the meetings are open and most people take years to get to a point of willingness.  AA is meant for the 'hopeless alcoholic,' not the newbie abuser with plenty of spunk and lots of ambition.  Read the histories written by Dick B. and you will see that AA has changed dramatically in that respect.
The 'pill' does not rebuild the relationships broken by addiction, nor does it cure the inner suffering the Steps address.
No pill can replace the healing of repentance and conversion.  No pill can make your amends for you.  No pill can replace the sense of God's love and mercy.
No pill can make you Sober.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Same-Sex Friendship

The hyper-sexualization of the modern Materialistic Consumerism has caused us to be alienated from one another.  Here's a look into this problem:
People these days are lonely.  The drive for online friendships is an easy way out, but it really never sates the thirst we have for real friendships and associations.
Think about it: children need a mother and father, but after the divorce, they are forced to accept and then reject their parents' various sexual partners.  Marriage has become about sexual union rather than family-building.  We tempt our children into early 'dating' long before they are ready to marry, then gnash our teeth when they abuse their freedom and have sex, which we encourage by supporting sexualized advertising aimed at them.
We are sex-obsessed, which is why our news outlets sprinkle a heavy dose of 'entertainment news' in with the hard stuff, knowing we are more interested in some young tarts cleavage more than we are in the spread of Ebola.  After all, Ebola does not generally effect Wifi access, does it?
Sure, we have the iPhone#, with all the attendant apps and access to our electronic needful-things, but what about real people?  Most of us have much fewer of those around these days.  We used to have clubs and fellowships and teams... they are dying out as people sit at home and bask in the eerie light of a LCD screen.
When we make the effort to meet others, it is often with that overwhelming desire, enforced by media messages, to have intercourse.  Like a prisoner first released for a long sentence, everything seems to stimulate us.  perhaps we've been watching millions of images of these things, and thus we are now 'primed' to go to work.
But, we know it is wrong, and so we stuff our stimulus down and thus begin the awkward fumbling of a 'proper relationship,' all the while wondering and wondering and wondering if our stimulation and craving for human intimacy is sexual or not.  We don't know, because we get so little of the real thing in either way.  Thus, they become confused.  Sex and social intimacy blend into a single neediness.
But, failing to understand that sex and friendships are different, and that sexual intimacy and social intimacy, while sharing some traits, are not the same, we become afraid to have both because we know there is a difference but it is no longer taught to us... and the guardrails are removed.
We encourage sodomy and so-called 'same sex attraction,' which then places the same barriers that heterosexual men and women place in their own relationships in order to prevent the blending of sex and friendship.  It is awkward for a man to treat another man like a woman, but that's what happens.  Or, rather, he may treat himself like the woman knowing that he really isn't, but, again, it is all confusing and therefore awkward.
Some people enjoy the confusion.  Yes, there are people who thrive on it.  It makes them feel alive.  Most of us like things to be straight-forward.  We benefit from rules and standards and clarity.  In this age, the former have the edge.  They are out to cause confusion.  They like it.
But, the rest of society pays the price for social experimentation.  We become the lonely ones, earning for the joys of friendship unmuddled with sex.
Until society reaches the breaking point, we will have much more of this alienation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Be Mad At God First

For countless centuries, perhaps even from the beginning, man has often viewed the world with an 'us-versus-them' attitude.  His classical approach to life is that those who are not for him are against him, and that those against him are pure evil and a dire threat.
After all, the 'Other' takes our stuff and makes a mess we have to clean up.  The 'Other' is selfish and greedy and inconsiderate.  Of course, we are never like that.  We are always perfect.  It is the Them that has all the problems.
So, when we feel threatened or imposed upon by circumstance, we turn out ire towards some other.  When things get really bad for us, and we are genuinely afflicted, then our hatred of the Other becomes fully justified and we can go about hating and resenting.  Our insults are true because we say that they are, since we have decided it is so and the Other has no truth at all.
Whole political systems, from Stone Age Tribalism to Modern Age Marxism are built on the premise that the bad guys over there, be they the fellows in the tepee on the other side of the hill or the wealthy Bourgeoisie in the manor house (these days, a McMansion is enough to get the envy of most Americans going), must be stopped because they are bad and we are good.
Race politics is another place where this is the core belief.  Be angry, and remain so, because only your rage will give you the strength to fight your enemy.  Kind of like this:
So, we encourage our rage for 'social change' or 'preserving our traditions' with hate and well-suckled grievances.  The Other becomes, like the video suggests, the 'nail' that we have to be angry enough to hit.
The path of Recovery requires that we drop the pretense: anger is a poison, and it is never justified.  Resentments and condemnation of others is the same judgment and condemnation you will receive.  Hence, the Lord's Prayer.
Most people are weaned on hatred, and it is mother's milk to them, and no matter how often they read their Bibles, they can't get over their own hatreds.
Those who afflict you... who lets them get away with it?  God.
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things. (Is 45:5-7)
God sends Israel into the hands of the Egyptians.  And the Babylonians.  They are afflicted by others.  Who should they have been angry at... their afflicters, or the God who ordained their affliction?
Here's a bishop's take on the matter:
'This Came From Me' by St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

Have you ever thought that everything that concerns you, concerns Me, also? You are precious in my eyes and I love you; for this reason, it is a special joy for Me to train you. When temptations and the opponent [the Evil One] come upon you like a river, I want you to know that This was from Me.

I want you to know that your weakness has need of My strength, and your safety lies in allowing Me to protect you. I want you to know that when you are in difficult conditions, among people who do not understand you, and cast you away, This was from Me.

I am your God, the circumstances of your life are in My hands; you did not end up in your position by chance; this is precisely the position I have appointed for you. Weren't you asking Me to teach you humility? And there - I placed you precisely in the "school" where they teach this lesson. Your environment, and those who are around you, are performing My will. Do you have financial difficulties and can just barely survive? Know that This was from Me.

I want you to know that I dispose of your money, so take refuge in Me and depend upon Me. I want you to know that My storehouses are inexhaustible, and I am faithful in My promises. Let it never happen that they tell you in your need, "Do not believe in your Lord and God." Have you ever spent the night in suffering? Are you separated from your relatives, from those you love? I allowed this that you would turn to Me, and in Me find consolation and comfort. Did your friend or someone to whom you opened your heart, deceive you? This was from Me.

I allowed this frustration to touch you so that you would learn that your best friend is the Lord. I want you to bring everything to Me and tell Me everything. Did someone slander you? Leave it to Me; be attached to Me so that you can hide from the "contradiction of the nations." I will make your righteousness shine like light and your life like midday noon. Your plans were destroyed? Your soul yielded and you are exhausted? This was from Me.

You made plans and have your own goals; you brought them to Me to bless them. But I want you to leave it all to Me, to direct and guide the circumstances of your life by My hand, because you are the orphan, not the protagonist. Unexpected failures found you and despair overcame your heart, but know That this was from Me.

With tiredness and anxiety I am testing how strong your faith is in My promises and your boldness in prayer for your relatives. Why is it not you who entrusted their cares to My providential love? You must leave them to the protection of My All Pure Mother. Serious illness found you, which may be healed or may be incurable, and has nailed you to your bed. This was from Me.

Because I want you to know Me more deeply, through physical ailment, do not murmur against this trial I have sent you. And do not try to understand My plans for the salvation of people's souls, but unmurmuringly and humbly bow your head before My goodness. You were dreaming about doing something special for Me and, instead of doing it, you fell into a bed of pain. This was from Me.

Because then you were sunk in your own works and plans and I wouldn't have been able to draw your thoughts to Me. But I want to teach you the most deep thoughts and My lessons, so that you may serve Me. I want to teach you that you are nothing without Me. Some of my best children are those who, cut off from an active life, learn to use the weapon of ceaseless prayer. You were called unexpectedly to undertake a difficult and responsible position, supported by Me. I have given you these difficulties and as the Lord God I will bless all your works, in all your paths. In everything I, your Lord, will be your guide and teacher. Remember always that every difficulty you come across, every offensive word, every slander and criticism, every obstacle to your works, which could cause frustration and disappointment, This is from Me.

Know and remember always, no matter where you are, That whatsoever hurts will be dulled as soon as you learn In all things, to look at Me. Everything has been sent to you by Me, for the perfection of your soul. All these things were from Me. (
Do you want to blame someone for racism, and inequality, and the burdens others unfairly place on you, and the suffering of the poor, and the inequality of the rich, and that you didn't get what you wanted... put the blame on God.
He started it all, and He is the one who lets it happen.
Do not be a coward and blame mere mortals.  God could stop them, but He does not. 
And, since you are afraid of God, it is easier to hate others than taking Him on.  That's being a chicken.
If you are angry at another person, you either don't really believe that God is in charge, or you think He is asleep and not doing His job.  You may need to rouse Him with your indignation.  Yes, God will surely respond if you are angry enough!
Those who can actually muster the courage to be angry at God are well on their way to recovery.  After all, to be angry at Him means you really believe that He is there and that He is all-powerful.  This is a stronger belief than the made who pays lip-service to God but in his heart believe that men are responsible for his suffering.
Men are tools.  Reread the Old Testament.  Pay attention to Deuteronomy 32.  That is a warning for all of us.
Our afflictions are the path to healing.  Do not resent others for doing what is in their nature to do.  God will deal with them.  You yourself must be healed, and God will only do that if you cooperation.
If you must hate, then hate truly and hate God.  He can handle it.  Hate Him and get over it.  Be honest.  Sometimes we cannot avoid being angry over what has happened to us.  Direct it to the One who really did it, and who also knows why it must be so and can change it from bad to good.
Be angry with no man.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marijuana and Suicide

More scientific research showing the bad side of marijuana usage:
However, it may be more complicated... like the chicken and the egg.
Does the predisposition to usage have a natural link to suicide?  Are people using to marijuana to medicate the underlying problems which lead to suicide?  Or, is it the marijuana use which is solely responsible?
The deeper question which never really gets answered is why people would 'need' to get high every day.  It is the escape from 'reality' (the 'reality' of one's own mind, that is) which should be our main concern.
We need to teach people that their memories will be there when they get back from being high.  If there is a single message that we should be delivering to others, it is this.  Memories are inescapable... unless you get amnesia.  But then, you lose out on who you are.
I suppose we can say that we are failing to teach people who they are, largely because we can't agree on it ourselves in the age of the 'pluralistic' society.  We have made everything an uncertainty.
Thus we live in a constant flux, and our fears come to overwhelm us. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Understanding Happiness

Happiness is not an 'experience' in terms of an achievement, but rather a motion.  In physiological terms, it is about a series of brain chemical experiences that transition us from anticipation and excitement to satisfaction and relaxation.
This is why this article should be no surprise, though it might be for many:
The modern mind sees happiness as a achievement... a single event or experience.  But, it really isn't.  It is only by repeating the false image of happiness that we can ignore the truth that you don't get to happiness in a split-second. 
I think advertising usually plays into this because an ad would have to be far more complex in order to express happiness in that way.  Advertisers want to keep ads simple, because they know you won't spend time to get their messages.
Others do not want us to think about happiness too much because they are afraid that you might disagree with them.  They want a quick agreement and not too much focus on the reality of all the potentially contradicting evidence.  Most often, however, we do that to ourselves.  We want something so bad because we want to be happy but we are not willing to work at it.
Or, at least take the time for it.
In this day and age, we have lots more shots at being happy, or rather getting things we think will make us happy.  Look at all that you have around you right now.  Just think about the endless possibilities that the very computer you are using right now is offering you.
All you need is time... the one thing we seem to be running out of.
Your great-grandfather could have entertained himself with a pocket knife and a piece of wood.  Now, you have a power outage and almost instantly have a panic attack.  All he needed was daylight, but now look at all the things you need
A process takes time.  Take away the time, and there can be no process.  But, this also eliminates the potential for real happiness.
That's why drugs are so popular: you can get a quick fix of brain chemicals without having to work for it or spend any time really working towards happiness.  The clamor for marijuana legalization in America is not about 'free choice' as much as it is a desperate cry of despair: "We don't have the time or energy to be happy, so let us smoke pot!"
If you want to find happiness, then you have to work.  You also have to be realistic: happiness is not about controlling the process as much as adapting to it.  This is the second fallacy after happiness as a singular experience.  Most folks think that happiness is synonymous with control.
Look at powerful people.  Are they really happy?  Does their control bring real joy?
Most of the super-wealthy are generally unpleasant people.  In Hollywood, the old saying goes that the stars that aren't jerks are the ones that are depressed.  The only happy ones you encounter are the ones that stay outside the 'game' of power and influence.
Yet, we continually fill ourselves with the notion that we have to be in control and that happiness is about actualizing our expectations rather than enjoying the mystery of surprise.
I know that, in most cases, people are deeply disappointed in meeting me.  Generally speaking, I fail to live up to most people's expectations (especially my own).  They think they will be 'happy' meeting me (for what reason, I have no idea), and come away with... well, I'm not exactly sure.  Most folks don't call back with feedback.  Sometimes I am a jerk on purpose, because I test people who seem over-confident in their 'spirituality' (I will say that I have a highly-tuned 'BS-o-meter' that has rarely failed me, though I must say that I have failed it by ignoring its results on more than one occasion).
That's OK.  I don't make myself out to be anything other than a man with a blog and a short attention span.  I am not here to make anyone happy.  In fact, quite the opposite: what I write here is designed to take away 'happiness'... the false kind.  The cheap kind.  The delusional kind.
If you want to be happy, then let go and appreciate what God is giving you right now.  Take the time and savor the experience.  Stop whining about your plans.  They are probably stupid anyhow (most of mine are).
Happiness is a journey.  Ultimately it is a journey in God, with God, through God.  Enjoy it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Battle With the Mind

I'm going to go out on a limb here, so this may get messy.
Over the last few months, I've been working through the ramifications that one of my children has ADHD.  Right now, he's in his room fighting some kind of battle with aliens that will go on for hours.
His little mind races from thought to thought and image to image.  He's a good lad, but most of the values of today's schools don't include his.  Like his father, he's in for a long road of exile.
Many a night I have been unable to sleep because my head would not shut off.
I was always told that there had to be some deep, Freudian explanation for all those thoughts.  I searched high and low.  Never found it in most cases.  Yes, there were times when I knew EXACTLY why I was freaking out at 3am.  There were other times when I knew something was up, and eventually I learned the skill of soul-hunting.  The underlying cause would be brought out and addressed.
But, most of the time, it was just my head doing its thing.
No amount of inventorying or soul-searching or even cheap bourbon could triumph over the mind that simply won't stop.
What makes it worse is that not only is it many times unpleasant and counter-productive, but it has been popularly demonized.  Our recent flirtations with pop-Zen-Buddhism and the romantic notion of 'no mind' has made those of us that have race-car-engine imaginations feel like Cave Trolls.
I'm tired of it.  I am tired of people telling me that something is wrong with me... or my son. 
I can't fix him or me by 'trying harder' or saying more Jesus Prayers.  As a monk, I would fail.  If you want to call me a failed Christian because I can't stop my head from flitting from thought to thought (even though I desperately want it to stop), then go ahead.  I've been called worse.
No, my house isn't shaking with loud music.  In fact, I don't listen to much music at all.  It is too hard at times.  Most of the time, it is dead silent other than the sound of power tools.
What I have learned to do is not kick myself so hard for being distracted.  It is going to happen.  What I have also learned is that real peace lies beneath the thoughts and the distractions of the 'busy mind.'
I am never going to be able to master the Philokalia's demands that I roll my thoughts up into a ball and insert them into my heart.  My 'hands' aren't big enough, and I will just make more anyhow.  I will never know silence until it is given to me, because there is no natural way for me to stop my head.
It's over... I am done trying.  I pray amid the chaos, and I can only trust that far below is the stillness and tranquility that I have only had momentary glimpses of.  Though I want nothing more than that blessed silence, it is just one more thing that is outside of my grasp in this life.
So, I will continue to leave around a thousand half-done projects.  I will miss appointments or be late because I can't remember half the time where I am or what comes next (I am also dyslexic with numbers, and so dates and times befuddle me).  With all my best efforts, I will still disappoint those with high expectations, or even moderate expectations.
I will not feel bad anymore for being a failure.  It is my Cross, which means that it is also my gift.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shame Is Your Friend II

Judging from the feedback, I think I need to clarify a bit more about what I am saying.
You can't be civilized, or spiritual, unless you first accept the notion of shame as beneficial.  It is necessary, and if you ditch it, you will pay the consequences.
So, what is shame?  Shame is the feeling that one has lost one's proper position in the world and broken the standards of one's relationships with others.  It is more than embarrassment over a misstep, but an acknowledgement that one has fundamentally failed to be what one is called to be.
Adam and Eve sense shame when they sinned.  Are you going to tell me they were too hard on themselves?
Many people these days struggle with their consciences because they know instinctively that they are called to something greater, yet the world calls them to depravity and accepting a low estate.  They are told that the easy way is the best way, and that a life of pleasure is better than a life of struggle leading to accomplishment.
They are told to ignore good and evil, and instead focus on what is desirable.  Sound like Adam and Eve?
So, when they sense in the shame of their choices, they react with rage and, of course, denial.  After all, who wants to admit that one played right into the hands of one's enemies?
This is why poverty and social disorder always walk hand-in-hand with alcohol and drug abuse.  It takes the edge off of that shame that modern man experiences in the wee hours of the morning when he realizes that all of his decisions have led him away from beauty and honor.  The garment of his humanity is torn, and he has no needle to mend it with.
So, he drinks.  Or, he smokes.  Or, he shoots up.
Man oppresses man, but it requires cooperation.  You can oppress a man by taking away his honor at the point of a sword, but you can also take it away from him by promising 'paradise' if he would but bend his knees.
If you tell people that there is no shame in giving up one's dignity for the sake of pleasure, the average man will gladly do so... at first.  That is, right up until he notices that he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.  Once he realizes that he has done so, he will likely drink and use... and perhaps strike out at the 'society' that took his dignity from him.
After all, there is no shame in the poor man who has struggled his whole life yet remained honest.  There is shame in the man who has kept himself poor by making bad decisions and refusing to learn from them.
There is shame in oppressing the poor, but the blame is to be shared with those who choose to be oppressed in exchange for a life of ease.
We cannot necessarily condemn society as if we are innocent, because we are part of society.  The moment you point fingers at someone else, you are saying they are somehow different from you.  Don't you realize that you and the people around you are embraced by the inseparable bonds of not only a common citizenship, but a common humanity?
What does this mean? 
It means that we all have to take our share of the blame, and our part of the solution.  Change happens when everyone makes the decision to change themselves rather than others.  Accept the shame as your own.  Then ask God for help.
A man who claims innocence is deceiving himself.  Look deep within yourself and ask, "Am I really acting like a free man every day?  Or, am I excusing my weaknesses by blaming others?"
Recovery means accepting the blame and the shame... and turning it over to God.  It means taking our poverty, both self-imposed and the result of theft, and asking God to handle it for us.  We stop looking for human will as the solution, and turn to the Creator, our Father in Heaven.
Accepting the reality of our shame is a powerfully spiritual moment.  It is an essential step in the path of holiness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Shame Is Your Friend

When I was growing up, the emerging social narrative was that shame was bad.  Sure, shame has never really been all that good, but what the 1960s brought forth was the notion that the whole idea of shame should be eliminated.
Our modern age has come to where it is now by eliminating shame.  Sure, we feel shame all the time, but our society does not really impose it, particularly on our personal behavior.
For this reason, we have lost many of the guardrails that we once depended on to control our behavior when our own will alone was not sufficient to curtail our impulses.  How many times have we stopped doing something simply because we would feel ashamed for having to explain our actions to a loved one, or even a father confessor?
Shame can stop us from doing things without actually having to wear its horrid mantle. 
Adam and Eve did not have the prior experience of shame, which might have prevented them from eating the fruit, but then again, you can't get to that place of understanding shame unless you first taste it.  Our negative experiences growing up are supposed to shame us in small ways so that we are ready to avoid the larger shames.
But now, we are told there is no shame, and so people act out in ways that are simply stupid.  Five decades ago, a 'gangster' wore a fancy suit and tried to look 'respectable' while knowing that his ways of getting money were shameful.  Now, gang members dress like clowns, and celebrate their ignorance in music that kids gobble up with abandon.
Our children have lost their shame, and take nude pictures of themselves to send to their 'mates.'  Only later does the innate sense of shame come up, even after the 'liberated society' has told them that all sexual impulses must be immediately acted on.  As a result, we have kids that are emotional wrecks, and need marijuana and alcohol to cope.
Hence we have the 'party culture' of colleges and the drum-beat of marijuana legalization.  Being intoxicated has also lost its shame, and with it the safeguards against addiction have been ripped away.  Let's not forget something: alcoholism and the social acceptability of public drunkenness are linked.  Countries with tolerance for public intoxication tend to have more heavy drinkers, and thus more alcoholics.
But, the loss of shame also drives man to countless other sins.
The point I am driving at is that we all need to regrow a sense of shame.  The survival of society, and our own sanity, depends upon our ability to readily acknowledge that our actions are or are not shameful, and then act accordingly.  Because, I will tell you this: no amount of social pep talks about being 'freed' from the constraints of traditional morality is enough to overcome the inner voice that tells us that what we are doing is wrong.
Right and wrong, good and evil... these are things deeply coded within our spirit.
Sure, you can come up with some tribe in the middle of jungle-nowhere that does all the things you want to do... but are you will to go live in their thatched-hut village to see how they deal with that reality?  No, you won't because you know that you really don't want the whole context.
All societies have their shortcomings, and thus their own shames that the 'medicate' by compensating in some other way.  Our temptation is to avoid change by compensating somehow, usually by overacting in some other 'virtue.'
Sobriety is about coming to grips with our own shame, not trying to deny it.  We all have things to be ashamed of, and what we ought to do is bear those shames with humility rather than indulging our egos by denying the shame is there.
Once we embrace our shame, then we are no longer dominated by it.  We know that we are not perfect and have failed to live up to what is good.  When it is no longer denied, then we can accept the price of our shame and move forward from it.  We can repent, and then begin to be healed.
It is not an overnight process, but as with most shames, the power of it wears off over time.  For example, how many people will look at an old prisoner serving a sentence for a murder in his youth and say, "Well, he has done his time."  When the blood was still wet, you would not have had such sentiments.  You certainly would not think this way if he continued to murder and assault people in prison.  But, if he repented, you be more likely to forgive him his shameful state of being a murderer.  The label does not go away, but the path of repentance can change weight of it.
So for us all, our shame becomes more bearable with time and good conduct.  It cannot be forgotten, nor should it.  Our past shames keep us from acquiring new ones like a Xenophora snail:

Avoid new shames, but more especially realize that the shames you have will help you remain honest and humble before God and your fellow man.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Screaming Mimi

I think we all have (those of us here reading a 'blog' on the internet, that is), at one point or another, gotten into heated exchange with someone on the internet.  Recently, I got involved in a discussion, and it became pretty obvious that the participants were more into indulging their feelings than actually engaging the issue at hand.
Having better things to do than tilting windmills, I left the thread.  I have had to teach myself to walk away from fruitless activities despite whatever my feelings tell me.  Sure, I know I could win (ah, the simply joys of over-self-confidence), but why expend the energy? 
Why do we argue and fight over politics and social matters?  Have any of these internet debates changed anything?
Yes and no.
If we are arguing about changing others, then we are really barking up the wrong tree.  Changing other people's minds is always a bad idea.  Just in case you are wondering why I would say that, let me ask you this:
Do you like commercials?  They are out there to change your mind and sell you on a product.
You don't like them, just as much as you don't like being bossed around, particularly by someone who is annoyed with you and has a 38-foot-long list of your past sins and inadequacies.  These harangues are enough to drive you to drink... or, in most cases, just dig your heels in further.
Manipulating others is always a stupid idea.
Of course, as will so much in the Post-modernist era, you can change the word 'commercial' to 'education,' and you have the latest fad in control-words.  You need to be 'educated,' which means you need me to boss you around.  Here, let me help you.
The principles of both Christianity and addiction recovery both rest on the simple idea that the only person I can change is myself.  Even when I am being wronged, the problem starts and ends with me.  After all, my misery is my misery.  If I am being made miserable, who's fault is that.
Someone else, of course! 
Sure, you can come up with a million examples of people who cannot escape those who harm them, but the question isn't really about being harmed or not, but what you do with that harm.  Does it make you better, or more broken?  If you say the latter, then the spiritual path is about turning that brokenness over to God and being changed and perfected.
You'll never achieve inner peace so long as it is dependent on other human beings.  Or, even cats.  It does not work that way.
We in the Western world have 'educated' the @#$%& out of ourselves, and to what end?  We are still miserable... and spoiled rotten.  Worse yet, we think we are smarter than everyone else, because we have such awesome forms of manipulation, like 'marketing' and 'education.'
I think the reason we fight so much these days is that we are so bombarded with 'marketing' and 'education' that we can barely hold onto our beliefs for a short time before someone comes and says, "Here, now it is time to believe this!"
That's why I feel sorry for students these days, who have to go to class after class with professors who feel it is absolutely necessary that students agree with everything they believe, and either dump their own ideas or get graded down.  pretty soon, all you have is either an irrational clinging to whatever ideas one has or a form of cynical relativism that makes your utterly logic-proof.
It is like Velcro: it wears out the more you attach things and then pull them apart.  If you keep bombarding people with new opinions and ideas, then pull them off and attach more, pretty soon the connection gets looser and looser.  So, eventually, things just fall off... or you turn to duct tape.
I think the Screaming Mimi I encountered had a bad case of ductaepitis.  What she wasn't able to process was that she will never get anywhere in life demanding other people change.  So, she had to resort to schoolyard taunts and insults.  I almost wanted to say, "Hey, lady, I've been called worse.  Could you please work a bit harder?"  But, I didn't want to further embarrass my friend for having lousy companions.  That includes me.
Since we no longer believe anything, we believe everything, or nothing at all.  Our rage comes with our own fears that we might actually have bound ourselves up to the wrong ideas, and so we protect them with fire rather than logic.
Thus, we miss the big picture: the only thing I can change is myself.
If I want people to treat me different, then I have to do a few things.  First, I have to see what it is that people are reacting to in me, and see if I have the ability to change it.  In order to do that, I have to drop my fear and anger over the other and see the world with his eyes.  Sure, he may be crazy, but few people are totally mad.  Ask yourself what it is that this person is reacting to.  Then ask yourself it is worth holding onto it and getting static for it.
I'll give you a case in point: I had a parishioner who was an ex-felon who had really turned his life around.  He was on the straight-and-narrow... but the police were constantly pulling him over and harassing him.
My advice: tuck your shirt in, grow your hair out, and stop dressing like a gang member.  I told him that as long as he dressed that way, he was going to get in trouble.  There wasn't anything he could do about his gang tattoos, but his appearance was under his control.  We live in an era with more than just togas... he has a choice about how to dress.
(NB - As a guy who wears a cassock, I really don't want to hear about how hard it is to dress in a way where people might make fun of you.)
To help him out, I went with him to the police station to intercede.  What happened next was astonishing: the policeman pointed out that he was, right there, wearing clothes that matched the colors of his old gang, and he was driving their 'vehicle of choice.'
Long story short- a month went by, and he came to church with a big smile on his face... no problems with the police!  Why?  because he was humble enough to sell the car and change his clothes.  Suddenly, the police didn't even recognize him anymore!
He was living the principles of the program, and it paid off.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely 
happy with Him forever in the next.
I think all of us, including my friend the Screaming Mimi, would feel a lot better if we took this to heart, rather than all the anger and strife of the world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Suicide and Substance Abuse

The English-speaking world has been awash in news about the suicide death of comedian Robin Williams.  It certainly is a tragedy, as are all deaths.  It strikes more of us because so many people have felt affinity for the characters he portrayed over the years, particularly the one called 'Robin Williams.'
I would post some of his stand-up where he talks about drugs and alcohol, but he uses a lot of bad language that would upset some readers, so I'll leave it to you to find them.  He certainly was no advocate.
What is clear is that he 'medicated' his suffering with alcohol and drugs like so many of us do.  Just prior to his death, he made arrangements (according to one report) to return to a rehabilitation facility.  What he was taking prior to his death won't be known for several weeks.
People have been theorizing about death and suicide, or rather 'theologizing' about Mr. Williams' eternal damnation.  Should he get a 'cloud' or a 'lake of fire'?  Honestly, I find it all so stupid I can barely bring myself to discuss it, but I will for the saner among us.  There are some who are simply too anxious to fill hell, while others deny the fact that hell exists to begin with.
Some say hell is of man's own making.  This is true in more than one way.  Hell is not suffering per se, but a peculiar kind.  It is one of regret and sorrow and shame that cannot be quenched.  Drugs and alcohol can give such a sufferer a brief respite from such suffering, but in the end he is shoved back into the furnace by sobriety and tolerance.  The escape is always brief, and often with a cost.
Yet, there are those who's brains impose on them the most intolerable suffering, worse than any cancer 3rd-degree burn.  They are tormented even when they have done nothing wrong.  Mr. Williams travelled with the USO and offered his talents to many charities.  He sought to do good, and yet the heavy burden of an organic condition left him despairing.
We know that some men are born with no conscience, and so we should be open to the idea that others are born with too much.  We know now about 'Sensory Integration Disorders' that leave some people over-sensitive to physical stimulation, while others are left under-stimulated.  One can't stand the touch of even the softest fabric, and the other has to run head-first into a wall to feel anything at all.
Christians have not done very well addressing the imbalance between the over-sensitive and the under-sensitive when it comes to the conscience.  We don't have a handy set of fatwas from Jesus Christ specifically penalizing various sins.  There are broad categories:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Co 6:9-11)
How about those who have been washed, and yet still conduct ourselves in such ways?
Does anyone claim to be above all sin, and immune to temptation?  Are any of you willing to say that sin no longer tugs at your heartstrings, and that you live utterly without it?
The sad fact of the matter is that all of us, each day, commit suicide when we sin.  We are busy killing ourselves in a way just as absolute as what Mr. Williams did.  We murder our own selves with sinful thoughts and perverse ideas, not to mention when we act out.  When we hate others and condemn them, what does God say about those who condemn?
"Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."  (Mt 7:1-5)
Can any of us stand above our brethren?  It sure seems like it these days.  'No, I would never do that!' says the man who has not been tested.
If you have not been pushed by life to the very edge, if you have not experienced that horrendous weight of the conscience tormented, then you hardly can say that you would not do what Mr. Williams has done.  This is why people who survive real torture and imprisonment are almost always the most merciful.  They know that something else, rather than the 'self-will,' kept them from going over the edge.
For too many so-called 'Christians,' all they offer is self-will.  They are also mostly decadent and untested.  Almost none of them have had in life anything worse than a fender-bender accident or a C+ on a term paper or a terminally-ill grandparent.  They exude the self-confidence of a third-grader while walking around in adult's body.  It is disgusting in its own way, just as much as the disease-wracked crack-whore or the underwear-lounging, basement-dwelling gamer.
I liken this misplaced confidence to a college freshman who decides he's going to lecture a Iraq/Afghanistan vet on combat... based on his extensive experience with "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare."  If you have not experienced the real thing, then you shut up and listen.
It is perverse to boil all of Christian theology down to the force of self-will, just as it is perverse to say that Mr. Williams committed suicide any more than any of us do each day.  We are all dying.  Our sins are killing us... just a bit slower than the belt around Mr. Williams' neck.  We pace ourselves, and thus grant ourselves the indulgence of denial.
"'Tis but a flesh wound!"
We are eating ourselves to death, and mating ourselves to death, and drinking ourselves to death, and medicating ourselves to death... because to not feel is to die.  We suffer and so we avoid suffering rather than taking on what is killing us.
How do you take on a mind that is hard-wired to destroy you?
If Mr. Williams has no excuse, then neither do we.  If he has no hope of God's mercy, than neither should we.  How can we expect pardon for our own self-murder when we refuse to believe that God will have compassion on Mr. Williams?
I would say that we who are not merciful are in worse trouble.  We are already dead.  That's why our consciences no longer bother us enough to look at Mr. Williams and see someone not unlike us.
When you stop being empathetic, you have lost both God and life itself.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Price of Education...

So after reading this article, one question comes to mind: why would a college care about the sex lives (successful or otherwise) of it's students?

Well, I have a hunch that it may have something to do with what we call a 'guilty conscience.'  After all, it was the college crowd of the previous centuries (19th and 20th to be specific) who worked overtime to break down traditional morality and undermine spirituality.

It will become harder and harder to preach the message of 'free' sexuality when the students realize at such an early stage in their indoctrination that the addictions they are being encouraged in are actually killing them.  Yes, pornography kills.  It murders one's sexuality, and it destroys the soul.  Ask those lust addicts in recovery, and they will tell you.

College professors and academics now know the full power of pornography.  Are they coming out against it?  Are they decrying its power and utter lack of social and aesthetical value?  Nope.  They are silent at best, and defending it at worst.
Watch what happens: they will 'treat' the dysfunctionality, but to what end?  To help the students reserve their sexual activity for marriage, perhaps even to marry while in school and begin forming families?

To what end is this treatment?  So they can masturbate some more?  So they can have more of the same casual sex that the pornography they watch so profoundly advocates?  It seems to me that the treatment they will likely receive might be useful for everyone, but watch what happens.  Abstinence will be the alternative for 'sick people.'

We are seeing more and more of this: addiction and dysfunction are being treated as 'hiccups' in what is otherwise a 'good' society.  Abuse is good, so long as you can 'handle it.'  Abstinence is the shame of the weak.  What they are shooting for is a 'moderate abuse.' 

But, I would say, that these are symptoms that society is dying.

We are not having children, and have to import them (read immigrants) from parts of the world where reproduction is still valued (i.e. places where the internet has not yet reached).  Already, even Latin America's population is starting to slow down and even drop.  By the time Sub-Saharan Africa is 'wired,' there may no longer be a Europe

I've come to the conclusion that our addiction problem is more than just a matter of a statistically constant effect linked to DNA and the normal odd of having a bad reaction to a lousy life.  It is about a greater breakdown, a more far-reaching phenomenon where people are being pushed at greater and greater numbers to medicate their suffering because the system is destroying them.

While we make greater gains in understanding the problem each day, the number of people medicating themselves with substances and behaviors continues to grow.  The symptom is no longer the drunk in the road, but the broken families and dependence on materialism that we need to keep our sanity.

We are surrounded by stuff at levels our ancestors never dreamed of... and we still need pills to sleep and other pills to keep us from slitting our wrists.

The ship is sinking, and we are upholstering the deck chairs.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Surfacing Again

Hello... remember me?
Yes, many of you do.  I have not posted in nearly a month, and yet the daily stats have not changed much.  As a friend pointed out, it has given him a chance to browse through four years of previous posts.
I am glad that some have had a chance to go back through the archives, because I have been pretty active.  Sure, a good portion of it is a response to other people's news stories and opinions, but I have put a lot of 'original material' here.  There came a point where I said, "Wow, I think I've said it all."
A month ago, I felt that way, in terms of the things that I could express.  There is a lot that I am still trying to figure out how to say.  In the last year, I feel like I am chasing a beast down a dark alley and I can't quite grasp its tail.  The scary part is that I can't see its face, so I have no idea whether it has teeth or not.  Not sure if it is an herbivore or a carnivore.  Or a priestavore.  yes, I made that one up.
Since the beginning of 2014, I have not only acquired a rather painful physical condition (after surmounting several others in recent years), but I have also been trying to deal with my son's own 'learning peculiarities.'  I'm giving him some of the same problems I gave my parents, and yet he has his own unique issues.
It has forced me to come to grips with some of my old 'demons,' the ones that have complicated my life and often sabotaged my victories.  I have always pressed the 'Self-Destruct' button just when things were going the right way.
Only now is some of it becoming clear.  Only in the last month have I come to grips with one of my big problems: dyslexia.  I can moderately read (I usually figure books out before finishing them, thus I get bored with reading unless it is really good stuff), but my big hang up is numbers.  I mangle dates, times, prices, measurements... and I have always thought of myself as stupid as a result.
That view has shaped many of my life decisions.  After all, such a problem is magnified when you go to college and are expected to pass math exams.  I went to Los Angeles Unified School District, and it was never demanded of me to pass any math.  I never completed Algebra.  Funny thing: I got a pretty good score on the Math section of the SAT (which should tell you a lot about the SAT).
What is happening now is that I am reading up on sensory integration disorders, critical incident stress management (I'll talk more about this later, but I've had an interest in this area since seminary), combat PTSD, the Philokalia, and addiction news.  My head is spinning.
Someone accused me of having ADHD.  I asked those attending one of my classes (they have known me for years) if they thought it was true, and I was heartbroken to see them all nodding.  Perhaps this is why I read four books at a time and have a dozen half-completed projects around my house.  Now, I guess I will have to talk to someone about that, too.
The difference now is that I have come to accept that I will be this way for the rest of my life.  There will be a lot of things that I will never do.  I also realize that in a Church where people expect clergy to be peaceful and quiet, I will always be the odd-man-out.  This is what I have already experienced anyhow.  There's nothing I can do about it other than not be angry that my brethren don't 'click' with me.  I'm certain I am returning the favor.
I apologize for writing about myself, but I'm the big reason I have not written here, and I am also the reason I have written here before.  Like you, I am seeking answers.  I am searching for something.  I am chasing an unknown beast.  I am chasing myself.
In the midst of all the rancor, there is something to be found.  I am know that I seek God, but I am also seeking that which keeps me apart from Him.  He has not gone anywhere, but I sure have.  Something dragged me away.  Now I am chasing it.  My only hope is that chasing the beast will lead me to God.
That's what I am betting on.  That, and the hope that if not, He will come get me when my legs get tired.