celebrations

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration.
Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained.
Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation.
To be entertained is a passive state–
it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle….
Celebration is a confrontation,
giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


(Dad’s cake / Julie Cook / 2017)

Over the years, I’ve read many tales of those who suffered in the death camps
of Nazi Germany.
I also have read a great deal about those who endured exile in the Soviet gulags.
Some of the stories end with liberation while many sadly, or perhaps poetically,
end in liberating death.

One key element that I’ve noticed over and over, that is evident in almost all of the
individual stories of those who endured the horrors of either form of death camp,
is the single element of either anticipatory hope or dejected hopelessness.

Those who chose to hold onto hope, did so in seemingly small, insignificant and almost
unnoticeable measures…

They would simply keep count.

They would count hours, days, weeks, months, years…
the counting of their own particular life’s moments…
Be it birthdays, anniversaries or any of their own personal life’s hurdles or goals…
anything of what life had been outside of the camps to them personally…
They would count and look forward…
forward toward what normal had been….
and holding on to that normal.

Notches were marked on walls, small prayers were silently said as hymns or songs were
privately sung…
As some semblance of recalling and holding onto the marking of these personal moments
could actually keep life sane…
It is what helped those tortured souls hold onto that which was of sanity and routine…
that of life’s normalcy….
all the while as they were being held in the depths of brutal insanity.

There is a bittersweetness found in the holding onto of normalcy during those times
in our lives that are anything but normal.

Those of us who have watched loved ones slowly ebb away due to illness, disease, war, famine,
brutality, paralysis, or any other catastrophic thief understand the importance
of continuing to count.

For if we didn’t count,
if we didn’t hold onto,
if we didn’t hope…even in the face of a seemingly earthly hopelessness…
we would simply succumb to a sorrow so deep, so black and so bitter
that we would be lost to the abyss of utter nothingness…
all of which we would know would equate to utter despair.

One of the hardest bible verses to live out in life is found in the book of James.
(1 James 2….)
We are told to consider it “pure joy” when facing trails.

A seemingly impossible task that many a non-believer throughout time has relished
in taunting the faithful with the sneering
“what kind of loving God would tell you to find joy
in your suffering…other than a maniacally sick puppet master…”

And as it is seemingly impossible to do just that when one’s heart is in the midst of
being torn out of one’s chest….

We continue doing just that….

Because in part we know that what we’ve counted and held onto here in this life,
that which we have considered so dear and so precious…
is but a glimpse of what will be even more so…
once we are liberated and home….

So be we liberated in life or in death…either way…we the faithful…
count our milestones and choose to celebrate…


(this is a really good picture of Dad right now, the other shots look wretched…but there remains
a small twinkle and sly smile in this image)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

1 James 2-6

the seeds have been planted…

Who stands firm?
Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason,
his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue,
but who is ready to sacrifice all these,
when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action:
the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSCN3632
(tigerlilly seeds / Julie Cook / 2016)

The post originally intended for yesterday was to be one of butterflies…
of the lovely, amazing, peaceful and inspiring happy side of life…
It was to be a light and airy, happy and colorful sort of post…

All the images had been taken, chosen and uploaded…
the text had been written…as all was ready for posting…

And then a truck ran into a crowd of holiday revelers in Nice, France…

There were…
Children with dolls and ice-cream…
young couples holding hands…
grandparents remembering when…
tourists basking in the celebration…
as locals relished their independence…

Innocents…contended and happy individuals….much like the butterflies….

And suddenly, just like that, life was no longer about butterflies or anything else lovely, light or etherial…

Reality hit, once again, and it hit hard and fast….

Yet we neither want nor like reality with all of its ugly hard and fast..
We still want the butterflies…
the light, happy, pretty images…
We don’t want to see the macabre surrealism of the mangled bodies of children with their loving dolls keeping silent vigil.

That isn’t why we come to the internet..
We don’t want to see, hear or read the truth of reality..
Rather we prefer to disconnect from Reality as we relish in savoring the pretty,
the colorful, the light, the nice…

When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 for taking part in the assassination attempt against Adolph Hitler, it came as a shock to many who had known the young Lutheran pastor…a shock that he would be involved in such an act because he was known for his pacifism…
and how on earth could a pacifist ever take part in the conscious decision to take the life of another….

But what many did not know was that Bonhoeffer, along his Catholic co-conspiritiors of which Pope Pius XII could be counted, had used the writings of St.Thomas Aquinas to justify their taking an active role in the fight against evil and tyrannical powers.

The moral issue here is that of tyrannicide…
the killing of a tyrant, and specifically, the killing of a tyrant by a private person for the common good. Technically, there are two classes of tyrants: a tyrant by usurpation (tyrannus in titulo), a ruler who has illegitimately seized power; and a tyrant by oppression (tyrannus in regimine), a ruler who wields power unjustly, oppressively, and arbitrarily.

The key conditions for a justifiable act of tyrannicide in this case include that the killing be necessary to end the usurpation and restore legitimate authority; that there is no higher authority available that is able and willing to depose the usurper; and that there is no probability that the tyrannicide will result in even greater evil than allowing the usurper to remain in power.

However, if the tyrant by oppression attacks the citizen, jeopardizes the welfare of the community with the intent leading it to destruction or killing the citizens, or commits other evils, then a private citizen can morally commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Moreover, if because of the tyrant’s rule, a nation cannot defend itself, is on the course of destruction, and has no lawful means to depose or to condemn the tyrant, then a citizen may commit an act of justifiable tyrannicide. Interestingly, many modern political philosophers would posit that a leader who abuses power and has become tyrannical ipso facto loses legitimacy and becomes an usurper.
(Catholic Resource Education Center / Fr William Saunders)

And whereas it appears in such teachings against the hand of evil that the Church actually condones such acts of killing and assassinations, it must be noted that the Church does not actively teach nor proclaim such concepts…as some detractors may beg to differ.

…yet Aquinas’s writings and teachings remain buried in the layers of the historical fabric within the Church… percolating ever so often upward from the historical depths of time into the present light of a gloomy world as the faithful sit staring, once again, in disbelief at the ongoing images of evil wondering what is truly just…

These seeds of evil and death however were sown a very long time ago.

First with the falling of light into darkness…
Secondly with the determined choice of will in the acceptance of a seemingly simple apple.
and lastly with the death of a brother by the hands of a brother…

Yet the growth of those seeds did not end with the birth of both evil and death.

It has been said that the Magna Carta is one of the single greatest charters ever written by man as it has been the single building block for all civil societies ever since its proclamation and implementation at Runnymede, in England in 1215, by then King John and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langdon.
Even the American Colonists based their own formation of a constitution on the Magna Carta…

It has struggled throughout the course of the past 800 years. It has been amended, abridged and reassigned, and yet, it has continued as the chief cornerstone of Western Civilization.

This ancient charter, steeped in the protection of the rights of all individuals, has helped to formulate judicial systems as it has directed the workings of all governments rooted in the democratic liberties throughout Western Civilization.
It is a lynchpin to our western civility and society as we know it today.

The same civility and democratic liberty that is in sharp contrast to Muslim Sharia law.

It has always been, in part, the responsibility of the Church, in conjunction with the leading governments, to help protect those very civil liberties of all citizens in a democratic society.
It has been her, the Church’s, moral and ethical responsibility—
Yet she too has often failed at the task.

Yet it is this duty to and for the faithful that often puts her at odds with acting governments as she has often been the last bastion between hope and collapse.
All the while as she has tried to maintain her separation from those very governments of those people both hers and not.

Sharia Law and its use of the word of Mohammad stands in stalk contrast to the civil liberties of Western Civilization as it also stands in sharp contrast to the foundations of our Judaeo / Christian society.
We see this power play struggle daily.

And whereas the Church and her members have long recognized the importance of protecting the liberties of the individual citizen, the current Administration of the United States, as well as its fellow administrations of various governments throughout Western Civilization, has failed and continues to fail to see the correlation or relevance to the contrast between the protection of freedom verses that of the tolerance of tyranny.

The civil liberties, the equality, the judicial process, the democratic freedoms enjoyed by the West are nothing short of polarizing to the Sharia Law of Mohammed–
the two are not and will never be compatible…

And until our leaders can understand that one small fact, we will continue witnessing the repercussion of this massive collision.

All the while as Islamic extremists continue the systematic killing of innocent victims who merely wish to live life in their respective democratic societies.

Sadly yet undeniably the butterflies have been replaced by the ugly reality of the hard and fast truth of our current world.

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
John 18:37

It’s hell getting old

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

DSCN7532 2
(Watercolor Beach, Florida, The Gulf of Mexico on a fine September morning / Julie Cook / 2014)

This is not a tale about the proverbial wisdom which comes with age.
This is not a tale about aging parents (or maybe it is).
This is not a tale about the endurance of a family’s legacy with the addition of adorable grandchildren.
This is not a tale about the new 30 being 50 (which is so stupid right?)
This is a tale about you and me and simply put, about the triumphs and agonizing defeats
of aging. . .

Once upon a time, somewhere around the age of 50, life suddenly became less clear. No, I’m not talking metaphysically, I’m talking literally, as in things are literally out of focus.
A trip to the eye doctor is scheduled.

The good news is that you haven’t contracted some terrible disease nor or you going blind. . .
well not exactly going blind. You’ve simply gotten older and your vision is well, not what it use to be.

Thousands of dollars later you walk out with new glasses or contacts, which are suddenly making you feel as though you now live on a boat which has just set sail on a storm ridden sea. Up and down and all around you swivel your head like a bobble head, desperately searching for that tiny little speak of clarity and focus. . . Yet you must constantly remind yourself that the new glasses are “fly” and you are looking designer chic, albeit nauseated and still blind and of course thousands of dollars in the poor house.

Also at this magic age of 50, your doctor informs you that it is time for a colonoscopy.
I really don’t want to go into what all that entails as this venue is family friendly but if you must know, I am still having nightmares from the one I had 3 years ago–swearing I’d never do that again. . .of which I’ve now done twice. The only good thing to come from such an experience, other than being told you’re not dying nor that there’s anything detected, by observation, to be wrong with the workings of the plumbing, was that I lost 6 pounds while enduring the dreaded “prep”

Let’s move on.

By the age of 50, if you’re a female, you will most likely find yourself popping pills on a daily basis.
Not exactly mommy’s little helpers but more like the pills derived from the urine of a horse.
Great.
The dreaded yet welcomed hormone replacement therapy pills.
Pills to keep you calm.
Pills to keep you cool.
Pills to keep you collected.

It is usually obvious, to the casual observer, as to the women who are not popping said pills but certainly need to be popping said pills. They are the women who break out in a sweat in the dead of winter, shedding all forms of clothing, screaming at any and all as if everyone is an idiot for having the heat on, as it is only 25 degrees outside–this as they cut on the AC, turning it down to that of a meat locker all the while screaming at any and all for merely making the comment that no one is hot.

They are the women who you find crying hysterically because they just looked at a picture of their now grown children when they were but sweet tiny babes. . . but who, in the blink of an eye, are now screaming incessantly at said now grown children who made the ill fated decision to pop in for an unannounced visit. . .that they should have called first because the house is a mess.
Go figure.

Also sadly around the age of 50 one’s mind is not as sharp as it once was.
You find yourself forgetting that you’re in the process of cooking supper.
You seem to have forgotten that you had put the skillet on the stove and that you are suppose to be waiting for it to heat up.
You seem to have forgotten that you had added the olive oil ready to sauté, let’s say, a nice piece of fish.
Your phone rings.
You answer.
You chat.
You suddenly smell something burning.
You now remember the skillet and the olive oil.
There is a small fire.
No one is seriously injured and the kitchen can be repainted.
Enough said.

Also around the age of 50, there is the issue of your ears and of your hearing.
That once taken for granted clarity of the sweet whispered secrets and the singing of birds–both of which are sadly no longer special simply because you no longer hear them.
In fact you find yourself wondering why the birds no longer sing.
You decide it must be due to global warming.

This is when you decide its time to make the appointment with an audiologist.

You have that little hearing test.
“Raise your hand when you hear the beep.”
You never raise your hand.
You now leave the office with thousands of dollars worth of two little things you’re to poke in your ears to help you now hear.
The birds actually still sing.
Good.

Let’s create a little scenario to highlight a few of these aging problems shall we, in order to help put all of this observation business into perspective.

Let’s say that it’s your anniversary.
And since you are old, it’s an anniversary of significant number because at this stage of the game, they are all of significant number.
Your spouse offers to take you to the beach for a long weekend.
Ooooooo.
This is a gracious offer because your spouse hates the beach but knows you love the beach.
However, he does really likes to eat.
The beach has really good food.
Really, really good food.
It’s a win win.

As your spouse begins to feel badly that you are sitting alone down on the beach under a little umbrella surrounded by couples and families who are all sitting under their own little umbrellas, as he’s inside in the nice air-conditioning watching football. He decides it would be a nice gesture to brave the 97 degree heat and the irritating sand to come sit with you for, say, 30 minutes or until he feels he’s catching a sunburn. How this is, when he is wearing a tee shirt, shorts, shoes, a hat, sunglasses and has wrapped a towel around his legs lest the sun hits them, is beyond your soul—yet you’re just happy for the company.

The ocean looks inviting.
It’s 97 degrees.
Sweat begins to form on the brow.
The waves look big and fun.
Something about the ocean and waves brings out the inner child in said spouse.
Your spouse begins to take off his hat, his shoes, his glasses.
He empties his pockets of keys, wallet, etc.
You ask what he’s doing as you have decided he has been struck by heat stroke.
“I’m going to get in the water with you for just a minute”
“Really?!” you hear yourself squeal with excitement.
You both venture into the water.
Boy the current is really strong.
The waves are really big. . . this as they crash over your head, knocking you off your feet.
You nervously look around for sharks.
Your spouse dives under the water.
He seems to be having fun.
Really, really lots of fun.
He never seems to have fun.
This makes you a little nervous.
Suddenly you see a little gray thingie falling from his left ear.
“YOUR HEARING AID. . .” you hear the words coming from somewhere far away as if the world has suddenly gone into slow motion.
BAM
Another towering wave crashes over you both.
You now hear cursing.
Very bad words being echoed out over the sound of a frenzied ocean.
He remembers to take off his glasses but can’t remember the most expensive thing on him?!
Frantically you search the maddening swell for the lost hearing aid as your spouse narrowly catches the other hearing aid falling from his opposite ear.
You swim around desperately searching for a small grey hearing aid in a vast swirling churning sea.
Your spouse is now back up under the umbrella, throwing things.
The woman sitting under the neighboring umbrella looks nervous.
You scamper out of the water and begin frantically walking down the beach, at water’s edge, praying to see the hearing aid washing up on shore.
You ask the nice ladies sitting in the surf to be on the look out for a hearing aid.
The proverbial needle in the haystack is now your reality.
You sadly relinquish the search and head back to the umbrella.
Visions of a ruined anniversary trip swirl through your head.
Tears now are stinging your eyes.
Literally thousands of dollars are now floating out to sea in a tiny grey hearing aid.
You pack your things back into your beach tote in order to go back inside.
Your spouse, now calmer, tries to reassure you he’s not upset.
You feel terrible and guilty because you know differently.
Remember you have been married a significantly long number of years, you know him better than that.
He gathers the remaining towels and follows you up the stairs.
You fight holding back a flood of tears as you knew that moment of the happiness and fun was too much to hope for. . .he works really hard and has very little precious time away from work and the business has not been good as of late. . .who can afford thousands of dollars floating out to sea?
Luckily you have on sunglasses so no one is the wiser that you are about to lose it on the sand.
“It’s alright” he reassures, they’re insured.
“What?!”
“Really?!”
“I just remembered. That’s why they cost so damn much, I paid for the insurance”
A smile crosses his face.
You begin to feel a little better.
You want a margarita.

The moral of this little tale. . .?
Well, if you’re under 50, you probably won’t understand.
If you’re over 50, you already know. . .you get it.
Not only is growing older expensive. . .
It is painful,
It is limiting,
It is aggravating,
It is life altering,
and. . .wait. . . let’s see. . .What we were talking about?!
Hummm. . .
Oh well, let’s just go have a drink shall we. . .