the oddity of the necessity

God wills that I be an active secondary instrument in moving myself toward him.
God is always the primary mover, but he so ordains that we be active,
secondary instruments with him in moving oneself towards grace.
And so the necessity of the spiritual life.

FR. Wade Menezes


(the yard pond with crazy duck / Julie Cook / 2018)

So just around the corner from where I grew up, in a then 1950’s newly sprawling
northern Atlanta suburb…a place where the houses were all built by a single builder
and were all made as look-a-like cookie-cutter houses, there did remain one small
glimpse into of what was here long before urban mania hit the scene…
a peaceful meandering creek and a small hidden pond just behind this boomtown of houses.

It was a small remnant of what once was here in what was once considered “the country”
long before the boom of post-war urban sprawl had taken over.

Growing up, the extent of the “wildlife” that we got to see up close and personal consisted
of the random tadpole and crawfish that lived in the creek,
along with the occasional box turtle that I so desperately wanted to catch and put in a
shoe box while feeding it lettuce all in hopes of carrying it to show and tell…
and of course, there was an endless abundance of helter sketler gray squirrels.

In the past 4 months, having spent more time at my childhood home then I have in the
past 35 years since last calling this house home, I have been floored by the amount of
“wildlife” I’ve actually been privy seeing up close and personal.

Now this area where I grew up is a quickly shrinking quiet tiny blip of peacefulness
in the heart of a booming city.
All childhood landmarks have been long since been torn town making way for the
skyrocketing skyscrapers that have created a new type of tree to this
overgrowing modern-day forest.

Plus many of the cookie cutter homes have been bulldozed away making room for the
desired up and comers choice of mini McMansions….all of which actually are simply
giving way to a new cookie-cutter look of the haves and have-nots of money…
or more accurately that of all things debt, just depending on how one looks at it.

There is a deafening din of planes and helicopters all making their way across the sky
which only blends in with the shrieking sirens echoing off the main arteries
and thoroughfares.

And yet this small shrinking peaceful oasis of a neighborhood is nearly lost in a now
ever-expanding city that has an oddly amazing array of “wilderness”.

I have seen more “wildlife” in this city in the past four months than I have here at my
current more rural, out in the country home, in the past 20 years.

One early morning back in February, I watched a group of 5 deer meandering up the street.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched one of the largest snapping turtles, that
I’ve seen in quite a while, making a slow and laborious trek up a driveway.

Last week, while taking my son’s dog out to walk in the yard, she and I both spied a
red fox trotting in a neighbors yard…

And now there is this odd group of crazy looking ducks acting equally as crazy.

There is a corner lot on a neighboring street that has a low spot in the yard that
when it rains, fills with water…water that is slow to be absorbed or evaporate…
especially given with the amount of rain Atlanta has been receiving.

So to drive by, in the big city, watching a group of “city” ducks think that this
small spot of water in a yard is some type of pond is…in a word, hysterical.

These ducks make their way up and down the neighboring streets, waddling along the
busy main thoroughfare, digging along the curb turning up the collected leaves and debris,
in search of bugs.

Neighbors have taken to putting up “Duck Crossing” or “Caution, ducks at play” signs
all along the roadways.

And now I’ve actually witnessed these ducks taking to the “yard pond”—
tails up in the air as they dig with breaks down, in the shallows, looking for,
not the typical fish as they would in a real pond,
but rather it is a literally swallow quest for what I’d imagine being worms and grubs.

It’s almost pitiful watching a duck, beak down tail up, in a collected puddle of
rain water in a yard. The scene screams of lunacy, desperation or both.

Much like what it is we are currently witnessing around this country of ours.
Witnessing lunacy accented by a splash of desperation as the noose tightens around
the necks of those in opposition of the others…
others who cry for more and more diversity while at the same time they
cry out for zero tolerance toward anyone who is found to be in disagreement with
their often perverse take on life.

From the recent story of a restaurant kicking out a patron over the fact that the
owner and staff all happen not to like this particular patron’s boss to now a member
of the US House of Representatives crying for more of the same…as in threatening
the lives and safety of those who dare to think and or vote in what is perceived as
opposition…as in no longer a two party system…
but rather the system of one and one only…
as the shadows of both lunacy and desperation creep in from the past.

There is a madness now taking place in this country as those who are considered
conservative, or a supporter of the president or simply a Republican…
folks that are now each viewed as one who is to be publicly shunned, shamed,
removed, not served, harassed and now… whose very lives are to be threatened.

There is a sinisterness afoot in all of this that is so utterly un-American that it is
frightening.

We the people have always possessed the right to disagree with one another…
since way back in 1776…

And yet we are oddly and sadly finding ourselves living in an Orwellian trend…
a time of calling for a type of “open season” as the cry is sounding
“they’re all fair game” rings across this land which was once yours and mine…
meaning that half of this Nation of ours is fair game to be harangued, abused
as well as publicly lambasted for simply taking the other political path…
a time that is in a word, ludicrous.

Are those who beat their chests as drums for all things uber tolerance and
diversity actually so intolerable and divisive that they dare deem all other
belief systems to be a pariah but that of their own?

We the people know better than this.

Yet in the grand scheme of all that is…Father Menezes reminds us in our
day’s quote of that which is our true aim.

The necessity of a spiritual life as we actively work at seeking His Grace…

A grace that does not harass, harangue, threaten, abuse, hate, demean, ostracize…
but rather sees the necessity in seeking that which is beyond self, beyond man’s
small mindedness.
Putting away all malice, anger, and hate…setting oneself on the Spiritual path
of Truth and not the earthly lies of he who walks in the shadows pitting
mankind against itself…

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness.”

Second Timothy 2:15-16

Principles and Direction

“Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

DSCN1451

It is good to have ambition and drive. Goals, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. are all good and even essential components to one’s life but it’s what directs these goals, hopes, aspirations, etc– what motivates these dreams and ambitions—that is the truly important key behind the impetus to and eventually success of one’s life’s quests.

We can look at someone like Napoleon, whose quote is the basis of today’s post, as an example of someone who possessed great ambition. There is no denying that he was a great general and leader—that is, up to a certain point. His is the story we in America love—the small-town boy who comes from obscurity, the difficult, somewhat dysfunctional upbringing–a young boy who comes from very humble, and what many at the time considered very poor beginnings, certainly no silver spoon in his mouth. He is laughed at and scorned for his rough around the edges roots, even his accent is ridiculed….and yet he achieves a momentous level of greatness–all because he is driven to do so by an intense desire to succeed.

He does possess one very important attribute which proves to be a decisive factor in his life’s journey, the key to whether he rises to the top in life or remains a part of his very humble surroundings—and that attribute is ambition sprinkled with a strong dose of determination. The only caveat is that the principles and drive behind this ambition, this determination is a tad skewed. Napoleon wants so desperately to rise up and be someone of great importance, not so much as to lead people in the right direction, but rather to prove to others that he is capable of greatness—it is a very selfish and self-centered drive to the top—a sort of “I’ll show them mentality.”

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous.

It is my hope that you do have dreams and goals—that we all do. It is also my hope that those dreams and goals are backed by humility, purity, honesty—a desire to not necessarily prove anything to anyone, no aims to “show them” but rather a wish and a hope to make the world a better place. Sincerity of heart is easily recognized—or not. You must decide what is your driving force in life—if it is of a selfish nature, it will never come to positive fruition—history teaches us that.

Take time today to examine your own goals and desires of life looking closely at the driving forces behind them—are they pure and genuine, built upon sharing, kindness, being steeped in the betterment of others or are they laced with self-centeredness, revenge, selfishness, or even subject to the rationalized eventual harming of others? If they are of the former, they are bound for success, but if they are of the latter, then failure is inevitable–and most likely at a terrific cost

Take time today to examine the question “what are your principles and what directs them?” Doing so can make all the difference in not only your world, but in the world of those you inhabit.