A prophetic voice… “despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness”

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging
everything on earth-—imperfect man, who is never free of pride,
self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects.
We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not
been noticed at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days, we have enriched our
experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity
which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


(image courtesy the web)

In 1970 Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature.
At the time, the Soviet State viewed Solzhenitsyn and his writings as both controversial and
threatening to the Communist State.
Thus Solzhenitsyn was prohibited from leaving the country in order to receive his award.

It wasn’t until four years later in 1974, after he was expelled from the USSR for treason,
only to find a new life in the United States, that Solzhenitsyn finally officially received
his award in person.

At the time the Swedish Academy noted that it was due to ‘the “ethical force” with which
he pursued the traditions of the Russian people,

which helped to lead the jury to bestow such an honor upon the Russian writer.

Even today, more than 100 years following Solzhenitsyn’s birth, he remains rather
an enigmatic personality.
In fact, Solzhenitsyn continues to be a controversial figure in both modern-day Russia along
with her alter ego the former Soviet Republic, as well as in the democratic West—
as he was vocally critical of both governing ideologies.

Yet I’ve often written about the importance of Solzhenitsyn and his prophetic words which remain
brilliantly relevant for those of us traversing this precarious 21st century.

In 1978 Solzhenitsyn had been invited to deliver the commencement speech at Harvard.

According to the Solzhenitsyn Center, “Solzhenitsyn’s June 8, 1978,
commencement address at Harvard was the most controversial and commented-upon
public speech he delivered during his twenty-year exile in the West,
for he critiqued the spiritual crisis of both East and West.

Solzhenitsyn is not without controversy as he was critical of both East and West…
and perhaps more so of the West as he saw in the West wasted hope.

But far from being inspired by hostility to the West,
Solzhenitsyn refuses to break faith with a civilization still capable of
drawing intellectual and spiritual sustenance from
“the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their rich reserves of mercy
and sacrifice.

Dialetika.org adds that “in that speech,
he criticizes the two central contending systems during the Cold War:
Communism and Western Capitalism.
His argument centers on what he calls “despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.”
The problem, according to Solzhenitsyn, lies in the predominance of these forces
at the base of all modern societies.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging everything on earth —
imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity,
and dozens of other defects.
We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed
at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days, we have enriched our experience,
but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain
our passions and our irresponsibility.”

If anyone knows the evils of Socialism, Communism, regimes run by the oh-so
sacred ‘state’, and a life lived in a labor death camp for voicing free-thinking and thought,
it is Solzhenitsyn.

In his award-winning book The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn’s non-fictional
and auto-biographical investigation into the survival of life inside a gulag,
a Soviet forced labor camp,
Peruvian Nobel laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa noted that through this book,
Solzhenitsyn is “the man who described hell to us.”

Solzhenitsyn’s words remain as a polestar…acting as both a warning and a guide—
Words that continue to warn and remind us about what it means for mankind to lose
his/ her humanness. Words that warn about the loss of morality.
Words that warn about man becoming his own god while both forgoing and failing to yield
to a power greater than his own.

It would behoove this Nation of ours to recall the words of Solzhenitsyn.
His observations and warnings over our own arrogance and smugness especially
as we find ourselves moving into the final steps towards our November election.

With a swarth of Democratic contenders dangerously courting and even embracing
all things Socialism, Americans must never forget the suffering of those who
lived through the nightmares produced by previous nations who also
courted and embraced Socialism.

Should we even wonder why a senator and his wife would opt for a honeymoon in the
USSR? Not Russia but Communist Soviet Union long before its fall?

Should we wonder if a young congresswoman really understands the concept between
democracy vs socialism and how each system effectively or ineffectively governs when
she says things like…“When we talk about the word ‘socialism,’
I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity
and our economic, social, and racial dignity.
It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over
their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.

Should we be concerned when a US congresswoman questions that radical Isalm
is to blame for the attacks on 9/11 and simply thinks that “some people did
some things”?

Should we wonder when certain candidates promise to pay for everyone to go to college
while forgiving all existing student loans with money that simply doesn’t exist?

What when homelessness runs amuck? What of major US cities becoming dens for
crime and blatant drug abuse and where streets are considered unsafe both night and day?

What of free healthcare for all—who actually pays for free?

The list goes on and on…

So before you consider a dangerous dance with Green New Deals and the
new Socialistic state…you might want to recall the wisdom of those who actually
lived in, under and through such notions and saw them for what they really are
both dangerous and eventually destructive…

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them.
But when you’ve robbed a man of everything he’s no longer in your power —
he’s free again.

Blackbirds

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day.

Eleanor Farjeon

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

RSCN8006
(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning Has Broken is a Christian Hymn first published in 1931—It was written by the English author Eleanor Farjeon and is set to a traditional Scotch / Gaelic tune known as Bunessan (of which is the name of a small Scottish village). The “tune” was originally used in an earlier hymnal dating to the year 1900 which contained a different set of lyrics. Yet it’s the version sung by Cat Stevens which is likely to be the most familiar to a listener’s ear.

Cat Stevens, a British born musician whose father was Greek Orthodox and mother a Swedish Baptist was educated at a private Catholic School. He did not excel in school but had a penchant for art and music. During his lifetime Cat Stevens had two close encounters with death–the first being when he contracted Tuberculosis and the second when he nearly drowned while swimming off the coast of Malibu.

In 1977 Cat Stevens left behind the life he had known as a musician and song writer when he converted to Islam. Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, sold off all of his guitars in 1979 and left his once popular music behind, dedicating his life to humanitarian work as well as education within the Muslim community. He has since returned to the music industry under the single name of Yusuf with his interests steeped in his Muslim faith. He still lives in London.

Eleanor Farjeon was born in London in 1881. She, like her father, was a very successful British author best known for her children’s stories but was also an accomplished poet, playwright, composer of musicals as well as being noted for writing for several British magazine publications. She was considered somewhat shy as a child and rather “bookish” as well as being a bit immature which lasted well into adulthood. She was homeschooled and also suffered from poor health during childhood. She never married but had several youthful infatuations with two different married men–she then had two different long term relationships with different men spanning the bulk of her adult life. She also ran in a rather prestigious literary circle consisting of D.H. Lawrence, Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.

Eleanor began writing at the age of 5 eventually learning to use her father’s typewriter by the age of 7. She possessed a vivid imagination which successfully fed into her prolific writing all throughout her life. During her lengthy career, Eleanor received several notable literary awards for her children’s stories including the Carnegie Medal as well as the Hans Christian Anderson Medal. In memory of her outstanding work and accomplishments, The Children’s Book Circle currently awards the Eleanor Farjeon Medal to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of Children’s books.
She converted to Catholicism in 1955, 10 years prior to her death in 1965.

I find it both interesting and perhaps even a little odd of the correlation which can exist between a beloved hymn and with those who first “created” it and then proceeded to make it “famous” —
What an odd amalgamation of lives and talents of two very different individuals who, decades apart, each contributed mightily to the longevity of a song we all find familiar, melodic, soothing as well as possessing the ability of transporting those who either sing, listen or do both to a place of Spiritual peace.

What perhaps might you do, or write or think today that may one day be touched by another in order to create something greater than you ever thought possible. . .

Life’s muted tones

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(the fading blooms of a hydrangea / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Surely your gladness need not be the less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this – when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters – when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day – and when all the sadness, and the sin, that darkened life on this little earth, shall be forgotten like the dreams of a night that is past!”
Lewis Carroll
from An Easter Greeting to Every Child Who Loves “Alice”