A time of force verses a time of reason

“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught
falsehoods in school.
And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a
lunatic and fool”

Plato

“Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech.”

William Shakespeare


(bad day for a little fish / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2017)

I can’t recall exactly where I read it, just the other night…
that we are living in a time when force trumps that of reason.

Meaning that whereas we were once a people of reason and rational thought…
we have now morphed into a people who have decided that force will be the
De Facto rather than De Jure.

Brut force now triumphing over our ability to intellectually reason…
As brut force has become the preferred plat du jour.

And it was reading that little observation that I was hit square between the eyes.

As in…that’s what this has all been about…hasn’t it!?

This madness we’ve been witnessing all these many months…
these protests, demonstrations and attacks against our own countrymen…
It’s all about the loss of reason and the gain of force.

No longer are the masses allowing rational thought to lead us in our governance,
living and thinking but rather they are exhibiting a dangerous proclivity
for the power of sheer brut force…
Brut force in order to yield their desired end result.

For this new growing angry mass has lost all patience for proper procedure,
due process and even free thought as they demonstrate that they have no taste for
the civil, the sequential or the rational…
preferring to use brawn and force against those who they find to be counter
in both thought and belief…

It’s no longer a matter of presentation, persuasion, and civil discourse …
instead it is a matter of beating one senseless, bullying one to yielding
and forcing one into submission…

Then…

NSDAP supporters are fighting on the street against KPD supporters, scene from ‘Horst Wessel’, directed by Franz Wenzler, Germany 1933.

And Now…..


(NBC news)

The pendulum continues to swing…in a most dangerous direction…

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason
for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15

casting light

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

Plato


(a misty moonlit evening in Georgia / Julie Cook / 2017)

Who among us, no matter where on the planet we may be, doesn’t glance
upward in the nighttime sky gazing almost longingly toward a full moon.

It’s as if that illuminated orb, in that vast inky night sky,
beckons hypnotically for our attention.
Calling all nighttime wanderers to cast their gaze heavenward as thoughts
hauntingly wonder, as well as wander, under the spell of melancholy mixed with awe.

For it is in the darkness that we innately yearn for the comfort of light.
Welcoming light
Guiding light
Directing light
Reassuring light

We have been called, each of us, to be that same comforting light cast outward,
illuminating a frighteningly dark world.
As we are left to ask ourselves…
are we casting only more darkness in an already darkened world,
or are we reflecting the welcoming light of Salvation…

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5

the folly of our wisdom

Knowledge without justice ought to be called cunning rather than wisdom.
Plato

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
― Socrates

“Any fool can know.
The point is to understand.”

― Albert Einstein

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(a curtained window in The Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

What saith the wise man of his knowledge?
Is he, pray tell, the master or keeper of his own immediate world…

What of the land and sea…
Do depths and heights belong to the wise and knowledgable amongst us?

What of the stars, the moon, the sun and the very planets?
Are these entities, such as ripened fruit ready for the plucking, merely waiting for the wise among us first to imagine then to eventually claim as their own?

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( The Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

And what of the very universe itself, might it therefore belong to the wise and knowledgable as it simply sits waiting as it seems, at the yearning fingertips of the sages, in need of their dissections and explorations.

Then perhaps it it be the explorers among us who are the wise and knowledgable.

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Has knowledge and wisdom become man’s end unto himself?
Has it become his golden calf?
Or has man simply become god himself?
All knowing and all powerful.
As the Great Oz hidden behind his smoke and mirrors.

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( The Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

And what of this wise man…?
Does his knowledge beget wisdom, or does his wisdom beget knowledge?

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( The Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

And who do we say are the wise among us?

The mighty or the diminutive?
The powerful or the weak?
The wealthy or the poor?
The healthy or the sick?
The kind or the evil?
The educated or the illiterate?
The ruthless or the polite?

There rests a palpable silence hanging heavy throughout the great halls and houses of learning which grace the major cities of this planet.
Their ancient voices continue whispering across the pages of time..
Those wise and knowledgable men among us who are still studied, quoted, read, savored, reimagined and realigned.

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(Bust of Socrates stands among the many busts of those learned individuals lining the walls of the Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

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(Bust of Plato stands among the many busts of those learned individuals lining the walls in the Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

The very books, the lectures, the theories, the postulates, the queries, the discoveries, the equations, the abilities, the mastery of it all, pales in comparison to the Master Creator of all that was, all that is and all that will be…who by His very decree has given man the ability to think, to learn, to dream, to create and to dare to seek more than himself…

The perhaps it is indeed the wise man, the learned man, the knowledgeable man who realizes, who actually knows and absorbs this very simple truth.

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( The Great Hall, Trinity College Library / Dublin, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
― Hermann Hesse

“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”
― Meister Eckhart

Let no man deceive himself If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.
1 Corinthians 3:18

Your song to me

“Every heart sings a song, incomplete, until another heart whispers back. Those who wish to sing always find a song. At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.”
Plato

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Psalm 27:6

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(cardinal singing high in the tree tops / Julie Cook / 2015)

Head down,
busy doing,
lost in thought

When a delightful sound,
A lyrical tittering cadence,
calls for my attention

My head lifts
My eyes search
Seeking the source of the call

I careen my neck
Looking high into the trees
The lush new foliage hiding your presence

Elusive yet persistent
Sweet and inviting
You call out, seeking

Your tenderness I cannot ignore
I listen with intensity,
for your persistence is rhythmically inviting

You call out to me,
wooing me with your song,
pulling me ever closer

Your delight is directed toward me
as it intoxicatingly draws me in. . .
I continue. . .
listening,
watching,
seeking

As you continue. . .
calling,
singing,
loving. . .
me

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy
Zephaniah 3:17

Pantocrator

“According to greek mythology, humans were originally created with 4 arms, 4 legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”
Plato

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I don’t know what first drew me to this particular image, or more aptly put, Icon. Oh I’ve written about Icon’s before, quite some time ago, which means I don’t want to rewrite a post (see “What is an Icon” dated 3/1/13) however there is a little background necessary in order for one to fully appreciate the image accompanying this particular post.

An Icon, which translates to “image” is just that, an image. A bit of an artistic photograph if you will. It should be noted that Icons are not considered paintings at all, but rather are referred to as written images– as in the artist is not painting but actually “writing,” what I like to describe as, a love letter.

Now back to this particular image.
No doubt you have seen it at some time or other as it is quite notable as far as Icons are concerned. It is an image of the Christ, or Pantocrator as He is known in Greek/ Παντοκράτωρ—–meaning Divine (translated from the Hebrew El Shaddai). This particular image dates to the 6th century–let’s say 500 years or so after the death of Christ. It is considered to be the oldest known image of Christ or as He is known to many, as the Chirstos.

I don’t want to give an in-depth mini history lesson today regarding icons, or of this particular image, as there is so very much out there in the form of books or on the web for the curious to discover. I simply want to share with you something that is very meaningful to me. I think it is important to share with others the things that significantly impact our own lives as those are the things that make us who we are.

As a person who grew up with Western Christianity, or that of the Roman or Latin branch of Christianity, I was always accustomed, as no doubt you were, to what typically is considered to be images of Jesus. Benevolent images of a young man of fair skin complexion, soft brown hair and beard who most often had blue eyes. But the problem with that stereotypical image is that Jesus was not European. He was a Middle Eastern Jew. Therefore that meant he most likely had a more dark or olive skin tone, with a thicker head of very dark hair. He was an orthodox, meaning devout, Jew, so it is theorized that he most probably wore the hair ringlets as do the modern day Hasidic Jews. His features were not as close to ours in the West but rather he was closer in appearance to those currently living in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, etc.

Knowing all of the geographical information of Jesus, I’ve never gravitated to the images depicted in much of our Western Culture’s art and literature regarding Jesus, as I just didn’t think it a true likeness. I knew he didn’t look like me– as he grew up in an entirely different area of the planet that does not have many light haired, blue eyed folks running about. I wanted to see Jesus for who is was, not some stylized image.

And so it was when I first saw this image—I was truly taken by this image. The question of whether or not I was glancing at the closest image of the man who has had the greatest impact on humankind–let alone my life, resonated in my head.

This particular image is considered to be the benchmark for all other artistic images of Jesus—that is until the expansion of the Christian Church in the West, meaning Europe and eventually the new continent of the Americas.

This Icon is located in St Catherine’s Monastery in the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula. St Catherine’s is located at the foot of the mountain, Mt Horeb, in which it is believed that God spoke to Moses in the form of the burning bush. It is also within these mountains that Moses later received the Ten Commandments. St. Catherine’s has been in existence as a practicing Monastery since the year 564—making St Catherine’s Monastery one of the oldest practicing monasteries known in all of Christendom.

It is troubling, given the current political crisis in Egypt, that St Catherine’s has had to shut its doors to pilgrims most recently as the safety of Christians, particularly in Egypt, is a perilous situation. I’m attaching a short nice informative link to a Youtube clip concerning a brief overview of St. Catherine’s as narrated by the monks:

There is also a most fascinating book based on the travels of two of the first Western woman, sisters from Scotland, who journeyed to St Catherine’s in the mid 1800’s. The Sisters of the Sinai by Jancie Soskice– Theirs was a journey of the discovery of ancient manuscripts. A most interesting true tale.

To the casual observer the life and worship at this most ancient of monasteries is something of another world and time—And so it is—yet it must be understood that the monks at St Catherine’s have been practicing these rituals since the year 500 with little to no change. . . so if anything, it is our worship today that is otherworldly and foreign. It is on my bucket list to one day travel to St. Catherine’s. The original burning bush is purported to be within the walls of the monastery as the bush in question actually does date to the time of Moses. The library is full of ancient texts as well as the largest collection of original ancient Icons all of which are housed within St. Catherine’s fortified walls. It is said that the aired conditions have helped to preserve these ancient and holy relics with many dating to the birth of the Christian faith.

The story goes that a cloth was found just at the inception of the monastery, buried within its walls, which was purported to have been part of the burial cloth of Jesus—not the Shroud but rather the face cloth that was customary of the time to be placed over the face of the deceased before being wrapped in the burial shroud. This cloth, or what the Eastern Church refers to as a napkin, Holy Napkin, is said to have, just as the shroud, held the image of a man—-of what the faithful claim to be that of Jesus. It was shortly after the discovery of this cloth that this particular image of Jesus, the Pantocrator of Sinai was created—making it the first known artistic image in existence based from something that is said to be the original image of Jesus—making this image to be the closest thing Christian followers would have to an exact image of Christ. Some stories even attribute the Icon’s creation to St Luke as he was considered an artist as well as a medical doctor.

But it is the facial features of this particular image that draws me from mere observer to that of one of awe and worshiper. The duality of God rests in this image–the Deity as well as the Human–two separate entities, yet united in one face. If an image of the face from the Shroud of Turin is laid over this image, the two faces are proportionate, lining up equally. If you split in half the face of this Icon’s image you will note that both halves of the face are vastly different, making this image asymmetrical rather than symmetrical– as we consider the human face to be–more equal than different.

One side of the face is that of a tender and loving man–that of pure-hearted love, that of Savior. The other side is a man harsh and stern–that of Judge of Mankind. I am reminded of the verse in Matthew where Jesus tells the disciples that at the time of Judgement He will separate the sheep form the goats. The sheep on the right having done the acts of kindness during their lives of clothing the naked, feeding the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned will all see Glory. On the other hand are the goats, those to His left, who did not do the act of kindness to the strangers throughout their lives—they will be cast away to eternal damnation –the Savior vs Judge–the two compelling actions all within one individual.

I first saw this image, oddly enough, in a store specializing in Icons on a street corner in Rome. In the shadow of the great Latin Roman branch of Christianity, that of St Peter’s, exists an Eastern Orthodox store of Iconography. The irony was not lost on this little pilgrim. The store clerks spoke only Greek and no doubt Italian. There were reproductions of many Icons, but it was the Pantocrator of Sinai which truly spoke to me. It is said that one does not choose an Icon, but that the Icon chooses you. I brought home a copy that I eventually framed–later purchasing a mounted image from St Isaac’s Skete–a wonderful small orthodox Skete located in rural Wisconsin which offers a beautiful selection of mounted Icons as well as commissioned Icons by the trained monks. (http://www.skete.com )

And so it is, as I stand in my kitchen, just on the counter above the sink, sits a small collection of Icons. As I spend countless hours in the kitchen, I am afforded time to ponder these images—pondering the significance they play and have played in my life as well as the cascading significance they have played throughout the existence of humankind. I marvel and stand in awe of the duality of God. I am drawn to the face of both Grace and Judgement. At times I am compelled to look away, as I feel so unworthy, so less than, so dirty by the weight of my sins—and just when I feel defeated and worthless, less than— the face of Love draws me back–

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned

Song of Solomon 8:6-7

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Necessity is the mother of all invention~~Plato

A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.
Victor Hugo

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(Image of abandoned bird nest in Julie’s yard / 2014)

The bird believes he can build a nest.
Building a nest, to the bird, is a necessity.
The bird believes he can find what he needs in order to build that nest—be it twigs, leaves, or in the case of this particular bird, plastic.
There is no worry nor concern as to whether the materials will be available.
The bird does not fret.
If there are not the twigs, there is the plastic.

What of you?
What is your worry, your concern?
Do you believe or do you fret?
Do you have what you need or do you complain and lament?

The bird makes do because he doesn’t know any difference. He must have a nest and therefore whatever is available must simply do.
Man on the other hand frets and worries because he does know the difference.
Man bemoans what he does not have.
It is not always easy to adjust or make do.
Man worries.

Faith equates trust.
Worry negates both.

Our faith, the faith which so many toy with, discredit, scorn, scoff. . . tells us to be not anxious about anything. We are extolled to offer everything in prayer and supplication, doing so with thanksgiving. We are to make all requests known to God. Not just some requests, but all requests, all concerns all worries, all frets. . .

We are confidently reminded that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds—all of which is to be in Christ Jesus.

Therefore as the bird, we must believe that we will have what we need, when it is needed.
We must not fret.
We must not worry.
It will all be there, whatever it is, it will be there exactly when we need it, that is, if we need it.

To have Faith.
To Believe.
To have Hope.
Trusting in what is unseen.
Needs will be filled.
The necessary will be made available.

Can you?
Should you?
Will you?

Believe.

Woe to those who do not believe.

taking flight

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

“We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.”
Plato

As summer is now upon us, my thoughts most always turn to travel—regardless of whether or not I’m set for an adventure or not. Have I ever told you that I am afraid of flying? Afraid of heights? Afraid of driving over tall bridges spanning large bodies of water….? And then there’s that whole flying over water thing…….but travel, yes, I love to…..

As a former art teacher with a penchant for medieval art, illuminated manuscripts and that whole Renaissance cultural movement…Europe was and is always whispering my name…so yes, I have had to fly across the ol’ pond on several occasions.

I tend to be a bit of a fatalist—my plane will be the one with the bomb, the technical troubles, the drunken pilot, the high-jackers sitting next to me, the blown engine…the list of gloom and doom goes on and on. I’ve been known to hold on to my rosary so tight that the beads almost pop off. I recite the Jesus prayer over and over, hoping it will help regulate my breathing, calm my nerves and hopefully get God’s attention that He needs to send all wayward angels over to the plane in the sky making the loudest prayer noise.

Be it flying across the country or across an ocean…it makes for a long journey sitting in a can with wings that, in my opinion, defies the laws the nature. But, and it’s a big but, the results, the arrival at the point of destination is and has always been worth my tremendous anxiety. I decided a long time ago that life was too short to sit by frozen with fear. My dad is that way—frozen with fear. He doesn’t even like for me to make the hour journey to visit him because he’s convinced I’m the next disaster waiting to happen on Atlanta’s 285—which, by the way, I must admit is truly taking one’s life in one’s own hands, but there I go digressing.

So it was a couple of years back—-a trip to Italy. I’d not flown that distance in many years, so my anxiety level was pretty high. My teenage son was traveling with me, but we’d left my husband, his dad, behind. There went the fatalist thoughts…”we’ll never see him again…” I silently suffered as we boarded. “A window seat, I have to have a window seat— I’ll get car sick…wait, car sick on a plane?? Hummm”…taking my seat, I proceed to stare out the window for the next 8.5 hours.

I plugged in my earphones into my little I-Pod and proceeded listening to Third Day’s Offerings II, All I Have to Give—playing it over and over and over….their music does speak to my soul as it were….their songs, like sung prayers, bring comfort to my heart, humility to my heart and tears to my eyes. So there I sat, listening to prayer in song, watching the sun set and eventually rising again over the horizon.

Time is an most interesting entity when traveling…all those time zones, time changes, crossing datelines…quite mind boggling and body draining. But yet being able to watch the sun set from a vantage point that allows it to drop below one’s eyes—not like watching it set when sitting on the beach—this is different–you’re actually above it watching it drop. The sky is black accented with sparkling stars as the occasional passing plane interrupts this solitude. A few hours pass and suddenly the sun begins it’s accent up ward again. Night and day become a bit relative when flying form one country to another…time jumbles up a bit.

I developed a great peace throughout this process. I suddenly felt as if I was hovering between the earth, my world, and the infinite sky, Heaven, God’s world. Sandwiched between His hands—and there was tremendous peace. I was afforded an opportunity that not everyone is fortunate to enjoy. Granted lots of people fly, every day, all over the world. I fly, on average, maybe once a year, possibly twice. Sometimes far, sometimes not so far but it is always exhilarating and always frightening and always adventuresome.

And there’s always that sense that I’m just a little closer to God, which I find wonderfully peaceful.
Here’s to reaching towards Heaven…be it on the ground or in the sky, it is my sincere desire to always reach a little higher, get a little closer, reaching my arms to His glorious embrace….
Happy to take flight…………..

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

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(photograph: decent to Atlanta 6/2012)