heading out to sea, or to a cave, or even to the moon…

“Detachment and involvement:
the artist must have both.
The link between them is compassion.”

Madeleine L’Engle


(the willet shorebird / Rosemary Beach, Fl / Julie Cook

There’s a lot to be said for disconnecting.

There’s a lot to be said for getting off the proverbial grid.

There’s a lot to be said for living in and staying in a cave.
(yes, Wally you are correct!)

And now it appears that there is a lot to be said for not even going to
the store, the mall, the post office, work, school, church, temple or mosque…
And now it seems that it’s not even safe to go to the US.

The US has several travel warnings issued against it.

Hence, staying in the cave.

However, I’m about to the point where I want to grab our Nation up by the collective collar and
give it a good shake and say, “Hey, what in the world are you thinking?!”
Because I believe the majority of this Nation has fallen off the track of civility and
sanity.

I actually read today that an NBC News contributor and former FBI assistant had actually
gone on air stating that the President’s desire to order our flags to be lowered at half-mast
was a secret signal to all the White Supremacists out there and a little nod to Hitler.

Thankfully I had already swallowed my first-morning sip of coffee, otherwise,
I’d still be cleaning off my computer screen.

The President has asked that flags be lowered at half-mast as a sign of respect to the lives
lost in the most recent mass shootings.

Presidents do that.

So if it’s not the Russians, it’s now White Supremacists and of course, there’s
always that awkward nod to Hitler.

Despite the fact that we have folks all over the airways
making all kinds of crazy accusations…that all of our troubles rest
is an obsession with guns, extremism and the president…
we readily forget that the root cause of this hyper-focus on guns,
extremism, Russians and anything else hiding under the bed,
rests in one word…evil.

But before we talk about that…while seemingly to prefer to talk about extremism,
which is the only thing our news outlets want to focus on,
we as a people really need to see the elephant sitting on our laps.

But first, I must say that I have never liked any sort of extremist group or gang or
terror organization past or present.
They make no sense.
And they serve no purpose…

The purpose only… to fill the void of loss, lacking, isolation,
emptiness, selfishness, and yes, sinfulness.

Because extremists and terrorists are just that—extreme and terrifying remnants of
our own sinfulness.

Over the top, zealots, too much, excessive, drastic, absurd, out of control, violent
and seething with distrust, hate, and loathing.

They represent simply hate, head butting more hate…

Be it…
the Klan,
the Black Panthers,
Antifa,
MS13,
Hezbollah,
ISIS,
the Taliban,
the Crips,
the Bloods,
Neo-Nazis,
Skin Heads,
Hells Angels…
on and on goes the list— complete with a plethora of global spin-offs and hybrids.

Vigilante justice, terror organizations and drug lords doing what they do…
causing havoc, murder, mayhem and feeding the ego of Satan

Evil is as evil is.

those with…
Evil intentions.
Evil desires.
Evil actions.

And isn’t that the real key here?
Evil?

Mass shootings are an evil of our times.
Sex trafficking is an evil of our times.
Drug cartels are an evil of our times.
Addiction is an evil of our times.
The Mob is an evil of our times.
MS13 and all gangs are an evil of our times.

And yet no one really wants to say, hey, let’s stop the evil…
preferring rather to say “hey, stop the guns, stop the republicans, stop
the president, stop the conservatives, stop the Christians, stop the white males
stop all males, stop the traditional family, stop plastic straws, etc…”

Rather they claim the mere fanning of the flames of hate.

And so the people cry out to the government to save them…to save us.
And that very government has only turned on itself, devouring
itself alive.

So we are left to rant, to recant, to mourn, to wonder, to pray…to??

While the families of those killed and wounded—from the past week, all the way back to Columbine…
even before.. as well as after…mourn their losses and wither in their suffering.

Hear us oh Lord…

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Luke 19:40

Standards of conduct

“Since the dawn of the Christian era a certain way of life has slowly been shaping itself among the Western peoples, and certain standards of conduct and government have com to be esteemed”
Winston Churchill, radio brodcast to American and London, October 16, 1938

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(griffin / Dublin, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015

There is a fine line that separates man from beast.
That ever narrowing thread between the human being of intelligence and the animal of wildness.

Oh there are multiple layers of separation that one might argue.
Physical, emotional, psychological, physiological….
As those more lofty scientific minded and behavior specialists among us will no doubt argue and bicker back and forth disputing this fact and that…

But when all is said and done…when the dust has settled and a close inspection has been taken…
we see that thin and narrowing line of true separation is to be found narrowly in man’s ability to manage him or herself with a certain standard of conduct.

The beasts of the land, the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air each seem to act and react with little to no thought toward any sort of standard of conduct…
For theirs is more or less action verses reaction motivated by the need, want and defense of hunger, provocation and mating.

It is true that they may be trained to demonstrate some level of restraint, some sort of rational sorting between this and that, but the bottom line is that training and reward does not equate to the innate ability for rational thinking.

Humans have a wealth of motives, actions and reactions all met and matched by pondering, thinking, discerning, sorting, rationalizing, defending, and determined restraint.

Yet with with an exponentially growing and frightening degree of alarm we should note that the line of man’s standard of conduct, over the past 80 years, dare we say since his very inception, has diminished at a rapid rate.

The actions and reactions of man…the corruption, the lying, the killing, the justification, the murderous terrorism is quickly overtaking the established determined level of civility of conduct found in what was once a deeply rooted foundation to the Judaeo Christian pillars of Western Civilization.

Kingdoms and other forms of human government exist because humanity has fallen away from God.
In human society, the default is always towards anarchy and chaos—as the history of the twentieth centruy in particular amply illustrates. Something must resist and restrain the downward spiral into disorder.
Therefore, God institutes and permits governments.

Excerpt: God and Churchill
Jonathan Sandys and Wallace Henley

Kings and their kingdoms, for the most part, have given way to parliaments, councils and republics.
Today’s Governments have each been birthed out of the early ancient ruling tribes as man has needed to be reigned in, from more or less…himself.

Rules, laws, standards of conduct have had to be implemented in order to afford man the ability to live in a state of order verses the chaos, anarchy, civil unrest and the destructive every man for himself.

Order had to be established.

Yet in that order we are finding a certain level of complacency.
A desire to not have a single boat rocked.
We like our certain standard of living, our freedom, our choices, our self absorption…
We therefore do not wish to acknowledge the decent of various peoples into the more savage behavior that the world is currently witnessing…
We want to ignore the rise of the wild beasts around us lest we perhaps follow suit…

Be it…
Daesh (ISIS)
Hezbollah
Al-Qaeda
The Taliban
Boko Haram
Hamas
Al-shabaab
The Muslim Brotherhood
or any local mafia, militant or terror group…rearing its ugly head.

From groups to actual nations and Governments who eerily morph or have reverted to a form and time when life and death were easily confused.

The following Washington Post excerpt is based on an interview with CIA Director John Brennan

“More recently, he had to confront his Russian counterparts over evidence that their intelligence operatives have been systematically harassing U.S. diplomats both in Moscow and Europe. According to a Washington Post report, Russian agents have paid journalists to write negative stories about Americans, have followed their kids home from school and, in one case, have even broken into a U.S. defense attache’s home and killed his dog. Brennan says he told his counterparts “in direct terms,” that the behavior was “unacceptable” and “destructive” to the relationship.”

There was a reason why, Winston Churchill, who was not an overtly religious man, was compelled to hold strongly and vowed to fight to the death for the Mosaic laws as issued from the Sovereign Creator…

He knew the importance of the standard of conduct issued by God himself….

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:…
Deuteronomy 28:1…

Suffer the little children. . .

For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
Genesis 18:19

“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
Nelson Mandela

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(a self-portrait by my now grown son when he as a little boy / Julie Cook / 2015)

Over the past weekend, various news reports were extolling the overt covert Delta Force take down of one of the IS masterminds while in the same breath heralded the news that IS had captured Ramadi. . .
Obviously a many headed snake slitters in our midsts.
Cut off one head only to deal with another, and another, and another. . .
It seems like a small gain in an attempt to cripple a monster, while the monster takes another large stride without skipping a step. . .

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(Medusa by Caravaggio / 1597/ The Uffizi Gallery / Florence, Italy )

60 Minutes aired a troubling story last evening—they seem to run a lot of troubling types of stories these days. . .Child Suicide Bombers reported by Lara Logan.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/child-suicide-bombers-lara-logan-60-minutes/

Ms Logan likened today’s suicide bombers as the modern day equivalent to the Japanese Kamikaze pilots from WWII, while noting the fact that a growing number of these misguided souls, suspected to be in the hundreds, are actually children.

And it is a horrific tactic that has been perfected by the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Children as young as 7 are recruited and trained in the sinister art of suicide bombing—as in being wired, going to or being taken to a specific location or “target” and proceeding to detonate oneself as a living bomb. And should the child, at the last minute, decide to change their mind, a “handler” who has taken the child to their target location can actually detonate the child themselves. Meaning an adult can push a button in order to blow up the child purposefully as if they were like a bug to be squashed under foot.

Ms Logan interviewed both a major general in the Pakistani army as well as a Taliban commander with ties to Al Qaeda. One man who is doing all he can do to stop the devastating practice while rescuing as many of the children as possible as the other man, who is hellbent on not only building the practice but advancing it—even to the point of wanting his own 5 year old son, who he claims is mentally ready to make jihad, to become one of the suicide bombers.

What 5 year old child is mentally ready for much of anything except for play???

Jihad, suicide bombs, Paradise, infidels, murder, death, blown to smithereens. . .
verses
Cartoons, super heroes, coloring, playing ball, running, skipping, laughing, loving. . .

I don’t know, is it just me. . .here we have, once again, another global issue of dire concern yet it is but a mere blip on the radar of the conscious world who would prefer to fill their time with the latest music award shows, stories of Johnny Depp’s illegally imported Yorkies into Australia, the latest news anchor or political pundit who didn’t exactly tell the truth, the bizarre fascination with the latest presidential candidates, the latest women to pop up pointing a finger at Bill Crosby, or the summer’s latest suspense psycho thriller showing up on television. . .anything but the real nitty gritty ugly side of humanity that needs to be addressed and stopped!!

Be it Al Qaeda, IS, Boko Haram, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Al-Shabaab. . .the list grows daily of “organizations” that recruit, kidnap and steal children in order to enlist them into the dirty work created by woefully misguided and evil adults.

This doesn’t even touch on the skyrocketing statistics of the human slave trafficking of young girls, and yes young boys as well, for purposes of an explosivly growing global prostitution epidemic.

Or what of the millions of children worldwide living in abysmal poverty who are forced into manual labor, working in outrageous conditions while carrying out deadly and dangerous jobs for little if any pay. . .

I would think, dare to assume, that most parents all over this globe love their children.
They find joy, pride, and pure love in their children. . .
Parents from Russia to Mexico to Brazil to Uzbekistan to Kuwait to the US to China to New Zealand, etc. . .parents who love their children. . .
who are pained when the living conditions are less than desired,
who fret if their children are hungry,
who worry should their child get sick,
who sorrowfully mourn at the loss of a child. . .
Yet there are the parents of these child bombers who send them to do the work of Allah, as in blowing themselves up in order to put an end to the “infidels”— these children who are trained, or better yet brainwashed, to commit jihad. . .

Who are these parents who allow 5, 13, 17 year old boys to strap bombs to themselves and go forth to blow themselves up- – -for what????

Lara Logan asked the Taliban Commander the very same question. . .
“For what? I don’t understand that. . .”
And his response was “You do not know the Quran. You are not a believer”

Well I thought the Koran / Quran espoused of peace and of the great love of Allah. . .
Not, send your children off to go blow themselves up. . .
What kind of “believer” is that who would pack off a 5 year old child to go learn how to get blown up into a million little pieces????

Aren’t parents wired to vehemently defend and protect their children???
To hold their hands as they cross the street?
To run to their beds in the middle of the night to soothe the bad dreams?
To hold cool cloths to fevered brows. . .???

Who for the love of God, gives their kid a bomb and says
“see ya, go off now to paradise”. . .

“Oh but Julie” you say “it’s a different culture, you just don’t understand because you’re a privileged American. . .”

Bullcrap!

I cannot repeat my initial response to that as it would not be rated G. . .
I don’t buy that crap.

Parents the world over love their children—rich or poor, privileged or not, black or white, red or yellow—
Something somewhere is now fatally flawed. . .
And I for one think the free thinking, free world needs to sound a global alarm- – –

Children are not expendable!!!!!

They are not commodities to be sold, bought, stolen or traded!
They are tiny living, breathing human beings who we, you, me, them, have been given charge of for the nurturing and caring of. . .

To “train them up” in the way they should go—and that is to go forward making this world a better place for the generations of children to come. . .

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”

Mother Teresa

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 18:10

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Pope Paschal I, Iconoclasm and hospitality

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(detail from the mosaic tiled ceiling in the Church of Santa Prassede, Rome, Italy of Pope Paschal 1)

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(a small detail of the mosaic tiled ceiling of St Cecilia’s Church Trastevere, Rome– of Saints Valerian and Cecilia–a church founded by Pope Paschal I)

February 11th, in the Catholic Church, is noted as the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. Undoubtedly we’ve all heard of Lourdes, that small town in extreme southern France with the mystical healing waters and the grotto dedicated to the Virgin and of her apparitions to the young peasant girl Bernadette. . . even those of us non Catholics and the most jaded among us are familiar with Lourdes. . .but who, I wonder, has heard of Pope, or should I note saint, Paschal I? — even those die hard hagiographers, those who study the lives of the saints, no doubt gloss over this lesser known saint who sits among the giants of the church.

Yet it must be noted that February 11th is also the feast day Pope Paschal 1

Why in the world would a little known pope from the 9th century, who reigned as pope for approximately 8 short years, be of any consequence to us today?
Good question.
Pope Paschal I is but a blip on the historical map of an ancient church whose history spans 2 thousand years. Some of the popes have certainly been anything but virtuous—more along the lines of scoundrels and scalawags which leaves many modern day observers, especially those of us who are not members of the Catholic Church, wondering why in the world these people (Catholics) would ever venerate, let alone consider to be of any significance, many of these unscrupulous, lecherous, self indulgent men.

Now I cannot comment upon the virtuous life of or lack thereof for Pope Paschal I.
Little is known.
He was born in Rome and served as Pope form 817- 824. His pontificacy is laced with a bit of intrigue and questions of complicity to executions, all of which lead church members, at the time of his death, to not allow the burial of his body to take place in St Peters.
Certainly sounds a bit scandalous.

It is however of one particular incident, of rather some significant importance, which has lead me to dig a bit deeper into the history of this man whose feast day the Church celebrates today. It is upon closer study that one learns that Pope Paschal I was head of the Latin Church (the western branch of Christianity) during a period known as the Byzantine Iconoclasm—or simply the time of The Iconoclast.

A dark time in history when many fanatical members of the Eastern branch of Christianity, including Emperor Leo III, decided that any and all images (Icons, statues, paintings, mosaics. . .) of God, Christ, and other Holy and sacred individuals were considered sinful, idolatry, and must be destroyed— along with many of the artists, owners as well as those who venerated such images. A dark time of vast persecution of a people who had loved the sacred images and had used them as part of their very deep personal services. Photographs, as it were, of a Savior for a people who wanted, and continue to want, to put a face with that of the Mysterious. Do we not still yearn for such images today?

It is in these dark times of such fanatical ignorance, which has been laced throughout much of the history of mankind, that I believe is one of man’s greatest faults. As an art educator and humble historian, the destruction of various Cultures and their artifacts, which simply boils down to the pure essence of the identity of a people is, in my humble opinion, catastrophic.

This ancient sort of destructive “out of sight out of mind” feeding frenzy has actually played out throughout much of history with a few of the more notable and infamous being that of the Italian Dominican monk Savonarola and his Bonfire of the Vanities, to more recent times with the book burnings of the Nazi’s during the early 1940’s, to the more recent destruction of the giant ancient carvings in Afghanistan, those known as the Buddhas of Bamiyan, by the Taliban in 2001. A warped mindset that if the powerful can simply destroy the “things” and or creations of a certain people, then the people will also cease to exist. History teaches us that perseverance is more than things..

Pope Paschal I was a sympathizer to those members of the Eastern Orthodox church who not only created the sacred art images but to those who continued to want to display such in churches and in homes. He afforded those who fled the persecution in Greece and Turkey a safe haven. He actually encouraged the creation of mosaics and other sacred art by these individuals in many of the churches in Rome. This during a time of great divide between the two Churches.

This little known Pope overlooked the differences of the two bickering arms of a single faith in order to offer hospitality to those victims of persecution. It is because of the very amnesty offered by and of the preservation afford to such treasured pieces of the Christian faith by such individuals as Pope Paschal I and those long forgotten monks who smuggled many of the sacred images to remote monasteries such as St Catherine’s’ in the southern Sinai Peninsula, that those of us today may glance upon images that date to the very inception of our faith.

So on this Tuesday, February 11, may we be reminded of the lesser known names in the annuals of a history, who, such as Pope Paschal I, have helped to preserve important pieces to the puzzle of our past. To those who have demonstrated moments of brave compassion by offering safety to those suffering the persecution of faith.

Hospitality, compassion, benevolence—words to take to heart on this chilly February morning.

Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step towards dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.
Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B

Do you know Malala?

“A successful man (woman) is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” (or her)
David Brinkley

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Do you know Malala? Malala Yousafzai?
Malala is the young Pakistani girl who, on her way home form school last October 9, was shot in the head by the Taliban. In the extreme religious views of the Taliban, girls are not allowed to attend school. The various schools for girls, throughout certain areas of Pakistan, have been systematically victimized. The schools burned and acid thrown on the young female students. Actions sadly used as deterrents to learning and knowledge—all intended to eradicate the educating of generations of young girls.

If intimidation does not quell the desire to learn in the young girls of this muslim Taliban stronghold, then violence seems to be the rod of discipline of choice by the Taliban. Malala was returning home, on her school bus, when the bus was stopped by two men. A man boards the bus and asks “who is Malala?” Malala does not turn away as the other girls do attempting to avert eye contact with the gunman–Malala looks his way. At which point, 3 shots are fired directly at her young 15 year old head.

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Malala was and continues to be an outspoken opponent of the Taliban and their skewed belief that girls should not be allowed to attend school or have the right to an education. It was her outspokenness and defiance that brought her the attention of the Taliban.

It is her miraculous survival, her recovery and continued perseverance to raise the battle cry for girls world wide that, yes, girls have every right to learn, to attend school, to be taught, to be successful, to attain their dreams and goals just as it is for boys which is what all seems to stir the ire of this malicious terrorist group. It is the raising and the continued carrying of this educational battle flag that keeps Malala on the dangerous radar of the Taliban as they have warned that they will indeed kill her yet.

Odd that a global terrorist organization of often masked thugs should be afraid of a 16 year old girl.

On October 11, the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced from Oslo, Norway. The front runner for this year’s most prestigious award is 16 year old Malala Yousafzai.

Malala has taken the bricks of hatred and ignorance that were thrown at her and has in turn laid a firm foundation not only for herself but for all girls world wide–a brave foundation build upon hope and knowledge. On Friday I hope to hear Malala’s name announced as the youngest recipient of an award that has been awarded to such individuals as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ellie Wiesel, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Desmond Tutu…to name but a handful…

Will you also dare to pick up the bricks of ignorance and build a foundation of hope and knowledge? Here’s to Malala and to all the young girls all over this planet who all have hopes and dreams……