isms

“For in spite of itself any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an
‘ism becomes so involved in reaction against other ‘isms that it
is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its
principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive,
constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities.”

John Dewey


(a dragonfly readies for take off / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the mid 1930’s there was a very loud and very vocal cry being sounded within the United States..
the voice was sounding the alarm to a rising tide of Communism…
as this rising tide had become a growing cancer on the world’s global stage.

This was at a time just prior to the outright assault of WWII, as war had not
yet been declared…
but Hitler was indeed on the move.

Both Fascism and National Socialism (Nazism in a nutshell) was viewed by most
of Europe, as well as the United States,
as the most serious and fastest growing threat to Western Civilization and
her beloved democracies…

In part because both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were within the confines of “Europe”
while Communist Soviet Russia was seen to be more of an eastern threat.
Poland had long served as the lone suffering stalwart blocker in histories past
to invaders, always being the stopgap to regimes set on menacing Europe…
so why should now be any different….

Yet this time Hitler had different plans for Poland and he needed Stalin’s help.

There was however a grim opinion held by a handful of visionary souls that it was
actually Communism which was to be considered the far more sinister sleeping beast.
These hardy and farsighted souls began to formulate a battle cry.

Joseph Stalin had come to power in the Soviet Union in 1929.
Cold, calculating and menacing…a terror the world would not soon forget.
Promoting and spreading the Communist ideal was a top priority.
A totalitarianism manifesto which would eventually dominate the world…if he and others
were to have their way.
Seeds were planted deeply into the various “western” democracies where the grounds were
ripe and fertile as the State would be seen as the
both the new god and guardian of the people…

It would be just a short ten years following his rise to power that in 1939
a toxic union would form between Hitler and Stalin.
A union that barley lasted 2 short years…that was…
once Hitler had decided his need of Stalin was no longer beneficial…
as he merely beat Stalin to the divorce.

And yet we must back up a few years.

Around 1934 Pope Pius XI, along with his top aide Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli
(later Pope Pius XII),
had a meeting with a certain American Catholic Bishop.
His name was Fulton Sheen and his was a bigger than life persona.
He was a dynamic and charismatic personality who was known as both a top
notch educator as well as notable orator.
Sheen was widely popular in the United States with both Catholic and non Catholics alike.
The Pope knew a catalyst when he saw one.

Calling Sheen to Rome, the Pope told the Bishop that he wanted him to study the works
of Karl Marx in order that he could better understand the terrible threat Communism
was to be against not only Christianity but to the betterment of mankind.
The Pope trusted this young vibrant servant of Christ with defending the faith
as well as guarding the dignity of all human life against the growing scourge
of Communism.

Shortly after returning to the States, Sheen addressed the faithful.

“They have thrown down the gauntlet to the world.
The voice is either brotherhood in Christ or comradeship in anti-Christ.
There is no alternative.
If the one does not regin the other will.
They will have chosen the comradeship in anti-Christ —
they can devour anything that is not brotherhood in Christ.
Communism was inspired not by the sprit of Christ but by the spirit of the serpent…
The Mystical Body of the Anti-Christ”

He predicted that neither ‘New Deals [n]or fascism’ would stop communism because they
could not ‘summon’ forth sufficent zeal and fervor.’
They lacked communists’ absolute devotion to their religion”

(excerpt from A Pope and A President / Paul Kengor)

So as we now stand on the landscape of this 21st century…
far removed from the horrors of WWII and it’s battle between the good and evil,
freedom or enslavement…and even decades from that most famous command heard
round the world…
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”
we must ask ourselves…how different are our times?

Are we not living in what many now call a post Christian society where secularism
and political activism have both risen to the forefront as the new religions?
Have we not merely traded one form of ism for another..that of progressivism, liberalism,
socialism, and even the counter nationalism…

May we each recall the wisdom offered during those previous dark days….

“The anti-God regime is always the anti-human regime”
Bishop Fulton Sheen

when man becomes God

“Communism begins where atheism begins.”
“Communism abolishes eternal truths,
it abolishes all religion all morality”

Karl Marx


(a thistle blooming in a meadow / Julie Cook / 2017)

Since his expulsion from his once beautiful and safe garden home,
man has vied to become his own creator, his own director, his own God….
Thinking, no actually more like proclaiming,
that he knows best and simply… that he IS the best…

In yesterday’s post, we read a quote by Sister Lucia—the Carmelite nun who as a child in
1917 along with her two cousins, experienced several Divine encounters with the Virgin Mary.

Over the course of several months, Mary actually shared several prophecies with the children.
With one such prophecy being about the final confrontation between Good and Evil—
or more precisely between Christ and Satan…

“The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and
the family.
Don’t be afraid, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will
always be contended and opposed in every way,
because this is the decisive issue.
However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.”

(the quote is taken from a letter written by Sister Lucia to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna)

The holy sanctity of both marriage and family, it appears,
is to be a lynchpin in that dramatic collision…

And are we not seeing that same “lynchpin” proving to be a divisive issue in our own current times?

I’ve recently started reading a new book, I was more than a little intrigued when
first, from out of the blue, I found that quote by Sister Lucia then later, when reading,
I was broadsided by what appears to be another piece of the puzzle
presented earlier by Sister Lucia….
two vastly different encounters yet now oddly apparently connected.

And as I’ve said before, I don’t believe in happenstance or coincidence.

The book, I initially concluded, was going to be a typically political and historical
book based on two leading world figures..

A Pope and A President
by Paul Kenogor

The book is based on the relationship between Ronald Reagan and John Paull II and
“the extraordinary untold story of the 20th century”

A story I pretty much assumed would center on the work and contribution of both men
in the dismantling of the Soviet Union—the toppling of communism as it were.

I’ve read several previous books showcasing the relationships between Reagan, Thatcher,
Gorbachev and John Paul…each of whom were instrumental in the tearing down of
that infamous wall….

But this book has an unusual beginning, not what I expected…
It begins in Fatima, Portugal 1917…
and intermixes with the death of the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution.

There’s much I feel I already want to share but I’m not even to page 50….
For to digest the book properly, it is a bit of a slow go as I read and re-read certain
passages.

While reading last night I was struck by an incident that had taken place involving the
newly formed Communist Congress spearheaded by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and others,
involving the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The Russian Orthodox Church’s long-standing prohibition against divorce was lifted,
leading to an explosion in divorce rates and havoc upon the Russian family.
Lenin made good on his June 1913 promise to secure and “unconditional annulment of all
laws against abortions.
By 1920, abortion was legal and free of charge to Russian women.
The number of abortions skyrocketed to levels still unmatched in human history.”

I no longer find it coincidental that with man attempting to become God, the first thing
he wants to dismantle is marriage…that sacred union as mandated by God.
Because if you are now you’re own god, then why listen to the One claiming to be the same?

And so too the man god, it appears, finds it most natural to throw caution to the wind
while tossing the proverbial baby right out with the bath water…
….cause that’ll work, right?!?

And so we see that man has decided that he has a better idea of how living should work.

Of which has a direct impact on the family unit—
that bond that God deemed to be a Holy unit…
and naturally the man god decided that that too is also utter rubbish….

Thus with the dissolving of what God originally intended marriage to be,
we instead have the erosion of that very sacred union between man and woman…
with a direct resulting decay of, in turn, the essence of humanity….

But obviously that whole notion of a decreed sacred union along with the subsequent family unit
is no longer of importance to the now ruling man god….

Throughout the course of mankind, when man has attempted to usurp control from the
Divine Creator, the consequences have proven to be disastrous…
so why should today’s time be any different.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
and they will become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

it’s baaaaaaaackkkkkk….

“Yea, I shall return with the tide.”
Kahlil Gibran

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(a flock of gulls, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl / Julie Cook / 2016)

Today I thought we’d take a break, venturing far from the tales of woes of my
on-going trials and tribulations…
preferring rather to take a gander at the behavior of seagulls and the similarity they seem
to have with repetitions in history….

Have you ever walked along the shore and approached a
flock of gulls milling about the sands?
They congregate en masse, especially near where any humans congregate…
all in hopes of snagging forgotten scrapes of food…

If you don’t believe me…offer said mass a piece of bread and suddenly…
you’re Tippi Hedren in a scene right out Hitchcock’s The Birds….

Anywhoo, back to our train of thought….

While out casually strolling the beach, all one must do is to
venture too closely to a group of gulls and the birds immediately scatter…
either scurrying out of a perceived harm’s way or quickly taking to flight.

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Once you, the perceived danger passes, they return right back to
said spot of just hanging out and waiting…
It’s what gulls do…

This gull image came to mind yesterday when I came across the following news story
regarding Vladimir Putin’s desire to “resurrect” the KGB…The former Soviet Union’s
dreaded and oh so mysterious Secret Police…

An odd correlation perhaps…
but actually really rather appropriate.

We must remember that Putin is a former KGB man who rose through the ranks to where he is today…
One of the most powerful men on the planet.
Whereas you younger ones may think that lofty position belongs only to any US president,
perhaps it’s time for a small history lesson…

Old school USSR days were nothing like this new Mother Russia business
of a happy Federation today…
It was the old school dark days of a Cold War…
as the cloyingly murderous scent of Joseph Stalin still lingered heavy in the air.

It was the days of suspicion, mysterious deaths, poisonings, spies, counter spies, double spies,
mysterious disappearances, iron fists, gulags, suppression, oppression, lies,
total power control… and lots and lots of secrets…

So just when you thought it was safe to be Russia’s friend again….
Here comes the following story…

http://abcnews.go.com/International/russian-president-vladimir-putin-reportedly-planning-reforms-effectively/story?id=42190514

It’s as if the world went out one day walking, much as we do at the beach…
but for our story here, the world was out walking and demandeding an end to Soviet Communism…

Those die hard Soviets, feeling the surmounting world pressures, quickly scattered.
However the die hard and dyed in the wool Soviets, never disappeared…
much as the world had thought and hoped.
They merely flew away and waited…waiting until the perceived threat passed…

They simply waited until the world passed by and forgot…

Because that’s what happens with us human beings…
we tend to adhere to that whole ‘out of sight out of mind’ school of thought…

So just when you thought Putin’s Russia was now more like us, you might want to think again…

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 6:16-19

Compass

A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass,
will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.

Sir Walter Scott

Antique Compass on Map
(image borrowed from the web)

Toward the end of the 1920’s Winston Churchill’s long, illustrious and prolific life in politics seemed to have come crashing down on him much like the global economy of the Great Depression.
For various reasons, such as his support for issues which the majority were not supporting to perhaps his overt sense of confidence as was often perceived as arrogance, Churchill was not reelected to Parliament and was subjected to spending the next 10 years of his life as an ordinary citizen who simply opted for the serendipitous career of a writer—just another politician, past his prime, all but relegated to the annuals of history.

Yet it was during his time of isolation that Churchill continued to sound those cymbals, of which he felt passionate, to any and all who might give him ear— especially his concern for a wounded German nation licking its devastating wounds following its surrender with dishonor at the end of WWI. Woodrow Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles had sealed Germany’s fate as a neutered nation, cast aside and discarded–left to deal with a devastated economy as well as a lost generation of men not to mention the demoralized sense of national identity. A once proud Prussian people were not only globally disgraced but were now left literally starving and alone.

Such grave and severe consequences extracted from and heaped upon the aggressors following the loss of any war usually results in a dark and dangerous vaccum—sterilization and humiliation begets resentment, which left to fester, breeds a seething hate laced with thoughts of revenge and a hunger to dominate those now perceived as the oppressor. . .all of which Churchill was well aware—long before either his fellow MPs or a war weary world were willing to acknowledge.

History affords us a peek at the end of this story of isolation—but not before millions of people had died.
It is estimated that 60 million people were killed during WWII—yet we don’t how accurate that figure is given the brutality and secrecy of the USSR under Stalin’s regime—some historians put that 60 million much higher as it was reported that the USSR lost 8.5 million soldiers and citizens during WWII—yet it is widely believed however that that number is more like 14 million. . .a staggering number lost from what is now known as modern Russia. Such numbers are nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend.

Yet Churchill had long sounded the alarm, much to the rolling of eyes from politicians and citizens alike. No one wanted to hear his ominous rhetoric preferring life to that of an ostrich who has buried his head in the sand–fingers stuffed in ears as everyone ran about “la-la-laing” taking the mindset of “what we don’t know, or worse– won’t admit, won’t hurt us”. . .

And it is with this look back at Churchill’s plight, of that lone voice crying in the wilderness, that my thoughts turn today. . .to those lone voices sounding the alarm over the growing threat of a militant muslim nation better known as IS or ISIS.

Did you know that ISIS recently beheaded a Croatian man?
He was a typographer out simply working on mapping things when he was kidnapped.
The news coverage was minimal at best as we’ve obviously got too much going on with our own impending election wannabes. . .

I have shared story after story, as well as interview after interview alike, over the past several months regarding the brutality and hatred of a growing menace in the Middle East that has tentacles which are reaching far and wide. Just click on any news feed to see the latest young person deciding to run away to fight in the caliphate.

Here in my little corner of blogland I sound a lone little bell that most folks don’t like to, or preferably don’t want to, hear. . .with the majority thought being it’s a lot to do about nothing.

The systematic killing of Christians and the slow and agonizing death of the human moral compass. . .is, to me, a very big deal.

Here is a link to a recent interview given by the actor John Rhys-Davis on his take of the loss of this proverbial moral compass

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2015/08/12/lord-of-the-rings-actor-blasts-political-correctness-we-have-lost-our-moral-compass/

And as I was reading this morning a posting by one of my favorite Benedictine monks, not that I know many monks, I was struck by a few things Father Hugh stated so soundly in his morning’s post–of which hit me in the head with the thought of “if not you, who?”

“because what we do here in this fleeting world has direct and potentially irreversible consequences for our lives in the next, and eternal, world. Apart from the fact that basic human decency should bid us have concern for our neighbour wherever and whoever he or she might be, our Christian faith demands that we do. What we do, or fail to do, to our neighbor is done to Christ.”

“Our Christian faith demands that we do”. . .demands, as in commands unequivocally, that we do . . .it is that thought which really struck me this morning as most profound. That it is through my Christian faith, a faith which demands and expects of me a certain duty and moral obligation to my fellow man, that I speak for those who are globally persecuted, for those who are suffering for their belief in the Resurrected Son of God–those who are being attacked, tortured, enslaved, heinously murdered all for their faith. . .

You can read Fr Hugh’s full post which is addressing the whys of our prayers seemingly going unanswered:
https://hughosb.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/why/

Father Hugh’s words, as well as the actions of a seemingly beaten politician some 80 years ago who continued with his warnings against an evil menace as the rest of the world preferred distraction, is encouragement enough to continue to sound the alarm. . .Yet more importantly, it is because of the obligation, duty and demand of faith which is the true catalyst–the very real reason that I or you or any believer should not keep silent in the face of such violent tyranny. I am not an alarmist or naysayer but rather one who hears the thundering hooves of darkness galloping ever closer to my world of contentment–just as our leaders, our news networks, our politicians, our entertainment industry and even those who profess to be believers, prefer to be lulled into a state of neutrality and complacency. . .

I will close with a prayer offered to the Nation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces. . .an amazing thought that a President would implore a nation to join in prayer on a nationally aired radio broadcast—what a novel thought. . .as he spoke these words, there were already thousands of soldiers who lay dead and dying as they fought for their lives to keep the evil darkness of their day at bay. . .

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the façade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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Turning point

What most of all hinders heavenly consolation is that you are too slow in turning yourself to prayer.
Thomas a Kempis

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(detail of a pinecone / Julie Cook / 2014)

As a tale-end Baby Boomer and child of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the USSR, The Federation of the Russian Republic or simply Mother Russia, has always been an uncomfortable shadow over my shoulder, just as it has for most everyone my age and older. The enigma known as Russia, who most graciously hosted the world last February for the Winter Olympics only to turn around and shock us all a few months following with the “invasion” of Ukraine, has remained a conundrum for the free world since the Russian Revolution of 1917 which gave way to birth of Communism.

When I was in high school, which seems to be many lifetimes ago, I had the good fortune of taking a Russian History course—with the most memorable experience being of my introduction to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had the good fortune of reading several of his books. . . One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward.

Now all these many years later I find myself drawn back to the writings and words of Solzhenitsyn, of which I find more prophetic than I had ever imagined.

For those of you unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn, in a nutshell, he was a Russian soldier (WWII), Gulag prisoner (for nearly 10 years), writer and novelist, historian, Soviet dissident, Nobel Prize recipient and finally, again, Russian citizen.

As a life long member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Solzhenitsyn was guided by a deeply spiritual moral compass. He was a very loud and vocal opponent of Totalitarianism, of which expedited his forced exile from the Soviet Union, yet he could also be equally critical of the West and its obsession with Capitalism, Consumerism and Materialism. All of which reminds me of the chastisement the West often received from Pope John Paul II, as well as Mother Teresa—as perhaps those who have suffered more grievously under the Socialist and ultra Nationalistic Regime of the Nazis and then that of the Communist Soviets, have perhaps a clearer perspective of our often blind view of what we consider to be “the good life”

I am poignantly reminded of Solzhenitsyn, his words and wisdom as well wise counsel and rebukes of those who have witnessed first hand the sinister wiles and atrocities of Evil, particularly during this time of year as it seems the world always appears to crescendo to a heightened sense of madness–just as the holidays come into focus. I don’t know why that is except that as the world seems to not only witness an abundance of joy and goodwill, there seems to be an equal measure of evil and chaos. Perhaps it is because Christians are drawn to the birth of the Savior and Jews begin the celebration of the miracle of light and the rededication to the Second Temple– a time of a tremendous pull of people toward God—as it seems Evil must have its share of the pie by unleashing its part of unimaginable pain and suffering in order to create some sort of sadistic counter balance.

Perhaps our senses are on hyper drive this time of year as we keenly feel the highs of Joy and Wonder along with the bottomless pit of despair and suffering as they each roll in to one. These thoughts reverberate in my mind just as Sydney, Australia was held hostage Monday by a radical Islamist madman leaving 3 individuals, including the gunman, dead. Then on Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed an unimaginable attack on a school leaving 132 children and 9 adult staff members dead all at the hands of the Taliban.

We currently have a menacing cyber attack taking place at Sony as North Korea is suspected to be retaliating to the release of a tongue and cheek movie which sadly mocks an attempted assassination of an, albeit, unhinged world leader. Sometimes I think we, those of us in the West with our often sophomoric entertainment industry, have lost our sense of what is considered off limits or morally wrong when it comes to the exploitation of movie making and entertainment—but I suppose a moral compass would be needed in the first place in order to be reminded of such. . .

We have just marked the tragic anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre as we continue reading headline after headline of local, national and global tragedies. Just as the world tries to come together in some sort of unity marking two very sacred holy times of the year as well as the secular merry making of Santa, Papa Noel and Kris Kringle’s arrival.

In reading Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West, which is actually a brief composite and compendium of the texts to three separate addresses made in the US in the late 1970’s, it is startlingly frightening noting the parallels of then verses now. I am keenly reminded of the relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words which were uttered almost 40 years ago as they could very well be spoken on the world stage today regarding today’s global state. I will leave you with a few pieces of his excerpted texts in order to ponder and ruminate the relevance and warnings which echo across our prosaic landscape as we wrestle to make sense of the tragic events which continue to unfold before our very eyes this holiday season. . .

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer? Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?
How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last sixty years? How may waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here. You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation, their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries, without consulting with one another, they have brought out exactly the same experience; They tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking place and of what has taken place in the past. But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky, and say: It will never happen here. This will never come to us. It is not possible here.”

“In addition to the grave political situation in the world today, we are also witnessing the emergence of a crisis of unknown nature, one completely new, and entirely non-political. We are approaching a major turning point in world history, the the history of civilization. It has already been noted by specialists in various areas. I could compare it only with the turning from the Middle Ages to the modern era, a shift in our civilization. It is a juncture at which settled concepts suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly used words lose their meaning, become empty shells, and methods which have been reliable for many centuries no longer work. It’s the sort of turning point where the hierarchy of values which we have generated, and which we use to determine what is important to us and what causes our hearts to beat is starting to rock and may collapse.
These two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis, are occurring at the same time. It is our generation that will have to confront them. The leadership of your country, which is entering the third century of existence as a nation will perhaps have to bear a burden greater than ever before in American history. Your leaders will need profound intuition, spiritual foresight, high qualities of mind and soul. May God granted that in those times you will have at the helm personalities as great as those who rested your country . . .”

(excepts taken from a speech delivered in New York July 9, 1975, at a luncheon given by the AFL-CIO)

Peace

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.
William Ewart Gladstone

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(A beautiful swan in the pond of the Boston Common’s garden / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

I feel as if I want to yell at the top of my lungs “HOW DID I MISS THIS?!”
Last evening, after watching the umpteenth report regarding the Malaysian Airliner 17 which was shot down over the Ukraine, it suddenly felt as if I’d been hit in the face with a brick.. . .a “helloooo” moment.
I felt as if I was hit in the face with a stalk realization I’d been missing, or it had been so clouded and colluded. Something that has been there all along but finally revealed as tangibly real, as if a curtain has been finally lifted.

I am almost 55 years old.
Do you know, realize and comprehend that for my entire life, my entire 55 years, I, you, we have lived with a suffocating cloud of angst and agitation from and by the USSR, now Russia?

Ever since WWII it seems as if the Government of the former Soviet Union, now Russia, has relished in being a thorn in the side of the United States. And perhaps they, the Russians feel the same about the US.
I don’t know.
Be it a Cold War with the constant threat of annihilation under the threat of Nuclear attack or today’s posturing and jockeying of which is eerily pulling us all backwards rather than forward. . .
Our relationship with Russia is once again sliding backwards.

My earliest remembrance from grade school was the worrisome drills we would practice as the constant threat of a Nuclear War seemed tenuously imminent. It was a worrisome burden for grade school kids who wondered where we would hide when the Soviets shot the missile at us, fretting what would happen to our parents if such should happen while we were at school and our parents were at work and home. Obviously this is certainly no way for children to grow and thrive—not living in a state of constant worry and fear. But could we not say this same sense of insecurity is true today for so many other children around this fragile globe of ours?

An entire generation of us grew up with that very real threat and worry–and yet we’ve marched forward ebbing slowly away from a constant threat into a state of cautious forward progress. We marveled watching a Polish Pope work steadily and steely toward forcing the hand of an entrenched Communist Regime as President Reagan implored President Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”

And now, it is as if we have stepped back to a time that remains dangerous and perilous.
Shadows and question outnumber clarity and openness.
Trust has vanished.
Rhetoric is now the name of the game.
Sanctions, false truths, mysteries, rebels, lies, no ownership, battles, missiles, encroachment. . .all shades of a dark time that was— which oddly, is again, now.

Add to this the ongoing battles in Israel and I feel as if I’m in a time warp.
As far as we’ve moved forward, we have moved equally that much farther—backwards.

Peace
Cooperation
Coexistence
Support
Love

May we accept nothing less.