we live in both dark and light

“The true diversity of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark.
To diminish the number of dark, to increase the number of luminous,
that is the aim.
That is why we cry: education, knowledge!
To learn to read is to kindle a fire; every syllable spelled sparkles.
But whoever says light does not necessarily say joy.
There is suffering in the light; an excess burns.
Flame is hostile to the wing.
To burn and yet to fly, this is the miracle of genius.
When you know and when you love you will suffer.
The day dawns in tears. The luminous weep, be it only for the dark ones.”

― Victor Hugo


(prematurely fallen muscadine / Julie Cook / 2019)

See the picture above?

Look closely.

At first glance, you see some sort of greenish greyish orb perched in the middle,
amongst the debris of what must be some sort of woodsy ground.

However, upon further inspection, you will note that the right half of the green orb,
or rather a prematurely fallen muscadine, is the side with actual color,
as is the surrounding area.
The color of life and growth.

The left side appears to be rotting or rotten while the surrounding debris around the
muscadine is equally ashen and grey…as in decaying, rotting and dark.

It is a prime example of contrasting imagery between light and dark, life and death…
With the poor muscadine being caught in the middle.

And if the truth be told, that muscadine, my friends, is more representational of both you
and I then either of us can even begin to imagine.

Light vs dark…
life vs death…
While we are constantly suspended between the two.

It’s as if each one vies for our very being.
The endless struggle for mankind.

That struggle is much more active and much more real than most of us care to admit,
let alone contemplate…as the forces of both light and dark, life and death, continuously
wage battle over our very existence.

Metaphors, yes…yet also very much a reality.

I started an interesting book the other day, The Shadow Party
How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and the Sixties Radicals seized control of
the Democratic Party

by David Horowitz and Richard Poe.

“Ahhh”, you say rather knowingly…” one of ‘those’ types of books.”
A book that speaks of conspiracy and paranoia.
And so now you’re assuming that I am one of those paranoid loons or deplorables
we hear so much about—oh so lovingly nicknamed by Hillary Clinton…
all because I am a conservative individual reading a book that reads like
a Hollywood spy thriller.

Yet the book is much more than a tale of political upheaval, speculation and
finger-pointing.
The book actually, and perhaps unbeknownst to the authors themselves, speaks to this very
battle of both light and dark, life and death, that I previously referenced…
it’s just that they speak on a level that hits much closer to home than anyone might imagine
as it addresses our life here in America.

There is a great darkness growing in our Nation.
And it is both you and I who hang in the balance.

It is a life that is growing ever more precarious while we are perched between
both light or dark, life or death…
For we are living in some terribly strange times.

This book reminds me of a wonderful post I read the other day by one of my favorite bloggers—
Robert, Bobby, Kloska from Thoughts from the Side of the House.
Bobby is a former professor at Notre Dame who doesn’t
post as often as I or others would wish due to some tremendous health struggles
that get terribly in his way.

His struggles with cancer and the devastating outreaching effects have been an
amazing witness unto themselves.

I, for one, am most grateful that he continues to share both ups and downs.

This past week, for the fourth of July, Bobby wrote about what it is that is
at the root of what many of us believe to be a “crisis” in this Nation of ours.

“Life in America has never been perfect.
In every age, there have been injustices, conspiracies, and controversies.
This is not unique to America; it is part of the human condition.
Yet in America, because we had inherited these noble institutional mechanisms, hope remained.
So long as the republic contained within itself a critical mass of virtuous citizens
committed more to the common good than to privileging any particular sect, group,
or class, then the structures through which we grapple with self-governance could
still yield improvement.”

Today, I have my doubts.

We live in a country that in the span of only a few generations has suddenly lost
any kind of right understanding of objective truth –
as the founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence, “…
of the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
Today, the prevailing understanding of truth is that it is something purely subjective.
This is no small matter.

Today, there has emerged this new idea that you and I supposedly have some kind of
power to create whatever truth we want.
This, of course, not only opens the door to logical self-contradictions,
it very clearly contradicts objective reality itself.
You’re not George Washington even if you think you’re George Washington and
“claim this as your truth.” Simple people see this.
Grounded people see this.
People connected to the earth and nature really see this.

Sophisticates, distracted people, and afflicted people often do not.

What we have is a crisis of truth.

In all human communities, freedom is built upon personal and collective
responsibilities.
These responsibilities always rely upon truth.
Our greatest problem today is not simply that we have lost any meaningful concept of truth.
No, it’s worse than that.
Our greatest problem is that 1) we don’t know that truth is something objective to be discovered;
and 2) we no longer have adequate tools to do the work of discovery.

Let that sink in.

We don’t understand that truth needs to be discovered…
and yet everything of consequence depends on this one thing!

The discovery of truth does not come cheaply.
It requires diligence, patience, nuance, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual
humility.
To actually discover truth and not merely “win” an argument,
it is enormously helpful to be able to presume the good will and sincerity of one’s
discussion partner. But today our public discourse is largely carried out on Twitter.
News and opinion media have become reactionary and overly polemical.
Even our so-called presidential debates take on the form of a cheap tv game show.
How helpful is that?
Complex questions cannot be answered in one minute sound bytes.
It is folly to even try.

A crisis of truth leads to a crisis of love.

The loss of truth has led to the particularly harmful notion that your disagreement
with one of my ideas is somehow disrespectful of me as a human being.
Tragically, in 2019 America, “disagreement” equals “hate” to a lot of people.

But what if you truly love me?

To love is to will the good of another person.
If I hold an opinion that is not rooted in truth,
then that opinion can be quite harmful to me and to the people I influence.
Isn’t the most loving act to help me discover the truth?
Yes, this might require a discussion, debate, or argument.
Prudence dictates that such discussions occur at the right time,
in the right place, and with appropriate people.
But the premise of these kinds of honest disagreements and discussions is love.
To neglect such conversations with people you supposedly love
(or even with the culture at large)
is to not really love and care about them at all.

At the end of this sobering and somewhat frightening discourse,
Bobby is quick to remind us that not all is lost.
This is not a hopeless situation…

Not hopeless because it is in our hopelessness that our real Hope is to be found.
For in that Hope, resides the One true Everlasting Truth.

The Main Crisis on American Independence Day in 2019

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Before and after…the question

The south facade of Notre Dame before the fire…


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

Now the upper portion of the same facade, after the fire…


(Associated Press)

Despite the brilliant blue sky, the delightfully warm late afternoon sun,
a heaviness continued to linger…

I dumped a portion of the hardwood chunks of charcoal into the grill then used the
lighter to ignite the charcoal.

When the soft yellow-orange glow began, I closed the lid, cracking open the vents while I
proceeded to wait.

Soon enough, I opened the lid as the flames rose while the burning wood chips popped
and crackled.

I stared down into the grill, filled with those yellow-orange licking flames,
while I purposely and intently listened to the sounds of both fire and wood.

My thoughts seemed to have gotten stuck on an unseen replay button…
replaying the scenes from yesterday’s images of both Notre Dame and of the fire.

I thought of each trip, over the past decades of my life,
that I have walked into that cavernous and overwhelmingly
historic and spiritual “house” of worship.

The sounds of my own footsteps echoing off the soaring stone walls and massive pillars
as my steps reverberated against the barrel vault high above my head.

Awe stopped me in my tracks as my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting
while the hints of pungent incense lingered in my nostrils.

I grappled with the magnitude of the historical and the physical while my mind
wrapped around the Spiritual impetus for this seemingly gargantuan whale that
had suddenly swallowed me whole.

The rising flames in the grill jerked me back to the present and my need
to get about my grilling supper…

I would say that this historic and catastrophic fire is proving devastating
on a great many levels.

The world is painfully mourning an iconic cultural loss.
Paris is mourning a devastating loss of an iconic piece of her home’s heart.
As we the world mourn both an artistic and architectural loss.

The proverbial bucket list destination for tourists and one of the spiritual
pilgrimage destinations on the lists of the faithful is now forever changed…
just as much of humankind is now changed.

But what I think is even more important, the fire has shaken loose a deeply hidden
sense of loss found in most of Western Civilization…it is a loss on a subconscious level
that we’ve never been able to put our finger on…
a loss that has long existed…one we have subconsciously known
was there but yet we didn’t know.

It is the loss of our Christian Spirituality…
our Spirituality that we have allowed to slip from, not merely our
hands, but from our very psyches and souls.

Yesterday I offered a response to a friend’s comment on my day’s post regarding
the fire and that comment has now lingered in my thoughts…

“someone I was listening to last night posed the question—– and I’ll paraphrase-
‘With so much of Europe becoming so secularized—–we’re seeing these massive ancient bastions
of Christian faith becoming more and more like museums rather than houses of worship.
With everyone now clamoring to rebuild…
the question we must be asking ourselves is what are we rebuilding?

Are we rebuilding a museum that lost so much art, etc…art that can never be replaced…
or are we rebuilding a church, a house of worship?…

I find that to be the very key question for our very postmodern Christian selves”

It is not lost on me that we are in the midst of the most Holiest of weeks within
all of Christendom while in the midsts of an ever-shrinking Christian faith
in our culture.

This fire is yet another visceral image of our own human tragedy and the fall of man.

It shakes loose our hidden sense of grief and loss over our flailing and fragile faith.

Christ descended into the depths of a raging fire of our very sin…
and on the third day, He rose from those ashes…

May we now use this sense of loss and grief, allowing our faith to be rekindled as we too rise
upward out of the ashes of what has become such a sinful loss…

Loss no more..but only gain…as the spire rises again…

“So you’re giving up?
That’s it?
Okay, okay. We’ll leave you alone, Quasimodo.
We just thought, maybe you’re made up of something much stronger.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

when man reaches up towards Heaven…

“Spira, spera.”
(breathe, hope)
Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart…

I have loved you
For a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more…

(Lyrics from Christina Perri A Thousand Years)


(Pieta by Niccola Coustou / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)

Notre Dame—Our Lady of Paris

850 years of–

Christianity
faith
religion
spirituality
mysticism
relics

history
ingenuity
construction
architecture
labor
sacrifice

art
sculpture
poetry
prose
music
colored glass

revolution
desecration
coronations
funerals
burials
weddings

bishops
nuns
confessions
monastics
saints
sinners

humanity
bloodshed
loss
wars
peace
victories

humankind
survival
life
death
breath
hope…

Yet for now, there are too many emotions to express regarding this collective sense
of sorrow, grief and loss.

Our frail and feeble earthly attempts to reach upward to God will each eventually perish
while fading to both ash and dust…

and yet…

Our Heavenly Father’s reach, downward to us his children, will remain for eternity…


(detail of Virgin and Child by Antoine Vassé / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the iron work on the main entrance doorway / Norte Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2019)


(detail of the central portal (central enterance) of Notre Dame Cathedral / The Last Judgment, constructed in 1220/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(vaulted ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2019)


(South Rose Window / 1260 / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook 2019)


(South exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of flying buttresses and gargoyles / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(detail of bell tower / Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France/ Julie Cook / 2011)


(south view of Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)


(Notre Dame Cathedral / Paris, France / 2011)


(Wesrtern facade of the bell tower entrance Notre Dame Cathedral /Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2011)

“He therefore turned to mankind only with regret.
His cathedral was enough for him.
It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least
did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence.
The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him –
he resembled them too closely for that.
It was rather the rest of mankind that they jeered at.
The saints were his friends and blessed him; the monsters were his friends and
kept watch over him.
He would sometimes spend whole hours crouched before one of the statues
in solitary conversation with it.
If anyone came upon him then he would run away like a lover surprised during a serenade.”

Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

Animal crackers. What would the mayor think?

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.
Victor Hugo


(the mayor sporting her Andrew Jackson Tee shirt back in her office in Woobooville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Like the good little aide to the mayor that I am, I had to go on a bit of an extended visit
this past week in order to carry out my mayorial aide duties while the mayor was in her
Atlanta office… (aka, I had to babysit).
While in her Atlanta office, she was able to meet with a few of her local constituents
who live in the metro Woobooville district.
Then yesterday I had to drive her back here to her satellite office in rural Woobooville
(mom is coming to town to help give a shower this weekend).

In the meantime, as the aide to the mayor, it is my responsibility to help keep her
abreast of the latest current events…

And thus reading a recent article about the iconic box of Animal Crackers…

along with the uber animal rights activists PETA,
I just knew that this was one issue that I would need to share with the mayor…
It was also an issue that I knew the mayor would blow a gasket over.

This particular mayor cannot abide by the idiocy of the ongoing  PC mania that is
currently sweeping our culture…
Everything from 150-year-old monuments hurting the feelings of the overly sensitive
to now a cookie box depicting circus animals in cages causing outrage with radical
activists…

But I suppose we forgot…the circus is soon going to be a thing of the past.


(the mayor is aghast)

These animal crackers just so happen to be the very same iconic animal crackers
that my mother bought for me nearly 60 years ago…
all in order to keep me occupied in the grocery store as I accompanied her
during her weekly grocery trips—

It seems that the animal rights activists are livid and are forcing the hand of Nabisco
for their continued depiction of animals in their circus train cage…
the same iconic image used since the cookies first came out in 1902.

The mayor was so preoccupied with this latest tale that she could not focus on her meeting
with a local representative from the society of the jealous.


(Percy takes over everything that is Autumn’s when she’s here…hence filling out the car seat)

It seems that PETA has demanded that Nabisco redesign their cookie boxes to depict
cage-free animals.
And sure, updating packaging, rebranding, and new designs, for some companies
and products can certainly bring about a resurgence in sales—but think about Coke when
they wanted to tweak the flavor for the changing times…that did not help but actually  hurt sales.

And whereas the mayor believes in the protection of all animals…
but for plastic squids…

She believes the creation of laws and the changing of how zoos, circuses, and even
sanctuaries care for the animals under their charge is paramount as we have been
charged by God to care for them…but the notion that angry activists can twist the
screws on anyone they find who is out of step with their overly
political correctness—bringing about an intimidation which comes at any and all costs
is just something she finds maddening…

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/fortune-nabisco_frees_its_animal_crackers_after_a_peta_pro-rtime/category/finance+

On your knees…

Certain thoughts are prayers.
There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body,
the soul is on its knees.

Victor Hugo

lightstock-60129-man-kneeling-in-prayer-in-the-middle-of-a-rural-road
(image courtesy the web)

“On your knees…”

A command that conjures many an image in one’s mind…depending on your age or experiences….

“On your knees…”

A command often dictated by one who is about to behead or otherwise kill another.

“On your knees…”

A common urban phrase used predominantly by a hip hop culture for the demeaning demand that another,
most often a woman, perform a lewed act.

“On your knees…”

A command given once by kings as they prepared to knight their subjects.

“On you knees…”

Children were once known to learn at their mother’s knee.

“On your knees…”

A sign of submission.
As in someone commanding another to…beg…
Begging for mercy,
or for one’s own life…

Yet for me,
upon my knees…
is the only place I long to be…

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

2 Philippians 2:9-11

in the shadows

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

To think of shadows is a serious thing.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0515
(a jackdaw at the Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

As the winter wanes and spring advances, the evening shadows slowly retreat from whence they came.
Or so it seems to the causal observer…
those innocents who observe the rhythm of the seasons.

Yet the shadows that secretly veil this earth…
grow ever far reaching …
while hidden from plain site…they slink around undetected

There are those who know the dangers because they can actually see..
the shape shifting shadows that dart in and out…
hidden far from reality’s plain sight
Chasing and dogging those who seek the One True Light….

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendour through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his for ever and ever, amen!
1Peter 5:8 (Phillips)

What lies beneath

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough.
Ezra Taft Benson

Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.
Victor Hugo

DSCN0112
(a blending melange of colors in an Alaskan stream as the salmon move up stream / Gregory Cook / 2015)

What lies beneath, underneath, below. . .
supporting you,
lifting you,
holding you. . . ?

Is it firm and sound
or
shifting and sinking?

Any builder or architect worth their salts knows that before building, be it home or skyscraper, a solid foundation must first be set, poured or laid—
Pylons are driven down to bedrock and footings are poured for anchoring. . .
everything that goes up, must first be sound underneath.

Life rocks along. . .everything is as it should be, relatively perfect.
Happy,
flowing,
carefree. . .

We ride the waves of mediocracy hoping always to rise upward, never ever downward,
chasing the proverbial dream. . .
Then one day, out of the blue, catastrophe strikes. . .
Our world is rocked to its core.

We either fold or we hold on. . .
Survival determined by. . .
what lies beneath. . .

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
Isaiah 28:16