pandora’s box

“They gave Pandora a box. Prometheus begged her not to open it.
She opened it. Every evil to which human flesh is heir came out of it.

The last thing to come out of the box was hope.
It flew away.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


(an annoying pest moments before its demise / Julie Cook / 2017)

What have we become?

It was way back in 1989 when the world wide web, or more aptly known www., was
officially “created” by the British scientist Tim Berners-Lee,
an independent contractor working in Switzerland at the European Organization for
Nuclear Research…otherwise known as CERN.

It’s actually all quite above and beyond me really so I won’t even try to rehash any of it
or even attempt to explain it or its history except….
that I know that it was shortly after 1989 that one of those governing bodies
of all things science there at CERN proclaimed that access to and of the “web”
would be made available and free to the general populace….meaning you and me.

And life as you and I know it has never been the same.

And maybe that was the opening of pandora’s proverbial box.

Fast forward to 2017.

I am not a fatalist nor am I a henny penny the sky is falling doomsday sayer…
I’m also not one to put a whole lot of stock in prognosticators such as
the likes of a Nostradamus…
those soothsayers among us who carry the fatalistic signs proclaiming
that the end is near and we best all be ready…..

However that is not to say that I ever dismiss Christian mysticism…
I’ve lived long enough to know that I don’t know nearly as much as I often think I do.
I do believe in prophets.
I do believe in spiritual gifts.
and I also believe in spiritual curses…

I believe that there are those among us who tune in much better to God and His vast
and otherworldly Word than most of us average bears.
They hear and see and believe on a much deeper level than most of us are ever capable of
doing, possessing or going.

Theirs is a burdensome faith that most often comes with a heaviness that would suffocate
the average believer.
Carrying the weight of God’s very direct and personal words is not for the faint of heart.

Oh we’d all like to think we believe, we think we are faithful,
we think we step up to the plate when called…but trust me,
the majority of us fall much shorter than those few hearty inwardly seeing souls.

These certain individuals have been with us throughout the duration of time.
We know the ancient ones readily by name.
John
Jeremiah
Noah
Moses
Isaiah
Habakuk
Daniel
Simeon, etc…

on down to the very saints that today we so often reverently recall….
in places such as Fatima, Guadeloupe, Medjugorje, Lourdes
and even in the death camps of places like Auschwitz or in the Gulags buried deep
in Siberia.
Those select few have heard with a cutting clarity what the rest of us often naively
yearn for….but foolish mortals, you know not what you ask….

Most of us are not ready for such a sorrowful burdens of the Divine.
Think of the pieced heart of Mary…

And yet we must know that this mysticism of God is not far nor is it absent from our
modern-day lives despite many claiming quite the contrary.
Those frustrated among us who today proclaim we have no prophets,
no holy ones who see and call us to stop, look and listen–
No holy vocal polestars who point the rest of us in the right direction…

So what does Christian mysticism and the world wide web have to do with one another?
Well, not much really to the casual observer.
But to the more attuned…a great deal really….

Shortly after 1989 access to everything came to everyone with a frightening speed and
a deadly accuracy.
Now everyone had and still has the power.

The gift of technology was a boon but also a curse.

As it has begotten unto itself a wealth of spiraling accesses
of both new boons and endless curses.

It’s brought a connectivity to mankind that had never existed before.

Cell phones tying a crisscrossing virtual thread of global webs to the far flung edges
of civilization.
Internet at your fingertips anywhere, anytime….with anything you could imagine available
24/7 free of charge,
as our brains are now altered to seek out and be satisfied.

Twitter and its war of words with the tit for tat endlessness of anger and hatred…
Instagrams and its images galore be they good or be they bad….
Facebook and its sharing, bragging and constant underlying theme of human mayhem
Pintrest and its posting of the frustratingly fantastic
Snapchat and its humor of shenanigans
and so it goes…on and on, ad infinitum it begets and begets….

And what meaningful purpose does the majority of this all provide, offer or share
other than simply that, sharing…
with that sharing not always being a betterment for mankind kind of sharing….

And within all this dizzying wonderful and awful connectivity and sharing lies a
dark and sinister side…

Yet no one really wants to hear or acknowledge the darkness.
No one wants to see those who hold the signs proclaiming dangers or
that the end is near and are you ready….

For an unhealthiness has been bred deeply into mankind and it’s only boring deeper
and wider within.

Some now simply call the world flat…
Such as is the title of Thomas L Friedman’s 2005 book
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century.

But at what cost have we flattened our world and ourselves?

There is new research stating that the brain has actually been altered by this
obsessive and loving addiction to our technology and it is called brain hacking…
(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/brain-hacking-tech-insiders-60-minutes/)
as in people are actually working on programs to addict your brain to
the need to access…..

So with this gift of access came to us a great responsibility along with a great curse…
Such that the majority of us were or are not ready nor prepared to bear…
rather we have been swept up within the fracas of begetting…
while the din of a million voices now vie for our thoughts…

Have we lost our ability of hearing…
listening and being attuned to those mystics among us calling out the words
of our God as we stare, with the blinders attached to our heads, ever so intently at the
devices at our finger’s reach……

Lest we be wary to whom and to what we now listen and give our beings over to…..

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end.
Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined;
but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand;
but those who are wise shall understand
But go your way till the end; and you shall rest,
and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”

Daniel 12: 4, 9, 13

thinking good

“Help Other People By Thinking Good About Them”
Elder Thaddeus

Thinking good.
Sounds easy enough.
Yet is it?

Elder Thaddeus reminds us how much the world can effect those efforts of trying to
think “good”….turning those best efforts upside down as the world works
to cloud all thoughts of goodness, kindness, benevolence and graciousness.

Just turn on the news as any and all thoughts of anything good quickly dissipate.

“A person who is entrapped in the vicious cycle of chaotic thoughts,
in the atmosphere of hades, or has only so much as touched it, feels the torments of hell.
For example, we read the newspapers or take a walk in the streets,
and afterwards we suddenly feel that something is not quite right in our souls;
we feel an atmosphere; we feel sadness.
That is because by reading all sorts of things, our mind becomes distracted and the
atmosphere of hades has free access to our minds.”

Thaddeus (born Tomislav Štrbulović) of Vitovnica, was both a Serbian and Orthodox monk.
Born in 1914 to humble working class parents, Tomislav was a sickly child who was not
expected to live much past the age of 15.
It was shortly after doctors made their grim prognosis of his supposed short earthly life,
that Tomislav entered an Orthodox monastery.
In 1935 Tomislav made his final vows and became known as Fr Thaddeus.

Thaddeus served dutifully the spiritual needs of the Serbian faithful as heirmonk,
or what is known as both priest and monk during the 1930’s and 40’s.
As a priest Thaddeus would conduct services, administer communion, hear confessions, etc.
As a monk, he would be more prone to the life of a hermit, a life of solitude and prayer
within a monastery.

During WWII the Serbs suffered grievously at the hands of both the Nazi regime as well as
the Ustaše, otherwise known as the Croatian Revolutionary Regime—
a fascist National Terrorist organization which became a puppet state of Nazi Germany
during WWII.

The Ustaše was responsible for the heinous barbaric treatment and the mass murders of
hundreds of thousands of Jews, ethnic Serbs, Romas and all those living in Yugoslavia
who were not considered “ethically pure.”

It is estimated that upwards of 500,000 Serbs and Croats living within the borders of
Yugoslavia, those in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, were systematically murdered in what
became known as the Serbian Genocide.
With the infamous Jasenovac Concentration Camp being known as the Auschwitz of the Balkans.

Fr Thaddeus was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo for refusing to stop
practicing his faith and for refusing to cease administering his office of priest.

Following the war and his eventual release,
Fr Thaddeus became the hegumen, or acting abbot, of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Belgrade.
He served at the church and several monasteries in and around Belgrade until his death in 2003.

He is both revered and respected by Serbs, Croats and Bosnians alike and many
Muslims who converted to Christianity hold Elder Thaddeus in special high esteem.

Elder Thaddeus is “credited for proposing the idea that our thoughts determine the
outcome of our lives.”

(Wikipedia)

I am always amazed by the wisdom of those who have suffered so grievously at the
hands of monsters…
those who have witnessed unspeakable horrors and yet have found the resolve and
eventually the peace to not only forgive and pardon those offenders,
but who actually go forward, teaching and reminding the rest of us what it is
that we must do in order to save not only ourselves but our sick and ailing world….

Elder Thaddeus is one such individual…

“We can keep guard over the whole world by keeping guard over the
atmosphere of heaven within us,
for if we lose the Kingdom of Heaven, we will save neither ourselves nor others.
He who has the Kingdom of God in himself will imperceptibly pass it on to others.
People will be attracted by the peace and warmth in us;
they will want to be near us, and the atmosphere of heaven will gradually pass on to them.
It is not even necessary to speak to people about this.
The atmosphere of heaven will radiate from us even when we keep silence or talk about
ordinary things.
It will radiate from us even though we may not be aware of it.”

Elder Thaddeus

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

out of chaos

“Either we are adrift in chaos or we are individuals, created, loved,
upheld and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.
Can you believe that?
Can you trust God for that?”

Elisabeth Elliot


(another shot of the dead loon I found on the beach / Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

Loons are fresh water birds so to say that I was more than a little shocked
finding a dead loon, partially buried in the sands along the ocean’s shore,
is an understatement.

There had been a bad storm the day prior…
I could only imagine the bird flying over the surf from one of the nearby dune lakes,
having tired as it was battered by fierce winds and torrential rains,
and simply succumbing to the raging maelstrom…
or maybe it was just old and sick.

Yesterday, several times throughout the course of my day,
I ran into a word, along with its resulting concept.
It is a word and meaning that I really prefer not to dwell on as it can be
unsettling and troubling.

That being the word chaos.

The word crept up and into the forefront of my focus more than once throughout the day.

Again, I am not one to believe in coincidence or happenstance but rather the
working of the Holy Spirit….sometimes gently whispering while at other times loudly shouting.

The word chaos kept coming to light in my reading perusals through the day.
And not only was it sitting before me in the printed word,
I found that I had to actually admit that it has certainly been a very real part of my
own life for these past many months.
Much more than I cared to realize or admit.
Because aren’t I always in control of me and my life?

As that was part of the revelation.

That despite my attempts to ignore, push down and to quell…
chaos has been wickedly swirling in my life.

Not a visible chaos necessarily, but a raging internal swirling turbulence.

Yet it was on a fellow bloger’s post yesterday that I had actually read a quote by a
gal named Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The quote more or less just hit me in the face.
One of those times when you’re broadsided, from out of the blue,
getting literally knocked off your feet.

“Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

It was more than just a simple reminder or statement…
it was a signpost.

It’s that whole question of what does one tie life’s anchor to?
Something real, sound, secure…
or instead….
does one opt for no anchor while simply allowing all things to drift off towards
an expectant and hopeful ending?

What have I been doing?

Is it simply a matter of casting out, allowing the anchor to randomly sink, hoping it
will grab hold, to something to anything…
hoping to be kept secure and steady…yet not really certain.

Or does one rather tie off to something much more solid and sure?
Anchoring to something that will hold tight and fast?

It is not a matter of merely drifting happily toward the hopeful sunset.

For there found in the drift…lies the ensuing troubles…
No anchor hold to keep one from being tossed and battered…
left to drift off course into dire storms.

In my faith and in my life, I found that question being asked…

Am I holding fast to God and God’s word or am I more focused on the
outcomes of my journey?
Focusing more on me and my end down the road verses
His choices and directions for my life…

In wisdom have I anchored?
Anchored and holding fast to God and His desired outcome?
Because I know in the end that that’s the only thing that matters…
His outcome and His alone.
Nothing that is of me.

For I am constantly reminded that it is He who is Creator and master of my ship
as I am but the created…
I am reminded of my constant need to tie off to Him…
trusting and holding tight through all the storms…
Claiming and knowing that His desired outcome is far better than that to which
I’ve been blindly holding to and racing off toward.

Him being the only lasting matter of my life….or of anyone’s life.

As we must anchor to that which is certain and sure
verses our ignorant and arrogant choice to simply drift while hoping for the best….

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
But Jesus was sleeping.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked,
“What kind of man is this?
Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

interlude

Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him,
and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude,
a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton


(blooming wildflowers / Julie Cook / 2017)

Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28:20-28

Wise words

“God will not look you over for medals,
degrees or diplomas
but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


(robin redbreast /Julie Cook / 2017)

A dear friend recently shared this bit of wisdom with me…
and what is wisdom if it is not in turn shared once again….

“That the birds of worry and care fly over your head,
this you cannot change,
but that they build nests in your hair,
this you can prevent.”

Thank you Paul…..

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

excuses

The world will very soon be divided, unless I am mistaken,
into those who still go on explaining our success,
and those somewhat more intelligent who are trying to explain our failure.

Speech to Anglo-Catholic Congress 6-29-20

g__k__chesterton
(G.K.Chesterton)

“Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils;
they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.”

G. K. Chesterton