Hitting Bottom

We are moving through a remarkable period in our history. We are contending with the COVID-19 pandemic. Racist behavior continues to emerge in our country and elsewhere. Authoritarian governments are on the rise both in the United States as well as in the international community. As a nation we have been involved in the so-called War on Terror in multiple fronts in the Middle East for nearly twenty years with no end in sight. People everywhere are facing the consequences of toxic human behavior upon the biosphere that we are completely dependent upon. The potential devastation from this situation alone is dire enough to dwarf all others. In short, we find ourselves in a “perfect storm” scenario.

It is well understood by people in recovery that an active addict will need to “hit bottom” before they are ready to commit to meaningful changes in their way of life. A person, caught up in an addiction process, will resist and deny with all their strength until the painful reality of the consequences of their lifestyle comes crashing through their last layers of denial.

Hitting bottom for an individual can take many forms, among them are: broken trust, job loss, homelessness, losing friendships, being shunned by family members, serious injury, divorce, and the death of a loved one. This is a person’s direct experiencing of the natural consequences of a destructive way of life. The common denominator is that hitting bottom is extremely painful. The painfulness is ultimately what breaks the fantasy bubble of addiction and reveals the hard truth of What Is. The fantasy world of addiction is inherently unsustainable.

This is all fairly straightforward and understandable when we look at it thought the lens of individuality. Any individual person can get caught up in an addiction process if they are in enough pain. The challenge we face now is to see the same process occurring on a societal level. This is difficult because we are heavily conditioned to think in terms of individual responsibility rather than in terms of shared responsibility. In the world of addiction this is exemplified by the active addict’s false assertion that “I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” This is one of the many variations of his or her denial system.

However, what if we take an honest look at ourselves through a communal lens? Would we see that, as a species, human beings are also caught up in an addiction process? Are we as a human community addicted to a destructive way of life? Are we also in a state of denial to some degree?

Obviously, we cannot speak of every individual human being behaving in lock-step conformity. We can instead speak of a “critical mass” of humanity whose collective behavior makes a significant impact on the world. What is it that enough of us do with regularity that would constitute an addiction process?

What is humanity addicted to?

Control and domination. In other words, we play God.

We do it to each other, we do it to countless other animals, and we do it to all sorts of plant life that share this planet with us. We convince ourselves of our superiority in order to justify the way we use and abuse human and non-human life in order to make ourselves more comfortable and to feel special. We get a rush when we imagine that we have “conquered nature,” “tamed the wilderness,” or somehow defeated someone or something. In our addiction to control and domination we act with little concern for the consequences of what we do in the name of “civilization.” In our addiction we care about getting what we want. Anything else is secondary at best.

We are tragically addicted to polluting the air, water, and soil that every form of life on this planet depends on. Humanity does this in so many ways that we simply consider them to be part of “normal” life. The list is extensive: Extracting and burning fossil fuels, industrial waste, plastic waste, nuclear waste, and, of course, the extensive toxicity of our constant warfare. This constitutes an incomplete list to be sure but I think the point is made. We do a lot to try to control and dominate the world that is truly devastating to animal and plant life in global ecosystems. Basically, we treat Mother Earth as if it’s exclusively our species’ Town Dump.

Part of what characterizes an addiction process is the absence of awareness or concern for the natural consequences of one’s actions. While our awareness and concern has definitely been increasing over the past 50 years or so, it has not been nearly enough to significantly change our destructive behavior patterns. Is it possible that, at this point in our collective history, our addiction to poisoning the biosphere so that we can feel dominant and “in control” of “our world” has finally caught up with us?

Has our addiction to believing in “human exceptionalism” and the multitude of quick fixes and instant gratifications we have indulged in for so long finally brought us to the point where we are hitting bottom?

Maybe.

Responsibility is a choice but accountability is inescapable. We can choose to avoid our responsibilities for some period of time but they will always catch up with us. We can choose to accept our responsibilities but if we do not, accountability will be imposed upon us. If this happens and Nature ends up holding us accountable it will be a much more unpleasant process. Being proactively responsible won’t be painless but it will be a lot better than being forced into accountability.

If we willingly choose to be responsible for our destructive behaviors we will need to accept humility. Genuinely humbling ourselves means a lot of letting go. We will need to let go of our assumed “human exceptionalism” and our assumed right to dominate other people as well as other life forms with whom we share the Earth. We will need to let go of our assumed “master-servant” relationship with the world. We need to let go of our belief that Mother Nature is supposed to clean up after us no matter how big a mess we leave for Her.

Maybe the toughest thing to let go of is our allegiance to the materialistic paradigm that has dominated our society for so long. This mindset is something that most of us have been conditioned to see as “natural” since childhood. This is a belief in the primacy of things and that these things must be bought with money. This paradigm claims that having enough things will make us happy and satisfied. Having enough things will make us safe and secure. It says that this is the way we need to live our lives. This is a perspective that tells us that “greed is good.” It spins fairy tales about who is deserving of a “good life” and who isn’t. This paradigm supports an implicit justification for cruelty as a necessary component of a grand competition that rewards the “strong” and punishes the “weak.” This is all logical if we on our tiny planet moving around within an unimaginably vast universe are nothing but a collection of randomly assembled atoms and molecules. Such a premise requires an enormous level of human arrogance. It means asserting that we know all we need to know about our world, what it consists of, how it operates and that we are quite comfortable with dismissing whatever doesn’t fit with what we “know.” That’s a lot of arrogance.

So if we let go of our desire for control and domination, embrace genuine humility, and stop playing God, where does that leave us?

If we can overcome our fear of change we will be able to see something we’ve been blind to just as every addict is initially blind to what recovery is really all about. We will become open to a new framework of a healthy individual and communal life. What might such a new framework look like? We can begin by re-examining the framework of active addiction and ask ourselves: What would be radically different from this?

The unofficial mantra of the active addict is as follows:

“I want what I want when I want it!”

This expression emerges from a particular mentality. This mentality is the problem as well as the point from which real change emerges.

Our growth begins when we addicts finally hear Reality answering us with Tough Love when we beg for things to stay the same:

“Please, don’t make me do that! I promise this time I’ll…”
“It’s too late for that.”
“Wait? What do you mean? Do you actually mean that I have to……?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I mean!”
“But what about…?”
“No!”
“But….”
“No!”
“I promise that this time…”
“I said No!!”

Left with no other option, we relinquish our desire for control, dominance and and our imagined greatness and we finally dare to place our trust in something beyond ourselves. In the language of recovery, we surrender to a Higher Power.

There can be no recovery from addiction without mindful healing from the traumas that sparked and fueled the addiction process itself. As a a nation, we have a number of unhealed injuries that desperately still need healing. A short list includes our history of racism and its fallout, patriarchy that still regards women as second-class citizens, hyper-individualism that shames those who are not “successful”, and our destruction of nature in the name of promoting our civilization. Perhaps most critically, we must understand that trauma is actually a two-way street. Trauma occurs in the act of one injuring another and both parties are negatively impacted. This means that the perpetrator is also traumatized during the act of injuring another. This is most tragically revealed in the current epidemic of suicides by both past and present day military personnel. “Moral injury” is the term that has become recognized as this perpetration-induced trauma that so many of these men and women are suffering from. It’s a kind of karmic blowback and it painfully demonstrates the illusion of our supposed separateness from each other. It similarly shows how we are profoundly connected to each other which means that what we do to another we are also doing to ourselves.

It’s no wonder that so long ago we were advised to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

That continues to be a very difficult lesson for humanity to learn. Thousands of years in our classroom and we are still struggling to get a passing grade.

So the opposite of the addiction mantra might be something like this:

“We know that we can wait for what we want. We know that the needs of others are just as important to them as mine are to me.”

We need a change in our consciousness. It’s actually very possible for us to do that. Millions of recovering addicts have been showing us the way for a long time. It’s ironic that the very people that society has so long despised are the very same people that have implemented this change in their lives. A teacher of mine claims that the universe runs on irony!

One way to begin is to choose to cultivate a consciousness of compassion. It needs to begin as a choice just as one chooses to exercise and eat a healthy diet in order to get in shape. It requires consistent practice and dedication. We have to do the work. Shortcuts won’t get the job done.

What does all this mean for a society addicted to whatever it can get its hands on to feel in control and to not feel the pain of all the injuries it has caused and endured?

It means that we truly appreciate the gift that this world is for every life that shares it. This gift is not just for humans to do with as we please for our exclusive enjoyment. Mother Earth is a gift for all who live on her land, in her waters, and in her air. It is a gift that deserves to be respected.

We are not respecting this gift when we make excuses to keep dumping toxic material wherever we please. When we engage in the state-sanctioned mass murder known as war, when we perpetrate deforestation on a mass scale and destroy whole ecosystems, and when we burn whatever will burn in order to “advance” human society we are not respecting our gift.

It means that we stop expecting others to clean up after us. Healthy adults clean up after themselves. Viewed through the communal lens this means that humanity grows up, stops treating Mother Earth as our town dump, and starts to clean up all the mess we have made.

It means that we accept responsibility for what we have done and hold ourselves accountable for all of it. We need to make amends and reparations everywhere it is appropriate to do so. We need to express our genuine regret and remorse to all whom we have injured. No phony “celebrity apologies” will suffice. It’s got to be real.

We need to continually commit ourselves to growing in wisdom and compassion.

Finally, we need to remember that we are always susceptible to relapsing back to our old addictive ways. We are either busy recovering or we are busy relapsing. We become the process that we invest in.

Have we “hit bottom” as a society? Are we ready to say “Yes” to our recovery process?

We are about to answer those questions.

Thank You for Your Service

Cardinal Muller (see previous post) has now been joined by Officer Greg Anderson in the ranks of the “bravest men in the world” category.

Greg makes a very important point at the end of the first video. He warns that if the powerful “keep trampling on people’s rights” they may “wake a sleeping giant” and foment civil unrest. The Catholic Bishops should take heed because the Church is probably the only force which might be able to head off such a confrontation. But they must show some backbone and open the Churches now (regardless of secular threats), and step into the fray and declare that governments and authorities must reverse the tyrannical measures and psychological warfare that they have initiated against the populace. Bishops, it’s your move.

The Catholic Church is Back!

I urge everyone to read the Appeal for the Church and the World and sign it if you are in general agreement and help to spread it far and wide.

This Appeal represents the strong and courageous Church coming forward once again as opposed to the weak and spineless Church which we are all so familiar with.  It is important because the issue is no longer just about whether we shall ever gather to celebrate the Mass in public again. It is about the Church coming forward now to do what it is obligated to do in addition to providing us with worship and the Sacraments. We need the Church and strong American Catholics to stand up and defend the weak and innocent against the impositions on their natural rights by powerful, arrogant tyrants.

From the Appeal:

“Those with governmental responsibility must stop these forms of social engineering, by taking measures to protect their citizens whom they represent, and in whose interests they have a serious obligation to act. Likewise, let them help the family, the cell of society, by not unreasonably penalizing the weak and elderly, forcing them into a painful separation from their loved ones. The criminalization of personal and social relationships must likewise be judged as an unacceptable part of the plan of those who advocate isolating individuals in order to better manipulate and control them.”

Here in Boston, my grandchildren, and all kids, cannot go to school or play soccer on a team, or meet with their friends, or have a birthday party, or play in the playground which is across the street. Will they be able to go to camp this summer or go to swim at the pool or beach? Who knows?  These are decisions that should be made exclusively by their parents and not by so-called experts or the apostate Catholic Mayor of Boston, whose judgment regarding any matters involving the protection of human life is highly suspect. How can our Church leaders leave us at the mercy of these enemies?

I don’t need any experts to tell me that kids are being greatly damaged. Perfectly healthy, they cannot go outside for a walk without wearing the ubiquitous death mask. Enough is enough.

Even if you cannot sign the appeal at this time I urge you to participate in the discussion. Help us to open the Churches again and let’s also open the Church halls and basements for gatherings to facilitate open, honest conversations about what is happening to us and what people of Faith can do about it.

From the Appeal:

“A democratic and honest debate is the best antidote to the risk of imposing subtle forms of dictatorship, presumably worse than those our society has seen rise and fall in the recent past.”

Breaking news: Cardinal Muller, a brave man, and probably the most prominent person to sign the appeal, is being attacked. Please sign the appeal in order to protect him. There is safety in numbers. Every added signature is important, especially if you are a famous or semi-famous Catholic clergyman  or lay person whose name is recognizable to others on the internet.

In Catholic Solidarity,

Doug Fuda
Boston MA

The IRISHMAN

I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread. — Father Brown in the The Queer Feet by G. K. Chesterton.

When I watched The IRISHMAN the first time I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be another fictional Mafia saga like The Godfather. But when I realized it was a factual account of real people and events I was hooked. I have always been an amateur history buff and I was fascinated by how the movie revealed new angles to approach many historical events that had occurred in my lifetime. Jimmy Hoffa’s rise and fall as president of the Teamsters, collaboration of the CIA and the Mob in the Bay of Pigs invasion, Bobby Kennedy vs. the Mob, Mob involvement in the JFK assassination, Hoffa’s release from prison and pardon by Nixon. The IRISHMAN saga weaves it all together in a fascinating and provocative manner alongside the recollections of Frank Sheeran, the main character in the story.

So I watched the movie twice and then I read the book it was based on, I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt. I was most interested in how the war experience of Frank Sheeran might have affected him and also in the fact that Frank and many of the largely Italian mob figures in the story were baptized Catholics.

The WWII combat participation of Frank Sheeran was intense, violent and traumatic. It is dealt with superficially in the movie but in the book there is much more detail and the author makes it clear that Frank learned to kill in the Army and he learned to take orders without question. These “skills” served him well during his many years spent as a mob thug and hitman. Today we might say that his apparent lack of a conscience was a result of PTSD, but I won’t go there. He does seems throughout most of the book like something less than a man. There’s something missing.

Of great interest for Catholics, Charles Brandt presents evidence in the book that Frank may have repented of his many sins near the end of his life. In prison one day, Frank sees his former “commander-in-chief,” Russell Bufalino, the infamous and powerful mob boss, being pushed in a wheelchair to the prison chapel. Frank laughs and Russell tells him:

“Don’t laugh, my friend. When you get to be my age you’ll realize there’s something more than this.”

Frank acknowledges to the author that “Those words stayed with me all these years.”

Frank’s daughters were obviously concerned for his soul and that (according to Frank) “if I died I couldn’t be buried in a Catholic cemetery.” They arranged to get him to see a priest. I wanted to believe that this very dark and terrifying life story somehow could end as a story of redemption. I had a question so I emailed Charles Brandt to clarify one particular fact and he very graciously responded and gave me permission to post the email exchange. Here it is:

“Hello Mr. Brandt,

….I am most interested in how the war experience of Frank might have affected him and also in the Catholic angle which is very evident in the book but less so in the movie. You present evidence in the book that Frank may have repented of his many sins near the end of his life. ….

But I have a question. You wrote that Frank committed suicide because he stopped eating until he died. Do you think that it was actually a deliberate, conscious act on his part or were there mitigating circumstances such as mental confusion, physical suffering, ignorance of Church teaching, etc.”

__________________________

“Hi Doug,

Thank you for your interest and questions.

I don’t know but I doubt that Frank knew the Church’s position on suicide. We never discussed it. He did repent but he had a humorous way of expressing it. IF I DID ALL THE THINGS THEY ALLEGE THAT I DID AND I HAD TO DO THEM OVER I WOULDN’T DO THEM. THERE IS NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT THE WAR PREPARED HIM for crime. It was the hardest thing to get him to speak about. He sought Absolution from three priests and got it. The last thing he and I did on tape was a Hail Mary and Lord’s Prayer. At his suggestion. But he struggled with the words.

A few years ago the Pope publicly asked Mafia figures to repent. I wished I could have told him at the time of Frank’s having already done so.

Regards,

Charlie”

“Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let thy perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.”

“Seeds of the Logos”

Our Socratic forbears taught us through their “Seeds of the Logos” that the reasoning man does not have to be an expert in a given field to be able to make a competent judgment regarding whether he is dealing with leaders whose advice he should heed or reject as fraudulent. Frauds demand absolute faith in their claims, treating the confused doubter with contempt for his invincible ignorance. Such imposters may seriously believe that they are omniscient experts. But when they tell young or otherwise healthy persons that they are in the same condition as the weakest of the elderly or the already ill; when they say that in order to protect itself the vast mass of the population has to abandon its livelihood, the well-being of its country, the cultural life of its civilization, and the tools required for its eternal salvation they must be dismissed for what they actually are: quacks.

Rehumanize the Unborn

On this day (May 1) 55 years ago, LIFE published Lennart Nilsson’s groundbreaking photo essay “The Drama of Life Before Birth.” It was the first-ever photographic fetal development timeline, featuring children of varying ages after they were miscarried or aborted. 

To capture the images, Nilsson worked closely with the head of a women’s clinic at a hospital in Stockholm, who would call him within hours of an unborn child’s death so he could come in and photograph them. Only one of the images (the third photo here, on the spread that says “The Drama of Life Before Birth”) features a living child, 15 weeks old; it was taken with a wide-angle endoscopic camera. This image was the first published photograph of a fetal human being taken inside the womb.

In an article in The Guardian, Charlotte Jansen describes the now-iconic magazine cover: “In full colour and crystal clear detail, the picture showed a foetus in its amniotic sac, with its umbilical cord winding off to the placenta. The unborn child, floating in a seemingly cosmic backdrop, appears vulnerable yet serene. Its eyes are closed and its tiny, perfectly formed fists are clutched to its chest.”

Nilsson considered himself apolitical. He took these photos without any abortion-related agenda in mind. However, these photos revolutionized the way people see life before birth, and whether Nilsson intended them to or not, they rehumanized the tiniest members of our human family. #prolife #onthisdayinhistory