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iPhone photo taken on 12/22/20

On the evening of December 21st, we were witness to the rare “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. The astrophysical phenomenon is a function of orbital mechanics whereby their rotations around the Sun produces an apparent visual separation of just .102 degrees at very predictable intervals.

While the conjunction of the two gas giants happens every 20 years, it is quite rare to have a visual separation this small. The last one like it took place on March 5th, 1226. What that practically means is that these two largest planets in our Solar System appear to the eye as one bright celestial object. With so small a visual arc of separation, both planets can be seen in the same field of view in the lens of a telescope.

Astronomers speculate that the “ Star of Bethlehem” may well have been a conjunction like the one seen in these last few days before Christmas. Visible in the southwest sky around 6:30 pm, the conjunction was most dramatic on the 21st of this month ( the date of the Winter Solstice).

Sky conditions on the 21st, unfortunately, made it impossible for me to spot it. However, I did get that chance to view it on the 22nd. This occasion was made all the more exciting for me as I did so with my two and a half year old granddaughter, Zoey Ava, her mom and dad, and Linda.

Zoey had no idea why Pop-Pop was all worked up about going outside in the cold to look to the southwest sky, but she eagerly joined me anyway. We enjoyed taking in the neighbors’ displays of Christmas lights along the way.

The word “planet” derives from the Greek, planetes, meaning wanderer, and it struck me that this is an apt characterization of all creatures. We are all of us moving through space-time in an expanding cosmic web wrapped in profound mystery.

Gazing at Jupiter and Saturn, our vision reaches out to points of reflected light coming from some 365 and 746 million miles away, respectively. While that may be a remarkable thing to ponder in itself, what is truly astonishing is that all of the drama is actually happening right here inside of each of us.

We are, after all, the stuff of stars made conscious. The elements of which we are made were forged in thermonuclear stellar explosions in a distant history. Here we were, just days before Christmas 2020, drawn to look out into the grand enigma to celebrate products of the same origins as we.

From the vantage point of consciousness, all that seeming distance between us and the planets and the stars is totally irrelevant. Thinking in terms of inside/ outside, or above/below is but the product of dualistic illusion. A quote from St Francis leaps to mind: “What you are looking for is what is looking.” We are indeed privileged participants in a grand entanglement.

As Zoey and the family walked to find a good angle from which to see the conjunction unobstructed and out of the glare of street lights, one of my favorite Christmas Carols leapt to mind: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky”.

My daughter spotted directly overhead another bright object. It was Mars with its unmistakable red hue making a bold appearance. We were treated to a planetary triptych.

Zoey picked up on my sense of the thrill of the moment. My enthusiasm was certainly further aroused by the fact that we will not see a conjunction this unusual again in our lifetimes. It was a one off for us and so it was particularly auspicious.

Despite the dazzling bright display in the sky on this crisp and clear night, it paled by comparison to the the sparkle in Zoey’s eyes. She had no need of understanding. It was sufficient to be present, under the canopy of heaven, as we gazed at the spectacle together. Thus, the moment was made holy.

I imagine it was just so for the Magi.

They were drawn toward mystery but not motivated to do so alone. The magic of the moment was that they each joined with two other like-minded wanderers. In the annual telling of the tale, three of them made the journey east: a mystical number indeed. The prize, on arrival, was “ Emmanuel”- God with Us.

Zoey and I, Linda, Stephan, and Kristen walked in the Spirit of the Living God. Love transfigured the night air, warming the chilly evening, and elevating it all to something so much greater.

where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

We Franciscans often chant the “ Ubi Caritas”: “ Where charity and love prevail, there our God is found. “

Amen. Merry Christmas!

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians5:17-18

Physical measurement systems “ drift” and require regular recalibration. This drift in sensitivity and accuracy is often a function of heat and other changes in ambient conditions. Our psychical system is not so terribly different.

We need frequent tuning. We drift off the mark. We need “standards” against which to assess the degree to which our inner compass is reading true. For that, we need guides, brothers and sisters who can listen and help us navigate back to “ true north”. This is a core pillar of our Rule of Life.

A relevant lesson for me goes back many years to the 1990s. On a clear and quite frigid Winter’s Day in Anchorage AK, I rented a Cessna from Merrill Field with intent to travel North to the staging area of Mt. McKinley, the small town of Talkeetna.

I wasn’t long out of Anchorage when ATC contacted me to check in on my direction. It seems I was off my published flight path by more than a little. I should have been heading North but was actually heading East: an error about which I was totally unaware.

After a few back and forth adjustments, we came to the conclusion that my Directional Gyro was defective. We made the needed recalibration and off I went.

On arrival at Talkeetna, I met an unassuming and affable aviation mechanic who replaced the DG while my wife and I went to lunch. He charged me nothing for the help. ( I discovered later that he was a quite famous pilot himself).

I learned something about DGs that day, but also about the virtues of having extra eyes on my flight path and the support of fellow pilots. One should never fly alone!

In the same way, travel along the spiritual path takes a vibrant and engaged community. Our brothers and sisters are there to help us recalibrate to be sure our own inner DG isn’t off the mark. [By the way, trade secret, it always is! ]

How often do we need a tune up psychically?

In our Third Order, the minimum check-up period is annual. In my experience, it is best to seek reconciliation monthly. For the same reason, we must ALL have a Spiritual Director with whom we connect regularly ( monthly or bimonthly).

The “ drift” in calibration of the soul’s compass is as much a function of heat as that in physical systems: the passions, the conflicts, the habits of mind and body, and all of our addictions and attachments.

In these last few days of Advent, my one question is simple: Is my DG up to snuff as I lean toward Bethlehem?

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A constant fidelity in small things is a great virtue.

St. Bonaventure

Striving to make a difference is indeed among the noblest of pursuits. Those doing so among us stand out, now with special luminance, given the contrast with the daily displays of flagrant public narcissism and studied indifference.

As the dawn of Christmastide approaches, I find myself reflecting on a special form of difference making: the subtle generosity of attention to the little details.

Standing so much taller than grand magnanimity are the small gestures of quiet kindness, conscientiousness and authentic regard. These cost nothing and take no time. They require no ornate wrapping nor a well fashioned card announcing the gift-giver. Not seeking reciprocity nor even notice, these are the quintessential Moments of Christ.

The opening quote by The Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure, captures the heart of this virtue: “fidelity in small things”. This is the discipline that ensures the vitality of the wellspring of kindness.

If we learned this, we did so very early. We were encouraged to pay attention to such detail as: putting things back where they belong after using them, being timely, clearing away one thing before taking on another, listening completely before speaking, and being quick to praise and slow to criticize.

A resonant feature of religious life is fidelity to the small points of our rule of life. We recite the Office unhurriedly each day. We stop to pray throughout the day regardless of the press of business. We see the person before we see the urgent task. We delight in seeing someone and letting them know it before we get down to the work of the moment. We think of one another each night before bed.

Right order and pacing are essential ingredients to having space in our heads and hearts for our sisters and brothers. The true aptitude of “ obedience” in the Spirit is rooted in an enthusiastic readiness to be open to the next moment of Christ. Such faithfulness to the small things is surely prerequisite to fully seeing, receiving and celebrating the miraculous.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”.

Ephesians 1:18

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Truest Gift

In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended but a gift to be shared.

Henri Nouwen

In this Holiday Season, we spend a lot of time looking to get those we love something special. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give is our time. There is no greater gift than undistracted attention. A kind heart, one ready to celebrate what is beautiful in someone else is the highest form of priesthood.

Peace

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The more we can strengthen our sense of identity with all humanity, the more we extend our sense of territory from our homeland to the planet, the less likely we are to be possessed by the archetypes of war.

Carl G. Jung

Father of Analytic Paychology, Carl Jung, wrote compellingly of the cultivation of “ global consciousness”. This refers to a growing sense of being an “earthling” inspiring fidelity to the common cause of protecting our planet. I recall John Lennon’s “Imagine” that celebrated the vision of no divisions among us whatsoever.

To see the world in the depths of its true interdependencies is to break through to the next stage in our evolution as a species. This is epitomized by Jesus forgiving his murderers from the Cross and his prior admonition to Peter to put away his sword in an attempt to defend Jesus upon his arrest at Gethsemane.

These Gospel moments of truth echo the graciousness of the Living God in passing by Moses, admonishing him to close his eyes, as God voices His name:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… .

Exodus 34:6–7

Our baser nature swiftly goes to war with this mindset. Tribalism kicks in swiftly to push away as quaint, impractical and hyper-idealistic folly the idea that we can ever really live among our brothers and sisters ( human and otherwise) with genuine agape.

The meaning of Koinonia is a community defined by love. It is the emergence of the Kingdom of God in the here and now rather than positing the celestial city as a never quite reachable asymptote that we get to enter in the next life.

Our spiritual practice and disciplines, if rightly oriented, should be a perpetual conditioning of the Heart that leads to the inevitable eruption of true Koinonia NOW!

The goal is a “boundarylessness” that recognizes ourselves as a part of a global family of sentient life. The deeper our maturation in this direction the more we are inspired to do more to further the common good. Everything else is “ daemonic” inflation and projection of ego. It is transcending the territoriality of ego that Jung is speaking about.

If our way forward is true, we cultivate a discernment that moves us to expressions of wise compassion. The counterfeit egoistic variant has been called “ idiot compassion”.

Idiot compassion is rooted in a doing that is motivated by actually avoiding the pain of others. Finding it unbearable, we give to others at a distance to push inconvenient suffering away from ourselves. Such self-serving compassion seeks to avoid conflict and discomfort and often appeases sin and becomes codependent. This is an acquiescence to what is wrong-spirited.

True Koinonia is a sense of unity and fellowship with eyes wide open. It expresses itself as an openness to receive the moment and to respond out of true love to challenge what is not wholesome.

Jesus did this throughout his ministry. Global consciousness rooted in killing the ego does not lead to universal glad-handing and acceptance of things as they are. This perpetuates a false, hollow and tenuous peace.

Wise compassion is quick to confront the darkness and to starve it of oxygen while celebrating the One Light among us in everything we say and do. Combat does not dissolve away as no longer necessary.

What changes is our understanding of the combatants. It is not our brothers or sisters with whom we go to war. Instead, we boldly stand against the sinful conditions ( a plague of “ isms) that combine to produce an atrophy of the soul and a gathering darkness : (e.g., fascism, racism, sexism, narcissism, nationalism, and consumerism).

As we step onto the next rungs of the ladder of God’s graces, we survey a wider landscape into which we are called to project wise compassion. In this state, wanting indeed becomes absurdity.

Want is rooted in the insatiable hungry sense of need that stimulates an unwholesome and jealous competition. Tribalism rises as we see “ them and us” everywhere. We strive to “ protect our own” rather than to protect us all.

I turn to this Examen of consciousness as we approach the end of Advent and the arrival of Christmastide.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Often, the title phrase, attributed to St Francis, is completed, “ and, if necessary, use words”. Franciscan scholars generally find no support for the attribution. In fact, the phrase has been variously attributed to others. What is well documented is that Francis admonishes his followers to preach always in all that they say and do.

It strikes me that what matters is twofold: (1) words and deeds should faithfully mirror each other; and, (2) both should emerge from a deep interior Spirit-filled well .

Our shadowy times are a study in the very opposite condition. Words are spoken by ideologues primarily as instruments of artifice. Often, it seems clear that they themselves don’t believe what they are saying. The words are essentially vacuous talking points. These ideological acolytes and their dedicated listeners are content to blissfully wade in the shallows.

In its celebration of Light, this Holy Season poses a critical question: From where do our words arise?

Are our words just an exercise in lean verbiage for the sake of being heard: clever but hollow sophistries at best having only the appearance of plausibility? Or, are they more deeply rooted in insight and prayerful reflection?

Are our words the stuff of other people’s thinking that we feel compelled to repeat (made loud in our minds by their reputation and powers of persuasion) ? Or, are they the product of disciplined self-examination and personal experience.

Reflecting on the frequently referenced quote, though likely mis-attributed to St Francis, is nonetheless useful. It reminds me to look into the source of my words rather than to avoid using them. In this way, words can be made ever better and clearer expressions of authentic experience and meaning.

Many words are beautiful (especially in the hands of poets and mystics). In such instances, they become evocative signposts encouraging the deeper journey of discovery. They invite the listener to plumb the depths of mysteries themselves with mind, heart and will wide open.

This evening, I hear say Francis saying: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and in all ways … so that thoughts, words and deeds flow together in praise of the Light.’

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mary Mallon was an Irish cook who was responsible for infecting 53 people with Typhoid fever in the early 1900s. She was forcibly quarantined not once, but twice, as an asymptomatic carrier of the illness.

Mary persistently refused to accept responsibility for being a vector of the bacterial infection. She refused to acknowledge her condition even after numerous positive lab tests. Like today’s Republicans, facts were inconsequential. On the contrary, she complained bitterly that she was being victimized. This is a bit like those who complain that their rights are being assaulted when mandated to wear a mask.

What earned her the nickname was her complete disregard for the illness and death that she caused. After release from quarantine the first time, she changed her name and returned to cooking ( despite having agreed to not do so as a condition of release). Having infected others, she was arrested and quarantined once again. Mary’s selfish mindset is now being boldly replayed by virtually the entire Republican Party.

Republican governors and congressional representatives politicized mask wearing with intent to deliberately foster widespread infection. This was all in the pursuit of the so-called herd immunity scenario. Tragically, reaching that goal would require the loss of more of our sisters and brothers than any other nation. These cold-hearted monsters were ok with that. We have reached 3500 deaths in the last 24 hours!

This is sociopathic behavior perpetrated on a National scale.

It amplifies the flagrant disregard for human life and absence of personal responsibility of Mary Mallon. It does so by a factor of 5850!

She killed 53 people. We have suffered the loss of 310065 souls as of today, and Trump and his party have nothing whatsoever to say about that. Fifty three deaths in the early 1900s was considered an atrocity. How far the value of life has fallen!

US Republican political leaders are guilty of negligent homicide.

Their flagrant denial of science and medical expertise is the most grotesque form of political malfeasance. The evidence is becoming clear that the Whitehouse deliberately strong-armed the CDC. In doing so, they have blood on their hands and should be charged with crimes against humanity for gaming the Nation and playing with the lives of men, women and children ( see the James Clyburn memo).

We need a post- inaugural commission to investigate what is unsurprisingly coming to light about the deliberate choices that this Whitehouse made to “sit out” enacting a National strategy anchored in public health best practices. I have no doubt that much more will be coming out in the weeks and months to come that will make clear the true depths of the National blight of the Trump era.

Our dead deserve justice. Those who acted with such blatant disregard for human life need to pay a price for doing so. It doesn’t appear that that will come in the form of a high political cost. Republicans may, when all is said and done in Georgia, succeed in retaining the Senate majority. They also won back most of their Senate seats and did pretty well in the House.

Absent a high political cost, one hopes that the lives of our deceased will nonetheless be honored with justice. This should happen through more than the offer of prayers and best wishes, and moving cathedral bell-ringing ( though that’s all lovely). We need indictments of those cruel officials whose deliberate choices lead directly to untimely and unnecessary loss of life. These malicious officials should, at the very least, feel profound shame at the consequences of their action and inaction.

This Holiday Season is awash in far too many tears at the loss of dear ones. It did not have to be this bad.

Competent and caring leadership would have produced a very different outcome. We should be ashamed at the state of our country’s health when compared with that of other Nations where action was swift, decisive and way more effective.

Shame on Donald Trump, his Cabinet, and the complicit Senate Republicans! History will be unkind to them. It will speak of the legacy of these years with reference to corruption, hatred, violence, atrocity, unmanaged pandemic, fascism, and the weakening of democracy and global alliances.

Trump defined himself as a “stable genius”! So, I suppose Stalin was deeply compassionate? I can’t wait for the National nightmare to end, though I fully recognize that it only recedes for a short while.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Ubiquity

.. the fact that something or someone seems to be everywhere.

Cambridge Dictionary

This is the principal ingredient in the secret sauce that keeps Trumpism alive. Repetition confers the illusion of validity to the inflammatory memes people internalize.

Malignant narcissists are masters of giving truth to lies ( lying so boldly and incessantly that their veracity comes to appear self-evident). Donald Trump commits crimes in plain sight and wraps it in a rhetoric of American virtue. He works hard at only one thing – to be perpetually in the news. Whether negative or otherwise, all press is good press to one like Donald who needs, above all things, to be at the center of the National conversation. This is a lesson for those of us committed to truth and the exercise of authentic leadership.

How can we constructively apply this lesson in practice?

Trumpism needs to be buried under an avalanche of truth-telling. All available and able voices need to join the choir. There is no such thing as over-communicating. There needs to be a detailed strategy and a vigorous storytelling engine for truth telling and a celebration of democracy that commands attention.

From where I sit, Biden needs a Communication Czar who can manage social media content and all vehicles for outreach. This needs to be so much more than a Press Secretary. It should be a cabinet position. In our times, the dark web is a factor that needs to be part of the strategic response to conspiracy theories and counterbalance to false narratives designed to confuse, misdirect and contort the truth.

Over this holiday season, I am embracing the spiritual exercise of being explicit about what I believe and why. Even more importantly, it is the right season for an Examen of consciousness focused on how my beliefs affect my listening. Doing so provides a potent spiritual inoculation against viral messaging untethered from the facts.

May your season be illuminated by the real and the true.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Blessed are they who make peace, for they will be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

We tend to recall the true value of things when we are faced with the threat of their loss. This is what many are experiencing about our once assumed democracy.

The Trump years have revealed a persistent cultural malignancy. Five years of hate-soaked rhetoric and callous disregard for the dignity of persons has reawakened the “shadow”of the Nation. The fragility of the American democratic experiment has been fully exposed. We find ourselves on perilously thin ice.

The Executive Branch and the Senate have been complicit in the raw pursuit of power for power’s sake. Servant leadership has been totally eclipsed by a cruel distemper. We have been witness to the elevation of a latter day “ democratic autocrat,” a replay of the norm-bashing history of Andrew Jackson.

Wrapped in a perverse American Nationalism, Trump’s dark poison awakened a perennial plague. It is a recessive cancer that only needs a big pulpit for a celebrity voice ready to fan the fears of disaffected people. It has once again resurrected the love affair with the idea of the “ elective monarch” that our founders worried about and warned against.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are President and Vice President Elect. Providentially, this sets the stage for a desperately needed correction in the National spirit, a treatment for the cancer. That said, we will hopefully enjoy a season of true remission. But remission does not eliminate the malignancy which can, and likely will, resurface.

The sociopolitical disease has progressed significantly: a virtual stage 4 scenario. We need to watch for the face of the cancer and address it swiftly and with unflinching fervor when it appears. As citizens and patriots, we need to make our voices heard over the unhinged irrational worship of alternative reality.

The Holiday season is a time set aside for the celebration of the light. As a Franciscan, I am called to pursue the way of peace, to seek the best in everyone. We are admonished by our founder to embrace all of our brothers and sisters and to be healers.

How do we heal the cancer of Trumpism and the allure of autocracy (which is clearly alive and well in our Nation despite Trump’s decisive defeat)?

Peacemaking is so much more than a Hallmark card sentiment. It is the antithesis of looking away, ignoring misbehavior, or pretending that there is no lasting illness. It is not merely a neurotic need to just “ smooth things over”. Denial and appeasement are enablers that make more room for the spread of the disease. What we must do is name the “ beast” when we see it (a gift arising from a mature discernment of the spirits).

In caring for souls in fraternal and sororal solidarity, our task is fourfold: (1) a duty to care (enough to directly and proactively engage the darkness); (2) diagnose/ discern where thought and behavior are misguided, unbecoming and inappropriate; (3) act in the service of greater goodness and the protection of innocence; and (4) decisively and affirmatively shun those who eschew personal accountability.

Let’s not forget that Jesus had no hesitation in calling out Pharisees and Sadducees ( learned men of the Temple) as “ hypocrites” and “ vipers”. In offering these thoughts, I also reflect on the counsel of St. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who leads an undisciplined life that is not in keeping with the tradition you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6

Take note of anyone who does not obey the instructions we have given in this letter. Do not associate with him, so that he may be ashamed.

2 Thessalonians 3:14

Trumpism unfortunately appears to know no shame. Like all things evil, it awaits a next shot at ascendency. Those afflicted must be held relentlessly accountable.

The Republican Party has been completely overcome by the spirit of Trumpism. It is wholly corrupted and morally bankrupt. Conservative men and women of good conscience will likely need to form an alternate party in accepting the reality that, after Trump, the once great party of Lincoln is dead.

Saying nothing, doing nothing and just hoping that Trumpism will settle down after the inauguration of a new Administration would be a dangerous and naive complacency. This is especially so when the evil being perpetrated is powered by an unabashed narcissism and greed.

Women and men of peace have equanimity and comity as their goals. Achieving both demands watchfulness for the reappearance of the many-headed hydra of the lesser angels of our nature.

Let us each commit to keeping watch with implacable dedication and keen attention.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

How to Think

At its heart, language is about connecting with others and sharing experiences. Yet, it is, more often as not, a case of fog heaped on top of fog. Subterfuge, ambiguity, misdirection, spin, and intentionally dodging inquiry seem more the point of language these days.

Reason is touted as the one gift that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Truth is, we are not born with reason, but the equipment that makes it possible. Thinking itself is a discipline that requires training over many years.

In university, one of my philosophy professors taught a course entitled “ How to Think”. This course comes back to mind in these days of rampant deceit boldly packaged as high art. It’s objective is clear: the seduction of millions who have been irretrievably duped by one fantastic lie after another. An entire alternative reality has been conjured by the virtually illiterate and unintelligible word salad of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I’ve been thinking that this one course ought to be mandated for high school graduation. Advanced classes in the same should be present in every semester at college as well and built into every other class. All speech and all writing should be interrogated for the presence of one or more logical fallacies. Integrity of thought is the foundation of mature thought and spirituality.

As we await the end of 2020, we see a number of flagrant examples of logical fallacies perpetrated with stunning frequency by a prevaricating Whitehouse. Without the antidote of knowing what these fallacies are, it’s no wonder that millions have been mesmerized by the “ Huckster in Chief”.

Let’s look at just three such fallacies:

1. Unfounded generalization: Yes, bleach will kill a virus. Suggesting that injecting it into our bodies as a prophylactic in the absence of a vaccine is a mind-boggling leap! Yet, we saw cases of self-induced poisonings as some Trump followers took the impulsive Presidential advice at face value.

2. Proof By Assertion: Saying something incessantly is used as its own proof of veracity. Trump and the GOP continue to press the lie of rampant voter fraud and bring frivolous legal challenges to the Biden-Harris victory without any evidence. Some 37 successive losses in the courts, and scathing judicial commentaries on the merits, seem to border on grounds for disbarment of several Trump attorneys ( notably Rudy Giuliani). The histrionic lieutenants of the Trump noise machine simply press on arguing that each loss is further proof of the truth of fraud.

3. Special pleading: This refers to an argument that one is the aggrieved party because of the consequences of one’s own actions. The best example is in today’s news. Trump pouts over his clear loss while arguing he is the victim of a fraud because he cannot possibly lose and would be the winner otherwise. The loss was his own doing, but his argument is that his genius makes clear that something foul is going on.

None of this is to suggest, as partisan critics might quickly complain, that I am suggesting that Trump supporters are “ dumb”. Intelligence is simply not the issue. It’s how our intelligence is focused and used that matters. In a society where news is real-time and social media carries all manner of conspiracy theories, the skills of well honed reasoning have never been so important.

One additional fallacy we see every single day is interpreting the meaning of what someone says out of context. This is a particular favorite of the political establishment, on both sides of the aisle. It usually accompanies the ad hominem attack fallacy: undermining the perceived integrity of a person rather than addressing the facts s/he presents.

There are, by my unofficial count, somewhere in the vicinity of 110 specific types of fallacy. I’ve seen most of them show up repeatedly over the last 5 years. We are all susceptible to their lure. Just knowing that our thinking is prone to them should alert us to be more vigilant seekers after truth.

Integrity of thought is a foundation of living life in good faith with our eyes wide open. It is a foundational virtue (especially in a democracy). We must hold ourselves accountable to cultivate intellectual honesty. Like most things that matter, the discipline is hard to sustain, but the benefits to a life lived authentically are inestimable.

© The Harried Mystic, 2020 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.