Women are beautiful. I love them all. I love the way they smile. A lovely, happy woman with a beautiful smile is good for the soul. That is all I have to say for tonight.
Recently I have been cleansing my living space of all unnecessary clutter. After a few years, the clutter had built up to quite monstrous proportions. In many ways, this clutter was a reflection of my life, my state of mind, and perhaps even the state of my soul. For years I have been wanting to clean it out, throw it away, and return to a more simple existence. I have wanted to get rid of all the excess junk that has been holding me down, both physically, mentally and spiritually. Yet I was unable to do so. Only after my heart attack last month have I found the strength to do so. Cleansing my life of all unnecessary or stressful items, renewing my life, is now a top priority of mine.
In my cleaning, I came across a box of things (one of dozens of such boxes) and began to go through the material. What I found lying at the bottom was interesting: in image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Now, for those of you who are not Catholics, this is a very Catholic devotion. It can be traced back to the Middle Ages, if not before, but it since 1856 the Church has devoted a special Feast day to the Sacred Heart, nineteen days after Pentecost. A French nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a mystic, was in instrumental in elevating the Sacred Heart to a major devotion within the Church. It is also practiced, by the way, by some Anglicans and Lutherans.
For those who are not Catholic, this devotion might seem strange. What is it? Basically, to quote Wikipedia, “The devotion especially emphasizes the unmitigated love, compassion, and long-suffering of the heart of Christ towards humanity.” The image of the Sacred Heart is usually represented in art work and statuary thus (again, from Wikipedia): “The Sacred Heart is often depicted in Christian art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, encircled by the crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding. Sometimes the image is shown shining within the bosom of Christ with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns allude to the manner of Jesus’ death, while the fire represents the transformative power of divine love.” Below is a photo of what is perhaps the most famous building devoted to the Sacred Heart, Sacre Coeur, The Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris. It has a prominent place among all the beautiful buildings in that city.
That sums up nicely the spiritual meaning behind this old devotion. For me, it was deeply moving to come across this image which I had laid aside years ago, perhaps decades ago, and totally forgotten about. It had lain unnoticed, totally covered with clutter, at the bottom of some box. Then, after my heart attack, and in cleaning up my life in response to that, I once again find this wonderful image. I do not think such things are coincidences. Now, as someone with heart disease, which will affect me for the rest of my life, I have rediscovered this ancient Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has tremendous meaning for me. Those who are not Catholic would think it strange; even many Catholics might be turned off by this common devotion, but now I have found it, and I believe God wanted me to find it. I keep a photo of this close by me at all times now, that, and my rosary.
As a heart attack victim, as someone with a permanently damaged heart, I pray and hope my new found devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus will allow me to draw closer to Christ, deepen my spiritual self, and lead a better life, filled with love and kindness and compassion towards others. I can only thank God for that.
Last month I suffered a heart attack and nearly died. If I had not gotten to the hospital in time and received good care, the outcome would have been, well, not good. I thank God for that. This was a total surprise for me, since I am healthy, work out hard at the gym six days a week, have good cholesterol levels, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, and no family history of heart disease. I suppose stress is something I do suffer from, but since being diagnosed with depression a year and half ago and then receiving treatment for that, my stress levels have gone down. Still, the whole thing was a complete shock. I can only thank God to still be alive.
In times of need, or of great stress, my belief in God is indispensable. How can I even describe the healing effects of prayer, of belief, and trusting in God? It is hard to. All that I know is that my faith sustains me in times of great peril. When it comes to faith and spirituality, I do not want to engage in polemics over doctrine or social issues, I do not want to listen to people complain about how horrible the world is or how this or that religion have gone down the tubes, no, for me faith is simply believing and trusting in God. Faith to me is trying to be as close to God as possible. Faith to me is loving those around you, and caring for each other. Engaging in religious battles is way too destructive for me, way too stressful, and for the rest of my life I need to keep my stress levels down. Each day for me is now precious; each sunrise is a gift to me, each person I meet or engage in is something I could very well have lost a few weeks ago. Being near to death sharpens the spiritual soul.
This whole experience has had a profound impact on me, and my life will never be the same now. I just beginning to learn the different ways this has changed me.
Prayer is so important. When stressed, I find prayer a wonderful panacea. I believe that my prayers helped save my life during my heart attack: for two days I was unsure what was going on, but I did pray to God for help and guidance; even if they had not, my prayers would have helped me leave this world in a way that would have prepared me for the next. Prayer calms the mind, the heart, the soul, and it helps us in so many ways. There are many different forms of prayer, each religion, each culture, each civilization has developed their particular methods of prayer. But I think all of them have something in common: the ability to touch the divine, spiritual world through our minds and hearts and souls and commune with God. When that happens, the world is better, brighter and more wonderful. And when the darkness does come, and it will for all of us, in one form or another, prayer is a medicine unlike any other for coping with whatever tragedy we have suffered. Without prayer, my life would be so much poorer.
Finally, there is something beautiful about prayer, about seeking and searching for divine things, about trying to live your life in harmony with the spiritual side of our world. We can pray at any time of the day, anywhere, without cost, and with great benefits. I urge everyone to develop a spiritual life of prayer according to his or her own desires and personality. It just helps in so many ways.
I thank God that I have always had a religion that encourages and supports a rich prayer life. It is easy as a Catholic to find many different resources for prayer. Now, after my life altering event of last month, these things are even more important to me than before. I am on a new journey, and I trust in God that He will lead me to where I am supposed to be.
This is one of my favorite poems, by the great Victorian poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892). It is a lyric from a longer poem of his, “The Princess”. I don’t think many people read “The Princess: today, but this little lyric has more than stood the test of time. It was and remains one of Tennyson’s most beautiful and popular poems. There is a haunting melancholy of a lost past conveyed by the lines. Apparently Tennyson was inspired to write this poem while visiting the ruins of Tintern Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery abandoned in 1536 during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Catholic monasteries in England. For some reason the ruins of this former Abbey inspired many with romantic nostalgia for the England’s Catholic past: Wordsworth also wrote a famous poem about this very same place, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.”
Tennyson was the essence of the Victorian poet: upright, traditional, and deeply in love with Britain and the British past. Today he is not nearly as popular as he was in his heyday (he was the poet laureate of Great Britain), but I have always found his poetry to be rich, spiritual and wonderfully lyrical. T.S. Eliot considered him one of the great masters of words and sounds and rhythms in English poetry, and this poem is a fine example of that. In addition to his lyrical brilliance, Tennyson was also a deeply depressive man, and much of his poetry reflects a state of despair and sadness that permeated his life. As someone who had dealt with deep melancholy myself, this is probably one of the reason I have always enjoyed his poetry. In my hunger for beautiful things Tennyson’s poetry is more than satisfying.
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.
Sometimes it is good to remember this aspect of sex and sexual pleasure too. After all, sex ultimately exists to keep the human race going. The pleasure part is only one reason to have sex, albeit an extremely important one. Bonding with another person is also an important reason for sex. And then there is the transmission of life. It is something we share with all other mammals. It is important never to forget, in our technologically sophisticated world, that we are in the end still creatures of the earth. As we say on Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church, when receiving ashes on the forehead, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, an ancient phrase that has lost none of its meaning in our modern world.
Recently after my close call with death I have become more appreciative of the fragility of life, and how much of a miracle it is simply for a woman to get pregnant and give birth. When you start to think of it, it is fairly amazing. And how important are the bonds between a mother and child? I suppose most of our ability to love and express love with others is somehow related to what we share with our parents, the people who created us, gave us life, and cared for us when we were younger. Of course not everyone has the same experience; sometimes, indeed too often, these relationships are not good, but nevertheless the simple biology of procreation is still something to be amazed at.
There is beauty in all aspects of life. The sheer miracle of it all helps me to sustain my belief in God, and how wonderful our world can be. Love is the guiding force of life we all need to partake of more often.
Recently I have realized that most if not all of my photos are of white women. This is a serious lapse of judgement on my part, since, as a man devoted to the appreciation of feminine beauty, all parts of the world are filled with wonderfully beautiful women. Now, I admit I do feel a particular attraction to the white woman, being white myself, but I also enjoy and appreciate women of all different races and ethnic backgrounds. Each part of the world has its own unique types of beauty. They all deserve, even need, to be celebrated. A man should always be open to cultivating his taste in all types of women.
So here is a toast to starting off the new year with a celebration of all the various forms of female beauty the world has to offer. God was good when he created so many different types of women! I love them all!
Here is nice little poem by Robert Frost. Frost has always been one of my favorite poets. His use of the traditional English metrics is nice and his rustic imagery is always endearing. As someone born and bred in New Hampshire, Frost’s poems were always part of the landscape.
Anyway, this poem is appropriate for winter: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Enjoy. I provided the text below. It is always nice to listen to a great poet reciting some great poetry.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Another year begins. What will this year bring? I hope good things, for all of us! Hope, one of the three cardinal virtues, along with Faith and Love, is a wonderful thing. Certain aspects of my faith are in question for me at the moment, but I still firmly believe in the power of Hope and Love. And after having experienced a close call with death recently, I have a renewed appreciation of the power of Faith, Hope and Love. I have a renewed appreciation of every precious moment of life, and of living it well.
And Beauty, yes, I believe in the power of Beauty. What is life without beauty. What is life without the beauty of nature, of art and literature and music and painting and poetry and sculpture and all the other things that touch our souls in the deepest ways, things that seem to have their ultimate origin in the loving creation of God. And for me, and for many of my readers, feminine beauty is one of the highest forms of beauty God has created. So, with my renewed appreciation of life, I will continue to celebrate all these things on this blog during the coming year.
Yes, Happy New Year!!!