St. Paul of the Cross and The Minimalists

Three hundred years ago, St. Paul of the Cross told us of the importance of living simply:

“…together with perfect observance of his evangelical counsels, especially by total detachment from all created things with the perfect practice of holy poverty, so essential for the observance of the other counsels.” (Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, Vol 1, p5)

In today’s TEDxWhitefish talk Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus put the same idea in contemporary language. After watching this video, I signed up to follow their blog, The minimalist.

The Cold Shoulder

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

Many of us have developed the knack of “the cold shoulder”.   That is, we go up to the edge of the impermissible in our personal relationships, and feel fairly good about it. For we have both satisfied an inner urge of ours, for example, to “get even” with another, while not going so far as for it to be evident to another that I have a grudge against him or her. That can be called: “the cold shoulder.”

The hypocrisy in this relies on appearances. For we appear in one way, exhibiting politeness in behaving properly and appropriately, while the hidden truth of the matter is that it is improper and even wrong, since we intend “to get even”, and so we can feign surprise if accused of acting inappropriately or wrongly. Often even the victim of our cold shoulder may not be sure any slight is intended, though a suspicion may linger, to that effect. But the victim may try to be overly suspicious.

As an instance of hypocrisy, the cold shoulder is a mixture of good and evil. There’s not enough good submerged in such a mode of action to make the perpetrator of it to feel sufficiently at ease with it, but, on the other hand it’s not clearly evident that anything evil is hidden within it. For the cold shoulder can be a lukewarm response to another’s overture, or a veiled remark that can have a double meaning, in a given situation, with retaliation as a possibility. Of course, such a remark or action may be accurately perceived by another, who can then respond “in kind”, so as to bring the whole exchange out into the open. Should that happen, then duplicity and hiddenness give way to blatent hostility.

Some of us are skilled at avoiding open confrontation and any obvious display of displeasure or anger at another, while developing a skill at getting back at another. As suggested, this may not clearly offend another, but it may generate suspicion.   A manufactured posture of indifference to another can be perfected into an art form designed to cover up hostility or anger, and this is what the cold shoulder means.

When perfected, the cold shoulder can be denied, unlike an open display of anger or upsetness, which is apparent to all. That is the inner evil of the cold shoulder—its attempt at hiding the evil intent involved by an ostensible façade of innocence. Indeed, when successfully implemented, it can feign ignorance or innocence by asking: is there something wrong? And this is the root problem of the cold shoulder: hypocrisy, pretending innocence even while intending a slight or even vengeance against another, at least to the extent of leaving another ill at ease in a situation.

It is one thing to engage in evil openly, to the point where it cannot be denied, regardless of any subterfuge employed to cover it up; so one is caught in the act. But it is another, and more serious matter, to attempt covering up the evil intended by assuming the guise of innocence. This adds duplicity to a relationship already listing toward shipwreck, so that it is the duplicity that emerges as the greater problem in the situation.

Should another feel a chill developing in a personal relationship, a suspicion may emerge that something deep is involved that cannot be surfaced; an element of irreversibility threatens the breakdown of the relationship. Hypocrisy adds the element of untruthfulness to a situation that muddies a situation that otherwise might have been brought to light and clarified, identified and confronted rather than remaining hidden, and so temporarily smoothed over, like a cancer escaping detection. Would it not be better to have the cancer diagnosed and exposed, rather than to have it elude discovery and leave everyone guessing?

If the device of the cold shoulder is utilized too often, it can atrophy and disable the use of one’s shoulder for better purposes than “getting even”.


You Called?

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

In Sunday’s first reading, God calls Samuel as he slept in the temple of the Lord where the Ark of God was when God called so distinctly he thought it was Eli who he reported to. “Here I am. You called me?” Eli replied: “I didn’t call you my son. Go back to sleep.” (1 SM 3:5) God’s call was so distinct it woke him from sleep. Would it be possible for God to speak as distinctly to us?


In his Conversations with God series, Neale Donald Walsch tells us that God talks to us, we have to learn to listen. It is possible to develop a friendship with God as your conversation with God matures.


“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (JN 1:1) Word must have an intellect behind it in order to be word and a receptive intellect in front of it to receive the word. Word only becomes word in the function of communication one intellect to another.


Man being created in the image and likeness of God can dialogue with himself just as God did in the beginning.


The world is built so that you see whatever you believe. So the world confirms whatever you believe. The only way to grow and travel a path beyond your beliefs is to add faith, hope or/and love. Adding faith hope and/or love to your dialogue with yourself is prayer and God’s response can be heard.

How to Save Rainforests


The Sierra Club, founded in 1892 published Passionst, Fr. Thomas Berry’s The Dream of the Earth in 1988. Almost 30 years later, the world continues to learn more about this beautiful home of which Thomas wrote.


Reading Berry’s book, awoke me to the evidence that the earth is being crucified today. That led to a promise in my first covenant with the Partners, to do whatever I could to share this new found information. I find it encouraging that Tasso Azevedo in the above TED Talk continues this agenda of bringing awareness to our mother earth’ s plight.

How to Make Music

Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Father Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

What makes music? Rhythm and Melody. Could there be music without rhythm? Could there be music without melody? Are they equally important or is one more important than the other for music?

Imagine a rhythm piece with no melody. Of course, rhythm can stand alone. A standard example of this is marching. Military personnel march, and do so rhythmically. There is no need for music to make for a good marching group. The sound of feet rhythmically pounding the surface simultaneously needs no musical accompaniment to constitute a march, providing the unity characteristic of a march. The Ziegfield Follies can illustrate rhythm at work without music when forty nine out of the fifty girls on stage all lift their right legs together, in contrast to one girl instructed to lift her left leg at the same time. Disharmony is immediately evident to the theater audience, but not for lack of melody. Rhythm has its own rationale but is it music?

Though rhythm can take place without any musical instrument, often the drum accompanies and indeed galvanizes rhythm. The drum intensifies the dynamic associated with rhythm, and seems to add an element of “feel” to bodily motion like marching. In recent and contemporary music, the drum has assumed an ever more prominent role, to the point that sometimes a piece of current “music” features a drum solo as its significant piece. The drum beat is especially conducive to many forms of modern dancing. While the audio component of drum rhythm is evident, there is also a tangible, “feelable” dimension constitutive of it. We note this in some recent high-powered automobiles speeding along our neighborhood streets, windows closed, yet emitting a strong vibrating sound as it passes by. The appeal of much contemporary music depends on its rhythm, and its tangible, bodily component.

But is it music? Is it possible to sing a drum solo in the shower? Can we call anything music if it can’t be vocalized? To speak of dancing exclusively in terms of rhythm seems highly problematic, despite the compatibility of the two.

Most of us likely look for melody when we think of music, perhaps even more than when we think of rhythm. When we use the word “song”, as in recalling our favorite song, we usually have in mind some notion of melody, more than we do of rhythm. When we sing in the shower, it is the melody that we vocalize, though undoubtedly rhythmic in tone and quality. The rhythm has to be there, but the focus for most of us is the melody.

There is a difference between them, and possibly an inequality bound up with that difference. For rhythm can survive and even thrive without melody, but melody cannot survive at all without rhythm. To think of melody without rhythm is to imagine a series of sounds, even if accompanied by words, but lacking the shape or format that seems necessary for singing it as a melody.   Would it not rather be cacophony, “without rhyme or reason”, as they say? Melody indeed adds color and flavor to music, but, like color, for instance, it needs a framework in which to present itself. Otherwise, it is like a spilled paint-can spreading out over the floor, without rhyme or reason. Melody without rhythm is like spice indiscriminately sprinkled over a food dish with no measure indicating too much or too little. It will not be tasty. It is impossible to dance to a melody with no rhythm.

What does all this mean? To lead one’s life solely in terms of a rhythm is to do so in terms of a drumbeat which controls one’s movements and actions. For some religious believers, this means honoring the beat delivered exclusively in terms of the commandments. There’s certainly rhythm there, but it tends to be of a mathematical kind, as we measure according to the beat resounding in the first, second, third, etc., commandments. This is orderly, and provides a sense of movement in one’s life. But there may be a lack of color, or taste, or beauty, or melody in one’s life. On the other hand, to live one’s life solely in terms of melody, without any rhythm to it at all, is to attempt a shapeless routine involving a combination of sounds, but this may resemble a baby pounding the keys of a piano. Ideally, pursuing a life of love nicely promises a combination of rhythm and melody.   Then one’s life becomes music.



Where is Your Kingdom?

Dave O'Donnell
Dave O’Donnell

“All man’s unhappiness stems from his inability to stay in a room alone.” (Pascal)

“The most important relationship to get right is your relationship with yourself so that all other relationships can be a plus and not a must.” (Diane Von Fursteinburg)

“Man’s heart is restless until it rest in God.” (Augustine)

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be given…” (Jesus)

Each one of these statements points to what Jesus in the gospels refers to as the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven.

The author of Zealot Rega Aslan questioned whether Jesus had a definite idea of what the kingdom of God really was because he used the term in so many different ways. My question for all is: “What does the kingdom of heaven (god) mean to you or where can we find it?”

Going Nowhere


“If I want to change my life, I best start with changing my mind.” Words of Pico Iyer in today’s TED Talk selection. This world traveler and travel writer tells us of the importance of going nowhere in our lives.


For years I’ve know of the importance of sitting quietly and doing nothing, i.e. meditating, but in all honesty have excused myself from the activity with the excuse that I didn’t have the time. Lately, I’ve been taking the time, sitting quietly doing nothing and going nowhere after 15 minutes of prayer and I’m amazed at the new sense of serenity and direction it has given me.