Friday, May 17, 2024

in factúra tua (with your doings)

 Three poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez and a short piece by Andrew Olendzki were ready for prison conversation this morning. 





  I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing.

                    And nothing

happens! Nothing...Silence...Waves...


    --Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,

and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?




I Am Not I  


I am not I.

              I am this one

walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,

and whom at other times I forget;

the one who remains silent while I talk,

the one who forgives, sweet, when I hate,

the one who takes a walk when I am indoors,

the one who will remain standing when I die.





New Voice


Whose is this voice? Whence sounds

this voice, celestial and silvery,

which with delicate leaf pierces lightly

the iron silence of my pain!


   Tell me, blue whiteness of the lily,

tell me, light of the morning star,

tell me, coolness of water flowing at evening,

what do you know of this good and simple voice?


   …Voice that bids me turn my eyes, sad

and joyful, upon what golden crystal of glory

in which the angel sings his alleluia!


   …That is from no mouth or lute that there is,

that has come from out of no story…

Whose, whose are you, voice that are not your own?


    (Poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez) 


 We wondered whether there is something to what some call the spiritual realm, the invisible presence of incorporeal accompaniment, the unheard hearing that informs our unconscious deliberations as to how and why to be in a situation or mentality wherein we find ourselves of a moment.

Then, two Pali words:



What’s in a Word?: Hiri and Ottappa

    On not crossing the line    Andrew Olendzki, Summer 2024 


There are two Pali words, hiri and ottappa, that are sometimes rendered as guilt and shame, but I think these are misleading translations and should be abandoned. They are unhelpful partly because they come with a lot of baggage from Christian tradition, and partly because in Buddhist usage these are considered healthy or skillful states rather than unhealthy or unskillful states. 


There is no direct equivalent in English, but I suggest we translate these words as conscience and respect. They are considered mental factors or emotional states that provide for the inner regulation of behavior on the personal and social level, respectively. They are considered the “twin guardians of the world” because they prevent people from committing unethical acts of body, speech, or mind. 


The word hiri suggests the idea that a person would just not do certain things because they know them to be inappropriate and harmful. In common speech we say, “I would be ashamed to do that,” but we don’t mean a person feels the full weight of shame as a psychological burden, only that they intuitively “know better” than to do it. 


We might say they have too much self-respect to transgress beyond a certain point. I might tell little white lies, for example, but would not bring myself to be untruthful about something really consequential. Or I might squash mosquitoes, but my conscience would prevent me from killing a dog or a person. 


The word ottappa takes this into a social realm, where one holds back from certain heinous acts (or words or thoughts) out of a respect for others or for the opinion others have about oneself. That is to say, I would not do something that transgresses a certain shared social ethical standard, and I could not bear it if other people knew what I did (or said or thought). 


The distinction between these two words accounts for why many people have a different standard for their own behavior depending on if it is public or private. We will sometimes do things secretly, if we know we will not get caught, but if on camera or in front of others, we will exhibit better behavior. 


Importantly, both hiri and ottappa have opposite mental factors: ahiri and anottappa, and one or the other pair are always functioning. So any unskillful or unhealthy action involves a temporary suspension of conscience and respect, and the active presence of a lack of conscience and a lack of respect. The guardians are protecting the world from their destructive twin siblings. 



How do we know what is skillful or unskillful when occasions arise inviting a response from us?

Perhaps we not overlook the teaching value of words, words that find their way into poems, words that curl through philosophical musings, words that sit in quiet corners of our consciousness and look at what is passing by us, passing through us.

Are we accompanied?

What might we say?

What might be being said?

How is what is being conveyed to and through us to be construed? 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

out into night

 Bells for compline

Vox dei

The saying of sound

With sound itself

all things are one body with the human

Where does the body end and the cosmos begin?

Who is teaching whom? And where does the teaching arise from that informs the dharma-body, the human body, and the very corporality of the revealed universe? Things, things-in-themselves, and the manifestation of the invisible -- these things are teaching instances offering to any intelligent receptivity a fuller appreciation of the appearing cosmos, consciousness, and creativity.

The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism emphasises the belonging together of wisdom and compassion. When you gain insight, and come to appreciate co-dependent arising, you are naturally drawn into the interactivity. And since the human body is a particular configuration of energies within the larger energy-field that is the world, Chinese Buddhist thinkers (and later the Neo-Confucians) adopted the maxim: “All things are one body with the human.” Fazang, founder of the Huayan school of Buddhism, wrote that “to achieve perfect wisdom” is at the same time “to arouse the great compassion, which considers all things as one body with oneself” (Chan 1963, 418).

This idea derives from a radical re-interpretation of the idea of Dharmakaya, the “ultimate reality-body” of the cosmic Buddha Vairocana, as meaning this very world we live in (understood as buddha-nature, or emptiness). When asked to justify the idea that insentient beings have buddha-nature, the Chan master Nanyang Huizhong replied: “At the moment when sentient beings receive the prophecy of their future buddhahood, all the lands of the three-thousand great- thousand worlds are completely subsumed within the body of Vairocana Buddha. Beyond the body of the Buddha, could there still be some insentient object to receive the prophecy?’’ A contemporaneous text suggests that the fourth Chan

        5 Zhiyi, Sinianchu, cited in Ziporyn (2000, 164).

                     122 EAJP Vol. 3, n. 1 (2024)

Befriending Things on a Field of Energies

patriarch, Daoxin, had already made the connection between the buddha-nature of the insentient and its ability to expound Buddhist teachings. He is said to have put it in the form of a question: “The Nirvana-sutra says: ‘All beings have buddha-nature.’ If you say that walls, fences, tiles, and stones do not have buddha-nature, then how could they preach the dharma?” (Sharf 2007, 221, 216).

(-- from Befriending Things on a Field of Energies With Dōgen and Nietzsche, pp122-123, Graham ParkesUniversity of Vienna* East Asian Journal of Philosophy, 2024)

Can we (again) become students of reality?

Will an autodidacticism native to each being arise and emerge from source up and out into the apparent and real universe with its longing to understand with its desire for compassion with its urge to manifest authentic and (dare we say) loving existence accessible to each creature each being each potential haecceity (thisness) before us?

Seven bells. 

The afternoon sounds itself from ship's clock.

posing for the camera

Peanut gallery

poses behind criminal 

New York defendant

this new tactic hoping to 

suggest he's not solo fool

luka, nicola, jalen, shai

 One basketball game after another

The nba post-season playoffs

These guys are good

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

turn around

 if you wonder 

why you are alive

I will tell you

you are alive

to wonder

why you are


it is wonder

is why

you are


amor fati

 Magic round machine

Images prone body stretched

Into words on chart

I insouciantly declare

What will be will be 



happy appearance on hill and grass

Bees cruise dandelions

Dandelions stretch over field

Dancing yellow bright

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

stifle under mud at the pond's edge

These days I sit zazen in waiting rooms and treatment services of medical personnel. It is a gift of age to be poked and prodded asked and answered — like dharma combat or dokusan — exploring the conundrum that even though I was never born I will inevitably die — clarifying that the train of my body approaches the arriving terminal — glancing at schedule to investigate destination and departure for connecting training the busy promenade of interconnection and surrender to the timetable discourse and concourse crisscrossing ancestors progeny and accomplices intersecting the station escalators food dispensaries and taxiing shuttles.


Donald Hall, 1928 – 2018 

To grow old is to lose everything. 

Aging, everybody knows it. 

Even when we are young, 

we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads 

when a grandfather dies.

Then we row for years on the midsummer 

pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,

that began without harm, scatters 

into debris on the shore, 

and a friend from school drops 

cold on a rocky strand.

If a new love carries us 

past middle age, our wife will die 

at her strongest and most beautiful. 

New women come and go. All go. 

The pretty lover who announces 

that she is temporary

is temporary. The bold woman,

middle-aged against our old age,

sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand. 

Another friend of decades estranges himself 

in words that pollute thirty years. 

Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge 

and affirm that it is fitting

and delicious to lose everything.


           (—Poem by Donald Hall) 

I pass this time breathing in and breathing out.

If you see me in my zen blacks pay no attention to me, I have just this breath and this breath alone before someone versed in such things says hello says goodbye and points me to the door that reads check out here and someone at computer screen tries to decide whether any future appointment is contingent or even necessary.

Monday, May 13, 2024

how not to kill another

We have only to give away our attention pure and simple.

And not deny anyone's experience.

But affirm it.

Be present to it.

Allowing it to find its way into the open.

To breathe its way out and away.

To be, yes, itself.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

were it not for the way you taught me to look

Ted Kooser's poem: 



Mid April already, and the wild plums

bloom at the roadside, a lacy white

against the exuberant, jubilant green

of new grass in the dusty, fading black

of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,

only the delicate, star-petaled

blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.


You have been gone a month today

and have missed three rains and one nightlong

watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar

from six to eight while fat spring clouds

went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,

a storm that walked on legs of lightning,

dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.


The meadowlarks are back, and the finches

are turning from green to gold. Those same

two geese have come to the pond again this year,

honking in over the trees and splashing down.

They never nest, but stay a week or two

then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts

burning in circles like birthday candles,


for this is the month of my birth, as you know,

the best month to be born in, thanks to you,

everything ready to burst with living.

There will be no more new flannel nightshirts

sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card

addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.

You asked me if I would be sad when it happened


and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house

now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots

green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,

as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.

Were it not for the way you taught me to look

at the world, to see the life at play in everything,

I would have to be lonely forever.



(--Poem by Ted Kooser)

 I'm starting to think that the word "arrival" is another word for "mother."

two ways of viewing today

1. Letters From An American, Heather Cox Richardson

2. Dancing With Doom, Richard Rohr/Brian McLaren

one afternoon in vermont

                (for Nadine, d.3:03 pm, 10may24)

Spit spot

She drank the cocktail

Dying forthwith

The surprise of it


Last linger



Saturday, May 11, 2024

Thursday, May 09, 2024

we must be diligent today

 If I wander around the house. If I wear meditation beads around wrist. If I listen to the obscenity of political Florida Senator squawking for criminal defendant in violation of gag order against family members of judge and prosecutors.

If I wish to maintain a balanced and sober mind in the midst of vile characters.  

Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has not yet come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

In the very here and now,

The practitioner dwells

In stability and freedom.

We must be diligent today.

To wait until tomorrow is too late.

Death comes unexpectedly.

How can we bargain with it?

The sage calls a person who knows

How to dwell in mindfulness

Night and day

“One who knows the better way to live.”

--Bhaddekaratta Sutra

I listen to the sutra.

I breathe the room.

poetry as its own “standing in itself,” must be seen “its own truth” in the “beauty” of its very word

Thought and love are not strangers.

Perhaps their arrival in the same place at the same time augurs a promising outcome.

Is what we call pure thought and pure love the invitation into what we call the life of God? 

Heidegger therefore maintains that philosophy exemplifies a particular love, indeed a clearly erotic relation to thought.14 And in his lecture course What Is Called Thinking?, he turns to Hölderlin to articulate the relation between love and thinking to trace the relation between thinking or philosophy and love. Reflecting on thought and poetry, Heidegger claims that poetry, as its own “standing in itself,” must be seen “its own truth” in the “beauty” of its very word (WT, 19). This self-standing in the truth “does not exclude but on the contrary includes what we think in the poetic word” (Ibid.). Heidegger’s reading of the poet’s word turns it out of the center of one of Hölderlin’s seductively intriguing poems, “Socrates and Alcibiades”: “Who the deepest has thought, loves what is most alive” [Wer das Tiefste gedacht, liebt das Lebendigste].15 The poet draws us to thinking and love, posing them side by side, as Heidegger observes: “ ‘thought’ and ‘loves’ form the center of the line. Inclination [Mögen] reposes in thinking.”16 The alignment of love (the past of thinking and the present allure of love) betrays the sobriety (and self-sufficiency) ordinarily supposed for the life of thought.

—pp.5,6 in Words in Blood, Like Flowers: Philosophy and Poetry, Music and Eros in Hölderlin, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, by Babette E. Babich, 2007

Sometimes referred to as the life of the mind, thought/love in reflective interaction can easily lead to a sense of equanimity and poise.

Philosophy isn't just an intellectual somersault through arcane concepts and logical mazes, rather, philosophy (as a friend once put it) is ordinary thinking done more carefully.

The life of thought is attractive.

We like thoughtful people.

Just as we like those able to clarify and open up things difficult to comprehend.

Let's see poetry where it is.

Let's look around.

One's own truth.

In itself.

post-hagiography, retrospective

He said he wanted to be someone who prays

So he tries to pray

He looks at god and says “I really don’t see you”

He shakes head and sits on bench 


In the empty space god is not

The vacant bench 

He rethinks prayer

Comes to conclusion

There’s nothing there for prayer

Stands up

Looks around

Wanders away

Disappears into chill fog

Giving up body

Leaving behind mind

Laments loss

Becomes birdsong

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

stop the killing, stop the destruction

all forms of violence
are to be condemned

speaks truth in Senate

how good it is to hear
a strong and clear voice

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

christian faith commends those who are relentless in their pursuit of justice

There seems to be a difficulty as to how to respond to or react to the horrendous response to a horrendous action last October wherein Hamas committed terror against Israel and the Israeli response of terroristic reprisals against Gaza.

Verse of the day

And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 

- Luke 18:7

Voice of the day

To me, it’s clear we should follow the lead of many of these persistent students in using our own social capital — however much or little — to raise a ruckus in the name of those who suffer starvation, disease, and death-dealing violence each day. 

-- Brooke M. Foster, “Student Encampments Echo Jesus’ Parable of Annoying the Powerful

Prayer of the day

Our persistence is powerful. You tell us that even the most unjust rulers can grant justice when they’ve been bothered enough. May we continue to annoy the powerful in the name of the marginalized.


It's as though no one is aware of the horrible way the marginalized are treated by the mighty.

It is as though no one is aware of the ugly attacks upon the innocent and the compromised in both Israel and Gaza.

Surely, we are not that stupid.

Surely, we have eyes to see.

But do we have heart-courage and mind-clarity to face and resolve such blatant injustices.