Wednesday, March 29, 2017

reading obituaries

they simply die
no more

need be

once they stood
walked, or

sat beside
when we

talked or

it seems
some outbreath

a word

just keeps

until I

the fact
of it

where there is here

After a while
you realize



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

a life of transparence

The professor visited his student for the first time in the student’s monastery entered on 10Dec1941. The poem “Once in Kentucky,” was the fruit of the first visit the professor paid to his former student at the Abbey of Gethsemani. (cf. Steindl-Rast)

The professor, Mark Van Doren. The student, Thomas Merton.

Here's his poem as presented by Bro. David Steindl-Rast osb, in the Foreword to the book of poems (pp.xiv-xv) Practicing Silence, New and Selected Verses, by Bonnie Bowman Thurston. 

Once in Kentucky

In our fat times, a monk:
I had not thought to see one;
Nor, even with my own poor lean concerns,
Ever to be one.

No. But in Kentucky,
Midway of sweet hills
When housewives swept their porches and March
Lapped windowsills,

He, once my merry friend,
Came to the stone door,
And the only difference in his smiling was,
It sorrowed more.

No change in him, except
His merriment was graver.
As if he knew now where it started from;
And what the flavor.

He tasted it, the joy,
Then gave it all to me:
As much, I mean, as I could carry home
To this country,

To this country whose laughter
Is a fat thing, and dies.
I step across its body and consider,
Still, those eyes.

      (Poem, Once in Kentucky, by Mark Van Doren)
...   ...   ...

A life of prayer, a life of poetry, invites us into a life of transparence. 

Seeing through. 

Being seen through.

at barn door, morning chant

at barn door, morning chant

dark and cloudy sky

prayer ascends; loving-kindness descends

three sticks of firewood return to kitchen wood stove embers

Monday, March 27, 2017

I don’t know where this train’s bound

At Sunday Evening Practice, at table, we read:
We were sitting in front of a blazing fire when Thomas Merton again took up this theme of growing.  “The main theme of time is that of inner growth.  It’s a theme to which we should all return frequently in prayer.  There is a great thing in my life – Christ wants me to grow.  Move this around a little bit in meditation.  Instead of worrying – Where am I going? What kind of resolution should I make? – I should simply let this growing unfold in my prayer.  I should see what is holding me back from it.  What is it?  What kind of compromises have I made?  Am I substituting activity for growth?  (I have often asked myself, is this writing getting in the way?  For me writing is so satisfying an activity that it is hard to say.)  In someone else it is easier to see this process of growing and to see what hinders it.  But when it comes to ourselves, all we can do is try to honestly be ourselves.  
“One of the greatest obstacles to your growing is the fear of making a fool of yourself.  Any real step forward implies the risk of failure.  And the really important steps imply the risk of complete failure.  Yet we must make them, trusting in Christ.  If I take this step, everything I have done so far might go down the drain.  In a situation like that we need a shot of Buddhist mentality.  Then we see, down what drain?  So what?  (So that’s perhaps one of the valuable things about this Asian trip.)  We have to have the courage to make fools of ourselves, and at the same time be awfully careful not to make fools of ourselves. 
“The great temptation is to fear going it alone, wanting to be ‘with it’ at any cost.  But each one of us has to be able to go it alone somehow.  You don’t want to repudiate the community, but you have to go it alone at times.  If the community is made up of a little group of people who always try to support one another, and nobody ever gets out of this little block, nothing happens and all growth is being stifled.  This is possibly one of the greatest dangers we face in the future, because we are getting more and more to be that kind of society.  We will need those who have the courage to do the opposite of everybody else.  If you have this courage you will effect change.  Of course they will say, ‘this guy is crazy’; but you have to do it. 
(--from, Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West, BY BR. DAVID STEINDL-RAST, OSB) 
We admit to being weird, “in the good way,” one practitioner allowed, after telling the story of deciding to remain outside the structures of the organized expressions of religious groups. We are not idiosyncratic and idiorrhythmic -- (Late Greek idiorrhythmos (from Greek idio- + rhythmos measured motion, measure) --  to be those things. We are that way because that’s the way we are. There’s no intent to be that way; we are that way.
“It’s all a matter of rethinking the identity of institutions so that everything is oriented to people.  The institution must serve the development of the individual person.  And once you’ve got fully developed people, they can do anything.  What counts are people and their vocations, not structures and ideas.  Let us make room for idiosyncrasies.  The danger is that the institution becomes an end in itself.  What we need are people-centered communities, not institution-centered ones.  This is the direction in which renewal must move.“  
Maybe new structures are not that necessary.  Perhaps you already do know what you want.  I believe that what we want to do is to pray.  After all, why did any of us become religious if we didn’t want to pray?  What do we want, if not to pray?  Okay, now, pray.  This is the whole doctrine of prayer in the Rule of St. Benedict.  It’s all summed up in one phrase:  ‘If a man wants to pray, let him go and pray.’ That is all St. Benedict feels it is necessary to say about the subject.  He doesn’t’ say, let us go in and start with a little introductory prayer, etc, etc.  If you want to pray, pray. (--ibid, 
Every piece of rye bread and kombucha green tea is eucharist by any other liturgy or hermeneutic.

On this month’s mailing from Friends of Silence, this quote:
“Being prophetic means, first and foremost, being a dangerous listener.” (--Robert J. Wicks)

Some listen clearer. These might know what prayer might be -- something without object. Something in itself seeing into itself.

The sound of a tree forming one syllable every ten years readying to recite the entire oral mythology of ground and root, leaf and seed -- a billion year recitation of a billion year excursion -- one syllable at a     very     very     long     time.

The Great Correction (by Eliza Gilkyson) 
Everyone tied to the turning wheel
Everyone hiding from the things they feel
Well the truth’s so hard it just don’t seem real
The shadow across this land

People ’round here don’t know what it means
To suffer at the hands of our American dreams
They turn their backs on the grisly scenes
Traced to the privileged sons

Down through the ages lovers of the mystery
Been saying people let your love light shine
Poets and sages all throughout history
Say the light burns brightest in the darkest times

It’s the bitter end we’ve come down to
The eye of the needle that we gotta get through
But the end could be the start of something new
When the great correction comes

Down to the wire running out of time
Still got hope in this heart of mine
But the future waits on the horizon line
For our daughters and our sons
I don’t know where this train’s bound
Whole lotta people trying to turn it around
Gonna shout ’til the walls come tumbling down 
And the great correction comes 
Prayer knows nothing of piety.

It is goulash and lentil soups side by side on stove. Shakuhachi flute before and after zazen. White dog chasing green frisbee over snow-covered path after final circle with woman wearing hoodie. The carousel of practice onto which one steps without brass ring or ticket stub. A car leaves dooryard for Augusta.

May all beings be the way they are with acceptance and blessing after breath extinguishing candles,  gone 8pm. 

Gone where nothing goes when deep in prayer. 

Curving rails through wooded stretch of empty tracks where faintest echo of train gone by makes no sound on star white snow. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

a new language of prayer

Across the globe there is a rough conversation about what to do with those who are involved with either drugs, criminality, or political hegemony.

Is it possible that prayer, real prayer -- not egoistic plays of power and control -- will find our real mind and real heart?

A president far away says, “Kill the outlaws,” and they are killed.

He says, “Kill the drug dealers and users,” and they are killed.

He says, “The human rights advocates are also enemies,” and they looked at one another knowing where words like that lead.

Susmaryosep *

Nothing like that could happen here in the United States, right?



Elsewhere --

Political opposition is also dangerous. 

иисус Марии и Иосифу **

Weve got to learn a new language of prayer. That’s what the monk Thomas Merton said two months before he died.
This new language of prayer has to come out of something which transcends all our traditions, and comes out of the immediacy of love. We have to part now, aware of the love that unites us, the love that unites us in spite of real differences, real emotional friction... The things on the surface are nothing, what is deep is the Real. We are creatures of Love. Let us therefore join hands, as we did before, and I will try to say something that comes out of the depths of our hearts. I ask you to concentrate on the love that is in you, that is in us all. I have no idea what I am going to say. I am going to be silent a minute, and then I will say something...
O God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.
(--Closing statements and prayer from an informal address delivered in Calcutta, India (October 1968), from The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1975); quoted in Thomas Merton, Spiritual Master : The Essential Writings (1992), p. 237.)
Perhaps, finally, there is enough evidence to explain why we have forgotten what real prayer is and why so few enter into a life of prayer.

---   ---   ---
* Filipino slang, a contraction of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
** Russian, for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Saturday, March 25, 2017

one didn't matter

I wanted once

to be a mystic

it was clear

I was no-

So I didn't 

bother to file

a patent claiming

one didn't matter

as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where it isn't

On this day, the acknowledgement of Marys being invited.

These two poets give us perspective:



         (by Marie Howe)

Even if I don't see it again -- nor ever feel it
I know it is -- and that if once it hailed me
it ever does--

and so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as toward a place, but it was a tilting
within myself,

as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn't -- I was blinded like that -- and swam
in what shone at me

only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I'd die
from being loved like that.


                   (by Denise Levertov)

           ‘Hail space for the unconfined God’
             (—from the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIc)

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, 
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
       Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
       The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
         God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
         Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
      when roads of light and storm
      open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                 God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
  only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.

              courage unparalleled,

opened her utterly.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

his gaze

The question was put to the old man, "Have you ever seen God?"

He said nothing , looking down at the ground.

She asked again.

And again he said nothing, only this time he raised his gaze, and looked at her.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

if laid into the earth

The king and the land are one.
When we look back to these ancient schools of initiation, what sort of a teaching do we find there? What was the Mystery that was taught in them? It is after all only the forms of the teaching that change with the passage of time. Astonishing as it may seem, we actually find that in these very ancient schools of initiation the secret, the mystery that Parsifal discovered, is brought to its highest development — the secret; namely, of how the new budding life of nature in Springtime is connected with the Mystery of the Cross. We have to understand it in the following way. 
The power of reproduction which we recognize in the animal and human kingdoms is also to be seen in the plant kingdom. In the springtime of the year the divine active power of creation shoots up out of Mother Earth. For we have to recognize that a deep connection exists between the power that manifests when the Earth clothes herself with her robe of green, and the divine creative power. The pupils in the initiation school were taught as follows: “All around you in nature you see the opening flower buds, and within them a power at work which is then later concentrated in the small grains of seed. Countless seeds will come forth from the flowers — seeds which, if laid into the earth, will be capable of bringing forth new plants. And now receive what I am about to say into your heart; take it deeply into your soul. The process that is taking place out there in nature is the very same as takes place in human beings and in the animal kingdom, only in nature it takes place without desire or passion. It goes forward in perfect purity and chastity. The boundless and chaste innocence that sleeps in the flower buds of the plants — this, it was felt, must enter right into the soul of the pupils. 
(--from, Parsifal, The Secret of the Grail in the Works of Richard Wagner, Parsifal, Arthur, Lecture by Rudolf Steiner,  Landin, July 29th, 1906 
If the king is corrupt, the land suffers. 

light prayer

432,288 miles diameter

92.96 million miles away --

Morning sun rises through

Bamboo shade -- right here --

Everything is new and near

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

rooting for tree

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary questions Judge Gorsuch at his confirmation hearing.

Yesterday the directors of the FBI and National Security Agency testified before the House Intelligence Committee covering Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

There are questions about the truthfulness of the current President when he accused the prior president of wiretapping the residence of the current president, a felony if proved true. There seems, on the testimony of members on the Intelligence Community, to be no evidence pointing to the accuracy of the allegation.

The machinery of government grinds on.

There are 3 branches.

Let’s root for the tree to be healthy.

Monday, March 20, 2017

when everything changed

Russian cyber attack with collusion?

So much to lose if true.

They say it is spring today.

How late are we?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

nothing moves

under white ash bed

blanket red embers yawn, flame

licks twigs -- slow waking

Saturday, March 18, 2017

from Greek ‘kubernan’ -- ‘to steer.’

There was something in the reading at Saturday Morning Practice that took us by surprise. Two of us were touched emotionally by two letters -- one from Catherine de Hueck Doherty to Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton), and one from him to her. It was 1958. Something in the timbre.

The sun porch heats up to the high 70s these March days. Someone was out working on numbers in bare feet and short sleeve t-shirt. Outdoors in high 20s.

Friend visits from Belfast. He says it must have been a visitation to meditation practice this morning.

Visited another friend in Lisbon Falls yesterday after driving to three places for work. His new house. Subway sandwiches and filtered water. The good feeling he has settled in.

At Friday Evening Practice the conversation was about obstacles and the gnawing persistence of seeing “others.” And the need for a third to give the opposite-two a place to gain perspective. Another view of trinity.

It is discouraging to experience the deconstruction and dissolution of what we once thought was a pretty good system of governance. The United States seems to be inching toward rule by arrogance and disparagement.
Because, if I’m open and simple, and not afraid or ashamed to show my poverty, my nothingness, my wounds and scabs, then perforce all those who come in contact with me will be able to bypass my small self. I hope, with pity and compassion and a prayer for me, to see Christ in His fullness. For nothing will impede their sight. For nothingness cannot stand between another soul and its Creator, its Lover.
You see why I need your prayers, Fr, Louie. There is so little time left for me to learn to love the Beloved, to begin to probe the saying TO GOVERN IS TO LOVE. Will you beseech Him in your solitude that I in mine may be a better pupil in my old age than I was in my youth.     (p.49, Catherine to Thomas, 26Aug 58, in Compassionate Fire, The Letters of Thomas Merton & Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Edited by Robert A. Wind, c.2009)
“To govern is to love,” seems such a curious notion, so uncertain, these days.
In the end, though, the solution is Love -- you have said it. And love, it seems to me, implies the realization that perhaps already those subject to us know our failings very well, and accept them with love, and would not dream of holding them against us, because they know these things do not matter. This is the great consolation: in the joy of being known and forgiven, we find it so much easier to forgive everything, even before it happens. (p.50, 18Sept58, Thomas to Catherine, ibid)
We steer.

We are not the thing that moves through the water, the country, or the universe.

Only Love can govern.*
* Middle Englishfrom Old French governerfrom Latin gubernare  to steer, rule, from Greek kubernan  to steer.
Let us pray for hands on the helm!
In response to the deepening dilemmas of the Western world, Catherine offered the spirituality of her Russian past. She introduced the concept of poustinia, which was totally unknown in the West in the 1960’s, but has since become recognized in much of the world. Poustinia is the Russian word for “desert,” which in its spiritual context is a place where a person meets God through solitude, prayer and fasting. Catherine’s vision and practical way of living the Gospel in ordinary life became recognized as a remedy to the depersonalizing effects of modern technology. In response to the rampant individualism of our century, she called Madonna House to sobornost, a Russian word meaning deep unity of heart and mind in the Holy Trinity—a unity beyond purely human capacity. 
Let us pray for words from the heart!
During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk's trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dalai Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.
For good navigation, with gratefulness to mystics and monastics! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

obstacle on trail

It's all about the refusal to accept reality.

All the suffering.

The lies.

The accusations.

The adversity.

There's a name for it.

out of the cold





Thursday, March 16, 2017


let’s look at the facts --

(what? no facts? what do you mean?)

history has ended

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

faith within emptiness, is, silence without explanation.

It was October 2001.

Less than a month after 9/11.

It was silence, was wanted.

I was wordy then. But had nothing to say.

Nor is nothing said well.

are you done

             (a morning haiku)

winter zips satchel, looks

at torn storm sheaves strewn piqued

tantrum done, shown door

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

response to student post on Bb: “[Together] making [our] way through contemporary coexistence.”

RE: Feminism and Unity
"...where we need to be--perfect equality--"(LC)
I like the word 'perfect' and I like the word 'equality.'
If 'perfect' (for me) means 'making way through'...
    • L. per = through
    • L. Facio, Facere, Feci, Factus Translation: To make, do, accomplish; to become (passive)
... then, it raises a question (for me) about what "perfect equality" means.
'Equal' -- (Latin: aequalis)
Translations of  aequalis
aequalis,  par,  aequus,  commensuratus,  compar,  conpar
aequalis,  contemporalis,  contemporaneus
planus,  aequus,  aequalis,  individuus,  indivisus,  aecus
of the same age
aequaevus,  aequalis
equal in age
coaevus,  aequalis,  coaequalis,  congenitus
And so, "perfect equality" (for me) can translate into: "[Together] making [our] way through contemporary coexistence." 
This definition attempts to avoid the comparative or calculative aspects of former definitions, and adds a new starting point for interrelationality.
(Footnote: Here endeth bill halpin's tortured translation trudge toward transcending 'what-once-we-thought-was-a known-definition.')