Friday, December 15, 2017

here’s what Thomas Merton wrote in his The Seven Story Mountain

The Christ of the Burnt Men

I hear You saying to me:

           "I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way.
          "Therefore all things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore to reduce you to solitude.
           "Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone. Everything that touches you will burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone.
            "Everything that can be desired will sear you., and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy, and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.
           "You will be praised and it will be like burning at the stake. You will be loved and it will murder your heart and drive you into the desert. 
             "You will have gifts and they will break you with their burden. you will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them.
              "And when you  have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away all your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing. a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall begin to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.
            "Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be.. On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me because I am not going to tell you.  You will not know until you are in it. 
            "But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end  and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Cristi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani:
           "That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men."

                                  SIT FINIS LIBRI, NON FINIS QUAERENDI

(—from, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain,  pp  422, 3)

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Played baseball as a youth years ago on Erasmus Field on MacDonald Ave just off Avenue M in Brooklyn. I was a little slow as a runner and did not have a strong throwing arm. But I had a good glove and fast reflexes playing a shallow third base and good range as a first baseman. No one would have called me a prospect. (The Yankee scout kept asking me to play back on third during drills!) My bat was mediocre. Although I did put a ball over the left fielder’s head in the first inning.

Erasmus comes to mind these half dozen decades later.
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467?–1536) was not a systematic philosopher although we discern in the large body of his writings a certain Erasmian habit of mind. He often reflected on subjects that invite philosophical inquiry: the influence of nature versus nurture, the relationship between word and thing, the ideal form of government, the nature of faith, and the theory of knowledge. Erasmus’ views on these subjects are of interest to historians today, even if they are unstructured, because his works circulated widely and his influence in Northern Europe was pervasive. In modern parlance, he was an opinion maker. If a general label is needed, Erasmus’ thought is best described as “Christian Humanism”, that is, a philosophy of life combining Christian thought with classical traditions. He embraced the humanistic belief in an individual’s capacity for self-improvement and the fundamental role of education in raising human beings above the level of brute animals. The thrust of Erasmus’ educational programme was the promotion of docta pietas, learned piety, or what he termed the “philosophy of Christ”. As a biblical scholar he supported the humanistic call Ad fontes, a return to the texts in the original language and therefore promoted the study of the biblical languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He was in the vanguard of modern philology. His pioneering edition of the Greek New Testament shows that he had an understanding of the process of textual transmission and had developed text-critical principles. In politics, Erasmus embraced consensus, compromise, and peaceful cooperation, ideals he recommended to the participants in the Reformation debate, albeit with little success. Considered a forerunner of the Reformation by his contemporaries, he broke with Martin Luther over the latter’s sectarianism. More fundamentally, the two men disagreed over heuristics and engaged in a polemic over the question of free will. Erasmus took a skeptical position vis-à-vis Luther’s assertions. Unlike the reformer, he did not believe in the clarity of Scripture and used consensus and tradition as criteria to settle questions that did not allow a rational conclusion. Erasmus rarely ventured into doctrinal questions, however, favoring simple faith and devotion over dialectics and scholastic speculation. The circulation of Erasmus’ works was temporarily curtailed when the Catholic Church put them on the Index of Forbidden Books, but his ideas saw a revival during the Enlightenment when he was regarded as a forerunner of rationalism. His most famous work, The Praise of Folly, has remained in print to the present day, a distinction shared by few books from the 16th century. 
 Heuristic is a good word.

To find out. Discover.


[hyoo-ris-tik or, often, yoo-] adjective 1.serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.2.encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error:
a heuristic teaching method.3.of, relating to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.4. Computers, Mathematics. pertaining to a trial-and-error method ofproblem solving used when an algorithmic approach is impractical.
noun 5.a heuristic method of argument.6. the study of heuristic procedure. 
Origin of heuristic1815-25; New Latin heuristicus, equivalent to Greek heur(ískeinto find out, discover + Latin -isticus -istic 
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series in 1955. I stopped into every storefront a radio sounded from on 20th Avenue making my way home from Elementary school during the series.

I never rooted for another baseball team after the Brooklyn Dodgers left Flatbush and Ebbets Field. 
The Brooklyn Dodgers played their final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, which the Dodgers won 2–0 over the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
On April 18, 1958, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game in L.A., defeating the former New York and newly relocated and renamed San Francisco Giants, 6–5, before 78,672 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.[32] Sadly, catcher Roy Campanella, left partially paralyzed in an off-season accident, was never able to play for Los Angeles. 
2007 HBO film, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, is a documentary covering the Dodgers history from early days to the beginning of the Los Angeles era. In the film, the story is related that O'Malley was so hated by Brooklyn Dodger fans after the move to California, that it was said, "If you asked a Brooklyn Dodger fan, if you had a gun with only two bullets in it and were in a room with Hitler, Stalin and O'Malley, who would you shoot? The answer: O’Malley, twice!"
My game, one I longed, even then, to play well, was heuristics.

Still is.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

so silent as this

listen —
a poem
as this


From the Poetry Foundation:
         Despite its many adaptions into multiple languages and styles, the haiku remains a powerful form due to its economic use of language to evoke a specific mood or instance. Most often occurring in the present tense, a haiku frequently depicts a moment by using pair of distinct images working in tandem, as in these lines by Kobayashi Issa, translated by Jane Hirshfield
        On a branch
        floating downriver
        a cricket, singing. 
(Notice how, in translating from Japanese to English, Hirshfield compresses the number of syllables.) 
The haiku continues to be a popular form today, and its different qualities have been emphasized and expanded by a wide variety of writers. Poets such as Etheridge Knight, emphasize the formal and sonic quality of the verse, as seen in his piece “Haiku,” whereas poets such as Scott Helmes have chosen to emphasize the haiku’s visual arrangement, as seen in his piece, “haiku #62.” 
For further examples, see also “Three Haiku, Two Tanka” by Philip Appleman and Robert Hass’s “After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa.” In addition, see the Imagist poets of the early 20th century, most notably Ezra Pound
Look here to browse more haiku. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the vocation of the monk

For the 20th time on a December 10th we speak aloud, in the presence of a Sunday Evening Practice community, our promises as meetingbrook monastics:
Contemplation,  Conversation,  Correspondence. held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage“m.o.n.o.”(monastics of no other). 
Contemplation  is the promise of simplicity. It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.  It is attentive presence. 
Conversation  is the promise of integrity. It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.   It is root silence.  
Correspondence  is the promise of faithful engagement.  It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.   It is transparent service. 
Our practice between traditions holds Francis of Assisi and Eihei Dogen Zenji as our guiding lights and Thomas Merton as inspiration.

We are humbled and delighted to continue our promises and our monastic life.
This is emphatically the vocation of the monk “who seeks full realization ... [and] has come to experience the ground of his own being in such a way that he knows the secret of liberation and can somehow or other communicate it to others.” At the deepest level, the monk is teaching others how to live by love. For Christians, this is the discovery of Christ dwelling in all others. 
Only with such love, Merton went on, is it possible to realize the economic ideal of each giving according to his ability and receiving according to his need. But in actuality many Christians, including those in monastic communities, have not reached this level of love and realization. They have burdened their lives with too many false needs and these have blocked the way to full realization, the monk’s only reason for being. 
Merton told a story he had heard from Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche of a Buddhist abbot fleeing from his Tibetan monastery before the advance of Chinese Communist troops. He encountered another monk leading a train of twenty-five yaks loaded with the treasures of the monastery and “essential” provisions. The abbot chose not to stay with the treasure or the treasurer; traveling light, he managed to cross the border into India, destitute but alive. The yak-tending monk, chained to his treasure, was overtaken by the soldiers and was never heard of again.  
“We can ask ourselves,” Merton said, “if we are planning for the next twenty years to be traveling with a train of yaks.” Monasticism, after all, is not architecture or clothing or even rules of life. It is “total inner transformation. Let the yaks take care of themselves.” The monastic life thrives whenever there is a person “giving some kind of direction and instruction to a small group attempting to love God and reach union with him.”   
Authentic monasticism cannot be extinguished. “It is imperishable. It represents an instinct of the human heart, and it represents a charism given by God to man. It cannot be rooted out, because it does not depend on man. It does not depend on cultural factors, and it does not depend on sociological or psychological factors. It is something much deeper.”
(—from, louie,louie blog, The monasticism of Thomas Merton, Sunday, 10Dec17 , an extract from "Living With Wisdom", a biography of Merton, by Jim Forest
Finally, from Jim Forest,
There was also the memory of Merton’s last words. Following the morning conference, Father de Grunne told Merton that a nun in the audience was annoyed that Merton had said nothing about converting people. 
“What we are asked to do at present,” Merton responded, “is not so much to speak of Christ as to let him live in us so that people may find him by feeling how he lives in us.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Δεν γεννιέται

Den genniétai -- (“not being born”, or, unchangeability.)
No wonder

we avoid


Something will

have to


for us

to see



what is being for

 Quote from Philosophy Now:
We therefore have a fundamental contrast here between being and doing. On the one side we have the champions of doing, on the other we have the champions of being, and much of our western philosophy could be seen as the battle between these two primary categories. In technical language we could say  it is the battle between deontology (the ethics of doing one’s duty) and ontology (philosophy of being). 
But in post-modern ethics both of these categories are called into question. Writers such as Emmanuel Levinas and Zygmunt Bauman want to suggest that the reason why the battle between these two fundamental schools of thought is so unfruitful is that neither of them is fundamental. They suggest that underlying them both is a much deeper category which represents a much more profound moral life. They call this category ‘Being for’. For Bauman morality cannot be derived from reason or ontology. I am for comes before I am. I am I in the sole measure that I am responsible, when I rise above and transcend myself. In other words Descartes’ cogito, “I think therefore I am”, does not take us to the foundation of the matter. It is not the self-evident truth upon which all other truths must be based. There is a much more foundational truth lurking below the “I am”. It is the “I am for” which comes into play when, before reasoning things out or before working towards being a good character, I live towards another as neighbour.

An Archeology Analogy

An analogy might help us to understand this post-modern contention. It is rather like the archeologist who first unearths one city, the city of doing, but then finds another city below it, the city of being, but, when s/he scratches the earth again finds yet another city below that, the city of being for. There is therefore a kind of layering:
below which is
below which is
Being For

What is Being For?

Being for is not merely one of the virtues which we can develop and use in our everyday interaction with other people. Nor is Being for a way of life which we aspire to, a kind of ideal which we set for ourselves, something we try to live up to. Being for is much more immediate than this. It is a way life which precedes all thinking about our actions, it is a way of life which precedes all forms of calculation about what our actions might lead to, and it is a way of life which doesn’t come more easily to us as we strive to learn more about it . The reason is that thinking about our actions puts the ‘I’ at the centre of the discussion: “What am I to do?” Training ourselves or letting ourselves be trained in the virtues also puts the ‘I’ at the centre: “What kind of person am I to become?” What Being for does is to transcend the I and look towards the Other. It comes in the form of a paradox: We cannot be fully ourselves, we cannot discover our true  identity, we cannot find the ‘I’, until we forget the ‘I’. The ethics of Being for is then not an exercise in learning but an exercise in forgetting, letting go, taking the risk.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

next step

The psalmist asks: How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:4)

And yet, sing we must.
Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father lest it find
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good:
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own,
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own?
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
Was it to meet such grinning evidence
We left our richly odoured ignorance?
Was the triumphant answer to be this?
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible:
We who must die demand a miracle.
(—from W. H. Auden's long poem FOR THE TIME BEING: A Christmas Oratorio. It was written during the dark times of World War II.)
The miracle

of being


to listen

to another

is the infinite

within and



Saturday, December 09, 2017

first snow

We were never not having the conversation at nurses station at hospice house.

Nor were we never not having the cogent conversation at hospital in s.c.u. room with man whose brain tumors scholarize science for him, who sees patterns of sound in vibrative light.

It is an eternal conversation. It is about living and dying, the co-creating collapse of the possible into the actual moving into the improbable.

Hours go by.

As snow falls.

And the feast of Thomas Merton’s dying day walks formless the cloister corridor of fond recollection.

I drive home from hospice and hospital in silence.

Conversation is all we know of heaven and what we’ve forgiven of hell.

The radical proposal is to trust one another with what we call our lives.

Friday, December 08, 2017

today’s threefold inspiration

Buddha’s enlightenment day. Being awake is becoming aware.

Immaculate Conception of Mary. From the get-go, no barriers to realizing whole truth within one’s own incarnation.

John Lennon’s death. Words cannot tell what a poet reveals in song.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

docta ignorantia,

Looking at the emergence of a new energy of dissolution and decomposition in body politic and cultural spirit, a change in sensibilities, a diminution of civility, and a distortion of attitudes -- is what we see.

A hardening disregard of what some feel is antiquated and naive humility or kindness.
Like Reinhardt’s paintings, Jerusalem in 2017 refuses easy categorization or blithe comparisons. Christian mysticism and Reinhardt’s Zen Buddhism both name my experience as what the late medieval theologian Nicholas of Cusa called “docta ignorantia,” “learned ignorance.” Indeed, Reinhardt cited Cusa in some unpublished notes: “How needful it is to enter into the darkness and to admit the coincidence of opposites, to seek the truth where impossibility meets us.” Cusa was talking about our knowledge of God, but we can be similarly ignorant of God’s people. 
We in the United States, and we in the Christian church and other religious communities, owe Jerusalem enough sustained attention for it to reveal itself to us. Sometimes that will require action, speech, and political movements, and that action can’t be put off forever, but such action needs to be rooted in patient attention to the Holy Land’s sparks of light and color, and to the depth and complexity of its darknesses.  (—from, REINHARDT IN JERUSALEM,
We need these opposites.

So as to, coincidentally, erase them. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

known in passing

I didn’t recognize him
three weeks later
moving from scu
to Med-Surg

to hospice house
where I sat with him
nearly two hours
until daughter came

In wohnkuche this
St Nicholas day
I read obituary
cobbling recall

my first threefold
encounter, as it is,
an ending uncertainty 

thank you

rarely visits

It does
send regrets

to victims

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

mere gaze

It was his breath. It was thin.

He was going deeper and deeper within.

I sit with him. I look. I breathe.

And I wonder —

Is this simple act, being present with another, our true nature?

And is an act of prayer, is a life of prayer, the willingness to approach our true nature alone as well with another?

Alone and another — wholeness and no-other — the prayer of seeing what is within all (swiwa).

When I left he was sleeping, I hope you run into him soon.

Monday, December 04, 2017

giving is receiving

The new template seems to be: down is up, sleaze is purity, lies are truth, treason is patriotism, sexual assault is ok, evil is the new pragmatism.

The Republican Party morphs into a raping army vanquishing the enemy, who, by any other definition, is the American people.

If you want to hear a spiritual message, here it is: May they receive what they are giving!

The curious fact is that when love and kindness is given, so it is received. When greed and self-serving is given, so it is received.

It is a difficult lesson to learn — that we are not two.

Nor are we one — until we come to see.

And when we see what is within all (swiwa) we’ve entered prayer — the place of ineffable transformation where the between allows what was thought of as separate to reveal the true intra-diaphanous inchoate.

Seeing-though ever-present origin!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

1st advent

Om mane padme hum


See what is within all

Saturday, December 02, 2017

civil twilight

when things
seem absurd
and you feel

and befuddled about
what is happening —

consider compassion
a way

toward dawn
through a
dark night.

koan poem too often too late broken open

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one's name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

Friday, December 01, 2017

nobody loves me, everybody hates me

Cowardly congress.

Absurd executive.

I think I’ll eat some worms.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Where does congress go when it is going nowhere?

Where does religion go when it has nowhere to go?

We are left on our own.

There is no support or integrity.

Where do we go?

To sleep.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


It seems the unseemly
rips open seams
of nation’s garb.

When garbled speech
fails to float and
words capsize unbuoyed.

Piece by piece
the peace we seek
falls in shreds at our feet.

Alas, emperor
cloaks himself in tatters
as tattlers tell of penury.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017



It is so worrying that such a person rules the country and affects the world.

Miserere nobis!

Monday, November 27, 2017

a single fabric

For What Binds Us

                BY JANE HIRSHFIELD
There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight. 
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a 
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

(Jane Hirshfield, "For What Binds Us" from Of Gravity & Angels. Copyright © 1988 by Jane Hirshfield)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

radical kinship

Sunday morning On Being interview with Fr. Greg Boyle sj. 
Boyle is Buber-esque in his pointing to a homey sense or kinship wherein we’re all locked up together, where refusal to divide, recognition of the everyday, that we are and who we are is deep intimacy and profound respect due each and every being in this existence.

His mantra is: Now. Here. This!

At end he prestents Hafiz:

With That Moon Language

Admit something.
Everyone you see, you say to them
“Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud:
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
– Hafiz

Ms. Tippett: Fr. Greg Boyle is founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. His books include Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and more recently, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

你好吗i nǐ hǎo ma how are you

How do we meet?

Martin Buber said that meeting is the essence of human activity, 
In order to preserve the imbrication of singular selfhood and the bonding of human personhood, Buber rejected the false choice between individualism and collectivism. As Buber always understood it, human wholeness lies in the meeting of the one with the other in a living fourfold relation to things, individual persons, the mystery of Being, and self. Every living relation is essential and contributes to human wholeness because human wholeness (“man's unique essence”) is known or posited only in living out a set of relations.
I meet this gentleman sleeping in his hospice bed on Saturday night visit to this dedicated hospice house Thanksgiving  holiday weekend.

Between moans and snores there are the pauses of breath. Then remnants of interior proclamations of thought reaching for vocal chords but losing its way through washed out roads and blocked bridges.

I’ve wandered into this space under tv playing extreme weather stories to far end of room where abandoned remote sits alongside someone’s two handled bag.

From next room the fussing sounds of an infant. My companion, in his doze, resounds similarly. An antiphony of inquiring protestations of arriving and departing consciousness separated by eighty decades of mirrored colloquy.

About Buber:
He is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou” and “I-It” modes of existence. Often characterized as an existentialist philosopher, Buber rejected the label, contrasting his emphasis on the whole person and “dialogic” intersubjectivity with existentialist emphasis on “monologic” self-consciousness. In his later essays, he defines man as the being who faces an “other” and constructs a world from the dual acts of distancing and relating.
We face each other by means of sounds and presence. Always in conversation, like newborn and long-live’d facing one another by sound alone, the calling-card of shy presence, we negotiate the nexus of invisible interstices the way mild evening mist and pre-dawn freezing flecks interconnect in what is between what is inbetween.

Where we meet is that emptiness between what is inbetween and what is not there.

My companion resumes recitative of snore, moan, and detoured proclamation.

Refrigerator motor harmonizes with weather numbers from unmatched images.

We pray the prayer of meandering breath. In. Out. Pause. Resume. Oremus.

We have met and do meet in this sacred ground we do not know the name of. So, we call it “here.”

Here we are.

Here is who we are and what we are as we encounter all we meet in unknowing intimacy.

There’s nothing to do here but be here.

This is how we are,

Friday, November 24, 2017

how difficult it is to remain just one person (Milosz)

At prison. On mountain. At home. At conversation.

With poetry.

Friday after Thanksgiving.

As it is, lovely.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

gracias, grazie, merci, danke, shokran, xièxie

Humility never says "It's me!"
Kindness doesn't ask for a receipt.
Everydayness doesn't care about future payoff.

No one can control the behavior of another.
But what comes out of us in response is our character.

On Thanksgiving, gratitude is gifting another a loving response.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ask not

Fifty four years ago a sacrifice was made.

America sacrificed a president.

It broke something important.

It broke our will.

We wanted truth.

We got lies.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

covering jfk

I think of jfk on eve of assassination.

The death of our country with lies and deception.

Still covering.