Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, January 26, 2002

The small pot-bellied stove has two broken legs. Tommy wants to be called when it is fired up for the first time. Snow melts from kitchen roof into white plastic gutter with hot sun over it waving hand fashioning disappearing trick. Jim walks carefully across snow and ice to pickup truck for telephone numbers he will call.

In the shop yesterday Susan tells me of a friend's wife with stage four lung cancer. She's been told -- two months to five years -- and is receiving either radiation or chemo, Susan doesn't know for sure. Earlier Karl and Bill separately tell me the news of a woman from church -- her son died -- suddenly and young. They don't know for certain, but suddenly and young evokes a groan of familiarity of recent deaths by suicide in the community. Joe and Gige stop in looking for a book that hasn't arrived yet. They are incensed by the oncoming and ongoing news from Boston about pedophilia and priests. Joe won't be going to the renewed hospice training in the morning, saying his 80+yr old energy can only be meted out for one thing at a time -- and the Patriots are playing on Sunday -- he's reserving his energy for that loss. Bob, who had a heart attack and is surprised at how that affects one's sense of well-being, calls to say he'll stop by for a chat Saturday afternoon.

An executive from Enron seems to have shot himself dead in his Mercedes in Texas. Hearings begin in Washington about the corporate collapse and matters of financial investments, political contributions, and accounting irregularities. Deaths in Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan -- all indicate unfinished hostilities. It's not hard to wonder at death -- not why, we know why. We die because we are born. But how, the how of death -- that's what gives us pause.

Mokusen Miyuki in the book Buddhism and Jungian Psychology , in a chapter entitled "Dying Isagi-Yoku" writes:

Death is a concept. Dying, but not death, belongs to the experience of the living person. However, dying as a form of living is crucially different from other forms of living in that the individual is facing the critical moment in which he or she is going to disappear from this life. Here I present the Japanese response to the fear of death which can be characterized as the attitude of isagi-yoku.
Speaking of this attitude, D.T. Suzuki in his work Zen and Japanese Culture (1970) states:
To die
isagi-yoku is one of the thoughts very dear to the
Japanese heart....
Isagi-yoku means "leaving no regrets," "with a
clear conscience," "like a brave man," "with no reluctance," "in
full possession of mind," and so on. The Japanese hate to see
death met irresolutely and lingeringly; they desire to be
blown away like the cherry blossom before the wind, and no
doubt this Japanese attitude toward death must have gone
very well with the teachings of Zen (pp.84-85).


This morning at Lectio, the reading about the two fellows, their names called, leaving their nets, father, and boat to follow Jesus -- something they saw, no doubt, something they heard -- and they're away. So many of them in a few years from that time are killed, martyred -- it is called -- for what they heard and saw, for what they said and did. "For the faith," some say. But that's not compelling. Faith in what? Belief in what? Or who? No, it's hard to imagine they died for a formula, a creed, or an affiliation. What then did they die for? Why did those fishermen drop everything, turn around, and enter a new reality? Typically we say they followed Jesus, followed the Messiah, followed Christ -- but what does that mean?

What if they dropped everything, turned around, and followed a new reality -- and it meant just that -- a new reality? When we see something, anything potentially, we are changed. Think of seeing the plane hitting the World Trade Center, or the twin towers collapsing. Think of seeing a loved one dead. We're changed by such seeing, such hearing. What if those fishermen suddenly heard and saw that they, (and possibly we), have been completely misled in what we consider reality to be? What if, like those science fiction movies, we come to the experience that everything we've believed about the nature of what is real and unreal has been completely overthrown? Like the film Matrix --living inside a computer program, or the film eXistenZ obscuring what is in the game and what is outside the game? Or one of those nocturnal dreams that are so vivid and active that we are unsure whether we are inside or outside the dream, and uncertain what waking would mean?

The fishermen, quite possibly, entered a new reality. What we read as a walking away from familial and lifework relationships in the narrative might be something more radical, unexplainable, and just a little bit terrifying -- a turning, not unlike death in life, or dying and living -- at and as -- the same instant. What if the very fabric and composition, ground and ideational perspective shifted -- and they no longer saw or recognized what they'd known as real and normal? What if they saw God?

I don't know what they saw. I don't know what they heard. I don't know what occurred for them after they turned. I don't know what new reality suddenly became their very life, their very existence. I don't know if "seeing God" means seeing reality differently or seeing a different reality. I suspect it means you no longer take anything other than what you directly experience as true, anything other than what you are experiencing as what you hold as true for yourself. For this we need both caution and abandon. We need what is called discernment and community -- to help sort through what is not true so to arrive at what is true. I suspect the lives and deaths of the fishermen had something to do with a profound and inalterable certainty that what they experienced and knew was completely worth isagi-yoku!. This attitude of isagi-yoku -- might perhaps be restated as life-in-death, death-in-life, wholelife/wholedeath -- a new reality of seeing as prayer and awakening.

I will die. You will die. We all die. What we struggle with is when and how. What if 'when' is now and 'how' is turning around into a new reality of seeing as prayer and awakening? Perhaps to live/die -- fully seeing what is really true -- is to be fully fearless and fiercely resolute in our response to what calls our name.

Outside window, the breeze takes edges of cedar branch a short way with itself. Fleeting water drop, sumie stroke on transparence, streaking window frame. White cloud moves effortlessly over Sally's land. Chickadee, with unseen sunflower seed, disappears. Each breath in this seeing is a prayer for the dead, the dying, the living, and those turning around.

Friday, January 25, 2002

Saul, it is said, was converted. His conversion is celebrated today. One's conversion, another's conversion, our conversion -- a formulaic understanding I need to come to terms with, to understand. It nears time to get up and return home.

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate not drank.
(Acts 9:8-9)

Seeing nothing, some say, is prelude to new activity. In Saul's case the activity was the speaking aloud of what he heard -- namely, what we think is put to death because of our dualistic politics in the secular and religious realms, is transcended by the Christ who appeared from the center of woman, died into the center of earth, and resurrected as center of every nucleus and extension-without-end. Life/death is non-dual! Jesus related in an instant of blinding awareness to Saul that he, and we, are living in ignorance of what is true reality.

And what formulaic shape does this revelation take? Hurt anyone, hurt me, hurt yourself. Help anyone, help me, help yourself. Dismiss anyone, dismiss me, dismiss yourself. Kill anyone, kill me, kill yourself. Love anyone, love me, love yourself.

Jesus the human gift found himself Christ the gift of God. Christ the expression of the Father/Mother God is the gift Spirit gives through matter, life, word, flesh, and finally, truth. Find one, find the other, find oneself. Serve one, serve the other, serve oneself. Practice presence-itself, practice presence-with-other, practice presence-as-oneself.

This darkness of Saul's is prelude. We need to help each other in and through this darkness. Some get trapped in isolation in that darkness and commit suicide, or murder, or war - the combination of the two. We sorrow when that occurs.

Saul took the extended hands of companions that led him further through his darkness until he regained his sight. Our hands need to practice opening. Open one, open another, open to where light longs to lead!

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Concrescence, says the dictionary, (from the Latin concrescere=to grow together), means a growing together of parts or cells. Alfred North Whitehead uses the word often in his philosophical writings.
In Stephen T. Franklin's book Speaking From The Depths, writing about Whitehead's thinking, Franklin says,
As we saw in the first section, religion is the application of the permanent side of the universe to the act of concrescence. This, however, raises a problem. For Whitehead, the process of the universe is a self-evident fact. How, then, does this "permanent side of things" find its niche in a world of endless change? How are we to verify the religious person's assertion that there exist ideals which are applicable to the concrescence of all actual entities at all times? Moreover, is there really any sense that the accomplishments of one generation are preserved from the ravages of the next?


Franklin says the primary religious problem according to Whitehead involves asking, "How then are we to account for this religious intuition into the permanent side of things -- the permanent principles of concrescence on the one hand, and the permanent significance of our accomplishments on the other?"
Quoting Whitehead:
The most general formulation of the religious problem is the question of whether the process of the temporal world passes into the formation of other actualities, bound together in an order in which novelty does not mean loss.
The ultimate evil in the temporal world is deeper than any specific evil. It lies in the fact that the past fades, that time is a 'perpetual perishing.' Objectification involves elimination. The present fact has not the past fact with it in any full immediacy.
(Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology p.517)

Franklin writes, "Whitehead is famous for his tenacious insistence that no one ideal can serve for all people in all periods -- to say nothing of all actual entities in all aeons. This is a motif which is woven into his entire book, Adventures in Ideas. We will quote one passage as an illustration.
The foundation of all understanding of sociological theory -- that is to say, of all understanding of human life -- is that no static maintenance of perfection is possible. This axiom is rooted in the nature of things....The pure conservative is fighting against the essence of the universe (AI 353h-54a)."

As it rains this Thursday morning -- Sando snoring on bed, Saskia waiting in a Volkswagon repair shop, and someone (I'm sure) wondering why our sign at the shop says 'Open at 10:30am' -- I wonder about God.

To grow together we must respond to the imploring of perfection to find it new and now, inchoate and nascent. This inchoate (only begun) and nascent (coming into being, being born) of perfection (per=through, facere=to make) asks us to face a reality that is not yet, while standing in a reality which is now, believing in a reality from which we've just come. Said differently, By making our way through this present moment we call 'now,' we are always at the beginning or origin of reality-itself while bringing together what went before into what is being built by our dwelling in a true and real immediacy.

Perfection is not a past or future state. It is not an ideal somewhere else that we try to measure ourselves or our behavior against. Perfection is moving through here now. Perfection is doing and facing what is here and growing together with what is now.

If God is perfect, God is moving through this time, this place, you and me, and each and every thing encountered on the way. God is not other than what is taking place. To hold on to an idea of God that posits some fixed and final, immutable and untouchable state of being that is outside the experience of you and me, here and now -- is to have that idea, and only that idea. God is not an idea nor a puppeteer. God is not a facsimile of a Supreme Court judge deciding what will be for each and all.

God is a more compassionate way of seeing. God is, if we dare say it or see it, right now inviting and imploring us to make our way through this time and place in such a way that what comes to be born is something we can grow together in love.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Recently the local internet station posted a question for a community poll asking, "Do you go to church?" The options to choose from were:
Every Sunday.
Two or more times a week.
Only on religious holidays.
I find spirituality elsewhere.
I am an atheist.

Did they mean by "church" as in "go to church" a building? A particular denomination? A distinctive ritual? An obvious congregation identified by a recognizable set of beliefs? I wonder.

If I were to post a question that might evoke current sensitivities to the notion of "church" -- (from Greek word kyriakos, belonging to the Lord); "Lord" -- (from Old English hlaf or "loaf keeper" i.e. one who feeds dependents); dependent -- (from Latin dependere, to hang down, to be derived from); I'd ask:
"Do you gather with supportive, inquiring, practicing people in order to deepen in your life that which is loving, inspiring, engaging?" Or, "Where do you find belonging that feeds your sense of true self?" Or, "How do you get or receive with others the feeling that you truly necessary and something wonderful?" Or, "From what source in your life do you find yourself awakening to that which is called God?"

Has "church-as-denomination" ("denominate," i.e. to give a specific name to), a notion of church that which we're familiar with -- done its job well delivering many to "church-face-to-face" (i.e. like the Zen saying "Better to see the face than hear the name!"), a recognition perhaps not so familiar, yet? Will church as it has been known, change? Following the lead and groundwork that our traditional understanding of the mission of churches has provided, to save us from becoming lost, and become more of a sense of shared journey with God and each other toward that which is our true and very life-with-each-and-all, a foundness, a sacred gathering in everyday encounter? Will church evolve and flower into a sacred presencing, a nameless acceptance, justice, and love?

Perhaps it doesn't matter whether we retain or move beyond the cultural and historical denominations and divisions that have been part of our experience of church. Perhaps it does matter. It seems to me to be part of a koan, a riddle meant to deepen understanding: namely, If each is church, how often do we attend oneself? If we all are church, how often do we attend each other? Or, If God is presence, then who's missing?

As places of identification and worship of God, churches enrich us.
As everyday encounters acknowledging the mystery and inner holiness of every person and all beings, no matter their beliefs, an evolving understanding of church as our ordinary face-to-face, everyday breathing, and daily practice of kindness and compassion -- my vote on the survey would aspire to 60 seconds of every minute, every minute, hour, day of every week.

Perhaps that aspiration is what prayer is. I'll try to pray continuously if that's the case. And if you meet me while I'm not praying, will you pick up the slack for the time we hang together, sip tea, look at each other, greeting whatever & whoever shows up?

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Martin was a revolution. In 1968 and earlier, he was a turning around, a new prospect of peace, respect, and soul. He presented the other cheek of Christ, the practical strategies of Gandhi, and the hidden longing of the American soul to do right by the other. Martin was good company in a bad time.

On a long journey,
It is essential to go with
Good companions;
Purify your eyes and ears
Again and again.
When you stay somewhere
Choose your company;
Listen to what you have
Not heard time and again.
This is the basis of the saying:
“It was my parents who bore me;
it was my companions who raised me.”

- Kuei-shan Ling-yu (771-854)(-from dailyzen)


In March 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon at the National Cathedral entitled "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," using the example of Rip Van Winkle sleeping those 20 years through a revolution, from King George the Third to George Washington, the first President of the United States.
While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain a revolution was taking place that at points would change the course of history -- and Rip knew nothing about it. He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution. And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution. (MLK, March'68)


We need good company today. Bombs and planes are still used as weapons of death; rich men and women fight for more and more wealth for themselves and disregard the financial needs of others; individual respect and rights of freedom afforded to Americans as a beacon of hope for the world are threatened and compromised in the name of control, security, and the assumed singular responsibility of power to fashion what it says is right for others. The company we've kept troubles in unrevealed ways the next generation's longing for love, non-violence, and justice for all.

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood [and sisterhood]. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught together in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God's universe is made; this is the way it is structured. (MLK, Mar.'68)[bracketed words added]


Martin didn't lead a revolution; Martin was a revolution. He turned and awakened. This is the way God's universe is made! With Martin's help, with God's help, we can make it; we can structure this world in such a way that we do right by the other, we become good company in a troubling time.

Sunday, January 20, 2002


Behalf Conversation, A Poem
-- (or, Dwelling Towards Turning One)

1. Oikoumenikos, Greek: of or from the whole world (-in New World Dictionary)

2. If you pass your
Whole life half asleep,
What can you rely on?

(- Kuei-shan Ling-yu 771-854, dailyzen)

3. “Or lack of belief,” the Abbot said. “I think I was born before my time. A man doesn’t have to have such a big dose of faith anymore, does he?”
Kinsella smiled. “Perhaps not.” He had been about to add that today’s best thinking saw the disappearance of the church building as a place of worship in favor of a more generalized community concept, a group gathered to celebrate God-in-others. But decided that, perhaps, the Abbot was not ready for that step.

(--from novel, Catholics, by Brian Moore, c.1972)

4. We live in the conversation we generate about the world. (- Lynne Twist, New Dimensions Radio)

.....................
It’s not that dreaming isn’t real. It’s more that we can only half read, half speak.
The sorrow’s we’ve forgotten dream’s grammar – the poetics of conversation!

Sal calls during Being There saying he’s gotten my email
what can he do for me? Thank you, I say, we’d like to see

the place in case it’s the right place for Meetingbrook.
This morning at prayer Saskia points out the word “justify”

saying that it might mean, like composing a document text,
“falling into place,” and I say, Yes, that’s it, word transformed

from one time of religion to this time of seeing things as they are.
Sal wondered if I’d checked the zoning, “I’m not sure retail is allowed.”

How sweet of him to pick the one thing I’m willing to give up,
as if he were transforming word to this stranger along the wire –

you see, if the shop was the tail looking for the dog, then, re-tail, or
conversing the tail, we’ve found the dog, found the place, justified

in dream the syllables of grammar. Call it Schola Lumen – a Light Conversation,
or a Conversing Light – that which arrives from word to silence or con-versa.

We’ll wait half awake to fall into place with each one departing silence to word
a clear and present learning once called school, or church, or synagogue, or mosque, or temple

but now with new grammar, new parsing of now, a hospice of “or” –we become words
seeking breath, falling into place in each other’s eyes, each other’s ears, each other’s benediction.

We are half awake, the sound of dreams speaking in drowse. And we are ready to fall awake,
fall into place the words, “I understand!” -- without thought, generative, awaking half to whole.

(wfh, 20jan02)