Today At Meetingbrook

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Church this morning was serene and lovely. The tone has changed in the small building on Union Street. Fanny spoke the words praying us through liturgy of Word and Eucharist. I held in light of prayer my mother and father -- as well as sister, grandparents, aunt, uncle and all family contributing to birth and growth. If there were to be no more days for me, there is today. Born today, die today. Grace unites.

He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animates the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.
-From various writings on the history of the Order of Preachers."He spoke with God or about God" -- about St. Dominic, feast day 8August)

Bill and Dayle stayed for Wednesday Evening Conversation on final chapter of Eckhart Tolle's Practicing the Power of Now, and through the night overlooking harbor. He came for blueberry muffin and didn't want to leave the spot he found peaceful. They'll head back to Tennessee, leaving a pewter candleholder behind as gift. Angel's visiting light!

Marie and Tom travel from Boothbay for Klotz book conversation. Adele stays over. Jon calls, so too Lori. Saskia floats three balloons with blessing sign from rack in shop.

In everyone it towers like
A mile high wall,
Flashing a great precious light
In everyone’s presence.
One thought ten thousand years,
Ten thousand years one thought,
Eating when hungry,
Sleeping when tired,
Who worries about the alternation
Of light and dark,
The change of the seasons?

- Daio (1235-1309)

The month of August now slides toward September. Prison in morning.

I don't think we ever really know what's right or wrong. Perhaps we might intuit what's best to do and what to avoid. When I write the President a love letter I don't pretend to know what he or the country should do or not do. I will, however, be accountable for my own contribution to or withholding from the conversation necessary for us to partner health of nation and world community. We are merely words in a larger conversation – one begun before us and lasting long after.

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

(-poem by Wallace Stevens)

Geoffrey read us that poem in 1966 the first year studying philosophy. It didn't make sense then. I barely take it in now.

Nothing else.

----- Original Message -----
From: Bill Halpin
To: president@whitehouse.gov
Cc: vice.president@whitehouse.gov ; Senator Collins; Senator Snowe.
Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2002 2:20 PM
Subject: Concern and prayer


Dear Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney,

This is what one gentle man from a people we once called our enemy would call an attempted love letter.

It is with a certain amount of worry that I write. I have become saddened by your and Mr. Cheney's bellicose posture toward Iraq, as well as what appears to be a cynical posture toward corporate responsibility.

While I respect the good and noble offices of the executive branch, president and vice president, I worry your personal difficulties with Harken and Halliburton Co. render you both, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, uncertain models of leadership for purposes of righting what many of us in Maine consider wrong financial behavior for personal gain and international action for doubtful intention.

I also fear a deterioration of the good offices you occupy. While we Americans have always acknowledged a degree of tolerance for pettiness and arrogance that seems self-serving in our leaders, it is becoming more evident that the two of you are over-stepping by threatening to murder the Iraqi president and invade that country. In addition, the appearance of skewed favoritism to your parent interests in oil and energy threaten to drive the good faith of the country into abject mistrust.

Assassination threats beget assassination threats -- and my generation in the 60's knew the sorrow and frightening ambiguity of responsibility for the deaths at home and abroad during that time. Murder is murder -- and wrong -- whether of officials here or there, religious leaders, foreign civilians, or civilians at home. It's not worth it to always doubt the complicity of friends and neighbors, leaders and scoundrels. Christians or Muslims who kill in the name of Christ or Allah are equally pitiful and equally terrorists.

This is not the American way. It's bad enough to have had to endure the covert operations that would assassinate significant personnel in different countries, or to malign and punish the messengers of corporate misdeeds -- but to publicly proclaim a policy of deadly assassination and diminished whistle-blower protection with bland reference to patriotism, freedom, and the American way -- this seems like some third rate bungling of our constitutional and traditional posture as freedom and justice loving people.

On this date, August 8th in 1974, Mr. Nixon announced his resignation over a third rate burglary. It is hard to refer back to him and his first vice president as sources of pride and honor upholding the offices of president and vice president. I worry the two of you might be choosing -- or already chosen -- to earn a similar recollection after your tenure.

I pray for you, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney -- for your families, and for our country. You hold power. Be careful with it. The former president was called a liar and a cheat -- by people close to you both. Please do not let those two words be fixed to your names, nor to the name of the United States.

I am sending this letter to my U.S. senators from Maine, Snowe and Collins, in hopes they will watch and temper the excesses of power so tempting to your office. Too many people who wander in and out the doors of my bookshop and hermitage profess an irreparable cynicism and stuttering disbelief that you take the course you do in world affairs and domestic and environmental matters. It is a hard listening to hear their sense of outrage and impotence. And we are a town that is well to do, a nesting ground for former state, military intelligence, CIA, and FBI personnel. Their restraint and diplomatic responses to their peers as well as the younger visitors in the course of many conversations over coffee, is faint balm to the pain many display trying to moderate their assessment and opinion of the leadership in Washington D.C., and the offices occupied by you both.

I own a small business, a bookshop and bakery on Camden Harbor. If we can remain open during these uncertain economic times, please accept an invitation -- to each of you -- Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Snowe, Ms. Collins -- to stop by for a visit. The coffee and tea are always on the house. Perhaps after talking about the weather for a spell, the conversation that follows (like day the night) might help understanding and compassion to emerge. Open conversation is really the only specialty we can all afford -- financially and spiritually. We cannot afford the absence or opposite of open conversation in our lives, in our epoch. Now, that is an indicator worth watching every day!

The Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has said it is very difficult to write a love letter to your enemy. While you Mr. Bush, and Mr. Cheney, are not my enemies -- I hope this letter nears what might be called a love letter to you. I invite you to send one to the American people, to the Iraqi people, to Saddam Hussein, and to your very families. We are all worried sick. Please help heal the illness hatred and unskillful actions incur.

Sincerely,

Bill Halpin
Meetingbrook
64 Barnestown Rd.
Camden, Maine 04843

Wednesday, August 07, 2002




When we do what we are doing, all is well.

When we think about what we are doing, both delight and disturbance arise.
When we wonder whether or not we can afford continuing to do what we are doing, a darkness bordering on downright doom descends us. The experience versus thought of Meetingbrook offers Zen instruction to us.

The transitory nature of all existence can suddenly and unexpectedly shatter all your speculations. That’s why I advise you: It’s best not to cultivate any intentions. Anything you’ve ever begun is an activity with some objective, yet in the face of death it has no value whatsoever.
(-from Zen Beyond All Words, A Western Zen Master’s Instructions, by Wolfgang Kopp)

I told two folks we visited at their lovely sanctuary property in Nova Scotia my favorite two phrases have become – “shut up,” and “go home.” Perhaps these words of instruction are aspiration and mantra for me – an invocation of silence and invitation to look under my feet.

Zen is beyond all words.
Away with all thinking and explaining.
There is only mysterious silent understanding
and no more.

(- Zen Master Huang-po)

Home, often said, is where the heart is.
At the shop I get to ask people where home is.

· Yesterday, two Secular Carmelites from Kentucky -- they travel all about in their 26’ motor home. “Two by two,” Mary said smiling, “we’re on the road.”

· A woman with blond hair, white teeth, and deep tan said her home is half the year in Maine, half in Virgin Islands. We spoke of transparency – whether freedom from habit disguises, or, not pretending to talk to or through them. By presenting oneself with no barriers we near simplicity. This simplicity -- of seeing, being, and speaking from a transparent place -- is home.

· Dan, Steph and young Emmet -- friends of my son -- stayed over at the Harbor Room two days. They’re just about to publish a book entitled In The Shadow of the Towers. They live two blocks from the World Trade Center, then and now, and have gathered essays, paintings, and poems from those who live and work in that shadow, then and now. Home has been shaken hard for them. (We'll help distribute the book.)

· The women in Nova Scotia will return home to Manitoba after 25 years. “It’s time,” they said.

Where is home for any of us? Where is home for Meetingbrook?
My heart loves Silence, Here, and Now.

There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;
Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;
Eyes fail to see it;
It has no voice for ears to detect;
For it then becomes like a visionary flower in the air;
It is not Mind, nor Buddha;
Absolutely quiet, and yet
Illuminating in a mysterious way,
It allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.
It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound;
It is Tao having nothing to do with words.

( - Dai-o Kokushi)

To have nothing to do -- with or without words -- is the play of God with existence.

Humankind's desire throughout history seems to have been to name, locate, and control God. Is that because the play of God is not one we wish to engage? Because if we were to play with God we would cease to be other than God's playfulness? We do not understand, nor do we, play very well. Play loses oneself in the activity. We disappear into the act. This is difficult for us. Hence, our culture has been willing to abuse and ignore God -- wishing to play God -- but not willing to enter and disappear into the play of God.

Still.
Engaging experience, watching thought,
we enter the play of this world --
grateful instruction --
each passing face presents us.
Still –
here, with silence, now.

(- poem by wfh)

There is no place to go. How understand where or what is home?

Are you here?

Thank God!

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

What are we looking at? Ever?

Returning late from Nova Scotia by Cat last night, driving wet roads Mount Desert Island to Camden, stars watched us and we them beyond tops of trees in dooryard at 1am.

Transfiguration is seeing what is real. Presentiation is annunciation -- that's what occurs to me. No need to announce anything other than one's presence. Being there in silence is enough. If words come to that shared presence occurring in the awareness of another nearby, then those words belong to both silence and relational presence. Nothing need be fashioned; nothing need be fabricated.

Those who awaken never rest in one place.
Like swans, they rise and leave the lake.
On the air they rise and fly an invisible course.
Their food is knowledge.
They live on emptiness.
They have seen how to break free.
Who can follow them?

- Buddha in the Dhammapada

Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here - here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen. For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house. With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come. (From a sermon on the transfiguration of the Lord by Anastasius of Sinai, bishop, "It is good for us to be here." )

When Peter, James, and John entered into the presentiation of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah -- all are graced by what is revealed.

When you and I enter into the presentiation of the other -- when the no-other is engaged -- "we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come."

To all suffering the radiance of man's devastating explosion for the first time at Hiroshima -- we bow with sorrow and compassion.

To all awaiting the radiance of Christ's revealing presence for the first time and forever at each person's Mount Tabor -- we bow with prayer and gratitude.

What are we looking at? Ever?
Now?