Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Tom from New York smoked a cigar by harbor. Another man who carted off seven "Subjects" Books In Print after breaking a plastic plate brought back some old Ellery Queen mystery magazines, a book by Ferdinand Marcos, and one on educational philosophy. Tom found it a curious swap. Life is a curious swap.

Neither by words nor by the patriarch;
Neither by colors nor by sound was I enlightened.
But, at midnight, when I blew out
The candle and went to bed,
Suddenly, I reached the dawn.
Profound quietude delivered me
To the transparent moonlight.
After enlightenment one understands
That the Six Classics contain not even a word.

- Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529)

The Angelique will enter port channel at 8:30 this morning. Jim yesterday closed on his new dwelling. Mary Beth visited and we spoke about the Laura Common. Intimate and safe, we agreed.

At Friday Evening Conversation Betty Ann wondered about this notion of oneness and no-self. Jean put it in terms of vibration that went one into the other and once there is one as the other. When we awaken, will this be clear as clear can be?

Bob sat in biannual dread of Friday night's graduation at the C-School. Sando and Cesco each tried to take Hugh's walking stick from him. Robert shared m-n-m's.

At times it seems silly that some tsk tsk our determination to simply continue Meetingbrook's Bookshop and Bakery. Does the ocean abandon its waves during storm? Does the sky declare bankruptcy after gale winds sweep away whatever resists?

One breath at a time -- it all continues. I said in the circle last night that it makes a difference whether you say, "All are one," or you say, "All is one." Wherever there is one, there is all.

What, asks Betty Ann, would it mean practically if "we're all one" were true?

We're each one. Maybe that's a way of looking at it. One begins with you, with me. One, no other. But if there is no one, there are ten thousand others. And you know what we do with "others?"

At dawn, profound quietude delivers us to transparent moonlight.
From across Barnestown Road a dog barks. On the bed to my side Sando has not opened her eye, no sound comes from her throat. In the open van Cesco snoozes in cicada solo and sun on barn.

Not even a word can disturb an extinguished candle.

After morning sitting, one was.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Is every word alive? What if every word is alive? Would it change our attentiveness to each word that is spoken by another? By ourselves?

Reading Aramaic translations of selected texts at Thursday Evening Conversation, the thought occurs: what if each word is a living being? Would it revert back to the same difficulty, namely, are we able, much less willing, to attend to living beings?

Not concepts -- those encapsulated saran-wrapped packages of imprisoned ideas.
Not dogma nor belief -- those lined-up, snap-to-attention fixed and final arrangements of militarized sentences.
And not opinions -- those coffee-splattered newspaper-modeled typeset finger-dirtying loud-mouthed unreflective stay-too-long houseguests sitting to the right of us.

But individual, dazed and dazzling, newborn wide-eyed words. The ones that arrive fresh and naked, still open to the experience they carry -- still aware of the breath they exhale in the presence of loving attention to them.

Original presence! First there is the glance.Then there is the inhalation. Next there is the experience. After that the exhalation. On the emerging breath there is the vibration of energy longing to be free, to be born. Fanny slapping awakening to the sound of one’s own voice follows this.

The cry of emergence. The presentation of itself -- word made real through flesh. In the beginning, actually at origin, is the word. As it comes to be in our midst -- ah, there and then -- actually, here and now -- we are at origin with what is original.

At origin with what is original!

No need to look for God. No need to dissect, deconstruct, compare and contrast, translate or transact text and pericope into language to be analyzed and annotated. Here and now is our opportunity to let words be themselves.

If we allowed words their own being, will we find ourselves tempted to allow individual things their own being? Each animal their own being? Each human person their own being?

Maybe that's a stretch -- allowing each their own being. Words their own. What if everybody belonged to himself or herself? What if every thing belonged to itself? What if all beings belonged as-they-are to the as-they-are-community of all beings as-they-are? Would the word 'they' choose to sacrifice itself to the word 'we?'

Would that make community as-we-are?

Be careful. Conception -- the act of becoming pregnant, the state of being conceived, the originating of something in the mind -- can become artifice, artificial. Artifice is an artful stratagem, a trick, an ingenious device or expedient. Artificial is something produced or effected by man to imitate nature. It is simulated. It is not it. It is make-believe-it.

Let's not make-believe. Let's be it. Approach with tenderness, with kindness.

Come to word. Be what is living. Be at origin. Be original.
No knowing what is found right there, here, now.

So, don’t know. Breathe. You are alive!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


Silence until noon today.

Silence of watering flowers. Silence of walking Ragged Mountain. Silence of tired dogs. Silence of sitting on cushion.

Though I think not
To think about it,
I do think about it
And shed tears
Thinking about it.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Religion is not what we think it is.

Julien Green says: "Religion is not understood. Those who wish themselves pious, in order to admire themselves in this state, are made stupid by religion. What is needed is perfect silence, supernatural silence. Pious talk has something revolting about it."

...This is one of the deep problems that Eliot suggests at the end of Murder in the Cathedral, where Thomas is faced with the realization that he may be gladly admitting martyrdom into a political and religiously ambitious scheme for himself: punishing the wicked and making himself a saint by treading down his enemies, stepping upon their heads into heaven. It is in this sense that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom -- and of true religion. This fear questions our own religiosity, our own ambition to be good. It begins to see with horror the complacency of speeches that "know all about" piety, possess the right method of pleasing God and infallibly winning Him over to our side, etc. This "fear" is what imposes silence. It is the beginning of the "supernatural silence" Green asks for.

(--Thomas Merton, pp.138-139 in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

Religion is only care-taken by churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples -- it is not owned by them. Religion is something much simpler than the institutions erected to portion and partialize it to the world.

What is religion?

Moses did not see God in the burning bush. He saw the burning bush and knew that it was a sign that God was speaking to him. In revelation, then, we recognize the signs that God is speaking to us, the works that he has done. There is nothing more illuminating than this continually repeated situation. When God is there, then he acts in our lives, our society, or our group, we do not know or feel anything special. It is only afterward, when God's work is done, that looking back we can say: "But it was God who was at work, it was he who changed the situation, it was he who passed by," just as we read that Moses and Elijah saw God's back (cf. Exod. 33:23; 1 Kgs. 19:11) when he had passed by.
(Jacques Ellul, pp.173-174, in What I Believe)

Religion is two hands of two jumpers holding each other falling from burning tower. Religion is two hands of two strangers pulling one another to safety from collapsed building. Religion is what remains when wonderful or terrible things pass human beings by. Religion is the willingness, as Rilke said about love, of two solitudes to greet, touch, and protect each other. It is immediate, intimate, and indestructible.

Am I a religious person? Are you? Not stupid religiosity, but true religion. Stupid religiosity kills in the name of God. True religion holds the suffering with tears and compassion. Stupid religiosity declares war on real or perceived enemies in the name of God. True religion attends to human beings where they are, shares abundance with those without, and consoles the sorrowing with mere simple love.

There might not be much any of us can do to fix what is broken in our world. Perhaps our task is to find what is broken within us and begin to heal there. One injury at a time, one hurting place, and one initial awareness of unknowing amid so many false certainties of who we are in this wild, unsettled, and incomprehensible place -- we begin there. This is where the world begins. It begins in the stunning shock that we have only each other to blame or love.

Blame is stupid religiosity. Love is true religion. Blame assumes and exerts power as solution. Love empties itself of all power and shows itself passing by in small, fragile, and quiet presence. It's a choice.

For this is a choice for life (nonviolence being part of it), and no other is possible. Pretending that we can express the Christian [or Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or any other form of belief or act] in works of love (aid to the poor and sorrowing, etc.), or in revolutionary acts to achieve justice, is treason if we engage thereby in the use of power. For the last word of love is that never in any circumstances will it express or indicate power in relation to others. Today only a nonuse of power has a chance of saving the world.
(Ellul, p 151) [brackets added]

Silence of cicadas in high grass. Silence of brothers and sisters one year dead. Silence of religion. Silence of God.

Silence -- even in words with another.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Ineluctably.

Cesco lies by van. Sando inside by bed. Sounds of four wheels swoosh Barnestown at bottom of hill. They flatten out, curve left, coming to Snow Bowl, then right around Hosmer Pond. Maine is too hot for this time of September.

Saskia is in galley of Angelique for week. Jon wakes to harbor. Cicadas surround Jim. Birds wonder where seeds have gone.

It is the one-year eve of the end of America's virginity. By rape, pain, blood.
What burgeons thereafter is our current ground. How fares our ground?

Loss. Ordinary people know how alone absence is, even in the company of others. Leaders of government know how seductive the temptation to insert personal agendas into national response. Religious voices cannot any longer treat doubt and skepticism as alien approaches to God -- God too is felt by absence as well as by presence.

Sorrow. How difficult the realization someone who mattered is gone. How empty the assurance they are with us still in another realm. How difficult the experience -- the one wanting to blame, explain, deny, accuse, avenge, or justify? How odd to find even forgiveness without solace or peace.

And love? Has mistrust covered love with gritty ash and soot? Is love part of our reconstruction? In looking back or looking forward what is seen if love is what is seeing?

One year ago tonight the country wondered whether a congressman who denied everything had a role in the disappearance of a Washington DC intern he'd been having an affair with. He dodged any semblance of human concern for her in favor of his career. While he tiptoed through minefields of self-interest, it was not known that her body lay lifeless in a park under brush. Not known, that is, but by the person who raped and murdered her. The discovery of her body would not occur for 13 months.

The eve. That momentary precondition and precognition of all we humans might experience. We call first woman, first mother, Eve.
We long for her now. We want to be given birth. To be reborn. Resurrection. We want to pick up the fractured slivers of love and see the faces once we saw in the mirror reflecting the other to us. Eve is promise of what is to come.

XXIII

Call me to the one among your moments
that stands against you, ineluctably:
intimate as a dog's imploring glance
but, again, forever, turned away

when you think you've captured it at last.
What seems so far from you is most your own.
We are already free, and were dismissed
where we thought we soon would be at home.

Anxious, we keep longing for a foothold --
we, at times too young for what is old
and too old for what has never been;

doing justice only where we praise,
because we are the branch, the iron blade,
and sweet danger, ripening from within.


(-# 23, from second part, The Sonnets To Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Stephen Mitchell)

Rilke uses the word "unaufhörlich" -- which in the German dictionary translates as "incessant, continuous, uninterrupted."

Mitchell chooses the word "ineluctably" for his translation. In English dictionary it comes from "ex- + luctari" -- to struggle out -- and defined as "not to be avoided, changed, or resisted."

This eve, ineluctably.

Looking back or looking forward -- what is seen -- is fresh promise of what is now seeing, with love seeing through us, with love seeing us through.

Sunday, September 08, 2002


What kind of world begins when we realize that now the world begins?

Awake or asleep
In a grass hut,
What I pray for is
To bring others across
Before myself.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

The intersection of all the twos, the fragments, the relative that is not the absolute -- this is what is crossing.

This prayer and promise -- "to bring others across" -- is the Bodhisattva vow.

Across?

Crossing the line, fording the brook, stepping out from inner seclusion -- this is becoming human. This is how we come to exist. We begin to step out from hiding.

No belief carries us across. An empty mind and devastated heart place us at the line. It is the thin place between what is no longer and what is now coming to be.

Take the hand. Hold it. Step out. Travel well.