Today At Meetingbrook

Thursday, December 05, 2002

“Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country.”
I remember that sentence (parentheses added) from my youth. It was a typing exercise my mother and sister would peck out on the small Olivetti I’d been given. The sentence and sentiment seems renewed now.

So many in our country are passionately confused. Back our President and administration? Or, loyally, oppose their either preventive positioning or posturing pretense with regard to Iraq?
People in America are torn between the take-no-prisoners of the right wing politicians and commentators, and, the just-wait-a-minute of the undecided. Polls say the President’s focus on regime change and war with Iraq is much approved. The inner hearts of those who doubt either intention or motivation of this course of action at this time by this set of men in power – these hearts hardly show up in the count used to measure the will of the American people.

“I knew a priest once. When I lived in Beijing. He used to help me.” Shan spoke at her back. “Once I had a similar dilemma. About whether to seek justice or to just do what the bureaucrats wanted. Do you know what he said? He told me that our life is the instrument we use to experiment with the truth.” (-- p.319, in The Skull Mantra, novel set in Tibet, by Eliot Pattison)

For those wishing to experiment with the truth, there is something they can do. To find the truth amid confusion and diversion of attention away from it, there is something that must be done. Practice. Practice Now. And practice continuously.

Practicing with my life is the test and trial of my life. It is to try out – [L.ex-periri] – what is the very ground of my life. The word ‘experiment’ has this definition alongside several in dictionary:
“an operation carried out under controlled conditions in order to discover an unknown effect or law, to test or establish a hypothesis, or to illustrate a known law.”(p.293, Webster’s Seventh)

Practice, Now, and Continuous – this is what each is invited to do to learn the truth.

The immediate “now” of continuous practice is not something which existed in me from before. The time called “now” is not born from continuous practice. The time when continuous practice is manifested is what we call “now.” Consequently, one day of continuous practice by us becomes the seed of all the Buddhas; it is the continuous practice of all the Buddhas.
(-- from Gyoji, in Dogen’s Shobogenzo)

No one can accept another’s version of the truth without experimenting themselves, with their own lives, with the truth. One Zen Master, when asked for a definition of truth that would still be true in five hundred years, answered, “The truth is just like this.” And so each one must ask -- What is this?

War is a serious example of our unwillingness or inability to face who we are. The externalization of inner truth – the internalization of external truth – are ways of seeing what is whole and unbroken by our minds with their rationalizations, propaganda, self-interests, delusions, and deceptions. If we are truth, each one of us, everywhere, how do we account for the activities of destruction and elimination of what we are?

“Truth,” said Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "is only arrived at by the painstaking elimination of what is not true.” I can't help but wonder. Until we face what is not true within us we will never see what is true. To face who we are is the beginning of conversation. Are we, each of us, the conversation between what is true and what is not true? Perhaps Sherlock Holmes should have been given the line: "Truth is arrived at the painstaking awareness of what is true and not true now."

We are not at the mercy of those in power with their perceptions and intentions. Whatever they do cannot touch our true reality – that which is the Ground within us. Rather, we are at the mercy of ourselves. If we do not practice the alertness and awareness that will lead us to truth, to this truth available to each of us, then we do not belong to ourselves, and are lost. To practice, now, and continuous, is to look and listen – experimenting with the instrument of our life – with the truth.

“Truth” is embedded within. No one can ultimately manipulate or destroy it. Truth waits for us -- for our eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch, and simple awareness. Truth is not other than who and what we are. Don’t lose your truth.

By practicing, now, and continuously the truth we are, will help others, everywhere. From Washington D.C. to Iraq – we can help find the courage to experiment with the truth, deepen our lives, and painstakingly become aware of and live what is true. Elimination is not the necessity. Transparency, and embodiment of truth, is.

We pray for each one’s arrival, each one's discovery, and seeing each one through.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Kneeling/sitting with Omni bench in front room. Votive candle below bronze two-sided crucifix: corpus one side, tree other. Tree facing trees of Bald Mountain, body facing me in dimming daylight.

For a while we arrange and rearrange the details surrounding our lives. Soon enough we derange and descry the details of surrender of our life. It is not a difficult transition. Only, the reality of it often eludes us.

Power is the drama of monarchs and heads of state. Power is protected, always, by death and threat of death. In the Middle East Israel occupies Palestinian land. Angered, Palestinians strike back. America gives money and implements of power to Israel. Arabs and Muslims include America in retaliatory punishment. America unleashes death and threat of death in response.

The drama. The play. The actors.

Looking at crucifix one sees death and the threat of death do not exclude Jesus. He is dead; he surrendered to the power of this world; he was nothing special.

It is Advent again. He is coming, again. Boughs and cribs, lighted trees and choral refrains, again. The cycle of birth and death is dramatized in religious observance. In the Middle East a contemporaneous passion play in real time mirrors liturgical celebrations of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions.

Sacrifices are readied. Men, women, and children are primped, rehearsed, and sent out on stage. Rulers with serious faces give explanations for their motivations that are moronic. Tanks, machine guns, heavy artillery, bombs and victory parades are planned and positioned. These heads of state are something special; entourages, secret service, bodyguards, flags, salutes, posters, hiding places – the perquisites and pornography of power. Furtive agents of terror and secrecy sneak their wares through public everydayness and detonate their belief they are saviors, martyrs, and conquering heroes – the destructive and despondent spoils of delusion.

We wonder if Jesus embodied God. We listen to his words for an echo of God’s voice. We look at his deeds for an intuitive resemblance to God’s actions. We wonder, and our uncertainty keeps us wondering. If Jesus is nothing special, he is God’s nothing special.

All the other posturing and preening, the coveting articulation and demurring denials – these are the sad and sullen lines of demented characters in the play of power running on stages in our times. Who in their right mind kills people for applause and theatrical curtain calls? Our imaginations are not engaged. Something else is asked for. Strike the set. Lower lights. Empty the house. Can anyone find a script we can live with?

The light fades and Bald Mountain looms ghostlike across Barnestown Road. The last squiggly line of incense wafts by crucifix. Twilight, dusk, finally darkness.

When bowing, head to floor, the very gesture tells the body what sacred honoring it is doing. Each small, quiet bow following that one extends filaments of enclosure to each recipient of familial inclusive recognition.

I bow to you. I greet you there.