Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, December 28, 2002

There is no place to hide. Even when we long to disappear it has to be done in plain sight.

The little retreat is to hide
Among wooded hills;
The great retreat is to vanish
In the capital
.
- Kanzan

A curious dream. Waking up after dream of a monastic setting and another of beach waves behind sand dunes the idea of consolidation and enfoldment recurs. The woman from Lincolnville comes in and is fired as spiritual director (a self-appointed position that consisted of pizza and advice, both by the slice).

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, 'Mediocre hermitry exists in mountains; real hermitry downtown.' It means ordinary hermits retreat to mountains or forests; great hermits retreat to the center of the city. City life is quick-paced and it is difficult for hermits to find a quiet forest. In Lantau Island one can find a Trappist Haven Monastery, a group of true hermits - the cenobites. If wild life is forced to emigrate from this Concrete Forest, how could there be sufficient space for these cenobites? (on website, Trappist Monastery in Lautau)

What sleeping dream of monastic life and ocean proximity? What retreat does the inner solitary find in outer community?

Great hermits don’t know who should live and who should die. They allow life to see itself through. We need hermits and solitaries that continue to look deeply and long for, at, and as each of us.

There is no place to hide. What really interests is how to be hidden in the obvious. To find oneself out is it necessary to lose no self within?

Today we think of innocents. Those who die -- first in the minds of uncaring people, then physically at the hands of unkind people -- die without being seen by those who profess to know who they are. Their death is an ignorance that causes suffering in the world.

What do we do when we don’t know what to do?

Sit a while. Be unknowing. See what is there. Care for what is seen. Be kind to what is cared for.

Whether ignorant and harmful, or unknowing and hurt – these are two versions of innocence. Perhaps we might learn to look at “wild life” the way hermits look out of solitude. The world longs for what is looking at it with love.

What if innocence was treated with love?

Friday, December 27, 2002

John's words make of the Word a language of love.

Is he "the disciple whom Jesus loved"? Is it because he was loved that, in his words, Jesus the Christ was one who taught we must love one another?

Now whether withdrawn on a mountain,
or retired in a city, the essential
thing is the long maturation.
For this, it is good to keep
the examples of the old masters in mind,
or we will be pulled back into
the dust and delusion of the world.

- Torei (1721-1792)(dailyzen)

A long maturation is needed to learn through dust and delusion the longing of love for itself.
It seems muddled to suggest love has no object. Love has only itself, and itself includes one and all.

John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and received from Christ the honourable title of "Boanerges," i.e. "sons of thunder" (Mark, iii, 17). (Catholic Encylopedia)

Had mother Salome been the chosen reference, the honorable title for the boys might have been "Rogati Dei," or, "asked of God." They were asked to consider with their lives the question of love.

What is the question of love?
With our lives, in the beginning, we listen to the word.

When word and question become flesh, we'll sit in stillness, move with peace, our long maturation.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Shoveling 20 inches of snow 4 hours places one in prayer.

Christmas night white snow blowing northeasterly stops everything in Maine. Stephen’s Day pulls blanket from manger, covers everything with pause, and drops coat at feet of someone needing new way of seeing.

Where is Christ today?
Is each sculpting act, each falling flake, each wandering thought preparing this one to be the question? Is “this” – each instant as it is – the coming into being of Christ?
Like the words in the story told in Acts 6: "And the high priest said, “Is this so?”
I ask: Is this so?

More than the watchman for daybreak, let Israel hope in the Lord:
for with the Lord there is kindness and abundant redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all its transgressions.

(from Psalm 130)

Like the Dalai Lama -- who says that his religion is simple, his religion is kindness -- is the new way of being, “kindness,” replacing religion, as we’ve known it?

Absent all implements and instruments of religion, absent creeds and confessions, pronouncements and pontification, capital building fundraising and hoarded treasures in basement archives -- absent all these, can kindness revive religion? Or, perhaps, can kindness reveal the Itself, God, Ultimate Reality?

Is there a need to divest all extraneous possessions, a divestiture of special symbols, handshakes, & titles on the part of religions in order to restore genuine trust and everyday sacredness to the world?

What is religion holding on to that makes it so reluctant to allow appear the true face of God longing to shine through everything?

The vagaries of life
though painful,
teach us not to cling
to this fleeting world.

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

Not to cling to this fleeting world, surely, means letting go the ornaments and prized differences so precious to religions. .

It is a terrible thing done in the name of God. Patronizing and murdering, growing rich with divisive rhetorical venom spit at others -- all the "others" -- and calling it entertainment, commentary, ecclesiastical and clerical fatwa, interdict, and casting into the darkness.

No wonder.
No wonder and fear replace wonder and love.
Kindness need not apply.

And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

We're told that Jesus' words and Stephen's words were prayers to absolve those who killed them.
Kindness? No cry for justice. No curse of damnation. No promise of future retaliation or vigilante revenge. No elimination of enemies in the name of God, country, flag, or the deaths of the innocent.

What would the world come to if kindness were our prayer and act?
One need applies to everything, everywhere, everyone, and every time.

Kindness.

Simply.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

What is this?

Cesco looks over toward woodpile. We've returned from short walk along Ragged Mountain. I take wood to cabin. Smoke from woodstove chimney. Stillness.

Blue Lincoln pulls in as I sit at desk in house with Mu-ge tossing off, one by one, small things to floor and attempting to do same to words from computer screen.

Betty gets out, walks to cabin, and enters. Some time passes. Later, leaves. Bringing, and leaving with, solitude.

MoGLIAD, (i.e., Mother of God, Light In All Darkness), gift of Betty, icons north gable of chapel/zendo, as does her wooden turning centerpiece on Janet’s hermitage table in dining room

In front room of hermitage, incense burns rising behind clay carrying animal (reindeer? camel? donkey?) from artists Clarity with child in basket on its back.

Arrives child extending into life. Single candlelight glows behind child on animal between sitting Buddha and crucified Jesus. Arrives these two men expanding through death.

The whole season of a person's life celebrated of a day. Our Mother Light issues forth her children. We are gifted and served well!

"This," says song and script, "this, is Christ the Lord."
What is "this?"

I ask this so that we, each and all of us, might have life, and have it abundantly.

A sound! Nuthatch breaks seed on bell pole outside window.

This is good!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

We like the invitation of a silent night.

"I'm not there yet," says Jerry from the bench and table by fireplace. He is writing. Cesco sleeps by door.

They shall tear down the Temple to Self for man is an unworthy God when man exalts something and heads into nothing.
There is no higher-minded goal other than love thy neighbor as thyself...otherwise the foundation of man is sand, washing away. Build it on stone so others can stand with you.
(Jerry at 4:45pm)

The people from New York finish their coffee and hot chocolate and leave with words of the season. Jerry goes. Sam and Susan arrive. Joan from Northport arrives. I can't imagine why we are open.

"Caring about people who are alone, who don't have much," that's what Joan relates Rev. Susan S. at Lincolnville said at this evening's service. There were four speaking people at four corners of the church and a woman in a gold scarf telling the Christmas story.

Soon solitude will watch doors close and cars disappear. The star atop Mt. Battie tower has focus tonight. Generator filled with fuel. Cold night air. Drivers heading north on Elm Street Route One might pause.

For now, that is all we can do.
Pause.

What is being pointed out?

Monday, December 23, 2002

Stefanie, a student, leads her paper with two quotes:
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.
( -- Albert Einstein, letter dated 1950, quoted in H. Eves’ Mathematical Circles Adieu, 1977)

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.
( -- Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, foreword to The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery)

Is birthing Christ a dawning consciousness that recognizes one family?

A holy family? All beings – inanimate to animate, dirt to sentience, all species through human to realms unknown to any of us? Are we ready for this birth?

Another student writes:
I know I won’t emerge from this class as a philosophical scholar. In my “trained” way of thinking, I tell myself that I did not succeed in this class because I can’t put a pretty ribbon around the little box of wisdom that I didn’t gain from this class. Are you following me? Then, I realized that I do not need to because there is no box and no ribbon. There is only philosophy, which leaves things as they are; bare. In the end, I’m still holding onto the ribbon, but I’ve managed to throw the box away! (Josyln)

Perhaps the box is bare, empty. Without box, the empty content, that is, the emptiness that even the idea of box could not contain, much less the greater illusion that a container such as a physical box could contain what is wisdom, spills effortlessly into nowhere.

Put differently – what a lovely ribbon!

Is Christ a lovely ribbon remaining after what we thought we held has disappeared? When nowhere becomes now here?

Is Christ the light illuminating a circle of compassion embracing all and whole?

There is no shopping for this. This is gift given and received once and for all when the first sound resonated from the origin of sound.

Put differently – Let there be light!. (cf. Gn 1:3)

And there was, and is here, and ever will be -- this sacred ribbon.

Still.

Holding.