Today At Meetingbrook

Friday, February 07, 2003

To war, these words: No, not now!
To peace, these words: Yes, now!

War is illusion with clenched bloody hand and closed mind.
Peace is reality with tender touching hand and open heart.

Those who have seen and known war understand No to war.
Those who see and feel peace innerstand Yes to peace.

Calm and contemplation
has in itself a
clarity and tranquility
beyond anything known to
earlier generations.

- Kuan-ting

God has learned from war. God weeps with this knowledge.

God is now here. God is now peace.

What are we learning? Where are we now?

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Do we ask? Where?
What choice do we have in the face of contemporary world events?

"The choice in the midst of suffering is either bitterness or compassion." (--said to radio host 6Feb03 by Monsignor Thomas Hartman, co-author with Rabbi Marc Gellman of Religion For Dummies®)

Suffering these days entails a long list. You can hear it almost anywhere. It is heard in the bookshop. For some it almost seems too much. Their suffering goes far beyond their singular self. It stretches to the prospect of war, the failure of technology, the corruption of corporations, the deceits of governments, the harm done to trust in secular and church institutions, and the perpetuation of beliefs willing to amputate whole groups of people from the embrace of common support and economic safety.

Individuals reach for understanding. In last night’s conversation, after reading from The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain, it happens that someone suggests that stone matter was less substantial during placement of ancient stones or construction of pyramids, that sound assisted the moving of massive objects, that there were technologies used far beyond our imagination that would seem very odd to our linear, left-brain computations.

These ideas seem eccentric.

Eccentric also the ideas of those suggesting conspiracy in deaths of notable people like Paul Wellstone, Ron Brown, and countless others. The initial response might be to wince and move mentally to dismissal of insubstantial evidence. Questions of the space shuttle disintegration might lay side by side with questions of JFK, MLK, and RFK assassinations in the 60’s.

Since 9/11 our certitude and trust are sounding shaky and insubstantial. Voices attempting to sound strong and sternly resolute with arguments for decisive action against evil and foes, on the contrary, have a tin-like whine of suspect bravado not unlike bullying commands anywhere.

Where turn for certainty? The options diminish. Pema Chodron’s book suggests in its title we might consider becoming Comfortable With Uncertainty. Can we?

As a people, we seek either evidence or faith following death or significant events of destruction and suffering. Evidence is sometimes not forthcoming or is easily manipulated. So too, faith. What do we do when external voices and established structures no longer speak truth to the suffering?

While the ignorant only talk,
The wise apply their minds to practice.
There are also ignorant people
Who sit in meditation
With an empty mind and
Without thinking of anything
And who call themselves great.
It is useless to talk to them
Because of their views.

- Altar Sutra

Part of the practice of conversation is paying attention to ideas that, on first hearing, seem unlikely or absurd. Another practice of conversation is paying attention to the feelings and intuitions that arise within you listening to what is being said. The attention we devote to what is taking place has value when it is an attentive presence allowing transformation to take place. This transformation includes the one speaking, the one listening, the matter spoken about, and all the possible ramifications and consequences towards which attentive presence extends.

If we learned anything from Sept. 11, surely it is that there is a reason to worry when politicians hijack religion — just as we've learned from the church's scandal of the dangers that abound when religious leaders value political self-preservation over protecting the defenseless in their flock. ( NYT, Religion for Dummies, op ed piece by Frank Rich, 27Apr02)

The proper response these times might not be religion. What then? Ideologies not yet tried or semi-abandoned?

The practice of conversation is the practice of silence. We must begin again to listen to the sound of what is being said, within and without us.

If the true sound of what is being said is attended to, might the heaviness of our world become lighter? Might the oppressive weight of the false and untrustworthy become the insubstantial illusion it is? And might we return to a trust and confidence, faith and compassion the world so desperately needs in our time?

Real practice is to do what is true. Real presence is to be no opposite -- to be what is here.
When we are absent, when we are unwilling to pay attention, we have forgotten wonder. No wonder -- (and) we have forgotten God.

Do we ask? Where?
Do we dare?

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Time changes hands. Before to after midnight. Yet, it is still Now.

Standing alone beneath a solitary pine
Quickly the time passes.
Overhead the endless sky
Who can I call to join me on this path?

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Reading articles about deaths that trouble credulity and justice takes hours away.
Not-knowing is the conclusion and beginning of thinking.

I think of political figures that die and disappear. It is a theater of farce and fantasy too frightening to stage.

Returning to earth, leaving the sub-soil of political night crawling, bell outside window laments in wind.

Cesco's former mistress, Ky, left us license plates. The Volkswagen van wears them as of February first. They are question, prayer, name of God, and statement of faith in what matters --- NOW.

With Ryokan I ask: "Who can I call to join me on this path?"

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Blizzard.

Earlier, Tom, Barbara, and David spoke of omens and location. Why over Texas? Is Columbia, the ancient appellation of America, warned by this microcosmic sign?
The three stand in front of counter as Sam and Saskia play harmonica and flute. The talk of the country's leaders, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, is filled with wary worry. The music seems to get louder as voices increase in passion. I am looking up books on psalms and reverence.

The perfect Way’s like boundless space
Nothing lacking, nothing extra
It is because of choice
That its absolute truth is lost.
Don’t pursue externals;
Don’t dally in the interior void.
When the spirit remains serene
In the unity of things
Dualism vanishes by itself;
When that unity is not clear
There is loss in both directions.

- Seng-ts'an (d.606)

Tom leaves with soups and Mabinogian Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton. Barbara goes afterwards with soup. David sits with musicians.

It seems a sin to forget the agreement between all things, all peoples, the All-God and All-God's no opposite. The agreement, like water in glass with glass around water, is to be for each other a place of integrity. As places of integrity we allow the other to be no other, rather, to dwell as neighbor each to each holding in reverence the agreement.

Unity is clear. No murdering, no stealing, no dishonoring.

Remember this -- agree to be this with each and all.

Hanging on bakery counter lamp is cross-made one evening conversation by David's son Forrest with two sticks and piece of string. All three items have kept their agreement with each other these six years. So have we with them. It is the way of the cross that remembers for us the agreement holding us together that we so easily forget.

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Berdyaev in his "The Part of Imagination in the Moral Life" wrote,
The Ethics of creativeness presupposes that the task which confronts man is infinite and that the world is not completed.

May we be delivered from men intent on destroying another's face!

May we learn, forgetting self, to open to boundless space!

May we agree to dwell with all upholding grace!