Today At Meetingbrook

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Forgetfulness is the face of war.

Who sees we are each one? Who comprehends sin as the ignorant will to make other and attack with mind to destroy the other as cause of our own unhappiness?

Who is capable of accepting the truth of God -- not Gott mit uns as if God were a cheerleader in international scrums marching downfield to goal line uprights -- but the truth of God as the mystery of peace at center of each and every person and thing.

At center, where each is itself. Itself, where God breathes within one and all.
God's breath, where you and I dwell as no other.

There is a new axis of dualistic foolishness. From George Bush to Osama bin Laden, from Saddam Hussein to Kim Jong Il, from Tony Blair to Ariel Sharon -- the dos e dos of war rhetoric and foolishness of mired dualistic thinking continues.

"All that philosophers have handled for millennia has been conceptual mummies; nothing actual has escaped from their hands alive....What is, does not become; what becomes, is not." (-- Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ.)

Acquisition, greed, and illusory-self love are clues to mummified concepts paraded in public wrapped in nationalistic and corporate flags for mass consumption & patriotic fervor. It is terrifying to think our leaders are aware they shill the dead and mummified knowingly for some benefit only they and a few with them accrue.

Nietzsche asks us to consider that we will not become a peaceful people after this or that evil is eliminated. Rather, we are a peaceful people that refuse to be what we are. That is our sin. There is no evil that takes away our good. We refuse the good we are. We cannot become what we are -- we can, though, desist denying what we are. If we deny what we are, we don't become something else -- we are not.

The sin of war-makers, if we can still make sense of the word 'sin', that Nietzsche might wish us to consider, is convincing us to deny who we are, forget what we are, and become murderers and plunderers. Then, these war-makers would have us believe, we would then strive to be what we are really becoming, namely, peaceful, loving, good citizens of our communities.

There are those who wish to claim we are good and evil, an amalgam of opposites battling to emerge authentically as shadows with light or light with shadows. Even here are seeds of understanding longing to flower.

We are not one or the other.
We are not one and the other.
We are one another.
There is no other.

Heidegger, after Kierkegaard, spoke of repetition. The German "Wiederholung" (retrieval, repetition).
By virtue of repetition the individual is able to press forward, not toward a sheer novelty which is discontinuous with the past, but into the being which he himself is. By repetition the individual becomes himself, circling back on the being which he has been all along. Repeating the Aristotelian ' to ti en einai' (that which a thing was to be), repetition is that by which the existing individual becomes what he was to be, that by which he returns to himself. (p.12, Radical Hermeneutics -- Repetition, Deconstruction, and the Hermeneutic Project, by John D. Caputo, c.1987)

War is forgetfulness. It is the acting out of a primal mythology pitting one against the other. This mythology hurts, but has, in Richard Hugo's phrase, "compensations too lovely to leave."

The compensations of forgetfulness are power, wealth, and deceitful use of the other for benefit of the one. War is the delivery system of spoils to the spoilers.
War is the lie forgetfulness fails to recognize.

How do we return to "what a thing was to be?" How return to ones' self?

Try, try, and try to remember.
Look deeply into the face right there in front of us.

Gaze, long and carefully.

This, this, is our prayer.

Monday, February 10, 2003


In the shop around the fire of a Sunday morning, Pat, an older woman, tells of her sister dying. A young man, Jonathan, listens. One other makes three.

Perfect and clear by nature
Is the Bodhi ocean;
Pure and faultless,
Bodhi is in essence wonderful.
Its fundamental brightness shone,
So by chance creating
An object which then
Obscured its radiant nature.
Thus in delusion there
Appeared one-sided emptiness
In which an imaginary world
Arbitrarily was built.
Steadying itself,
The thinking process made the continents
While the illusory knower
Became a living being.

- Manjusri’s Gatha

In their conversation, illusion, grandiosity, and separate selves dissolve. Remaining in their midst was a living being. That living being found its soul between them.

February 10 remembers Scholastica. Scholastica was Benedict's sister. They visited. She was, it seems, in her final days, dying. She wanted to talk for the duration.

Their spiritual conversation went on and the hour grew late. The holy nun said to her brother: “Please do not leave me tonight; let us go on until morning talking about the delights of the spiritual life”. “Sister”, he replied, “what are you saying? I simply cannot stay outside my cell”.
When she heard her brother refuse her request, the holy woman joined her hands on the table, laid her head on them and began to pray. As she raised her head from the table, there were such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated. Sadly he began to complain: “May God forgive you, sister. What have you done?” “Well”, she answered, “I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery”.
(--From the books of Dialogues by Saint Gregory the Great, pope)

Benedict stayed despite worrying he'd broken his will to return to his cell. They spoke. Then he went back to his cell. Three days later, she died. "Looking up to the sky, he saw his sister’s soul leave her body in the form of a dove, and fly up to the secret places of heaven."

Pat said she'd died once after an operation in the recovery room. Her mother bringing flowers found her unbreathing and flatline. When the medical people called her back, she lived to tell the story. Jonathan asked, "So you actually died and came back?" Pat looked at him, smiled, and said, "Look at this face; can't you tell?" All laughed.

We visit each other to visit the "between." It is there, in that "thin place," we engage each other while still remaining free of attachment and grasping. Engaged yet free -- a lovely phrase read from Wayne Teasdale's book A Monk in the World.

Benedict and Scholastica experienced "...such brilliant flashes of lightning, such great peals of thunder and such a heavy downpour of rain that neither Benedict nor his brethren could stir across the threshold of the place where they had been seated." Jonathan and Pat experienced intergenerational warmth from each other and fireplace telling their stories -- she of her brother dead and dying sister -- he of playing his synthesizer piano for his grandmother when he arrived just after she had died. "She heard you," says Pat. And Jonathan’s face is bright.

Staying a while with each other, letting fall the walls of our will and imagined separate egos, moving beyond barriers into the shared spaciousness of the between -- we dissolve into each other, into the between, for the duration.

No longer obscuring our radiant nature, we are of service to one-another. We are -- simply, silently, transparently -- there.

As Pat visits her sister today, we pray for that presence -- with each and all of us everywhere.