Today At Meetingbrook

Friday, May 16, 2003

How lovely to hang laundry in soft breeze of a sunny Friday morning.

Mu-ge tries to dismantle railing of staircase. He leaps, and claws, meowing with determined craziness. I have not looked yet. But it is my hope he has not yet succeeded.

In chapel/zendo earlier after silent sitting, these words,
O see in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

(- from Psalm 51)

Catholic and former Catholic friends would look at this couplet and see a basis for shudder, a theology of guilt and shame thrust on them from earliest years. But this morning there is a different sound rising from the verses.

The "I," some say, emerged from a suspicion of separation. Once humankind became aware of the complexity in the simplicity of Being, it was the beginning of evolutionary consciousness arising from unconscious oneness wherein all Being was only, merely itself with no sense of otherness.

Finding oneself other -- sensing separation, having the ability to detach, stand outside, even blame and accuse -- was a heady experience. If we were able to blame, we could hold ourselves blameless. If stand outside, one could juxtapose an inside. So too with accuse, be innocent; detach, then grasp as one's own. Even notions of God come as a Great Otherness.

Fast-forward hundreds of thousands of years. The "I" is born with the suspicion experience of otherness. But as awareness grows through its painful and exhilarating experience of billions of interactions, events, chattering and silences, awareness begins to suspect something long forgotten yet newly awakened.

Awareness suspects there is no other. Small glimpses, gentle intuitions, lighted areas previously dark begin to emerge with increasing frequency within millions of hearts and minds through countless generations.

Something unusual and profoundly open is emerging from dark unknowing through skeptical suspicion into bright morning sunlight.
With this generous and compassionate inclusivity of sight, though, comes clear recognition that in times gone by we've excluded, been miserly to, acted unkindly with, and been blind concerning others.

Guilt and "I" know each other well.

"Sinners" is a word that has been applied to all of us who've in some manner behaved, thought, or vocalized a blaming, accusing, disdaining, or othering injury that hurt or diminished someone in our sight. We have sacrificed others in our unseeing.

Now, we are preparing to forgive ourselves our shortsightedness. We are preparing to welcome back all we've made other. We are ready to sit down, silently appraise, then stand up and audibly proclaim what is nearly impossible to put into words.

We are now alert enough to move to the penultimate quatrain of Psalm 51 with new vision,
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled contrite heart you will not spurn.


To wake up. To awaken to the climb up from the valley of darkness and death to mountain height of light and life!

This is holy making; this is true sacrifice. In this climb we no longer suspect, but grow more alert and aware to "I" diminishing and "No-Other" coming to be seen as what we are -- in, with, through, and for each and every one.

It is Christ journey.
And it is Buddha journey, all-human journey, yours, mine, and ours.

Those of us who practice Jesus' revelation face the decrease/increase spirituality of the Christ.
Those practicing the Buddha's way face the dissolve/resonate spirituality of the Bodhisattva.

Two Poems Written on the Wall at Kozosan

I acquired this hermitage a year ago;
Cloudy peaks, moon in the valley,
Companions in withered Zen.
Come morning,
I descend the mountain road.
In front of this crag,
What mountain rock will I sleep on next?

- Jakushitsu (1290 – 1367)(dailyzen)

As bell rings laundry dances alongside rusty plough between barn and brook.

Sleep and wake.

Morning!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

“God is self-evident, but what it is to be God is not self-evident to us.” (Thomas Aquinas)

Could Thomas Aquinas' sentence read, “God is self, evident, but what it is to be God is not-self evident to us”?

The paradox takes time to appear. But, right now: If God is self, then to be God is not-self.

Is this why God is invisible to us, quoted often, used as bludgeon repeatedly, but seldom felt in evident realms of compassion, justice, and peace? The notion of God, the idea of God used by embezzlers of divine reality, siphons off the name of God to exact self-styled benefits for self-absorbed individuals.

Spacious and content,
Without confusion from
Inner thoughts of grasping,
Effectively overcome habitual behavior
And realize the self
That is not possessed by emotions.
Be broad-minded,
Whole, without relying on others.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)

The self not possessed is the not-self evident to us.

‘Self’ suggests an enclosed, separate entity, distinctly other than another self, something owned and operated as private property and needing to be defended at all times. It is this ‘self’ that attracts all the advertising, flattery, importance, notions of accomplishment, success, and superiority. This ‘self’ also attracts feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, failure, inferiority, and absorption.

This ‘self’ is manipulated and seesaws between inflated and deflated opinion of its worth.

Not-self cannot be manipulated. Nor can God be manipulated. Only notions of self and ideas of God can be manipulated to achieve ends designed and devised by those manipulating.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet says, “To be or not to be … that is the question.”
It is in the ellipsis, that pause, that unknowing emptiness that the interstices of God-self/not-self occurs.

Could it be that there is no God outside the interrelated incidence of God-self/not-self?

What is God and what is you … occurring in the interval?

Is this why we cannot see God? Who can see what is not there but which is the very inquiry seeing itself as no-thing present to itself and everything surrounding itself?

Spacious and content, Without confusion from Inner thoughts of grasping,

God is. Great. We are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Gently, the Final Say.

Truth?

Just like this.

What do we hear when we listen for truth? Who has final say?

If one were to despair their country because of disbelief in its way of life, where would they go? If one no longer recognized those who say they represent you, where turn? If one feared rather than loved the institutions pledged to serve, how continue in their shadow?

The spirituality of redemptive violence put forth by any administration conducting a global war, nominally to extract terrorism and insert democracy, is antithetical to the spirituality of redemption embodied by the person in whose name the violence is done. A spiritual bait and switch, a scam selling faux-Christian battle plans disguising apocalyptic economic control in shiny wardrobe costume of democratic principles, a play to overcome non-like-us peoples, has begun and continues.

How can we ever lose interest in life?
Spring has come again
And cherry trees bloom in the mountains

- Ryokan (1758-1831)(dailyzen)

Spring comes to soothe tired hearts. Words and ways of arrogance, dominance, and condescending certitude exhaust dwindling remnant trust.

In birth country many once great dreams strain in vacant eyes. Calculating souls use errant ambition to conquer, grab spoils, and disregard decency.

If we conceive of God as somehow violent, however redemptive we imagine this violence to be, we will then conceive of the road to peace as also lying in violence.
Sadly that is often the case, within Christian and secular circles alike. We too often think of God as someone who will use violence to overthrow evil and bring about justice and peace. We conceive of God as a force for redemptive violence.
What is redemptive violence? It is what happens at the end of a movie, storybook, or song, when the hero finally beats up the bully who has been terrorizing everyone.
(- Rolheiser)

At Sunday Evening Practice we read this section from The Holy Longing, chapter “A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking” subsection ‘A Nonviolent God Who Underwrites Justice and Peace.’ It was Mother’s Day. Three of us sat with soup and bread, mothers gone beyond, and wondered, male and female, what mothering is desperately called for today.

Finally, the story reaches its climax. The bully corners the hero, who now has no choice – either fight or die. The redemption takes place. The hero, pushed beyond the limit, takes off his jacket, calmly rolls up his sleeves, and beats the bully to death…and tears come to our eyes because now, finally, justice has been done. Evil has been crushed and goodness has been vindicated.
We hardly stop to think that what has really happened is that goodness has now been more violent than evil. We fail to notice that our good hero began as Mother Teresa but ended as Rambo and Batman. We certainly fail to see that the ending of this redemptive story is radically opposite to the story of Jesus. When he, Jesus, was finally cornered and the choice was to fight or die (“If you are the son of God, come off that cross!”) he, unlike our mythical heroes, chose the latter.
We must be careful, particularly in trying to create justice and peace, not to confuse the Christian story of redemption with the story of redemptive violence. We must try to bring about justice and peace as Jesus did, recognizing that the God whom Jesus called “Father” beats up no one.
(- Rolheiser)

In Conversations at the Prison a recent Friday a sentence emerged from variety of phrases spoken by inmates and guests. “It is a necessary offering of life. Take away intentional hostility and arrives homage, acceptance, and humility.” Hostility and violence breed hostility and violence. What is needed is absence of hostility. What is needed is the truth of reverence, acceptance, surrender, and walking humbly on this earth.

Prisons are places to contemplate the experience of what it means to be trapped by time and circumstance. There is much to contemplate in our contemporary culture, in and out of prison, that threatens fear and rejoices violence. The freedom of people to choose their own leaders and way of life is at risk everywhere. Dictators, terrorists, and errant administrations all force their will on peoples too powerless and heedless to resist.

Leaves refresh branches hiding houses
up high hill, only new life
surrounding light green solitude
(- wfh)

This is rainy day talk.

In the Gospels, Jesus is described as powerful, more powerful in fact than anyone the crowds ever encountered. However, the word that is used to describe Jesus’ power, exousia (in Greek) does not refer to the power of muscle, speed, or even extraordinary grace or brilliance. It refers to something for which in the English language, we have no easy translation. What is exousia? What constitutes Jesus’ real power? What ultimately brings about justice and peace?

Daniel Berrigan provides a good answer to this question. He was once asked to give a talk at a university gathering. The topic was something to the effect of “God’s Presence in Today’s World.” His talk, I suspect, surprised a number of people in his audience, both in brevity and in content.
He simply told the audience how he, working in a hospice for the terminally ill, goes each week to spend some time sitting by the bed of a young boy who is totally incapacitated, physically and mentally. The young boy can only lie there. He cannot speak or communicate with his body nor in any other way express to those who come into his room. He lies mute, helpless, by all outward appearance cut off from any possible communication. Berrigan then described how he goes regularly to sit by this boy’s bed to try to hear what he is saying in his silence and his helplessness.
After sharing this, Berrigan added a further point: The way this young man lies in our world, silent and helpless, is the way God lies in our world. To hear what God is saying we must learn to hear what this young boy is saying.
( - Rolheiser)

What is our practice?

The practice of true reality
Is simply to sit serenely
In silent introspection.
When you have fathomed this,
You cannot be turned around
By external causes and conditions.
This empty, wide-open mind
Is subtly and correctly
Illuminating.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)(dailyzen)

Fidelity?

To work for justice and peace in this world is not to move from being Mother Teresa to being Rambo or Batman. The God who undergirds justice and peace beats up no one and His or Her cause is not furthered when we do.
(-- quotes excerpted from pp185-188 of The Holy Longing, The Search for a Christian Spirituality, by Ronald Rolheiser, c.1999)

It has been a stark, long, cold, and desolate time. That’s what different people in Cape Breton said about the winter. That’s what many in Maine say about this past time and the uncertain path our country is marching down.

Buds emerge. Seeds crack open. Remaining patches of snow huddle in shaded places facing north. Something is ending.

What is?

This!

To hear what God is saying we must learn to hear what this young boy is saying.

Truth, a Zen Master said, is just like this.

Our spirituality is to listen with holy longing.

Shhh!
Be still!
Rest!

God never overpowers. God’s power in this world is never the power of a muscle, a speed, a physical attractiveness, a brilliance, or a grace which (as the contemporary expression has it) blows you away and makes you shout: “Yes! Yes! There is a God!” The world’s power tries to work that way. God’s power though is more muted, more helpless, more shamed, and more marginalized. But it lies at a deeper level, at the ultimate base of things, and will, in the end, gently have the final say. (- Rolheiser)

What is this?
If we ask, so must we listen and long.

Mother this; mother truth.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Squirrel wants to steal seeds from birdfeeder. Finch and chickadee perch a short distance away. Loud and imposing, this annoying rodent power is smart enough to figure out ways around usage and purpose of birdfeeder.

Interlopers and predators attempt to take for themselves what they want from what is intended for others.

I sought Zen from temples and teachers,
Then found it along the way of Tsao His
Inside this moment forever.
When walking now, I walk Zen.
When sitting, I sit Zen.
Talking, quiet; moving, stillness,
The calm within.

- Hsuan Chyuen (655–713)

In Vom Advent Zum Advent, Meisterwerke Christlicher Kunst Liturgisher WochenKalender Fur Das Kirchenjahr for Sunday 11 May 2003, this line:

"Das Verhaltnis zwischen Gott dem Vater und seinem Sohn ist Urmodell und Urgrund der Gemeinschaft Jesu mit den Seinen." (line by Sr. M. Johanna Hauke OCD)
(Translated literally): "The relationship between God the Father and his Son is the original model and original reason for the community of Jesus with his."

(Re-rendered...): "Wholly related with what is appearing between God the Father and offspring is the original model and original ground of community embodied in Jesus and those who see themselves through and with him." (...with liberties, by wfh)

The shepherd helps move through gate and pasture those carrying brokenness or otherness through this life. It's what shepherds do. The need is for shepherd willing to help us move freely with courage through portal to open safety.

We are safe in the ursprung und ursprache, (arising ever-present origin and original word/expression).

Hospitality is deep longing. Hospitality is allowing arriving at home, encouraging dwelling in the open.

We grow weary and wary of those instilling fear. Anyone, foreign or domestic, evoking fear and unease for own benefit, is enemy and unwelcome predator. It is wise to watch alertly those who benefit from what ails us.

As for squirrel at feeder, they only want seed, not the death of birds. I shoo them away, move feeder, and attempt to dissuade them.

Shoo away, move, and dissuade interlopers and predators.

Now is our task to discern and be wholly related with what is appearing, the original model and original ground of community embodied in the resurrection, 40 day watchfulness, ascension, and arrival of urgrund und ursprache (arising ever-present origin and original word/expression) within and around us.

Seeds, break, open.

Mother, this!