Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Mind is maddened by greed.

Greed appropriates the communal. It privatizes to the personal what belongs to no one. What maddens the mind is the belief, and therefore the urge to act on this belief, that land, things, ideas, people, and God can be owned. A more absurd notion, from a spiritual perspective, is hard to find.

There is anther view, namely, that each piece of earth, each thing, each idea, each person, and certainly what-is-called-God belongs completely, and only, to itself.

And yet, the most maddening history of humankind, whether secular or religious, is predicated on wanting for one's own what can only belong to itself. We want power, land, cause of riches, and sole rights to each. We name this want with conventional names -- from materialism to infallibility, from private property to dogma, from capitalism to fatwa, from democracy to tyranny. Whatever name we give it, the message is similar --"This is mine; You owe me."

Is there a way out of the vault of privatized belief? Is the "Way" -- in either Eastern or Western tradition -- something saner for us?

Those who have strong passions are never able to perceive the Way. It is like stirring up clear water with your hands; you may come wishing to find a reflection of your face, but you'll never see clearly in disturbed waters. A mind troubled and vexed with the passions is never able to see the Way.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

We have nearly ceased to listen. We do not listen to each other -- not beyond the surface words to the inner cry. Our capacity to enter the silent plea for recognition transmuted by each being is dulled by dismissive flip belief there is not much there to warrent our attention. This is how we erase God. This is how we yuck it up, hail fellows well met, and place our heads on pillows at night falling asleep to restless dreams reminding us we are missing something very important, waking in the morning to a world securely conforming to our marketable beliefs.

Moses said to the people: "If only you would heed the voice of the LORD,
your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this
book of the law, when you return to the LORD, your God, with all your
heart and all your soul. "For this command that I enjoin on you today is
not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you
should say, 'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it,
that we may carry it out?' Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may
carry it out?' No, it is something very near to you, already in your
mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out."

(Deuteronomy 30:10-14)

We've nearly lost what is nearest to us. By hurling opinion at each other, by making objects and categories of each other, we have nearly become blind and deaf to what longs to be seen and heard.

God-life, that which is within and surrounding each and every thing, person, idea, and piece of cosmos, longs to be seen and heard. The vital spark that causes everything to be itself is muted by opinion and belief diminishing and denying the specific revelation of God's life is each specific face.

81
True words do not sound beautiful;
beautiful sounding words are not true.
Wise men don't need to debate;
men who need to debate are not wise.

Wise men are not scholars,
and scholars are not wise.
The Master desires no possessions.
Since the things she does are for the people,
she has more than she needs.
The more she gives to others,
the more she has for herself.

The Tao of Heaven nourishes by not forcing.
The Tao of the Wise person acts by not competing.

(from Tao Te Ching - Written by Lao-Tzu, A Translation For the PUBLIC DOMAIN by j.h.mcdonald 1996 )

We have nearly exhausted the Way by claiming to own it, sell it, develop it, auction it, privatize it, and keep it out of view.

But that behavior is madness. It is illusion. It has been elsewhere been called 'sin,' the turning away of (or from) God, the denial of God by denial of God's ever-presence.

What remains for us to do? How forgive and be forgiven for failing or refusing to see or hear God in and through one another?

Madness is belief that has little correspondence with what is real. Not the real we believe is real, but the real beyond belief. We have enclosed belief in our private collection and ownership. Locked away from the light and fresh air of open inquiry, privatized belief suffocates the mind.

Minds stagger under the weight of "my," "mine," and "me." Enclosed and stifling belief holds that the open should be closed, debt is wealth, the few know better than and thereby must dominate the many, to protect freedom it is best to restrict freedom, to champion justice is to hoard and portion it out selectively. It is a heavy belief which leads us to imprison, hold, and terrorize those who long for what we ourselves have, but who have difficulty reaching out for what we hold as ours.

How traverse the minefield and tar pit of greed? Is it still possible to dispel madness and retrieve sanity, to open mind and soul, let flow through us the lightness and freedom of reality beyond belief, the Itself, God-life?

Is greed a death-knell? Is privatized belief an inescapable madness?

Or can we still find a way to set free a saner, more inclusive, and compassionate Way in the world? Is it too late or too far from us?

As far back as Moses, we are told: No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.

Reflection of our true face is seen in the face of each and every being. By letting go the clench-and-grab mind we allow things to fall free to earth with all its idiorhythmic and unoccupying vastness. Freedom necessitates releasing God-life.

All for each. One for one. Itself for everything.

Dare we the Way?

Would it become us?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

No one lives in words. We live in self-emptying.

When poet frees an injured hawk in his poem, downy feathers become the written page. When angel tries to live beyond despair, the sound under earth is chanting soil’s unseeing prayer.

Good is to practise the Way
And to follow truth.
Great is the heart that
Is in accord with the Way.

- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

1.

Two sentences hang from hermitage bookshelf in dining room: “Contemplation is silent prayer of no-boundary. Zen is engaged practice of no-barrier.” They’re seen at times when passing by that side of table. What they suggest for prayer and practice sometimes seems doable. Most times the words stay on page unread taped to shelf under books unopened.

They are invitations. They’re always there. We don’t often hear each invitation. If we do listen and hear what we are invited into, we might respond, we might enter into the reality; we might become obedient to it.

In Russian spirituality kenosis is a spontaneous way of life centered in participation with the incarnate Christ. Kenosis is simply self-forgetfulness expressed in acts of love toward others. Ippolit in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot expresses an insight into kenosis: “You are giving away, in one form or another, part of your personality and taking into yourself part of another; you are in mutual communion with one another; a little more effort and you will be rewarded with the knowledge of the most unexpected discoveries.” Kenosis is thought of, not as suffering, but primarily as loving obedience, the appeal to an active fidelity. The Russian word for obedience (poslushanije) suggests hearing and following, as hearing a call and responding to it, or hearing a person or being and responding. The interpreter can hear the call of the poem and obey it in terms of enacting or completing its own creation.

Kenosis involves an asceticism which, for the artist, means that she or he must be emptied of anything that distracts attention from the end of the art. From the viewpoint of the good of the work the artist needs to maintain the virtues of humility and generosity, the chief virtues of the creative personality. Generosity takes the form of self-giving. Keats wrote of the limits to which the self-giving of the poet can go and said that the poetic character is not itself, is everything and nothing, forms itself according to the work: “A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because [the poet] has no identity [but] is continually…filling some other Body”

Kenosis as the essence of creativity implies that creativity is self-transcendence. A. H. Maslow views creativity as an elimination of blocks against the matter-at-hand, so that “we let it flow in upon us.” Maslow observes that a person is most integrated, unified, directed, and all of a piece when totally organized in the service of the creative matter-in-hand. He views creativity as systemic – as a Gestalt involving the whole person. In genuine, concentrated creativity there is less dissociation and splitting of facets and more here-now-allness.

(pp.90-91, The Word’s Body, by Alla Bozarth-Campbell)

2.

I often become stuck in the split. The idea stuck in my mind worked like a iron wedge and heavy maul against length of wood that meetingbrook should not be split into two places. That ingrained wedge has remained fastened inside the split but not sundered piece we call meetingbrook – one part leaning at mountain, one part leaning at harbor. This forked two-way is, as an idée fix, a distraction and duplication of meetingbrook. Over the years I’ve tried words to capture the need for me – that we need move to ‘consolidation’ or ‘confluence’ or ‘singularity’ – an attempt to put in one place what is in two. The whole metaphor of singularity spoke to me of non-duality.

The economics of bookshop/bakery in town and hermitage/chapel/zendo at Ragged/Bald seem unwieldy and more than we can hold together. We are not people of independent means. If our energy was not split we might have worked harder to attain and build the hermitage common-cloister on Sally’s land. Even those who love unsparingly the setting for hospitality and conversation we’ve created by the harbor express unsparing humor at the fact that a retail place it is not, but more like a place of sanctuary and welcome for hearts and minds wearily languishing for real inquiry and genuine listening.

These last two days, I broke. I stay away from harbor. I hide in hermitage room with books and thoughts. The animals visit but we remain in silence. Saskia goes by with word or two but I have fallen into somewhere prior to counting to one. The world does its business but I have no commerce, currency, or connection to it. Something breaks. I heard it. What was it?

3.

HURT HAWKS

I

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


II

I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.
I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

(Poem by Robinson Jeffers)

The life of soaring redtail shifts from air to page. Poet intervenes, moving from lead to letters. An unsheathing from enclosure to unexpected discovery -- the poet has no identity, but fills some other body.

4.

The Guardian Angel

Afloat between lives and stale truths,
he realizes
he's never truly protected one soul,
they all die anyway, and what good
is solace,
solace is cheap. The signs are clear:
the drooping wings, the shameless thinking
about utility
and self. It's time to stop.
The guardian angel lives for a month
with other angels,
sings the angelic songs, is reminded
that he doesn't have a human choice.
The angel of love
lies down with him, and loving
restores him his pure heart.
Yet how hard it is
to descend into sadness once more.
When the poor are evicted, he stands
between them
and the bank, but the bank sees nothing
in it's way. When the meek are overpowered
he's there, the thin air
through which they fall. Without effect
he keeps getting in the way of insults.
He keeps wrapping
his wings around those in the cold.
Even his lamentations are unheard,
though now,
in for the long haul, trying to live
beyond despair, he believes, he needs
to believe
everything he does takes root, hums
beneath the surfaces of the world.

(by Paul Dunn, from New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton).)

It is hard to descend into sadness. Ours is an age where not to be optimistic is to be considered either unpatriotic or off antidepressants. Shrouding rhetoric intent on inducing forgetfulness swiftly skirts the places where sadness occurs. ‘We are a great country,’ the talking point says. ‘We are a holy church,’ it says. ‘Things are not that bad,’ it says. ‘Only negative people, haters, would hold that opinion,’ it says.

Angels guarding sad parts of the world themselves entwine within sadness with no reluctance. Trouble and difficulty exist in this world. Arguments that are made debating guilt or innocence place debaters outside and away from the facticity they skirt. There is a war in Iraq. Sudan is a slaughtering ground. Corporate crime is rife. Governments do deceive. There is a severe divide between those with means and those without means. People in power do abuse power. Priests do sexually abuse boys. Men and women of the cloth do break trust with their flock. And all of us fail and do disappoint by opting for falsity and disingenuity.

The human record of folly and arrogance is well documented. Human life is a curious history. Secular governments and religious institutions have both contributed to raising the quality of life, as well as degrading justice by avoiding compassion in their long histories. Institutions attempt to alleviate suffering. They also hogtie individuals little able to fight through against superior strength.

5.

Albert Camus, fifty-seven years ago, recorded his thoughts about what he saw and felt.

August 1937
Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble – yes, gamble – with a whole part of their life and their so-called “vital interests.”

(p.48, Notebook I, in Notebooks 1935-1942, by Albert Camus, trans. by Philip Thody, c.1963)

August
On the way to Paris: this fever beating in my temples. The strange and sudden withdrawal from the world and from men. The struggle with one’s body. Sitting in the wind, emptied and hallowed out inside, I spent all my time thinking of K. Mansfield, about that long, painful, and tender story of a struggle against illness. What awaits me in the Alps is, together with loneliness and the idea that I shall be there to look after myself, the awareness of my illness.

To keep going to the end means not only resisting but also relaxing. I need to be aware of myself, in so far as this is also an awareness of something that goes beyond me as an individual. I sometimes need to write things which I cannot completely control but which therefore prove that what is in me is stronger than I am.

(p.44, Notebooks)

6.

Fog gives way to rain at dusk. Cat now sports bell collar brought by Annie. Saskia wants birds to be warned. He brings string toy into room where two dogs each open eye to clock his whereabouts. It will not be such a shock when cat leaps suddenly to arm of chair then stomach as I write.

We don’t live in words. They only tell something about where we might be. When we tire of them we have the option to try silence. With practice we might even find silence in our normally noisy mind.

Tonight I wander over the foreland hill, begging, not for death and not for life, but for something more singular than that divide.

I become mendicant listener.

Mere sound. Mere silence.

Dwelling there.

Noting.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

God is beyond me. I have no idea who, where, what, or how God is.

I’m happy with the everyday way
Like the mist and vines in these rock-strewn ravines
This wilderness is so free and vast
My old friends, the white clouds, drift idly off
There is a road, but it doesn’t reach the world
Mindless, who can be disturbed by thoughts
At night I sit alone on a stone bed
While the round moon climbs the face of Cold Mountain

- Han Shan (c 730)

Times when desolation vacuums any bit of understanding from within and leaves not a trace of comprehension or ability to locate oneself, such as now, serve to remind how pervasive the impermanence and unknowing of this being in the world.

I am long unseeing. I have not yet learned the order of things. So encrusted in illusion and ignorance I have not begun to shake free into seeing a thing as it is and entering authentic not knowing.

[P]henomenology means letting things become manifest as what they are, without forcing our own categories on them. It means reversal of direction from that one is accustomed to: it is not we who point to things; rather, things show themselves to us. This is not to suggest some primitive animism but the recognition that the very essence of true understanding is that of being led by the power of the thing to manifest itself.... Phenomenology is a means of being led by the phenomenon through a way of access genuinely belonging to it.
(Richard E. Palmer, quoted in The Word's Body, An Incarnational Aesthetic Of Interpretation, by Alla Bozarth-Campbell, c.1979, p.6)

I, unfortunately, forget this revelation. I run, instead, to search out some set teaching, a string of beliefs passed on to those of us unwilling to allow things their own being, things continuously revealing themselves. I have failed to disavow either institutional or personal soporific stupor. Days come when feeling devoured by diffidence is the only sweetness alienation affords. The absurdity of clinging to what is not there, the disappeared specter of illusory autonomous self, that delusion of separateness held sacred and special by this mercantile world.

"I have ascended to the highest in me, and look!
The Lord is towering above that.
In my curiosity I have descended to explore my lowest depths,
yet I found God even deeper.
If I looked outside myself,
I saw God stretching beyond the furthest I could see;
and if I looked within,
God was yet further within.
Then I knew the truth of what I had read,
'In God we live and move and have our being.'"

(Bernard of Clairvaux, Cistercian Author of the 12th Century)

These words mystify. How can we see beyond that which we can see? The illimitable above, unfathomable depth, the inaccessible within, the unreachable without -- the measureless omni-directional empty vastness -- that which we call the Reality of God, is that with which we live and move and have our being. Who can approach this reality? Who can avoid it? Reality is reality; it is what is. There is only reality. We are not other than reality. Or, do we think we are?

We are of a piece in this existence. Whatever way we verbalize this absolute truth, we are an interconnected wholeness. We depend on one another, materially and morally, to dwell in this world. We are interdependent. It is the absence of this realization -- the realization of who and how we are in this world -- that causes forgetfulness. Forgetfulness brings with it the perception that “others” are out to harm us, take from us, and even eliminate us from the unified whole that is our true dwelling place. With deficient mentation, this forgetfulness, comes the impetus to strike out against any real or perceived hostility, and act to remove the enemy. Not seeing our real face, not engaging one another in healing reparative interaction, leaves us with surface or shallow impulses of retribution and revenge that trigger violence, warfare, and desolation.

A quote attributed to Nietzsche says, “The most common form of human stupidity is forgetting what one is trying to do. “ (Friedrich Nietzsche)

I forget what we were trying to do. In this state of affairs, I feel stupid. I cannot remember who I am and what I am doing here.

EPILOGUE

Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:

The painter's vision is not a lens, it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

(Poem from Day by Day by Robert Lowell, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1975, 1976,)

This is our task and our penance – to see each face, acknowledge names, and go on living as though this occupation were enough for the time being. All the while, down below and far beyond this occupation, suspecting a far odder fact of life undergirds the fact of this world.

In the beginning was the Word;...
The Word was made flesh, and lived among us,
and we saw Its glory...

Indeed, from Its fullness we have, all of us, received.

(John 1:1,14,16. Paraphrased from The Jerusalem Bible by Bozarth-Campbell)

There is a Zen koan that goes, “Show me your original face, the one you had before your mother and father were born.” After many blank stares some conclude the question absurd. The effect feels something like the Cheshire Cat, appearing and disappearing with and without body, its head and face fading in and out of the storyline. There is a sympathetic feeling of phantom-face, not unlike an amputee, or even the split second following beheading. There is a sense of trauma.

We must be gentle with trauma. The trauma we face is the disappearance of our own face. In time, our face dissolves. Out of time, a variant seeing takes place with no referential viewing point to call one's own. What we call our 'viewpoint' collapses into mere view without subject viewing or object viewed. There is only what is, what is as what is, neither here nor there -- merely itself in every manifestation. To face reality, we believe, we must have a face over and against this reality. But what if “reality” was its own face? Would that realization change our minds from holding a separate, dualistic construct of reality -- to one that is everywhere seeing what is there to see?

What is merely itself in every manifestation could easily be another attempt to name the unnamable, to specify God.

Let's leave it saying: What is merely itself is What Is Merely Itself. Tautology dressed in capital letters, a mimesis reviewing something seen with emphasis on sacral seeing.

V
The dangers are everywhere. Auxiliary verbs, fishbones, a fine carelessness. No one really likes the odor of geraniums, not the woman who dreams of sunlight and is always late for work nor the man who would be happy in altered circumstances. Words are abstract, but 'words are abstract' is a dance, car crash, heart's delight. It's the design dumb hunger has upon the world. Nothing is severed on hot mornings when the deer nibble flowerheads in a simmer of bay leaves. Somewhere in the summer dusk is the sound of children setting the table. That is mastery: spoon, knife, folded napkin, fork; glasses all around. The place for the plate is wholly imagined. Mother sits here and father sits there and this is your place and this is mine. A good story compels you like sexual hunger but the pace is more leisurely. And there are always melons.

(from poem "The Beginning Of September" by Robert Hass in his book of poems entitled Praise, c.1979)

In the U.S. Senate today there is strong vocal opposition to a procedural maneuver by the majority leader to limit amendments to a bill that has reached the floor. Words make laws. Laws govern a country. What we say matters. What we do matters. What matters becomes our very lives. Words, therefore, are incarnational. We are embodied word. Thus embodied, each act is an expression, whether silent or articulated, of what we are. We exist as a liturgy of incarnation in the midst of the world.

The presence of the poem as an incarnate being has power over those who perceive it, as the presence of the Incarnate Word was shown to have power over those who saw and heard Christ. The Spirit, according to biblical theology, is manifested as the power of love between the Creator and the Christ, overflows into creation, and touches human life directly, to transform it as if by breathing a new life into human beings. The Spirit and the Word move together to change the quality of -- to redeem -- human lives. There is a power manifested in the event of interpenetration if all factors combine to reveal the communion that exists between the poem and the interpreter. This power forms what has been called in this study a circle of energy, and the audience, if the kairos of the performing poem has come, is taken up into this circle in the transforming experience of communion. The visible utterance of the incarnate word in the spirit-charged power of performance can have the effect of breathing new life into those who participate in its moment of revelation.

The incarnational aesthetic of interpretation presented in this study acknowledges the phenomenon of interpretation to be a creative metaphor, enacted through the at-onement between the poem as a speaking-subject and the performer as an embodying-subject. The environment created by their communion is a result of a complex process of dialogue, embodiment, and participation. The artistic event of interpretation as the revelation of presence in performance combines the dynamics of creation, incarnation, and transformation, as a poem, performer, and audience are brought together in the moment of clarity and power that is communion.

...Through its incarnate presence in performance the word interprets human life and speaks forth a new existence that includes those who see and hear it. The poem makes us, and it makes us new. In the ideal performance, the performance that the serious interpreter always strives for and frequently can attain, the experience of the poem is full and complete. From its fullness "we have, all of us, received."

(pp.142,3,4 in The Word's Body)

What have we received?

What's There
When the small hulking rock on my path through the early morning dark
started
To be the skunk it really was and waddle an undulant shuffle away from
me, showing
Its chiaroscuro self by the luminous leftovers of a full moon and stars, I
was startled
For a second or two, brought up short by the uncertain solidity of a
world that keeps
Falling back to a fluency that's just the simple fact of things being clear
as day and
Enigmatic — that transparency we say we see in Being, being just
opacity itself inside it
But seen clearly for a moment and telling no lies about itself, clean as
the swooplines
A suspension bridge has: such solid mystery they make and we walk on
water. Water
Too, is like that, hitting the back of your throat with nothing but its wet
cool, nothing else
In or beyond it — distinct as the invisible dawn bird or a voice inside a
voice, informing you.

(poem by Eamon Grennan in "The Hudson Review," Volume LVII, Number 1, Spring 2004 )

The day has grown hot. Sando pants on floor. Cesco snoozes quietly. Earlier Mu-ge pee'd on couch. We suspect he did it in a fit of pique over not being let out. He’s out now. From time to time squirrel chatters in complaint. Birds are more wary approaching feeder.

I don't know.

It's all beyond me.

I’ve come to an end.

It's a place to start.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Hillside walk through woods quiet morning of quiet day. Dogs wet from fog moist grass.

Those who are pure in heart and single in purpose are able to understand the most supreme Way. It is like polishing a mirror, which becomes bright when the dust is removed. Remove your passions, and have no hankering, and all will be revealed to you.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

Those hankering to lead country are poised to run at each other now that the foursome is in place. They will try to discredit each other. For the next 120 days America will be subject to a theatre déclassé substituting sideswipe for civil discourse and talking point monologues for enlightening debate. We might ask them to speak to each other about how best to lead the country and share with us their good insights. We might invite them to suspend attacks and divulge their personal fears and hopes about this great nation. We might find them tired of disingenuous rhetoric and willing to say “yes, yes” or “no, no” when asked questions. We might ask them to help us heal the sores and cracks laid on the body politic by false biography.

If we continue to cultivate acrimony and arrogance as our biographical narrative it will affect the biology of this nation and its citizens. We might inadvertently become pinched, vindictive, and sullen -- suddenly and physically -- experiencing a mutation of body and spirit that will shock us.

Caroline Myss says biography is biology.

Michael Toms: Caroline, one of the principles you wrote about in Anatomy of the Spirit is that "biography becomes biology." What does that mean--that our past somehow relates to our health?

Caroline Myss: Imagine that you have a hundred circuits of life-force energy coming into the top of your head. This life-force is the pulsating energy behind cell mutation and division, behind the heartbeat, behind the functioning of the body. This electromagnetic energy is also the energy that you invest into memories, thoughts, attitudes--into your history.

When I do a reading on somebody, I go after where you've invested those circuits; I go after every investment you have that is not in present time. I begin to pull your traumatic memories, your negative attitudes and self-image. So I'm looking at your biography. These are the biographical events that leave biological debt factors.

Imagine that, when you get up in the morning, you have a hundred dollars' worth of energy coming in. And you have a memory that's costing you sixty dollars a day to finance, and an attitude that's costing you twenty-five dollars a day. By the time you're done, you've got three bucks left over to manage your biography today!

What I recognized is that your biography becomes your biology--you are one and the same with your life and your history. Events that you have not yet reconciled, haven't forgiven, haven't let go of, are carried as that debt in your cell tissue.

(Excerpted from New Dimensions, YOUR BIOGRAPHY IS YOUR BIOLOGY, with Carolyn Myss,
Program #2576.)

The debt of the Iraq war -- the manner with which it was initiated, conducted, and profiteered – is heavy. The health of the nation – weakened by deception, abuse, and denial – borders on serious to critical. The story of America’s constitutional amnesia – a biography of ill sounding explanation – threatens to weaken a once healthy resolve toward justice.

We are still evolving. What we might become is uncertain. So much is in our hands. Do our hands welcome or dismiss? Do they touch with tenderness or launch explosives intent on destruction? Do they open wide in a gesture signifying abandonment of all pretenses to control, or do they clench and clutch imposing their will on those in their way?

There are very few people
who realise what God would make of them
if they abandoned themselves into his hands,
and let themselves be formed by his grace.

(St Ignatius)

Grace is a crucial necessity. Grace is God-life felt and manifested in ordinary human behavior. With grace we behave honorably and kindly toward one another. Without grace we attack and injure each other.

Nicole stops in to the shop just before Buddhist Conversation. This young woman says I don’t look so good. I tell her I don’t feel so good and that I am writing about how mean and intentionally hurting rhetoric or act cause us all to fall into ill-health. She thinks it is gloomy. I say I agree. She smiles. It is a brief flash of sunshine.

Is it so with God? Is that what happens when God-life suddenly appears through the veils and curtains that cloak and shield?

It’s not that illumination comes from somewhere else. It’s more that our realization of what is there dissolves the hindrances and lifts the bushel basket allowing the light to shine through.

The realization of ‘what is there’ is God-life freed into the world.

If all ideology were suddenly abandoned, all rhetoric suddenly silenced, if hearts and minds were suddenly free to reveal themselves as they are, would these four men -- would we – recognize each other as the light of God-life, illuminating one another and all who come to see what is there?

The most supreme Way seeks to find its way through us.

It is the story of our life, indeed, very life itself we gesture and articulate with each movement, with each syllable. We must move carefully. We must speak with care.

We must care. Even as we ask –“Who cares?”

Very life itself listens for our response.

Gracefully.

Monday, July 05, 2004

If America chooses the way of war, religion factors.

Americans are a religious people. The toughest thing to decide is what religion this war is fighting under. Is it fought in the name of God? Or is it a more secular invocation, fighting in the symbols and power of a state religion?

It is hard to know whether the wagers of war try to hasten some apocalyptic end time prefaced by chaotic warfare and unsettling devastation. The alternative explanations of empire or greed or even retaliation seem saner than the Armageddon fundamentalist fervor seems to welcome. Jesus, they say, is coming back to save the righteous and damn the sinner. The Middle East seethes again with portents.

Ahead, the green creek sparkles as it flows
Toward the cliff, a huge rock
With a good edge for sitting
My heart is like a lone cloud,
With nothing to depend on
So far away from the world’s affairs
What need is there to search for anything?

- Han Shan (~730)

I don't know about theories of devastation. Here's what I do know -- rain has begun to fall outside my window. Cut grass parallels the earth. Psalm tones float away over hills we walked this afternoon. The silence we sat with has disseminated through trees and over trails to nestling sanctuaries.

Michael says prophets' messages are always perverted.

On C-Span today a panel replay about war:
1. "What is war? The essence of war is death. It is the most powerful narcotic invented by humankind. Every war is ultimately about betrayal. In wartime everyone becomes objects." (Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books)

2. "The mission of war is simple: it is to find other people and kill them." (Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles, at Los Angeles Times Festival of Books)

3. "Chicken hawks are not militarists, they're religionists." (James Hillman, author of A Terrible Love of War, at Festival)

On the News Hour clip, when the President mentions the word "God" to the crowd of people on a campaign stop, there are cheers and applause. "The dead," he says, "will be mourned forever." The people cheer. He mentions Saddam Hussein in prison, the crowd cheers. He mentions "terrorists are running out of places to hide, they do not love freedom, that freedom has the power to change the world -- God bless America!" The crowd cheers. John Kerry finishes his comments at a gathering with an invocation for God's blessing on country and world. The crowd cheers.

The question of religion and politics is not the same as the question of church and state. Failure to make this distinction results in confusion. The problem of church and state has to do with institutions and the spheres of action that are appropriate for each. Here the concept of separation is valid. Thorny problems arise in two particular areas. 1. The first involves trying to steer between avoiding an establishment of religion and permitting its free exercise. Prayer in public schools and is among the most contentious. 2. A second range of problems arises when religious belief and practice conflict with secular law.

The problem of religion and politics defines another set of issues. Church and state deals with the relationship of institutions that are independent of each other. Religion and politics has to do with two spheres of activities in the life of the same persons. Citizens who belong to religious groups are also members of the secular society, and this dual association generates complications. Religious beliefs have moral and social implications, and it is appropriate for people of faith to express these through their activities as citizens in the political order. The fact that ethical convictions are rooted in religious faith does not disqualify them from the political realm. However, they do not have secular validity merely because they are thought by their exponents to be religiously authorized. They must be argued for in appropriate social and political terms in harmony with national values.

In both cases, we should be prepared to deal with complexities, ambiguities, and overlapping realms in which practical discernment must find workable principles to guide us that are as compatible with fundamental Constitutional imperatives as human reason can devise.

(Brief summary of essay by Kenneth Cauthen from chapter in his The Ethics of Belief: A Bio-Historical Approach, 2 vols. (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co., 2001)

Somewhere recently I read of how church was used in one person's memory -- "to hatch, match, and dispatch."

The times I've sat in monastery church or our chapel/zendo have been sufficient to indicate that, by preference and personality, it is the stillness and silence of God's presence that gathers my attention.

There's not much that needs saying.

It is the manner of movement.

Absence of name.

Glance of eye.

Says it all.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Let's reframe Independence into Interdependence.

An antidote to feeling stuck where you are is to reframe the picture.

If you endeavor to embrace the Way through much learning, the Way will not be understood. If you observe the Way with simplicity of heart, great indeed is this Way.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

Staying in the one place we are, do we find ourselves by sheer stillness?

seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

(poem by e.e.cummings)

Like Wallace Steven’s jar on a hill in Tennessee, does one become a compass point simply by placing oneself where one is? (Yesterday Lloyd spoke about a magnetic centering place. I felt I was due nowhere.)

VIII

She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay."
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

(from poem, "Sunday Morning" by Wallace Stevens

Perhaps religion falls away in July. The mysteries of Christianity, so celebrated at Christmas and Easter, seem unsponsored and ambiguous. In America the 4th of July feels like broken straw from a broom on floor following sweep-up after barroom brawl. It is the combination of secular polity gone cynical and sacred religion gone impertinent that colors summer solitude.

It’s not that nothing satisfies, nor that hopes and expectations seem fizzled, but rather it feels like both religion and politics are sinking “downward to darkness on extended wings “ Not only is there nothing to hold on to, there is no place to escape to.

all ignorance toboggans into know
and trudges up to ignorance again:
but winter's not forever,even snow
melts;and if spring should spoil the game,what then?

all history's a winter sport or three:
but were it five,i'd still insist that all
history is too small for even me;
for me and you,exceedingly too small.

Swoop(shrill collective myth)into thy grave
merely to toil the scale to shrillerness
per every madge and mabel dick and dave
--tomorrow is our permanent address

and there they'll scarcely find us(if they do,
we'll move away still further:into now

(poem by e.e.cummings)

The thought of escaping into now has a delicious ironic summer drowse to it. Is it possible to be here and not here at the same time? Is now the end of then and beginning of when? Or is now a sliver of emptiness without comparative reference or promise of retrieving temporal measurement?

Still

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I'll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
found
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!

(poem by A.R. Ammons)

If we admit that nothing is lowly, will we also allow as how nothing is above another – except, maybe, in the evaluative calculations of measuring minds intent on securing a higher place for themselves by dint of their assessments?

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there's a hell
of a good universe next door;let's go
(
poem by e. e. cummings)

If our religion becomes kindness, such as the Dalai Lama’s statement of his religion, will we practice kindness the way leaves play with the wind? Whenever the wind shows up, leaves practice correct relationship with it. They move and turn, sway with unresisting accompaniment. And when it is ripe, they fall to earth and find themselves there for another transfiguration.

Let’s fall to what is now here.

Let others believe the beliefs they hold and follow the paths they follow. Let others decry and deny, dissemble and resemble the images they hold to be true. Let others condemn and expel, contemn and resell their version of grand divine plan.

If what is here and what is now is not imbued with the fullness of what some call God and others call True Reality – then, I’ll have no part of here and now. I’ll take the whole of it by no other name than what appears as how and where and when and with what face it appears.

Religion and politics be shelved for July. It is the season of a switch.

The picture is of itself.

Unframed.

As it is.

Free.