Today At Meetingbrook

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Practice helps us pass through. The word ‘practice’ comes from Greek, praktikos, passein to pass over, fare, do; akin to Gk peran to pass through – more at FARE. (Webster’s Seventh)
 
Prepositions and pronouns. That’s what we talk about Tuesday evening after conversation. We read Finding Freedom, Writings from Death Row, by Jarvis Jay Masters. Do we pray to, with, in, for, or as God? Do we use you, he, she, it, I, they, or us when referring to God?
 
Some do not believe anything about God. Belief, they say, disperses direct experience.
 
“Beliefs about anything limit our experience and cause us not to be able to perceive what’s in front of our eyes and nose.” (Pema Chodron, on tape Pure Meditation)
 
That which we call the world is the result of a host of errors and fantasies which have gradually arisen In the course of the total evolution of organic nature, have become entwined with one another and are inherited by us as the accumulated treasure of the entire past – as a treasure: for the value of our humanity depends on it. Rigorous science is in fact able to detach us from this ideational world only to a slight extent… but it can gradually and step by step illuminate the history of how this world as idea arose…
(Epigraph by Nietzsche, in Joan of Arc, The Image of Female Heroism, by Marina Warner, c.1999)
 
The idea emerges and takes root that only those who currently are in power deserve to be and remain in power. The belief grows that to criticize those in power is unpatriotic and hateful – even if the criticism is accurate, factual, and true. A great number of Americans actually believe the distorting rhetoric and misleading behavior on the part of the ruling administration has been good for the country and is excusable because the leaders are in power.

The story goes like this: our enemies hate us because we love freedom; some Americans criticize freedom-loving leaders who will do almost anything to defeat and eliminate our enemies; therefore, critics are enemies who hate freedom and hate their own country.
 
A story lives in relation to its tellers and its receivers; it continues because people want to hear it again, and it changes according to their tastes and needs. (Prologue, Warner)
 
We are asked to believe that there is only one truth – namely, that whatever we are told is the truth.
 
Mr. Joachim, who has considered very carefully the whole question of error, comes to the conclusion – which seems the only possible one for a monistic theory of truth – that the essential characteristic of error is the claim to express truth unqualified (p.143). He says: The erring subject’s confident belief in the truth of his knowledge distinctively characterizes error, and converts a partial apprehension of the truth into falsity’ (p.162).
(p.135, “The Monistic Theory of Truth” in Bertrand Russell’s Philosophical Essays, c. 1966) referring to book The Nature of Truth (c.1966) by Harold H. Joachim)
 
We need to deepen our practice. Our practice is to pass through the barriers and boundaries thrown up around us, distortions of truth that cloud perception and inhibit authentic inquiry. We are in danger from those claiming to “express truth unqualified.” Arrogance, lack of humility, and smug exclusionary certitude are clues to detect the danger.

Spirituality involves the practice of no barriers and prayer of no boundaries. This practice must stretch through theological and political aspects of life. Spiritual practice threads the disparate into a wholesome unity allowing what is true to pass through.

When pulled together
And bound, there stands
A hut well thatched:
But take it apart,
And we have the wilderness eternal.
- Anon

We need a new civil compact and social contract, one where we include everyone in a network of care and response. The tune we hear from the current breed of believers in the might and rights of the few is startlingly painful to the ear.

The World Is Too Much with Us
 
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.---Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn.
(poem by William Wordsworth)
 
To get through this, to pass through a dark time, takes practice.
 
What is practice?
 
Love this question.
 
See it through.


Monday, July 19, 2004

What if middle way and middle trinity shared a secret?
 
Michael is concerned seven Carrier Strike Force Groups will be on maneuvers off the coast of China. Jean talks of 'walk-ins' to the planet the way one might walk-in to a hair dresser. Pia points out a blockage in throat of someone not acting on his intuition. The other Michael remembers when he did well as a healer. Dick has fleeting passing doubt about a Fox News Irish guy who might not be fair and balanced. Buzz holds an undistributed belief that to act is better than to think. Joanie says she didn't have a date on Sunday. Lola brought her dog in the car to meet Saskia who was off in her rowboat. Sylvia had lunch with someone who spoke to her mood. Jory liked Adyashanti's poem about "Here." Nancy is wondering about narrative and naming. Lloyd decides to leave early Saturday afternoon when there are too many unspecific words being read. Kristin performs her one woman show in Belfast. Sam plays harmonica. Susan wears swap shop hat. Betty sits a spell.   
 
Charlie is confident when he sings:
Man, they said we'd better
Accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don't mess with Mr. Inbetween.
No, don't mess with Mr. Inbetween!
(Transcribed from vocals by lyricist Johnny Mercer with Paul Weston and His Orchestra, recorded December, 1944)
 
I'm not that confident. I think we've lost sight of the between. From Buddha's middle way as silent truth to Jesus' middle say as loving word, from Aristotle's in medio stat virtus to Tolkien's Middle-earth, and to the piquancy of the Middle-East in our minds today -- we are invited to a new centrist philosophy that dwells in-between and acknowledges filiation and sorority with adjacent edges of everything.
 
We are in the middle of it all.
 
You are in our midst, O God.
 
The poet says his secret is silence.
 
Say nothing more.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Suddenly sun after night of rain. Brook tumbles Ragged as dogs drink and immerse up from crossing footbridge on morning mountain circle.
 
The Sun
 
 Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful
 
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
 
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone--
and how it slides again
 
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
 
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance--
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love--
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
 
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you
 
as you stand there,
empty-handed--
or have you too
turned from this world--
 
or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?
(poem by Mary Oliver )
 
We walk with a question. Is Ganz Anderer, (German for ‘wholly other’), of a piece with ‘no other?’ I’d been reading John Caputo’s Against Ethics. He writes about Abraham’s “Me voici.” He is making the point that in the French the ‘Me’ is the accusative case, the object of speech, addressed by an ‘other.’
 
The dogs don’t have this question. Cesco doesn’t even seem interested in responding to being addressed by my voice saying, ‘Cesco, come here!’ when he trots away to another dog or follows a car to the other end of the Snow Bowl parking lot from which a tan dog named Admiral emerges to a wagging tail. 
  
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening
to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the
serving?  Tell her to help me."  The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha,
Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of
only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken
from her."
(Luke 10:38-42)
 
Can we be serving and listening and yet maintain there is no object, no other being served or listened to? Martha and Mary perform this theatrical piece with the one many have come to call the Christ. “Tell her to help me,” says Martha to Jesus. Mary says nothing.
 
In the shop today Chicken is cooked on the grill, salad plucked, podded peas shelled, strawberries sliced, goat cheese crumbled, and lettuce torn into wooden bowl. Cesco lays near where Buzz sat. Sando burrows in dirt under deck. Joanie sits quietly by fireplace. Therese calls from shop out front about remaining pickings. Earlier Alease calls from Maryland and we catch up the years. An artist from Rockland comes by and goes back with his sketch/paintings.
 
If there is only here, if there’s no time like or but the present, then the question about wholly other or no other  falls between the asking and the response. It is the ‘between’ that holds everything together.
 
What is between Martha and Mary? What is between serving and listening? What is between any of us?
 
Jesus’ answer is a trick answer. He tells Martha, “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." The trick is in the wording comes down to us in translation.
 
Jesus says, “It will not be” – is what is “taken from her.” Mary does not have “it will not be.” She does have what is, the part that will not be.
 
There’s something imbedded here that neither the dogs nor I comprehend as the afternoon lengthens. Saskia returns from her row out to sailboat in Rockport to secure lines for the blow someone says will come tonight.
 
Do not let anything come between you and what you consider not-you. Let nothing, what "will not be," rest between each and everything. The “better part” that Jesus refers to is listening/serving, each in each, wholly other/no other, as it is, on earth/in heaven.
 
Wholly no/wholly yes.
 
Otherless child.
 
Sometimes we feel.
 
So.