Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Some stayed late after poetry this evening. It is courageous to attempt wording one's life.

To this place of retreat,
The world does not follow;
But many old ailments heal here.
I polish words of old poems;
View mountains, and sleep
Outside my hut.
Colored clouds
Cross the setting sun;
Cicadas ring in the leaves
Of trees.
With this my heart again
Knows happiness;
And who would have thought it,
Without wine or money?

- Yao Ho (831)

It's what makes Saturdays rich. Poetry, Tea, and Literature is really about Berrigan's "Bodies belong where words are." Some poems we write are prelude to the poem writing itself.

Every poem is a good poem. Some think they're good. One or two are goodness itself. It is these we listen for; these we can't hold back when their time comes.

Are you willing?

Write yourself.

Friday, May 06, 2005

We go into prison for conversation. We come out with something harder to comprehend.

Pat, Saskia, Bernard, Steve and I talked about V.I. Lenin's article "What is to Be Done?" about professional revolutionaries; Raymond Carver's poem "At Least"; and the final lines of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye spoken by Holden Caulfield -- "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do you start missing everybody.".

So taken with
The faultless face and radiance
Of an alluring moon,
My mind goes farther, farther
To reach remote regions of the sky.

- Saigyo (1118-1190)

At Interreligious Dialogue this evening Sri Aurobindo's translation and commentary of the Bhagavad Gita. It might be true that by their fruits you may know them, but Sri Krishna says it's unimportant to know the fruits, just to perform each act with pure mind and open heart unattached to the results. We have a right to the act but not to the fruits.

Aurobindo says: "With devotion, without desire."

All existence is a manifestation of God because He is the only existence and nothing can be except as either a real figuring or else a figment of that one reality. Therefore every conscious being is in part or in some way a descent of the Infinite into the apparent finiteness of name and form. But it is a veiled manifestation and there is a gradation between the supreme being of the Divine and the consciousness shrouded partly or wholly by ignorance of self in the finite.
The inner Divinity is the eternal Avatar in man; the human manifestation is its sign and development in the external world.

(Sri Aurobindo)

The ordinary -- there's something ordinary about conversation. Even in prison.

I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy -- I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what's going to happen.

(from poem "At Least" by Raymond Carver)

You see -- something takes place. What follows is anybodies guess. You open your ears and listen; you open your mouth and speak. Whatever takes place is...gift.

We don't bother to wait -- we can't. We leave. The saluting corrections guards honoring their brothers and sisters as they entered and left are gone from front door. The room we occupied with inmates is empty and dark. The visitors' desk vacated. The wind has shifted northeast.

Like the question asked on Ascension Day, we ask: Where does conversation go when nothing but silence remains?

Each is left to reach their own conclusion.

We have so much to be thankful for.

We try to comprehend.

Without desire.

With devotion.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Gone where?

This Ascension Thursday I sit on porch of cabin reading student's papers. They are mythic writings on experiences and engagements with life. We wrestle with the ordinary each attempt to place the ordinary into words.

Pure seeing, or mere seeing, is itself the ambiguous gift of being in the world. Where did Jesus go during that event scripture and tradition calls his Ascension?

Are we willing to merely look? Are we capable of seeing in and of itself?

And from this, it appears that pure meditation without thought or object -- practiced in order to achieve pure mind or "purity of heart" and thereby enter the Kingdom of Heaven -- is the one authentic strand of Christian spiritual practice that can be traced through at least fourteen centuries back to Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. (p. 121 in Zen and the Kingdom of Heaven, Reflections on the Tradition of Meditation in Christianity and Zen Buddhism, by Tom Chetwynd, Wisdom Publications, 2001)

Where'd he go? Today is the anniversary of my mother's death. Where'd she go?

"Only by purifying the heart -- the depths of the feeling-mind and the seat of passion -- can we free ourselves from our particular egoistic reactions to which we are tethered by long conditioning. The storm of the ego is always on the surface, but in the depths of the mind there is unlimited peace." (Tom Chetwynd)

Theological and historical speculation aside, there is an opportunity to see through the Ascension.

The heart-mind is what is seeing itself.

In this case, Jesus and Katherine. Purity of heart and depth of mind assist their see through and our seeing through.

They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, "Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there."
(Acts 1:10 - 11)

Calm the storm of ego which always wants things its way. No need to look for reflection when looking for someone. What is looking is what is seeing through the looking.

The same way as you have seen.

Him.

Her.

Today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

We do; we run after illusions.

Sons of men, how long will your hearts be heavy?
Why do you seek for vain things?
Why do you run after illusions?

(from Psalm 4)

The day was odd in the shop. Some talked of NAACP involvement. Some, of dislike of conspiracy theories. Later, reading from book someone left for us, a scatter of opinions that were contentious. The range of opinion fluctuated wildly all day.

Walking along a little path,
I find a footprint on the moss,
A white cloud low on the quiet lake,
Grasses that sweeten an open door,
A pine greener with the rain,
A brook tumbling from a mountain source,
And, mingling with Truth among flowers,
I have forgotten what to say.

- Liu Chang-ch’ing

Four of us -- two dogs, two humans -- walked between streams of divided brook this morning. The flow has cut deeply the ground. It is the way of nature to expose elements to change.

It is good that prisoners find commonality for learning. It is awful to think some in government would use tragedy to manipulate their agenda. It is curious that fidgety reaction would follow the words of someone whose sincerity is surrounded in suspicion.

Even if someone is questionable in our minds, we must first ask ourselves the selfsame question formed for the other.

We must investigate.

No doubt it is the sliver moon.

Practicing respect tries patience.

We suffer seeing only by looking.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Consciousness is changing. That's news to many of us.

Old standards used for thinking about the world have rotted like barn sill with north-west exposure tired from too many storms. New ways of thinking are kidnapped and held for ransom. Until a dollar worth can be affixed, new mind is held captive. Once amortized, new consciousness is parceled like real estate to new entrepreneurs for distribution after signature on loyalty oath.

Everywhere you look
The mountains are covered
With mist and blooming cherry trees.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Dawn rain gives way to sun as Cesco and I climb path along Ragged Mountain. Water sits on every grass blade. Underground springs cannot be contained; they gurgle through soaked surface and run in mime of skiers.

Two planes go down in Iraq. Who will be blamed? Who attacked? Which way war's expansion? In this country we are regaled with news of pedophiles and politicians -- both who use their power to grab what they want.

On the mountain, soft with wet, spring growth burrows through and out. Meditation cabin becomes Wallace Stevens' jar in Tennessee

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

(poem by Wallace Stevens)

It's only, some say, a poem. The first time I heard it (from visiting English teacher Geoffrey the beat poet/singer in New Hampshire in early sixties) I had the old awareness. Now, nearly none. Do I understand? Not much. Nary a clue.


Wallace Stevens is, at times, the exemplary figure of the austere Modernist, shorn of Transcendental excess, wary of its expansionist programme for consciousness: 'Anecdote of the Jar' has been mined by generations of students teasing out its seemingly endless self-referentiality to demonstrate that 'less is more'. The poem is, of course, an ironic critique of the Romantic yearning for the creative interfusion of consciousness and nature as the basis of art. Its circular self-enclosing form seems an austere rebuke to Emerson's more expansive solipsism. Emerson wrote, "The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end', but Steven's circling is a demarcation line, an exclusion zone. Similarly the poem cheats the reader's desire for narrative lift-off; this is an anecdote which leads nowhere, which fends off chatty familiarity, and in which there is no significant joining that transcends its constitutive elements.

(On "Anecdote of the Jar" by Pat Righelato)

In the executive, legislature, and judiciary -- in the media, including news, celebrity, and sports -- there is powerful pressure for each to become what someone thinks they should be.

In the cabin nothing becomes itself.

Chatty ceases; transcending unties.

No identity.

Clueless.

As if as is.

Monday, May 02, 2005

"We'll just have to spend some time silent," said man to woman after she noted him coming in and asked him why there was nobody in church at 8:03am. She went up front. Empty churches are inspiring. On back bench he read yesterday's readings. He's a day late for everything.

Simply reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. (1 Peter 3:15)

Got 4.9 gallons of gas for $11.00 at McDucks at corner of Elm and John. Coffee and donut came to $1.20. A classical version of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" was playing on WERU driving Hosmer Pond Road home.

Last night leaving shop Tommy asked what I thought about the conversation that afternoon where somebody was talking about the five Israeli men filming from New Jersey the lower Manhattan crash, burn, and collapse in September 2001 attack. I told him I didn't know what to think. Most times I don't know what to think. If there's evidence, look at it. If there's opinion, listen to it. If there's something to research and investigate, do so.

Form one's own point of view, after investigation and meditation, and continue an open mind. My hope is that there is truth, love, service, and hospitality to be found and shared. I'm willing to opt for attentive presence and compassionate relationality.

21. Flowers Don't Return
A monk asked Kegon, "How about when an enlightened man returns to illusion?" Kegon said, "A broken mirror does not reflect; fallen flowers do not go back to the branch."

[Commentary] This does not mean that an enlightened man is infallible and cannot make mistakes or do bad or foolish things. It means that he partakes of the inevitability of things. Just as flowers make no effort to return to the branch or the broken mirror to be whole again, so the enlightened man does what he does without regret or self-pity.
(from p.89, in Games Zen Masters Play, Writings of R.H. Blyth, ed by Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr)

For now, I'm staying with Blyth's words about partaking of the inevitability of things.

On 61st street and Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn there is a church named after St Athanasius. Today, in another, empty, church, I pray with and for all known at that time in that place and from there to here.

Spending time silent.

Hope, if that's what it is, spings from silence.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Workers untie!

In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.

(John 14:19-20)

Sitting in silence, stove hot, walking three times round, chanting Compline.

There are no half measures but in mind. Everything done, wholeheartedly, is practice. Dogen says, that's enlightenment. And enlightenment?

Dogen said, that's practice.

Each way is whole way.

Sitting at table, sipping soup, words of Hua Hu Ching precede bread.

Cesco barks. It is May.

Untie, untie, untie!