Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, July 02, 2011

We relaunch Jootje with help from Sam and Susan. We row around Curtis Island. In mid-day sun. That will be a rare time-slot for me.

We watch The Dhamma Brothers about Vipassana meditation in Alabama penitentiary. Good for them!
It is a characteristic tendency of human beings to indulge in emotions such as happiness, grief, or anger in response to present conditions, failing to balance these feelings with the awareness that present conditions are results of past causes. It is illogical to face the present only as an object of enjoyment or tolerance, neglecting to use it as the opportunity to create the future.
- Muso Kokushi (1275-1351)
To live life well now is to create the future. Now, then, whenever -- its' all the realization of true self, true nature.

That, and strawberries on vanilla bean ice cream, does the job.

New American flag flies at barn door opening.

It's a good country.

It could use some good, long, insightful sitting.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Solomon had an advantage over Obama. Both had a choice whether to cut the baby in half. In Solomon's story, he held a live baby. In Obama's, well -- listen to Mac Deford:
No Matter, the Baby Was Already Dead
6/30/2011 9:25:00 AM
Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan, by G. Whitney Azoy; 3rd edition, revised and updated, June 2011


by Thomas McAdams Deford

It's too bad President G.W. Bush, not to mention President Obama and General Petraeus, never read the one book that tells us all we need to know about the social and cultural underpinnings of Afghanistan, Whitney Azoy's Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan. It explains why our 10-year effort to remake that country was mission impossible.

The Afghan war will have cost us half a trillion dollars by year end, with 1,500 dead, and a multiple of that maimed or badly wounded. Last week, President Obama told us two things in his Afghanistan speech:

1) We've lost; and

2) It doesn't matter.

The Taliban, after being routed in six weeks nearly ten years ago, have managed to fight back against NATO forces that over the last two years have topped out at nearly 150,000 in addition to an Afghan force, armed and trained by NATO, growing from 200,000 to 300,000. The Afghan army already costs about $3,000,000,000 a year to maintain; by the time of NATO's departure, it will
be up to $6 billion in an economy of $20 billion. Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme was nickel and dime stuff compared to this.
(--from The Free Press, Rockland ME)
http://freepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=50&SubSectionID=72&ArticleID=13517&TM=36100.4
We couldn't go into prison today because...the prison environment, including all involved in the environment, is the prison environment. And later in the day we were 15 minutes late for the nursing home. Walt couldn't read, he was too choked up, but Sheilah could, the Browning poem that reflected the 69 years of his and Maggie's marriage. They celebrated this week. Maggie is not well.

Deford adds:
Losing a war is poor politics. The spectre of the Taliban marching on Kabul in the fall of 2012, even with the majority of Americans against the war, would not help Obama in the voting booths a few months later. So he compromised: enough withdrawals to keep his liberal base in line; not enough to risk an Afghan collapse before the presidential elections.

As Pat Buchanan, the original conservative Republican - he was against both the Iraq and the Afghan adventures - put it, "our president did what comes naturally: he cut the baby in half."

True, but give Obama credit: the baby was already dead.

In January 2009, when Obama was sworn in, Bush had left him two lit dynamite sticks: the rapidly disintegrating economy and an equally rapidly disintegrating war in Afghanistan. He had to make sure both didn't explode at once. The "surge" then was a short-term political fix to a double whammy he had inherited
. (Ibid)
I used to wonder whether war was merely an awful necessity. Now I sense it to be just another strategy option for political purposes.

War is a brutal choice to sacrifice lives for political gain.

What's wrong with war is our unenlightened mind. It's stupidity is breathtaking.

We need to remember to breathe.

To become enlightened.

To end war.

What do you say, baby?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

We finish four weeks at Rockland Public Library leading conversations after four episodes of Joan of Arcadia. Delightful circles!
Why practice quiet sitting?
So you can really get a look
At your original mind.
You look at it coming, look at it going,
And then you know you're the original person.
This latter age has no deep faith,
No one practices the
Direct road to understanding.
All they do is flap three inches of tongue
And lose themselves in the muddle of the mind.

- Gensei (1623-1668)
Listen and see.

There was a line in the early episode spoken by God who said he doesn't appear, Joan sees him.

The more we listen the more we see.

Life, death, pain, suffering, joy, loss, grace, why?

We might never know, but we can feel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


15 years ago today on the feast of Peter and Paul we opened meetingbrook bookshop & bakery on Bayview Street by the harbor in Camden.

When we lost our lease due to the building being sold two years ago we decided, after briefly considering finding a new site, that we would fold back into the hermitage at Ragged/Bald mountains at the Snow Bowl to deepen the contemplative life we'd been living in the open the prior 13 years.

Some loss and some gain accompany every change. We've been happy. We miss the spontaneous encounters with market place 'pilgrims'. (I am reminded of this, playfully, when yesterday Brad P. extends his arm from Volvo window as I cross Atlantic avenue to library, places small sea shell into my hand, saying one word, 'Pilgrim!' before driving toward Sea street. How the reminders come!)

We enjoy the freedoms and solitude of release from so many external demands.

Tonight, at conversation, we continue the Wednesday evening Laura soul-friend conversations begun back then.

The cake Saskia made for evening conversation, and the fruit crepes this morning, were a lovely luck-of-the-draw celebration shared by Susan, Myles, Dean, Jayen, & Dirk. The invisible guests will have to remain anonymous -- with our thanks for their loving memory and belonging over the years.

Well tasted, with gratefulness, for the time.


There are times that any comment, save silent invocation of Mystery, is one too many.

The headline read: U.S. War Costs Reach At Least $3.7 Trillion And Counting

Like some text or scripture read in our daily hermitage practice, perhaps this piece deserves to be read without comment. Followed by silence. And reflection.
The President of the United States has told the American people and the rest of the world that even as the U.S. withdraws some troops from Afghanistan and continues to withdraw from Iraq, the wars will continue for some years. The debate over why each war was begun and whether either or both should have been fought continues.

What we do know, without debate, is that the wars begun ten years ago have been tremendously painful for millions of people in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and the United States, and economically costly as well. Each additional month and year of war will add to that toll. To date, however, there has been no comprehensive accounting of the costs of the United States’ wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The goal of the Costs of War project has been to outline a broad understanding of the domestic and international costs and consequences of those wars. The Eisenhower Research Project based at Brown University assembled a team that includes economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts, and a physician to do this analysis.

We asked:
  • What have been the wars’ costs in human and economic terms?
  • How have these wars changed the social and political landscape of the United States and the countries where the wars have been waged?
  • What will be the long term legacy of these conflicts for veterans?
  • What is the long term economic effect of these wars likely to be?
  • Were and are there alternative less costly and more effective ways to prevent further terror attacks?
Some of the project’s findings:
  • While we know how many US soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6000), what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall. Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been identified.
  • At least 137,000 civilians have died and more will die in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict.
  • The armed conflict in Pakistan, which the U.S. helps the Pakistani military fight by funding, equipping and training them, has taken as many lives as the conflict in neighboring Afghanistan.
  • Putting together the conservative numbers of war dead, in uniform and out, brings the total to 225,000.
  • Millions of people have been displaced indefinitely and are living in grossly inadequate conditions. The current number of war refugees and displaced persons -- 7,800,000 -- is equivalent to all of the people of Connecticut and Kentucky fleeing their homes.
  • The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties at home and human rights violations abroad.
  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades, some costs not peaking until mid-century. Many of the wars’ costs are invisible to Americans, buried in a variety of budgets, and so have not been counted or assessed. For example, while most people think the Pentagon war appropriations are equivalent to the wars’ budgetary costs, the true numbers are twice that, and the full economic cost of the wars much larger yet. Conservatively estimated, the war bills already paid and obligated to be paid are $3.2 trillion in constant dollars. A more reasonable estimate puts the number at nearly $4 trillion.
The website with additional information is http://costsofwar.org/

Sophia, orthia!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If I have no opinion about a particular belief, then I cannot be a heretic. A heretic is someone with a different opinion. None had; none different.
Men will therefore see God if they are to live; through the vision of God they will become immortal and attain to God himself. As I have said, this was shown in symbols by the prophets: God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and are always waiting for his coming. As Moses said in the Book of Deuteronomy: On that day we shall see, for God will speak to man, and man will live.
(--From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus, bishop)
I'm never sure what the problem is people have with God.

Perhaps it is their opinion God causes good or evil. I don't have that opinion.

God is the uncaused good. And evil is not that.

An opinion would be other than that.

I've none.

There is no other.

Live this well!
.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Watched Collapse. A whole bunch of pretty good assessment of current condition of the world.

For me the question is: While here, what can I do for others here? I don't mind the absurd existence we're asked to accept as normal. I don't even mind that the biggest, smartest, fastest, most ruthless get the best pickings.

What concerns me is whether I have the courage to live with the absurdity and attempt to be kind, to listen, and be present.
What a pain, these people with so much wisdom!
Even the Buddhas have trouble converting them.
They keep the sutra pages turning,
But never turn their mind;
Ten thousand volumes cram their bookshelves,
All for nothing!
They've sunk into the pit of fame and profit,
Day and night a prey to disquiet and fear.
Their hearts in the end care nothing for sincerity
But moment to moment plot some clever scheme.

- Gensei (1623-1668)
The corrupt get convicted. The rest of us get sick, enfeebled, and set to die. There it is!
At the Cancer Clinic

She is being helped toward the open door
that leads to the examining rooms
by two young women I take to be her sisters.
Each bends to the weight of an arm
and steps with the straight, tough bearing
of courage. At what must seem to be
a great distance, a nurse holds the door,
smiling and calling encouragement.
How patient she is in the crisp white sails
of her clothes. The sick woman
peers from under her funny knit cap
to watch each foot swing scuffing forward
and take its turn under her weight.
There is no restlessness or impatience
or anger anywhere in sight. Grace
fills the clean mold of this moment
and all the shuffling magazines grow still.
(Poem by Ted Kooser, from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004)
That's us with magazines as we experience ourselves shuffling through this mortal toil.

Not quite sure what happens at the door.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


The haphazardness, randomness, and chaos of trying to fit things together in disheveled fashion. I accept being what some might call a 'slob.'
slob
noun: informal her no-good slob of a husband: layabout, good-for-nothing, sluggard, laggard;informal slacker, lazybones, bum, couch potato; archaic sloven.
(Apple dictionary)
It was an insight at evening practice. My room, car, desk, and barn are in a state of perpetual mess. I like to let things be. Where they are. As they are. The way they fall.

It helps when we are talking ideas about philosophy, spirituality, creativity, or covering the peapod against the threat of rain after brushing her with boiled linseed oil, pine tar, and turpentine. Everything is an act of unexpected fitting together after inquiry, expression, uncertainty, and experimentation.

For those who like certainty, order, and neatness -- who prefer to whip things and people into shape, this kind of laissez-faire must be hell.

Me and thee are curiosities -- as are our ways. Go figure. Or don't. It doesn't much matter either way. Figuring, as in figuring out, or figuring in, is a temporary form feeling equally empty. Ask the Buddhists.
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
It’s always ourselves we find in the sea.
(Poem by E.E. Cummings)
Poets know how to surround you with nothing -- or, perhaps, surround nothing with you.
In addition to his poetry, Cummings was also known for his play, Him, and for the travel diary, Eimi. Him consisted of a sequence of skits drawing from burlesque, the circus, and the avant-garde, and jumping quickly from tragedy to grotesque comedy. The male character is named Him; the female character is Me. "The play begins," Harold Clurman wrote in Nation, "as a series of feverish images of a girl undergoing anaesthesia during an abortion. She is 'me,' who thinks of her lover as 'him.'" In the program to the play, staged at the Provincetown Playhouse, Cummings provided a warning to the audience: "Relax and give the play a chance to strut its stuff—relax, stop wondering what it's all 'about'—like many strange and familiar things, Life included, this Play isn't 'about,' it simply is. Don't try to enjoy it, let it try to enjoy you. DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND IT, LET IT TRY TO UNDERSTAND YOU." Clurman believed that "the play's purest element is contained in duos of love. They are the most sensitive and touching in American playwriting. Their intimacy and passion, conveyed in an odd exquisiteness of writing, are implied rather than declared. We realize that no matter how much 'him' wishes to express his closeness to 'me,' he is frustrated not only by the fullness of his feeling but by his inability to credit his emotion in a world as obscenely chaotic as the one in which he is lost."
(--about E. E. Cummings,1894–1962, from The Poetry Foundation, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/e-e-cummings)
I don't mind being lost. Like the messy house of my dwelling, something lost is preparation for the delight of discovery. Or, if gone altogether, it serves as the realization that need is a travelling belief.
As evening opens and closes itself by letting light go its way, so words are often lost in us, lost on us; not companionable the way feeling stays at elbow sleeve as we make our way through narrow passages.

Toward what we think of, what we call, home.