(between you and me)
You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.
(Poem by Czeslaw Milosz)
One day while he was sitting with Rodleigh, the leader of the troupe, Henri fell into a discussion with him about flying. The acrobat told Henri this: "As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, but the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump."
Henri asked him to explain how it works. "The secret," Rodleigh said, "is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar."
"You do nothing!" Henri said, surprised. "Nothing," Rodleigh repeated. "The worst thing the flyer can do it to try to catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It's Joe's task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe's wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him." (Writings Selected, p. 55; originally from Our Greatest Gift, p. 66)Elsewhere there’s a photo of a man sitting zazen on a flat stone surrounded by water. The caption reads: “Don’t worry, nothing is under control.”
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhak, known as RaSHI (1040-1105) . . . noticed, for example, that bereshit, the first word of the first chapter of Genesis, could mean ‘In the beginning of’, so the sentence should read: ‘In the beginning of God’s creation of heaven and earth, the earth was a formless void (tohu bohu).’ This implied that the raw materials of the earth were already in existence when God started his creative work, and that he simply brought order to tohu bohu.(p.133, in The Bible, A Biography, by Karen Armstrong)I always found it interesting that the bible begins with phonic bear-shit (i.e. bereshit).
Being a slave to our concerns is like being in debt to them. When we're in debt, we have no real freedom in our hearts. The more we pay off our debts, the more lighthearted we'll feel. In the same way, if we can let go of our various worries and cares, peace will arise in our hearts. (—Ajaan Lee, “Sowing the Seeds of Freedom”)
for Robert Lowell
We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don’t tell me, I say. I don't want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of silk dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you hear the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life
is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands,
and beginning to rise heavenward
in their confirmation dresses,
like white helium balloons,
the wreaths of flowers on their heads spinning,
and above all that,
that’s where I’m floating,
and that’s what it’s like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?
(Poem by Ai, “Conversation” from Vice: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1999)
|panta rhei wondering about screens|
“… I think it’s what Merton is saying about prayer, - whatever it is, anything in it that is an impurity, that is anything but the act itself, which is practically unnamable. And if it is what it should be, then the poetry is prayer, the acrobatic act is prayer.
“Pure act, I think it’s a metaphysical concept starting with Aristotle and flowering in St. Thomas that God is pure act and that there is no POTENTIA in Him. But that almost everything else in the universe is IN POTENTIA, it’s on its way to being pure act, on its way to unity with God. But only God is pure act. And that made me think about a lot of things. One of them is that business of the purity of an acrobatic performance, of any performance, at the point where it becomes really pure, is at its closest to the divine and closest to that unity.”
“Throwing everything away except the act itself, and I think at that point it also joins with the ideas of Zen, that everything is right here in this moment, and all those same things are being thrown away in what they describe as the Zen act. So if you were living in that kind of purity or call it action, it would be close to the kingdom of heaven. (p. 437-438)
(--from “When Prophecy Had A Voice”, interview between Robert Lax and Arthur Biddle; in beth cioffoletti’s blog “ louie, louie”)
stand and gassho*
keep mouth shut
war dead silence
*Definition: Gassho is Japanese for “palms of the hands placed together.” The gesture is made as a greeting, in gratitude, or to make a request.In the most common form of gassho used in Japanese Zen, hands are pressed together, palm to palm in front of one's face. Fingers are straight. There should be about a fist's distance between one's nose and one's hands. Fingertips should be the same distance from the floor as one's nose. Elbows are held slightly away from the body.Holding the hands in front of the face signifies nonduality. It signifies that the giver and receiver of the bow are not two. Gassho often accompanies a bow. To bow, bend only at the waist, keeping the back straight.