Saturday, March 14, 2015

“But can you define what you call Being?"


From La Repubblica. Pope Francis being interviewed by Eugenio Scalfari An interesting read: 
But just a few days ago you appealed to Catholics to engage civilly and politically.  
"I was not addressing only Catholics but all men of good will. I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres. All my predecessors have said the same thing, for many years at least, albeit with different accents. I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I'm here."  
But that has not always being the case with the Church.  
"It has almost never been the case. Often the Church as an institution has been dominated by temporalism and many members and senior Catholic leaders still feel this way. But now let me ask you a question: you, a secular non-believer in God, what do you believe in? You are a writer and a man of thought. You believe in something, you must have a dominant value. Don't answer me with words like honesty, seeking, the vision of the common good, all important principles and values but that is not what I am asking. I am asking what you think is the essence of the world, indeed the universe. You must ask yourself, of course, like everyone else, who we are, where we come from, where we are going. Even children ask themselves these questions. And you?"  
I am grateful for this question. The answer is this: I believe in Being, that is in the tissue from which forms, bodies arise.  
"And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being. Do you think we are very far apart?"  
We are distant in our thinking, but similar as human beings, unconsciously animated by our instincts that turn into impulses, feelings and will, thought and reason. In this we are alike.  
"But can you define what you call Being?"  
Being is a fabric of energy. Chaotic but indestructible energy and eternal chaos. Forms emerge from that energy when it reaches the point of exploding. The forms have their own laws, their magnetic fields, their chemical elements, which combine randomly, evolve, and are eventually extinguished but their energy is not destroyed. Man is probably the only animal endowed with thought, at least in our planet and solar system. I said that he is driven by instincts and desires but I would add that he also contains within himself a resonance, an echo, a vocation of chaos.  
"All right. I did not want you to give me a summary of your philosophy and what you have told me is enough for me. From my point of view, God is the light that illuminates the darkness, even if it does not dissolve it, and a spark of divine light is within each of us. In the letter I wrote to you, you will remember I said that our species will end but the light of God will not end and at that point it will invade all souls and it will all be in everyone."  
Yes, I remember it well. You said, "All the light will be in all souls" which - if I may say so - gives more an image of immanence than of transcendence.  
"Transcendence remains because that light, all in everything, transcends the universe and the species it inhabits at that stage. But back to the present. We have made a step forward in our dialogue. We have observed that in society and the world in which we live selfishness has increased more than love for others, and that men of good will must work, each with his own strengths and expertise, to ensure that love for others increases until it is equal and possibly exceeds love for oneself." 

(--from “The Pope: how the Church will change." {Translated from Italian to English by Kathryn Wallace},  Dialogue between Francis and La Repubblica’s founder, Eugenio Scalfari: “ Starting from the Second Vatican Council, open to modern culture”. The conversation in the Vatican after the Pope's letter to La Repubblica: "Convert you? Proselytism is solemn nonsense. You have to meet people and listen to them. ) “  

This in the afternoon.  Along with poem by Terrance Keenan for Saturday Morning Practice. (With now dusking new snow falling over and on everything, again). Makes for a dash of feeling, sanity visiting in an increasingly less-than-sane, mostly absent, world.

A Sweetness Appears and Prevails
                    By Terrance Keenan 
The reason we bother 
to get up in the morning 
is because of everything; 
is because there is another arithmetic 
without internal sense 
and we ache at the borders; 
is because the grey music 
of the first chickadee before dawn 
in the hemlocks 
is the grinding engines of the humpyard 
carried on morning air; 
is because we are afraid 
and know everyone is afraid 
and do not know 
who will soothe our tears 
nor how many tears 
we will hold unshed. 
You seem to be you 
and I seem to be me. 
My sorrows are no greater 
than your sorrows. 
Thou art beautiful, 
o my loves, 
as tears are.
(Poem by Terrance Keenan, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist priest, is an Irish artist and writer. From Zen Encounters with Loneliness, by Terrance Keenan. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications. Tricycle Magazine, Spring 2015) 
Being, someone said at practice, is showing up.

Just like that. Like this.

I like these words.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Homo hominis; human, human is; creative action

This is what we spoke about in prison this morning.
The Right & The Best 
Homo faber seeks certainty – she needs to have the ‘right’ answers to problems; whereas Homo cognitoaims at achieving the best solutions in collaboration with others in the unique context of the situation. This always leaves open the possibility of there being even better solutions. 
This is not to say that there aren’t right answers to keep bridges from crumbling, or buildings from collapsing during an earthquake. This form of thinking is certainly not irrelevant. However it cannot be the only form of thinking. Right answers depend on the right tools being applied; but too much can be ignored when the focus is solely on using the technologically ‘right’ tool for the job. On the other hand, Homo cognito, freed from the need for absolute certainty, can engage in the knowledge-making process with others. Collaborative teamwork works out case-by-case solutions to problems too complex to be reduced to fixed problems with fixed answers. 
Homo cognito also has to evaluate the information gathered and determine its reliability and relevance. With so much information available to us these days, we generally need to know how to evaluate the knowledge (or ‘knowledge’) that is out there. We cannot depend on all the information being accurate, trusting that someone with authority stands behind the claims made. Instead of relying on the authority of the teacher or on possibly outdated textbook or internet sources, we ourselves have to determine the reliability of sources. We have to become our own authority, so to speak. 
Thus Homo cognito becomes the authority on her contribution to the collaborative process, and is directly involved with deciding the relevance, importance and reliability of the information gathered. She is accountable for how she has made her decisions, and is able to give reasons and explanations for these decisions. In this way, instead of depending on the authority of instructor or text, Homo cognito now makes her thinking and reasoning visible and transparent to the collaborating group.
(--from, The Need To Move Beyond Homo Faber, by Maria daVenza Tillmanns, in Philosophy Now, February/March 2015
Then I became very tired.

Homo somnolent.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Cold surrounds.
For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our "original mind" includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This doesn't mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few. 
In the beginner's mind there is no thought "I have attained something." All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

replying to a student’s paper

Here are some observations of some points you make:

*     It sounds, at first, horrifying when it is said “This thing or that thing, or life, has no meaning.” Upon further reflection, perhaps what is meant is that things, and life, are only things, and life. They do not come with meaning. They are only themselves. ‘Meaning’ is something that is conferred upon things or life by someone doing the conferring. In other words, we place meaning on things, on life. 

Which is why different things mean differently to different people. The world is a variety and variation of meaning. Which makes us jumpy when others do not value what we value, nor we what they value. We are meant to converse about our differences.

   Meaning is a creative act. (You could say.) It occurs when attention, awareness, and personal creativity places something as meaningfully before us. Self-knowledge flows from this process. (I submit.)

**      If there is no present, only past and future, might we say that past and future are the present…blink, blink, blink…a present that has been/will be without any static fixed place to reside for longer than a blink?

***      I wonder if by ‘relative’  [comparative, respective, comparable, correlative, parallel, corresponding] we might consider that time does not really exist, i.e. does not stand out from its corresponding parallel relatedness to what has been or what will be. 

In typical Buddhist paradox, might we suggest that time is no-time? (And ‘no-time’ is the definition or meaning of ‘eternity.’ )

 So, do we long for eternity? For no-time? Perhaps ‘time’ is a pivoting point, turning this way and that, as an exchange takes place so fast that it eludes us and we are left wondering (always) “what is happening?” And that question contains the gist of human experience — we are ‘what is’ happening.  

I once sent a telegram (it was the late 70s) to Martha’s Vineyard where a friend was getting married. It read, “May you become for one another a resting place for time to change hands.” 

The Western Union operator (it was done by phone) did a sharp intake of breath and asked, “Oh my, whose words are those?” 

“Mine,” I answered. 

“You’re kidding me,” she said. 

“No, I’m not.” I said. “I wouldn’t lie to you; I don’t know you. We only lie to someone we know.” [An odd thing to say, even now!] 

She laughed. 

****      A terrific expression of the individual as learning creative experience. Pace yourself well!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

becoming new part, departing a new whole

The old master had his fill of his time and the behavior of it.

So, he left for outer territory.
The magic structure
The emergence of the magic structure is above all a transition from undifferentiated identity to one-dimensional unity. The magic consciousness is focused on a single “point,” which can be interchanged with other “points” or, as a part, stand for a whole.
The man of the magic structure has been released from his harmony or identity with the whole. With that a first process of consciousness began; it was still completely sleep-like: for the first time not only was man in the world, but he began to face the world in its sleep-like outlines. Therewith arose the germ of a need: that of no longer being in the world but of having the world.
The more man released himself from the whole, becoming “conscious” of himself, the more he began to be an individual, a unity not yet able to recognize the world as a whole, but only the details (or “points”) which reach his still sleep-like consciousness and in turn stand for the whole. Hence the magic world is also a world of pars pro toto, in which the part can and does stand for the whole. Magic man’s reality, his system of asso- ciations, are these individual objects, deeds, or events separated from one another like points in the over-all unity.
These points can be interchanged at will. It is a world of pure but meaningful accident; a world in which all things and persons are interrelated, but the not-yet centered Ego is dispersed over the world of phenomena. . . . In a sense one may say that in this structure consciousness was not yet in man himself, but still resting in the world. The gradual trans- fer of this consciousness, which streams towards him and which he must assimilate from his standpoint, and the awakening world, which he gradually learns to confront (and in the confrontation there is something hostile), is something that man must master.
Man replies to the forces streaming toward him with his own corresponding forces: he stands up to Nature. He tries to exorcise her, to guide her; he strives to be independent of her; then he begins to be conscious of his own will. Witchcraft and sorcery, totem and taboo, are the natural means by which he seeks to free himself from the transcendent power of nature, by which his soul strives to materialize within him and to become in- creasingly conscious of itself. . . . Here, in these attempts to free himself from the grip and spell of nature, with which in the beginning he was still fused in unity, magic man begins the struggle for power which has not ceased since; here man becomes the maker. (46  
(--p.54, Evolution of Consciousness According to Jean Gebser, by Ulrich J. Mohrhoff, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education )
Lao tzu never looked back. 

would you like bitter impropriety with your umeboshi

Our dear umeboshi begin to leap into a coup.

Seems US Senate Republicans begin the dissolution of governance the House Republicans have been itching and inching towards of late.

A letter to Iran saying pay no attention to our President.

A Foreign leader from Israel in their Chamber saying our President is wrong.

A slew of arrogant and bombastic voices halting and hexing reasonable dialogue toward meaningful governing, guttering good efforts, replaced with poorly masked ideological bigotry and tepid denials of insidious antipathy toward ordinary people, in favor of the few, the rich, the lording, the fingers on guns and eye-poking bullying become so prevalent in our culture of celebrity cynicism cutting across spectrum of media, politics, sports, corporations, religions, and street-cruel switchblades bleeding bodies out.

The open revolution of right wing ideologues commences.

What do we have here?
All the Difficult Hours and Minutes
                       ( by JANE HIRSHFIELD)
All the difficult hours and minutes  
are like salted plums in a jar.  
Wrinkled, turn steeply into themselves,  
they mutter something the color of  sharkfins to the glass.  
Just so, calamity turns toward calmness.  
First the jar holds the umeboshi, then the rice does. 
(--Source: Poetry (May 2008))
Will there be mushrooms or mushroom clouds side-dishing the Toynbee-esque dominant minority masquerading majority sliding downhill toward new uncivil war?

White rice elbows aside brown rice in broken serving bowl.

Monday, March 09, 2015

with seaweed soup

Poetry has no reason to be.

My Sandwich   
So many things  
you’d not have thought of 
until they were given. 
Even the simple- 
a cottage cheese sandwich, 
a heron’s contractable neck. 
You eat. You look. 
Then you look back and it’s over. 
This life. This flood - 
unbargained for as lasting love was - 
of lasting oddness.                                                                                                                  
(--poem, “My Sandwich” by Jane Hirshfield from The Beauty. © Knopf, 2015. 

Theology has its roots in trees.

 realizing the nature of heaven 
Love god; god is love.  
Love one another; you are 
Serve each other, render 
be of use, help; 
is true life. 
(wfh,, 22apr2014, prior to msp)  

  Philosophy is what we think about everyday life.

At 77 years old all my teeth are gone
and the wind blows past my gums.
No windscreen in Dongducheon
where homeless live alone. 
Rather than live alone
I wanted to be a monk in Buddha’s temple
but they kicked me out—
I sneaked the bacon. 
The Deacon’s ad in the newspaper
offered a room at his church—
In exchange for cleaning I lived well.
One rainy night I drank Soju and smoked
so they kicked me out. 
Damn hard work on my back for GIs—
pounded and pounded me inside
so one day it had to go.
The khanho-won removed my womb
no pension for sex trade
no yungkum. 
American couple adopted
my half white son—
my half black daughter
I left at the orphanage door
and never knew her fate. 
At one time I had money saved.
My brother came in his guilty face
Because I can’t protect you— you do this.
He used my handling money
to become a lawyer and soon removed
my name from the family—
like scraping a baby from the womb. 
Still, on my birthdays my sister Sook
secretly came to see me,
came with seaweed soup—
Unni, Unni…I waited for her to come
saved a gift chocolate so carefully wrapped—
gum, perfume, Dove soap…  
Now that she’s engaged
Sook cannot come again—
Why can’t you go to America like the others?
For the first time that day I was weeping,
Mother, mother, we should not live Let’s die together! but Mother was already gone. 
The time goes so fast that people on the moon
didn’t know where Korea was. 
One day I met a man
and I am a woman making rice
washing his work clothes
submissive and joyful
until he found my American dollars
ran away and never came back. 
Now in Dongducheon
stars shimmer in the wind. 
(--poem by Tanya Ko, poet and translator who was born and raised in South Korea on Paris Press website)  . 

Science knows things beyond belief.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

ma guarda e passa

Where do you look?
“Religion, poetry have to do with the actual goings-on of the universe. False religion, which is nothing more than magic disguised, twists the past, present and future, builds them nearer to the hearts desire. False poetry does the same thing, though with less disastrous results. it is also a world of escape, a world of literature, but not of life. If this is so, it might seem that science can be our only salvation from unreality. That is true up to a point. It can indeed save us from what is unreal, but it cannot give us more than a mechanically correct universe in place of phantasy. It cannot tell us what life is, nor can it give it to us more abundantly. This is the function of poetry, but as in the passage from the Inferno above-quoted, [Inferno, III, 34-51], we have to look for poetry, that is, for reality, in the most unlikely places also, in the mere sounds of the lines, in the perverse denial of truth, and the impossible desires of human beings, in the tremendous castles of intellectual air that they have erected, in the lies and sophistries which are only inverted truths.”
(--p.170, Haiku, Volume 1, Eastern Culture, by R.H. Blyth, 1981)
To what do you listen?
Nothing seems to
     embody the
longing of eyes
     and ears --
more than poetry --
     that which makes
wording life’s inner
     breath, as each falls   
The myths caught something important when they pointed to a fall from perfection and singularity. It has been interpretation that has dropped original insight.
        The grasses of the garden, --
 They fall,
        And lie as they fall.     
What sense do you make of it?

Looking and moving on.