Saturday, September 17, 2016

woman sitting

Saturday morning


Once you find what is missing 

you have nothing

Because what is missing 

is nothing

Friday, September 16, 2016

an idiot's QED

We spoke of bullshit in prison today.

Later, Donald Trump announced at a news conference that President Obama was born in the United States,

Quod erat dēmonstrandum .

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What are we doing here? What are we doing, here? What are we, doing here?

[The following remarks were delivered as an expanded invocation at UMA college graduation ceremony at Maine State Prison in Warren Maine on 25 June 2016.]

HERE WE ARE!.  Which makes the job of pronouncing an Invocation easy. We are here, and yet — we are a reluctant community.

An Invocation is the action of calling people in, of calling us to show up, to be here, and to ponder WHAT IS this “HERE”

So, as I look around, it seems obvious that, yes, here we are.  Easy.

But, we are a reluctant community. We “struggle against” things, have a knack of creating difficulties for one another, often “offering opposition”  to what we find wherever we are. What is not easy is to come to see who we are, what the real revelation of our being-here is.

And so I will introduce a difficulty — by wondering aloud, and asking — if we are calling one another here — WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?

Let’s look at three responses to that question, and see if they are helpful to our understanding what is here and what we are doing with what is here:

1. (First, a very short poem)

Here’s what e.e.cummings the poet says in four lines, without punctuation. He writes 13 words:
seeker of truth 
follow no path
all paths lead where 
truth is here
Can you hear the two ways we might read these lines for our purposes here today?

seeker of truth, 
follow no path
all paths lead “where” — 
truth is “here”
or . . .

seeker of truth 
follow no path
all paths lead where truth is, here

Either way we read it, the poet is suggesting we might want to consider what we are doing with what is here.

Yes, this gathering, today, is a celebration of personal and academic accomplishment. Men who are in prison have studied and pondered and said YES to learning, to sharing knowledge, insight, and experience, and forming community.

Perhaps, certainly, we are called here — to open our minds and hearts —  to hear and see a new form of intellectual, spiritual, educational, and corrective community — one where the individual learns understanding conversing together.

And so, we wonder — Is this what we’re doing here? — To be fully here and aware, greeting the truth of one another by following no other path than “truth” — revealing and concealing itself in our midst?

2. (Second)

Here’s what novelist and poet Alice Walker wishes us to ponder about what might be revealing itself right here in our presence:

Alice Walker writes:
"Where do we start? How do we reclaim a proper relationship to the world?
It is said that in the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. The tribal ceremony often lasts several days. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe. 
(--from pp.27-28, in Sent by Earth: A Message from the Grandmother Spirit After the Bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Seven Stories Press, Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2002)
Can you hear what she is describing here with this piece of writing? She is suggesting that what we are doing here is a radical rethinking of what it means to fail and succeed — NOT falling back to old and antiquated ways of condemnation and punishment, but moving ahead to new and creative ways of actively reminding one another that we all fall and fail, that none of us wish to be thought about or remembered by our worst moments in life, and that there is a regenerating, restorative, and re-habilitating power in our ability to rethink acceptance, mercy, and (yes) forgiveness.

Do we have the inspiration, the psychological, and spiritual ability to reform community? YES, we do — when we look at one another and see what is here — the hidden longing and the reluctant but revealing welcoming of new community-creating-individuals.

3. (Third, and finally)

One day, way back in the early days of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures, we’re told of Moses, who’s life was complicated.

One day, as Moses was surveying the royal projects, he rescued a Hebrew slave by killing his abusive Egyptian master. In danger of being exposed, Moses fled Egypt, … Moses went to Midian, where he found refuge with Jethro, a desert priest.
[We often, it seems, find ourselves in a desert, in dark, dry, desolate places — fleeing punishment or persecution — trying to figure out what the sentences writing our lives, mean.]

Anyway, this fellow Moses, instead of being incarcerated or executed for the murder he committed, climbed a mountain and talked to a very mysterious SOMEONE who claimed to have a set of rules and a new template for contemplating what life here on earth might be about. Moses started acting all Highway Patrol or Stop and Frisk with this SOMEONE and politely requested to see or hear some proof about what this SOMEONE’S name was, and where he came from, and just what this SOMEONE was doing in the neighborhood.

Here is what the Elohist writer in the literary account in Exodus 3 said about the encounter:
Then Moses said to Elohim, [Elohim is a name for God used in Hebrew Scriptures even as they were trying to figure out what in God’s name was God’s name.] “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” Elohim said to Moses, “Ehyeh-asher-ehyeh.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘Ehyeh has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13–15)

Can you hear what this mysterious SOMEONE is telling us? We are being told that the SOMEONE who chose Moses (remember, the murderer) — this SOMEONE wanted THE NAME to be known by to be — (and this is the literal translation of the Hebrew “Ehyeh-asher-ehyeh.”) “I shall be there, as who I am, shall I be there.” (This phrasing, this NAME, contains all the things a student of humanities & philosophy might encounter in their studies: Time, Presence, Being, Appearance, Form, Truth, Meaning, Doubt, and, not to mention, “What the heck kind of an answer is that?”
In other words, this SOMEONE said they would be there, would be HERE — will be anywhere — in such a way that… we might not know, might not recognize, might even consider to be SOMEONE to be punished, disregarded, treated poorly, even to let die in ways no one would want to die.

We are being asked to keep our eyes and ears open to the learning needed to recognize one another as the manifestation of the SOMEONE WE ARE.

[This is our Invocation, our calling in, our being called in, to who we are, where we are. As a footnote: In an Independent Study shared with a student this last semester, here, from two sides of plexiglass, speaking through phone devices, the student wrestled while studying the Bhagavad Gita or Song of God — with the age old question of whether we have what is called free-will or whether we are determined to act the way we act based solely on past causes and conditions. He didn’t like the idea that his birth family might somehow be thought of as contributing to his crime and his very, very long sentence. Here’s what he/we came up with — when we don’t show up, when we are absent from our lives, unaware, and not considering the truth of what is revealing itself right in front of us, then we are unfree and we are determined to act as the circumstances dictate. But, if we show up, if we do consider carefully what is presenting itself before us, if we are clear-headed, present here and aware, then our action and choice is more likely to be free and healthy.]

In summary:

These three responses to the question WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE? are presented to us so that we ponder what kind of presence we might become in each others’ lives. So that we ponder what kind of community we long to be part of.

Here’s my thinking: We are a reluctant community. We’re uncertain we want to be here, unsure we really want to be with those we are with.)

If you’re an inmate, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be in prison.
Many practitioners, People of the Book, might prefer to be in heaven with Yahweh/Elohim, or Allah, or Christ.
Many practitioners of Asian and East Asian philosophy and religion, might prefer to be free of self, free of ignorance, hatred, and delusion, all the dualistic categories we suffer through, and free to enter the liberating awareness of our inter-connection, non-dual consciousness or Nirvana.

Finally we conclude our Invocation

So HERE WE ARE! What are we doing here? Perhaps we are being tasked with creating a new kind of  Correcting Learning Monastic Human & Humane Experience Center. A place that might possibly be named the E.E. Babemba Moses What’s-Your-Name Learning Institute.

 I see us as a reluctant community longing to learn from one another what new truth, new “here”, and new thinking want to emerge about incarceration and liberation. Much has already been learned. And still there remains an unfathomable depth, distance, and intimacy yet to explore.

So now we pray — that we continue to learn how to be in a new and more profound HERE, a kind of LOVE and LEARNING that is REAL and TRUE.  Let us be intrigued by the words written by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, 112 years ago:

The experience of loving, that now disappoints so many, can actually change and be transformed from the ground up into the building of a relationship between two human beings, not just a man and a woman. And this more authentic love will be evident in the utterly considerate, gentle, and clear manner of its binding and releasing. It will resemble what we now struggle to prepare: the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.   (Rome, May 14, 1904; Letters to a Young Poet)

HERE WE ARE — May we celebrate and welcome everyone into a new place of learning together!
This is our invocation — let’s show up — to see and say something ever-new and ever-present —into our being here!

…   …   …

[3 Gasshos ]

*to inmate students: Here you are — We greet you!  

*to family and friends: Here you are — We greet you!    

*to benefactors, corrections, and university representatives: Here you are — We greet you!

[ fin / ab initio —  Bill Halpin, MSP 15June2016]

Sorrows abound

Wherever we are.

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed,’” (Lk. 2:34-35). [1]

Friend in Florida with Lewy body dementia. Friend in Maryland with Ehlers Danlos. Friend in prison with heart condition, amputated foot, severe diabetes.

The vast numbers of frustrated people on verge of despair. Those who do not experience cool breeze, sunlight, and small joys of September.

For these -- I pray.

For you, and for me, I pray.

We are here -- for one another.


is the only answer

not needing

a question

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Documentary from The Empire Files by Abby Martin on Chevron vs the Amazon.

One further instance, if you watch, of power and uncaring greed choosing capital and corporate profit over people, nature, and decent justice.

I invite Chevron CEO John Watson to the hermitage for tea and toast to talk about fairness and justice.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

amusing: so funny; no want


Thurman says

Compassion is fun --

He's so funny


There is

No place

I want 

To be

Monday, September 12, 2016

three at kennebec river

Green can leaning south--

southwest 247° into wind

and tide as river pushes against


           Richard worked just upriver

            at BIW -- enormous blue

            dry dock holding battleship --

             his memory drifting downriver


If I did love, I'd love

all the things I've seen,

the people I've known, you

I me mine, stepping off into buddhahood

Compassion, suggested Robert Thurman, is fun.

This observation stumped some who were at Sunday Evening Practice. That tuning in to the suffering of another might be something that causes joy?

I was looking at the half eaten three berry pie on the plate of the man beside me. On its edge, with crust crumb in a certain light of candle, seemed a likeness of bodhidharma. A small diversion during his words about compassion.

Later, on his plate, only edge of remaining crust beside fork. No more imaginative simulacrum. 

Like compassion, all images disappear into body of experience completing itself in reciprocity. We listen to one another. 

Then, with metta blessing, send out fruits of practice to every being, in all times and realms, especially those most in need of the kindness and care of bodhisattvas and bodhidharmas moving west and east.

We blow out table candles.

September cooling as headlights turn right onto barnestown road.

Monday morning wears two blankets as yurt dweller makes same turn with one headlight at 5:18am, her motorcycle coughing from cigarette smoke.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

as a pilgrim might do

Finally, the New York Times Editorial Board, an excerpt:
 He [Michael Bloomberg] was right about what we can’t do. But many of us can do this on a bright September day: Take the subway to Lower Manhattan. Walk a block or two, find the way through a construction zone and down a chain-link corridor. Take the time to walk around each void, watching the names flow by. There are too many to linger over, but read those you can and reflect on the whole. Take several turns, pondering, as a pilgrim might do, the enormity of the loss, the passage of years. And what we, the living, can do to build a better world, worthy of their sacrifice
(--from,  A Walk Around the Void of 9/11, b

to reconciliation and unity

From Franciscan Media:
      A Day of Sorrow, Hope, and Prayer  
Fifteen years ago this morning, nearly 3,000 lives were lost in an act of unthinkable violence. Each year on September 11, Americans remember the lives lost in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  
When Pope Francis visited New York City in September 2015, his message at Ground Zero was one of sorrow, but also of hope:  
"This place of death became a place of life, too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division."  
On this day, we honor those loved ones who keep the memories of the fallen alive. We celebrate the heroes who sacrificed everything so that others might live. And we pray, as Pope Francis asked in his Ground Zero address, for:   
"Peace in our homes, our families, our schools and our communities. Peace in all those places where war never seems to end. Peace for those faces which have known nothing but pain. Peace throughout this world which God has given us as the home of all and a home for all. 
Simply PEACE.”
Peace -- is where trust and learning -- hope to reside.

what we trust about 9/11/2001


9/11/2001 -- what we’ve learned

--from, Blood Wedding (Spanish: Bodas de sangre) a tragedy by Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca1898-1936, 

We must learn how to speak to this nothing.

LanguageWays to say nothing
Estonianmitte midagi
Finnishei mitään
Germangar nichts
Irishrud ar bith
Portuguesenenhuma coisa
Welshdim byd

All we know is

  • many people died that day; 
  • wars were started; 
  • well over a million people were killed in those wars. 
  • That, and the fact that trust also died that day long before most people realized it was dead; 
  • cynicism grew like a slow moving cancer; 
  • and we teetered 
  • and further verge on an inevitable patronizing fascism 
  • and decimation of freedom predicated on lies, deceit, 
  • and callous manipulation of distracted minds.
Lorca, again:
The terrible, cold, cruel part is Wall Street. Rivers of gold flow there from all over the earth, and death comes with it. There, as nowhere else, you feel a total absence of the spirit: herds of men who cannot count past three, herds more who cannot get past six, scorn for pure science and demoniacal respect for the present. And the terrible thing is that the crowd that fills the street believes that the world will always be the same and that it is their duty to keep that huge machine running, day and night, forever. --Federico Garcia Lorca (from his memoir, Poet in New York, 1932)
Our desire -- our desire for what is true -- must emerge from silence.