Saturday, December 29, 2001

Thomas dressed for Vespers and died after the Magnificat. Henry lost a friend and a powerful counterforce. Thomas was murdered in the Cathedral. Henry's men left with bloodied steel sheathed in their belts. The Archbishop tried to stay the encroaching power of the King; the King wanted to control the power and tuck the church under the royal curtain and keep only his hand on the drawstring. Power wanted, power preserved, power exercised -- jealous power taking what the other has.

800 years later poet T.S. Eliot wrote of the event in his play Murder in the Cathedral , inserting the line that the highest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Here in Maine other murders were committed 23 years ago. Yesterday Harold and I brought to closing the initial course on Poetry and Autobiography at the Maine State Prison covering the first 23 years of his life. Over 500 pages so far -- writing covering his childhood, school years, neighborhood, army, marriage, and murders at end -- have followed our first course. That course was about another experience about 15 years into his sentence -- a near-death or near-death type experience that brought him to a new, equally disturbing, and ultimately profound insight about what is true and sacred.

This seeming anomoly bypassed the traditional explanations of heaven and God and left him with seeds of seeing that slowly broke the ground of his awareness until he now sees what happened 23 years ago, what the right thing to do would have been, and that what he did wasn't right. For 23 years his reluctance to express remorse or regret was sealed in an inner crypt of untelling and unhearing, which, like Thomas and Henry, didn't find voice or ear to stave off murder and loss. There's another 23 years yet to be told.

Henry repented. Thomas sainted. Their dance down history as a pas de deux is a pattern part tragedy, part pawn of fate, part morality play. Both did what they did. And their story is told. Spin it as you wish -- friends gone political, church repelling state, power nibbling another's lunch -- the story shakes down to treason, wrong reasons, and the right thing to do or not do. Whatever the individual motives of either Thomas, Henry, or Harold -- each did what they did and their world, perhaps the world changes.

"The language of a people is its fate," wrote theologian Amos Wilder. What would it mean to be fateless? "Fate" the word cames from L. fatum , to speak. The New World Dictionary adds, "Fate refers to the inevitability of events as supposedly determined by a god or other agency beyond human control."

I suspect to be fateless might mean to be untelling and unhearing. A story untold and unheard seems to render a person to whom it belongs not-there. The opposite of presence is not absence, it is avoidance.

Our job is not to avoid what is. To avoid is to empty, make void, annul, invalidate, to quash. Avoidance of voice and story nullifies not only the one not speaking, but also the one not listening. Henry, Thomas, and Harold wish to speak and be heard. They wish to save our lives in the process. To denullify. No matter how imperfect we consider our lives, there is a perfection -- a moving through -- that waits for the right fate, the right speaking/hearing time to appear

Poet Wendell Berry ends his poem "To The Unseeable Animal" with the lines
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

Nietzsche ends Zarathustra with,
And how could I endure to be a man, if man were not also poet and reader of riddles and...a way to new dawns.

We make each other visible by our attention. Nothing is null and void. Rather, we seek something, something real and present. Our speaking and listening glorifies what is presenting itself. That is a new dawn worth waking to.

Friday, December 28, 2001

For the innocents who have been killed, for the ignorant who have killed them, and for the rest of us who fall between the two -- Forgive all that binds us in fear, that we might radiate love; cleanse us that your light might shine in us.

Psalm 51, in the companion translation Psalms For Praying, An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan Merrill, continues a few verses later to its conclusion with:
Let the nations turn from war,
and encourage one another as
good neighbors.
O Most Gracious and Compassionate Friend,
melt our hearts of stone,
break through the fears that
lead us into darkness, and
Guide our steps into the way of peace.

What space there is between innocence and ignorance I do not know. Both have been part of my life -- one suffering, the other causing suffering. From there I am able to see their larger extension into the wider world -- those who suffer unknowing why, and those who make others suffer with no understanding of what or why they do what they do.

Explanations, yes, they have explanations, reasons, agenda, purpose. And, yes, they feel justified -- it is a right thing to do, they think. "They" includes me, and you. Ignorance is like that -- it attempts to hide the person under a bevy of righteous and defensive explanations.

Innocence is more open, a playing in the field of the Lord. That is, a presentation of oneself that does not know (or care to know) what will follow, as consequence, as repercussion, as effect. An innocent child doesn't know anything other. An innocent adult doesn't care to know anything other than the presentation of what and who they are.

Innocence is what holiness and enlightenment seek. Perhaps it is a simplicity of unworried mind, unselfconscious acts, gift without recompense. If innocence seems rare in our contemporary world the signs of its absence are worried minds, self-serving behavior, and exacting fees for any and all service.

Ignorance is even more troubling than innocence. Ignorance has considered the implications of actions, has looked at the right and wrong of situations, has traveled the oftentimes harsh road of experience and learned the hard way. But ignorance has a forgetfulness about it. Consciously or unconsciously ignorance disregards what it has learned and acts with abandon. Some abandon a right way for a wrong way. Some abandon fear of consequence for the need to engage what must be done.

Perhaps there's not much space between innocence and ignorance. What would that space be? What name would we call it? Saskia, when asked, says from rolling pin, "It is the knowing space. Where one is aware."

You have placed your truth in the
inner being;
therefore, teach me the wisdom
of the heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear
that I might radiate love;
clense me that your light might shine in me.

(Merrill, from Ps 51)

Perhaps what is there, the "What Is" that dwells for our awareness, waits to be born in that knowing space. And until then, is constantly forgiving the innocent and the ignorant.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Snowplow climbs Barnestown road as morning dove sits on rope stretching from cedar to birch holding two bird feeders behind kitchen. On other side bright red against white snow on ground cardinal shuffles under feeder as chickadee fly to and from taking their individual seeds back to sheltered spot to eat. The cardinal depends this morning on chickadee fumble, selection spillage, for his taking. Dove is content to sit still with slowing flakes accentuating its balance. Like tales of Shakers at worship behind dove determined oak leaves sway and quiver in northerly breeze.

Ultimately, I have found it meaningless to hold the yardstick of fact against the complexities of the human heart. Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us.(Epigraph quoting A. Manette Ansay, River Angel in Diane Schoemperlen's novel Our Lady of the Lost and Found A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship.)

The first line of the novel is, "Looking back on it now, I can see there were signs."

Watched the film "The Nightmare Years," William L. Shirer's account drawn from his Berlin Diary of the movement, sign by sign, the 3rd Reich made from Germany to Austria and France, to the Low Countries, to the bombing of Briton. Propaganda preceded invasions, protestations by the aggressor to being the victim enabling a confused populace to align with the hypothesis -- We're doing this for our own good, a defensive measure, we must strengthen our threatened identity.

Perhaps all war and all terror, within or between individuals, within or between countries -- have this aspect of protection and retaliation to secure a threatened identity. Whether or not we are that identity doesn't seem to matter once a threat to it occurs. On an individual level we begin to suspect after long loving looking that what we've considered to be "me" is a dubious construct the mind has fabricated to establish control. We are not what we seem to be. There are signs to that effect. In retrospect, if we care to, we can begin to see them.

Maybe that's what happened to Stephen whose feast was yesterday. He was singled out for scorn and held before some who knew better as someone whose truth was different from theirs. Truths that differ cause political and power turmoil. He was stoned and killed. Someone named Saul watched. Stephen asserted confidence in his union with Jesus and recognized the ignorance and unawareness of his murderers. Stark signs -- two men murdered for the truth they saw.

So many early martyrs for Jesus. So many contemporary martyrs for Osama, for Arafat, for Bush. Martyrs dying for their faith. Religion capitalizes faith until it becomes Faith. What is the faith the martyrs are willing to die for so others might live in a new reality? Are there similarities? What is our faith today -- not the proclamations of Faith with a capital "F" about exclusivity of power and divinity and the exclusive highborn roles that certain personages play in that Faith -- rather, what is the faith with small "f" that drives them and us to assert our confidence?

Is that longing, that faith: Equality under God? Love of neighbor, which means everyone? Unity of God? Care of the less fortunate, the sick, the misdirected? Respect for all life, all beings, all creation? Eminent ability to awaken for all men and women? Loving kindness and compassion toward each and all? Willingness to suffer with those who suffer? Readiness to serve when service is called for? Reluctance to kill? Unwillingness to deprive another of what is theirs? Trust that in our hearts dwells the strength and inspiration to transform our small opinions and beliefs into great and glorious revelations of grace? Finally, the courage and humility to understand without turning away that "I die and God dies!" when another is killed because their faith isn't spelled the same as another's?

Maybe Ansay is on to something, saying, "Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us." Mind-created reality, the reality resulting from fabricated opinions and beliefs, is often blinded to what its creator intends. What we call Reality (with a capital "R") itself might be equally blind to the intention of its Creator (with a capital "C.") If so, what are we left with?

Maybe we're left with signs of blindness, signs of uncaring actions, stark signs of murder and destruction in the name of things once held sacred but over time forgotten. What are we trying to remember? What are we left with that is beyond Faith and Reality?

Today is the feast of John, the prologue of whose Gospel can be read:
In the beginning the Word already was, it was at origin. And the Word was in intimate personal relationship, face to face, with God. And what God was, the Word was, not two, not other than.
[A personal reading helped by Detailed Exegetical Notes by W. Hall Harris, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary. (]

Even now there are signs the writer of John saw something beyond our current conceptions of Faith and Reality. Will we continue to look? At origin, emptiness presents itself, holding us in sacred watchfulness. We can do this. We can begin here and now to be this.

Morning dove is gone from rope. Cardinal no longer under feeder. Barnestown road sounds wet with slush under tires. Many birds swoop for mid-morning feeding.
A day of joy for all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

It is today. It is here. What are we hoping for now?

Crunchy snow and frozen oak leaves underfoot on mountainside this morning after silent sitting at dawn. The ordinariness!

Sunlight through silent trees. Stepping of solitude on the trail. Curve and tumble of rushing brook falls with swell abandon down Ragged Mountain. The joy!

White birch, greeny fir, bare elm, lingering oak -- nothing stirring, nothing special -- just sound of water falling, feet stepping, sun climbing. The one after the other!

Returning to cushion, incense rising. Candle flame comes through the night. Inflection of resounding bell. Something long listened for, the coming of the Word, has leapt from the profound empty awayness of open space -- into the profound open nearness of every face, every thing. What hope!

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons." (--Vaclev Havel)

Christmas Haiku

Maybe Christ is no-w-
here found walking Ragged
path looking through each, all


The horizon, the boundary, is gone beyond. The Word has rooted Itself. Christ is born -- today!
Come, let us see the Word -- open today, here, with simplicity, silence, and service. may dismiss your servant
in peace, according to your word.
(Luke 2:29)

What are we? Perhaps we are this hope.

Monday, December 24, 2001

The invitatory verse of December 24th: Today you will know that the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see his glory.

We've waited long enough. We've suffered enough. East, West, North, South -- there is no need for inflicting any further suffering. We long for the word to be spoken. And when it is, there, it will all change. We will have said what needs to be said. As it is said, so is it done. When word is made flesh, it dwells in and through, around and among us.

And what is that word? Well you might ask! By asking, by making inquiry, by prayer -- the word is ever nearer. The word in hidden emptiness begins to form. The word in frightened ignorance takes shape. The word in silent solitude stays poised for emergence.
What is that word, now, what is that word!

Wording what is, the invitation to honor, awe, praise -- the revelation of the essential, ultimate, existential reality of what we call God --that wording will determine our fate, will unveil our true face.

It is time. That time is now. This is the place. That place is here. We wonder what will happen. We're not certain. So we hesitate one last time.

What is the word? What is the word! The movement from questioning to declaration is a matter of inflection. Inflection is a turning, bending, or curving. When applied to voice -- it is any change in tone or pitch. Applied to grammar -- it is the change of form of a word -- as in, to be changed by inflection.

The time is very near. Do not delay. Open your self. Open your mouth. Inflect yourself. Pronounce one's name.
On that day,
The branch of the Lord will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel.
(Isaiah 4:2)
(Response, yes, time for response -- open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.)
The nations will revere your name, O Lord.
-- And the great ones of the earth will acknowledge your glory.
(Our Daytime Prayer)

We've waited long enough. We've suffered enough. It is time for word.

Word us, O Silence!
Inflect us, O Night!
Open us, O Holiness!
Reveal us, O Brightness!

We wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.

It rains. The baker bakes. The wet dog dries on kitchen bed. A lone chickadee flies to bare branch, there breaking open seed. All is ready!

What are we to word?

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Bright sun on snow out window. Three more windows fitted into rough wood cabin yesterday by Paul and Jim. As someone observed "Its less a cabin with windows than windows with a cabin." Viennese potato soup makes its way mushroom by bacon, potato by celery into cauldron by Saskia in kitchen.

In the book On Essence (trans.c.1980 from Sobre La Esentia, c.1963) by Spanish philosopher Xavier Zubiri (1898-1983) A.Robert Caponigri writes in his introduction:
This most ancient and fundamental problem of western thought is simplicity itself; indeed, overwhelming in its simplicity but far more so in the profundity which this simplicity conceals. This problem is, in Zubiri's own words "el esfuerzo por entender el ultimo de las cosas", [i.e.] the effort to comprehend the first principle of things. This principle, whatever its character, is what is really real in itself and what, in turn, through the communication of itself, its "dar de si," is the source of all else that is real and that really is. The quest for this principle is philosophy. Its presence is the most distinguishing mark of western culture.

Where philosophy and the simplicity of human experience come together is in the meeting place of everyday reality. The snow on the kitchen roof, the dog's head on the blue pillowcase on the single bed, the pumpkin colored bowl alongside keyboard with leaning spoon where farina with chocolate, yogurt, and bananas filled not long ago -- these are all here, I see them, they are part of my field of experience that resounds Sunday morning in my awareness. I seem to know these things.

In their introduction to his life, the Xavier Zubiri Foundation of North America writes:
The fact is that an intrinsic priority of knowing over reality or reality over knowing is impossible. Knowing and reality are in their same root strictly and rigorously congeneric. There is no priority of one over the other. And this is true not simply because of de facto conditions of our investigations, but because of an intrinsic and formal condition of the very idea of reality and of knowing. Reality is the formal character—formality—according to which what is apprehended is something "in itself", something de suyo.

I like the phrasing, "what is apprehended is something 'in itself'."

This season is quiet for me. While the shop is busy there's a wider slower apprehending of a more intimate awareness of the beauty and love covering and emanating from each person entering or leaving. In the solitude that comes for me at Christmas there is a dropping away of the bustling exteriority of reconnection. In its place comes the simplicity of the fact of the reality we inhabit together, our congeneric presence -- that is, "of a kind together with," or as the Zen saying of it, not-two.

The fragrance of soup comes to this desk. Sando doesn't snore on the bed. The wind is not shaking the chimes. It is time to consider going in to open the bookshop/bakery. The meditation of embodiment and incarnation is upon us. First things first, and during, and at end.

One final word.
Reality, our awareness and seeing of what is, is a consideration of presentiation. It's a good word, "presentiate." It is defined in the O.E.D. with a twofold activity, namely, "to make or render present in place or time;" and, "to cease to be perceived or realized as present."

In a way, it does represent simplicity. Revealing and concealing are congeneric gifts of ours.
At Christmas, the word and the gift -- are ours to apprehend and comprehend.

Zubiri points to what Zen and Christ point to -- "what is really real in itself" -- and so do you and I.