Saturday, February 23, 2002

Keep our mouths shut? How long?

Do not tell the vision to anyone until the son of man has been raised from the dead. (Mt.17:9)

What does "raised from the dead" mean?
Yes, there is the notion of resurrection that arises. But are there ways of perceiving this notion that are not typically associated with the return to life of a body once dead or even the continuance of life beyond death? Perhaps, also for us to consider is -- raised from deadening ignorance, unawareness, blind grasping onto what others say and believe -- maybe it means entering this very life we live with eyes open, finally, after a long time of not embodying exactly who I am, who you are, who we are.

It might mean -- until the felt and awakened reality of Christ draws us up into a humble and transparent embodiment of Christ. It might mean -- letting fall forms and ideas, notions of inside and outside, us and them, divine and human, sinner and saint -- all the dualistic, separating, either/or's of our mind's making.

Don’t seek favor
Don’t clamber after fame.
Giving up and getting are empty:
Both the same.
This floating life
Is petals falling,
Emptied past the eye.
Serving the state
Is a dream;
Serving yourself
Is the same.
Ch’en Ts’ao-an (dailyzen)

No tents. Just attend him, just fully engage the reality he is attending and engaging. Do what he is doing -- deepening his dwelling, finding root, allowing cloud to enfold and overcome -- trusting the grace of a loving community of all beings in God's sacred voice.

Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are in the cloud. Peter, James, and John are outside the cloud. So it seems in the script. But does inside and outside really represent what is taking place here in this story?

On the high mountain, where Jesus is made luminous, Peter wants to build three tents. The voice from the cloud interrupts -- "listen to him" -- listen to the one with whom the voice is well pleased. The three disciples are in the drama; they are part of the story. They are actors as much as the other three are. It is a single and singular event. We're there too. Not outside. Not inside. In fact, we are the story.

Standing in light, three are glowing. Prostrate on ground, three are frightened.

The cloud is God's tabernacle. It is the manifestation of His presence promised for the last time (Rev.21:3) It is here a theophany. The one whom God hides in His pavilion belongs very closely to Him (Ps.27:5). If Jesus is taken up into the cloud with the two divine messengers of the last time, this means that He brings final deliverance and that He brings it now. (Lohmeyer, quoted in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Kittel, Vol.IV, pp.908-909).

Jesus touches the three on the ground. (What a lovely place to be. It's where we encounter the sacred.)

He says, "Rise, and do not be afraid." Matthew then writes, "And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone."

No one else. Jesus alone with them. They alone with him.
This brief, bright, surprise of the Christ touching them. Saying, be without fear. Saying, be what you are. Saying, be what you see.

Places, everyone!
Ok, rise and shine!

Now. Are we ready to speak?

Thursday, February 21, 2002

I've been thinking about dying. I'm alive. It's not over yet...

The front page of the Rockland paper has a picture of a man, Jim H., now terminally ill with stomach cancer, but once a student in a Philosophy course I taught in Thomaston where he was police chief. The last night of class he said he'd put off the Ethics course until last, that when he realized he wouldn't get a list of ethical standards for his department from the course he was worried he'd wasted his time. But, he'd come to find out the course was just what he needed -- made him think, tore away many of the neat categories of right and wrong he'd been used to, exposed him to some hard questions, grounded ethical thinking in an evolving consciousness poetry seems to access as good as anything, and finally it was a good enough course -- he liked it.

And I liked him. His papers had the experience and maturity of someone who'd been around, whose ideas of how the world should be were tempered by how people were, and he was a student set in a career that saw people, situations, and responses to both that were real and gritty -- and not hypothetical, not nearly.

Jim is aware of his mortality. More so than most of us, he knows that he's going to die. We all do. But his time is defined by an illness with no respect for time, age, person, or place.

I know I will die. Just when, and how -- I don't know. There are days I think I won't see dusk. But it is February and all ailments take on more sinister outcomes during this awkward month especially considering this curious winter. Being of Irish-American heritage I've adopted the point of view, especially having no health insurance, that you are born, live, get sick, and die. Absent accident or catastrophic natural or terrorist events, that formula seems accurate.

I wince when I read obituaries -- those claiming that so and so fought a valiant, hard, or long battle against their illness, losing -- or unexpectedly, of natural causes, suddenly, succumbed, or wordlessly we are left to wonder just what it was that immediately preceded their death. Was it suicide? Murder? (This category we're usually told.) Or was it a simply loss of the will to continue living, a sighing of an out breath, a turning of a head, no recognizable symptoms of anything, a closing of eyes, and... death?

Then what? Ah, there's the rub! What then?

Here is where several billion words have been written and spoken -- about death, afterlife, grieving of those remaining behind, the spiritual, psyhchological, and religious verities proclaimed sincerely by those who claim a very certain knowledge or faith. Assurances are asked for and received, comforting expectations are shared and are comforting, beliefs are led out to be seen and reviewed -- and they too are nodded to in their passing review. These activities of settling into the fact of one's life and pending death are good activities, usually done by sensitive and caring people with individuals who come to realize that love, kindness, and respect is what we need to reckon with the final considerations. No matter what assurances and comfort we find, death is an unknown.

In the newspaper article Jim said, "The rest of my life depends on me, a personal attitude, a positive attitude." Jim mentioned a couple of regrets about his life: "I didn't stop the Vietnam war," he said. "And I didn't stop world famine." The article also said that he keeps in sight a small printed message on his wall -- "I am baptized. I am a child of God." .

There's a new war now. And a new hunger.
Jim H. is still alive. It's not over yet.
Seeing through the fog and the raindrops on the window, I know there is a foghorn out there, somewhere.

Perhaps -- if we look together...

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

If we had that mind in us which was in Christ Jesus, would we see what is there -- without fear, illusion, or judgment. Would that free us?

The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes. (William James)

There was a progression of quotes I once followed in order and properly attributed. From Edmund Husserl, to William Carlos Williams, to Robert Creeley, to my own conclusion. They went: "To the things themselves." "No ideas but in things." "And things are made of words." Finally, "Silence makes no-thing clear."

The perceptual order sees what is there. The conceptual order looks elsewhere.

We long to see what is right here, right in front of us. Yes, the obvious and visible and finite -- but also the hidden, the formless, the beyond that stretches from here. This kind of mind, this kind of seeing -- is hard to word. We are often reduced to mumbling, and sometimes to silence. There, in stark and desolate bewilderment, we are given a profound invitation -- let go, surrender, and fall into freedom!

Christ help us!
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. (William Blake, plate 14 in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell )


Please note: Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery --
Will be closed weekdays the last two weeks in February,
Monday – Friday
Feb. 25th – Mar.1st

We will be open on weekends
Saturday and Sunday
Feb.23rd –24th
Mar. 2nd- 3rd.

No weekday evening events will be held during this time.
Sunday Evening Practice will be held at the hermitage.

Evening events will resume with Tuesday Evening Buddhist Studies, Mar.5th.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

What would peace look like? We might have to look through words a while before coming to see itself as "itsown."

Graham Greene in his novel The Heart of the Matter (1948):
"That's what I say," she said. "If I go away, you'll have your peace."
"You haven't any conception," he accused her angrily, "of what peace means." It was as if she had spoken slightingly of a woman he loved. For he dreamed of peace by day and night. Once in sleep it had appeared to him as the great glowing shoulder of the moon heaving across his window like an iceberg, artic and destructive in the moment before the world was struck: by day he tried to win a few moments of its company, crouched under the rusting handcuffs in the locked office, reading the reports from the sub-stations. Peace seemed to him the most beautiful word in the language: My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you: O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant us thy peace. In the Mass he pressed his fingers against his eyes to keep the tears of longing in.

Cordwood in towers by oak tree. Cedar branch in warm February sunlight. The day cannot imagine itself other than it is. It is fine.
I've begun to think about Meetingbrook in terms of practicing Zen Catholic Ecology.

What might that look like? What is Zen Catholic Ecology?
What of the words? Zen -- A seeing and saying that adds nothing, subtracts nothing. Catholic -- A whole-safe comprehension that turns one into one. Ecology -- A dwelling inquiry that asks into the interrelationships of organisms and their environments.

A theme runs through the three words for me -- a theme that originates before split and separation -- a theme embodied in each of the words, namely: Practice seeing, whole and safe, each as its own dwelling place.

Perhaps a new word, "itsown," wishes to come into our language. I have long liked the word "itself" as pointing to that which cannot be other than what it is. It has served to suggest to me a corresponding place for the notion of "God" in theistic parlance, and "What Is" in nontheistic parlance. The "Itself" -- whether God or Ultimate Reality -- cannot be divided, but can be seen in diverse manifestation.

"Itsown" --as a new word, yet to cry aloud in its own voice -- suggests not only that which belongs to itself, i.e. "its own", but that which sows itself wherever it appears, i.e. "it sown." This suggestive quality of "itsown" reminds me of peace.

Peace is when each belongs to Itself as Itsown.

Please note: Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery --
Will be closed weekdays the last two weeks in February,
Monday – Friday
Feb. 25th – Mar.1st

We will be open on weekends
Saturday and Sunday
Feb.23rd –24th
Mar. 2nd- 3rd.

No weekday evening events will be held during this time.
Sunday Evening Practice will be held at the hermitage.

Evening events will resume with Tuesday Evening Buddhist Studies, Mar.5th.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

Turn stones into bread? The devil tempts Jesus. Never mind baking bread -- perform magic, go for the big sell, the fast profit, the easy return on small investment.

Jesus had it. He'd had enough of the foolish parlor tricks stipulated by the power broker in this world. Then he said it:
He responded, "It is written, 'Human beings are not to live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of God's mouth.' " (Mt.4:4)
Morning Lectio at our monthly Saturday retreat was taken with this utterance.

The Os Dei, L.=the mouth of God. As we understand the story of the creation of the universe and all in it, God spoke the word of creation. Or, attempting to relate the origins of what we experience as matter and form, we have no idea what and how anything occurred "in the beginning." So, we say, "In the beginning there was the divine word and wisdom." (Jn.1:1)

Then, whatever is, and all that is, flows from the Os Dei, the mouth of God -- the ever-present origin. This is the word of God, these are are the words of God. Each thing, each being, each manifestation, each instance -- this is what emanates and emerges from the mouth of God.

Stones are stones. Bread is bread. Each is itself. Each longs to be itself.
Beware the suggestion to become something else, to be other than what we are at root. .
Jesus seems to be saying we are not about magic and myth, not about the mindless or the mental -- but rather, we are part of the expression of God.

As part of the expression of God we are invited to watch and look, listen and speak, engage and serve each and everything encountered and experienced in this world, on this earth, before, and within one's body.

Jesus embodied Christ-Nature, Christ-Mind. In the story of his encounter with the devil, (with false action and manipulated reality), Jesus teaches us to recognize the false and choose what is true. "Not by bread alone," but by the Alone -- which excludes nothing and includes everything, that which is the root and sustenance of creation as it reveals itself .

What we call God -- or, the Alone -- is here, now, the ever-present origin. God presents all we need -- just like that, just like this. Jesus saw and felt this presence, this awareness, and he tells us we are inside and surrounded by what God is speaking.

The Os Dei is silence, stillness, and solitary seeing. The Os Dei is communicative, moving, and communal Christ consciousness. By any other name, "Christ" is the permeating intelligence and compassion longed for by all that is human. God's presence, or, the creating word of God is a way of relating this grounded reality.

If we accept a particular facile answer as the whole, as substitute for a universal compassionate understanding that moves within and incorporates all creation -- we trip over the false promise of self-serving greed, our particular devil at this time in the world. The wisdom of one who would be Christ accepts no substitution -- wisdom longs for the good of each and all, a longing that will not be satisfied until Alone-With-Others (God with us) inhabits our consciousness, our hearts, and our lives.

No war against evil can substitute for Christ. The wisdom of compassion says: Human beings, if you don't live compassionately with every person and being now in the world, you will inevitably perish in the ignorance of false and fatal warfare, crusades, military and secret retribution, campaigns of terror against terrorism.

Can we hear the sound of that plea?
Christ, the Os Dei, longs to be that sound in our creation.

O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall declare your praise! (Ps.51:15)
O Christ, open mouth of God, help us praise the presence of every being!

Fresh, rising, worked in morning mist, scent of yeast, fragrance of heat forming crust, the very revelation of creation for all to taste.

Bread anyone?