Friday, October 18, 2002

Four inmates and two outmates conversed about Jean Paul Sartre's "Condemned to be Free" essay and Andre's poem about that place within where we still have choice whether to go to light or to dark.

The fishing hole each finds is a virgin future. Alone in the moment, accompanied by the presence of all who have touched us, appreciating what is there for the first time. Ed brought us to that fishing hole. Paco brought the touch of all he's known with him. Andre brought his poem. Sonny knows the place well once and once again.

It was raining as we went inside the walls. The sun was shining as we said goodbye at the fishing hole of our appreciation for each other.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Lori calls to tell me Rocky B's funeral was today. Friend and neighbor of my parents on 69th street. We'll keep them in prayer.

All things are
resolved in the

- Bankei (1622-1693)

We know why he died. Because he was born. How can one be unborn? Much less come to terms with the phrase "Born again?"

Originally, yes, nothing is born.
Perhaps if we learn to unask a question we might learn what is unborn. Until then, tired, it is time to sleep.

Everything is relational -- no subject, no object. There is only two "jects," says Forrest at Thursday Evening Conversation. We laugh. Without "sub" or "ob" what is there but simply to be thrown?

Land well, Rocky!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Theme: Trow-el: To Disturb or To Trust God?

Our country, right and wrong.

It occurs to me this damp storm-readying day that the difficulty we are having in this country with ethical thinking is lists. On one side of the page, correct behavior. On the other side, incorrect. Therefore, keep to the correct; avoid the incorrect. Sounds right and reasonable. Are we missing anything?

The exceptions to this list are thrown into the area known as murky or unclear. They follow the question, When is the right thing not good to do? Or, When is the wrong thing good to do?

When kill? When deprive people of their rights? When choose death over life by withholding services or medical assistance? When not make medical insurance, and thus care, not available to increasing numbers of people? When choose to take from the rich to give to the poor? Or, the more common decision - When take from the poor to give to the rich?

The murky unclear usually calls for guidelines or principles for use in determining where and when such and such an action might be taken without incurring punishment or too great a common public outrage. The human mind is often very clever in devising criteria for such situations. The popular mind shrinks differing views into simplistic allegiances and categories -- like Republican versus Democratic, or conservative versus liberal. Commentators and political pundits whose aim seems to be parody and divisive antagonism pick up still further simplifications. They load complex issues into simplistic jingoes and fire their guns into airwaves and newsprint. Their aim is to kill meaningful conversation and reasoned debate by substituting mockery, name-calling, othering, and arrogance.

Arrogance especially. Not asking questions in such a way inviting responses that explore ways to meaningful solutions honoring all participants affected by the issue, all touched by the topic. Instead, the bottom line becomes: them versus us; we've got it versus they want it; and finally, God favors the strong and bright and disfavors the weak and stupid. These designations are arrived at by architects of arguments who are intent on winning and preserving their way of life. It is not a conversation created by those seeking thoughtful insight, those longing for diminishment of suffering for all peoples.

We don't know the so-called right time and right place to concentrate the energies of the nation toward a purposeful goal of neutralizing or eliminating evil. Pragmatists and idealists alike worry that such goals are foolhardy. Others contend that if not now, when? If not us, who? If not definite action, what? Talk and more talk while outrageous attacks on individuals and communities continue?

This is the crux of ethics and our contemporary world. What used to be the concern of ethics and morality -- namely, sexual behavior, honesty in interpersonal and business dealings, use and abuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs, assisting people to die according to their own decision, or not -- has changed. Today's concerns seem different.

Today's concerns have escalated from complicated issues that divide and offend cultures different from each other -- to simplistic solutions of elimination of those whose difference you cannot abide. This is another list. Ethnic, religious, sexual preference, economic status, racial complexion, class strata, political philosophy -- all manner of variety and diversity, plurality and difference -- are on a list. This list is earmarked for elimination.

In days gone by the list was controlled by religious zealots and institutional hierarchy. Those on the list were going to hell for everlasting damnation in fire and unceasing suffering. It was known as the division of saints and sinners. Agents of God administrated the list. The good went to heaven. The bad consigned to hell. Wars and inquisitions, crusades and ritual condemnation were enough to strike fear into hearts of the undecided.

Today, God is still used to condemn and destroy. Whole nations and/or whole sections of people are earmarked for destruction. We are capable of making these lists. We make these lists. We study the names. We check them off one by one.

My country does this. Many countries do this. And multitudinous factions within countries, religions, ideologies, and mental constructs do this. These mental constructs reduce all conversation and worldview to good/bad, right/wrong, evil/our way. It is a mind, a mental construct that is hopelessly dualistic. This dualism, a helpful way of navigating our technological and mechanized world, has deteriorated into an either/or in the moral/ethical realm that deeply endangers our ability to seek solutions that fall outside simplistic categories of deliberation.

I think we need to seek solutions using tools of archeology. We need to trowel and excavate awareness from the debris of history. We need to find again the lost origin of our being-in-the-world. This digging needs careful sifting through debris accumulated by dust raised by passing wars, laws, ambitions, failures, fears, accomplishments, and grand (at the time) successes.

What lay at bottom of human action? What ground wishes to reveal its original reason for being? What has the earth to say about what has emerged from it?

And where, really, is what we call "God?"

Our country is right and wrong -- about wealth, war, human worth, freedom, happiness, and systems of sharing resources of the earth with all dwelling therein and on. Beneath the right/wrong is the origin of our being here at all. Beneath the mental constructs we've developed to manage the opinions and resources of personal and planetary existence is a profound reality hidden.

What profound reality remains hidden beneath, beyond, and within us?

That profound reality hidden is life itself.

Not the mental construct that asks questions like: When exactly for legal purposes does life begin in a woman's body? When exactly are we justified to take another's life? Does life end when the body dies? Not the questions that proliferate the majority of minds -- about inheritance, investments, security, power, and pleasure. Neither the phrase “life-style” nor "the life of this country." But -- life itself – beyond the divisions and distinctions we place on it.

The profound reality hidden is how we look into permeating questions all share. Such as: What is life? Who are we in each other's life?

If we stopped everything for a week and asked ourselves this question, over and over, perhaps something will be unearthed.

Perhaps we will return to earth.

Finding there God.

Not right and wrong. Not ideas about God. Not creeds, constitutions, charters, real estate deeds, personal finance portfolios, nor nurtured hurts with (in the words of poet Richard Hugo) "compensations too lovely too leave."

Only God. Originating earth. Cosmos eternal. The ground, center, spirit, and light of existence.
Life and love. An ever-present origin, (in Jean Gebser’s words).

To think, or suppose, God?
Any trow-el handy?

Monday, October 14, 2002

Colors appear in crisp light. What matters appears in clear light.
Mark and friends visit from New York this Columbus holiday. Wind blows from northwest gusting to 35 knots.

See for yourself.
Directly transcend the
principles and activities
of the buddhas and patriarchs.
Go through the forest of thorns.
Transcend the barriers
of potential described by
ancestral teachers.
Pass through the silver mountain
and iron wall; then for the first time
you will realize there is a
transcendent fundamental endowment;
you can sit, helping people solve their
sticking points and untie their bonds.

- Shoitsu (1202-1280)

Walking Ragged this morning after zazen and psalms with Sando and Cesco, leaves glistening in first sunlight, cool air invigorating their pace.
Karl is back from Christ in the Desert, delighted. A honeymooning couple visit the shop. He'd been a short while with the Trappists. Retired Lutheran minister over from central Maine earlier. Those longing for unsticking point and untied bonds surround us.

The heart of monastic practice is wholeheartedness. David Steindl-Rast OSB said this to poet David Whyte -- about the antidote to exhaustion being wholeheartedness.

If we are going to sit, then completely sit. If praying the psalms, completely pray them (with objections as well as affirmations). If walking mountain trails, then completely walk the trail. All of it is prayer. All of it, mindfulness.

The terror of Bali explosion, Maryland/DC sniper killings, and the obsession of the United States president with attacking Iraq and its obsessive dictator is the realization how little matters to those whose eye is filled with death and destruction. Ideology doesn't equal the value of human life. Whether the ideology of capitalistic democracy or the ideology of oil powered tyranny -- neither come close to the importance of a single human life. Neither is more important than earth itself we stand on.

Look at us. Look at all of us. Abandon ideology; receive living beings with hospitality and humility.
Take a look at what really matters.

Look through clear light.
See for yourself.