Saturday, December 21, 2002

Haiku for Elizabeth

Wet old apple tree
watching orange sunrise wash
clear cabin window

(wfh, 21dec02)
Sometimes fire doesn't catch until you leave it alone.
After several attempts, not until returning to house, cabin woodstove chimney dances smoke. Woman arrives, walks mindfully to screen door, and disappears into chapel/zendo.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25 - 27)

"Now," Paul writes, and "now disclosed." What is constant, and what is evermore constant, is honoring resplendence no longer hidden from our eyes, is born aware presence.

Coming to this, an advent pilgrimage is what is born, within and without.

We must first visit another. They too are near birth.

Visit Elizabeth, a name that means "one consecrated to God."

Friday, December 20, 2002

Aware presence sits in maximum-security prison around table in education. Eight inmates, two visitors, reading at random snippets from The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, pieces from many minds collected by Jack Kornfield. Later we read a piece on history and who we are. We finish with poem by e.e.cummings let it go .

Then Sonny getting up to leave says it. One sentence. It sums up the gathered circle conversation with compact clearness.

Sonny says, "What Jesus was, we are now, if we let it be."

Turning the wheel of the Dharma
is the beginning and end
of the whole training.
With this aspiration one starts
giving one’s whole heart to the training;
with one’s heart in it, one does it.
Depending on it, one looks
for the wonder arousing,
mysterious state behind appearances.
That attained, the transformation
of one’s life has been completed.

- Torei (1721-1792)

Beyond appearances, at center of our very being, Sonny's sentence.

Saskia ends with their nodding affirmation, “May we all be at peace, now.”
What if we've never grasped the incarnation?
Is there an incarnational constant, similar to the cosmological constant?
Creation is God's way of saying, "I am here!"
What if God is, from the first, awareness becoming human?
What if Jesus saw through Christ what God from the beginning is creating?

Who, then, would not celebrate each birth, each awakening, and each leap of light through night to earth?

Christ is now longing to be born. Jesus knew this. And this is what God reveals as truth in time.

Imagine this: religion has done its job, holding sacred sound reverently as time unfolds voice to pronounce its song. Our breath rises in and out the body mother bestowed on one and all.

This. Know this. "This," sounds God, "is my son and daughter in whom I am. Well. Pleased."

Oh dear! Here we are! Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

"People don't write history, historians do."

I remember that line (or one similarly phrased) from a play attended in Callicoon NY in 1964, The troupe of theater players would descend to auditorium under church and rehearse a comedy about somebody's war. Our own war was nascent in Vietnam. Our personal wars with what and how we thought were like rocks in the near flowing Delaware River, temporarily diverting the rush of event and history, a surprising whitewater of resistance that splashed over us before continuing toward Crows Nest, Port Jervis, the Delaware Water Gap, Dingmans’ Ferry, down to Philadelphia, and out into Atlantic Ocean.

Historians have realized for a long time that monks of the eleventh and twelfth centuries invented a past in order to legitimize their claims to the present.
(-- from Introduction, in Monks & Nuns, Saints & Outcasts, Religion in Medieval Society, c.2000)

If I were to invent a past, what would I wish to legitimize as a proper present?

Monastic culture sought to control the future through the proper performance of liturgy. Prayer, for the living and the dead was the primary function of the monastic community, a function understood and cherished by all orders of lay society. Moreover, ritual actions showed the proper social hierarchy, they acted out the proper order of the world, or, when necessary, they dramatized the failure of human society to conform to the divine order.
(-- from ch 1, Monastic Memory and the Mutation of the Year Thousand, essay by Patrick J. Geary, op.cit.)

How would I write it? The divine order, yes, what is the divine order? No matter what anyone else calls it in their version of history, I'd say that the divine order is common use of commonly used property and possessions. A wise person with no personal ambition would be wise counsel to those who gather into communities of common intent.

(Of course there would be the non-gatherers, the non-commoners who would rather think of themselves as special and privileged, who take to themselves honor and rank and assemble under their benevolence minions of fawning prisoners to their control and protection -- not unlike the current day governments with their two party political charade that rivets attention on every proclamation and grumbling complaint to their benevolent patriarchy. But these are not the divine order in the history I write.)

The divine order is a circle, not a ladder, not a straight line. Women and men attend to creation. This might be birds, cats, spiders, clouds, mice, dogs, horses, chipmunks, dust motes, baking flour, branches of trees, elderly people or even children. All creation, once or formerly visible, is the work and leisure of the divine order.

In this history there is no entertainment industry, no recreational industry, no educational industry, no financial industry, no industry whatsoever. There are only people living their lives with nature and unseen nature. The circle of life encounters each and every individual on the circle with attention, respect, and engaging service to the needs of each and all.

Women are neither baby makers nor objects of sexual satisfaction. Men are neither baby makers nor objects of sexual satisfaction. Women and men are the created, creation, and creators in a circle of reverence and love. There is nothing to take and nothing to give -- everything we once thought of as sexual industry is reconsidered in the light of what is calling forth now. Is now a child? Is now a comforting? Is now a coupling? Is now a non-coupling? Whatever emerges will be a result of what now is creating -- and not a result of an industry, whether ecclesial, cultural, or consumer -- for the good of now and forever. What we once called procreation and perpetuation of genetic strain is no longer of interest. What is the divine order that is of interest? Ask yourself.

You alone are the creator, the created, and the creation. In the past we were tempted to say "God created...” When we did say that, we fell deeper into forgetfulness with the use of a word with three letters. Today, now, is the space of remembering. The remembrance we arrive at is the very fact of what we have called incarnation. It is an awkward word. But so is God.

You and I are not God. God is not God. (God is not a word that represents God). Nor is anyone else God. What else can we say?

Go ahead -- say it. It is the present. It is now. God is everywhere present, but nowhere found. And the mystery we call Christ is the realization in Jesus this season that God is now human. It is a curious phrase: God is now human. If such is so, perhaps this is why God is nowhere found. Are we looking in the wrong places? Are we looking in words? In sky? In routines and traditions that have no further role in locating and celebrating God? And is this why we feel so alone and not with God?

There is no need to write history. We are what historians choose to say about us. There is no need to believe what is said. We are condemned to repeat history when it is someone else's telling of history. Forget it. History, far from being a recounting of events gone by, is a story embedded within us right now in our hands and feet. With every move we enact history. Don't let anyone enact your life for you.

Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.
(-- George Bernard Shaw, 1856 - 1950)

Rather, be divine order. Write no history. Be the story of life as it is unfolding right now. Be what we are doing.
Yet the question remains -- If this common gathering is to simplify creation, who are we to say we are?

We are who we are and what we are, when and how we are there, as we are here.
Write this -- nothing other.

Breathe easy. The darkness of history is dying. Light will see us through.

Us. With us. God with us. Emanuel.
Write us -- no -- enact us well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

There's no place to go but home.

Gathering simples, going home
White clouds flying
Mists melt black mountains
And this wandering mystic’s
Wandered astray.
Black apes call and green birds cry
A magic crane goes before me,
Dancing, leads me
To my cave.

- Yun-K’an Tzu

Home is not what we think it is. Home is where no thinking leaves us. After illusions reveal themselves and scuttle off. After long looking down many paths yields an empty road with no encouragement to continue further. After one of the numerous beliefs we've cherished collapses into vacant stare at nothing we can remember. After we discover one more 'friend' has bailed out with oblique words such as, 'There are other things I have to take care of.'

Home begins to take shape when after one or all of the above riddles our lives with disappointment. We realize there has never been a real appointment with any of them -- not illusory perceptions, not the direction of our life, not beliefs we've held with foolish courage, and not the friendships that have been mere convenience, and you and I are now inconvenient.

Home appears when we are looking the other way. It occurs during the dismantling of our special lives. Home is where nothing special takes place with arresting awareness.

A poet who looked the other way with words wrote:

let it go--the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise--let it go it
was sworn to

let them go--the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers--you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go--the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things--let all go
so comes love

(e.e.cummings, XXIX in 1 X 1)

Being led, dancing, to that cave. Love is where there is no place to go, but home.

Monday, December 16, 2002

"Where there is no one, I am." It was a silent phrasing during 1st sitting in chapel/zendo.

That's what came after arriving at the cabin for Sunday Evening Practice and the woman connected to Tibetan monks asked where she might sit. Moonlight over her shoulder placed window squares on ash wood floor.

The letters "w" and "t" keep phrase from saying, "Here, here is no one, I am."

Pure and fresh are the flowers with dew
Clear and bright is the singing of the birds;
Clouds are calm, waters are blue.
Who has written the True Word of no letters?
Lofty are the mountains, green are the trees,
Deep are the valleys, lucid are the streams;
The wind is soft, the moon is serene.
Calmly I read the True Word of no letters.

- Zenkei Shibayama (

Cesco occupies middle blue zabuton below as I sit in loft. In the house Saskia researches music order, Mu-ge races crazily up and down stairs, up and down table, desk, and chair. Sando sighs on bedroom bed with elderly tolerance of the new energy bouncing off the walls.

The day extends. We walk with dogs in state park. Back at cabin as sun sets and darkness curls around bare branches we light oil lamps to begin enclosing porch with clear plastic. When night and cold temperature rendezvous we gather tools on porch for morning and enter chapel/zendo for Vespers.

Prayer is sung in psalm-tone. There is a trust that in ways we cannot fathom what we do matters. We don't know if it does. We just do it with intention to remain in loving attention with all there is and each one there.

We try to do, simply and starkly, what we are doing. When being and doing have little or no separation between them, we begin to disappear. In that disappearance, the one we call God is no longer absent but still invisible, no longer unheard but still silent. In that disappearance there is no knowing.

We know nothing of God. We barely know anything of ourselves. What we do manage to know are odd details of finances, academic test questions, flaws of others, and how to divert ourselves from ourselves by becoming someone. When and if we ever fail miserably and wonderfully at becoming someone, it is there at that ground opening emptiness the one we call God resonates “I am.”

No need asking why and how. No reason, no explanation, satisfies. Just this: Where there is no one, I am.
“I am!” -- There’s that sentence! We are permitted to praise this. And give thanks.

Choose your own silent phrase. Sit with it. Lose track of everything else. Go away. Return home.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Advent in forceful wind.

Phil Berrigan died Friday, Dec. 6. Reading Phil Berrigan’s final words about nuclear weapons, their production, threat, and ultimate use:
Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities... (“PHIL'S STATEMENT 12/05/02” (dictated the week before Thanksgiving, via Liz McAlister) (

He died soon after an unfinished sentence in a completed life. Compare Phil’s life with the incomplete lives and finished sentences of profiteers and politicians trying to convince us that destruction and death is good for the economy and our ideals of freedom.

I came late to the dharma,
But each day, deepen my retreat.
Waiting for mountain monks,
I sweep my simple hut.
Then down from cloudy peaks
You come through knee-deep weeds.
We kneel on tatami, munching pine nuts.
We burn incense and study the Way.
Light the lamp at twilight;
A simple chime begins the night.
In every solitude, deep joy:
This life abides.
How can you think of returning?
A lifetime is empty like the Void.

- Wang Wei

Brendan Walsh gave a eulogy for Philip Berrigan. Walsh is cofounder of Viva House, a Catholic Worker house in Baltimore that operates a soup kitchen, food pantry, and free law clinic. He said that during one incarceration, he and Phil lived like monks together in a tiny jail cell for 5 months, eating wonder bread and grape juice for morning Eucharist, doing scripture study during lockdown. Wang Wei's words, "How can you think of returning?” must have been heard by Berrigan each time he did an action he calculated to land him back in jail. He spent over eleven years in prison for civil disobedience acts of opposition to war and destruction of implements of war.

It is mid-Advent in the Christian calendar. The yearly meditation on the coming of Christ into human history is paled by homeland security in America, nostalgia for segregation, privileged rulings for the wealthy, and an odd intensity to rid the world of evil that particularly interferes with the interests of commercial vendors of oil, arms and weapons of mass destruction.

While churches sing and celebrate liturgical sentiments of anticipation of the prince of peace, others plot bomb coordinates, CIA assassination targets, and random terror. This is done in the name of Christian and Muslim causes and values, democracy or holy war. Is the world dangerous? Yes, the world is dangerous.

The wind is a clearer sound. It makes no statement trying to convince anyone of anything other than moving along a course of night, sounding through chimes hanging to record its passing. The wind is a haunting sound. The wind has integrity many long to hear.

Christ is being born. Phil Berrigan has died. Two persons and two sentences that serve to evoke sacred longing and spiritual crisis. There is a skeptical uncertainty initiated by these two moments of appearance and disappearance.

Phil Berrigan was a forceful wind. And so, through this night we wait and watch. We do so with friends whose longing and crises ask us to wait and watch with them.