Wednesday, December 31, 2003

It is final day of year.

While we still have half a mind we continue to climb the road.

I enjoy my lifelong path
Between misty vines and rocky cave
In the wilds there's room to spare
And time to accompany clouds
The road doesn't reach the world
Only the mindless can climb
I sit alone nights on a couch of stone
And the round moon comes up
Cold Mountain

- Han Shan

While we still have firewood we light match and consider the paper thoughts holding our plans

Like Smoke From Our Campfire

All those plans for fame and fortune, honor and glory,
where are they now?
Drifted away like smoke from our campfire, dissipated
into the thin, night air,
the fire deserted and gone down to a few ashy coals,
almost out.
And all of those who sat around the fire: gone away too
into oblivion.

While we still have feet we walk Rockport harbor.


we are
bones and ash,
the roots of weeds
poking through
our skulls.
simple clothes,
empty mind,
full stomach,
alive, aware,
right here,
right now.
Drunk on music,
who needs wine?
Come on,
let's go dancing
while we've
still got feet.

(Poems: "Like Smoke From Our Campfire" and "Tomorrow," by David Budbill. Writer's Almanac®with Garrison Keillor.)

While we still see before us an alternate way we continue to dream.

Then Herod called the magi secretly and
ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to
Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you
have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage."
After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star
that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped
over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the
star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their
treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And
having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for
their country by another way.
(Matthew2: 9-12)

Nothing ends, not really. And nothing begins, not so to speak. What really happens is we call to each other in a land of fog and mist listening for the sound of a familiar voice.

Sometimes we hear a voice -- faintly recognizable, barely audible, vaguely familiar. Listening closer and more carefully in this foreign land where once we dwelt in childlike openness, the voice seems to both fade further away and nestle more intimately close at same time.

All movement stops. There is only watchful gaze listening in deepening silence for what seems no longer there.

Fog thickens. Mist dampens. All sound disappears.

What is listening there, alone, and profoundly in love?

What is!
Listening there.
Profoundly in love.

Let's go!

Monday, December 29, 2003

Vespers of Thomas Becket this evening.

What annoys most is someone getting away with doing wrong, especially when it is not us.

History allows public apology, change of mind, and semblance of penance to cover what, in the first instance, is blatant and willful wrongdoing.

In poet T.S. Eliot's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket (1118-1170), a line is recited by the chorus: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason." (T.S. Eliot, in Murder in the Cathedral).

Becket was murdered 29Dec1170 by emissaries of King Henry II in Canterbury Cathedral as Vespers was taking place.

On Sunday 21May1172, Henry performed a ceremony of public penance at Avranches cathedral.

He was the king. He got away, they say, with murder.

Another king, Herod, had young boys murdered in Judea. He was attempting to forestall and pre-empt the possibility of a threat to his rule.

Murder and mayhem are tools used by the powerful to cement their power by eliminating whatever is perceived to be in the way of preserving that power.

There are those who feel perversion of power is the only way power can be held on to.
The alternative point of view is that genuine power goes its own way, continually relinquished by renunciate individuals who understand that kingdom, power, and glory belong elsewhere than in the hands of anyone grabbing at and grasping on to it.

Innocence is unknowing.

Ignorance is something else -- more like knowing and ignoring what is known. Repentance is more easily believed when innocence is realized, "I didn't know what I was doing."

Something more cynical occurs when ignorance uses cunning to achieve its objective, then demurs with false theatricality, "I didn't know the gun was loaded -- even after the first dozen shots I fired."

We have history to instruct us.

For the lot of us unfamiliar with the lessons of history, there is prayer:
Oh Good Jesus, for the sake of Thomas forgive us our trespasses, be present in our house, our gate and at his shrine and keep us safe from fell death. Restore to us our customary piety and keep us from straying in mind and body. ( -- Responsory XII From the Office of Matins for St Thomas' Day, Sarum Rite)

Still, it is annoying to watch kings and other incipient wrong-doing leaders get away with murder.

'Fell death' drips poisonous from untruth spoken ignorantly. Such lies stray from safe and sane life in God.

Let us pray for innocence, and reluctance to stray in mind and body!

Stay with us, Thomas, Vespers is finished, and night is upon us!

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Mind what you are doing.

The preacher on television says, "Holiness is having the same mind as God; being of one mind with God."

The waistband on two pair of boxer shorts bought at Reny's is printed round with "Change Daily, Change Daily, Change Daily." The sticker taken from them says further, "If in doubt, Change Daily."

Time for a walk in the world outside
And a look at who I am
Originally I had no cares
And I am seeking nothing special
Even for my guests I have nothing
To offer except these white stones
And this clear spring water.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)

If we think God’s mind is fixed and final, unchanging and static -- we need to go shopping for underwear. God's mind -- (with apologies for speculating in public) -- is not a thing that is found as exclusive property in text or tribunal claiming, as might a law firm, to be sole guardian of God's rights.

God's mind is in stones and spring water, orange rising sun and white ground snow. There, as well as in the faces of Jay, John, Harold, Martin-&-Judith, Susan, Carter-&-Lola, Joanie, Bill, Sylvia, Jeff, Sam-&-Susan, Karl-&-Pop, Max and William and Dad, and those who walked through shop yesterday whose names I did not hear.

Harold said it as we looked for Micmac book of prayers and chants -- that Spirit is beyond smaller than quark, and has no valence. Thus, immeasurable, and present everywhere. Of itself, non-separate, indecipherable.

With his eyes on mine he quietly described Native American mind on Spirit. As he did the thought occurs -- Spirit is completely within itself -- with no outside. Harold nodded. He smiled when someone behind him said they couldn’t hear him with his low and quiet way of speaking, and quoted a Medicine man who told him to speak only to the one before you, only as loud for them to hear, for only the duration of saying what you are saying.

If a Zen practitioner were standing there she might say that God's mind is no mind -- that everything is finger pointing to the moon. Most commentators make the distinction that the finger is not the moon. But yesterday's Zen smile might have spoken alongside Harold saying that the intent of the person, the finger, and the moon are not three things -- they are the joy of learning, each alongside each in complimentarity. The mind of God is the intent, the finger, and the moon. It is also the ground the pointer and pointee share, as well as the teller of the story and the hearer in relational moment of co-presence.

Martin played his new flute for me. Sylvia read about enchantment and asked where my Irish connection with myth, fantasy, and folklore resided. She made me remember times teaching and studying. The fire lowered, night cooled, upstairs guests gone, day at bookshop/bakery waning. Saskia and Sando were on the road returning home.

The preacher is right. Holiness is having the same mind as God. All day long God shared mind -- from every element (however infinitesimally sub-microscopic) to every face (however shaped and formed by thought, history, and feeling). Being of one mind with God is not difficult/not easy. It is neither of the two. It is one with each.

One mind with God merely is. This mind sees the holy family we are.

Gray squirrel climbs to windowsill. Neighbor's dog barks.

The world is still -- in our seeing, in the mind of the sacred infant and holy old one born and passing each day -- here with us.

No cares. Nothing special. Change daily.

God with us.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

An ordinary day.

Each day. Christmas. Stephen. John. Holy Innocents. Thomas. The family of holy everydayness.

A wandering monk was climbing a mountain alongside a stream, on his way to the Zen monastery at the top, when he noticed a vegetable leaf floating downstream from the direction of the monastery. He thought, "It is just a single leaf, but any place that would waste it cannot be very good," and he turned to go back down the mountain. Just then he saw a lone monk come running down the path, chasing after the floating leaf. Immediately the wandering monk decided to enroll in the monastery at the top of the mountain.
- Hsueh-feng I-ts'un (822-908)

Tommy's brother John visits from Boston area. He tells what someone told him about the secret of life: "The secret of life is to be in the right place at the right time with your particular talents as often as possible." I tell him about the CBS show "Joan of Arcadia" on Friday evenings.

Guardini gives a take on Jesus' response to his mother at the wedding feast:
Then we read of the embarrassment about the failing wine-supply and of Mary's whisper to her Son.
But he only answers: What wouldst thou have me do, woman? My hour has not yet come." In other words, your request, based on a momentary need, can have no authority for me. Only the bidding of my Father in the given hour governs my actions -- no other.

(p.34, The Lord, by Romano Guardini)

In no time Jesus learns something, perhaps new for him, and undoubtedly, new for us. Along with Jesus we learn that responding to momentary need is indeed the will of the Father. Forget for the time being what we think is the large "Will of the Father." The will of God is right here, right now present before us. To hear its whisper and to do what is asked of us in the moment is fidelity to the will of God.

It is the "no other" that grasps attention. They are Guardini's words, but if the imaginary introspection applies to Jesus' developing consciousness, Jesus had the intuition and insight that "no other" is precisely the origination of God's voice. The will of God is the voice of God sounding through momentary needs and present realities.

Mary says it for Jesus, Mary says it for us: "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5)

Crackles from fireplace. Wind out of northwest. Cesco chews biscuit.

No looking elsewhere. No other place, no other voice will do.

Are we what we listen to?

God's ordinary voice.

Isn't that enough?

Friday, December 26, 2003

What does it mean to be selfless?

Reading Romano Guardini's book, The Lord. Initial pages have the feel of intuitive theological poetics grounded in scripture.

Jan Van Bragt, in an article titled "Contributions of Buddhism to Christianity," based on his lecture delivered at the Maryhill School of Theology in Manila on 4March1999, writes: "In a more neutral vein, we could say that in the past thirty years Buddhism has come to appear as a great challenge to Christianity."

Van Bragt goes on:
A challenge is something one has to face or confront, either in a negative way by trying to crush it, or in a positive way by struggling with it as with something that can bring out the best in oneself. The first Catholic theologian who became conscious of Buddhism as a challenge was probably Romano Guardini, who in his book 'Der Herr' (published in German around 1950) speaks of Buddhism as possibly the greatest challenge Christianity has ever faced. And he wrote: "Perhaps Buddha is the last religious genius with whom Christianity will have to reach an understanding. No one has yet drawn out his significance for Christianity."

Today, half a century on, we still cannot say that we have really "drawn out the significance of the Buddha for Christianity." This can only be done in a patient, ever deepening, dialogue; and this dialogue has only just begun. One immediate conclusion is, of course, that what I can present here is only a very tentative, provisional, and rather personal "balance sheet."

We must be conscious that admitting Buddhist contributions into Christianity means that Christianity will be "transformed" in the process. The American Whiteheadian theologian, John Cobb, who pleads for a "mutual transformation of Buddhism and Christianity," wrote, for example:
"A Christianity which has been transformed by the incorporation of the Buddhist insight into the nature of reality will be a very different Christianity from any we know now. A Buddhism that has incorporated Jesus Christ will be a very different Buddhism from any we now know." (-from Beyond Dialogue: Toward a Mutual Transformation of Christianity and Buddhism, c.1982)

Such a transformation supposes, of course, that we see Christianity not as an unchanging "thing" but as a dynamic historical reality that always develops. This may sound like a newfangled idea but is, in fact, nothing but a lucid recognition of historical realities. Church historians will tell us, for example, that the Christianity of the nineteenth century is rather different from the Christianity of the Middle Ages, although there is enough continuity (sameness) between the two to recognize both as the same Christianity.
(--in Nanzan Bulletin 23 / 1999)

Nancy has found a house with several outbuildings off the grid 35 minutes away. Her parents come up to see it with her today.

Cesco took off across brook and over to Snowbowl twice last night. Mu-ge got out and refused to return, parking under keel of covered sailboat. At midnight they settled back in. It might have had to do with an insanity of warm rain along Christmas day shrouded in low fog.

Five American soldiers die in Iraq. Thousands die in Iran earthquake. A hermit nun inland writes, " I have been quite ill this past year and so have not been in touch save by prayer and the book you loaned to me." A psychiatrist writes, "I have come to my senses and decided that I am NOT moving." She'll stay in area, with hospice board and it's education.

I set a havaheart trap on kitchen roof for the squirrel boring into space between floors in stairwell. The snow flurries left an inch plus over everything. I cut wood for woodstove in kitchen.

Buddhism identifies as the fundamental enemy, and the cause of all human suffering, our blind clinging to our ego, the natural human tendency to self-centeredness and self-affirmation. It therefore directs all its strategies toward the eradication of that tendency. On the other hand, "modern Westerners" are often characterized as human beings in a double bind: as the possessors of an "insatiable ego," they are totally geared toward self-fulfillment and aggressive self-affirmation; on the other hand, however, as beings closed within themselves, they suffer from a profound loneliness.

It is then only natural to ask whether Christianity, that biggest influence on Western culture, would not be responsible for the development of that kind of human being. The answer cannot, of course, be a simple "yes." For it is clear enough that the Christians of the Middle Ages were a quite different breed of human beings. Still, some Buddhist thinkers tend to think that the Christian idea of the "person" is at least partially responsible for this development. [e.g. Keiji Nishitani in his book Religion and Nothingness, c.1982] The idea of the irreplaceable value of the individual person in God's eye -- no matter how valuable in other respects -- would confirm and sanctify the natural idea of the ego as a thing of ultimate reality and solidity (substantiality) by itself. (Jan Van Bragt, ibid)

Challenge is not condemnation. Nor is criticism severance of caring. To be confronted, however uncomfortable, is not cessation of relatedness.

Confronted with this interpretation, we could react angrily and say: that is nonsense! Is not the Christian central commandment that of selflessness (losing the self) love to God and neighbor -- which precisely presupposes a person who is not closed-in on himself but, on the contrary, open to God and neighbor? But the Buddhist partner could retort: you have the right idea, alright, in that admirable commandment, but that is not reflected in your philosophical and theological theory on the human person; and may be the reason why modern times were able to pervert the Christian idea of the person into that of a closed-in and self-sufficient individual. (Van Bragt)

It is worth the question. What is it that encloses human beings inside ourselves as separate selves? Is the theory of 'person' so identified with our belief system? How is it we reify and rigidify something so musical as 'that which sounds through?' We are invited to feel the passage through the 'person' of everything in creation. It is that for which we hollow ourselves out, becoming the instrument of passing sounds of earth, one another, God Itself.

Meetingbrook accepts the challenge of Buddhism and Christianity. We listen to the Buddha and we listen to the Christ. It is a conversation worth attending.

Some worry there is a relativizing of Jesus and Siddhartha -- that is not the issue. There is, however, a relatedness that is occurring -- and that is the issue. Even the Jesus some hold as the only Son of God, King of Kings, would listen and respond to someone questioning him. We must not forget the value of questioning. So too the Buddha, Prince of India, hears and responds to questions from another. It is a human quality -- (if not sometimes an annoyance) -- to question. Skepticism saves us from irreversible certitude. It is becoming a cultural holy war to impose certitude on matters that have a long way to go through unknowing. Unknowing is unsettling. The thought that selflessness is common to both Buddhist and Christian spirituality might unsettle some.

How is it we have become unquestioning and intolerant of other views, other ways of engaging the human questions we each have?

Belief, like breath, has to be experienced anew each moment of life.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in.

And release that breath -- to keep fresh the spirit that flows through each one of us.

Imagine being selfless!

Lord help us!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

What is becoming human?

Becoming one's own child.

Now, word empties itself, becoming human.

The Eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, today emptied himself for our sake and became man. (Antiphon 3, Vespers of Christmas, Evening Prayer I)

Rain through fog this Christmas day. Woodstove smoke from chapel/zendo chimney. Before dawn, Cesco on next zabuton, light lifted from land with broken apple trees. His ears and eyes followed sung psalms circling cabin floor. "Joy is the fruit of love," said priest on Union Street at 9am Mass.

Cesco gets Christmas bone. Mu-ge gets Christmas olive loaf.

When Word empties Itself, there is nothing to be said, nothing to be done. Stillness embodies silence.

Christ is human becoming what is itself. Itself -- what is this?

This is the mystery, this is the miracle. This, this, is Christ the Lord.

What is itself is Christ.

Be kind to oneself!

On all days.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

There is no place to go; I am here.

If today you hear God's voice,
harden not your hearts.

(Responsorial to Psalm 95)

Do not delay.

What sound is this?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

What is your way before you?

It is a koan question. It asks -- before you come to be, what is your way?

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.
(Matthew 11:9,10)

It nears the time called birth. Candles, carols, and Christmas cheer beckon birth. Who is willing to go through?

The field of boundless emptiness is what exists from the very beginning. You must purify, cure, grind down, or brush away all the tendencies you have fabricated into apparent habits. Then you can reside in the clear circle of brightness.

Utter emptiness has no image, upright independence does not rely on anything. Just expand and illuminate the original truth unconcerned by external conditions. Accordingly we are told to realize that not a single thing exists. In this field birth and death do not appear.

(- From Cultivating the Empty Field -- The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi, Taigen Dan Leighton with Yi Wu; dailyzen)

If not a thing exists, what is holding the flame? What is the sound of the carol? Whose birth is beckoned?

It is a curious time.

With no room at the inn, and the time of birth just here, where does beginning and ending begin and end?

What do we go out to see?

What is our way, the way we journey before and after before and after?

John, messenger, before our face -- prepare our way!

A loose sandal contemplates untrod ground.

Before us.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The way of Christ is the way of this, and this, and this.

People who really have their minds on the Way, in contrast, do not forget work on the fundamental no matter what they are doing. Yet if they still distinguish this work from ordinary activities even as they do them together, they will naturally be concerned about being distracted by activities and forgetting the meditation work. This is because of viewing things as outside the mind.

An ancient master said, "The mountains, the rivers, the whole earth, the entire array of phenomena are all oneself." If you can absorb the essence of this message, there are no activities outside of meditation: you dress in meditation and eat in meditation; you walk, stand, sit, and lie down in meditation; you perceive and cognize in meditation; you experience joy, anger, sadness, and happiness in meditation.

Yet even this is still in the sphere of accomplishment and is not true merging with the source of Zen.

(- From Dialogues in a Dream (1344), Muso (1275-1351) {Dailyzen})

At Mass this morning, the sentence, "Do this in memory of me."

Consecration begins and completes this realization of Christ's exchange with us.

Again. He is arriving again.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Is it now?

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)


The entire place is brightly
Illuminated and spiritually
Totally unobstructed
And clearly manifesting
Responsive interaction
Like box and lid or arrowpoints meeting.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091 - 1157)

A place for the time being -- is this what we, all of us, are invited to prepare this season? Looking at ourselves, looking at our world -- is God's gaze searching to see who we are and what we are doing?

Holly writes, sending poem from Virginia:


On the domed ceiling God
is thinking
I made them my joy
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

"We're descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?"

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her the mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

(Poem by Jane Kenyon)


In another missive, D. invites a response:
D. writes to Meetingbrook:
I probably am not comfortable with what appears to be your placing Buddha alongside Jesus Christ as though they shared the same importance. I don't think they do, even though I have a great deal of respect for Buddhists and their approach to life, many aspects of which dove-tail with a Christian approach to life. In my understanding Jesus occupies a unique place in the universe and we are accountable to him alone, a fact it would be rash to ignore.

B. responds: Jesus is Jesus. Buddha is Buddha. D. is D. Bill is Bill. I appreciate the opinion you express. My Zen practice informs my opinion that each of us shares "the same importance." It is the miracle of the Incarnation -- God became human. With our dualistic minds we remain attached to the notion of keeping God "other." This is why it is so difficult to be Christian. It demands we embody the teachings of Jesus. Instead we seem to prefer to keep God in a distant heaven and deny the birth of Christ as human. The Zen saying, "It is better to see the face than hear the name," reminds me to see each as each and not make one face "just human" and another face "God Himself." It is a rare reality that allows each one to be each one.

D. writes: Or is your approach simply acknowledging contemplation as common to both without getting into the Creed or theology?

B. responds: Creeds and theology are good and valuable tools for us to help shape our thinking. But, you are right about our interest in the contemplative and meditative aspects of both traditions. Sitting in silent presence, and sharing the fruits of reflection -- these are things we each can share with one another as simple gift. Dogma, creed, and theological formulation often serve to point out to us differences and distances between us.

D. writes: I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

B. responds: "This, this, is Christ the Lord." This is our salvation -- Being with each other in Everydayness. It is not we who dare to equate Buddha or Jesus with anyone else. It is Jesus who dared to become human. Not many, I submit, accept Jesus -- his birth, life, death, and resurrection -- as Christ. The Christ-Reality is revealed in humankind. It is our prayer that we come to see clearly what is the gift of Christmas.

Grateful for the invitation and the response evoked, now prayer is the continual invitation. Is 'this' what is seen? Is 'this' what is held as true? I wonder. And pray.


Meanwhile, the O Antiphons of Advent grace Vespers each evening:

December 17
O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: COME, and teach us the way of prudence. Amen. "O Sapientia..."

December 18
O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: COME, and redeem us with outstretched arms. Amen. "O Adonai..."

December 19
O ROOT OF JESSE, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: COME, to deliver us, and tarry not. Amen. "O Radix Jesse..."

December 20
O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: COME, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen. "O Clavis David..."

December 21
O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice: COME, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Amen. "O Oriens..."

December 22
O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: COME, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth. Amen. "O Rex..."

December 23
O EMMANUEL, God with us, Our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Saviour: COME to save us, O Lord our God. Amen. "O Emmanuel..."

(Scripture References:)
O Wisdom: Proverbs 1:20; 8; 9 and I Corinthians 1:30
O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel: Exodus 3; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6
O Root of Jesse: Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5
O Key of David: Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7
O Dawn of the East (Dayspring): Luke 1:78, 79; Malachi 4:2
O King of the Gentiles (Nations): Revelation 15:3; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:6
O Emmanuel: Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; Matthew 1:23; Haggai 2:7 (KJV)

Can we hope to enter and embody this "O"?


Jon, visiting this past week, returns after breakfast to Boston.

Solstice tomorrow. In Maine, the tip toward darkness slows and ceases. In pause of perusal, the planet is considering a change. 'Yes,' it thinks, 'enough! It is time to return light.'

Teach us, O sun, your natural gift! Teach us, O Son, your divine presence! The earth changes its way. For us, dwelling here, the invitation corresponds.

How deeply we wish war and violence to cease and turn back to peace and kindness. It is difficult to put one's faith and trust in murder, destruction, and unending violence against evil and evildoers. We must meditate on "begets, begets!" Cruel violence begets cruel violence. Loving kindness begets loving kindness.

The prophet Isaiah's words about a "Prince of Peace" evoke invitation and response. In this year 2003, in this season of Advent, twenty six hundred years later, we are still trying to grasp the 'this' koan of the Ancient Middle-East.

Where do we look for the response?

Right now -- who are we?

Who wants to know?

Venite, nunc!

Come, now!

Saturday, December 20, 2003

This is prayer.

When water is still, its clearness shows the beard and eyebrows of one who looks into it. It is a perfect level, and the greatest artificer takes their rules from it. Such is the clearness of still water, and how much greater is that of the human Spirit! The still mind of the sage is the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of all things.
- Chuang Tzu

Prayer is opening mind and heart with God.

It is wise to keep a king's secret, but the works of God should be gloriously revealed. (The Book of Tobit)

At origin, all is revealed for us to see.

Returning to ever-present origin, we are the prayer we pray with God.

This is our body. This is our blood. This, this is Christ --

This is prayer.

Friday, December 19, 2003

In prison this morning Ryan wondered whether he'd been awake to his friend.

Believe nothing because a wise man said it.
Believe nothing because it is generally held true.
Believe nothing because it is written.
Believe nothing because it is said to be divine
Believe nothing because someone else believes it.
But believe only what you yourself judge to be true.

- The Buddha

Is the birth of Christ the birth of forgiveness?

Are there any Christians?

Oh friend, I love you, think this over
carefully! If you are in love,
then why are you asleep?

-- Kabir

Only conversation, the movement we come to see as God, sustains us through the turmoil of time.

Is baptism by Spirit every breath?

Inspire and expire.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Final class in philosophy tonight in Thomaston.

What, at end, do I imagine ethics to be?

The nature of the one Reality must be known by one's own clear spiritual perception; it cannot be known through a learned person. Similarly, the form of the moon can only be known through one's own eyes. How can it be known through others?
- Shankara *

Seeing through one's own eyes.


* Note: SHANKARA, 788 CE - 820 CE, Indian Reformer
Shankara, philosopher and theologian, was born in Kerala in southern India. He became a Hindu ascetic and exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy. Shankara reformed Hinduism with a monistic interpretation of the Vedanta, which ascribed all reality to a single unitary source, which he identified as "Brahma". He declared all plurality and differentiation as nothing but an illusion.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Bright sun on clear white snow.

Pick-up plow pushes snow halfway to cabin. We let yesterday go. Started carting off crusty snow from driveway. Good exercise. Neighbor's snowplow fella arrives next door. Saskia goes and engages his services. She says it's worth a heart attack. Now it will have to be cancer. The Irish always have an angle.

That the yielding
Conquers the resistant
And the soft
Conquers the hard
Is a fact known by all people,
Yet utilized by none.

- Lao Tzu

Tomorrow it will rain. Then turn cold. Ice waits in the idea of ice to realize itself.

In your pride, because you saw up boards,
would you really call upon him to explain,
who modestly from out of the same woods
makes leaves thrust and buds swell each year again?

He understood. And as he lifted up
to the angel his now truly frightened gaze
the angel went. He shifted his thick cap
slowly off his head. Then he sang praise.

(from 'Joseph's Suspicion,' in poem "The Life Of The Virgin Mary," by Rainer Maria Rilke)

The much we don't know is covered by the immensity we can't even imagine.

Mary and Joseph near that 'much immensity' with quiet amazement.

Where does divinity enter this world? How do we find ourselves in that process?

Nativity nears.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Winter storm mutes hermitage.

A friend writes about "a real experience this weekend": What's coming through is 'keep your mouth shut about it.' Strange it is that when one is filled with light given freely by the Divine Presence we are not to reveal what takes place. And another lesson learned. Meanwhile lift us to higher places in the blog and stay away from the dross. Love to you my

Birdfeeders full. Dooryard high with blowing snow. Trickle of smoke from kitchen woodstove is swept over roof. Bells chatter with wind climbing up and falling from Bald and Ragged. These mountains watch cars pass between them as day darkens under howling wind. Bare trees don white prayer scarf and bow down.

The Tao is as deep as can be. Who is willing to pursue it closely? If you don't go into the tiger's lair, how can you catch its cub? If you don't wash out the stone and sand, how can you pick out the gold? Carefully seek the heart of heaven and earth with firm determination. Suddenly you will see the original thing; everywhere you meet the source, all is a forest of jewels.
- Liu I-Ming

The original rests at center of all activity. It is ever-present. Each life surrounds the original. It nestles at center of each life.

Thus when someone asks, "Is this one an original?" -- they ask whether the particular life has come to see their center and dwell near the stillness and peace residing there.

The vast majority of us only visit. We are errant children not returning parent's call. So often the distractions in life are mistaken for life itself. "Come home," is the call. "In a minute," we say, and forget over long years and meandering diversions the way back home.

War is the face paint of the out-of-balance. If conflict is natural to life species in this existence, war is the absence of human imagination to resolve conflict by peaceful means. The mistake perceives a desired end for original presence. It is a mistake made by so many of us throughout history.

What we really want is what we already have. What we really want is who we already are. But we have forgotten something vital. 'Home' belongs to all of us. The gifts and graces of our original source are indiscriminately open and extended to all of us. But we -- distracted and diverted -- siphon off and cordon off what our desires dictate as 'mine.'

We've forgotten how to share. We've forgotten how to include. We've forgotten that original source -- called by some, God -- is love. Others say, at core, reality is love; and illusion is the competition to make what belongs to everyone, belong only to us. We say, "This is mine; you can't have it."

Reality, says Graham, is organized into a complex totality in which everything is related to everything else and the maintenance of homeostatic balance is both crucial and delicately difficult. Human systems are thus forever getting out of balance, and it is because of this that situations arise that require and evoke the care of the religious community. To care for persons means therefore to care for and, when appropriate, change the worlds that the systems surrounding persons have created. (p.656, in Theology Today, Vol.L, No.4, January 1994, review of Larry Kent Graham's Care of Persons, Care of Worlds: A Psychosystems Approach to Pastoral Care and Counseling, c 1992; review by Charles V. Gerkin)

The systems surrounding us have created a world that is not reality. It is true, many call the world created by systems and ideology, 'reality,' but there are many deceptions afoot.

Love is the only reality. Love -- whether known as compassion, care, or kindness -- is our original source. That original source is ever-present. It is all that is; it is all there is. And it is here. No need to work toward it, or for it -- as though it were a future hope, as if we might only attain it once we eliminate evildoers and evil. Not so! That rhetoric is the language of diverting attention and distracting mind.

And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!

(ending lines, Porphyria's Lover, by Robert Browning, 1812-1889)

We 'come-to' original source once illusion is seen through.

Until then, we exhaust each other, the world, and ourselves by war and treachery pretending to be search parties madly intent on bringing home a systemic version of pirated reality to a frightened populace.

Advent, coming-to, is attentive looking. What we are looking for is what is looking through our eyes.

Original Source sees through us.

We'll see when we cease looking for anything other -- but allow what is seeing through us to meet, each and every one.

That meeting is love.

And love to you.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

There is a thought, "Saddam Hussein is captured in Iraq."

The thought of celebration abounds there and abroad. History takes one small step along the minefield of war. War has a way of causing sidesteps.

Never in this world does hatred
Cease by hatred;
Hatred ceases by love,
And this according to a law
Which has existed forever.

- Buddha

Maine clouds over with new storm approaching. By 10pm snow falls heavily.

Action and contemplation only become dynamic in so far as each interacts with the other. If action stands for the 'ego' of man, contemplation stands for his unconscious, and both are needed to make up the whole man. The active side of man needs the contemplative side to resolve the deep questions about aims and meanings, and the direction which action ought to take. Otherwise it will merely become fussy and futile, performing useless rituals that have become unbreakable habits, the joy and sense of purpose swiftly ebbing away. Art will become rubbishy and sterile, religion will lose all its vitality, relationships will be shallow and timid, material satisfactions and the more superficial kinds of sexual satisfaction will occupy a more and more important place. Without contemplation man ceases to feel himself rooted, and without roots there can be no stillness, no security, and no growth. Change sweeps away all that is recognizable, reassuring and meaningful.
(Pp. 104-105, in Contemplating Now, by Monica Furlong, c.1971)

It is not always easy to know what to think. E.E. Cummings said, "Not to completely feel, is thinking."

In Iraq, and in the minds of many, a thought occurs. It says -- Now that Saddam is captured, all will fit nicely into the plan afoot.

Thought arises and passes away within the vastness of conscious space. From the vantage point of thought, there appears to be a crisis. From the vantage of space, there is silence. (p.78, in Doing Nothing, Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search, c.1998)

In the space of fully felt, there is only silence.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Advent is "coming to."

Like someone fallen asleep, or unconscious from concussion, Advent is the attention that helps us "come-to."

Therefore, be as a lamp
Unto yourselves,
Be as a refuge to yourselves.
Take no external refuge.
Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp;
Hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone besides yourselves.

- The Buddha

Buddha's last words are words inviting the individual to be just this -- undivided. It is invitation to attention extended to the sangha, the community, to be just that -- of themselves.

When we wake up, when we "come to," we embody the last words of Buddha. We also incarnate the "coming to" of Christ.

When the celebration of the birth of Jesus, his coming-to-us, is part of our profound practice, we are celebrating and practicing our coming-to-ourselves.

If this is truth, we hold it. It is light itself.
If that is truth, we nestle within it. It is our refuge and strength.

Saskia said it at Wednesday Evening Conversation -- "come to."

We are coming-to. Such is the attention of Advent

Coming-to light, coming-to protective comfort -- unto yourselves -- the place where dwells the bread of life.

We will awake to this.

We will come-to.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Lets take up juggling

People pass away,
And the truth of the passing world
Impresses me now and then,
But otherwise my dull
Wits let this truth too pass.

- Saigyo (1118-1190)

Something Elie Wiesel wrote in short story “The Wandering Jew,” -- "When are you going to understand that you are searching and living in vain, because God means movement, not explanation."

My grandma used to say that handsome is as handsome does.

Strikes me all talk about God is like trying to peel wet from rain.

God is not the definition of God.

And yet, we seem to associate compassion and kindness with any felt experience or intuition of God. It is thinking about God with thinking’s agitated, fearful impulse that we associate a punishing, vengeful notion of God.

It's no longer possible to use "God" to determine how the world should be. I agree with the troubling prospect that we are on our own -- no God will serve any longer to sort the wash and stoke the fires of incinerating rejection.

Mostly it's up to whatever leap of integrity my fellow humans are capable of making. It's distressing to think that we are what God might have wished us to become -- free, and responsible for each other.

Forget absolute and relative. Remember something more practical -- remember what life feels like in the near prospect of losing it.

When I look at wreaths placed on graves this season I don't think of patriotism, heroism, or bravery. Rather, it evokes "Memento Mori," remember your death. I'm not interested in any notion of 'God' that inspires fear or punishment -- there are more than enough humans to take on that task.

'God' has given himself/herself/itself away -- and we seem to be the awkward recipients of the gift.

Like the first theatrical line I spoke in a third grade class play when a box containing (hidden within) the gift of life was handed me, I asked, "It's nice, but what is it?"

War, peace, cruelty, kindness, punishment, forgiveness – it’s all in our hands.

How well are we juggling?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A student's father dies. We say we'll hold him in prayer. A young man from town dies in snow bank in Vermont. He, too, passes through our prayer. So, also, the Afghani children -- and on, and on, and on.

The mind for truth
Begins, like a stream, shallow
At first, but then
Adds more and more depth
While gaining greater clarity.

- Saigyo (1118-1190)

Prayer is, simultaneously, holding and releasing presence as it moves on.

Prayer, like life, is touch and go. The touch of our hand, like the touch of prayer, lends itself to blessing and comforting each other as we pass through the increasing diaphaneity and clarity of life’s wholeness.

Elie Wiesel writes in his short story, The Wandering Jew, that “God means movement and not explanation.”

There is no explaining death, no explaining God.

We move with each other, we move with God -- through, with, and in one another -- as the stream flows deeper into clarity

The mind for solving problems cannot comprehend this movement. The mind for truth resides within and releases its grasp as it flows through God's depths.

We pray for peace and grace.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. (Isaiah 40:)

Only wind and sand know their way through the desert. Everyone else is guessing.

The field of boundless emptiness
Is what exists from the very beginning.
You must purify, cure, grind down,
Or brush away all the tendencies
You have fabricated into apparent habits.
Then you can reside in the
Clear circle of brightness.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)

Thirty-five years ago Thomas Merton died in Bangkok. We feast him today. His smiling face connecting Catholic Christian contemplative tradition and Buddhist Zen and Tibetan meditative tradition as he went about with camera, sumie brush, and poems.

Further down 40 Isaiah says,
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord God...

"Here" is God. Nowhere else. Here.

When you come to consider this, where is not here?

What is not here?

Only here is here.

This here is the way of the Lord.

Now here? When the space between words dissolves, as the space between our thinking and mere transparent reality disappears, we'll be nowhere.

As God is. Clear light.

Tonight we pronounce again our Meetingbrook promises. We’ll say aloud in the presence of one another and whoever attends Wednesday Evening Conversation that we will practice Contemplation, Conversation, and Correspondence along with the Simplicity, Silence, and Service attending each one.

The water of this way humbles the desert of our lives.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Is that the word?

At the moment of awakening,
the Buddha exclaimed:
“Wonder of wonders!
All living beings are
truly enlightened and
shine with wisdom and virtue.
But because their minds
have become deluded and
turned inward to the self,
they fail to understand this.”

- Kegon Sutra

"And" connects, collates, includes, and collaborates with what is near it.

The Eucharistic koan, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; only say the word and I shall be healed;" -- took a glinting turn when I heard the word "and" today. I hear it today, "...only say the word, 'and;' I shall be healed."

Say the word 'and,' hear the word 'and.'

In so doing, healing takes place.

'And' is the balm soothing the cuts and slashes that attempt to sever us one from another.

With the aspirant 'h' attached, we have something to extend each other -- a hand.

Monday, December 08, 2003

What is received when receiving communion?

At mass following blizzard Fr. Art preached Mary. We sat in rear near Mary chapel. Last night's and this evening's vespers in chapel/zendo ask for her protection. Moonlight brightened by snowy ground made the cold beautiful.

Diane and Paul brought two watercolor paintings to reside at shop for a while. Elizabeth and Irwin stop in to catch up since they closed their shop across the way. Jeff brought folk song cd for those who sing on Wednesdays and Sundays. All this and we were closed today.

The light of awakening
Appears when it has been
High and vast the mountain
Lifts forth the moon
I myself have climbed
To the summit
In the world outside of things
There is nothing to get in the way.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)

We remember Margaret's mother. She died recently. The clarity of night's full moon on snow be with mother and daughter in this passage.

Mothering transcends biology. We mother each other even when we do not emerge from each others bodies. The whole is mother. When we touch each other with light of wholeness, we mother what we touch. Mary is seed. We are ground. God is emerging through seed breaking open.

We pray for Buddhists today. Enlightenment and Immaculate Conception bespeak common sound -- none are separate, none severed -- a holy sound only profound silence realizes.

We're grateful to be celebrating these two people and events.

Coming back from evening walk to Snow Bowl we take letter from mailbox. The Internal Revenue Service says they "are pleased to confirm that you are exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Code, and you are classified as a public charity under the Code section listed in the heading of this letter." We'd finished the four year advance period, submitted what we've been doing, and are now successfully told to continue on.

It is auspicious that we receive this on 8 December. The 8th, 9th, and 10th of December are held in special regard by Meetingbrook. We renew our promises on the 10th, as it happens, the anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton.


What is -- (whole-hearted surrender to One who is what One does) -- in this instance, love, is received when receiving communion.

We go on.



All beauty is found here.


Sunday, December 07, 2003

Snow everywhere. White mountain. Heaps alongside path and driveway. Drifts on windowsills. Piles in corners backed in by wind.

“Delusion,” “enlightenment”
just fox-words fooling
Zen practitioners everywhere.

- Daito (1282-1334)

Eve of Buddha's enlightenment. Eve of Mary's Immaculate Conception. And John Lennon's death.

To think about enlightenment is to worry white from snow. To strut and fret dogma is failure to appreciate and move through the necessity of sin. And not to have song to whisk us willy nilly through time is to stand mute and deaf under richness of melody.

Nine children were killed in Afghanistan by American military ordinance. We are fooled every day by words that have no root in common human decency.

No Buddha is enlightened. No Mother of God remains unsevered from original wholeness. And no writer/singer of songs is able to enchant his listeners.

Snow is not enlightened, does not foreknow God, and cannot carry a tune.

Snow is just snow.

Over everything.

At and on and under as it is.

Not fooled.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

"At night he remembers freedom"

One’s life, lived variously, will not forget what cannot be forgotten.

At Tuesday Evening Conversation we currently read After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, by Jack Kornfield. The night was growing cold and the fire dimming. There were words about community. One woman in the book spoke about seeking communion.

It occurred to us during conversation that the phrase 'receiving communion’ expands beyond the application given it in religious parlance.

If we understand that we are already and always connected one to the other, whether or not we are aware of this connection, then to ‘receive’ this ‘communion’ means connection opens to us, we see it, we experience it, and the world changes for us.

There seems to be confusion about whether or not we should learn how to be with each other in this world. The confusion stems from arguments about which side of ‘or’ each person resides:
Rich or poor? Strong or weak? Haves or have-nots? First world or second, third, fourth? God’s people or ungodly? Good or evil? Right or wrong? White or black? Elderly or young? Intelligent or not so intelligent? Privileged or underprivileged? Male or female? Monotheists or polytheists? Law abiding or criminal?

The word “or” captures our essential freedoms as well as our frightening choices. It is small word glue holding precariously together what it intends as separate. It is difficult to live in this would free of dualisms. It is uncertain we are able to conceive this existence without dualistic references.

There are discrepancies in our thinking. Discrepancies insinuate between dualities.

[Dictionary: "discrepancies"

1. lack of agreement; difference; inconsistency.
the discrepancy between the reported figures and the actual ones.
variance (1) , difference (1) , inconsistency (2) , disparity
disagreement , difference
disagreement , incongruity , dissimilarity , divergence , deviation
2. an instance of divergence or inconsistency.
difference (2) , contradiction (3) , inconsistency (1)
incongruity , dissimilarity, lack of agreement; difference; inconsistency.


Poetry helps. Poems are glimpses through and beyond human dualistic thinking and experience.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(Poem by Robert Frost)

There really is no difference: saint/sinner; host/guest; this path/that path; divergence/convergence -- we think apparently there is a difference, but really there is no difference.

The Second Patriarch Hui-k’o stood in the snow, cut off his arm, and awakened. The Sixth Patriarch heard someone recite the Diamond Sutra phrase “arouse the mind without placing it anywhere,” and he awakened. Ling-yun saw a peach blossom and awakened. Hsiang-yen heard a tile fragment strike bamboo, and he awakened. Lin-chi was given sixty blows by Huang-po, and he awakened. Tung-shan noticed his own reflection when he was crossing a river, and he awakened. In each case, these men met the Master.
- Daito (1282-1334)

We never know when we might meet the Master. Can we dare predict what event in our lives will be the openning through which we are seen through? Is this the confusing demand of faith -- to not know, but live through -- one's life in the midst of another's life?


Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward, when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.

A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eyes,
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

Poem by Thomas Hardy.

Awakening is as odd as the fact we breathe at all. It is like communion -- always there, always ready to be received. The task and gift of mature spiritual practice is coming to see with the heart who and what we leave out. Once seen, our practice changes. Once we come to see – anything – for what it is, the master is looking through our eyes.

Richard brought in Robinson Jeffers last night. He wanted to read in honor of Erika’s difficult decision to put her dog Vera to sleep.

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.

I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.
I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

(Poem by Robinson Jeffers)

Once unsheathed, bare and transparent, there is no place, and nothing, to hide. Dwelling openly in the realization of community --communion -- is our distinct and welcoming home. Thich Nhat Hanh has said that the Buddha of our age will be the sangha, the community. If we refuse to receive communion, that is, if we deny who and what we are in one another's lives, we fall into forgetfulness.

We cannot forget what cannot be forgotten.

We practice living one’s live, variously.

At night, usually in deep darkness, we remember freedom.

Beautiful and wild.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

"We wonder, ever wonder, why we find us here!"

Sunlight through cold windowpane wet with morning melting wash. Chickadee and Nuthatch look for seed-net taken down from ski pole outside room over kitchen. Squirrels have been looting. Birds ask, “Will we have to look elsewhere for our seed because some thief takes his share from here?”

All who are fortunate, set yourselves free
With the mind unbound by meditation,
And observe reality from a state of freedom.

- Godrakpa (1170-1249)

Bird and squirrel alike are neighbors to hunger. Disapproving mind binds opinion that feeder is for birds. It tells me to keep the unwanted away. While removing what is necessary to spite the offending squirrel, I deprive the birds as well. It seems a solution – but gives no joy. There are other feeders hanging elsewhere, still....

21.Then Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and said, "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.

23. Then when they were alone, he turned to the disciples and said, "How privileged you are to see what you have seen. 24. I tell you, many prophets and kings have longed to see and hear what you have seen and heard, but they could not."

(- Luke 10:21,23-4, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, © 1996.)

Deprivation and imprisonment are cousins in our world. The shoplifter and plane hijacker most likely share a common insight. It is one I catch a glimpse of, but cannot yet fully see. It has to do with the undistributed sentence, “This belongs to me!”

What, I wonder, belongs to me alone?

Nature's Questioning

WHEN I look forth at dawning, pool,
Field, flock, and lonely tree,
All seem to look at me
Like chastened children sitting silent in a school;

Their faces dulled, constrained, and worn,
As though the master's ways
Through the long teaching days
Their first terrestrial zest had chilled and overborne.

And on them stirs, in lippings mere
(As if once clear in call,
But now scarce breathed at all)--
"We wonder, ever wonder, why we find us here!

"Has some Vast Imbecility,
Mighty to build and blend,
But impotent to tend,
Framed us in jest, and left us now to hazardry?

"Or come we of an Automaton
Unconscious of our pains?...
Or are we live remains
Of Godhead dying downwards, brain and eye now gone?

"Or is it that some high Plan betides,
As yet not understood,
Of Evil stormed by Good,
We the Forlorn Hope over which Achievement strides?"

Thus things around. No answerer I....
Meanwhile the winds, and rains,
And Earth's old glooms and pains
Are still the same, and gladdest Life Death neighbors nigh.

(Poem by Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928)

(Note: It is curious that in an anthology edited by Milton Crane published in 1961 the final line of the poem is written differently from other published versions: “Are still the same, and Life and Death are neighbors nigh.”

With “gladdest Life Death neighbors nigh” we are invited to see an active neighboring nearness of Life Death – a non-separate joy. Whereas in Crane's book “gladdest” is gone, followed by an “and” between “Life and Death” -- effectively separating Life from Death, and this without joy.)

I’ll put back the mesh-net hanging bird feeder. Neighbor will feed with neighbor for as long as there is seed.

In dooryard, Paul and Paul Jr. talk with Saskia while looking up at tired farmhouse siding and barn roof needing more to keep the rain from passing through. Sando barks her opinion. In my mind I turn the key starting engine of bulldozer. It seems I have always lived in tired falling houses. That doesn't phase bird or squirrel. We seem to live one cracking seed at a time.

Nothing belongs to me…alone.

We wonder.

We find us.


Monday, December 01, 2003

There is no time. Like the present.

Lastly, we said that time only comes about in virtue of having an infinite openness at its bottom. This infinite openness also contains an ambiguity of its own. In a word, it can mean both nihility and sunyata in its original sense. According to the meaning it takes on, time and all matters related to time will assume meanings fundamentally opposed to one another. The true Form of time consists in the simultaneous possibility of these opposing meanings. The essential ambiguity in the meaning of time means that time is essentially the field of fundamental conversion, the field of a “change of heart” or “metanoia” (pravrittivijnana). (p.222, in Religion and Nothingness, by Keiji Nishitani, c.1982)

Play this field.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

“The Way of all beings.”

I agree with a friend who writes suggesting further reflection about fear.

I think…your analysis skips over the obvious: good old reptilian fear is an important powerful motivator for us at many junctions of our path. [F]ear is often a ‘negative’ emotion, but also, in a primitive and/or hardened situation, it can truly be the ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (JS, 30Nov03)

I’d written:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
(Proverbs 9: 10)
If we read the line, paraphrased, as: The Lord is afraid that we have no comprehension or experience of the Holy One. The “Holy One” is our unity and familial inter-relationship and inter-dependence each with each, each with all, all with each, all with all.
It is as if the Lord was saying: “I am afraid they will not see who we are in, with, and through each other. If they understood my fear, my deep longing for each one to see and experience the truth of existence -- in, with, and through the Whole of Now – then, with that comprehension and experience, each one would begin walking the way of wisdom.
(wfh, blog, 23Nov03)

It is interesting to question whether “good old reptilian fear” is transformed into Fear of the Lord as we move and evolve through life. That fear, he suggests, saves us from harmful consequences of harmful behavior.

What if the fear involved with certain life experiences (in a transforming way) really has to do with the "Holy One" in each of us seeing the loss and devastation that might have resulted if we continued the actions and perpetuated the behaviors we were doing?

We do call it 'fear.' And 'fear' is a powerful motivator.

Still, what if fear is merely the ripples spreading away from the tossed stone breaking the surface?

The stone itself might be called our self-as-it-is plunging through the surface into the depths, seeking to find solid resting place as it falls and tumbles through fathoms -- heavier than water -- with no buoyancy.

We cannot 'fathom' the travel, the purpose, or even the fact, of the very reality of the plunge. But, we are plunging. Do we trust and surrender to the plunge?

The ripples are surface indicators that something has dropped through. 'Fear' is the unsettling of the surface broken through. Our actions are the unsettling of the water along the surface, or, perhaps, the passageway into the deep. Our actions send out ripples, reverberations, which alert others to have a look-see at what has disturbed the surface. (Enter the authorities, whether in law or psychology, to take up their intervening roles in the drama.) There is a natural inclination to stop the unfolding drama, to return to some normalcy. There is not a natural inclination to plunge through all our dualisms with their corresponding clutching and grasping, craving and reaching for what is 'out there' to save us.

What occurs next -- the actions we take, the judgments of others, the counsel of others -- determines where we go, what we change, and who we become. We can go back -- so it seems -- repair the broken consequences, and reinstate a familiar pattern that will keep us recognizable to those who know us.

And yet, and yet, and yet -- something is going on below the surface. The stone of self is plunging to the bottom. That plunge feels like nothing we know-- like emptiness itself.

What is the bottom? The 'bottom,' is the floor, the ground, the original resting place that all things seek. I would call that original resting place, or bottom, the Holy One.

Enroute there we encounter the ten thousand distractions, the ten thousand dispersions of inattention, and the ten thousand wrong directions that the seeming isolated self runs up against.

These diversions seem to be necessary. However inconvenient or disturbing, they seem to appear unavoidable. We wouldn’t consciously seek them out, but they surround us. They are, perhaps, the gateways to Annutara-samyak-sambodhi, (Sanskrit), meaning unexcelled complete enlightenment.

In Sanskrit words, Annutara means supreme, being nothing above it; samyak means equal; sambodhi means genuine enlightenment. (

Elsewhere, this description:
My guess is that the version of the precepts that was used at the San Francisco Zen Center developed from Dogen Zenji’s 13th century commentary on them. I would like to go back over these precepts, comparing the different versions to Dogen’s commentary. The first precept is, "avoid all evil" or "not to commit wrong actions," which we say as "refrain from all action that creates attachment." This has the meaning of non-harming or keeping the precepts. Dogen’s commentary is, "Ceasing from evil: this is the abiding place of laws and rules of all Buddhas, this is the very source of laws and rules of all Buddhas....

The second is, "Practice all good," which we say as "I vow to make every effort to live in enlightenment." Dogen’s commentary is "Doing good: This is the Dharma of Annutara Samyak Sambodhi; this is the Way of all beings." This Sanskrit phrase Annutara Samyak Sambodhi means an "Unsurpassed, Complete and Perfect Enlightenment." It is one of the types of enlightenment–one of the more thorough types–and it is noted in the Heart Sutra. If we replace the Sanskrit with English, we can say Dogen’s verse as "Doing good: This is the Truth of Unsurpassed, Complete and Perfect Enlightenment."

(“Taking and Receiving the Precepts” Part 3, by Taitaku Pat Phelan)

The way to what is good begins and ends right where we are. Between what we perceive to be our beginning and ending is where we experience dispersion, disappointment, and doubt. Everything is called into question. In reaction, we try to find answers – any answer, whether ours or others’. In grabbing for answers, we follow where they lead. Anything, we think, that will float us back to surface.

Answers, especially those given by and belonging to others, fail to bring us home – only serving to delay and distract us from the Holy One. The Holy One is a question “unsurpassed, complete, and perfect” in its own light.

If you trust in nature, in what is simple in nature, in the small things that hardly anyone sees, and that suddenly become huge; if you have this love for what is humble, and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems small: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent; not to your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished; but in your innermost awareness, your innermost awakeness.

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you with everything I am to have the patience with everything unresolved in you heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don't search for the answers: they could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. The point is to live everything. Live your questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answers.

(-- Rainer Maria Rilke in "Letters to a Young Poet" )

When we fall to an unfathomable depth, when the seeming isolated self is dissolved in unknowing surrender, we come to see what is the real question. Without fear, with the Holy One at ground of all we are, we realize the question.

Who are you?

You are the question.

Live your way.

Live the Way of all beings.

Good for us all!

Saturday, November 29, 2003

“By surprise like a trap”

Christians begin liturgical preparing, again, for the birth of Christ into human history. They begin by worrying the end of all life as has been known on earth. Dismay, fright, and vigilance are prelude to escape. Hardly an inviting prospect augers standing before the “Son of Man.”

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon,
and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the
roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in
anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the
heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a
cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and
drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by
surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the
face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the
strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before
the Son of Man.”
(GOSPEL,Cycle C, 1st Advent, Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)

Lloyd says the poet Pessoa thought we shouldn’t worry much about what takes place in the world, that only the inner life, the inner reality was worth the attention of men and women. We were reading poetry. Fernando Pessoa was joined by Diane DiPrima, Robert Bly, Ted Hughes, Marianne Moore, and others at Friday Evening Conversation focusing on poetry.

Survival Skills

Here is the virtue
in not looking up:
you will be the one
who finds the overhang
out of the sun
and something for a cup.
You will rethink meat;
you will know you have
to eat and will eat.
Despair and hope you keep
remote. You will not
think much about the boat
that sank or other boats.
When you can, you sleep.
You can go on nearly forever.
If you ever are delivered
you are not delivered.
You know now, you were
always a survivor.

Poem: "Survival Skills," by Kay Ryan from Say Uncle (Grove Press).

When we can, we sleep. Much of our time these days, it seems, we wander about asleep. It is easier to imagine the shift taking place -- in politics and other environments of natural or international mutation – is an under water, under sleep activity taking place without our full or conscious participation. To claim consciousness of the sea change would be to grab at lines, right sails, and steer toward sustainable buoyancy. Or go, and stay, under.

[C.S. Lewis] was a confident Oxford philosopher, not at all prepared to find himself a Christian convert. To his friend Owen Barfield he wrote: "Terrible things have happened to me. The 'Spirit' or 'Real I' is showing an alarming tendency to becoming much more personal and is taking the offensive, and behaving just like God. You'd better come on Monday at the latest or I may have entered a monastery." (Garrison Keillor remembering Lewis’ birthday) [Poem and Lewis quote from The Writer's Almanac for Saturday, Nov. 29, 2003]

‘The Spirit,’ or ‘Real I’ is alone awake. That Reality will not be discouraged by our soporific certainties about remaining sleepily indifferent to what is taking place. The world, it is said, is a dangerous place. There is beauty and joy, and there is fragile sanity also.

C.S. Lewis said, "Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand." (Keillor)

To enter religion is to enter, eyes open, the reality of this world.

We can only escape illusion, not truth. Truth is constant surprise. Illusion is narcoleptic paralysis. Most the time, we court, and are courted by, illusion. Truth is a deeper, more stunning, and simpler wakefulness.

Truth demands practice. Truth asks for vigilance. Truth, if it were told, is just like this – right before our attentiveness.

The Brahman Dona saw the Buddha sitting under a tree and was impressed by his peaceful air of alertness and his tranquil demeanor. He asked the Buddha:

“Are you a god?”
“No, Brahman, I am not a god.”
“Then an angel?”
“No, indeed, Brahman.”
“A spirit then?”
“No, I am not a spirit.”
“Then what are you?”
“I am awake.”

- Anguttara Nikaya [DailyZen]


this Advent...


Friday, November 28, 2003

Forget liberty?

Before doing so, celebrate it. If we are going to forget it, let us remember how it fell from grace.

Everything is what it is: liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience. (‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ (1958), L 172 [FEL 125] by Isaiah Berlin (1909 - November 5, 1997). Berlin was a political philosopher and historian of ideas, born in Riga, Latvia.)

There is worry about a great country forgetting what made her great -- namely, freedom.

Reacting to hurt by further retaliatory hurt is the abandonment of compassion, and instead, taking up cruelty. Even at home, further hurt is piled upon sorrow and fear by seeming abandonment of core beliefs of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – this in the name of security and homeland pre-eminence.

I’ve broken through Cloud Barrier
The living way is north, south, east, and west.
Evenings I rest, mornings I play,
No other, no self.
With each step a pure breeze rises.

- Daito (1282-1334)

In meditation cabin at dawn, double window behind zafu and zabuton instructs the mind. Votive candlelight reflects twice the stain glass holder in window glass. At same time the windows hold reflection of candlelight, they allow transparent seeing through to outside stones, branches, old apple tree, and wet earth. That which we see is that which is seen through.

No other, no self.

‘Life can be seen through
many windows,
none of them necessarily
clear or opaque,
less or more distorting
than any of the others.’

(-- Isaiah Berlin, ‘Winston Churchill in 1940’ (1949), PI 4)

It is difficult to govern. Balancing fear and freedom. Sorting through what is good for one segment of the world or country and who will be left to suffer the lack. It is a difficulty moderated by clear thinking and honest analysis. With the best of intentions the worst results can occur when original, guiding principles are forgotten in favor of ideologies and reactions made popular by desperate men performing Orwellian switches in the meaning of words.

‘Debate’ comes to mean ‘dictate.’ ‘Freedom’ comes to mean ‘repress.’ ‘Terror’ comes to mean ‘all other views.’ And ‘security’ comes to mean ‘no other way.’

[T]hose who have ever valued liberty for its own sake believed that to be free to choose, and not to be chosen for, is an inalienable ingredient in what makes human beings human.(Berlin, Introduction to ‘Five Essays on Liberty’ (1969) 52 [lx]

I prefer to think it is fear and failure of imagination that drives the current movement to suspend the experiment of this republic. The world is changing.

Immigration is suspect. International cooperation is disdained. Only corporate profit and courting wealth counts. There is no longer pretense of the words ‘people’ or ‘democracy’ or ‘humankind.’ These words are replaced by ‘demographics’ or lobbying groups’ or ‘collateral resources/damages.’

It is a terrible and dangerous arrogance to believe that you alone are right: have a magical eye which sees the truth: & that others cannot be right if they disagree. (‘Notes on Prejudice’ (1981), L 349)

Eating dinner Thanksgiving night listening to radio dramatization of “The Grapes of Wrath,” adapted from novel by John Steinbeck, it occurs that there is a pervasive tension between those that have and control and those that don’t have and need.

Perhaps the true test of human and spiritual maturation is the willingness to share, openly and equally, with human beings what each one needs. Food, clothing, shelter, respect, and freedom from oppression – these are basic and inalienable rights that divine, natural, and human law distinguish themselves making manifest.

Those, no doubt, are in some way fortunate who have brought themselves, or have been brought by others, to obey some ultimate principle before the bar of which all problems can be brought. Single-minded monists, ruthless fanatics, men possessed by an all-embracing coherent vision do not know the doubts and agonies of those who cannot wholly blind themselves to reality.
(Isaiah Berlin, Introduction to ‘Five Essays on Liberty’, 1969. 47 [lv] )

Reality is not an idea. True reality exists at the feet and before the eyes of every person, every being that breathes air or resides in the embrace of earth.

The fundamental sense of freedom is freedom from chains, from imprisonment, from enslavement by others. The rest is extension of this sense, or else metaphor.
(Berlin, ibid. 48 [lvi])

We try to commit to memory what freedom sounds like as clanging doors close noisily and faintly amnesiac faces look nervously around them, fearing they are losing something dear to them, but vague and nearly out of mind.

On 6 November 1949, her son Lev was arrested for the third time and
the following day Akhmatova committed her poems finally to memory
before burning their manuscripts; among them, the completed
‘Poem without a Hero' in which Berlin appears as ‘The Guest from the Future'.

(--from a poem by Jon Stallworthy, "The Guest from the Future," recalling a momentous meeting between Isaiah Berlin and the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, and its consequences.) [Gratitude to]

Those who forget, live off the pain and suffering of others.

Forgive us our forgetfulness.

And deliver us.

To liberty.

And justice.

For all.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Was none of them found?

Walk to town. Attend Mass. Breakfast on deck by harbor on tea and baked goods. Row to Curtis Island. Walk around island. Then row around island. It's Thanksgiving.

Just as space reaches everywhere,
Without discrimination,
Just so the immaculate element,
Which in it essential nature is mind,
Is present in all.

- Visuddhis Magga

Light life -- the immaculate element.

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14 When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17)

Preachers often miss this one. They like to say only one was grateful. Nine were ingrates. They miss it.

If it were a Zen koan Jesus was asking, the one returning missed the opportunity. To Jesus' question, "the other nine, where are they?" -- the Samaritan might have answered, " See me, see them." And, "One gives praise, all give praise."

At Thanksgiving we are healed when we realize mercy. We are made well when no one is left out of our awareness of the wholeness of the body of Christ, the wholeness of the body of humankind.

When food is taken in, when sound is heard, and when light gives shape to each particular presence -- each is present in all.

All of them, found.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

One’s light?

Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.

A Catholic koan. “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof: but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” A more recent translation has the phrasing, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. Only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

What is the word? What will be healed? What is worthiness?

Learn for yourself here.
A teacher can’t help you here.
But first ask yourself why
You need to be told
Why you have allowed yourself
To stop learning about those things
Most basic to your life.
If you attempt to learn
Without asking those questions,
You can never pass beyond
You’ll only trap yourself
Again and again,
A skin’s thickness away
From the living present.

( - Journeys on Mind Mountain)

Absent historical explanations or scriptural exegesis, what word heals and worthies?

The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light "
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal - a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I'm not needed
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

(Poem by Mary Oliver)

We are frightened by the gaze that looks directly in our direction. The gaze that looks into us. The gaze that sees our worth without proof or explanation.

What is the word?

Only say it.

I will be healed?

To receive you, I must go.


No I.

The sacrament of what is pure and holy is what is occurring between us when you and I have dissolved into this mere and very next reality.

One's light.

Monday, November 24, 2003

What to do with appalling errors?

Michael Moore's book, Dude, Where's my Country?, puts in one place questions about 9/11 and the current administration that have floated disconnected for two years.

How do we rebound with compassion and justice? How rebuild confidence and respect? How move from dispiritedness and disgust -- an unhealthy state of being for anyone -- to retrieving hopeful and worthy citizenry of a fine country? How repair fabric of trust ripped to shreds by lack of openness and private motivations that are refused light of day?

Like entrusting yourself
To a brave person
When greatly afraid,
By entrusting yourself
To the awakening mind,
You will be swiftly liberated,
Even if you have made appalling errors.

- Majjhima Nikaya

What can one individual do?

Our involvement with others does not begin with just our speech and physical movements. Each of us individually has an effect on the lives of beings around us through the quiet processes going on in our minds. If we are full of good feelings, they radiate around us and people want to be near. If we are full of bad feelings, others tend to stay away. So if we would be activists for good, for the positive, we must assume responsibility for our minds as well as our speech and our physical activities, otherwise our negative mental habits will drag down the entire community of beings. On the other hand, when we break through into the liberty of heart, mind, and spirit in the process of enlightenment, we free others at the same time.

We can envision the planet as the residence of billions of human beings each living around a bubble of inner awareness, each having an inner theater of sounds and lights and impulses that is interconnected with everyone else’s through broadcast vibrations and patterns. When one of those bubbles explodes in a burst of insight or joy – when it releases a knot in its interior energy circulation – it influences ever so slightly all the other bubbles. When an educational, cultural, or civilization movement influences a large number of those bubbles in certain ways, an even more powerful resonance which affects all the other bubbles is created. If we see morphic resonance as a principle operating in history, we can conceive of the possibility that when a whole country or a group of countries adopts a new pattern of perception or behavior, surrounding countries can be profoundly influenced as well.
(pp. 27-28, from Introduction to Inner Revolution, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness, c.1998, by Robert Thurman)

If our political and personal profit have steered us away from the Holy One, inner revolution is a way back to unity and wholesome community. Our longing is strong.

Away with guns and military force; arrive with awareness and sacred spirit!

In our time of nearly limitless communication and freedom of choice in so many countries, our civilization is ripe for another step in what the Buddha saw as our inevitable evolution toward happiness. (Thurman, p.29)

The washer twists in corner. One bite taken from half cinnamon swirl. Grapefruit juice two sips down. The dogs are in the barn wondering why morning walking meditation is delayed. Mu-ge plays hockey with quarter on bathroom floor.

Overcast sky.

Errors are evolution’s way of embarking a new course of growth. We must study this course well.

It is time for mountain walking.

Good resonance to us all!

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Wisdom attends.

Morning kitchen. Mu-ge snoozes on black chair. Cesco on tan rug. Sando on daybed by window. Saskia wipes counter after preparing dough for bread and setting squash in soup pot on stove.

The morning walk along mountainside with dogs was crisp and clear with sunlit silence. Water trickles down in furrowed meander from woods to pond.

The mountain was in the stream, both on the surface and in the glittering white of the polished stones in the streambed. Reflecting easily despite the rapid flow of the current. The snowy white mass seemed to double in size. It was the purest white you had ever seen, and it floated in the blue sky. The day was incredibly fresh and clear as you walked in it, step by step, each step complete in and of itself. Each step the beginning of a leap into the infinite present. The mountain enfolded you; the mind stopped, stunned, and still. You walked through the silence toward the mountain, each step a leap into the deep silence which is always present, always unfolding.
- from Journeys on Mind Mountain

There is a danger in colonialism. Jim Hightower and Michael Thoms discuss corporations, separating personal responsibility from the law to legally rob people, Enron and other bankruptcies of Savings and Loans paid for by ordinary citizens. They speak about Wal-Mart and other big boxes sucking money from communities and underselling local businesses.

Once sacred silence invited us into the divine. These days men in governing power encourage fear, stifling opposing views and reasonable demonstration, and foment a frightened silence. They mock the original language of God: -- Creative Silence. They replace it with insult and belittlement: -- terrifying aphasiac muteness.

On Wednesday, for the 50th anniversary, the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission gathered all the Marshall scholars now in Britain and British dignitaries who have supported the program, with Prince Charles presiding. The event, held at the University of London, was timed for the Bush visit, because Secretary of State Colin Powell, the keynote speaker, was one of five Americans being presented with the first Marshall medals. There were a few protest banners waiting for Mr. Powell around campus, but nothing extraordinary. Prince Charles showed up with what appeared to be one security guard.

But there was no Colin Powell.

A few hours earlier, the organizers were told that Mr. Powell was canceling, because of "security concerns." Every American I talked to was both sad and embarrassed — sad that an event intended to affirm the Atlantic alliance turned into another small victory for terrorists; sad that all these young Marshall scholars didn't get to see their secretary of state being honored and to hear his thoughts; and embarrassed that some nameless security officer decided Mr. Powell couldn't brave a few protesters, but Prince Charles could.

But this is more lament than criticism. I wouldn't want the responsibility of deciding when the president or secretary of state should appear in public.

These are tough calls. It's always hard to know where the line should be. But I fear we're starting to cross it in ways that could actually be dangerous for us all. Whether we're talking about our public officials or your family deciding whether to vacation in Istanbul, we all have to learn to live with more insecurity. Because terrorists are in the fear business, and every time we visibly imprison ourselves, they win another small victory and become more emboldened. Indeed, we could learn from the British. The I.R.A. murdered the queen's cousin and almost blew up Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her hotel — yet life in London goes on and the police here still don't carry guns.

I fear that the kinds of security officials who pulled the plug on Mr. Powell are becoming the new priesthood of our age. If the 1990's were the era of "Davos Man," the 2000's are the era of "Security Man" — and like a priesthood, these "terrorism experts" have unchallenged authority to curb our freedom in the name of freedom. Some of them deserve respect and know their stuff. But some wouldn't recognize the 6-foot-5 Osama bin Laden if he walked past them dribbling a basketball and dragging his dialysis machine.

(from "The Way We Were" OpEd, By Thomas L. Friedman, (Published: November 23, 2003, New York Times)

We must re-learn how to speak with each other. The joy of open conversation is necessary for healthy community. The people of the United States long to be, again, part of the world community of peoples. We long to be able to speak with each other in creative dialogue instead of shorthand invective laced with ad hominum name calling. We long to enter a dialogue with even, and especially, those who find repugnant the ways we do business and aggress wealth and reserves. In that conversation we will have to step down from our high horse and sit on the ground with one another.

Proverbs 9

1 Wisdom has built her house;
she has hewn out its seven pillars.
2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls
from the highest point of the city.
4 "Let all who are simple come in here!"
she says to those who lack judgment.
5 "Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of understanding.

7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through me your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer."

In the Catholic Christian liturgical calendar today is the feast of Christ the King. Taken from the metaphor of kingship, it intends to set the scene of royal leadership. Today’s metaphor might be different. It might be: Christ the Wise.

Gregory the Great (540-604), in his Homily on the Gospels, wondered whether it was possible to be in the world, (live in one’s culture and society with its norms and behaviors) but not be of it, (live as one’s conscience required, free to choose the way as one sees it).
He wrote:
I would like to urge you to forsake everything, but that I do not presume to do. Yet if you cannot give up everything of this world, at least keep what belongs to the world in such a way that you yourself are not kept prisoner by the world. Whatever you possess must not possess you; whatever you own must be under the power of your soul; for if your soul is overpowered by the power of this world's goods, it will be totally at the mercy of its possessions.
In other words, we make use of temporal things, but our hearts are set on what is eternal. Temporal goods help us on our way, but our desire must be for those eternal realities which are our goal. We should give no more than a side glance at all that happens in the world, but the eyes of our soul are to be focused right ahead; for our whole attention must be fixed on those realities which constitute our goal.

He says later that, “Nothing should interfere with your soul’s longing…”

The temporal is the world of time. The eternal is no time. The eternal is the now. The ‘now’ is what is and will be. So, we ask ourselves, what are we doing now? What are we doing throughout now and now and now?

It occurs to me that the verse from Proverbs – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” -- longs to be heard anew. It is not that WE are to fear the Lord – as if fear and terror were avenues to the divine. Rather, it is the fear of the LORD that we will not understand the Holy One. If we read the line, paraphrased, as: The Lord is afraid that we have no comprehension or experience of the Holy One. The “Holy One” is our unity and familial inter-relationship and inter-dependence each with each, each with all, all with each, all with all.

It is as if the Lord was saying: “I am afraid they will not see who we are in, with, and through each other. If they understood my fear, my deep longing for each one to see and experience the truth of existence -- in, with, and through the Whole of Now – then, with that comprehension and experience, each one would begin walking the way of wisdom.”

SuSane would like that phrase, the “Whole of Now.”

When Tibetan monks poured sand from mandala, milk, and small flowers into the harbor yesterday morning, trace grains, white liquid, and yellow petals floated with outgoing tide passed oars of my skiff out into Penobscot Bay. One and each dissolved into each and All. Going on. The song of their passing sounding near every watery being.

Morning sun swings to other side of barn. The mountain is, indeed, in the stream. The stream is in the pond. The pond is on its way to the harbor. The harbor water glides into the bay. The bay into the sea. The sea touches every continent on its way. The earth connects with every neighboring celestial body making its way through space.
Widening space embraces and reaches out into every conceivable possibility within and beyond our comprehension and experience.

It is Sunday.

Attend wisdom!

Attend throughout!