Saturday, February 01, 2003

Cold rain.

Because there are no words to say, conversation doesn't cease.

Because there is death, life is living itself.

Enlightenment is like the
moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet,
nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
the moon is reflected even
in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
are reflected in dewdrops on the grass,
or even in one drop of water.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

When we finally hear ourselves beneath words in silence, we let fall all unnecessary noise.

No one has ever failed to be listened to who listens to themselves. We are the ones unhearing ourselves. When we listen and hear who we are and what we are saying, no one is abandoned, no one homeless.

In the sight of, in the presence of all the peoples, said Simeon:

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2)

When we see who is there within listening and watching, we are alone.

With the Alone.

Unbroken, reflected, whole, and entire – even in one drop of water.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Utterance and reflective responsive utterance -- what we call conversation -- is what is needed to emerge from univocal and unilateral pronouncement and denial in world politics, national policy, and personal life.

Will we finally come to real conversation as a model of humankind’s willingness and ability to live authentically?

Here are three translations of an excerpt from Goethe's Fairy Tale of The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily:

"What is nobler than gold?" asked the King.

"Light," replied the Dragon.

"And what is more vivid than light?" continued the Monarch.

"Speech," said the Serpent.

(--from translation by Thomas Carlyle and R.D. Boylan, of Goethe's Fairy Tale of The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.)

No sooner had the snake beheld this venerable image than the king began to speak and asked:

"Whence comest thou?"

"From the crevices where the gold dwells."

"What is more glorious than gold?" asked the king.

"Light," answered the snake.

"What is more refreshing than light?" asked the former.

"Conversation," replied the latter.

(Translator unknown)

Elsewhere the wording is presented in the following:
Steiner introduced children to Goethe's Fairy Tale of "The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily" because of it's important message. This magical tale tells of a group of people whose world has turned upside down and who must bring about spiritual and social renewal. When the Green Snake is asked by the Gold King, What is more precious than light? she replies, Conversation! We come to life when we really meet one another in true dialogue... (-- from Waldorf Home Schooling Website, about "The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily," Hawthorn Press Version)

Conversation, true dialogue, is what is missing in the precipice pronouncements heard daily. It seems most media can only provide shouting match or copy with loud snarl intended to intimidate the unbelieving into agreement with a formulated opinion. Models of reliable renewal and open consideration are hidden behind defensive denial and provocative accusation. Scant are examples of engaged conversation.

In the beginning was the word. And the word emerged from silence. True word and root silence are united in sacredness of conversation.

If so, then faith (that elusive virtue) is trust in abiding resonance between silence and reciprocal response. This interaction is emitted from the word in flesh, in action, in conversation.

We co-respond only when there is faith something worthwhile might emerge. Not to recognize or allow faith and true conversation is to grow brambles around self-importance and the one-view/my-view rule of dictatorship.

“I’ll tell you what to do!” is the sentence that describes the destruction of true faith.

Brambles should be cut away,
Removing even the sprouts.
Within essence there naturally blooms
A beautiful lotus blossom.
One day there will suddenly appear
An image of light;
When you know that,
You yourself are it.

- Sun Bu-er

Following light is conversation with silence.

It is what we are.


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Cherryfield with windswept snow and below zero chill on Tuesday.

I chauffer and read novel waiting in car about son finding 3 million dollars in his dead father's study. Walking earlier, dogs know as we walk road we'll have to turn back into the wind. They count my steps and shake their heads. We each have icicles on muzzles.

The story is told of one young man coming for instruction and Macarius told him to go to a burial place and insult the dead. After that he was to praise them. The young man did as he was told and when he returned Macarius asked what the dead had answered. The man replied, "nothing," and Macarius then encouraged him to do the same when anyone hurled abuse or flattery on him.
( - about St. Macarius the Elder, January 29) (Monastery of Christ in the Desert)

After dusk we are in Seal Harbor walking the closed carriage path snow below tall pine below the enormity of heavens with illimitable stars and planets. The four of us walk in silence. Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.

The dead keep silent. Macarius (born about the year 300) counted on that for the lesson at hand. I think of this fact each time I pass or walk in a cemetery. If the dead are with God it is no surprise their silence.

This is why some bow. This is why some genuflect. This is why the body hunches, head to ground, hands with palms upraised.

No words convey what the body senses.

Reverence with silence.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Maybe it is the persistence of the "let's go to war" crowd, or the passion of the "let's be careful about hastily going to war" crowd.

Whichever it is, a shift is taking place as we near war. I can't be certain what war we are actually engaged in. Is it a war for civilization? Are we at one of those perennial historical cusps where geography and grotesque behavior coincide to erupt into massive movements of munitions, political ambition, and spiritual/religious principles?

Last night's snow makes everything brighter along the mountain.

My treasure is the cloud on the peak
The moon over the valley
Traveling east or west
Light and free on the one road
I don’t know whether I’m on the way
Or at home.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)

Virginia writes, "This is Andrew Sullivan about the case for a military action against Iraq and the anti-war movement."

The Sullivan piece is impressive and passionate. His Monday, January 27, 2003 ends with:
I keep thinking that this obsession with Bush is a way of avoiding the awful choices in front of us. But the choices are still there. And Bush's speech tomorrow night represents his terrible duty to lead us to the right one. (Andrew Sullivan,

I respond to Virginia, writing the following:
I've inured myself to the fact we are going in.
As with all wars, I shudder.

As to the oddity that it is George Bush leading the charge, I can only shake my head at the sequence of events positioning him in the presidency and the equally curious political positions and profile of this our president.

I'm from Brooklyn. Silver spoons tucked in family privilege and right-wing patronage does not sit easily with kids from Bay Ridge Avenue. But so what.

Beneath all the surface hoopla I know that bad guys should be rooted out. In Brooklyn it was difficult to sort the hitmen from holy men, the perverts from politicians. Now in the larger world, it still is difficult. Everyone seems to read from the same script and prompter. It's our world. We're not much different then from now, Bensonhurst to Baghdad. Self-interest, local politics, and global mores are seldom separable.

When the war begins I will sorrow. When Iraqis are killed, I'll sorrow. When Americans and allies are killed, I'll sorrow.

And when oil flows freely through liberated pipes to a new coalition of allied ships to McDucks and the Stop & Go in Camden, I'll buy it and drive onto Elm Street with a certain but vague forgetfulness about a lot of things. One of which will be war.

Thanks for the Sullivan perspective. I'll tuck it into my sitting and prayer.

About the coming days I include Sir Kenneth Clark's ending to the book and video Civilisation series,

I said at the beginning that it is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs. Fifty years ago W. B. Yeats, who was more like a man of genius than anyone I have ever known, wrote a famous prophetic poem.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Well, that was certainly true between the wars, and it damn nearly destroyed us. Is it true today? Not quite, because good people have convictions, rather too many of them. The trouble is that there is still no centre. The moral and intellectual failure of Marxism has left us with no alternative to heroic materialism, and that isn’t enough. One may be optimistic, but one can’t exactly be joyful at the prospect before us.
-- from ending, Chapter 13 - Heroic Materialism in Civilisation: a personal view Lord Kenneth Clark: 1903 - 1983 (Harper & Row in 1970.)

I'm part of the "lack of confidence" crowd Clark cites.
With Clark, I am optimistic, but not joyful.

Still, with Muso Soseki,
I don’t know whether I’m on the way
Or at home.

“Home,” here, suggests what I think some might be referring to when they protest the upcoming war, or any war. It is the tension felt when we are reminded we are not living yet in a shared sphere of awareness and action that would benefit all life on earth.

Finally, it is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s view that clarifies what is taking place for me:

In 1925, Teilhard wrote in an essay entitled Hominization: "And this amounts to imagining, in one way or another, above the animal biosphere a human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious invention, of conscious souls (the noosphere, if you will)" (1966, p. 63) It was a neologism employing the Greek word noos for "mind."

In The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard posits: "In truth, a neo-humanity has been germinating round the Mediterranean for the last six thousand years" (1961, p. 212) He thought that a "new layer of the noosphere" would soon be formed. "The proof of this lies in the fact that from one end of the world to the other, all peoples, to remain human or to become more so, are inexorably led to formulate the hopes and problems of the modern earth in the very same terms in which the West has formulated them." Teilhard was convinced that the shape of the noosphere's future would be determined by those developments he saw taking place in the Europe and the U.S.

In midst of a particularly ghastly fulfillment of the dictum "War is hell," Pierre Teilhard de Chardin struggled to hold on to a hope for the human future. Ultimately, he found it in noogenesis and in the future of the noosphere. However, to view his thought as no more than an exercise in science or metaphysics, is to fail to reach the core of Teilhard's vision. At the conclusion of The Phenomenon of Man is an Appendix added in 1948. The final line is: "In one manner or the other it still remains true that, even in the view of a mere biologist, the human epic resembles nothing so much as a way of the Cross." (1961, p. 313)

(- from, Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere, by Rev. Phillip J. Cunningham, C.S.P.

What cheers, Virginia, is the exchange of these words with you and Hugh.

I’ll sit, and pray, with this.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I resign from marketplace. I return to hermitage. There, I revert to silence.

when sun turned north, long
frozen mountain remembered
lost pine needle scent


Who is this "I" that resigns, returns, and reverts? Surely someone knows.

The cat pulled down the thawing chicken in the middle of the night. One of the dogs finished it. The bag on floor and empty paper on rug spilled their guts when interviewed by householders.

Cat got water sprayed in puss when positioned at scene of theft. Dog sat in snow with ears back. Dog got mild reprimand. He was a dupe. Inculpable recipient of stolen goods.

It occurred to that "I," there and then, its chickenless and fruitless presence in the marketplace. The connection must be esoteric. "I" can decipher neither linkage nor lineup of the insight. But there it was: Go home; Shut up.

Maybe it began with John from Owls Head by way of Jersey arriving with Meher Baba pendant, cd, and book. Suddenly I am back in Rockland County listening of a Sunday morning to Lex Hixon interviewing someone about this Indian sage who'd vowed silence and kept it for over 40 years.

I am sitting in the corner office alone wondering why I am there. Children and teenagers from 21 cottages will be walking with counselors to Mass. They'll pass my office as the radio voices tell of the remarkable silence and presence of this Meher Baba. Up in the chapel the priest will be telling of the remarkable silence and presence of Jesus.

I have seldom known why I have been anywhere. It always felt like a diverted walk-about. I'd wandered out of semi-monastic enclosure into a foreign wood and was lost without direction. A ghost in a dream wandering changing scenes.

Thirty years later and several attempts to work in the world's recognized employments, marriage/divorce, a son now 30, long sits on cushions, long visits to sanctuaries, and it is Sunday morning again. It is silent. And presence remains what it has always been, slightly aslant and skewed toward nescience.

It is enough to be alive. And when death arises, it will be enough to die. What does or doesn’t follow what we know as death is of no interest. Whether some kind of Christian judgment, Buddhist reincarnation, or generic nothingness -- I don't know. It doesn't matter. Whatever will be, will be. It’s that kind of Sunday.

For now, there is this. America plans war against Iraq. Catholic Church waits for sexual abuse scandal to pass. Temperature rises above 10 degrees after 10 days of bending around zero. Super bowl will be played and prayed over tonight. Republican executive, legislature, and judiciary will have their way with issues. Stock market will frighten those capable of being frightened by it. Poverty and the nearing of poverty will worry a significant percentage of the world.

Poverty is having to do with what we have. Willingly choosing poverty is wanting nothing other than what is there. The world of marketplace and commerce, advertising and seduction of the more and mores -- that world doesn't choose poverty. Choosing poverty is a freedom that deprivation and want doesn't have.

Many, far too many, are not doing well and seem to have been given deprivation and want as original birthday presents. No choice here -- just deprivation and want.

Curiously, there are many others who have been given free passes to riches and wealth in this world who oddly cry loudly they too suffer deprivation and want. These are the well to do who want to pay lower taxes and want to receive higher dividends from investments and estates.

It is growing more apparent that the voices of the not doing well and the well to do are both heard in antiphonal harmony to the ears of this administration in America. Who to listen to? Who to serve? Who to bestow fiduciary and financial favors on?

The choice of poverty, that is, making do with what is there, making do with what is not there, is a gift. Not a gift is not having a choice.

In some minds given to spiritual thinking, "no choice" is a great gift. They point out that having what you have, or not having what you don't have, is a freedom unlike any other in the spiritual life. It has to do with accepting and surrendering to "what is" -- to things as they are, without wanting anything other than what is here and now.

The wording, "what is," is sometimes cited as synonym for "God" or "Ultimate Reality." This makes the questions, “What is God? or, “What is Ultimate Reality?” redundancies. It is hard to believe in either God or Ultimate Reality when there is no freedom or no choice.

No freedom and no choice are like the lost pine needle scent to the mountain deep in January. It just seems…gone.

The cabin woodstove must be fired. The brook beyond, visited.

In my middle years I love the Tao
And by Deep South Mountain I make my home.
When happy I go alone into the mountains.
Only I understand this joy.
I walk until the water ends, and sit
Waiting for the hour when clouds rise.
If I happen to meet an old woodcutter,
I chat with him, laughing and lost to time.

- Wang Wei (699-759)

About my resignation, return, and reversion – it is now or never.

“I” must go to be lost to time.