Friday, February 21, 2003

Meetingbrook is closed these few days, 19Feb - 25Feb.. We will re-open shop on Wednesday 26Feb. All events at shop and hermitage will not be held until then. Saskia is crunching numbers. It is a "Schola" vacation to work differently.
Learning is now with uncertainty.

The day is warm. Skiers slap turns on trails beyond brook. Cabin woodstove finally expands breath, reaching loft. Squirrels leap from branch to branch, so tells their snow shadow below. Birds have feeder back, chirp, crack seed, and fly off.

Solitude in cabin. "Schola vacation," we say. In Meetingbrook terms, "schola vacation" means the empty conversation. Silence looks at itself, finds itself looking as well, and listens to what is unsaid there.

Neighbor’s dogs penned up hill bark at what they hear. Cars scurry Barnestown like busy mice enroute elsewhere. Planks of rough wood lay across ribs fastened to ridgepole. In spring two windows will follow sawsall cuts into Bald-side and brook-side gables.

February gives respite. Nearly three weeks of zero degree temperatures, wind chill to 30 below. Harbors ice over. Furnaces groan, puff, and pant reminding houses there is a thin membrane between being chilly and freezing to death. Automobile engines, like hoboes in refrigerator cars rousted by train yard cops, are shocked into complaining when hit with ignition sticks and told it is time to go.

The thought of enlightenment has many names but they all refer to one and the same mind. Nagarjuna said, “The mind that fully sees into the uncertain world of birth and death is called the thought of enlightenment.” Thus if we maintain this mind, this mind can become the thought of enlightenment.
- Dogen (1200-1253)

Prayer is awkward these days. War is afoot. There is little trust in proclamations of governments that urge war or delay war. Politics take off kid gloves and puts on gauntlet. So great is the longing to believe and trust in what seems to be taking place that ordinary people are beside themselves stuttering in anger or pontificating with secret intelligence. The gut says no one can be trusted. We know that. Its realization desolates. Apocalyptic voices sound like embezzling executives locking up their pronouncements in secret and secure deposit boxes guaranteed by federal insurance.

So much of the world is beyond our comprehension. So much of the noise of justification and analysis is fingernail on slate board. We are a population of guess and hunch, fear and paranoia. We lay bets on opinions like bookies at racetracks. The horse we back takes on patriotic significance as we defend our pick with fervor and blind conviction.

Things feel dark, even as daylight lengthens. So, prayer. What is seen there?

They shall see the Lord face to face and bear his name on their foreheads. The night shall be no more. They will need no light from lamps or the sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever.
(Revelation 22: 4-5)

On the mountain beyond the brook squeals of delight and play echo through trees. It is winter vacation. Tubes, toboggans, skis, snowboards, fresh deep snow and warm sun brighten the afternoon. We are a people at work and play, needing to make enough money to pay for necessities, needing to engage in enough play to relieve the strain of being human.

Prayer is the thin place between work and play.

What is necessary is balance. The willingness to hold uncertainty in the thin place of prayer. This is a chance to see what cannot be seen elsewhere. Not by those certain of their opinions. Not by those certain they will win. Nor by those certain they are right and on a mission to call God back for judgment.
Has God ever gone? What are they calling back? And if we look as they call, what is it we think we will see?

What is our prayer?

Birth and death are reasonable bets. But they only get you to starting lines. Everything appears equal at the sound of the bell and the first lunge forward. Maintaining balance is the only readiness we can afford.

One thing is certain.

What is this one thing?
What is this one thing!

The words, "What is this one thing" -- are both question and exhortation.

Are we certain we know the difference?

Are we willing to learn now with uncertainty?

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Meetingbrook is closed these few days, 19Feb - 25Feb.. We will re-open shop on Wednesday 26Feb. All events at shop and hermitage will not be held until then. Saskia is crunching numbers. It is a "Schola" vacation to work differently.

What is the sign and instrument of the unity of humankind?

Night holds no terrors for me sleeping under God’s wings. (Antiphon, Sunday Compline)

This is a farewell for all who'll die in the war between America and Iraq. All men and women of every nationality, all youthful boys and girls, all children and infants, all living beings caught in the fire and noise of war and destruction.

I find myself anticipating grief. War will rage, massacre will bloody the sands, and power will temporarily shift. Lives will be taken. Yours. Mine. And time will go on.

The universal body of reality
Is so subtle that you do not
Hear it when you deliberately listen for it,
And you do not see it when you look at it.
As for the pure knowledge
That has no teacher,
How can it be attained by thought or study?

- Huanglong

I greet you on our way to death. We are caught in a time when government officials in Iraq and America are riveted in a stalemate of intransigence. One controls his desert subjects with stranglehold singularity. The other paralyzes elected representatives and the people who did not elect him with laser-focused certainty and disconcertion stemming from 9/11 terrorist attacks. Both these men are arrogant. They are unwilling or unable to ask or answer questions about our lives. They are about themselves.

I'm not sure what the reason is we will die. The drawing room response given is to uphold the dignity of the United Nations resolution to disarm Iraq. The dirty cellar suspicion is to loot oil and begin to colonize Arab Middle East. Perhaps our deaths will be seen as further revenge for three thousand dead in New York's World Trade Towers collapse. Iraqis are easy targets. You and I have as little chance of escaping missiles and bombs as those who died on September 11th.

We will be killed because human beings are fools and sinners. Fools because we don't yet know better than murder and killing to resolve differences. Sinners because we do know better, yet refuse to follow the dictates and teachings of the God we try to leash to our standards.
Some say we'll live beyond death because being a fool and sinner isn't enough to permanently delete life in all its dimensions. Some say God's life does not exclude fools and sinners. Profound life, they say, changes, but it doesn't end. Dictators and fundamentalists, some suggest, can only make natural human life miserable and terrible.

We die because those who believe in peace, compassion, and love lack power. We might not lack courage and conviction, but we remain bystanders and observers, hoping that molecular atomic matter is changed by our participant-observer attentiveness. We have words to give but withhold our bodies. Dan Berrigan once wrote, "Bodies belong where words are." Our bodies should be in front of the insane leaders lighting the fuse of war, and under falling bombs next to the suffering innocent.

We organize protests in safe places but do not travel to harm's way to protest with our valuable lives. We aver, saying we are only human. If someone must die to illustrate the dark danger of war, it will be some of us who need no illustration. Does God die? Does the unillustrated God disappear in the klieg lights of horrible intention to maim, torture, harm, and disable one another in war?

We know God is dying with us. We know it is no beneficent ideal kills us. It is not freedom they fight for, not motherland, not our children, not democracy or liberation or justice, nor is it for a religious faith they so easily tout as our bedrock. No, it is none of these.
What kills us is lies and deceit, maleficent motivation that deludes their minds into thinking God and our way of life are synonymous. This kind of thinking has used, and will continue to use, people and power to fashion an illusory proprietary and self-serving model of ideology that values nothing but "this is mine," and "you can't have it."

What kills us is stupidity and ignorance, false ideals and selfish will, perversion of truth and failure to comprehend love.

The one we call Christ enters and attempts to transfigure our reality. The one we call Bodhisattva emerges and attempts to enlighten our reality. The angel of the Great One stands at dusk and dawn in constant prayer for those living in these times. Each of them dedicates their lives to relieving suffering and presencing love with compassion. They are wandering near the targets where the killing will begin, they are near our whispers of war, they stay with us who are about to die, they cannot stop the wrong and evil we propose and do.

I ready for war. I dress my body for battle. I look down at my wounds. I open my body to let blood seep. I have a mouthful of sand sopped with spittle. I have a leg blown off. I scream in pain at a bullet through my face. I cannot hear anything. I remember a minute of childhood. I release my stomach in retching. My bladder and bowels explode. I receive no last rites. I have no sound on my tongue. My eyes are blind. The din of dismay pervades the land. I think of an angel who, surely, will reach me. Now...

Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant, in peace, according to your word. (Canticle, Compline)

May the Almighty and Merciful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death!

Sign? Instrument? Unity?
How live, together?

Water! Holy, water, please?

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Reading Don DeLillo's Libra and listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation during snowfall. Fictional assassination by default and factual dissidence by popular anti-war gathering. Over it all white flakes that mute and cover the middle ground.

It is not easy listening to the president's unwavering belief that the United States is going ahead into Iraq. Also not easy is the staunch optimism of Win Without War and Move On in their efforts to slow the roaring train of bellicosity.

Troops and wartime munitions gather at Iraq's border. E-mails, faxes, and phone call messages gather on desks of elected representatives of the people. The storm of power darkens both Iraq's future and the future of America. Death and terrorism are feared consequences of actions -- whether to be taken or not taken.

The teaching of the mind ground
Is the basis of Zen study.
The mind ground is the
Great awareness of being as is.

- Fayan

Debate finds no middle ground. Sides are seen migrating to extreme edges away from middle ground. When did we forget middle ground? Who was it painted middle ground the color gray? Who spun the place where all things meet into epithets like wishy-washy, compromise, and appeasement?

Middle ground is where all things meet. It is the Middle Way of Buddha. It is "In medio stat virtus" (In the middle stands strength/truth) of philosophical wisdom. It is the Celtic notion of the "Thin Place" where dwells authentic conversation and exchange of dimensions.

Middle ground is where earth and sea touch. It is where all opposites are nearest to each other. It is where hell and heaven negotiate a path to walk along without falling away from our human nature.

We need to re-find middle ground.

Bush and company are far out in front of themselves having in their minds fought the war in Iraq, eliminated Saddam Hussein, secured the weapons of mass destruction the West feels they alone should have, and taken administration of oil reserves that, along with a democratic prop in the Arab world, will secure the world for the foreseeable future.

And what vision does the anti-war people espouse? Do they see a time of rearranged priorities in America? Equitable distribution of our substantial comfort as compared with deprivation throughout the world? A dismantling of a system of rule that purchases power and influence and calls it Republic and Participatory Democracy? The resurrection of community, common sense, and shared reverence as hallmarks of our human interaction throughout the world?

Deep in the night monks sit in darkness holding still with silence the prayer that all might be surrendered to God.

Eventually, this is the only prayer -- that all might be surrendered to God.

Leaving us.


Monday, February 17, 2003

Tom suggested the horizontal extension of what we call the cross is infinite. Therefore at any place transcendent awareness penetrates the extension, it serves as vertical dimension of the cross. Wayne Teasdale's words inform Sunday Evening Practice.

Like the cosmos whose age is 13.7 billion years and whose expansion is unending, the vertical/horizontal axis is the reflection of divine-in-matter co-operative wholeness.

If awareness is soul, and if deepening awareness makes sacred dwelling place of attentive presence, then the work of Christic love suffuses and deifies awakening of soul within each being.

I explain to you matters
Pertaining to enlightenment,
But don’t try to keep
Your mind on them.
Just turn to the ocean
Of your own essence
And develop practical accord with its nature.

- Yangshan

Comes the question: Is it possible that war is in any way the path of God in this existence?

The name of God is the presence of God.

God’s name and the name of each being might be pronounced differently, but call the same reality.

When we say, “Not in my name!” – We are saying the presence of God cannot hear the call for death and destruction of beings, not for any purpose reasoned by the minds of men.

But we are mere moments on the extension of infinite being. We can barely recognize our passing faces in the morning mirror.

God watches there. Our passing. Naming us. God’s own.

Calling, “This is my child. This one is not forsaken. This one dwelling the cross.”

God voices silence, asking, “And your name?”

And you hear, and you respond, “My name is…”

And you pronounce your name.

And no war sounds in your name.