Friday, October 31, 2003

Note: The Bookshop/Bakery will be closed Friday 31Oct, Saturday 1Nov, and Sunday 2Nov. We will re-open for Tuesday Evening Conversation 5:30pm Tuesday 4 Nov, Election Day. Remember to vote!


The question of Gretchen was unasked, but there, in our conversation last evening.

"Please tell me what religion means to you
Although I think you very good and kind,
I doubt if worship weighs much in your mind."
(Faust, Part I, by J.M. von Goethe, in Eternal Life? by Hans Kung, p.153)

Eve of All Saints, then All Souls. Those in and out of religion regard the elements of saintliness wherever they are found. Kindness, generosity, reverence, respect, integrity, self-transcendence, and humility -- among other attributes. Perhaps what we call faith is the willingness to admit 'I don't know...but I assent" to the mystery of love and truth seeking itself in the world.

Auferstehung (Resurrection)

Sometimes we get up
Get up as for a resurrection
In broad daylight
With our living hair
With our breathing skin.

Only the usual things are around us
No mirage of palm trees
With grazing lions
And gentle wolves.

The alarm clocks don't cease to tick
Their phosphorescent hands are not extinguished.

And yet weightlessly
And yet invulnerably
Ordered into mysterious order
Admitted early into a house of light.

(Poem by Marie Louise Kaschnitz)

The ordinary, when seen, and seen through, is the divine. Water, bread, wine, human touch, and nature's touch -- all things, all beings -- when completely themselves, are the elements and body of God. Last night at Thursday Evening Conversation the word "commensality" was read. "At table together," sharing food and familiar reality with all arriving at table. The notion (and sometimes practiced belief) that we are of one family, therefore, we nourish and sustain each other with food and drink, as and in, the presence of God.

Today we travel to western Massachusetts to spend final two days with Vera (Saskia's mom's dog) who will be put down on Monday. Hips and legs gone, Vera and her sorrowing mistress, Erika, will part for now.

Coming to visit
The Western Capital’s
Old, crumbling ruins,
Listen: Han Shan’s temple bell,
In the evening, tolling.

- Sengai Gibbon

When visiting Trappist monastery in Spencer these next 3 mornings, I'll hear bell along rolling farmland. Each tolling will bring to mind family and friends, relatives and strangers, who've traveled beyond as Vera will.

It is a weekend of thin veils. Heaven and earth, (or however we word that which seems to be separated into the dimensions of the seen-living and the unseen-gone-beyond), near and interpenetrate each other at this time of year. This nearing is celebrated variously but consistently in diverse cultures as symbolic of our continuing communion with all life – seen or unseen, felt or faith’d. .

My prayer this weekend -- that the intermingling joy and sorrow of our lives be honored:
And yet weightlessly
And yet invulnerably
Ordered into mysterious order
Admitted early into a house of light.

Good and faithful friends and companions lead the way!

In this instance, Verousch.

Our gratefulness.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

After rain, sun this morning. Brook tumbles. Hosmer Pond reaches over its edge.

Talk about miracles and healing at Wednesday Evening Conversation. Wondering what the revelation of miracles might be. Even if disease is illusion, as some hold, the body passes from current form. It goes. Some say, 'We die.'

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

(Poem by David Whyte, in Fire in the Earth)

On one level it must be terrible to learn that most of what we think and believe, just isn't true. Put another way, when we see things as they are -- something radical and uprooting takes place.

O.V. de L. Milosz writes: I have seen. He who has seen stops thinking and feeling. He can only describe what he has seen. (from "Canticle of Knowledge," in The Noble Traveller, p.173)

At the conversation Andy describes the death of his neighbor in an old trailer in the woods of Waldoboro. Andy tells the long story as ten others listen. Described are foot washing and radiant light filling the hovel-like death room of his neighbor. All thoughts of Christ, works of mercy, and easy judgemental opinions are made null by the stretch of encounter from diagnosis of liver failure to taking down of sole remaining picture of Jesus from stripped home after death. Andy tells the story well.

Certain natures receive from youth to old age the nourishment necessary for their inextinguishable passion: at first poetry, then metaphysics, and finally science -- but true science, the passionate and loving science of the Divine. (Milosz, in April 26, 1933 letter to Caffe de Broquery)

What is miracle? What is healing?

If truth is at root of everything, it is usually covered. Was it Dan Berrigan who said, "The point at which one can do nothing, the point of truth"? When break-through occurs it is a point at which one can do nothing.

'Doing nothing' is an awkward phrase. It evokes frowns of disapproval. 'Doing nothing,' suggests non-doing, no doer, and doerless activity. We know how to do something, but how do nothing? How arrive at the point of truth?

St. Augustine said in On Lying, "When regard for the truth has been broken down or even slightly weakened, all things will remain doubtful."

Much in our contemporary world remains in doubt. Truth feels optional. And yet, without truth as root and raison d'etre, other ways of being feel optional also -- namely, beauty, and love.

"I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice."
"Truth?" said Pilate, "what is that?"
(--John 18: 37)

Jesus remained silent.

What are we seeing?

What revelation?

One's voice?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


Staying near -- during this time.

We are not to end life to see God.

In a book called Village: Where to Live and How to Live, Peter Megargee Brown tells us that the secret to true happiness is "to want what we have." He talks about the concept of "propinquity," which helps explain why Naboth's vineyard was so tempting to Ahab. In villages we are close to many things, but we do not have to "own" them to enjoy them. We do not have to have a perfect schedule, or house, or garden, or routine, to keep sabbath. (p.68, in Sabbath Keeping, by Donna Schaper)


To find you, I moved beyond the city,
A wide path led me, by mulberry and hemp,
To a new-set hedge of chrysanthemums
Not yet blooming although autumn had come.
I knocked; no answer, not even a dog.
I waited to ask your western neighbor;
But he told me that daily you climb the mountain,
Never returning till sunset.

- Sen Chiao-jan

Walking Rockport harbor road Monday with Sando and Cesco we meet Tom with Halley. Rounding Beauchamp point Tom and Saskia are saying, "In today's culture we don't talk about death. People are afraid of the fear the conversation might stir." But stir the topic and fear falls away when neighbor listens to neighbor speak of life before and beyond death.

Time, and our fixation with saving time and equating time with money, mutes our longing to speak.

Schaper says, "Sabbath is setting aside time for God." (p.1)
It is conversation about death, what precedes and what follows, that nears us each to each.

Nearness of each other and awareness of death enlivens life, not the opposite.

When we talk of the resurrection of the body, we mean then, as the Catholic theologian Franz Josef Nocke expresses it, "that not only man's naked self is saved through death, when all earthly history is left behind, all relationships with other human beings become meaningless; bodily resurrection means that a person's life history and all the relationships established in the course of this history enter together into the consummation and finally belong to the risen person."

In other words, what is at stake here is not the continuity of my body as a physical entity and consequently scientific questions like those about the whereabouts of the molecules simply do not arise. What matters is the identity of the person. The question arises then of the permanent importance of my whole life and lot. "God loves more than the molecules that happen to be in the body at the time of death," says the Catholic dogmatic theologian Wilhelm Bruening, rightly. "He loves a body that is marked by all the tribulation and also be the ceaseless longing of a pilgrimage, a body that has left behind many traces in the course of this pilgrimage in the world which has become human through these very traces.... Resurrection of the body means that none of all this is lost to God, since he loves man. He has gathered together all dreams and not a single smile has escaped his notice. Resurrection of the body means that in God man discovers not only his last moment but his history."
By losing himself into the reality of God, man gains himself. By entering into the infinite, the finite person loses his limits, so that the present contrast of personal and impersonal is transcended and transformed into the transpersonal. If ultimate reality is not nothingness, but that All which we call God, death is not so much destruction as a metamorphosis: "vita mutatur, non tollitur," "life is changed, not ended," it is said in the preface of the Catholic requiem mass. It does not mean ending, still less perishing, but consummation; not a diminishing, but a fulfilling, infinite fulfillment.

(pp. 111-112, in Eternal Life? Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem, by Hans Kung, c1984)

To live in propinquity -- that is, to live nearness -- is the origin of community, hospitality, and openness. As in Sen Chiao-jan's poem our neighbor knows our whereabouts. We are on the mountain. We are on the earth.

While we love our independence, (good neighbors but good fences) -- we long for interdependence, (faces with smiles, gates that open).

In our stubbornness we sometimes choose to end what might only require change.

Largely because we are heirs to a Roman imperial culture that controlled the writing of history, we are inclined to read Rome’s story through rose-colored lenses. We tend to see the march of the Roman Empire as a civilizing work of human progress. … But what if Roman imperial power itself, not in decline but at the peak, was the real darkness? … [For an entire century before and an entire century after Jesus’ life, Rome was engaged in war against the Jews in Israel. Around the time of Jesus’ birth, according to] scholars Richard Horsley and Neil Asherman Silberman: "The Roman armies had swept through many of the towns and villages of the country, raping, killing, and destroying nearly everything in sight. In Galilee, all centers of rebellion were brutally suppressed; the rebel-held town of Sepphoris was burned to the ground, and all its surviving inhabitants were sold into slavery." Thousands of Jews were killed. Villages in Galilee were laid waste. In Jerusalem, where rebels had briefly taken charge, the Romans showed the lengths to which they were prepared to go to maintain control by swiftly executing anyone even suspected of collusion in the rebellion. … The Roman means of execution, of course, was crucifixion. … This means that just outside the wall of the Jewish capital, crosses were erected – not three lonely crosses on a hill, as in the tidy Christian imagination, but perhaps two thousand in close proximity. On each was hung a Jew, and each Jew was left to die over several days. … And once squeezed free of life, the corpses were left on their crosses to be eaten by buzzards. (from Constantine’s Sword, pgs. 79-80, 83, by James Carroll )

Empires and empire builders first destroy then rebuild in their image. The close proximity, (the propinquity), of crosses fastened with bodies of those resisting imperial power in ancient Galilee -- and the bodies ripped by steel and explosives in current day Iraq, Israel, and Palestine -- are reminders to watch with wariness and name with unblinking courage the behavior of those who kill, destroy, and appropriate for themselves that which is their neighbor's.

We've been asked, some say commanded, to allow our neighbor to be who, where, and when they are. This "suffering, permitting, and allowing" is the meaning of the Latin "patior," and extends to "experience, undergo, and endure."

It is not easy to suffer gladly the foolish behavior of men seeking and taking power unto themselves at the expense of authentic understanding of who is "neighbor." Time is running out. Perhaps going with it are jealously, miserly witholding, and fear of strangers. It is time.

Prayer sets aside time, getting lost in the reality of God.

Prayer sees God through life.

Staying near during this time.