Saturday, February 14, 2004

If we become what we love, and we see what we are, then, will we be able to say what we love?

This middle February seems laden with odd truths. And odder loves.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream -- a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought -- a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"
He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he had said was true.

(-- final lines, "The Mysterious Stranger," in Mark Twain's Best, Eight Short Stories by America's Master Humorist, c.1962)

Ask someone what they love -- if you dare. You are asking them to face a truth that is fraught with questions. And those questions, if also faced, are fraught with further questions. Further and deeper, deeper and further fraught-filled questions follow each enquiry.

Paco wondered yesterday in prison if the questions were worth asking. Ryan, Diane, Mike, Saskia, and I were also taken up into the question of grace at the Thin Place where one thing shines through another -- where revelation takes place in and through the most peculiar and often terrible metaphors found in prison.

How retain one's feeling humanity in the face of hateful, harmful experiences? How retrieve trust in an atmosphere of deceit? How believe in the integrity of the relationally-felt when so much fragmentation occurs in the numbing-distortions?

And there we sat.

With one another in the questions.

Don't be surprised,
Don't be startled;
All things will arrange
Don't cause a disturbance,
Don't exert pressure;
All things will clarify

- Huai-nan-tzu

If we become what we love, and we see what we are, then, will we be able to say what we love?

For a period of time -- in prison and in middle February oddities of love -- we sift through our dreams and questions.





Friday, February 13, 2004

Are we the story we tell about ourselves?

Vast and far-reaching
without boundary,
secluded and pure,
manifesting light,
this spirit is without
Its brightness does not
shine out but can be
called empty and
inherently radiant.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)

The thought comes, following Thursday Evening Conversation, that everything really is relational -- felt relational -- or we are adrift in a numbing sea of abstract ideas and calculated complaints (consciously, or more likely, unconsciously formulated) that separate us from each other; a separation, only seemingly real, made rigid by unfeeling judgmental mind.

Depression is not about pain. Depression is about the absence of pain, the absence of feeling.

Depression covers anxiety and fear like a fog. Once depressed, I was no longer anxious about my children. If I drank a cup of coffee, my mood was not enhanced; if I went to a party, I didn't feel better.

If I read poetry, my soul no longer blossomed as it had in the past. No feeling is what depression is about, and the condition created a barrier between me and my children, my husband, my friends.

Depression is not about pain: it's about everything gone away. ...

Women in each generation of my family endured lives of poverty; they passively suffered the births of many children, yet they knew there were other lives they could have lived. They were afraid to look. ....

At an early age I learned that things stand for other things. ...

I have had to look at my life. And I have escaped from madness by understanding transformation, how each thing transcends its own reality. I either go mad or I learn about metaphor.

(from "Thorazine Shuffle" by filmmaker Allie Light, in the book Out of Her Mind: Women Writing on Madness, ed. by Rebecca Shannonhouse)

Light's final three sentences are the map to relational feeling; to what is relationally felt.

Is 'what is' relationally felt?
Is 'God' what is touching and holding us together, each to each?

What story are we telling today?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Are we listening?

Suicide bombing in Iraq; 20 Iraqis killed. Next day, another suicide bombing in Iraq; 50 Iraqis killed. Calculations take place. On one side: can we start a civil war? On other side: how do we get out of this country.

Evening meditation,
Enfolded in mountains,
All thoughts of the
World of men dissolve.
Quietly sitting on my cattail cushion
Alone, I face the empty window.
Incense burns away
As the dark night deepens,
And my robe is a single fold
As white dew thickens.
Rising from deep meditation,
I stroll in the garden,
And the moon is already above the highest peak.

( - Ryokan)

Zen poet monk Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831) (nicknamed Great Fool) wrote of his life simply, wisely, and directly. He was no politician. He didn't have to explain his whereabouts during an awful war. He didn't have to justify every word and act over the past 30 years. Nor did he have to accumulate a hundred million dollars in order to get the one job that could distribute hundreds of billions of dollars around the world and at home to loyal friends.

I've made my choice for the upcoming presidential election. I want to come out early, once, and finally and be done with it.

I support no one for president. I recommend a council of the wise -- elderly and young -- to take on the conversation daily about how to live in this world with others toward mutual support, respect, and well-being. This council of the wise will know what to do -- they're wise. Whether they model after Native American Circles, or Canadian/British Parliamentary representation, I'm confident they'll find a system that is fair, representative of all Americans, and responsive to the needs of the whole globe.

No more fund-raising. No more advertisements as though candidates were underwear being sold. No more buying and selling of votes and influence so as to benefit and profit a few at the expense of and exclusion of others.

I have fallen to less useful diffidence.

Too confused to ever earn a living
I've learned to let things have their way.
With only three handfuls of rice in my bag
and a few branches by my fireside
I pursue neither right or wrong
and forget worldly fortune and fame.
This damp night under a grassy roof
I stretch out my legs without regrets.

(- Ryokan)

Tuesday Evening Conversation followed reading on 'Changing Karma' by Shunryu Suzuki.
In conversing it seems it is not a matter of right or wrong -- as though dualistic list-making and side-taking could remedy complex human difficulties. It is more the willingness to look hard and long at the difficulties and let arise from the core of the difficulty itself information necessary to move to the next step in the right direction. "Enjoy your life," Suzuki said, "and do not be fooled by things."

All karma is present at each moment. We might not even know what good or bad effects of good or bad causes are there in the moment, in the very next action we are about to perform. It is not necessary to know, to be able to predict or analyze outcome or payoff. What is necessary is to engage what is there and next there with attention and clear mind -- to do what is requested by the situation to be done -- without concern for the fruits of the action, without calculation of benefit or deficit following. A clear and selfless act records no karma.

The flame of attention both lights up and dissolves karma. Loving attention needs nothing other than itself.

In stubborn stupidity, I live on alone
befriended by trees and herbs.
Too lazy to learn right from wrong,
I laugh at myself, ignoring others.
Lifting my bony shanks, I cross the stream,
a sack in my hand, blessed by spring weather.
Living thus, I want for nothing,
at peace with all the world.

(- Ryokan)

There are many worlds, worlds beyond description. 'Universe' and even 'Multiverses' probably do not begin to reveal the worlds-within-worlds and the worlds-beyond-worlds gracing what we call existence or being. Each human being, each animal, each insect, each life-cell -- each a world unto itself that we find convenient to categorize into species and bio-animate clusters. Billions and trillions of worlds to the nth power reside side by side near and far. What would it mean for us to be "at peace with all the world"?

Your finger points to the moon,
but the finger is blind until the moon appears.
What connection has moon and finger?
Are they separate objects or bound?
This is a question for beginners
wrapped in seas of ignorance.
Yet one who looks beyond metaphor
knows there is no finger; there is no moon.

(- Ryokan)

Richard's contribution ended the final circle comments. In them, in that way he has, he called the other four of us 'novices' in our understanding. This I took as a great compliment. To be a beginner is just about where I suspect I am, we are, he she or it is -- if we are in the process of approaching and stepping into right understanding of life. Lloyd laughed. Saskia laughed. John laughed. I laughed. And Richard? -- he too laughed.

Winter dinghy, overturned with crusty snow atop blue covering tarp below birdfeeders and tucked underside Loon IV, bobs in sea of ignorance riding swelling stillness and solitude.

Ryokan has it: there is no ocean, there is no land.

There is just question -- and metaphor.

Ask, or don't ask -- still, one speaks through another.

Only listen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Tommy sits by fire. He tells of Sunday caucus. Maine turned out.

Flat Lake cold penetrates
Water-lily clothes
The mountain by the lake
Is neither right nor wrong
Dusty tracks all end
The world is far away.
White clouds and gulls
Have no hidden plans.

- Han-shan Te-ch'ing (1546-1623)

Tommy tells me to go back into solitude when I say I'd begun to feel sorry for Bush Sunday morning as he tried to present himself as a war president with war before his eyes everyday. A conservative columnist for the New York Times suggests Bush is living each day as though it were September 12, 2001. The nation has gone forward 880 days.

Tommy's for Kucinich. He'll be a state delegate.

Joanie comes in. She and Tommy debate whether he really was able to tell she wasn't wearing her leg brace anymore. She claims he couldn't tell. He said he could. It's like listening to the argument before the invasion into Iraq whether it was possible to prove there weren't any WMD. It's always hard to prove a negative. Tommy and Joanie go to opposite corners of the shop for a spell, then reach a truce. She asks him for a ride home when he leaves. He wonders if the step on his pickup is too high for her. If only Saddam had asked the same of Bush -- just give me a ride out of Iraq when it's time for me to go.

Richard comes in and Joanie tells the story of her fall, hit head, and broken elbow to him. He and Tommy talk football. They're still rolling about the Patriots win in the Super Bowl.

It's a hard emergence from solitude. Were I more gracious I'd emerge more easily.

On way to cabin this morning, crunching frozen snow. Dogs arrive. Saskia arrives.

No hidden plans.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Three days solitude.

Snow fell wet and slippery. Crusted with cold. Now softens with warmer light.

Cranes in the wilderness,
Lonely clouds,
Their destination is uncertain;
Where in this world
Am I to address my deepest thoughts?
Forest trees in serried ranks
Ascend the cliff walls.
Like a series of brush strokes,
Hills and peaks arrayed
Out to the horizon;
My mind brims with
Zen clear as water,
Old bones jut angularly
Thin as kindling;
Fame is nothing one can keep for long;
A hundred years of light and dark
Before we reach our end.

- Betsugen Enshi (1296 - 1364)

If I never again left this hermitage I'm not sure I'd miss anything beyond the gate.

"Since I have embarked on the wide ocean, and given full sails to the wind, I say there is nothing in the whole universe that persists. Everything flows, and is formed as a fleeting image. Time itself, also, glides, in its continual motion, no differently than a river. For neither the river, nor the swift hour can stop: but as wave impels wave, and as the prior wave is chased by the coming wave, and chases the one before, so time flees equally, and, equally, follows, and is always new. For what was before is left behind: and what was not comes to be: and each moment is renewed.
(--from Ovid, Bk XV:176-198 Pythagoras's Teachings: The Eternal Flux)

It is narrow corridor passing between simple accepting appreciation of everything, and indifferent allowing of everything to be what it is. While the former seems the more attractive attitude, given our penchant for positive engagement -- the latter seems to be a step back non-engaging mere viewing of what is there. They might not be any further apart than the middle lines running through their midst -- both horizontally and vertically.

"Son, thy sins are forgiven thee..." Jesus says to the paralytic lowered thru the roof in Mark 2:1-10. Some thought he blasphemed. Jesus told him to "...arise, take up thy pallet, and go to thy house." Jesus often was quoted using the words, "Go thy way."

What we call sin is personal. We feel its effects. We feel outside. We're unsure why. We don't know. We can't see clearly. Our movements are constrained. We feel there's no place to go. Life is suffering.

Sin, from another view, is the fact of existence not a thing in existence escapes. Whatever 'is' finds itself deeply rooted in the fact of existence -- suffering uncertainty.

If sin is taken away, do we then no longer suffer? Are we no longer uncertain? Is the central fact of existence dissolved? Are we indeed free? Are we no longer a felt fact suffering unknowing existence?

I don't know. I am a fact of unknowing existence. I am what some call sinner.

If Jesus takes away, or forgives, sin in individuals, or even the world -- what is taking place? Is there no longer sin? So far, even with the life of Jesus celebrated as the life of the Messiah, the one who takes away the sins of the world -- sin seems secure and well situated in the world. What, if anything, has changed?


Nothing has changed. But -- something has been added. That which has been added is awareness. Awareness has been introduced to complement ignorance. Unknowing existence is no longer simply blind, no longer simply paralyzed. It no longer simply follows the dictates of mind and emotions, rote and mechanical.

Awareness is the crossing line in existence.

Rather than increasing suffering, awareness sees suffering as it is. Rather than numbing us to the consequences of our actions and choices, awareness places us within the very fact of action and choice. Awareness takes away nothing -- awareness is not a thing. Rather, awareness shines light through nothingness, right through the center nothingness.

This is how awareness and sin coexist today -- one shines through the other -- and in that passage through, we are able to see, affirm, and release what light has illumined. Some might want more: the elimination of the experience of separation, or eradication of remorseful residue caused by hurtful acts or attitudes. It's something else I look to.

I want no amputation of human existence. I'd rather the light shining through human existence -- with its cruciform intersection illuminating and liberating -- pointing out from within the way before us.

Sins are for giving each one of us light to show us through this existence.

O happy fault! Light's Christing passage!

Light, like time, "... flees equally, and, equally, follows, and is always new. For what was before is left behind: and what was not comes to be: and each moment is renewed." (Ovid)

"Go thy way," Jesus tells them.

We assume they do.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Note: The bookshop/bakery is closed today, Sunday, and there will be no formal Sunday Evening Practice at the Hermitage.