Saturday, September 25, 2004

We are afraid of death because we believe we have been born.

The Mountains’ Friend

The broad arms of this dusty world
Hold few true friends.
One feels the pangs of loneliness, and see
How cold the autumn air becomes!
But no, behold your search is ended here,
For countless mountains,
Blue afar, and green ones near,
Remain your friends eternally.

- Jakushitsu Genko Zenji (1290–1368)

Countless eternity.

But while they were all marvelling at everything he did, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men”. But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
(Luke 9:43 - 45)

No understanding. Concealed from us. Unperceiving. Don't ask. Don't hear.

Georgiana said the doctor once gave her 8 years until death. Another doctor told her she was born. Jean, Pia, and Saskia spoke about death, near death, and nearing death just before they went for a sail. They returned alive.

Every utterance is a translation of the phrase, "I am alive."

Michael, reading W.B. Yeats without his glasses, read the line. "Surely some revolution is at hand!"

The dead surely are all about us. They sell death. They encourage death. They deny death. They ignore the deaths of others. And, they cultivate coma prelude to death by hypnotized posturing and posing, marketing a facsimile of life without breath, without spirit.

We are invited to attend these wakes.

Surely, some resurrection yawns!

By being awake.

Friday, September 24, 2004

If I see myself through -- atonement is near.

Because you grasp labels and slogans,
You are hindered by those labels and slogans,
Both those used in ordinary life and those
Considered sacred.
Thus they obstruct your perception
Of objective truth,
And you cannot understand clearly.

- Linji (d. 867)

It all depends on where the mind puts God. If "out there," then there's all the measuring, contrasting, judging, and favoring with which to contend. If "within it all" then issues like motivation, intent, common vision, and self-realization come to the fore.

I have seen the trouble, which God has given the sons of men to be exercised in it. He has made all things good in their time, and has delivered the world to their consideration, so that man cannot find out the work which God has made from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

It is hidden from us. No "there" there? Is "God" not all there? This is not easy to say.

And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:19)

Jesus asks. Peter hazards a guess. Who knows? Where does the mind put the "what" it thinks about?

It turns within me. You. Us.

Yom Kippur.

One at a turn.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

More authentic words are needed.

This war strangles and chokes with moribund explanation.

It is not enough to repeat over and over "Saddam," "Hates freedom," Evil doers."

We have to look closer to home, and ask why Americans are so disconnected from war and so lulled by rhetoric.

What I call perfection of seeing
Is not seeing others
But oneself

- Chuang-tzu (3rd cent BC)

Is that it? Do we not see ourselves? Not see our indifference to death in Iraq and Afghanistan? Ours and theirs? Not feel the awfulness of the carnage and chaos there. How can this be? Are we missing something? Is war merely a matter of words and distance to us?

Something deeply shameful has us in its grip. We carefully nurture a spirit of detachment toward the wars we pay for. But that means we cloak ourselves in cold indifference to the unnecessary suffering of others -- even when we cause it. We don't look at any of this directly because the consequent guilt would violate our sense of ourselves as nice people. Meaning no harm, how could we inflict such harm?

In this political season, the momentous issue of American-sponsored death is an inch below the surface, not quite hidden -- making the election a matter of transcendent importance. George W. Bush is proud of the disgraceful history that has paralyzed the national conscience on the question of war. He does not recognize it for what it is -- an American Tragedy. The American tragedy. John Kerry, by contrast, is attuned to the ethical complexity of this war narrative. We see that reflected in the complexity not only of his responses, but of his character -- and no wonder it puts people off. Kerry's problem, so far unresolved, is how to tell us what we cannot bear to know about ourselves. How to tell us the truth of our great moral squandering. The truth of what we are doing today in Iraq.

(Published on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 by the Boston Globe, from
Why Americans Back the War , by James Carroll)

We will not hear the truth of the absurd and awful death-fest in Iraq until something turns in our psyche and soul.

These are days to turn around.

Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

(Poem by Anna Akhmatova)

By becoming salt will we return to earth to preserve a flickering remnant of nameless Name and groundless Ground?

By choosing to turn, not seeing others, but oneself.

Words like "decency," "truthfulness," and "humility."

Maybe, even...


Sunday, September 19, 2004


War is terrible. Worse.

War is all that we believe God is not. War is hateful, destructive, and cruel.

This war against Iraq is deadly reminder we as a people might have no sense of what God is or that God is.

Why are Iraqis, Americans, and others dying in warfare? We are confused.

Why are the nations in a ferment? Why do the people make their vain plans?
The kings of the earth have risen up; the leaders have united against the Lord, against his anointed.
Let us break their chains, that bind us; let us throw off their yoke from our shoulders!
The Lord laughs at them, he who lives in the heavens derides them.
Then he speaks to them in his anger; in his fury he throws them into confusion:

(Psalm 2)

The reasons for invasion, insurgency, and mutilating suffering have been given again and again, neither satisfying nor instilling confidence. The rhetoric, like the terrible destruction to life and limb, is disturbing and ugly. Something uncertain is happening in and to this country

Both the cynic and fundamentalist alike await a catastrophe that will either put America in its place or prove Armageddon. To both, God is fiction. To both, truth is fabrication.

It is tiresome to listen to mistruth. Still we continue to listen for forthright words. It is equally unpleasant to hear "lies" levied against opposing views. Worst of all is the suspicion that a "game" is being played -- a game of 'message, attack, deny and destroy messenger.' This game is so finely hewn in playbooks of professional dissemblers that so-called 'ordinary citizens' are baffled pawns of traceless deceptions that they, in turn, take up with hearty endorsement, without awareness they are doing so.

Not Moving Even One Step

The rain falling too lightly to shape
an audible house, an audible tree,
blind, soaking, the old horse waits in his pasture.

He knows the field for exactly what it is:
his limitless mare, his beloved.
Even the mallards sleep in her red body maned
in thistles, hooved in the new green shallows of spring.

Slow rain streams from the fetlocks, hips, the lowered head,
while she stands in the place beside him that no one sees.

The muzzles almost touch.
How silently the heart pivots on its hinge.

(Poem: "Not Moving Even One Step" by Jane Hirshfield, from The Lives of the Heart , 1997.)

Standing near those who suffer this blind war is an old God weary with human anger, heart opening to cries of pain and anguish. On this field each comes close without touching, listens for faint sound, looks through memory of obscure forms for any recognizable, reassuring movement.

Till now you seriously considered yourself to be the body and to have a form. That is the primal ignorance which is the root cause of all trouble.
(- Ramana Maharshi, 1879-1950)

I cannot tell you how odd it feels to be in that field.

With what is.