Thursday, January 20, 2005

Begin again? [The bookshop/bakery is closed today.]

Things are seldom how we think they are.

At Wednesday Evening Laura Soul Friend Conversation we read Rumi's "Moses and the Shepherd," and a piece from Julia Cameron about getting the God we understand.

In the course of the conversation Will M. said: "It is time to frame the future, not tear down the present."

My doctrine is to think the thought that is unthinkable, to practice the deed that is non-doing, to speak the speech that is inexpressible, and to be trained in the discipline that is beyond discipline. Those who understand this are near; those who are confused are far. The Way is beyond words and expressions, is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an inch, or miss it for a moment and we are far away from it.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters

In the poem/story Moses hears the shepherd praying and becomes upset with the prayer's earthy, simple, and folksy language.
Moses could stand it no longer.
"Who are you talking to?"

"The one who made us,
and made the earth and the sky."

"Don't talk about shoes
and socks with God! And what's this with your little
and feet" Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like
you're chatting with your uncles.
Only something that grows
needs milk. Only someone with feet needs shoes. Not

The shepherd goes off chastened and confused. Then Moses is forced to reconsider:
A sudden revelation
came then to Moses. God's voice:

You have separated
me from one of my own. Did you come as a Prophet to
or to sever?

I have given each being a separate and unique way
of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.
What seems wrong for you is right for him.
What is poisonous to one is honey to someone else.

Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
these mean nothing to me.

I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better
or worse than one another.

Isn't this a new frame for us to look into? Isn't it time to stop tearing down the efforts of others to open to God, and frame a future where God, the Open Itself, is allowed to be what God is, and not what we think God should be?

Moses finally caught up
with him.

"I was wrong. God has revealed to me
that there are no rules for worship.
Say whatever
and however your loving tells you to. Your sweet
is the truest devotion. Through you a whole world
is freed.

Loosen your tongue and don't worry what comes out,
It's all the light of the spirit."

The shepherd replied,

"Moses, Moses,
I've gone beyond even that.
You applied the whip and my horse shied and jumped
on itself. The divine nature of my human nature
came together.

Bless your scolding hand and your arm.
I can't say what has happened.

What I'm saying now
is not my real condition. It can't be said."

The shepherd grew quiet.

When you look in a mirror,
you see yourself, not the state of the mirror.
The flute player puts breath into the flute,
and who makes the music? Not the flute,
The flute player!

Whenever you speak praise
or thanksgiving to God, it's always like
this dear shepherd's simplicity.

When you eventually see
through the veils to how things really are,
you will keep saying again
and again,

"This is certainly not like
we thought it was!"

Today is a day of new beginnings. Every day, of course, is. But today we begin again to frame the future. Tearing down the present -- whether we are tearing down persons, religious or ethnic groups, regimes or nations, beliefs or ideas -- is cad's play. We must mature. We begin again today to explore and recreate a timeframe wherein many can live through their stories into the heartfelt reality of a place they can call home.

Those who understand this are near.

We open to them.

And we pray for them -- just as we pray for those who are far -- there are many of them.

Actually, we must near a difficult but liberating truth: There is no us and them. We are them. When we decide to deny them, to punish them, to exclude them, to make them suffer -- someone has to wake and remind those of us suffering a world tearing apart -- we are them.

Not one single penny should be paid into the delusion that we are not them

Rather, the entire glorious wealth of the world for one shining, seeing, soul the profound reality seeking the revelation of the Open Itself into the frame of our present dwelling.

We frame the future with loving hands.

It is simplicity --

Through you a whole world is freed.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Will God find us?

It is the feast of Antony, Abbot, founder of monasticism.

Something has existed
Before heaven and earth;
Shapeless and silent
In its origin,
Yet the master of
Every image and form,
It can never wither
With the passing of time.

-- Bankei (1622-1693)

As the country moves to permanent war footing with the world, is it time to personally retreat to peace dwelling with God?

Should we worry? A radio program from American Radio Works, the documentary arm of American Public Media is titled "No Place to Hide." It is about surveillance and loss of privacy. Information technologies monitor everyone. We are an American Surveillance Society. Both business interests and national security interests operate together to sell and secure the American soul. It is worth pondering whether we should worry.

It is enough to make those not wanting public scrutiny a bit squeamish. On the other hand, if there is an alternative, an address for safe dwelling, it might be called "transparency." We might wish to search it out and call it home. The fact is we are being watched both by merchant/governmental agencies and, for many, a more troubling entity. That entity is what many call God.

We suspect we should worry about civil and governmental surveillance. On the other hand, we don't think much about what used to be called an all-seeing God. When we do, it has the remnant petulance of a mind that worries peccadillo and indiscretion will be revealed and embarrass. (They are. And they do.) For politicians it is the stuff of blackmail and disgrace. For the rest of us it is evidence we are exactly what we are. And what are we? Watched!

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has shown me his wonderful kindness
within the fortified city.
In my terror, I said
"I am cut off from your sight";
but you heard the voice of my prayer
when I called to you.

(from Psalm 31)

Government, especially now the American government, watches us in the name of freedom and national security. The effect is we are co-opted. In a different, more metaphysical realm of consideration, the One-We-Call-God watches us in the name of a deeper, more real, and honest freedom. The effect of the OWCG watching is invitation. This invitation is not a co-option; it is a more subtle and discerning asking into co-operation. It leads to release from false freedom and illusory security. It moves toward an ultimate freedom. Ultimate freedom, it needs be said, often seems a vague and unrecognizable goal. So does God.

Frank Bianco asked Mac, a Trappist monk, about his life.
Monks want to give God more room in their lives, he said. The key, he continued, is self-sacrifice. It sets the stage for contemplation, which is nothing more than prayerful awareness of God's presence. A monk works at stripping himself of all that is passing, the obvious, things that satisfy the senses. The smallest sacrifice builds willpower. "Like they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. You need discipline. You need to learn to say no."
(p.12, Voices of Silence, Lives of the Trappists Today, by Frank Bianco, c.1991)

The 'no' we say need not be harsh and angry -- although often it is. The no can be quiet. This quiet no to false security, and the accompanying erroneous belief in 'more and more,' is a solemn acknowledgement of a deeper promise residing at the heart of our existence. That promise is morphic 'yes.' It is a yes that gives form to the new creation searching to be revealed in a tired, troubled, and turbulent world. It longs to be revealed with, in, and through us -- each of us.

"Merton once wrote," Mac said, " 'A monk is somebody who seeks God because he has been found by God.' You know when you've been found. Something tells you this is where you belong. That's what we mean when we say you're called to this life. God finds you."
(p.13, Bianco)

It is coming time to disappear.

Wordsworth named it "18."
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not -- Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

-- poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Not only is the world too much with us, we are becoming co-opted by the world, and forgetting co-operation with the Spirit of Truth.

St Antony, Abbot (251 - 356)
St Antony is the originator of the monastic life. He was born in Egypt: when his parents died, he listened to the words of the Gospel and gave all his belongings to the poor. He went out into the wilderness to begin a life of penitence, living in absolute poverty, praying, meditating, and supporting himself by manual work. He suffered many temptations, both physical and spiritual, but he overcame them. Disciples gathered round him, attracted by his wisdom, moderation, and holiness. He gave support to the victims of the persecutions of Diocletian, and helping St Athanasius in his fight against the Arians. He lived to be over a hundred years old, and died in 356.
The Gospels are full of wise sayings of Jesus that seem to be ignored, and one of the most poignant of these was in his meeting with that young man who asked over and over again, insistently, "What must I do to have eternal life?". When, in the end, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect he would have to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor, the young man went away, sorrowing; because he was very rich. What could be more of a waste than that? You tell someone what he has to do, and he is afraid to do it. And yet... 250 years later, St Antony hears the story, and does give away all that he has, and becomes the founder of monasticism. And then again, over 1,000 years later, St Francis of Assisi hears the story, and gives away his possessions (and some of his father's) and revolutionises Christianity again.
Not all the words that we speak are forgotten, even though we cannot see their effects ourselves. Let us pray that those unknown effects may always be good ones.


The effects of the 17th will lead us to the 18th.

Tomorrow is the 18th.

Find our hearts?

Help us hear.