Saturday, March 19, 2005

I would like to applaud the United States' effort to keep the Florida woman alive.

Now, if only they felt similarly about not killing women, children, and men in Iraq and Afghanistan -- some real revelation would be at hand.

We can hope and pray for those this nation kills; and those it demands stay alive.

Politics and morality are such difficult choices.

Let's give up both.

Consider, instead, this.

What does paramita mean?
It is an Indian word and means in
Chinese "reaching the other shore."
It is interpreted as freedom from birth
And death.
Attachment to externals produces
Birth and death,
Just as water rises in waves;
This is called "this shore."
Detachment from externals
Ensures freedom from birth and death,
Like water which flows freely
And uninterruptedly;
This is called the "other shore."

- Altar Sutra

Choose neither birth nor death

Practice no-choice.

Near other shore.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Irish celebrate St. Patrick's Day. He lived during 4th/5th century.

We are all born mad. Some remain so. (-- Samuel Beckett, in Waiting for Godot)

My family on 69th street loved celebrating this day. They've gone to the invisible. They drank a beer or two, boiled corned beef, tolerated cabbage, told stories, and shook their heads at lies heard. Lies are what we tell when threatened by the truth. I've told plenty. Some lies were longer and more hurtful than others. I, then and now, dislike lies. Whether or not forgiveness enters the equation, we are desolate liars. Who are "we"? -- someone will ask. That person, asking, is a liar.

Saying is inventing. Wrong, very rightly wrong. You invent nothing, you think you are inventing, you think you are escaping, and all you do is stammer out your lesson, the remnants of a pensum one day got by heart and long forgotten, life without tears, as it is wept.
(Beckett in Molloy, Part I)

I believe him, I know it's my only chance to -- my only chance, I believe all I'm told, I've disbelieved only too much in my long life, now I swallow everything, greedily. What I need now is stories, it took me a long time to know that, and I'm not sure of it.
(Molloy, Part I, major prose narratives, 1951)

I fancy madness in the way poet Theodore Roethke does. He asks:
What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance?

(from poem "In a Dark Time")

The circumstance of contemporary culture in the world is maddening. Perhaps it is a good thing. Maybe as we move to what some call transparency we will more easily be able to see what we couldn't before -- namely, the wall of deceit and falsity created by those who benefit by deceit and falsity. Moving to transparency means passing through cutting shards hanging where wall disintegrates.

I like Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). I grew up with his absurd take on things and life. The way he describes those who don't think as I do:
His plan therefore was not to refuse admission to the idea, but to keep it at bay until his mind was ready to receive it. Then let it in and pulverise it. Obliterate the bastard.
(in More Pricks Than Kicks)

Say what you will, you can't keep a dead mind down.
(in More Pricks Than Kicks
(The volume More Pricks Than Kicks (1934) contained 10 stories describing episodes in the life of a Dublin intellectual, Belacqua Shuah)

I note that Patrick of Ireland suffered what has become an American tactic.
The defining event of Patrick's life was his abduction. Ripped from a comfortable upbringing and forced into servitude, Patrick never recovered from the trauma. Upon his return to Britain many of his friends had gone on to fine educations and prominence whereas Patrick, an outsider as a slave in Ireland, became an outsider in his home society. To his dismay, Patrick was neither a great orator nor did he have a facility with the written word. He wrote late in life "that is why I am now ashamed and am seriously afraid of revealing my unskilfulness, the fact that I cannot hold forth in speech to cultivated people in exact language." As an older man he still regarded himself as a "poor ignorant orphan" and an "exile and refugee" who was "very little educated". After returning as Bishop to the land that had once considered him a slave, he never left again, becoming more closely identified with the Irish people than the British.

As a man, Patrick was devastated by captivity. In his years of slavery he developed a deep faith and sense of conviction in his God which provided him tremendous missionary zeal. Perhaps finding more acceptance among the society of his captors, Patrick dedicated his life's energy to the Irish christian mission and he died there around 460 A.D. with no ordained successor.
As a saint, Patrick is larger than life for those who need him to be. Perhaps this March 17 we can forgo the green beer and the snake charming and remember just the man who overcame great odds to carry out his life's work on the beautiful and cruel island of Eire.
(in SAINT PATRICK The man and the myth -- by C. Austin)

In our country we learn how to get along. We worry that what we say will be taken by the government as oppositional, and thereby, dangerous.
If I have said anything to the contrary I was mistaken. If I say anything to the contrary again I shall be mistaken again. Unless I am mistaken now. Into the dossier with it in any case, in support of whatever thesis you fancy.
(in The Unnamable, L'Innommable,1953)

I watched last night Frank McCourt's visit back to Limerick Ireland where he grew up after moving there from Brooklyn. He's amazed how prosperous and happy everyone seems to be. He'd been poor and miserable. The Irish have a curious relationship with hope.
Better hope deferred than none. Up to a point. Till the heart starts to sicken. Company too up to a point. Better a sick heart than none. Till it starts to break. So speaking of himself he concludes for the time being. For the time being leave it at that.
(in Company, composed between May 1977 and August 1979, is a Beckett lengthy prose fiction)

So much of contemporary history is bald-face lie. Or is it better called farce?
I say farce deliberately, in the hope of covering up for you. That's what our best authors do, they call their most serious works farces, in case no one is prepared to take them seriously.
(Beckett in Eleuthéria)

It is difficult to read the farce of political governance these days. But we might wish to learn how to read through and beyond the words. It might affect our sanity.

And when we become mad, or return to madness, we might find our house empty and friends departed.

Once, we believed we had friends in reporters and journalists -- surely they would tell the truth, investigate through the deception, and champion justice.
...when it comes to those bastards of journalists, I feel the only line is to refuse to be involved in exegesis of any kind. That's for those bastards of critics.
(Beckett, in Letter to Alan Schneider, 1957)

It is a good day to be Irish. So much blather and blarney!

If I was dead, I wouldn't know I was dead. That's the only thing I have against death. I want to enjoy my death. That's where liberty lies: to see oneself dead.

There's something resonant here with what Ken Wilber said about ego. He said that a good definition of the ego is "The capacity in us to deny the obvious."

Death of the ego, therefore, might result in seeing and engaging the obvious.

There are probably at least two sources for the snakes which Patrick "drove" out of Ireland. A symbol for the goddess worship practiced in Ireland prior to Christianity was the snake or serpent. The conversion of Ireland to Christianity symbolically banished the "snake" from the land. Secondly, the bloody cult of Crom Cruaich in County Caven demanded human sacrifice to a serpent deity and the dismantling of this cult by Christianity is now remembered as the "snakes being driven from Ireland."
(From SAINT PATRICK The man and the myth -- by C. Austin)

Snakes abound in this country. We'd better pray to Patrick.

To drive them out.

Take their green.


Remain mad.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Cat is crazed. It's only energy. It will subside. Everything subsides. But while here, it is a fullness unto itself.

At a place deep
In green trees,
A lamp’s light
Burns long.
Spring pilgrims
Make their way to the temple;
Blossoms fall
At a monk’s closed gate.
In the mind, the ten
Thousand doctrines are still;
A clear, lone spring
Purls over rocks.
We do not ask
About our lives, our work,
And the silence between us
We keep.

- Ch’i- Chi (864-937)

This late winter has been one of depleted energy poured into demands of work and time. Nature's explosions of winter weather have diverted energy to plow and shovel. In the realm of what used to be called "news" -- now "crazed events" -- are reported regularly as judicial murders, political wars, propaganda posing as news, assassinations, silent coup d'etats that have shifted power without fanfare, and the ongoing collapse of systems by corrupt swindlers rewarded for their chicanery. It is nearly too much to take in -- not the superfluity of data -- but the brazen subterfuge and moral erosion that despoils contemporary polity and culture. It is a cynic's breeding ground; but most of us do not recognize that the instant of conception is the beginning of cynicism's slow gestation intent on corrupting life.

As Holy Week in the Christian metaphor approaches, it is useful to remember the Philippian ancient formula. It warns us about false equations attempting to yield false yet absolute answers. Jesus would have no part in establishing arrogant and despotic power -- certainly not the way contemporary men attempt to shill and spin their actions as those of Jesus and God -- that perennial lie of power by delegation and association with divine ordination so loved by today's politician/pundit/lobbyist impostors. Which of them would empty themselves?

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the
form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on
a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the
name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and
every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
(Philippians 2:6-11)

As you see, it's been a long, hard winter. But -- a more dangerous time is approaching. The process promising end or emergence from a dark time portends its own danger. Like coming up from ocean depth, a slow ascent must be made. Coming from a dark cave, a gradual introduction to light is necessary. Sanity is a careful step-by-step reconstruction of integrity from the dregs of despair and disintegration. This dangerous time occurs as snow melts, sun warms, and people begin to believe things haven't been as bad as they actually have been. Longing to believe is stronger than skepticism and careful scrutiny.

Something has gone away. Something is lost.

To N, in absentia

I do not know how you went out of my life
or when exactly. The leaves of the Norway maple
are beginning to turn yellow, fall has come.
I last saw you on an evening at the end of July
but I think you were already gone then,
I think by then you had been gone for a long time.

And so it seems meaningless to count the days
yet still I count them, August, September,
October now half over, terrible days,
And I do not know where you are
or when I may have news of you again.
But I remember as if yesterday the day
you came out of my body into this world,
a fine splash in full midsummer, a small cry
like the meow of a Siamese cat,
your eyes wide open and looking all around;
remember how in the early hours of that morning,
before you arrived, I heard pass down our street
(as I had heard each morning that summer
of my thirtieth year) the clopping sound
of a lone horse pulling a calèche,
his sleepy driver bound for the road
that climbs Mount Royal's slope.

No one can take away that morning
or the exactness of its place in time.
I go there often.
I visit it like a temple.

(Poem by Robyn Sarah, from A Day's Grace.)

As a nation, the United States must confront diminishment of the very thing it says it is exporting to the Middle East: freedom and sanity; truthful expression and vox populi (voice of the people); credibility and justice.

It is dangerous to believe the feel-good exhortation to simply trust your betters -- an invitation issued by those wanting you to believe that they are your betters. It is also dangerous to unconsciously follow the hypnotic decals of folded ribbons pasted on cars; clucking commentators telling you that "we are right and they are wrong"; servile ministers, clergy, and preachers suggesting that God somehow has decided a hit-list for murders and executions and we must bow down to God's political will.

It is not only the cat that is crazed. I'm there too. But feeling crazed is no negation of the fact that what crazes us is itself crazy.

I less and less like the world men are making in their own greed-crazed image.

I'm inclined to love the world that God suffuses with God's authentic reality. ("God," that is, what used to be called God when God belonged only to God and humans hadn't concieved the skills of advertisement, public relations, and persuasion). The word, name, and notion "God" has itself been stolen from its sanctuary, reconstituted, and re-introduced into the marketplace as a
modifier of ambition and insincere self-importance. This ersatz God suffers greed in the forms of government, media, sports, corporate profiteers, corrupt law enforcement, and imprecations to trust, trust, trust.

A more radical consciousness is called for in order to save, to retrieve from desolation, our true nature.
#36. My God struggles on without certainty. Will he conquer? Will he be conquered? Nothing in the Universe is certain. He flings himself into uncertainty; he gambles all his destiny at every moment.
#37. He clings to warm bodies; he has no other bulwark. He shouts for help; he proclaims mobilization throughout the Universe.
#38. It is our duty, on hearing his Cry, to run under his flag, to fight by his side, to be lost or to be saved with him.
#39. God is imperiled. He is not almighty, that we may cross our hands, waiting for certain victory. He is not all-holy, that we may wait trustingly for him to pity and to save us.
#40. Within the province of our ephemeral flesh all of God is imperiled. He cannot be saved unless we save him with our own struggles; nor can we be saved unless he is saved.
#41. We are one. From the blind worm in the depths of the ocean to the endless arena of the Galaxy, only one person struggles and is imperiled: You. And within your small and earthen breast only one thing struggles and is imperiled: the Universe.

(from THE ACTION, The Relationship Between God and Man, in THE SAVIORS OF GOD, SPIRITUAL EXERCISES, by Nikos Kazantzakis, Translated by Kimon Friar)

Are we up for it?

Do not believe those-who-pretend-God.

Enter true relationship.

Make this our meditation.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Someone writes, asking: "Forgetfulness of 'What'? That is the question. Can you answer this?"

The German word "Seinsvergessenheit" means "forgetfulness of being."

One of the most serious charges that Heidegger leveled against the entire history of Western philosophy is Seinsvergessenheit or the oblivion of Being. This oblivion of Being is very evident in the philosophical field called metaphysics. It is rather quite paradoxical that metaphysics whose subject matter is Being can be forgetful of Being. However, according to Heidegger, it is precisely because Western metaphysics is concerned with the difference between Being and beings that metaphysics has forgotten that which grants the difference. It is the dif-ference that grants the difference between Being and beings that Heidegger says is and should be the concern of thought. In Heidegger's reckoning only the Pre-Socratics came close to thinking about this dif-ference and after them the entire history of Western philosophy has not thought about this dif-ference.

(from The Oblivion of Being: An Overview of Metaphysics and Mysticism in Aquinas, Eckhart and Heidegger, by Ernesto A. Lapitan Jr., O.P.)

Mu-ge the cat tears at papers under boots next to woodstove. Sando sleeps on daybed. Britta (visiting German Shepherd) lays down behind my chair as the tearing begins. Cesco is in middle room in front of last night's cooled ashes. David Steindl-Rast converses with Ken Wilber about "Evolutionary Panentheism: A Godview for Today's World."

The fire in woodstove is slow to take hold. So too is a Godview that empowers. One's "ultimate concern" is one's Godview.

If people want to do the finest thing in the world, nothing compares to learning. If they want to be the best of learners, nothing compares to learning the Way. Master Zhu said, “Learning is for seeking the Way; what is the use of learning otherwise?”
- Anon

What have we forgotten? Heidegger says "Being." What is Being? (A fine tautological question!) Being is what is holding us as we ask the question. Being is what is, as it is.

I might not always like what is. That is part of my argument with God and my argument with myself. I want "what is" not to be all of what is, but an edited and tidied version of the whole picture.

A woman and son stop by for tea and playtime with dogs. The boy and dogs play hard outside and in with snow and tennis balls. She and I talk about her mother who receives hospice care, and her father recovering from heart attack. She tries to make sense of all the confusion -- long trips to their residence several states away, medical information, wanting mom to speak more about the critical brevity of time remaining, seeking solace and companionship in the process.

It is the relationship that counts. Not the words, not the neat schedule, not even settling on a location for care. It is the relationship between daughter and parents at this time, during the confusion, in the face of uncertain outcomes -- the relationship, the being-there through this time that matters most. Everything else is whiskbroom sweeping up details.

Rabbi Marc Gafni, talking with Ken Wilber, speaks of being "on the inside of God's face" and "fullness of presence," "participating in the yearning force of being," and "the experience of interconnectivity, the all in the all." He calls this The Erotic Essence of Existence.

This inner yearning fullness experience -- this, I submit, is remembrance of Being.

Mothers, fathers, lovers, and children -- all in all -- are the "What?" that forgetfulness tries to erase from eros and awareness.

We are meant to live inside Being, an erotic inner life that realizes the relationship of each to each as it is occurring.

The woman and boy have gone. Mu-ge sleeps on my lap; Sando on bed, Britta on floor to my left; Cesco on rug behind chair. The energetic boy has worn them out.

John Macquarrie, Mystical Theologian, has said that God is Reality.

Remember this. This is the lovely face of God. We dwell therein.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Silent sitting in cabin tonight was silent and still. Four of us. Sitting, walking, chanting. Bell chant at end.

Walking snow path to house, collecting lanterns, hanging them on beam in barn.

Reading Thich Nhat Hanh and Ayya Khema. Nhat Hanh writes:
To shed light on all things? This is the point of departure. If I live without mindfulness, in forgetfulness, I am, as Albert Camus says in his novel The Stranger, living "like a dead person." The ancient Zen masters used to say, "If we live in forgetfulness, we die in a dream." (--in "Necessary Awareness")

Ayya Khema writes:
The emotional aspect of ourselves is of such great importance that its purification is the basis for a harmonious and peaceful life, and also for good meditation.

(--in "Heart Essence")
Our thinking, she says, is dependent on our feelings.

Soup and bread with ten minute silence. Then we talk.

What we say is about our practice. Personal, public, practice.

Each time I go upstairs or come down stairs I bow in the direction of front window altar.

Bowing to that which is within, I make the bow exterior.

In this way, in each bow, nothing is forgotten.