Saturday, April 09, 2005

"No one gives a toss," says a woman interviewed in England. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are wed. Hats and feathers stream into the blessing ceremony at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

From burial crypt in Italy to wedding ceremony in England -- the cycle of news attends the goings on of prominence and population.

Beyond a door I made but don't close
I glimpse strange birds fly past.
For a piece of jade you can own a whole cliff,
But gold won't buy a lifetime of freedom.
The sound of icy falls on dawnlit snowy ridges
A mountain horizon through leafless autumn woods
Mist clears from ancient cedars and days last forever
Right and wrong don't enter the clouds.

- Stone House

At Ragged Mountain it is spring. Cesco and I walk to brook. A few patches of snow remain. They'll recede today. Water tumbles cold sault under broken branch and fallen trunk along incline of brook.

I open door and window of meditation cabin, light incense, bow to four directions, straighten blankets on zabutons. Woodchip path is finally without snow and ice. It seems safe to welcome new season. Beginnings, however constant and repetitive, allure.

The First Green of Spring

Out walking in the swamp picking cowslip, marsh marigold,
this sweet first green of spring. Now sautéed in a pan melting
to a deeper green than ever they were alive, this green, this life,

harbinger of things to come. Now we sit at the table munching
on this message from the dawn which says we and the world
are alive again today, and this is the world's birthday. And

even though we know we are growing old, we are dying, we
will never be young again, we also know we're still right here
now, today, and, my oh my! don't these greens taste good.

(Poem by David Budbill)

It is always the fact of things. The fact presents itself and we face the fact. Fact first. Only then does what comes next follow. Follows feeling, follows interpretation, follows meaning. These things follow; fact comes first.

Fact is, these two marry. Fact is, Pope dies. Fact is war in Iraq takes place. Fact is fact. What we do during or following fact is the drama of human life attempting to make sense of following flow from fact.

Roman communion buries its sovereign Papa. Anglican communion blesses its combining royalty. Empty cabin lets in sun morning chill sweetening air.

Tallyho! Let the fox go free; let hounds return home to snooze. Let's get on with life. These things that take place between birth and death are passing details with duration. It is Life Itself we must remember. Life, we imagine, which precedes birth and follows death.

We greet one another as we journey through this sacred place.

"This is our pilgrimage of life," intones the final prayer.

Going on, we well-wish one another, one-in-all!

Friday, April 08, 2005

In Vatican City Pope is buried. Pomp in pageantry with liturgy in Latin. If prayer alone were price of ticket John Paul has passage paid for multiple trips to Father's house.

Few travel
The thousand li
To Heng-yang.
Far off, you follow
A lone cloud
Into blue mountain mists.
When spring grass covers the ground
With green, you'll come back
Through deep mountains
Where no road exists.

- Liu Chang-ch'ing (710-787)

We wish him well.

As he was being entombed and lowered in crypt we are in prison today giving talk to lifelong recovery group. The premise: Spirituality is conversation between solitude and community, conversation between Who am I? and Who are you?
Following that is class with Joe about the song of his life: wheel out of control, deep in a hole.
Finally with Ryan and Greg, schemas posted and erased about birth and death, life and love, eureka and involuntary control -- reading John Donne and Isaac Asimov.

While the ceremony of burial occupying princes of church and heads of state enacted in midst of magnificent architecture drifts into rerun, the ceremony of conversation behind razor wire and cement wall among men seeking their own way home disperses back to pod and cell.

Back at the shop, Joanie feels I need a hug because of the Pope's death and is undeterred. Lola asks if I was affected by the death of the Pope. I say no, not really. But that might not be the whole of it. He was a fine man. Maybe great. Calls for instant sainthood are made. But here in Maine, as a catholic who looks for more than ceremony and politics from the institutional representative of Christ, I watch for a more particular revelation to emerge from this celebration.

Christ incognito in hidden halls tucked far from ceremony or politics -- that's more desirable metaphor than the grand stage and magisterial eloquence that accompanies Papal office proclaiming reminder that its occupant is first among equals .

Closer to ground, Christians have a specific burden. The Logos of God, Center of Being, and Face of Christ will always necessarily have to be particular, present, and participatory in the ordinary occasion of life unfolding everywhere as it is and with everyone as they are. The everydayness of humility, service, hospitality, and long-suffering involved with attending one's own and other's unaware hurtful residency in dualistic judgmental elite and separating delusions of power, invincibility and control -- is a slog through muddy moments of why bother.

Each of us -- whether politician, pope, or prisoner -- is still confronted by Blake's words:
He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.
( --William Blake 1757-1827)

Being in prison is spiritual practice. As with any practice there are days bother seems worth it, and others when bother says don't.

Today, practicing with what is becoming of John Paul and twenty five prison inmates, is no bother.

A snickers bar helps.

The faces nail it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Now that it is spring,
ants make their way to kitchen --
dishes slant in sink.

Real haiku is the soul of poetry. Anything that is not actually present in one's heart is not haiku. The moon glows, flowers bloom, insects cry, water flows. There is no place we cannot find flowers or think of the moon. This is the essence of haiku. Go beyond the restrictions of your era, forget about purpose or meaning, separate yourself from historical limitations -- there you'll find the essence of true art, religion, and science.
(- Santôka Taneda - tr. John Stevens)

Change your mind and change
everything present and past --
the whole world still here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The retired psychologist said, "I am in love with solitude."

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
(-- Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Real solitude allows spiritual gift to be shared by everyone. That's how we know it is spiritual, not material, gift. Material gift is particular, localized, and finite. Spiritual gift is without barrier or boundary.

The elderly man is right about solitude.

Let it be over everything that breathes.

Love alone.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Attend to this.

There is nothing else like this.

"Muddy water becomes clear while flowing." (Santoka Taneda, 1882 - 1940)

What is beyond awareness?

Just this, and this.

And this.

See here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I find myself whispering his name.

Goethe wrote that: "Names are but Noise and Smoke, Obscuring Heavenly Light" (in Faust, I). Even so, heavenly light makes its own way through obscurity.

I've decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
(-- Martin Luther King Jr.)

It was 1968. I was studying philosophy in Washington DC when, on April 4th, Martin Luther King Jr. entered everywhere at once.

His doing so was too much for people. A tornado of grief, anger, and confusion swept DC and took away philosophy, replacing it, instead, with a susurrus of chaotic compassionate service.

No assassin really silences the sound of someone's truth-telling. No matter how surrounded and veiled with dissemblance, the center where truth dwells is an ever-present origin always coming to word.

You guard a spiritual thing: it isn't something you could make, and it isn't something you can describe. In this ground of ours, there is no Buddha, no nirvana, and no path to practice, no doctrine to actualize. The way is not within existence or nonexistence. What method would one then practice? This abundant light, wherever you are, in every situation, is itself the great way.
- Tan-hsia (739-824)

What was it happened? It wasn't that some conspirators, (or, if you wish, lone American-style gunman), were once again able to kill someone who threatened power with truth. It was the sudden quake of love released from containment that drove us crazy that week. This happens whenever form suddenly becomes emptiness. In 1968 it led us to reflect new brother and sisterhood. These 37 years his voice and words are what poetry would be if poem found itself reflected through every thing coming into its own.

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,
I come, my sweet,
to sing to you!
My heart rouses
thinking to bring you news
of something
that concerns you
and concerns many men. Look at
what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
despised poems.
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
Hear me out
for I too am concerned
and every man
who wants to die at peace in his bed

(from poem, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams )

I think we move too quickly to reach for meaning -- in poems and in life. We might wish to consider staying with confusion and shocking unknowing fact -- the immediate experience moment after moment lays before us. It is in the immediacy of revealing reality that news presents itself to us -- not yet filtered and packaged for a more subdued, civilized consumption.

It is prior to rational and reasoned response that the raw experience of revelation enters our psyches. Mostly we receive what custodians of truth and love parcel out in mealy ration to subdued and processed receptacles we once remember calling mind, we once remember feeling as heart.

Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
(-- Martin Luther King Jr.)

April 4th is a poem whose meaning eludes. I am left with thoughts of service along with feelings of shudder and sorrow.

Asphodel, in Greek poetry and mythology, are the flowers of Hades and the dead, sacred to Persephone.

The world under this world, and the world just off another dimension alongside this world -- through which so much passes without explanation or understanding -- at times parts veil and shows us something of a depth of thought and feeling we can only blankly stare, experience ourselves nearing nothingness, nearly shrugging off body and mind, as if afloat and without any sense of who once we were.

I cannot love assassination. I cannot hate assassins.

A Birthday Poem

Just past dawn, the sun stands
with its heavy red head
in a black stanchion of trees,
waiting for someone to come
with his bucket
for the foamy white light,
and then a long day in the pasture.
I too spend my days grazing,
feasting on every green moment
till darkness calls,
and with the others
I walk away into the night,
swinging the little tin bell
of my name.

(Poem by Ted Kooser)

I stand in the empty center of thought and love and whisper his name.

Something great wells up and through spirit.

This time, and in this form -- "Martin!"

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Mu-ge misses in attempt to jump to top of desk. Falls to floor. He retires to bed to re-think his dignity.

In tune with the moon and clouds twenty years
To find myself old is hard
Crows wait for food at the ledge
A monk returns with an empty bowl
Others drag surf for clams and shrimp
I swing a hoe in the mountains
When solomon-seal's gone, there's pine pollen
And a square inch free of care.

- Stonehouse

The cat goes on his way. He leaves desktop the chaos it is. Fog slips down mountain after long rainfall. Water empties itself into crevice and valley. On cushions four sit silently; on rug three stretch their four legs in silent laydown. Seven sentient beings taking time to be still as fog looks in window..

A woman quotes Trungpa Rinpoche saying, "Enlightenment is ego's greatest disappointment."

Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa writes :
I do not know who I am, what soul I have.
When I speak with sincerity, I do not know what sincerity I am speaking with. I am varyingly someone other than an "I" of whom I do not know if he exists (if he is those others).
I feel beliefs which I do not hold. I am ravished by passions I repudiate. My constant study of myself is constantly pointing out to me breaches of faith by my soul toward some character which perhaps I never had nor does it think I do have.
I feel multiple. I am like a room with innumerable fantastic mirrors that distort by false reflections one single pre-existing reality which is not there in any of them and is there in them all.
As the pantheist feels he is a tree[?] and even the blossom, I feel myself as different beings. I feel myself living alien lives, in me, incompletely, as though my soul shared in all human beings, incompletely, through a sum of non-"I"s synthesized in an afterthought "I."

Be plural like the universe!

(from "Toward Explaining Heteronymy," in The Poet's Work, 29 Masters of 20th Century Poetry On The Origins And Practice Of Their Art, edited by Reginald Gibbons)

We are different beings. A new form of spiritual practice emerges with community as teacher, teacher as learner, and learner as community.

One recalls W.C. Williams writing, "A new world/ is only a new mind./ And the mind and the poem/ are all apiece." Olson valued immensely what he spoke of as "mindedness." I would take his sense of one's "second birth," that coming into the world as fact of oneself, to be the possibility inherent, "that we are only/ as we find out we are."
("On Charles Olson"--by Robert Creeley, January 2000)

We sit, we converse, we write to find out.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

(from poem "Ars Poetica?" by Czeslaw Milosz)

We are not singular.

We are plural.

Empty bowls.