Saturday, May 21, 2005

Let us mourn for murdered men and women in Middle East.

Thin Afghani taxi driver
ending harsh interrogation
in American chains
does not know
he is dead


In our prayer we pray for life.

In sorrow we watch it fade.

Will we awake and end war?

Do you know?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Red Cardinal fly away when I open door to let cat out.

To practice conversation means to engage what is presented; revealing and engaging a reciprocal presentation with words of one's own.

Cat hunkers below hanging feeder. Rain shower begins. Grass overgrows with sudden spring.

I'd prefer all life to find its way without taking away another's life. In fact, that preference is often my prayer. Sometimes I forget to pray.

Killings in Iraq, in Palestine, in Idaho, and in Maine -- converse with my heart.

As a protective armor around the quiet flame of the heart, prayer is the best defense in the face of such onslaughts. And it is more: it is a life-giving discipline that can bring us to our senses -- back to God -- when we have gone astray. It focuses us and directs us to the source of peace.

Personally I have found the discipline of prayer crucial to maintaining a sense of peace and order in my life. More than anything else it seems that prayer (or the absence of it) can decide the outcome of our day. As Bonhoeffer notes in his Letters and Papers from Prison, time we waste, temptations we yield to, laziness or lethargy in our work -- in general, any lack of discipline in our thoughts or in our interaction with others -- frequently have their root in our neglect of prayer.

Prayer need not be formal. For my wife and me, it is the natural way we begin and end our day together; we pray every morning when we get up, and every evening before we go to bed. Some may pray more often than that, others less. Some people pray on their knees; others use a prayer book. Some speak; some do not use words at all. Pastor Blumhardt was known to open his window each evening in order to say good night to God. As long as our prayer is genuine, and not just an empty rite, it does not matter how we go about it. The important thing is to make room for it, somewhere.

(LIVING ON A PRAYER, an excerpt from Johann Christoph Arnold's book "Seeking Peace")

Whenever I let the cat out I call out in prayer and inform the mountainside to stay alert. Danger is out among us. There is a chasm we have to cross -- prayer alerts us to remain authentic even in the face of threat and danger.

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber says that whenever we pray, we should cry out, imagining ourselves as hanging from a cliff by our hair, with a tempest raging around us so violently that we are sure we have only a few seconds left to be saved. Buber goes on, "And in truth there is no counsel, no refuge, and no peace for anyone save to lift up his eyes and his heart to God and to cry out to him. One should do this at all times, for a man is in great danger in the world." (Arnold)

In the world, and to the world.

I call out from my partially open door.

Stay alert! Please do not kill!

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.” (No wonder we prefer rabid religious revenge to the words of Jesus.)

If we are killed, (my prayer continues), let's go straight home!

(Mama Cardinal balances on wire for a pause above the chasm.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

We have to talk.

Whether the intuition of spirituality, or the investigation of intellectual inquiry -- there is need for conversant community to give ground and breath to the eccentric spaciousness of each one of us.

I let mind and body go
And gained a life of freedom
My old age is taking place
Among ten thousand peaks
I don't let white clouds
Leave the valley lightly
I escort the moon as far
As my closed gate.

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

Ground gives place to stand. Breath gives shape to inspiration and expiration.

Wisdom brings up her own sons,
and cares for those who seek her.
Whoever loves her loves life,
those who wait on her early will be filled with happiness.

(Ecclesiasticus 4:12ff)

From birth on we are thrown from the center of wherever we are; pushed out from boxes and confines into the open. Often we fear the open into which we emerge at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, or 70 -- causing us to try to re-insert into another box, another confine. If we can't say it, someone has to say it for us -- "No!" No further, no more, no bananas.

We shouldn't be where we shouldn't be. It is too easy to default to the known and familiar. Someone helped me once, saying (in effect) "get lost, drop dead, no way." Gratitude comes slowly.

Sometimes we're only a pause, a comma, in a longer conversation. But that miniscule hiatus contains all of the universe in its purpose.

We are each the getting out and the passing through -- the lapping of water from bowl, the level of it refashioning itself.

It is good to have been born.

Good to be here.

What say?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

God is what is God.

Break open
A cherry tree
And there are no flowers,
But the spring breeze
Brings forth a myriad of blossoms!

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

Splitting mauls cannot do what gentle breath can. Yet, "to serve the Lord" is to trust the opening breath of what is/God no matter where it takes the body.

My son, [my daughter], if you aspire to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Be sincere of heart, be steadfast,
and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Cling to him and do not leave him,
so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.
Whatever happens to you, accept it,
and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient,
since gold is tested in the fire,
and chosen men [and women] in the furnace of humiliation.

(Ecclesiasticus 2:1-4)

It is easier to be militantly opinionated about forcing God's will externally on others than it is to be quietly present as what is authentically real unfolds within us. I wonder if this difference isn't the one that most divides peoples into two: them that demand and impose, and them that invite and integrate.

The essential for hope is to be found in that critical minority of human beings who insist on being unrealistic, who for some still unknown set of reasons continue to argue that human beings are capable of the possibility of empathy, compassion, love and sensitivity even as cruelty, hostility, insensitivity and rationalized dishonesty now dominate. In the final analysis, only those courageous individuals provide the hope for the ultimate realism that is defined by the capacity of a society to survive rather than be destroyed on the altar of human barbarity .
(-- Kenneth B. Clark)
(Kenneth Clark, the psychologist and educator whose 1950 report showing the destructive effect of school segregation influenced the United States Supreme Court to hold school segregation to be unconstitutional. Clark died Sunday, 1May05. He was 90.)

Human barbarity never ceases to surprise. It excludes, fractures, factionalizes, segregates, quarters, and disembowels in the name of the false real, the cruel necessity, and the self-serving power. So much of the unloving and unkind is predicated on the lie, "I'm doing this for your own good," or, "Trust us, we know better than you what you need, and we'll get it for you."

Rather than attempting to replicate the untrue, the unloving, and the disembodied -- we need to invite, integrate, and embody what is most real. By turning and turning again to the true, loving, and whole -- we practice offering up to higher and wiser compassion what current human capacity is not willing or able to reach.

To give ourselves over to what is real is to rise above mere opinion or diminutive thought and ideology to a more difficult yet spacious realm. That realm is where we have attributed "God" -- the realm where humankind, in its best moments, longs to be. Without fear. Without greed. Without domination or suppression.

I do not yet concede as real that which pretends and postures as real in this world. The posturing pretence of politics, economic and military battles over resources, and petty grabs for power and control over others -- these "realities" of life in the world today strike me as closer to delusion and illusion than to what is real.

When Ecclesiasticus says, "prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes," I take note. I resolve to notice what is taking place. I will not venture to know nor try to guess what will take place between this moment and the moment when critical mass arrives. I suspect I will be surprised.

I expect to be surprised by reality. I invite it. I will try to integrate it. I hope to embody it.

After all...

God is what is God.

Monday, May 16, 2005

It's not funny.

I think the time for joking is over. It feels more that it is time to really worry. The prospect doesn't cheer me. Things are unraveling.

The Rycroft Memo; the torture and abuse of Muslims; the chaos of the war against Iraq; the fundamentalist Christian bias against any other belief or thought; the secrecy; the deceptions; the utter disdain for countervailing views.

It is growing more and more absurd to think that the behavior and ideology of this administration is some simplistic Republican/Democratic or conservative/liberal politics-as-usual. It begins to feel far more dangerous. More and more people in this country as well as abroad realize something is wrong.

Intellectuals -- genuine thinkers, not shills and spinners -- are ready to come out of the closet.

"There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be 'the man in the street.' Arguments must therefore be crude, clear and forcible, and appeal to emotions and instincts, not the intellect. Truth was unimportant and entirely subordinate to tactics and psychology." (--Joseph Goebbels)

Joe six-pack is putting down the beer and asking questions.

"The aide said that guys like me [i.e., reporters and commentators] were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"(--An unnamed "senior advisor" to President Bush made to a New York Times Magazine reporter last fall, 2004)

Nascar fans are wondering how they let themselves be used.

"Fool me once, shame on you ... fool me twice ...uhhh... you can’t get fooled again." (President Bush)

Even the president doesn't want to -- but is closer to saying, "Shame on me."

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas. (Governing Magazine 7/98)

"I told all four that there are going to be some times where we don't agree with each other, but that's OK. If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator," Bush joked. (--, December 18, 2000)

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it, " [Bush] said. (-- Business Week, July 30, 2001)

The attempt at humor, to down-home and downplay, upon further reflection, is no longer remotely funny.

The mountains stand unmoving
Just the way they are
All day they let the clouds
Roll out and roll back in
Even though red dust is
Countless layers deep
Not a single speck reaches
My thatched hut.

- Han-shan Te-ch’ing (1546-1623)

The specks of ambition, arrogance, and false words do reach us. There is no immunity. We will have to answer.

The wise man sees ahead,
the fool walks in the dark.

(from Ecclesiastes 2)

How much trouble are we in?

What do we see ahead?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

I'm glad it's Pentecost. The mere remembrance of it helps. It helps recall a time when spirit and truth were celebrated. These recollected gifts of the Holy Spirit are sorely missed today. A president who claims to follow his favorite philosopher, Jesus Christ, doesn't seem to have heard of spirit and truth. Maybe Jesus' philosophical lecture wasn't clear enough. Maybe authentic advocacy is an elective course for this president.

I prefer to let this president run his course then disappear into impermanence and irrelevance. There's no use standing under a collapsing building hoping to hold it up. This president has blown the explosives against pivotal pillars of stability and the collapse is spewing unbreathable dust and stench in every direction. Better to comfort the broken-hearted, bury the dead, and sweep clean the debris. Better to cultivate spirit and truth than try to eliminate lies and deceit.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
vouchsafe within our souls to rest;
come with thy grace and heavenly aid,
and fill the hearts which thou hast made.

(Words trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Ri­chard Mant, An­cient Hymns, 1837.)

Pentecost -- the celebration of Spirit and Truth arriving to guide and console those willing to engage the Christ Reality in this existence -- is more than a propriatory possession of the Church. It is a birthday celebration of Original Awareness come to be with everyone and everything open to receive and engage its presence. We've called Original Awareness, "God." The difficulty for us is that we've used the word "God" as a cudgel so long we've forgotten the reality behind the name.

No use fretting over gold, beauty or fame;
Nurturing these, how can we calm
Our fluttering heart?
Non attachment brings deep truth,
And a truthful nature brings immortality.
Empty your heart,
Sit quietly on a mat.
In meditation we become one with All;
Tao billows like the vapors
In a mountain valley,
And its supernatural power wafts into our soul.

- Loy Ching-Yuen (1873-1960)

Lately, a woman attending evening conversations has taken to saying over and over the word "meditation" as her encouraging suggestion for anyone longing to get beyond the surface inanity and daily insanity put forward by dreadful people trying to further numb and dumb the lot of us. Meditation, I suspect, for her, leads to a more profound seeing -- and, thereby, a less likely mindless, hopeless collapse.

Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. (from Romans 8)

Belonging to Christ is a theme worth meditation.

Avoid the users and abusers of Christ -- they are legion in these times. Instead, investigate Christ with whole mind and whole heart. Investigate what "neighbor" means. With this investigation, accompanied by quiet, even silent, meditation -- there is a possibility we may see.

Celebrate this birth.

Watch ardently.

Speak carefully.

Embody Christ.

Go your way.