Saturday, July 30, 2005

Perhaps the dead have an advantage. It is possible they see and are seen through in a way that the living cannot. The living continue to think they have something to hide, something to prove, and something they are not ready to see.


We make ourselves a place apart
Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
Till someone find us really out.

'Tis pity if the case require
(Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
At hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
Must speak and tell us where they are.

(Poem by Robert Frost)

So many of those alive cannot be seen. They hide behind opinions, history, roles, and fears.

Perhaps the dead have no opinions, exist only now, without a role to play, with nothing to fear.

We must reconsider death.

While alive, to pass through death every minute, until the space-between -- the passageway -- reveals the benefits of death in life.


Of passing through.

There is no place apart.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Where shall I wander? Tyler delivered envelope with proposed new rent for our shop at the harbour. It's not lower. (That, and the expectation monthly rent be exchanged in a timely manner -- imagine!) It puts John Ashbery's book and poem before mind.


We used to call it the boob tube,
but I guess they don't use tubes anymore.
Whatever, it serves a small purpose after waking
and before falling asleep. Today's news --
but is there such a thing as news,
or even oral history? Yes, when you want to go back
after a while and appraise the accumulation
of leaves, say in a sandbox.
The rest is rented depression,
available only in season
and the season is always next month,
a pure but troubled time.

That's why I don't go out much, though
staying at home never seemed much of an option.
And speaking of nutty concepts, surely "home"
is way up there on the list. I feel more certain about "now"
and "then," because they are close to me,
like lovers, though apparently not in love with me,
as I am with them. I like to call to them,
and sometimes they reply, out of the deep business of some dream.

(Poem: "Composition" by John Ashbery, from Where Shall I Wander)

I don't go out much. Except for daily to the shop, weekly for tutoring and Meetingbrook Conversations to the state prison, driving the distance of Maine with Saskia as she does audits, and the twice weekly trips to teach university courses in Thomaston or Warren. Aside from these forays -- as well as hikes around and across Ragged Mountain -- I don't go out much.

John Ashbery said, "I've always felt myself to be a rather frustrated composer who was trying to do with words what musicians are able to do with notes."

Like Ashbery, I've always felt myself to be a hermit wandering the edges of the monastery that is the world. It is like Fr. Theophane the Monk's work, Tales of a Magic Monastery. The tale I hear says world is monastery. That story is a template that experiences Benedictine, Franciscan, and Zen versions of hospitable listening, natural sanctity, and grounded seeing. We are monastics wandering cloistered passageways through the sanctity of everydayness.

Besides, where is there to go? We've heard it said that wherever we go, there we are.

Last evening's conversation followed the reading of Thich Nhat Hanh's 14 Precepts and the next chapter from Peace is Every Step, The River. We noted that interconnectedness and intimate compassion just might be the natural condition of contemporary humanity. We surmised that it might be extra work for us to attempt to detach and separate ourselves from innate and inchoate connection -- extra effort to forge a hiatus between what we consider to be our thinking commanding self and the feeling interpenetrating self we actually are.

Now and then we fall into what we are. That falling is gift. In that fall there is no escaping and no regretting what and who we are. It is liberating. There we are, right at the center of the universe. But not alone.

"each of us is at the center of the is everyone else." -- e.e. cummings

I wander where I am. Wonder has come to wander.

Don't look anywhere for me or for yourself.

Just wander about.



Monday, July 25, 2005

Walking mountain trail on Ragged is an extension of drive to Lincoln Maine, then Veazie to pick up Tunturi exercise bike advertised in Uncle Henry's, followed at dusk in dust cutting branches from roadside bushes and dooryard intrusions.

The wind blows through my tiny hermitage,
Not one thing is in the room.
Outside, a thousand cedars;
On the wall, several poems are written.
Now the kettle is covered with dust,
And no smoke rises from the rice steamer.
Who is pounding at my moonlit gate?
Only an old man from East Village.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

The fantastic story told by Brown's Da Vinci Code on History Channel is watched with chocolate ice cream.

I think about the icon and template of hermit.

The hermit is not one who lives alone without others.

The hermit is one who is with others when alone and alone when with others.

Undetached and intimately aloof, the hermit is the knitting of sacred silence with what-is-between one and all.

Taking in any knitting, dear?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

It is a fool's errand to prove a negative. But, what-is-real -- that's a horse of a different color.

Every thought is Buddha mind;
Buddha mind dwells on Buddha.
If you wish to accomplish this soon,
Be vigilant and disciplined
If you wish to seek Buddhahood,
Don't stain a single thing.
Though the nature of mind is empty,
Greed and hatred are real.

- Master Fu (497-569)

Journalists are asking "What did Bush know? And when did he know it?" Along with Frank Rich's op-ed piece in today's New York Times, "Eight Days in July" -- there are increasing signs it is time for reckoning.

We all remember Dorothy getting by the blustering doorman at the entrance to the Emerald City by the skin of her Ruby Slippers, and hailing a carriage drawn by a horse whose color keeps changing. "What kind of a horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before!" she exclaims. To which the cabbie replies, "No, and never will again, I fancy. There's only one of him, and he's it. He's the Horse of a Different Color you've heard tell about." The cabbie is referring to an expression used when you encounter something significantly different from what is expected--you say that it's a horse of a different (or another) color.

Two years ago the anguish of many at what was felt to be lies and distortions leading the United States into a reckless action in Iraq is now changing from anguish to cautious unveiling -- and accompanying sorrow -- that a willing people were misled by a willful administration into unnecessary war and repercussions worldwide..

It is passing curious, on a related plane, that I will be assigning the novel The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett for a course that will include convicted (or plead) men who might (or might not) have been liars, conspirators, or murderers. These men know the facts of their current condition -- they'll tell you -- they're in prison -- and they wish to learn more about what might have gotten them there, and how a life aided and abetted with knowledge and insight might help them in time to come.

I like these men. They are where they are and have to make some kind of peace with that reality. Some do; some don't. By and large, theirs is a time and place where the invitation to explore the facticity of their existence is an unusual opportunity. I've always considered learning, the practice of insight, and contemplative life of being-with-seeing to be an unusual invitation and opportunity.

I wish them well. So too, on a different plane, I wish the nation well. I wish the prosecutors, witnesses, those under suspicion, those hiding in plain sight, and those who actually believe they are exempt from ethical standards and the law -- well. I wish all of us well. As the poet Theodore Roethke wrote, "In a dark time the eye begins to see."

Truth, no matter what philosophers say, isn't a fragile thing. It might be hard to see, but it is what is -- the ground of any hope for human existence. It is very difficult to smash -- no matter how adept and powerful the blows against it. Lies, on the other hand, are fragile things, much easier to see (but harder to acknowledge because they cling close to our favorite idea we hold about ourselves), causing considerable sorrow, pain, and disconnection.

We watch our thoughts. We try to see Thought-Itself in the midst of thoughts and opinions.

Every thought is Buddha mind.

If we look.

Carefully enough.

We'll see.

What is, truly.