Saturday, August 13, 2005

We have to leave home. Home is where old familiar patterns of thinking and behavior hold us fixed.

Wherever and whenever
The mind is found
Attached to anything,
Make haste to detach
Yourself from it.
When you tarry for
Any length of time
It will turn again into
Your old home town.

- Daito Kokushi

The young man 15 years ago who borrowed my book about the old home town died that year of a drug overdose before he could give back the book. He could have kept it and read it again and again. But he went for something quicker.

Losing ego is often slow and undramatic. The suicide of ego by too much too pure a substance taken into body has high drama.

Michael tried and often succeeded in making people laugh. Tonight, watching Stephen Walker on C-Span book conversation talk about his new book Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima , I think of Michael, the Zen book, and Hiroshima. The combination stifles laughter.

I didn't laugh in 1945. I didn't laugh in 1990. The deaths were not funny.

The Zen book, on the other hand, was very funny. It pointed out how hilarious we really are.

Not really hilarious -- we're odd.

We know prayer, and don't.

Not yet.



Friday, August 12, 2005

I've been thinking about Iraq. It is a shame.

George W. Bush has no strategy, no real plan, for winning the war in Iraq. So we're stuck in a murderous quagmire without even the suggestion of an end in sight.

The administration has never been straight with the public about the war, and there's no reason to believe it will start being honest now. There is a desperate need for a serious national conversation about alternatives to the Bush approach in Iraq, which is tantamount to a permanent American military presence in that country.

The president, ensconced in a long vacation, exemplifies the vacuum of leadership on this crucial issue, which demands nothing less than the sustained attention of the wisest men and women the U.S. has to offer. They could be politicians, academics, civic or religious leaders, corporate executives - whoever. The longer they remain on the sidelines, the longer the carnage in Iraq will continue.

(--from: "No End in Sight in Iraq," By Bob Herbert, Published: August 10, 2005, N.Y.Times)

When R.D.Laing, in his Politics of Experience, wrote about the distinction between being "out of formation" versus "off course" he gave shape to the current situation. Mr. Bush and his administration's policies are (in general, in my opinion) off course.

Off course, and heading for a greater disaster than already occurring. It no longer matters that the nation was deceived in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq; what matters is to cut off the deception as it hurdles to a more profound destruction. It doesn't matter that some think Mr. Bush's intentions and motivations are not honorable; what matters is to cut off unworthy foolhardiness from extending any further. It doesn't matter that some are only now figuring out that neo-con stated and written strategy to redo the Middle East was in fact a plan of attack; what matters is the necessity of stopping these people from carrying out their brazen and irresponsible behavior in the name of American democracy.

I'd rather we simply relieve them of their office -- put them out to retirement to spend their war profits away from the sight of our children.

There is no honor perpetuating shame by continuing off course just because you are already off course.

Psychiatrist R.D. Laing wrote about schizophrenia in a way that might have relevance for the no place to go, no move to make check-mate position we find ourselves in when looking at the bizarre behavior of this administration and experiencing wild bewilderment at it:
"It is the fact that man does not experience himself as the active bearer if his own powers and richness, but as an impoverished "thing", dependent on powers outside if himself, onto whom he has projected his living substance."

The validity of a definition is ultimately determined by the identity of the one who is defining. It is in this context that Laing argues: "There is no such 'condition' as 'schizophrenia,' but the label is a social fact and the social fact a political event." Seen from this radical perspective, all our definitions may have to be turned upside down and inside out. "What we call 'normal' is", according to Laing "a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience.... It is radically estranged from the structure of being." No wonder, then, that "the condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one's mind, is the condition of the normal man." On the other hand schizophrenia may be seen as an alienation from this alienation, where, "even through his profound wretchedness and disintegration", the patient may be "the heirophant of the sacred". Finally, "madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death."

(from "R.D. Laing:The Politics of the Mind," by Peter Levine;

We've got to get out of this place!

Someone has to wake up.

We must befriend Being.

Endgame, anyone?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Even Clare of Assisi, whose feast is celebrated today, confronted the powers that took lives and threatened the well-being of innocent people.

Clare loved music and well-composed sermons. She was humble, merciful, charming, optimistic, and chivalrous. She would get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who'd kicked off their covers. She daily meditated on the Passion. When she learned of the Franciscan martyrs in Morocco in 1221, she tried to go there to give her own life for God, but was restrained. Once when her convent was about to be attacked, she displayed the Sacrament in a monstrance at the convent gates, and prayed before it; the attackers left. (CLARE of Assisi,

Today the living theater of peace and justice is still active. A mother whose son died in Iraq waits to speak with the man who sent him there. She camps out down the road from the ranch of George W. Bush in Crawford Texas.

It is an important conversation she wants to have with the politician and commander in chief. She wants to further explore the thinking and intent that sent her son to die. It is necessary for her and Mr. Bush to explore her son Casey's whole life -- and George Bush's whole life.
"When a man dies, it's not only of his disease; he dies of his whole life." (-Charles Peguy)

Dear Cindy Sheehan,
In the morning we silently sit in our meditation cabin, then chant morning prayer.
You are in our silence and our prayer. As is your son.

Thank you for presenting yourself, You inspire us with hope.
We wish you well in your vigil. Stay as long as your heart allows.

Then return home, at peace.
With our gratitude,

Bill and Saskia
Meetingbrook Hermitage
Camden, Maine

Sheehan writes from Crawford:
We are working for peace with justice. We are using peaceful means and the truth to do it. I guess the truth frightens people. It frightens them so much, they have to resort to telling lies to rebut my arguments.
The Peaceful Occupation of Crawford (Day 5); -- a message from Cindy Sheehan, Crawford, TX

Last year, this:
Cindy Sheehan Is Working To Bring Our Troops Home: "Mr. President. You have daughters. How would you feel if one of them was killed?"
Casey Sheehan re-enlisted with the Army in August of 2003, knowing that his unit would eventually be deployed in Iraq. Casey, a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Calvary, was killed in Sadr City on April 4th of this year. He was only 24 years old. He is and forever will remain an American hero.
Casey's mom, Cindy Sheehan, is a hero too. Angered that her son was sent to fight and die in an unjust war for reasons that have proven to be lies, Cindy is speaking out about the Iraq invasion. Cindy has joined other moms and families who have lost loved ones in the conflict to tell Americans about the true costs of the war.
(October 7, 2004)

Three days ago, this:
CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 7 - President Bush draws antiwar protesters just about wherever he goes, but few generate the kind of attention that Cindy Sheehan has since she drove down the winding road toward his ranch here this weekend and sought to tell him face to face that he must pull all Americans troops out of Iraq now.
(August 8, 2005, "Of the Many Deaths in Iraq, One Mother's Loss Becomes a Problem for the President," By RICHARD W. STEVENSON, The New York Times.

It is a profound hope, and an emerging realistic expectation, that truth and transparency will become the prevailing way of being in the world. Why not -- it is the way freedom and love emerge into the world -- and we want freedom and love, truth and transparency. Don't we?

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices,
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.

- Hakuin (1686-1768)

Clare, Cindy -- help us, too, quietly turn clear and transparent.

Show us the monstrance of sacred presence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

You could be led to believe it is a normal day. Red Sox win. Yankees lose. Four soldiers and a marine killed in Iraq. Oil company gets millions in tax breaks after a 7.64 billion profit this quarter.

Each night I gaze upon a pond,
A Zen body sitting beside a moon.
Nothing is really there and yet
It is all so clear and bright
I cannot describe it.
If you would know the empty mind
Your own mind must be as clear and bright
As this full moon upon the water.

- Chiao Jan (785--895)

It is an odd war. Only our soldiers are at war. The rest of America goes on vacation. The president refuses to speak to a mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. She camps by his ranch.

Let's stop it. War and the pretense of war cannot be accepted as normal. It is anything but normal. Let's stop pretending the unlovely is lovely.

Let's be rid of unlovely pretense.

Sit Shiva. Resurrect love. Remember when we cared about truth.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The sky holds both clear mind and clouded mind.

The Feast of Nagasaki. I am thrown into solitude. There, innumerable (though silent) imprecations come as faint breeze on hot afternoon to this mind. Alternately, alone, the sense that imbecilic impulses pull the world to pick at scar-tissue scabs, threatening to up the ante of posturing again with nuclear weapons.

The concurrent brook-beds, dry and unmoving this hot August, take my attention -- namely, monastic creation mind, over against, military destruction mind.

Don't say that only clear water mirrors the moon.
Muddy water also reflects the sky.
Watch, after wind has settled and the waves are calm,
For a wonderful moon, as lovely as before.

- Lin Chi Chung (1119)

Mac, a Trappist monk, tells a guest at his monastery about the tension and spectrum in monasteries between solitude and solidarity. "God plants the seeds of a monk in everyone's soul at the moment of creation." The visitor writes about movements throughout history, whether Buddhist, pre-Christian, Jewish, Pythagorean, or Christian -- that proves Mac's point.

In Mac's opinion, those manifestations proved the existence of a universal monk, an archetype that exists in every human being. Everyone experiences the call to solitude. Sometimes, Mac said, God calls softly, as on those occasions we might simply feel a casual craving for time alone. "Why do you suppose those moments of solitude offer us such relief?" Mac asked. they give us a chance to simply be ourselves, to enjoy what and where we were, to savor just being. Alone with God, we feel no need to perform, to do. The pressure is off. That good, refreshing feeling is nothing less than an experience of God's accepting love. It is the healing power of an eternal passion that is consummated in the reunion of creature and Creator. God is delighted by our act of will in which we love and place ourselves in his presence."
"That devine-delight is the lover who draws each of us back and forth between two poles, the loving opportunities of solitude and solidarity. Sometimes God recharges our batteries one-on-one, in solitude. Other times, he kindles our longing for him in the rest of creation and we wind up falling in love, or elbow-to-elbow with our fellow humans, awash in the joy of a celebration with friends or family. He pulls us to him in either circumstance for however long he believes is necessary.
"Alone with him in solitude, we see and learn what we uniquely are,and how that is all we ever need be. Nothing more. We grow secure in the understanding love that self-knowledge represents."

(pp.33-34, chapter entitled "The Monk in Us All," in Voices of Silence, Lives of the Trappists Today, by Frank Bianco, c.1991)

Because we do not know ourselves -- real knowledge of real self -- we continue to attempt to destroy those who do not think like us, indeed, are not us.

We need a more profound myth about who and what we are.

"Every thought system has at its core a guiding myth not a myth in the sense of a lie but of an imaginative vision, a picture which does indeed `express its appeal to the deepest needs of our nature'" (p. 200; in Mary Midgley's Science and Poetry; quoting E.O.Wilson).

The Feast of Nagasaki confronts an old myth, an old lie.

On August 9 1945 an American B-29 Bockscar aircraft dropped a 4.5 tonne bomb on the city, killing at least 80,000 people in the world's second nuclear attack.

Three days previously, the US air force had dropped a similar device on the city of Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people in the immediate blast and in the following months from radiation sickness. Japan surrendered on August 15 1945, bringing an end to the second world war.

After the minute's silence today, Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, laid a wreath at the monument to the dead. "This is an occasion to remember the victims, and pray for world peace," he said.

The mayor of Nagasaki, Iccho Itoh, then made an angry appeal - aimed particularly at Washington - for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

"We understand your anger and anxiety over the memories of the horror of the 9-11 terrorist attacks," he said. "Yet, is your security enhanced by your government's policies of maintaining 10,000 nuclear weapons, of carrying out repeated sub-critical nuclear tests, and of pursuing the development of new 'mini' nuclear weapons?"
Fumie Sakamoto, a representative of the survivors of the Nagasaki bomb, said: "Together with some 260,000 survivors ... I swear in the presence of the souls of the victims of the atomic bombing to continue to tirelessly demand that Nagasaki be the last A-bomb site."

Ms Sakamoto, 74, was a junior high school student when Nagasaki was bombed. The blast destroyed her home, throwing her 10 metres into the air. She landed in her garden. "As far as I could see, everything had been reduced to rubble," she said.
Following the bombings, many hibakusha - a Japanese term for "bomb affected people" - suffered the effects of radiation exposure, including malignant tumours, leukaemia, and keloid scars.

Nagasaki was not intended as the original target for the atomic bomb. The US bomber had been heading to Kokura, but the city was covered with thick cloud on the day. The plane circled three times before changing course for Nagasaki.

When it arrived, Nagasaki too was covered in cloud. With dwindling fuel supplies, the pilot was about to turn back when a break in the cloud appeared.

(from "Nagasaki remembers" in Guardian Unlimited, Staff and agencies, Tuesday August 9, 2005)

The clouds of Kokura saved the city. Were some leaving their houses that morning unhappy that there were clouds?

Muddy water also reflects the sky. Clouds, whether physical or metaphorical, keep the mind humble -- causing it to ask: What is this? Are we safe? Or in danger? Are we who we are?

Clouds shape the sky as they do the mind.

Hegel wrote: Dass das Sein Denken ist ("Being is thinking"), that "the spiritual alone is the real," and that only those generalities with which we deal in thinking actually are. (In Preface to the Phenomenology of Mind, by Georg Hegel)

These visitors are spiritually here. Today, the Feast of Nagasaki, like the Feast of Hiroshima, brings them to mind, to being -- here.

We wander Kokura -- in solitude and solidarity -- mostly sunshine, yet still (happily), clouds. This is the tension and the spectrum of being-in-the-world, and, thinking the world into being.

The Japanese word said before meals applies to this meal of ambiguity we partake -- Itadakimasu -- "All this I will gratefully receive".

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Not knowing is a way of life. On the other hand, birth and death are familiar.

In the winter of 1916 I found myself in St. Petersburg with a forged passport and not a cent to my name. Alexey Kazantsev, a teacher of Russian literature, took me into his house. (Opening lines of "Guy De Maupassant," 1932 short story by Isaac Babel, trans by Raymond Rosenthal and Waclaw Solski.)

In the summer of 1944 I don't know where I was. Katherine and Frank lived with Sarah and Tom who'd opened their house on 69th street to Nellie and Jim. Patricia was two when I moved in -- or fell through -- at Israel Zion on 48th street and 10th avenue.

Maimonides Medical Center began as a small community hospital in 1911. At the time, a farm region known as New Utrecht was on the way to becoming a residential neighborhood called Borough Park. To care for the medical needs of local residents, neighborhood women founded the New Utrecht Dispensary. In 1918, Jewish-sponsored medical facilities in the area consolidated. As a result, United Israel Zion Hospital was formed laying the foundation for the creation of Maimonides Hospital of Brooklyn in 1947.
In 2004, the hospital had approximately 80,000 ER visits, 33,000 inpatient discharges, and delivered over 6,400 babies, the most of any hospital in New York State.

Frank and Kay's boy joined the household on Bay Ridge Avenue where Staddy smoked White Owl cigars sitting on his wood chair in back yard in front of former barn; Nellie whirled her sewing machine in upstairs back room overlooking white DeSoto in yard; Sadie stirred and heated kidney stew in basement kitchen like a grandmother conductor coaxing in stray notes; Tom sharpened his Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen pencils from his Pennsylvania Railroad days; and Pat skipped rope with the girls on the block until it was time for supper.

In 1966 Jo-Ann was sitting on the ground in a circle of sisters and brothers in a schoolyard in Portsmouth N.H. when her face shone love to any eyes looking. Mine were. I was transfixed.

Inside the sacred fence
Before which I bow
There must be a pond
Filled with clear water;
As my mind-moon becomes bright
I see its shadow reflected in the water.

- Daito Kokushi

Everything goes its own way to wind up where it will be. I don't know where I will be. The moon and water, I suspect, always show up and disappear -- just in time to be seen in passing by someone looking at something else. I was there outside the circle, outside the fence of who I thought I was, when she smiled. That fence collapsed. Dew took to morning grass, moon to other side of world, and smile embedded itself in forty years of fondness. I must have thought, "I know where you will always be, but I don't know where I will be."

Last evening five humans, two dogs, and a cat sat, walked, chanted, read, silented, ate, and spoke aloud at Sunday Evening Practice. The loveliness of bringing back those gone or gone beyond was acknowledged with tenderness and love. Julian told a story told him by a Benedictine Prioress about an unvisited gravesite of a sister whose many years before her death were spent in a psychiatric hospital. Saskia spoke about how we bring back into wholeness those we remember in presence. Tina spoke of spiritual pregnancy and the curious mystery of what might be born from it. Sylvia spoke of the need to share our thinking so as not to be burdened alone with its weight -- a midwifery of community.

In middle autumn of 2000, when Pat gave over her breath, my early household was now all gone.

Just before we began last evening, Jo-Ann called to say she will be married. (This morning the cat, on my lap, stretches with closed eyes, does not let on whether he hears the bird chirping on cedar branch outside the window.) I let on -- I delight in my friend's revelation.

Still, I don't know where I am. It is the birthday of my parent's only son. I join the quiet celebration.

Of birth, of death -- with these I am familiar.

Of life -- of this fantastic dwelling -- I am in awe.

We are taken, in and through, this house.

First holding. Then unholding.

Finally, beholding.

The hour is sticking so close above me, so clear and sharp, that all my senses ring with it. I feel it now; there's a power in me to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real without my beholding it. All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things and they come towards me, to meet and be met.

No thing is too small for me to cherish and paint in gold, as if it were an icon that could bless us, though I'll now know who else among us will feel this blessing.
(from poem of Rilke's, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)

Now knowing, as well, is a lovely way.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What is our true sound?

Is it possible we have not yet even begun to hear our true sound, the sound of authentic being? Does this hearing impairment hinder us from listening to others? Can we hear anything real without an intense longing and effort to try?

One and the same breeze passes
Over the pines on the mountain
And the oak trees in the valley;
And why do they give different notes?

- Shinkage-ryu school of swordsmanship

This weekend bridges the two dates, August 6th and August 9th, of the two Atomic Bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. In Hiroshima and in Nagasaki we learned that there is no limit to what some people will do to others to cause pain, suffering, and death. We no longer believe the rationale. There is no reason that adequately excuses the unleashing of such destruction. Those offered over the years -- end war, minimize invasion casualties, show Russia our weapon, do it because we could, -- these are vacant rationalizations with heartless consequences.

The Official Homepage of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum contains the Peace Declaration, August 6, 2005. Here is a fragment:

This August 6, the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing, is a moment of shared lamentation in which more than 300 thousand souls of A-bomb victims and those who remain behind transcend the boundary between life and death to remember that day. It is also a time of inheritance, of awakening, and of commitment, in which we inherit the commitment of the hibakusha to the abolition of nuclear weapons and realization of genuine world peace, awaken to our individual responsibilities, and recommit ourselves to take action. This new commitment, building on the desires of all war victims and the millions around the world who are sharing this moment, is creating a harmony that is enveloping our planet.

The keynote of this harmony is the hibakusha warning, "No one else should ever suffer as we did," along with the cornerstone of all religions and bodies of law, "Thou shalt not kill." Our sacred obligation to future generations is to establish this axiom, especially its corollary, "Thou shalt not kill children," as the highest priority for the human race across all nations and religions. The International Court of Justice advisory opinion issued nine years ago was a vital step toward fulfilling this obligation, and the Japanese Constitution, which embodies this axiom forever as the sovereign will of a nation, should be a guiding light for the world in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this past May left no doubt that the U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and a few other nations wishing to become nuclear-weapon states are ignoring the majority voices of the people and governments of the world, thereby jeopardizing human survival.

Based on the dogma "Might is right," these countries have formed their own "nuclear club," the admission requirement being possession of nuclear weapons. Through the media, they have long repeated the incantation, "Nuclear weapons protect you." With no means of rebuttal, many people worldwide have succumbed to the feeling that "There is nothing we can do." Within the United Nations, nuclear club members use their veto power to override the global majority and pursue their selfish objectives.


The sound of green on leaf this summer's day. The sound of birdcall in wooded shade. The sound of breeze crossing mountain top in high sunlight.

When we pray, words carry the watchful sounds of many who have suffered and died.

So it is we sit with silence. So it is we humbly dare to give voice to word.

So it is we profoundly ask all-that-is to help one another, to be safe, to allow each to dwell at home with peace.

To each, with love, their true sound.

A reverent silence.