Saturday, March 18, 2006

To unearth justice by cultivating injustice is hard row to hoe.

Another St Patrick's Day passes. Another year not buying a Guinness to toast the faces past, family for whom the day was cause to celebrate. I thought I would. I was tired. Came home. Watched Enron shame. Checked basketball scores, (deciding they didn't matter), then to sleep.

The flowing stream is our teacher of mindlessness,
The while clouds our unthinking friends.
If I were to try to describe it,
All I could do is roar.

- Gensei (1623-1668)

At dawn yesterday I read final papers Pat turned in for prison course. Enjoyed his inquiry into death penalty, abortion, Socrates, Siddhartha, Blackburn, and God. Later at prison, Joe-Pete and I spoke about Oscar Wilde. Joe was taken with the novel.

In his Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde wrote:
The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
The nineteenth-century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.
The nineteenth-century dislike of romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.
The moral life of man forms part of the subject matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.
No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.
No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.
No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.
Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.
Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.
From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type.
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.

(Preface, The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde)

Afterwards, Joe-Pete, Pat, Joe J., Saskia, Darcy, and I spoke of these matters. We spoke of globalization, image and facade, Nietzsche's's remarks on morals, and the value of face to face, person to person integrity.

Conversation is a sacred trust.

What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?

(--from Micah 7: 14-20)

I suspect if showing mercy is to have any value, I will have to relent in utero any emerging urge to punish or defame those whose acts disturb greatly. It is a conundrum. When petty criminals break the law, they go to jail. When the powerful break the law, they get severance packages, or get the national debt raised (to nine trillion), or if popular enough, win jury nullification. It is always difficult reconciling hypocrisy -- my own or my country's. You'd think, with democracy, something more useless would emerge.

I re-think Wilde's words: "To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim." I also contemplate the words, "to unearth justice by cultivating injustice is hard row to hoe." (Was Santa Claus actually saying, "hoe, hoe, hoe"?)

And yet, in prison, something along the lines of the template we know as Holy Saturday's dark and empty re-creation is taking place. What? I don't know. It is concealed from me.

Would we proclaim it a delight to become, to be, a useless work or art?

Of God's ways...who am I to say? How would I know whether some concealed creative God is watching carefully and helping caringly this emerging humanity into authentic justice, love, and compassion? Or even if what-we-call-God, is itself, what is being watched. Perhaps what is being watched remains dead until careful, caring, entrance into the midst of what is taking place is what and who we become.

Peter Singer opens his book on Ethics with the following:
Ethics is about how we ought to live. What makes the action the right, rather than the wrong, thing to do? What should our goals be? These questions are so fundamental that they lead us on to further questions. What is ethics anyway? Where does it come from? Can we really hope to find a rational way of deciding how we ought to live? If we can, what would it be like, and how are we going to know when we have found it?
(Singer, Ethics, p.3, Oxford University Press)

How would we know?

Try to carefully watch. Try to care for what is seen. Pray. For Maria's sons; for the repose of the soul of Fanny; for the inmates and staff at Maine State Prison; for the two boys from Maine killed in Iraq this week; for all suffering difficulties in their lives; for innocence to pervade.

Innocence (from Latin "innocentia" which translates "harmless, innocence, and integrity) is unknowing anything other than the correct relationship with what is taking place.

100% correct relationship with what is taking place, I suspect, is dwelling in the midst, in the middle place, where what-we-call-God is Presence-Itself. The holy dwells here. The whole is what is taking place. But, (and this is pivotal), we must be there "innocentia" -- not-knowing anything other than the presence of God, in and through, each and every, concealed and unconcealed -- with one another.

Nietzsche said God is dead.

Right here in our midst, carefully, caringly, dwelling.


In his autobiographical novel Report To Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis wrote:
There are three kinds of souls, three kinds of prayers.
One: I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me lest I rot.
Two: Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.
Three: Overdraw me, and who cares if I break!


For our resurrection.

One with another.

Into the open.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The waiting comes to an end.

Fraud and deception wear suits and seem untouchable. Watching Kenneth Lay, Andrew Fastow, and Jeffrey Skillings in the documentary, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," prepares us for the sequel to star George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld which might be called, "How Long Did They Think People Would Wait?"

People are beginning to stop believing in illusions. Illusions are costly. Many are willing to pay. Truth is free. Lies are expensive. It is time to pare down and embrace poverty.

Living in the world,
Yet not clinging to or forming
Attachments for the dust of the world,
Is the way of a true Zen student.
Witnessing the good actions of another person,
Encourage yourself to follow their example.
Hearing of the mistaken action of another person,
Advise yourself not to emulate it.
Even though you are alone in a dark room
Conduct yourself as though you were facing a noble guest.

- Zen-Getsu

The room has grown dark. Charades are enacted. Bravos sound hollow. Actors seem seedy. Curtain falls. Their names are fodder of jokes. Worse, derision. The false disintegrates as it is pronounced. Mouthfuls of dirt are spit out.

We listen, but don't hear, the name of integrity. It is the one name we long to hear. Except, it is a soundless name. There's nothing preceding it, nothing following it.

His name is holy, (From the Magnificat, Vespers)

If we hear a name that fills us with silence and reverence, we will be silent and reverent.

So far, the names have been disappointing -- noisy and deceptive.

Don't settle for hurried willful shame.

Wait for what is holy.

It is truly you.


Laying open.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Eternal life is now.

Every act , every thought, done or made now, touches every time, everybody, everywhere.

One who sees his body as unreal is a Buddha;
One who comprehends his mind as illusory is a Buddha;
One who realizes both body and mind as empty,
What difference from the Buddhas has this person?

- Krakucchanda Buddha

The empty is formed here and now. We radically retrieve origin conversation when we profoundly, mindfully converse wholly now.

Awake, Lord, why do you sleep?
Rise up, do not always reject us.
Why do you turn away your face?
How can you forget our poverty and our tribulation?

Our souls are crushed into the dust,
our bodies dragged down to the earth.
Rise up, Lord, and help us.
In your mercy, redeem us.

(from Psalm 44)

The Lord is eternal. When we are not here, we are no-where. When we do not wholly act, no one benefits. When we do not hold all in our heart and mind, there is absence everywhere.

No us anywhere, no Lord anywhere to be found.

No wonder we cannot encounter the Lord. We are nowhere to be found.

If we are present, the Lord is present.

What is unreal is unpresence,

Real is radical origin.

Retrieve this conversation.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Lincolnville church will keep all-night vigil the 19th into the 20th. Three years later the war remains a shame. Rev. Susan holds open her church.

If you wish to see the Buddha,
You must look into your own inner-nature;
This nature is the Buddha himself.
If you have not seen your own nature,
What is the use of thinking of Buddha,
Or reciting sutras, or fasting, or keeping precepts?
By thinking of Buddha, your meritorious deed will bear fruit;
By reciting sutras, you may attain a bright intellect;
By keeping the precepts, you may be born into heavens;
By practicing charity, you may be rewarded abundantly;
But as to seeking Buddha, you are far away.

- Bodhi-Dharma (d.533)

No vengeance or revenge is worth the depletion of soul. We have become a nation afraid of our enemies and our leaders.

Put no trust in violence,
do not be seduced into robbery;
and if riches come, do not count upon them.
God has spoken once and for all.
Two things have I heard him say:
that strength belongs to God,
and that mercy, Lord, belongs to you.
For to each of us you give
whatever our actions have deserved.

(from Psalm 62)

It is time to empty our fear.

Give it back to mongerers.

Slough the discreditable.

Pray all night.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

With no notice, out back door. Mud leaps up from wet earth. Cut branches hold wake for one another alongside pre-budding forsythia yellow petals. No stopping coming of spring.

Borrowing from the four great elements,
I assumed my body.
My mind, originally birthless,
Functions according to circumstances.
When circumstances do not exist,
My mind does not exist either.
Woe and weal are like illusions:
They arise, they also fall.

- Visvabhu Buddha

A surfeit of words in shop this noon. Not dependent on content, continuous commentary. I remember my lies. We lie when we cover authentic open with cloaking shrubbery. My lies thought dressing in many words would make them lovely. It didn't. Only made suffering not see itself in mirror.

Two friends are suffering the first steps of separation. One is resolved; one wishing otherwise. Listening. Suffering sound.

In wider circumference, there's a tin ear continuing about Iraq. I wonder where intelligent listening has gone. We seem to only hear frippery and foppery. Someone must emerge capable of hearing what men in power are really saying about this country and the world. They pronounce the right words, (freedom, democracy, hopeful), but there is no action following with slightest resemblance; there is no content below their pronunciation.

You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention... (Matthew 23:1-)

No longer seeking attention is no longer speaking without the soundless. No longer dressing up lies in lovely arrayed words.

We must close doors quietly, and move on, leaving nothing behind.

But, husks of holiness, broken open, fallen to earth, mud-born.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Our white DeSoto with hooded headlights in Brooklyn backyard on 69th street comes to mind. We remember the past. Even if it does not exist, there is memory of it.

By illusion the various good karmas are caused;
By illusion the various evil karmas are committed.
My body is like a bubble, and my mind is like the wind;
This illusory creation has no root and no reality.
- Sikhin Buddha

Remembering reality is tricky affair. What we call reality usually fits within the template of space and time, cause and effect. This is good. It gives us something to agree about. Yes, we did sit at table Sunday night, seven-ish, after 40 minute zazen, walking, then chanting the Prajna Paramita Sutra, reading Shunryu Suzuki on dualism. We ate turkey soup, then, because and when the bell sounded, we four spoke, talked about the smell of engine oil or bleach on hands apparent to our noses when we place hands together to bow.

Jesus said: "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back."
(Luke 6:36 - 38)

There's an equation with judgment: you judge = you are judged. Buddhists call it dependent co-origination. This is because that is. Jesus, almost off-handedly, lets the equation be known. You cannot do anything to neighbor without doing it to yourself. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. Brother Charles (with his single wooden drumstick of terror) was preaching the gospel during algebra class in high school. (Albeit, a punishment/pain preaching for those of us careless or lazy with our calculations.) Still, Jesus taught the wisdom: We will be given back as we give.

Then there is the event of the resurrection. ["event, from Latin eventus, from past participle of evenire, to happen : -, ex-, ex- + venire, to come; see gw- in Indo-European roots.]

What comes out of the fact of resurrection? What comes from the belief in resurrection?

Reading Rowan Williams on Resurrection.
Even in the Gospels, one thing is never described. There is a central silence, not broken until the second century, about the event of resurrection. Even Matthew, with his elaborate mythological scenery, leaves us with the strange impression that the stone is rolled away from a tomb that is already empty. Jesus is not raised by an angel (like Luke's Peter, in Acts 12), but raised by the Father. It is an event which is not describable, because it is precisely there that there occurs the transfiguring expansion of Jesus' humanity which is the heart of resurrection encounters. It is an event on the frontier of any possible language because it is the moment in which our speech is both left behind and opened to new possibilities. It is as indescribable as the process of imaginative fusion which produces any metaphor; and the evangelists withdrew as well they might. Jesus' life is historical, describable; the encounters with Jesus risen are historical and (after a fashion) describable, with whatever ambiguities and unclarities. But there is a sense in which the raising of Jesus, the hinge between the two histories, the act that brings the latter out of the former: it is not an event, with a before and after, occupying a determinate bit of time between Friday and Sunday. God's act in uniting Jesus' life with his eludes us; we can speak of it only as the necessary condition for our living as we live. And as a divine act it cannot be tied to place and time in any simple way. It is, indeed, an 'eternal' act; it is an aspect of the eternal will by which God determines how he shall be, his will to be the Father of the Son. These are abstract words, they describe nothing. They can only point to the truth that God's being and will are always and necessarily prior to ours. The event of resurrection, then, cannot but be hidden in God's eternal act, his eternal 'being himself'; however early we run to the tomb, God has been there ahead of us. Once again, he decisively evades our grasp, our definition and our projection.
(from Resurrection, Interpreting the Easter Gospel, pp.96-97, by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, c.1982)

I was still a boy when that DeSoto no longer parked to the side of the garage. It disappeared into someone else's narrative. Then, probably, to a junkyard. There is nobody in my family alive today who would remember that car. I'll mention it to my son -- who doesn't drive -- but who lands in Chicago today. The space he occupied while here three weeks is vacated.

There's a refreshing clarity about emptiness.

Peter Steinfels, writing in the New York Times about a Williams essay, "Between the Cherubim: The Empty Tomb and the Empty Throne," concludes:
In his essay, Archbishop Williams recognized a need for scholars of Christian origins to explore the historical basis for the empty-tomb narratives and other Resurrection stories. But he insisted that theology, as ''a disciplined mode of reflection'' on the ''grammar'' of Christian faith, had something to say about the matter as well.
For him, the empty-tomb tradition, with all its untidiness, is an essential element of that faith. As an "image of absence, an image of the failure of images," the emptiness of the tomb, like the space between the cherubim of the ark, safeguards the liberty of God.

( from "Beliefs; The empty-tomb narratives, untidy in variety, nonetheless prove grist for theological reflection." By Peter Steinfels (NYT) Published: April 19, 2003)

Suzuki, in last evening's reading, wanted us to consider the shift in the statements -- from: "form is emptiness, emptiness is form"; to, " form is form, emptiness is emptiness."

One, at table, was delighted with the shift. Another, considering resurrection, remained imagelessly befuddled.

There's no end to it.

Maybe that's good enough for now.

Or maybe that's all there is: for now.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

When it comes down to it, only the gaze suffices.

Abraham had a long time to mull what he almost did. Murdering your young for God is madness. Abraham realized suddenly he was insane, his wife broken and crazed, his boy terribly confused.

Having fathomed Tao, you went to dwell
Among simple villages
Where bamboo grows thick,
Opening and closing your gate alone.
This isn't a mission or pilgrimage.
I've come for no real reason:
Just to sit out on your south terrace
And gaze at those mountains.

- Po Chu-I (772 -- 846)

What are we...looking at?

Will no one stay our hand?

Do not kill your children. Free them. Go home.

We are what sacred scripture has come to.