Saturday, December 09, 2006

The thing about impermanence is that everything is impermanent.

Try as we will, we cannot hold on to anything.

So, let's let go.

Are you concerned with enlightenment,
which implies a static attainment,
or rather enlightening,
an unending process
of continual opening?
Are you concerned with answers
or rather with boundless questions?
For the answer
never fails to kill enlightening;
the mind then reverts
to the static knowing,
soon becomes caught
again in the web
of associations and
reduces the entirety
of the world to the mundane.

- Ji Aoi Isshi

If someone finds you unacceptable, be unacceptable. Saint Francis called that perfect joy. Some of that joy is mine today.

“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”

(Isaiah 40:3ff)

Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is not as simple and playful as it seems.

In Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant locates in one of Frost's letters the source for "The Road Not Taken." To Susan Hayes Ward the poet wrote on February 10, 1912:
Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone's eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn't go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity.
This portentous account of meeting "another" self (but not encountering that self directly and therefore not coming to terms with it) would eventually result in a poem quite different from "The Road Not Taken" and one that Frost would not publish for decades. Elizabeth Sergeant ties the moment with Frost's decision to go off at this time to some place where he could devote more time to poetry. He had also, she implies, filed away his dream for future poetic use.

(By George Montiero, From Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by the UP of Kentucky.)

Today I, too, file away a dream for future use.

I accept the unacceptable.

Friday, December 08, 2006

This day. This life. This listening.

Three members of the Christian Peacemaker Team hold a news conference in London. They plead for leniency and no death penalty for the men who kidnapped them and murdered Tom Fox. "We want good to come out of this," says James Loney.

In November of 2005, Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Normman Kember were kidnapped along with U.S. peace activist, Tom Fox. Fox, who was also a full-time member of the CPT team, was working in Baghdad at the time. He was murdered on March 9th 2006. The remaining three were set free on March 23rd.
(From Democracy Now, Friday, December 8th, 2006)

When John Lennon was finally given a green card and asked if he had any bad feelings about the heads of the FBI and Justice Department, he responded with a phrase that is a variation of "Time heals all wounds." We're unsure if the phrasing is: "Time wounds all heels"; or, "Time wounds; all heals".

So much depends on how and what we hear. So much depends on how we experience what we hear.

But now the Lord speaks, who created you, Jacob, who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.’
(Isaiah 43:1)

It occurs to me that the name that is God's and the name that is yours and mine can also go through a twofold view.

Listen to the sound of your name in your mind and memory as spoken by your mother or your father. The sound of your name as spoken by mother/father/God resides in your being as your being.

Did Mary hear and have an immaculate sound as her origin?

What we hear is experienced by us according to the mind we listen with. With a clear mind everything can be heard with compassionate clarity. With an unclear mind things are heard with cutting intent.

Is this how the clear among us are able to transform hurt to healing, and unkindness to an experience of humility?

Time wounds. "All" heals. The words themselves have gone beyond.

We need a transforming listening to metaphor in order to go beyond ourselves -- to wake up.

Siddhartha Gautama heard with clarity what he saw with transforming awareness, and awoke.

At an early age I learned that things stand for other things. ...
I have had to look at my life. And I have escaped from madness by understanding transformation, how each thing transcends its own reality. I either go mad or I learn about metaphor.

(from "Thorazine Shuffle" by filmmaker Allie Light -- in the book Out of Her Mind: Women Writing on Madness, ed. by Rebecca Shannonhouse)

Wisdom is beyond me.

How amazing it is
That all people
Have this but cannot polish
It into bright clarity.
In darkness unawakened,
They make foolishness
Cover their wisdom.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)

When I ascend beyond that which I identify with as me, I am closer to awake than when I first began.

In this, in "this" -- we are all, "all" alike.

This is our life.

I think this is true.

I think we do want good to come out of this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Beliefs are at times unbelievable. Take the belief some hold that God the Father ordained that his son suffer and die for sins. Or the belief that some men and women will be tortured and punished with excruciating pain in hell for ever and ever without end.

In the early days many sages stressed the follies and dangers of impurity. When delusion, perverted views, and bad thinking habits are eliminated, the mind is as clear and tranquil as the autumn stream. It is pure and quiescent, placid and free from attachment.
- Master Kuei-shan Ling-yu

It seems uninteresting to believe in a place of unending torture or a God who tolerates the pain of creatures. I'll sit out that belief.

On the Subway Station

The child is speaking to the father
he is looking into the father's eyes
father doesn't answer
child is speaking Vietnamese
father doesn't answer
child is speaking English
father doesn't answer
The father is staring at a mosaic in blue and green
and lavender three small ships in harbor
set again and again in the white tiled
beautiful old unrenovated subway
station Clark Street Brooklyn

(Poem: "On the Subway Station" by Grace Paley, from Leaning Forward.)

We need renovated spirituality.

Jesus lived in the light of a loving Father encircled and permeated by Holy Spirit. (Here is a tolerable narrative.) Jesus died the same way good men die always -- at the hands of lesser men fanatic in their notions of purity and superior motivations.

Which leaves us. And our times.

Do not think for a minute that the stories of religious tradition were about some far-ago time and some other people. They are about right now. About you and me.

For God's sake, give up torture and punishment -- give up hell. Then give up false notions of God.

So as to rest in the true God who has no difficulty having been given up. Maybe laughs at it. Certainly is forgiving to all of us unknowing what we do. And goes on being God.

Somehow Christ is seen through.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I need to learn prayer.


If we don't believe in heaven, who reads the letters we mail there
every evening?
Children send most of them, kneeling by the bedpost
imagining the universe under the care of a father
who rumbles behind the newspaper
smelling of cigarettes and Old Spice.
To grow up is to lose one's God at sea —
better to lose one than be one.
If you believe the world is perfect,
think of Keats dying young.
I never would have seen it if I hadn't believed it,
the saying goes. Somebody has to awaken us
to the time of day it is when the earth is empty
of any intention, or any human presence.

And yet it is noon, and here you are — your blue headlands
and swords, your wave-moistened silences.
As if at the heart of things
there were a heart.

(Poem: "Prayer" by James Armstrong, from Blue Lash.)

Reality has no opinion.

It just is.

As it is.

For now.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The air that I breathe. The breath of One, God. Filling and emptying.

Beneath the mountain
A stream flows
On and on without end.
If one’s Zen mind is like this
Seeing into one’s nature
Cannot be far off.

- Hakuin (1686-1768)

Outside kitchen window red squirrel scampers over dust snow on hill . We are a breath's simple and humble passage through. We, unfortunately, do not yet comprehend the ins and outs of One's breath.

Isaiah pondered it. Many translations later, we read:

A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.

(Isaiah 11: 1-4, Jerusalem Bible)

He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Isaiah 11:4 (New International Version)

4But with (I)righteousness He will judge the (J)poor,
And decide with fairness for the (K)afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the (L)rod of His mouth,
And with the (M)breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 New American Standard Bible)

4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 King James Version)

4The poor and the needy
will be treated with fairness
and with justice.
His word will be law
everywhere in the land,
and criminals
will be put to death.
( Isaiah 11:4 Contemporary English Version)

4 He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 New Living Translation)

4 but He will judge the poor righteously (E)
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
He will strike the land
with discipline [a] from His mouth, (F)
and He will kill the wicked (G)
with a command [b] from His lips. (H)
( Isaiah 11:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

4But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
(21st Century King James Version)

So it goes. We all breathe the same air. With some translation, perhaps we might read:

One air,
One breath.
One life,
Each in all.

The wicked take our breath,
poison the air, our thoughts, our sight.
Dark words, insane distrust, a fetid denigration.
We choke. Cancer lung. Words rot in throat.

Return to spirit, to clear air,
See the transparency of One, God;
Inhale, exhale --
Collation of original life!

Cat stretches on lap as I write. Dog sleeps in front room after yesterday's surgery. Front window crucifix next to Mother/Child icon and seated Buddha.

The morning seems (suddenly) itself.

Yes, Itself.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I've been thinking about war.

This world
Is but
A fleeting dream
So why be alarmed
At its evanescence?

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

The sorrow of it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent Circle Lectio.

His mind is free from all thoughts.
His demeanor is still and silent.
His forehead beams with simplicity.
He is cold as autumn,
And warm as spring,
For his joy and anger
Occur as naturally
As the four seasons.

- Chuang Tzu

Henry, at end, says: "Waking is listening."