"Ashes to ashes,
Dust to dust --
Thou art --
It's her own version. That's what Saskia
says making a sign with her fingers on my forehead before leaving for Pittsfield
, Newport, Bangor, and Gardiner Maine.
Remember what? The historical Jesus? Or something equally compelling? What is that something?
That 'something' is the ongoing interpenetration and interlocution
that being-in-the-world necessitates in order for authentic revelation to take place.
In other words, we are. First and foremost -- we are. As is, (we hold) -- God. We posit an incomplete perfection wherein each one of us is absolutely necessary for the perfect incompletion
to move with the vital grace of God toward wherever it is the perfect and incomplete move toward with imperfect and complete mutual intention and assistance. It doesn't end. Life is without end. Suffering will end (so we pray). The world might and might not end. It depends on our perception and conception of 'world.'
Here's what William McNamara says:
WIE: Could you explain exactly how you define "the world" on the spiritual path?
WM: I find it necessary to distinguish between the world and what I call the "Mpire"—the world of the three M's: mediocrity, mendacity, and manipulation. The world that is the earth, the gift God has given us—I would never renounce that. All I want to do is embrace that and love it and become more and more a part of it—that objective, wonderful world.
But the Mpire is that aspect of the world that has been used and twisted out of shape in order to provide the power, pleasure, and prestige of human beings. The net result of that, down through the centuries, has been an unreal world. The Mpire is an unreal world. It's made up of a network of mediocrity, manipulation, and mendacity.
The whole sociopolitical world we live in is dominated by mendacity—the big lie. The big lie is coming through television, through magazines (not enlightenment magazines but through many magazines) through propaganda, ideologies. There is some truth in it, but it's the big lie because it doesn't reveal the ultimate. And it doesn't evaluate contemporary situations in terms of the ultimate. Therefore it goes askew.
Then there's mediocrity. Everything is worked out into a system so that there are no surprises. And God is surprise. God is beyond our conceptions, our images, our big to-dos. If we are not being surprised constantly, it means we are out of touch with the real, and we've worked things out simply to be manageable, to provide us with more power, more convenience, more comfort.
The third aspect is manipulation. I think the biggest problem of society today is that we let too many things happen to us. We've allowed ourselves to become usable items for government, for church, for whatever the big power structures may be. That's manipulation. It happens in respectable, subtle ways. First we allow television into the home. Then we allow computers, and then because there is pornography on the Internet, we get used to pornography in the home. It just becomes absurd, but we've gotten used to it. We are shrinking humanly. We're not being divinized; we're not being transformed. It happens little by little as we let too many dehumanizing things happen to us, so that we can no longer take a stand against it.
The term I like to use to describe that whole phenomenon is "pretty poison." It's not a spectacular kind of evil. Pretty poison is the kind of evil that killed Christ. It was not the bad men of that age, not the state, not the church. It wasn't the notoriously evil men but the pretty poison that seeped into the best institutions and the best people. Pretty poison is that kind of evil that seeps unnoticeably, imperceptibly into our nicest people and our best institutions and just disorients them, derails them. It's a respectable kind of evil.
(--in What is Enlightenment magazine, "THE e'M'pire", An interview with Father William McNamara, by Carter Phipps) http://www.wie.org/j18/mcnam.asp?pf=1
It is clear many in our midst, many of our 'betters' have nearly perfected this respectable kind of evil. They have their version of 'world' -- they have their version of 'Christianity.' They call it "Don't think, don't feel, don't act." They call it "Terror and perpetual war on terror." They call it "It's for your own sake, for your security, for your protection," (as they take all three from us.) And they call it "We know better than you; trust us." These political strategies operate in both secular and religious minds.
If trust means relinquishing inquiry, action, and common sense, if someone's
notion of mind means abandoning heartfelt thought and clear compassionate thinking -- then don't mind them. Mind yourself. Practice cultivating a sound, sane, and sensible mind.
Calm yourself, quiet yourself,
Master your senses.
Look right into the source of mind,
Always keep it shining bright,
Clear and pure.
Do not give rise to an indifferent mind.
- Hongren (602-675)
Mind sees this movement through and through.
It is Ash Wednesday. The story is being told. Our story is being told. Common here is 'being, told.'
For in our history I know redemption only in fragments which are experienced personally and collectively; in which, however, Jesus remains the critical and productive promise of an undefinable definitive future salvation. Nowhere do I see signs of an 'objectively completed' redemption. Yet I believe that our action in helping people, healing them and bringing them political liberation, fragmentary though it may seem, has definitive value in and of itself, even when it fails. It is precisely to this that the living God will grant an even greater future. 'He gives a new face to darkness and light, to all that we do.'
Even in his[ or her] Christian view of grace and redemption, the Christian will have to remain aware of his [or her] human condition.
--p.25, in Christ, The Experience of Jesus as Lord, by Edward Schillebeeckx, c.1977, trans by John Bowden, 1981)
This is our daily, ordinary, journey.
Being present is the way, there and here. Presence transcends mere physical attendance. Presence also transforms that which is beyond physical into a concretion of real and felt re-membering
, one permeated with remembrance.
Correspondence is the conversation of contemplation.
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
(--1st stanza of poem Ash Wednesday, by T.S. Eliot)
The usual reign is conducting self-immolation by using other bodies at its pyre. This holy season of Lent must redesign the mind that destroys others to uplift self. It is a brutish and hellish pattern of deceit and dishonor. We must begin with the resemblance of such thinking and behavior within ourselves. This is mortification -- coming to the end of death-designs on living beings.
For this practice, we need help.
For this practice we listen to the conclusion of Eliot's poem:
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
(--final stanza of poem Ash Wednesday, by T.S. Eliot)
Not to be...