Saturday, May 12, 2007

Prayers are needed.
To the White House, Washington DC
Dear Mr. President,
I sorrow the loss of life in Iraq.
I also sorrow the dilemma you are facing in making choices about how to honorably end the awful reality of this war.
Please be assured of my prayers.
Also, carefully attend in wisdom what moral and ethical chaos war engenders.
You have the strength and courage to choose a better course, to cease the torment and pain.
Please choose the higher path -- begin to end the war.
This nation will back you. It's the right thing to do.
I pray for you and the nation and the dead and wounded on both sides of the fighting.
I pray your courage takes the right path.
Your resoluteness can shift to resolve for peace and justice.
Please consider doing so.
Bill Halpin
Camden Maine
We now end each evening conversation with an additional sentence after thanking the attendees for coming, and the author for his/her words. We say "And let us hold in our hearts our absent brothers and sisters and all who need prayer."
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), all...need prayer.

Let's do so for one another.

Here's one.



Friday, May 11, 2007

Gale sends link to a video of a talk given in 1992 by a then 12 year old girl.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki, when she was age 12, traveled from from Vancouver, Canada to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and addressed the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. With her repetitive refrain "I am only a child..." said, "If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it." She was founder of ECO (the Environmental Children's Organization). "I'm here to tell you adults, 'You must change your ways'."

Then, concluding her address:
"My father always says "You are what you do, not what you say." Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening."
It is a long and difficult practice, this learning to listen.

Some days it seems that adult humans are very hard of hearing. Maybe this increasing deafness is because so much of what we hear is deafening drivel. Curiously, instead of learning to listen, we are becoming adept as a society in the manipulation of others. We teach persuasion and spin, how to talk over someone else who is speaking, and the paramount skill of pundit and politician -- namely, saying: "Look...!" -- and changing the question, diverting attention from the issue at hand, and rotely enumerating talking points that hammer home the agenda of the speaker.

Discourse, meaningful relational conversation, and authentic debate are fading from our culture -- replaced by derision, dismissal, and denigrating 'talking-at' instead of talking-with.

There's a great need to listen to and hear words that are true and real. Severen's were true and real in 1992. (Listen to them.)

Here are some playful/serious quotes worth listening to aloud:
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France

"No heaven will not ever heaven be; Unless my cats are there to welcome me." ~ Unknown

"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~ Immanuel Kant

"An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." ~ Martin Buber

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself." - Josh Billings

"The more I see of men, the more I admire dogs." - Jeanne-Marie Roland

"I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul." - - Jean Cocteau

"Some people say man is the most dangerous animal on the planet. Obviously those people have never met an angry cat." - - Lillian Johnson

"There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats." - Albert Schweitzer

Maybe we have to start with the animals. Then plants. Only to arrive, after prolonged practice, at human beings. Start being kind. Then caring. Finally responsible, loving, and even wise to the needs of all living sentient beings.

We could start earlier. We might begin with rocks and stones. We'll gather them, stack them, rake the small ones into patterns pleasing to the eye. We will practice not throwing stones, not using them to hurt one another. We'll build wonderful dwellings of stone and let the trees rest and re-group for a generation. We'll roll the rocks, then rock and roll with the sounds of brook and stream, river and ocean.

We'll begin all over again.

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

(--Poem by Pablo Neruda)
Today in Maine water falls from the heavens. Upon the place beneath, we are twice wet. Old dog and I come back from mountain rain-walk, entering through barn with wet cat into kitchen.

Birds can rest and eat. (Cat snoozes at foot of bed.)

We have not yet learned how to speak relationally, listen relationally, live relationally.

Tom R. said last night: "Truth stands in itself."


Learn to stand again.

What is itself is compassionately interdependent, relationally no-other.

To be truth where it is "it's own bright grace."

We must change our ways!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

They are blacktopping the parking lot between bookshop/bakery and Waterfront restaurant. So, we are at hermitage until 5pm conversation.
Followers of the Way,
the one who at this moment
stands alone, clearly and
lively right before your eyes
and is listening,
this one is nowhere obstructed.
Unhindered this one
penetrates everywhere
and moves freely;
entering all kinds of situations,
is never affected by them

- Rinzai (d.866)
Intelligence, from the book Brilliancy, has to do with beauty. It must be elegant. Patricia brought the book with her, so we read a bit, and spoke of it. In his book, Brilliancy, A.H. Almaas describes and explores human intelligence as an expression of impersonal consciousness.

In an interview, Almaas responds:
Q: Do you differentiate between being present and awareness?

A: Presence is awareness, but then awareness that is aware of itself. Pure awareness can be aware of its own existence, independently of the form and content of any experience. Experience itself then becomes aware of its own presence. Presence and awareness are not two different things, because the experience is non-dual, no subject and object. It is therefore not awareness that is involved in self-reflection, but awareness that is aware of itself by being itself. In other words, consciously being oneself is the same as being conscious of oneself.

(--Translation of interview with Hameed in June 2006, by Han van den Boogaard, Publication in the magazine InZicht {Insight}, issue 1, 2007.)
Consciousness is consciousness. As God is God. As you, you. Put nothing on consciousness, or take nothing away, and it is exactly what it is. So too, God. And you.

"Oneself" is a lovely word. Each is oneself. Why add? Why subtract? These grade-school skills are mistakenly applied to self. Is it inaccurate, then, to speak of 'increasing' consciousness? Or 'decreasing' it? Is there only consciousness or no consciousness? Either on or off? (We used to say that our dog, Cesco, had two speeds: on and off. These days the 'on' speed is low battery; the 'off' has to be watched carefully to see if breathing is taking place.)

Emily Dickinson has a zen-like way of seeing. Even her literary editors take the same words and see them in more than one way:
TO be alive is power,
Existence in itself,
Without a further function,

Omnipotence enough.

To be alive and Will–
'Tis able as a God!

The Further of ourselves be what–

Such being Finitude?

(--Part Five: The Single Hound, Emily Dickinson (1830–86), Complete Poems, 1924.)

Elsewhere, the same lines, presented in a different way:

To be alive — is Power —
Existence — in itself —
Without a further function —
Omnipotence — Enough —

To be alive — and Will!
'Tis able as a God —
The Maker — of Ourselves — be what —
Such being Finitude!
We are finite, bounded. In such circumstances, there is an immediacy to our lives.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that "Peace is every step."

Today, life is every breath.

Every breath, a prayer.

Prayer is every thing.

Everything is prayer emanating from itself.

So it is. We live lives of prayer.

Without trying to be aware.

We are.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

They gave the Dalai Lama an honorary doctorate this morning at Smith College. He was fitted out with cape, white academic drape, and board hat with tassel. Then he made an address. He looked silly. Nevertheless, he is a humble man sweating under the burden of their honor in hot weather. The drape kept slipping off, his head was itchy -- but he kept their paraphernalia on, and was a perfect Dalai Lama during the whole event.

Childlike wisdom allows dressing-up without caring how you look.
"The notion of ambiguity must not be confused with that of absurdity. To declare that existence is absurd is to deny that it can ever be given a meaning; to say that it is ambiguous is to assert that its meaning is never fixed, that it must be constantly won."
–Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity
Outside the bookshop all day the steamroller and bulldozer played tag with backhoe and crane. Tomorrow they'll finally blacktop the parking lot. Out back by the deck Jeff completes the fence helping people not fall into the harbor. The orange construction gate is removed. Stone and gravel will arrive in a few days. Saskia makes a deal with the French restaurant owner to buy four tables and chairs for the patio.
When, in the middle of my life, the earth stalks me
with sticks and stones, I fear its merciless beauty.
This morning a bird woke me with a four-note outcry,
and cried out eighteen times. With the shades down, sleepy
as I was, I recognized his agony.
It resembles ours. With one more heave, the day
sends us a generous orb and lets us
see all sights lost when we lie down finally.

(-- from section iii of poem, Three Valentines to the Wide World, by Mona Van Duyn)
We hear that Di's dad has died. Lies down. And we pray for him, her mother, and her.

Life is exactly what it is -- quite fragile, ferociously tenacious.

What great joy to be able to walk about.

While we can.

Each day.

No matter how funny we look.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The congressman says, "We don't want their oil." He says, "We don't want democracy in Iraq." He says, "We're there to help bring order to Iraq." He says, "There were mistakes made at the going into Iraq, there were mistakes made in the initial stages of the war, but now we are trying to help bring order to the country." He had visited Iraq. He had photographs. He ate baloney sandwiches with three marines from his home state. That's what he wants us to know.

My brief visit to C-Span is all the visit I need. I am as insane as all get-out.
Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;
where right is, also there is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;
delusion and enlightenment condition each other.
Since olden times it has been so.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other
is merely realizing a scene of stupidity.
Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,
how do you deal with each thing changing?

Nothing is different than the way it is in the world. Each thing is exactly what it is. The recently retired director of the central intelligence agency now sits on boards of defense contractors and is paid several millions to advise them how to profit from the war on Iraq and the war on terror. It is a short hop from helping to invade a country to helping oneself to the spoils of war. It seems our process of government makes the hops seamless.
There are thousands upon thousands of students
who have practised meditation and obtained its fruits.
Do not doubt its possibilities because of the simplicity of the method.
If you can not find the truth right where you are,
where else do you expect to find it?

At Friday Evening Conversation, after reading the first half of the final chapter (on death) in John O'Donohue's
Anam Cara, the conversation looked into our changing notions about death, the person dying, and care of body after death as the soul chooses its time to leave the body.

We wondered about how some die easy and some die hard. Animals, someone said, are always present to their surroundings, the immediate moment, and their people. Humans, we observed, are seldom present to where they are, the time they're there, and the person they are near. Is the difficulty many have with death, especially as they near the time of death, that they have not been present most of their lives? O'Donohue writes that the obstacles and diversions begin to fall away as we near death -- impediments to being present -- and the dying person slowly realizes the extent to which they've been present or absent to their life. The new experience of authentic presence, as wonderful as it is, can be distressing to someone who has not practiced presence in their life. They now long for it, want to go back and remedy and redeem the losses they're suddenly aware of, and fight to cling to life desperately, uncertain what will come based on what was.

Those whose belief is such, will be assured there is a forgiveness of absence (some say 'sin') by a loving and compassionate God in the afterlife. This belief is comforting. Others hold that what we sow in this existence will be reaped afterwards. Some posit no afterwards. Others follow the belief in a transition set of bardos which result in a fresh start in an reincarnated being to work on the things not attended to, to practice loving-kindness where it was not practiced before.

The key is presence. And authentic presence is presence toward (and with) each and every being placed in our presence. Authentic presence includes even absence -- a presence in absence, therefore, no sin -- rather a non-separate attentiveness and kindness to each and all, here and away.
It is as though you have an eye
That sees all forms
But does not see itself.
This is how your mind is.
Its light penetrates everywhere
And engulfs everything,
So why does it not know itself?

Each is invited to know itself.

Itself -- the core reality of existence -- becomes our true home.

No need to invade, possess, exploit, or profit from the anguish and suffering of others.

We cultivate generosity and reverence for our brothers and sisters.

We become human.

As God-Itself.

Revealing love.

As it is.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The absurdity is that we load a gun, point it at another's head, pull the trigger, are startled by loud blast, and then -- as if in a dream in someone else's sleep -- we find fault in the laxity of enforcement of laws prohibiting excessive noise.

This war is our nation's great shame.
Stop Pretending
The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom, and joy in the universe are already within us; we don't have to gain, develop, or attain them. Like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there's no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are--as soon as we stop pretending we're small or unholy. I could characterize nearly any spiritual practice as simply being: identify and stop, identify and stop, identify and stop. Identify the myriad forms of delusion we place upon ourselves, and must the courage to stop each one. Little by little deep inside us, he diamond shines, the eyes open, the dawn rises, we become what we already are. Tat Twam Asi (Thou Art That).

(--Bo Lozoff, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran)
Somehow, we pretend we are not responsible for what our government is doing. We believe the hand is exonerated from the shame of what the fingers do. Blood is splattered on everything. Respectable men and women are pretending there is no blood on their faces and sleeves.

A time approaches when blood will dry. The murderers will have disappeared. Weeping will suddenly cease. Lies will drown in deep waters of silence.
Promise Of Peace

The heads of strong old age are beautiful
Beyond all grace of youth. They have strange quiet,
Integrity, health, soundness, to the full
They've dealt with life and been tempered by it.
A young man must not sleep; his years are war,
Civil and foreign but the former's worse;
But the old can breathe in safety now that they are
Forgetting what youth meant, the being perverse,
Running the fool's gauntlet and being cut
By the whips of the five senses. As for me,
If I should wish to live long it were but
To trade those fevers for tranquillity,
Thinking though that's entire and sweet in the grave
How shall the dead taste the deep treasure they have?

(--Poem by Robinson Jeffers)
It's not enough to say you love your country and your president. It no longer suffices to bluster and badger as if such crude primping were a badge of distinction worn by rude schoolyard bullies high on smack-down.

Someone, somewhere, must be sane.

Not here.

Not me.




Sunday, May 06, 2007

We are as we find out together we are what we are.
2. "Existence Precedes Essence"

Sartre's slogan — "existence precedes essence" — may serve to introduce what is most distinctive of existentialism, namely, the idea that no general, non-formal account of what it means to be human can be given, since that meaning is decided in and through existing itself. Existence is "self-making-in-a-situation" (Fackenheim 1961:37). In contrast to other entities, whose essential properties are fixed by the kind of entities they are, what is essential to a human being — what makes her who she is — is not fixed by her type but by what she makes of herself, who she becomes.[4] The fundamental contribution of existential thought lies in the idea that one's identity is constituted neither by nature nor by culture, since to "exist" is precisely to constitute such an identity. It is in light of this idea that key existential notions such as facticity, transcendence (project), alienation, and authenticity must be understood.

At first, it seems hard to understand how one can say much about existence as such. Traditionally, philosophers have connected the concept of existence with that of essence in such a way that the former signifies merely the instantiation of the latter. If "essence" designates what a thing is and "existence" that it is, it follows that what is intelligible about any given thing, what can be thought about it, will belong to its essence. It is from essence in this sense — say, human being as rational animal or imago Dei — that ancient philosophy drew its prescriptions for an individual's way of life, its estimation of the meaning and value of existence. Having an essence meant that human beings could be placed within a larger whole, a kosmos, that provided the standard for human flourishing. Modern philosophy retained this framework even as it abandoned the idea of a "natural place" for man in the face of the scientific picture of an infinite, labyrinthine universe. In what looks like a proto-existential move, Descartes rejected the traditional essential definitions of man in favor of a radical, first-person reflection on his own existence, the "I am." Nevertheless, he quickly reinstated the old model by characterizing his existence as that of a substance determined by an essential property, "thinking." In contrast, Heidegger proposes that "I" am "an entity whose what [essence] is precisely to be and nothing but to be" (Heidegger 1985:110; 1962:67). Such an entity's existing cannot, therefore, be thought as the instantiation of an essence, and consequently what it means to be such an entity cannot be determined by appeal to pre-given frameworks or systems — whether scientific, historical, or philosophical.

(from Existentialism, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy First published Mon 23 Aug, 2004, by Steven Crowell,
What are we finding out? What do we understand by saying we are: "precisely to be and nothing but to be"?

Nothing but to be.