Saturday, June 02, 2007

Longing: The erstwhile natural state of humankind. Belonging: That which is longed for. Breathing: That which we do before, during, and after the course of longing and belonging. Until, that is, breath pauses, disappears, enters stillness.

One of the reasons we call breath (or 'spirit') 'holy' is because there is no life without it.
Thomas Aquinas when trying intellectually to interpret the revealed mystery of the Trinity,...saw the Word, the Son, proceeding by way or by mode of understanding and the Breath, the Spirit, proceeding by way or by mode of will.
(P.3, The Word and the Spirit, by Yves Congar, c.1984)
Will is our longing for home; home is where we dwell as one.

Yesterday Meetingbrook began an additional place of conversation at Maine State Prison, a segregated unit not able to avail themselves of ordinary offerings. We unpack some Metallica lyrics and observe how many of us mask our inner life and insights in harsh noise designed to turn away anyone approaching.
The waterfall on South Mountain hits the rocks,
Tosses back its foam with terrifying thunder,
Blotting out even face-to-face talk.
Collapsing water and bouncing foam soak blue moss,
Old moss so thick
It drowns the spring grass.
Animals are hushed.
Birds fly but don’t sing
Yet a white turtle plays on the
Pool’s sand floor
Under riotous spray,
Sliding about with the torrents.
The people of the land are benevolent.
No angling or net fishing.
The white turtle lives out its life, naturally.
- Wang Wei (701-761)
Our lives are lived in the midst of unsettling externals and equally difficult to decipher interior impulses. We're often surprised to look around and see where we are, where we've landed.
Where The Wild Things Are (Metallica lyrics)
Artist: Metallica
Album: Reload
Year: 1997
Title: Where The Wild Things Are

So wake up, sleepy one
It's time to save your world

Steal dreams and give to you
Shoplift a thought or two
All children touch the sun
Burn fingers one by one, by one

Will this earth be good to you?
Keep you clean or stain through?

So wake up, sleepy one
It's time to save your world
You're where the wild things are
Toy soldiers off to war

Big eyes to open soon
Believing all under sun and moon
But does heaven know you're here?
And did they give you smiles or tears?
No, no tears

Will this earth be good to you?
Keep you clean or stain through?

So wake up, sleepy one
It's time to save your world
You're where the wild things are
Toy soldiers off to war

You swing your rattle down
Call to arms, the trumpets sound
Toy horses start the charge
Robot chessmen standing guard

Hand puppets storm the beach
Fire trucks trapped out of reach
Hand puppets storm the beach
Fire trucks trapped out of reach
All clowns reinforce the rear
Slingshots fire into the air
All clowns reinforce the rear
Slingshots fire into the air
Stuffed bears hold the hill till death
Crossfire from the marionettes
Stuffed bears hold the hill till death
Crossfire from the marionettes
We shall never surrender

All you children touch the sun
Burn your fingers one by one
Will this earth be good to you?
Keep you clean or stain through?

So wake up, sleepy one
It's time to save your world
You're where the wild things are
Toy soldiers off to war
Off to war
Off to war

So close your little eyes

Some wonder: Where is God in this world?

Theologians mull:
The Spirit, then, is from the Father and the Son. Augustine reflects about this datum, often within the context of his ordinary preoccupations, such as the need to answer certain questions, to reply to the Donatists, or to throw light on the spiritual life of believers and their life in the Church. He says, for example:
'Scripture enables us to know in the Father the principle, auctoritas, in the Son being begotten and born, nativitas, and in the Spirit the union of the Father and the Son, Patris Filiique communitas... The society of the unity of the Church of God, outside of which there is no remission of sins, is in a sense the work of the Holy Spirit, with, of course, the cooperation of the Father and the Son, because the Holy Spirit himself is in a sense the society of the Father and Son.

The Father is not possessed in common as Father by the Son and the Holy Spirit, because he is not the Father of the two. The Son is not possessed in common as Son by the Father and the Holy Spirit, because he is not the Son of the two. But the Holy Spirit is possessed in common by the Father and the Son, because he is the one Spirit of the two.' (27)
Augustine was naturally loving and always gave priority to charity. As a pastor and teacher living in the midst of Donatists, he elaborated an ecclesiology at two levels, that of the sacramentum and that of unitas-charitas-Columba, in which the Spirit was the principle of life, unity and effectiveness to save. Even in his early writings, he called the Spirit charitas. (28) This idea emerges from the first evidence of his interest in a theology of the Holy Spirit. It can be found, for example, in his preaching and his commentaries on Scripture. (29) It is clearly present in De Trin. VI, 5, 7. Augustine concludes: 'They are three, the one loving the one who has his being from him, the other loving the one from whom he has his being, and that love itself.'

(from, Augustine, the Trinity, and the Filioque-Yves Congar; St. Augustine's Theology of the Holy Trinity. Excerpt from Yves Congar's book I Believe in the Holy Spirit {vol. 3, Part B - chapter 1: Augustine} outlines Saint Augustine's understanding of the person and role of the Holy Spirit in relation to the other two persons of the Most Holy Trinity.)
Where are we in this world?

We look. We listen. We engage.


(In effect. Is...)



Friday, June 01, 2007

It is good to be in conversation circles at the prison.


Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success of failure: which is more destructive?

If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching)
And to belong.

In the world.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A woman we know dislikes religion -- immensely. Even as we converse and argue together, I admit she has a point. Our deeper argument has to do with the relationship of individual to belief. A man we know worries about casting any doubt on a person's belief. His concern centers on the question of what does he have as replacement belief should his words cause their current belief to fall away.

It would be a difficult argument and a harder practice to claim that religion and belief are unnecessary. I would not make that claim. Unless...a profound faith, an existential hope, and a fearless love were to wander into our lives and be recognized as the mysterious presence of what once we were satisfied to call "God."

This ineffable knowing would have no exterior validation other than the day to day living of one's life. No rational proof, no literary tenets, and no rhetorical persuasion would be satisfactory credential. Only the breath by breath, step by step, glance by glance, engaged ordinariness of simple presence -- only this mere being-with one another in everydayness would be the offering of such a life
The problem is not religion but religious orthodoxy. Most moral thinkers—from Socrates to Christ to Francis of Assisi—eschewed the written word because they knew, I suspect, that once things were written down they became, in the wrong hands, codified and used not to promote morality but conformity, subservience and repression. Writing freezes speech. George Steiner calls this “the decay into writing.” Language is turned from a living and fluid form of moral inquiry to a tool of bondage.

The moment the writers of the Gospels set down the words of Jesus they began to kill the message. There is no room for prophets within religious institutions—indeed within any institutions—for as Paul Tillich knew, all human institutions, including the church, are inherently demonic. Tribal societies persecute and silence prophets. Open societies tolerate them at their fringes, and our prophets today come not from the church but from our artists, poets and writers who follow their inner authority. Samuel Beckett’s voice is one of modernity’s most authentically religious. Beckett, like the author of Ecclesiastes, was a realist. He saw the pathetic, empty monuments we spend a lifetime building to ourselves. He knew, as we read in Ecclesiastes, that nothing is certain or permanent, real or unreal, and that the secret of wisdom is detachment without withdrawal, that, since death awaits us all, all is vanity, that we must give up on the childish notion that one is rewarded for virtue or wisdom. In Ecclesiastes God has put ’olam into man’s mind. ’Olam usually means eternity, but it also means the sense of mystery or obscurity. We do not know what this mystery means. It teases us, as Keats wrote, out of thought. And once we recognize it and face it, simplistic answers no longer work. We are all born lost. Our vain belief in our own powers, in our reason, blinds us.

Those who silenced Jesus represented all human societies, not the Romans or the Jews. When Jesus attacks the chief priests, scribes, lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees and other “blind guides” he is attacking forms of oppression as endemic to Christianity, as to all religions and all ideologies. If civil or religious authority enforces an iron and self-righteous conformity among members of a community, then faith loses its uncertainty, and the element of risk is removed from acts of faith. Faith is then transformed into ideology. Those who deform faith into creeds, who use it as a litmus test for institutional fidelity, root religion in a profane rather than a sacred context. They seek, like all who worship idols, to give the world a unity and coherency it does not possess. They ossify the message. And once ossified it can never reach an existential level, can never rise to ethical freedom—to faith. The more vast the gap between professed faith and acts of faith, the more vast our delusions about our own grandeur and importance, the more intolerant, aggressive and dangerous we become.
(from "Chris Hedges: I Don’t Believe in Atheists," May 22, 2007, By Chris Hedges.
Editor’s Note: On Tuesday night, Chris Hedges and Sam Harris debated “Religion, Politics and the End of the World.”
Here at Ragged Mountain we have our own brand of intolerance. This morning the hav-a-heart trap rattled noisily. When I approached there were two red squirrels saying "Uh oh!" I took them for a ride to a lovely setting with ocean view where they quickly found a tree to reassess their needs. Back at the farmhouse we'll listen to the ceiling and the walls to determine whether the crawlspaces find new tenants. Extraordinary rendition is closer to home than I'd easily admit.

In the shop, discussion often goes to the dangerous influences in our lives. If someone feels religion or belief to be dangerous influences, there are still the persons-as-themselves to be considered, respected, and engaged. Each one of us has a history and a traceable journey we've traversed. Some have moved from one belief to another, from one religion to another, or from a particular tradition to the abandonment of that tradition. These are sometimes very personal and very difficult transitions. Some of us stay with the beliefs, religion, and tradition of our earliest days. There are many permutations of personal spiritual life. Each, I submit, must be acknowledged and appreciated as being, for the individual involved, the journey they travel. We honor one another by honoring the journey.

We also inquire. We ask: How is your journey? We ask: How can we help? We ask: Tell us where you've been and where you are, and where you feel you might be heading?

If we ask into our own journeys, we are prepared to hear the inquiries of others. If we are willing to share (safely) the questions we've asked and the answers we've heard, we are valuable companions to brothers and sisters on their ways.

The most valuable responses we can give to the questions of belief and religion are our own responses. When we are willing to say where we are, others might hear where they are.
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

(Reinhold Niebuhr, in his Irony of American History, c.1952.)
If we are able to forgive ourselves for being exactly as we are at the time we are that way, we might learn how to forgive one another for being exactly as each is at the time they are that way.

Put another way, every journey begins with acceptance and ultimately arrives at acceptance. Between acceptance and acceptance is the wobbly, wavering, wonderful and sometimes wayward journey we call our lives.
In the Park

You have forty-nine days between
death and rebirth if you're a Buddhist.
Even the smallest soul could swim
the English Channel in that time
or climb, like a ten-month-old child,
every step of the Washington Monument
to travel across, up, down, over or through
–you won't know till you get there which to do.

He laid on me for a few seconds
said Roscoe Black, who lived to tell
about his skirmish with a grizzly bear
in Glacier Park. He laid on me not doing anything. I could feel his heart
beating against my heart.

Never mind lie and lay, the whole world
confuses them. For Roscoe Black you might say
all forty-nine days flew by.

I was raised on the Old Testament.
In it God talks to Moses, Noah,
Samuel, and they answer.
People confer with angels. Certain
animals converse with humans.
It's a simple world, full of crossovers.
Heaven's an airy Somewhere, and God
has a nasty temper when provoked,
but if there is a Hell, little is made of it.
No longtailed Devil, no eternal fire,

and no choosing what to come back as.
When the grizzly bear appears, he lies/lays down
on atheist and zealot. In the pitch-dark
each of us waits for him in Glacier Park.

(Poem: "In the Park" by Maxine Kumin, from Nurture. Viking Penguin, 1989.)
Last evening's conversation was about Patricia's interest in the boundless.

Much help is needed to negotiate and navigate our way through the barriers and the boundaries.

The grizzly patterns.

Wanting unraveling.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It is a fact that many in the world mock others in the world. Mockery is just another one of those facts of life everyone must learn to endure. To endure these difficult experiences -- without cynicism or bitterness, but with composure and equanimity -- is a meditative practice worth learning
As the gate of heaven opens and closes,
Can you be impassive?
As understanding reaches everywhere,
Can you be innocent?
Producing and developing,
Producing without possessing,
Doing without presuming,
Growing without domineering:
This is called mysterious power.

(- Tao-te Ching)
To endure something difficult is not the same as relinquishing one's dignity and being cowed by the mockery heaped. In the beginnings of Christianity the notion of martyrdom -- suffering for what you hold as true -- was rife.
They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem; Jesus was walking on ahead of them; they were in a daze, and those who followed were apprehensive.
(--Mark 10:32)
Of course, apprehensive. It is a shock to the system (the personal system as well as the political system) when you realize your views are eliciting mockery and scorn.

Cindy Sheehan, once reviled by the Republicans for her criticism of them, becomes also reviled by Democrats after criticizing them. She holds as true that neither of the political parties is really interested nor courageous enough to effectively admit and act on the futile failure of this country's invasion and occupation of Iraq. She is mocked. She withdraws from the fray.
12. Nirvana is attained by giving all,
Nirvana is the object of my striving;
And all must be surrendered in a single instant,
Therefore it is best to give it all to others.

13. This body I have now resigned
To serve the pleasure of all living beings.
Let them ever kill, despise, and beat it,
Using it according to their wish.

14. And though they treat it like a toy,
Or make of it the butt of every mockery,
My body has been given up to them.
Why should I make so much of it?

15. And so let beings do to me
Whatever does not bring them injury.
Whenever they may think of me,
Let this not fail to bring them benefit.

(Excerpt from Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva, From Chapter 3: Taking Hold of Bodhichitta)
What does others injury is what they do to us. Likewise, our acts and intentions concerning ourselves go a long way to either bring injury or pardon to another. We heal others when we are ourselves healed. Wholeness has no other place to go but everywhere.
mock·er·y (mk-r)
n. pl. mock·er·ies
1. Scornfully contemptuous ridicule; derision.
2. A specific act of ridicule or derision.
3. An object of scorn or ridicule: (made a mockery of the rules.)
4. A false, derisive, or impudent imitation: (The trial was a mockery of justice.)
5. Something ludicrously futile or unsuitable: (The few packages of food seemed a mockery in the face of such enormous destitution.)
(--from The Free Dictionary)
Let's find something to praise.

Some small appreciation.

To countervail.

To encourage.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is there no going back?
Carrying vitality and consciousness,
Embracing them as one,
Can you keep them from parting?
Concentrating energy,
Making it supple,
Can you be like an infant?
Purifying hidden perception,
Can you make it flawless?
Loving the people,
Governing the nation,
Can you be uncontrived?
- Tao-te Ching
If there is no leaving home, there is no going home again.

There's no going back because there is no "back" to return to.

There's no time like the present.

No time.

Like...(only just)

The present.

Monday, May 28, 2007

If we were mindful, would we agree with Nikos Kazantzakis, who wrote in the Prologue to his Report to Greco, that : "God is being built."?
Into a person,
Absolutely free
From thoughts and emotions,
Even the tiger finds no room
To insert its fierce claws.
- Shinkage-ryu sword school
I don't know why God is feared. Someone has badly imprisoned human imagination.

Our ancestors call out to us in our cells and memories. They are asking us to reconsider our myths, reverse our thinking, and reverence the One from which we come and to which we are to be building. There is now, and always has been, a truer way to dwell and act than that which deception wishes to turned us from. "Way" -- whether as articulated by Christ, or by Lao Tzu -- is our true course.
"Reach what you can, my child."
Your voice was grave and dark, as though iisuing from the deep larynx of the earth.
It reached the roots of my mind, but my heart remained unshaken.
"Grandfather," I called more loudly now, give me a more difficult, more Cretan command."
Hardly had I finished speaking when, all at once, a hissing flame cleaved the air. The indomitable ancestor with the thyme roots tangled in his locks vanished from my sight; a cry was left on Sinai's peak, an upright cry full of command, and the air trembled:
"Reach what you cannot!"
(--p.22, in Report to Greco, by Nikos Kazantzakis, c.1965)
To reach what "I" cannot requires "you" and "you" and "you," "Our" father/mother, our ancestors and guardian angels, our deepest longings and most sacred instincts -- all collate and collaborate together to awaken our attention.

In the United States today is Memorial Day. For us it is a time to honor and pray for all those dead and deadened by war. So many have died. So many have been deadened.
God is the most resplendent face of despair, the most resplendent face of hope. You are pushing me beyond hope and despair, grandfather, beyond the age-old frontiers. Where? I gaze around me, I gaze inside me.Virtue has gone mad, geometry and matter have gone mad.The law-giving mind must come again to establish a new order, new laws.The world must become a richer harmony.
(--p.22, Kazantzakis)
This is the day following Pentecost. Something happened that day...long ago. Was it an intimation of a "richer harmony" beyond hope and despair?

I belong to this longing for a richer harmony. And I long to follow this "Way" with all who are willing to accept the gift of being "friend" one to another. If this is "church' -- then I am a church-dweller. Church is the doing of what we are. Are we friends on the way to a more subtle, richer harmony?
They have set their mouth in the heavens,
and their tongue traverses the earth.
Thus they sit in their lofty positions,
and the flood-waters cannot reach them.
They ask, “How can God know?
Does the Most High have any understanding?”
Behold, then, the wicked, always prosperous:
their riches growing for ever.
(from Ps. 72, Office of Readings)
Many of us do not attend church any longer. Not even those who show up at church on Saturdays or Sundays are assured they are attending church. Church is the doing of what we are. If we are not engaging (with body, heart, or mind) all our brothers and sisters, near or far -- we are not attending church.

Mindfulness is today's church without and beyond walls.
Mindfulness is present-time awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It is the observance of what is happening right now, in the present moment. It stays forever in the present, perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time.

If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is mindfulness. If you then conceptualize that process and say to yourself, "Oh, I am remembering," that is thinking.
(-Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English)
If we are willing to practice mindfulness, we are being built as God is being built.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The priest in Belfast mentioned the "Way" Jesus spoke of, and the "friends" he spoke with.
1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.
(--Acts 2)
Perhaps "church" is the practice of being "all in one place together." (Not a building; not an institution; not even a denomination.) When we attend one another wholeheartedly, we are in the "place" of the "way" of "friends."
All of them look to you
to give them their food when they need it.
You give it to them, and they gather;
you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
But turn away, and they are dismayed;
take away their breath, and they die,
once more they will turn into dust.
You will send forth your breath, they will come to life;
you will renew the face of the earth.
(--from Psalm 104)
We will come to life.

With. One. Breath.

As is the way of friends.

Seeing things through.


We are you.