Saturday, September 08, 2007

We're taking a few days quiet away. The Bookshop Bakery will re-open Wednesday afternoon 12Sept07

Religion is a tricky category. You can claim to be religious and not be. You can claim not to be religious, and be such. Charlatans make facile claims. Holiness remains silent.

There's one, and only one, way to know one from the other.
The United States, we love to say — and Europeans repeat in a kind of incredulous wonder — is the most “religious” country in the world. Meaning, of course, the most church-going country in the world. Whether or not going to church correlates well with religious values is clearly a debatable subject. To wit, the corporal works of mercy — as in, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the imprisoned, visit the sick, and bury the dead. It is on these criteria in Matthew 25: 31-46, however, that Jesus rests his definition of salvation. No small thing for those who considers themselves “religious.”
(Published on Friday, September 7, 2007 by National Catholic Reporter, re-posted on Common Dreams, We Need Candidates Who Are Really Religious, by Joan Chittister)
Only by fruits are the religious known. It's what we are and what we do -- not what we say. Talk, as they say, is cheap. Acts are a more reliable currency.

Mostly, what we need is transformation.
Looking Deeply
Garbage can smell terrible, especially rotting organic matter. But it can also become rich compost for fertilizing the garden. The fragrant rose and the stinking garbage are two sides of the same existence. Without one, the other cannot be. Everything is in transformation. The rose that wilts after six days will become a part of the garbage. After six months the garbage is transformed into a rose. When we speak of impermanence, we understand that everything is in transformation. This becomes that, and that becomes this. Looking deeply, we can contemplate one thing and see everything else in it. We are not disturbed by change when we see the interconnectedness and continuity of all things. It is not that the life of any individual is permanent, but that life itself continues.

(--Thich Nhat Hanh, in Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Then there are words that encourage others to act. Even the current Pope, Benedict XVI, has good words, like the following:
Benedict urged the young to "go against the grain" and not be seduced by pressure, including from the mass media, to succeed at all costs in arrogant, egotistical ways.

"Be vigilant! Be critical! Don't get swept up in the wave of this powerful persuasion," he said. "Don't be afraid, dear friends, to take the 'alternate' path indicated by true love: a sober and solid lifestyle, with loving, sincere and pure relations, an honest commitment to studies and work, and the profound interest in the common good."

(--Pope urges young to care for planet, By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 2, 4:14 PM ET)
He was talking about paying attention to the earth's resources. I suppose his words could equally apply to matters of faith, authority, abuses, and healthy direction with regard to church, state, and corporate life. In fact, life itself.
The Dreams of the Old

So they are around our table—my mother,
my father, an uncle—and we begin to talk
about our dreams—with some urgency—
as if our dreams could pinpoint our psychic
dangers—our unrealized goals—our
ordinary fear of death and the future.
My mother talks about her dreams of flying
over the little town where she grew up—
over the old Opera House—down Main Street—
with all the people she knew below her—
then towards the gently flowing river—
that seemed to flow into the sunset—
toward which she soared—she lingered
with us on that image—as if she had said
enough—then—my uncle talked about
his recurring dream—he's going to be
in a play—but no one's bothered
to rehearse the scenes—he's standing
in the wings waiting to go on—he doesn't
know what he will say—all through this
my father is silent—he is closest to death—
we all know this—we forgive him his silence—
his silence—has his presence—as in a dream.

(--Poem: "The Dreams of the Old" by Timothy J. Nolan, on The Writer's Almanac)
In today's culture, everyone is a commentator. Similarly, no act, no person passing by is immune from worded assessment, opinion pinned to their departing presence, or judgment levied with the unconscious mimicry of an omniscient God, indignant Imam, infallible Pope, or other examples where arrogance might subtly appear in association with power, knowledge, or assumed superiority.

The silent among us dwell differently.

Only acts speak.




Friday, September 07, 2007

Tomorrow is Mary's birthday.
Unmon said: "I do not ask you about fifteen days ago. But what about fifteen days hence? Come, say a word about this!" Since none of the monks answered, he answered for them: "Every day is a good day."
--Zen Koan
In prison this morning one of the men said "Compassion brings the one practicing it into intimate connection with the one receiving compassion. Pity puts the pitier at a distance from the one pitied."`
The Lord God called to the man. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it’. Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate’.
--Genesis 3:9 - 20
It's only an apple.

Now we need a little compassion.

Happy birthday!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

No voice but Luciano Pavarotti today singing Nessun Dorma.
You have obstacles only because you have not realized the emptiness of the eons. Genuine Wayfarers are never like this; they just dissolve their history according to conditions, dressing according to circumstances, acting when they need to act, and sitting when they need to sit, without any idea of seeking the fruits of buddhahood.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
At Thursday Evening Conversation the talk was of war.

War is not the answer.

So many think it is.

It's not.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Metaphor carries us beyond.

God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that.

(-- Joseph Campbell, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists)

And that, of course, is that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dark early. At sundown I rowed Camden Harbor, out around Curtis Island, wide sweep toward red buoy, and back through channel. One harbor seal kept an eye on me on my return.
If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance,
No root, no basis, no abode,
But is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.
Therefore when you look for it,
You become further from it;
When you seek it,
You turn away from it all the more.
- Rinzai (d.867)
In cabin, a solitary candle burns through darkness for friend one year dead today, She knew the cabin well on Sunday evenings -- sitting, walking, and chanting. I miss her.

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
( --Poem by W. H. Auden, 1938)

At my first class on Ethics tomorrow night I'll lecture on "Suffering." I agree with Albert Camus. He said: ""There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide." We each ask the question. The conclusion we reach is consequential.
Depression is not about pain. Depression is about the absence of pain, the absence of feeling.
Depression covers anxiety and fear like a fog. Once depressed, I was no longer anxious about my children. If I drank a cup of coffee, my mood was not enhanced; if I went to a party, I didn't feel better.
If I read poetry, my soul no longer blossomed as it had in the past. No feeling is what depression is about, and the condition created a barrier between me and my children, my husband, my friends.
Depression is not about pain: it's about everything gone away. ...
Women in each generation of my family endured lives of poverty; they passively suffered the births of many children, yet they knew there were other lives they could have lived. They were afraid to look. ....

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 -- the book Out of Her Mind: Women Writing on Madness, ed. by Rebecca Shannonhouse)
What does it mean to transcend one's own reality?

Who is suffering? And, whose suffering is not also ours?

It is good to live a good life. Would it be better to realize the wholeness of life?

You are my metaphor.

Your very reality.

As it.

Candle flame.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Old dog and olding companion to old dog walk Ragged Mountain early. Young dogs with pleasant companions catch up easily, greet, and pass ahead on the trails and runways. It is Labor Day. A holiday.

Mountain waves branches welcoming all visitors.

The perfect way’s like boundless space
Nothing lacking, nothing extra
It is because of choice
That its absolute truth is lost.
Don’t pursue externals;
Don’t dally in the interior void.
When the spirit remains serene
In the unity of things
Dualism vanishes by itself;
When that unity is not clear
There is loss in both directions.

- Sent-ts’an (d. 606)
Cars will head south today. The beautiful weather will cause to linger those wishing one last canoe ride, one last walk on country path, one last long cup of coffee talking about the summer vacation and dreamingly itemizing next year's.

All is flux
The Buddha stressed the dynamic nature of existence. This resonates with the ideas of some early Greek philosophers, such as Heraclitus, who maintained that, "All is flux" and "You can't step into the same river twice." Now, all this sounds like common sense. Yest there is something in our minds and emotions that kicks back at the idea of change. We are forever trying to break the dynamic world-dance, which is a unity, into separate "things," which we then freeze in the ice of thought. But the world-dance doggedly refuses to remain fragmented and frozen. It swirls on, changing from moment to moment laughing at all our pitiful attempts to organize and control it. In order to live skillfully, in harmony with the dynamic Universe, it is essential to accept the reality of change and impermanence. The wise person therefore travels lightly, with a minimum of clutter, maintaining the proverbial "open mind" in all situations, for he or she knows hat tomorrow's reality will not be the same as today's. He or she will also have learned the divine art of letting go -- which means not being attached to people and possessions and situations, but rather, when the time for parting comes, allowing that to happen graciously.

(- John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)

Sometimes what we call prayer is all that remains. With prayer we lift mind/heart to what is in itself loving and true, to what is in itself -- love and truth.

Mid-morning reading (Terce)
This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people. (--Jeremiah 31:33)

Then, when people look through their hearts -- then, will what is called God be seen through.

Minute by minute the day is.

And becomes.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Three of us faced Belfast Harbor talking about boats, buildings, and beautiful mornings.

Alden is 60 today. He invited us into his backyard.
The pure light of your mind in a single moment of thought is the reality-body Buddha in your own house.
The nondiscriminatory light of your mind in a single moment of thought is the reward-body Buddha in your own house.
The nondifferentiated light of your mind in a single moment of thought is the projection-body Buddha in your own house.
These three kinds of embodiment are none other than the person who is listening to the teaching right here and now, but it is only by not seeking outwardly that one has these effective functions.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
A gracious host in Belfast, a reminder of the quiet joy of hospitality, and we are welcomed beings.

The walk back across the foot bridge is sweet September sunshine and lovely breeze. Men and boys bait their hooks, tossing lines down into Passagassawakeag river.

Back from where we come from, a man in white Rankins' hat keeps watch over the day.

Tide makes its way up-river.