Saturday, September 15, 2007

A man at conversation argued the crucifixion of Jesus never happened, that the story was a political and manipulative psychological mechanism of control over people by power brokers. O'Donohue had been writing about suffering, the cross and crucifixion as transfiguring moments in the life of Jesus, and thusly in the life of the world.

Another man spoke about the narrative of love and relationship moving through the scriptures, the invitation to turn to a life that encounters dark nights and dawning anticipation.

A woman weighed in that there is fact telling and truth telling, and that truth is not always represented by the clearest facts.

We love our conversations!
It is the one who is without obsession who is noble. Just do not act in a contrived manner; simply be normal. When you go searching elsewhere outside yourself, your whole approach is already mistaken. You just try to seek buddhahood, but buddhahood is just a name, an expression. Do you know the one who is doing the searching?
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
The journey of many if not all of us is one that takes us through this world with its combination of delusions and joys and tosses us up against the facts and facticity of human life. (Facticity (French: facticité, German: Faktizität) refers to the contingent yet intractable conditions of human existence. --from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, in the Catholic Christian calendar, was the feast of the Holy Cross. It was unintended that we read the part of O'Donohue's Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger to Belong dealing with the cross. It came out in conversation that suffering certainly seems to be universal, that the longing to pass through it is common, and that there is a difference between suffering which remains merely hurtfully punitive and suffering that is redemptive. The redemptive yields light, relief, understanding, and freedom when it has ceased. If so, and given the narrative story of this man named Jesus, why would there be a need to exempt him from suffering or even the telling of the story of his suffering, despite what anyone has chosen to make of it?

One's reality is one's reality. It is not dependent on the interpretation given it by either self or others. What is taking place, and what has taken place, is as it is. Whatever the mind makes of it is merely adjacent to the fact that it is as it is.

Because someone has ridiculed you, made of your suffering a boon to them for gain or control, there is no need to dismiss you as not having suffered what you did. Each person's suffering, however incurred, is to be allowed to be what it is. Our response -- whether an attempt to heal, or commiserate, or merely to hear of it -- invites us to practice an integrity of presence. Presence is presence. Speculation is speculation. Theories are theories. My choice in the face of suffering is presence.
A sermon of St Bernard
His mother stood by the cross
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.
Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus – who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours – gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.
Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!
Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his
(--from Office of Readings, on feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.)
Here's my take: We're alive right now.

Let's. Be.

That. Be this.

Now. And for.



Friday, September 14, 2007

The retired minister from northern Michigan camping in Maine sat in tonight's conversation. He is studying God's love letter to the world. Peanut butter cookie helps.

Meditating deeply
Reach the depth of the source.
Branching streams cannot
Compare to this source!
Sitting alone in a great silence
Even though the heavens
Turn and the earth is upset,
You will not even wink.

- Nyogen Senzaki (1876-1958)
In prison this morning John said about Mary Oliver's lines in The Summer Day that it seemed to him no one should waste one's life. It's a good phrase he expressed about not wasting one's life. "One's" life is the given. "One" is all there is. Each is a manifestation of that life. When we do not save that life as whole, we waste that life. One is one. By not being whole ourselves -- by siphoning off ourselves from the whole, by collapsing and fragmenting ourselves in non-essential detachment and intentional isolation -- we forget the very nature of our life and life itself.
Love at First Sight

You always hear about it—
a waitress serves a man two eggs
over easy and she says to the cashier,
That is the man I'm going to marry,
and she does. Or a man spies a woman
at a baseball game; she is blond
and wearing a blue headband,
and, being a man, he doesn't say this
or even think it, but his heart is a homing bird
winging to her perch, and next thing you know
they're building birdhouses in the garage.
How do they know, these auspicious lovers?
They are like passengers on a yellow
bus painted with the dreams
of innumerable lifetimes, a packet
of sepia postcards in their pocket.
And who's to say they haven't traveled
backward for centuries through borderless
lands, only to arrive at this roadside attraction
where Chance meets Necessity and says,
What time do you get off?

(--Poem: "Love at First Sight" by Jennifer Maier from Dark Alphabet. Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.)
We do an evening wash of Cesco on grass under cloudy sky. The indignities of advanced age! The difficulty of letting go, letting anything go, is the rusty practice of opening hand, releasing grip, and waving farewell. We humans are uncertain about this one certainty -- death. We prefer dying, not death. We like the saying that where there's life there's hope.

Albert Camus thinks it is possible to live an absurd life, and still be happy. I agree.

I tell the dog it's a two edged sword to be loved. He climbs the two steps to front door and resumes his place in front room.

Dear friend -- what time do you get off?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's official. America will stay in Iraq. No reduction of troops. No strategy to end or disengage.

Instead, 2.5 billion dollars a week, with an acceptable number of US military casualties, and an acceptable number of angry Iraqi casualties. (This former category -- angry Iraqis-- for purposes of shilling the war, are typically called insurgents, terrorists, or, of late, al Qaeda in Iraq.)
Which way
Did you come from,
Following dream paths at night,
While snow is still deep
In this mountain recess?

- Ryokan (1758-1831)
The temperature chills. It's Maine. Time to fret that the wood is not ordered. Snow could come any time. (That's a bit over-reaching.) Still...something to think about other than futility and absurdity.

Mr. Bush gave a well-crafted speech tonight. Also delivered well. It would comfort me -- if I agreed with his premise, his reasoning, and the fact of the devastating problem he's led us into, and will not get us out of.
You do bad deeds and hope to get back good

Though bad deserves bad only in return.

God is merciful and kind, but even so,

If you plant barley, wheat won't grow.

(Poem by Jalal al-Din Rumi, #1798, from Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi)

There's no good place for this war to go.

We'll have to suffer its continuance.

Make do with barley. Look for wheat.

And look, and look, and look.

Let's keep the fast.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rosh Hashanah -- Happy New Year!

Ramadan -- Good Fasting!
"Friends, I tell you this: there is no Buddha, no spiritual path to follow, no training and no realization. What are you so feverishly running after? Putting a head on top of your own head, you blind idiots? Your head is right where it should be. The trouble lies in your not believing in yourselves enough. Because you don't believe in yourselves you are knocked here and there by all the conditions in which you find yourselves. Being enslaved and turned around by objective situations, you have no freedom whatever, you are not masters of yourselves. Stop turning to the outside and don't be attached to my words either. Just cease clinging to the past and hankering after the future. This will be better than ten years' pilgrimage."
(--Lin Chi)
Nice name, Mary!

No clinging, no hankering!

My kind of guy, that Lin Chi!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Maybe there's a need to bench God for a while. Sit him down. Give her a towel. Hand him/her some water. Put on a warm-up jacket. Lean back. Loosen shoelaces. Become just one of the team. Do we think God would take issue? Would God be upset?

Maybe we'll recommend adjusting the use of the word "God" and continue encouraging the reality of God to work through all creation. We'll have to decide whether the word has been so used and abused that the call to park the name, the concept, or the being on the bench is a useful hiatus.
Space and the Buddha-nature
One of the most common analogies used to describe the Buddha-nature is space itself. This analogy has three aspects. First, just as space is omnipresent and yet is unpolluted by everything it pervades, similarly, Buddha-nature pervades every sentient being without being in any way tainted. Second, just as galaxies and universes arise and pass within space, so do the characteristics of our personalities arise and pass within Buddha-nature. Our sensations arise and pass away; Buddha-nature continues. Third, just as space is never consumed by fire, so this Buddha-nature is never consumed by the "fire" of aging, sickness, or death
(--B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)
Humanly, we look at 9-11 with a mixture of anger, sorrow, and frustration. It is not apparent that wisdom has yet arrived. What individuals have done with the experience is mostly private. What the government has done in response is well known. Of that, there is anger, sorrow, and frustration on every side.
The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

(Poem: "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver, from House of Light. Beacon Press, 1992.)
Maybe prayer is the willingness to "pay attention," "fall down," "kneel down," "be idle," "blessed," and "stroll through." Mary Oliver asks me what I plan to do with my life. The fact of 9-11 on a summer day six years ago also asks.

There's a need for a new understanding and experience of what we've called "God." The ways we've settled on to call God into the game when a strong arm in needed to enforce some payback, or to act as a fund raiser for private enterprises, as a foot soldier pulling the trigger, or greeter for suicide bombers entering what they call paradise -- all need revision.
"How do we go about this weeding of distorted influences that have shaped us since birth, and throughout formative years as a child, teenager, young adult? The key is the acceptance of the struggle to live an existence on the planet earth as free of as many illusions and delusions as possible. To truly know yourself is to struggle to overcome psychological weaknesses and develop inner strength
through knowledge and understanding, to learn to grapple with what you've been taught to believe about life, God, politics, love, art, and much more—and keep on struggling till you know what is true and what is based on inadequate knowledge and distortions of tradition and custom."
"We've got thousands of theologians mired in literalism and bias, spouting their limited interpretations of God and the Bible to crowds just as gullible as those Voltaire called the “credulous rabble” three hundred years ago. Not that the other four of the Big Five religions don’t have their mouthpieces to convince everyone their way is THE way. Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, together create an immense hermeneutic absurdity of vast scope, a chaotic mind collage of abstract concepts, delusions, distortions and embellishment mixed with genuine vision and meaningful myth. The only saving grace, and I cannot stress this too often, is the stream of Sophianic wisdom, clear and pure, flowing through the flotsam and jetsam of it all, which, if we are careful, attentive, sincere, meticulously eclectic and persevering, we can partake of."

(- from Pushing Ultimates, by Lew Paz, c.2006,
Meanwhile, I contemplate the Sophianic, namely, life as the life of self-giving wisdom.
Lord, I do not puff myself up or stare about,
or walk among the great or seek wonders beyond me.

Truly calm and quiet I have made my spirit:
quiet as a weaned child in its mother’s arms –
like an infant is my soul.

(--from Psalm 131,)
In-God, infant trust, how the soul/spirit longs to learn to pray!

Are we in-God?

Is "God" what is within everything?

The within Itself?

So it is we attend and attempt -- free, open, informal -- as is, prayer itself.

Monday, September 10, 2007

There's a dwelling space called the thin place.

Some live in between -- not this, not that. What luck! The unseen middle.

The great path has no gates,
Thousands of roads enter it.
When passing through this gateless gate
You walk freely between heaven and earth.

-- Mu-mon (1228)

Men discuss war in the halls of power. Citizens are at either end of saying leave or stay.

To Luck

In the cards and at the bend in the road
we never saw you
in the womb and in the crossfire
in the numbers
whatever you had your hand in
which was everything
we were told never to put
our faith in you
to bow to you humbly after all
because in the end there was nothing
else we could do
but not to believe in you
still we might coax you with pebbles
kept warm in the hand
or coins or the relics
of vanished animals
observances rituals
not binding upon you
who make no promises
we might do such things only
not to neglect you
and risk your disfavor
oh you who are never the same
who are secret as the day when it comes
you whom we explain
as often as we can
without understanding

(--Poem: "To Luck" by W. S. Merwin. The Writer's Almanac)
I wish Iraq luck. I wish America luck. If what I do is pray, then I pray for those at either extreme.

Looking from the between, one sees a place from which God looks. It is a lucky place.

Luck refers to that which is beyond control.

This is how I am -- says God -- invisible, completely with each one, and nowhere certain how it will end. Good Luck.

Many think, how odd.

Not me.



Sunday, September 09, 2007

Finally, rain.

The fragrance. The sound. The feel.

The dry ground and empty mountain receive moisture.
Time is to be valued! You just try to learn Zen or Tao on the surface as something outside yourself, learning to recognize terms and slogans, seeking “buddhahood,” seeking “mastery,” seeking “teachers,” considering them conceptually. Make no mistake about it; you have but one mother and father, so what more are you seeking? Turn your attention back upon yourself and observe.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
I stay within.

Saskia went to hear Bob preach last evening at the local Catholic church. This morning she tells me his words. We are driving to South Thomaston to find out breakfast ended two hours earlier. We wind up in Rockland at table next to Farnsworth visitors. "Yes, the Wyeth, yes."

By last bite of toast with strawberry jam the cool downdraft coming in back door signaled there would be no canoeing.

I'd asked her what she would have done with the text. Then she asked me.
Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “‘ Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish”. Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

(--Luke 14:25 - 33)
I said there was an absurdity in the text recommending hatred of "father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and ... own life."

Whatever benign interpretation about loving 100% those near you with work and struggle, there is another view that must be mentioned, if not contemplated.

First, of course, the question whether these words are gloss. If not, what context inserted in delayed narrative. But if authentic utterance in an historically accurate retrieval -- what of them?

The homilist probably read from SERMONWRITER, Resources for Lectionary Preaching, the following:
"Whoever comes to me and does not hate (Greek: mesei –– hate, disregard, be indifferent to) father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple" (v. 26). This is a difficult verse to hear, because it sounds anti-family. In recent decades, we have seen the decline of the traditional family, a decline brought on in large measure because of our discomfort with commitment. We are beginning to recognize the consequences of that decline, and do not want Jesus to make it worse. Furthermore, Jesus' words sound disrespectful to parents, which also conflicts with our values.

This, however, is Semitic hyperbole or exaggeration for effect. Jesus is not calling us to hate father and mother, but is instead calling us to a commitment above all other commitments, including commitment to family. "Hate" in this context is not a call to develop an intense dislike for family members, but is rather a call to love them less than Christ. This is a common OT idea (see Prov. 13:24; 2 Sam. 19:6; Gen 29:30-33; Mal. 1:2-3; Deut. 21:15-17). "Compare also 16:13, where a love-hate...dichotomy describes preferring one master over another" (Stein, 397).

"Since Jesus said the hallmark of discipleship is loving everyone, including even enemies and persecutors, it can hardly be the case that Jesus would literally call disciples to hate those closest to them. If you're supposed to love the one who whipped you, why not the one who nursed you" (Hoezee, 405).
Tonight I contemplate the strangeness of this world. Someone who is supposed to be the manifestation of love in this world suggests we hate those nearest us in the name of love.
Those who are ordained to remember the sacrificial murder of son for father's will themselves molest boys and have their crimes covered up by higher ups in the organization.
Those who hold highest government executive office in a country dedicated to the ideals of democracy and freedom instead cultivate lies and deception, secrecy, oligarchy, torture, and disregard for law.
Those as CEOs who manufacture tobacco products advertised to bring pleasure but instead bring addiction and cancer continue to earn millions of dollars in salaries while they hobnob with lawmakers influencing and funding them to ease up on restrictions and make lawsuits against them more difficult.
And, of course, those who are sent to war to fight an enemy find themselves shooting their own comrades, shooting innocent civilians, and hating themselves in middle of night for the terrible things they are inexplicably forced to do in the ugliness of war.

So much illusion. So much fiction.
Ideas and Images
Modern culture would have us worship before the altar of the thinking mind, with its endless capacity to produce ideas, fantasies, and formulas. We are taught that the thinking mind is the possessor of all wisdom, and we dedicate much of our lives to the pursuit of knowledge and information. Seeing the world and ourselves through the filter of all the information we have accumulated, we can be imprisoned by the very ideas and images we have so ardently pursued. Often we think that we know ourselves, when what we know is only what we think about ourselves. When we think we know the world around us, our static images bar us from seeing the mystery held within each changing moment. What is an image if not just a description of the world that is bound to the past?
- (--Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield, Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart)
Where to look?

Just now, last Ginger Snap cookie.

Just now, swig of water.

Just now, with what is.