Saturday, June 06, 2009

The bookmobile was 2300 lbs too heavy for us. We are too small for it. We need a gypsy wagon. We're mendicants.
Listen to me for a second about the effects
Of a certain medicine
The pill I'm talking about is called
Penetrating One's Nature and Becoming a Buddha
Chew it well, chew it well
Won't you take my pill?

- Hakuin (1685-1769)
We watch a favorite film, Julia. It reminds about the ugliness of fascism, the oddness of social privilege, and the attendant dangers of a necessary resistance.

Not here, some say. Not fascism, not resistance. I'm reluctant. The rumblings of some political heavyweights seem to sidle up close to autocratic and dictatorial right wing preference. This country is not immune.

Trinity, on the other hand, reminds us of another vision. Source, expression, and inspiration. Truth is holy. 

The bending and doubleness of lies in slander and distortion becomes the art-form of sneering opportunism. The notion that some sectors in this country insidiously look forward to terrorist attacks so as to justify disgruntled lust for control -- this is the real terror.
What absurd victims of contrary desires we are! If a man is settled in one place he yearns to wander; when he wanders e yearns to have a home. And yet how bestial is content -- all the great things in life are done by discontented people.

There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning, and yearning. A man should be learning as he goes; and he should be earning bread for himself and others; and he should be yearning, too: yearning to know the unknowable.

(p.119, an excerpt from Mr Mifflin's notebook full of little jottings, in Parnassus On Wheels, by Christopher Morley, 1917) 
I'd like to learn with truth.

I'd like to earn and share.

I yearn for the liberating completion of our nature with the nature of God and the nature of the cosmos.

We must change our mind. We must change our life.


What is.


Friday, June 05, 2009

A good day in prison is attending your graduation ceremony with an Associate of Arts degree.

It is being in a circle of praise and celebration, recognition and community.
In the autumn of my sixty sixth year,
I've already lived a long time
The intense moonlight
Is bright upon my face.
There's no need to discuss
The principles of koan study;
Just listen carefully to the wind
Outside the pines and cedars.

- Ryonen (1646-1711)
Here's a koan: 'A monk asked Chao-chou, "Has the dog Buddha nature or not?" Chao-chou said, "Mu."'

Here's another: If a man commits a crime and admits his mistake, how much money does a mechanic charge to change a flat?

Don't ask!

Next koan?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Lemon Poppy cake and no substitutes at conversation tonight. Lingering with guest for good words.
Words cannot express things;
Speech does not convey the spirit.
Swayed by words, one is lost;
Blocked by phrases, one is bewildered.

- Mumon
Visit Carpenter's Boatshop. Good people.

There's nothing wrong nor right with being good.

Luckily Rokpa left the chickens alone.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

In prison today we read Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Derek Walcott, David Wagoner, and Vaclav Havel. Spirituality, we decide, has to do with what we do with our breath.
Within the waters is the entire world;
There is nothing in its depths
But reflections of mountains and rivers.
A fish breaks the surface
And then disappears again
What need is there to borrow
The wind and thunder?

- Ingen (1592-1673)
Sure it's not easy to break habits and patterns. Instead, let them go whole.
 Be holy in all you do, since it is the Holy One who has called you, and scripture says: Be holy, for I am holy.
(1 Peter 1:15-16)
The powerful stranger is Here.

That's what poets do for us.

That's what poets are for.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Something in the night looks this way.

I look to see what is next. I see what is now -- and this is just fine: cataloguing books, conversations and meditation at hermitage, conversations weekly at the prison, a class on spirituality for the substance abuse lifetime recovery inmates, hospitality times at hermitage. Then there's the question of a bookmobile. I can't help to wonder what is next.
Searching for words, hunting for phrases,
When will it end?
Esteeming knowledge and gathering information,
Only maddens the spirit.
Just entrust yourself to your own nature,
Empty and illuminating
Beyond this, I have nothing to teach.

- Bankei (1622-1693)
I forgot to mention teaching college courses once or twice a year. Nothing but learning.

Tomorrow the woman who teaches violin has surgery. The man who used to walk the roads gets hospice visits. Another, the hiker, looks thinner after his bout with cancer.

A young man cycling Maine's Route 1 will stop and stay a day or two.

We decided to use the Greek word, "monos" -- meaning alone or solitary. We use "hito" -- Japanese for mankind, or, bandit, and Spanish for landmark or milestone. Our designation: "mono" = monastics of no other; "hito" = hermits in the open.

But to what end? How are we being used?

In his Essay on Criticism, Alexander Pope said: "Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

The time arrives when the singular is not the isolate, but rather the whole replete with diversity; the solitary is not the recluse, but rather completely isomorphic with the myriad others.

We think there is no other. We think to live in the open is to live alone together. And we think that what we have called God is the inner and outer harmony of everything that seems disconnected -- God is the inner and outer sound and silence from which and through which everything is heard in the stillness of solitude, alone with others.
Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry
by Howard Nemerov

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.

(From Sentences by Howard Nemerov, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1980)
I have never been more alone in my life. A reverberation. Even with others. A participatory reverence.

I no longer know what most people mean when they talk of God. Nor why in the face of evil we remain obtuse and indifferent. Men and women are capable of so much suffering. Sex slave trafficking, slave labor trafficking, money enslavement, remaining slaves to harmful habit.

I look around. Looking for a place to connect with that which is not disconnected. A simple stepping with all my brothers and sisters suffering in this world. To clearly fly instead of being felled upon.  

Toaster bell sounds. Water is poured. Faucet, heating coils, bread, cheese, and Ginger Snaps all practice mindful presence in this kitchen zendo.

June bugs at screen window to right of desk.

What is old and new steps through this room, this mind, meeting here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A French plane is missing and presumed lost at sea. We mourn their loss.

A man who was a doctor and who performed abortions was assassinated by a man who believed he was killing a mass killer who was doing what is legal in this country. We mourn the loss of life.

It is June.
And I wept. When the sun was down, I went and dug a grave and buried him. My neighbours laughed and said, ‘See! He is not afraid any more.’ (You must remember that a price had been set on my head earlier for this very thing.) ‘The time before this he had to flee, yet here he is, beginning to bury the dead again.’
(--from Tobit 2:1-8)
There is much good that wants to be begun. A new coming of the Holy Spirit would be timely.

We'd have to make and take the time.
Four Kinds of Lilacs
by Leo Dangel

"Why don't you turn at the next corner,"
she said, "and take another road home.
Let's go past that farm with all the
different colored lilacs."

"That's seven miles out of the way,"
he said. "I wanted to plant the rest
of the corn before evening. We
can look at lilacs some other time."

"It'll take only a few minutes"
she said. "You know that lilacs
aren't in bloom for long—if we
don't go now, it will be too late."

"We drove past there last year,"
he said. "They're like any other lilacs
except for the different colors. The rest
of the year, they're all just bushes."

"They're lilac, purple, white, and pink,"
she said. "And today, with no breeze,
the scent will hang in the air—no flowers
smell as good as lilacs in the spring."

"I thought of planting lilacs once,"
he said, "for a windbreak in the grove.
The good smell lasts only a few days.
I suppose we can go, if we hurry."

"Now slow up," she said.
"Last year, you drove by so fast
we couldn't even get a good look.
It wouldn't hurt to take it easy."

"Well, there they are," he said,
"and looking pretty scraggly—past
full bloom already. You should
have thought of doing this sooner."

(Poem, "Four Kinds of Lilacs" by Leo Dangel, from Home from the Field: Collected Poems. Spoon River Poetry Press, 1997.)
The time will come when we will want to allow the spirit of truth though. The time will come when we will want the spirit of love and unity to show itself through our lives.

When that time comes, we'll wonder why we didn't think of doing so sooner.

These things are our natural state -- truth, love, unity, and kindness.

Really, they are.

Then, let them be shown.

We pray for their transparency -- as we pray for the losses of those who barricade with terror or fear the way through.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost today. What were you expecting? The end of the world as you know it?


That's the Holy Spirit.


No one left out. No judgment. Radical acceptance and forgiveness.

As if what we hold is held and what we let go is let go. We are the community of beings in this existence deciding who belongs and who doesn't. The Holy Spirit brings something new to the table, namely -- Everyone belongs!.
Light from the moon of clear mind
Drinks up everything in the world.
When mind and light disappear,

- Kyong Ho (1849-1912)
A doctor is murdered in church. Canon lawyers talk about pedophilia. Politicians call a Puerto Rican judge nominee a racist. The distraction of professional sports occupies airwaves. Black cat counts bats returning to barn.

Theater. It's all so much theater. We play the play, say the words, pull the trigger, and shout the silly speeches while passing out campaign donation envelopes.
Whitney: You said in one interview that "One way to mark the progress of the poem is that we leave these known coordinates and move off into some terra incognita, a place that is attracting our desire to get disoriented, to get lost." So getting lost but avoiding confusion—is that the game?

Collins: That's a better way to put it than I can think of. Because by clarity I don't mean that we're always in kind of a simple area where everything is clear and comforting and understood. Clarity is certainly a way toward disorientation because if you don't start out—if the reader isn't grounded, if the reader is disoriented in the beginning of the poem, then the reader can't be led astray or disoriented later. So yes, I see the progress typical in some of my poems as starting with something simple and moving into something more demanding.

(--from "A Brisk Walk: Billy Collins in Conversation," by Joel Whitney and Billy Collins,
If this world is a poem, and existence a theater piece, then we want to know a little more about why we should care about the characters, and why those who harm and hurt do their harming and hurting. Who's writing the script?

Someone has to say it plainly.

For us.

To understand. That's our question.

Is the wind picking up?