Saturday, January 09, 2010

Things remain invisible until they are asked into sight. So too does data remain invisible until the right question organizes it into visibility. When you need help, ask for it -- and take what comes as the help made available.

At dusk, snowshoeing Hosmer Pond in stiff cold wind. My left heel and right elbow are in pain.

I know a question looms.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Barquentine came into port last summer. I had a birthday. Two nice people each gave me a cup from the vessel.

The body of Buddha is everywhere,
Does the Goddess of Mercy live in the eastern sea?
Every green mountain is a place of awakening;
Why must you seek Mount Potalaka?

- Paegun (1299-1375)
There's no place to go where we are not. Each place, each sound, is replete with fullness.

Potalaka, Mount

[(Skt; Jpn Fudaraku-sen)

A mountain said to be located on the southern coast of India, regarded as the home of Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds. According to the Flower Garland Sutra, the boy Good Treasures, who was traveling in search of the Law, encountered Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds on this mountain.

(From Soka Gakkai International (SGI) website)
Someone suggested at last evening's conversation that, unlike me, they were interested in more than the physical sensory things that were there in the room. They might be right. I suggested, after mulling this, that the distinction between physical and spiritual no longer interested me. That the versions of reality some call past, present, and future no longer seemed compelling. And that words like "levels" "hierarchy" and "more evolved" were not something I thought applied -- at least to my way of looking at things. It was good conversation.
A Stone Is Nobody's
A man ambushed a stone. Caught it. Made it a prisoner.
Put it in a dark room and stood guard over it for the
rest of his life.

His mother asked why.

He said, because it's held captive, because it is

Look, the stone is asleep, she said, it does not know
whether it's in a garden or not. Eternity and the stone
are mother and daughter; it is you who are getting old.
The stone is only sleeping.

But I caught it, mother, it is mine by conquest, he said.

A stone is nobody's, not even its own. It is you who are
conquered; you are minding the prisoner, which is yourself,
because you are afraid to go out, she said.

Yes yes, I am afraid, because you have never loved me,
he said.

Which is true, because you have always been to me as
the stone is to you, she said.

(Poem by Russell Edson, b.1935)
I'm sure I must have been lying. If you cannot tell the whole truth, is part of the truth any benefit? And do we have only versions of truth and not truth itself? Is the opposite of what we say or think also equally true?

There's a final push to finish the bookshed. Saskia and I work into the night installing fiberglass insulation. Then up before dawn, do silent sitting, then out to insert more panels. I withdraw when two workmen and one volunteer arrive. I cannot, it seems, work well with others. It is something I have to either accept, forgive, or celebrate -- perhaps all three at once.
On the other side of a mirror there's an inverse world,
where the insane go sane; where bones climb out of the
earth and recede to the first slime of love.

And in the evening the sun is just rising.

Lovers cry because they are a day younger, and soon
childhood robs them of their pleasure.

In such a world there is much sadness which, of course,
is joy.

(Poem by Russell Edson)
Maybe it's true that what I hold as true is that everything is here, everything is in everything, and that the opposite is equally true.

The mystery is that what we call reality tumbles out of nothing and, like a round carpet suddenly on the floor before you, situates itself as it is as ground until, you, turning in another direction, see two books -- say "Original Blessing" by Fox and "The Solitary Self" by Georgianna on a shelf under "Readings in Anthropology" and "Philosophy for a New Generation" and a book of poems by Haas entitled "Praise" -- whereupon the cat decides it is time to groom himself on the bed by blue, white, and red throw pillow. Not only that -- but it all can be, and is, different from what I describe. The mystery is that anything is communicable with any kind of intelligibility -- held in common, with shared intention, for benefit of anyone or everyone.

Like monks at dawn at prayer.

Like the intention of peace. Or kindness. Compassion.

Or even allowing another their sight, their version, their attempt to find a way of being that mirrors itself with love.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Epiphany means manifestation.

What was manifested in the story of Jesus? What was recognized as great gift in the land of Palestine?

What, today, shows itself in our life-situation? Isn't that equally the feast we come to revere?

The Void is fundamentally without spatial dimensions, passions, activities, delusions or right understanding. You must clearly understand that in it there are no things, no people and no Buddhas; for this Void contains not the smallest hairsbreadth of anything that can be viewed spatially; it depends on nothing and is attached to nothing. It is all-pervading, spotless beauty; it is the self-existent and uncreated Absolute. A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen.

(--from Transmission of Mind, by Huang-po, d.850)

We go out to see what we can see. We stay in looking at what there is to see. Isn't it strange -- traveling far to try to see what it is you carry in your heart?

Life, as we experience it here and now, is impermanent. But life itself -- what of it?

The Manifestation

Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming

Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough,

A seed pushing itself beyond itself,

The mole making its way through darkest ground,

The worm, intrepid scholar of the soil--

Do these analogies perplex? A sky with clouds,

The motion of the moon, and waves at play,

A sea-wind pausing in a summer tree.

What does what it should do needs nothing more.

The body moves, though slowly, toward desire.

We come to something without knowing why.

(--Poem, "The Manifestation" by Theodore Roethke)

To be a hermit today is to be quietly present and aware of the ways yourself and others attempt to crowd and control emotions, thoughts, and actions. Do not be deceived. The only ground is, for now, underfoot. And it, too, is slippery.
Snow: I

All night, snow, then, near dawn, freezing rain, so that by morn-

ing the whole city glistens

in a glaze of high-pitched, meticulously polished brilliance, every-

thing rounded off,

the cars submerged nearly to their windows in the unbroken drifts

lining the narrow alleys,

the buildings rising from the trunklike integuments the wind has

molded against them.

Underlit clouds, blurred, violet bars, the rearguard of the storm,

still hang in the east,

immobile over the flat river basin of the Delaware; beyond them,

nothing, the washed sky,

one vivid wisp of pale smoke rising waveringly but emphatically

into the brilliant ether.

No one is out yet but Catherine, who closes the door behind her

and starts up the street.

(--Poem, "SNOW: I" by C.K. Williams, from Love About Love. Ausable Press, 2001.)

It is good to see Catherine making her way -- wherever she is going.

At end of reading for feast of Epiphany is the phrase: "...and returned to their own country by a different way." They'd seen what they came to see.

Now, because those in authority and power want us to see what they want us to see, there's a need to sidestep their official roads so as to honor what each has seen and experienced within their own looking.

These days my return home seems to be by a different path. The walled church feels claustrophobic. Proscribed statements and historical fastness of narrative feels moribund. Contemporary concerns and current investigations seem out of sync and range of the traditional institutions no matter how they stretch forward.

Many arrivals do make us live. And we do come to something without knowing why.

For now, to be here, on one's own, seems sufficient.

It is Epiphany!

May it be a moment of sudden revelation or insight!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The wise, they say, find truth.
Night Rain

For no reason it rains,
Whispers of reality.
How lovely it sings,
Drop by drop.
Sitting and lying I listen
With emptied mind.
I don't need ears,
I don't need rain.

- Chin'gak (1178-1234)
Epiphany opens questions and reveals inner core.

At center, it is care.

And gentleness.

Shows itself.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Watched "Food Inc" the film directed by Robert Kenner, with Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser adding sage words and commentary. It is about agriculture in USA this half century, the food we eat, the costs to environment, workers, and the consuming public. It is a sobering look.
I didn't know the way to the temple
So I walked miles
Among the cloudy peaks
Walked through primeval forests
No path
Not even a footprint
Deep in the mountains
I heard a bell
Where did it come from?
Then a little stream
Among gigantic rocks
Even the color of sunlight
Looks cool
Coming through bluegreen pines
At dusk I knelt
Next to a small
Deserted lake
To chase away
The poison dragon of emotion.

- Wang Wei
It is hard to not feel the big boys with big sticks are coming around the corner of the street, nay, the kitchen door, where we live. It's hard to listen to and watch the way certain companies operate with their monopolized genetically engineered product and take-no-prisonor target-independent-farmer legal teams.

It's cold today in Maine. But the chill of cutthroat food production compounds and corporations goes deep to the bone.

In looking for poems to bring to the nursing home New Year's Day I found Rachel Wetzsteon.

Commands for the End of Summer


leaves, not with what
has made us sorry but
with what was profound about that


Make me
gathering winds, but don’t
blow so giddily I teeter
too much.


Songs I
listened to all
summer long, accept my
thanks: to regress is not to move


Splash of
patchouli on
my wrist, remind me that
in this cauldron there is a world


Smile! Those
days of humid
agony have earned you
the right to a hundred purple


Come, fall,
I can feel you
stirring, I can hardly
wait for the things that will happen
come fall.

(--Poem by Rachel Wetzsteon)

She'd just become poetry editor of The New Republic last fall. She died ten days ago. Her death was by suicide on the 24/25th of December. She was 42.
Short Ode to Morningside Heights

Convergence of worlds, old stomping ground,
comfort me in my dark apartment
when my latest complaint shrinks my focus
to a point so small its hugely present
but barely there, and I fill the air
with all the spiteful words I spared the streets.

The pastry shop’s abuzz
with crazy George and filthy graffiti,
but the peacocks are strutting across the way
and the sumptuous cathedral gives
the open-air banter a reason to deepen:
build structures inside the mind, it tells
the languorous talkers, to rival the ones outside!

Things are and are not solid.
As Opera Night starts at Caffe Taci,
shapes hurry home with little red bags,
but do they watch the movies they hold
or do they forego movies for rooftops
where they catch Low’s floating dome in the act
of always being about to fly away?

Ranters, racers, help me remember
that the moon-faced fountain’s the work of many hands,
that people linger at Toast long after we’ve left.
And as two parks frame the neighborhood—
green framing gray and space calming clamor—
be for me, well-worn streets, a context
I can’t help carrying home, a night fugue
streaming over my one-note how, when, why.
Be the rain for my barren indoor cry.
(--Poem by Rachel Wetzsteon, found on The New Republic's website)
Parker Palmer writes that
"...real learning does not happen until students are brought into relationship with the teacher, with each other, and with the subject.We cannot learn deeply and well until a community of learning is created in the classroom. (p.xvi Preface, of To Know As We Are Known, Education as a Spiritual Journey.)
When we lose soldiers, poets, workers, or anyone to the intentional or accidental vicissitudes of earthen life, we pause and contemplate for a brief while. We say a prayer. We wish them well on their journey. We've been community. It's a new classroom of shared life we all attend. We feel what takes place.

The breath of words about life and the touch of hands throughout our lives. How many hands have you touched? How many words have you shared? How many times have you stood still and gazed as words fell silent and hands dropped to sides?

I let Nikos Kazantzakis conclude:
Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.

The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.
(--Nikos Kazantzakis)
I squint. And wince.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

It's not hard to love -- it's what you are.

What's hard is accepting who you are. For so long there have been words like those of Paul's. We've heard only the first part of his paragragh. We're so deluged by misemphasis and misdirection, we do not hear the final sentence -- which is primary:
You must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry. And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up: getting angry, being bad-tempered, spitefulness, abusive language and dirty talk; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything. (--from Colossians 3:5-16 )
Like a koan asking: "What is in everything?" Like a mirroring with: "What is everything in?" We find the moment sufficient with response -- every moment is sufficient as response. How can anyone claim their prayer not answered? Each moment, with whatever it brings, is answer.
Like the Sun

Cut down being and nonbeing
The All enfolds.
A dot of Buddha nature-
It shines like the sun.
You may grasp it right away
But can't escape a stick.
How can you then sit idly
And have a moment to think? -- Chin'gak (1178-1234)
After snowfall, birds come to feed; icicles drip daylight to white covering.

After a time of darkness, light begins ascent each morning, each season, each person's intimate and immediate life.
You are told “Love God”. If you say to me “Show me whom I should love”, what can I say except what John says? 'No man has ever seen God.' But you must not think yourself wholly unsuited to seeing God: 'God is love,' says John, 'and whoever dwells in love dwells in God.' So love whoever is nearest to you and look inside you to see where that love is coming from: thus, as far as you are capable, you will see God.
So start to love your neighbour. 'Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless pauper into your house. Clothe the naked, and do not despise the servants of your kin.'
What will you get from doing all this? 'Your light will break forth like the dawn.' Your light is your God, your dawn, because he will come to you to end the night of this world — he who, himself, neither rises nor sets but is eternal.
By loving your neighbour, by having care for your neighbour, you are travelling on a journey. Where are you journeying, except to the Lord God, whom we must love with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind? We have not yet reached the Lord, but our neighbour is with us already. So support your neighbour, who is travelling with you, so that you may reach him with whom you long to dwell.

(-from St Augustine's tractates on St John, Office of Readings, 3Jan2010)
I love you!

However reluctant I am to say it.

I love you -- without and within "I" and "you." How is that possible?

Answer me this!