Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sometimes it feels the heart will stop. Like some flywheel it manages to turn over. It gives me one sentence at a time.
The true practitioner of the Way completely transcends all things. Even if heaven and earth were to tumble down, I would have no misgivings. Even if all the Buddhas in the ten directions were to appear before me, I would not rejoice. Even if the three hells were to appear before me, I would have no fear. Why is this so? Because there is nothing I dislike.
(from The Record of Linji, Linji Yixuan, Rinzai)
I don't ask God many questions. Not about someone's sister diagnosed with brain cancer. I request a healing peace for those who suffer the road ahead.
One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

(Poem by Elizabeth Bishop)
I still think I might call family and friends dead now over thirty years.

I look around in a solitude of thankfulness we've been here at all.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Full Wolf Moon. So bright on fresh snow!
The bamboo's shadow sweeps the yard,
But the dust doesn't move.
Moonlight enters the sea,
But the wave leaves no trace.

- Jinkag Haesim (1178-1234)
Listening to President Obama take questions by House Republicans at their retreat in Maryland, I am delighted in the intelligence and clarity of responses. If reason has any staying power, we are well served by this President.

We await a return to hard work by our politicians. Republicans have painted themselves into a corner-- how compromise with a man they publicly say is trying to destroy the country with his policies; they know their words insincere. Time to stop posing and do some work. This tired marriage of democracy and ordinary people.

Like former married couple drifted apart there is a longing to remember what might not have been.
The Old Flame

My old flame, my wife!
Remember our lists of birds?
One morning last summer, I drove
by our house in Maine. It was still
on top of its hill -

Now a red ear of Indian maize
was splashed on the door.
Old Glory with thirteen stripes
hung on a pole. The clapboard
was old-red schoolhouse red.

Inside, a new landlord,
a new wife, a new broom!
Atlantic seaboard antique shop
pewter and plunder
shone in each room.

A new frontier!
No running next door
now to phone the sheriff
for his taxi to Bath
and the State Liquor Store!

No one saw your ghostly
imaginary lover
stare through the window
and tighten
the scarf at his throat.

Health to the new people,
health to their flag, to their old
restored house on the hill!
Everything had been swept bare,
furnished, garnished and aired.

Everything's changed for the best -
how quivering and fierce we were,
there snowbound together,
simmering like wasps
in our tent of books!

Poor ghost, old love, speak
with your old voice
of flaming insight
that kept us awake all night.
In one bed and apart,

we heard the plow
groaning up hill -
a red light, then a blue,
as it tossed off the snow
to the side of the road

(Poem by Robert Lowell).
Elizabeth Hardwick wrote in 1965 about Selma, Alabama. She wrote about the ghost of the South walking its last steps ending a devastating one hundred years:
How do they see themselves, we wonder, these posse-men, Sheriff Clark's volunteers, with their guns and sticks and helmets, nearly always squat, fairfaced, middle-aged delinquents and psychopaths? The State Troopers seem one ghostly step ahead of them on the social ladder. They ride around in their cars, their coats hanging primly in the back; they might be salesmen, covering their territory, on to the evening's motel. Who will open the door of the University of Alabama or Clemson or Tulane to the sons of Klansmen? The posse-men live in a joyless night, with no culture or consolation except whiskey. The ignoble posture one observes so frequently in them puzzles. They are strangers to beauty and grace and are indeed the saddest looking people to be seen anywhere in the world. Even the hungry, bone-thin poor of Recife do not present such a picture of deep, almost hereditary, depression. These Southerners have only the nothingness of racist ideas, the burning incoherence, and that is all. No sacred text or hymn bock or Armageddon in which all the black devils of the earth are to be swallowed up in some final quicksand of white eternity. Only violence can fill a hole so deep; this bereft, static existence which seems to go back so many generations has its counterpart in the violent, deranged hopelessness of the deprived youth in the cities.
(--from The New York Review of Books, Volume 4, Number 6 · April 22, 1965, Selma, Alabama: The Charms of Goodness, By Elizabeth Hardwick, Selma, Ala., March 22)
We read that in prison this morning. Along with Jimmy Breslin's piece. Good writing helps to see history.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the video Desmond Tutu says: "I exist only because you exist."
Cat comes up onto bed. He is here only because I am here.

The near full moon shines white with frost mist on newly fallen snow.

No more categories and thoughts. Only the fact of things.
You exist because you are lovely, loved, and loving.

Now then. Turning off light. Wind outside. Furnace air inside.

The mere reality of what is! This is prayer, poetry, and practice enough.
We pray for all whose hearts long for mere prayer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who prays? And for whom?
"Better worlds (I suggest) are born, not made; and their birthdays are the birthdays of individuals. Let us pray always for individuals, never for worlds." (--from I: six nonlectures, by e.e. cummings)
Pray for peace. In individuals.
This room is so wide and empty
Every thought vanishes in it.
A narrow lane carved in rock,
A well sprung from a hole in a stone.
The bright moon hangs at the
End of the eaves,
And a cold gust shakes the valley.
Who can follow in the footsteps of the scholar
And, sitting quietly, learn true happiness?

Deagam Tanyon (1070-1179)
Take a load off. Sit down. How's your day been?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I like the phrase: God is Itself, or, Itself is God. I don't know what it means, I just like it. If the word "God" fell out of use, I'd be happy with "Itself."

Perhaps it is the identity, unity, and onliness about the word. It is itself and none other.
A nice old temple against a green mountain;
A white cloud opens and closes
Its two brushwood doors.
All I have is a water bottle and a stick,
And I don't care if time passes or not.

- Daegak Euchon (1055-1101)
I worry about those wanting to do good as I worry about those inclined toward bad. I prefer those wanting to do what asks be done when the time arises. Fidelity to what is. Nothing more. Nothing less. A state of what might be called "grace." The doing of what needs be done when the doing of it needs to happen.
There are two fundamental lies: the one that proclaims, "I am telling the truth," and the one that states, "I cannot say." The reasonable being who reflects on himself knows the emptiness of these two propositions. The first fact is the impossibility of not knowing oneself. The individual cannot lie to himself, he can only forget himself.
(--p. 57 The Ignorant Schoolmaster, by Jacques Ranciere)
After the earthquake in Haiti many donate money. May it get to them, be useful, help relieve suffering, and heal the hurt!

Some say don't send money, it'll do no good to send good money after bad. This is their opinion. They need not send money. Others do.
As for the truth, it doesn't rely on philosophers who say they are its friend: it is only friends with itself. (p.60, Ranciere)
Truth is a funny thing.

Just when you think you get it, you don't.

Nothing to worry about. It hasn't gone anywhere. It's just not ours to own.

Only to acknowledge in passing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I would have said, "Not yet, wait a while. Let's have a coffee or a cup of tea."

But I wasn't there. I didn't know. It's what we do. In our mind. Afterwards.

Each human encounter invites contemplation, conversation, and correspondence. She'd been someone who'd stop into the shop in town from time to time over the years.

The seemingly fleeting and passing -- no more than that. So we think. It's one of the ways we protect ourselves in this fragile wandering into the realm of who we really are.

Still, contact and connection always transcend the casual. Our relational knowledge, even cloaked by evanescence and impermanence, is personal, intimate, and profound.

Yesterday I read of her death last week by suicide at 41.

"Would you like some Apfel Kuchen with that?" I'd ask.

This morning I light a candle and burn a stick of incense in her name.

"Any time you'd like to sit in silence together, I'm here."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nirvana, Thay says, is release from all views.

That's what he says.

Worth listening to.

As is "Peace through Music, Playing for Change" worth seeing.