Saturday, March 26, 2011

The headline was simply stated, and it triggered in me a response that mirrored conversations yesterday and today about the church. The headline was: "Catholic bishop sets day of prayer and penance for abuse victims" By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff, Posted March 26, 2011, at 1:50 p.m. 

One of the prison conversations yesterday began with a discussion of the difference between the apophatic (Via Negativa) and the kataphatic (Via Affirmativa). (Yes, there are some serious conversations among inmates.) The conversation then seemed to gravitate to whether the harmful and unkind actions of the church over and through history were because of ignorance (trying unskillfully to protect people from destructive consequences following behavior) or, whether there was an element of evil intent to the murderous punishment inflicted on women and men running afoul the power structure. Personally, I wanted just to talk about the contemplative tradition and how it differed in the catholic and protestant traditions -- but the conversations just go where they want to go.

Something about the headline and the article -- along with this morning's conversation after morning practice with an Irish curmudgeon, begged the last two days' summary.

So I posted this response to the Bangor Daily article. It felt like it came from many men.
It feels as if the time for penance has past. It feels as if the time for the church has slipped away. It further feels as if the Bishop and his advisers think that such public acts of penance somehow clear the air and set things right -- in the same way that there's a belief that remunerative payoffs somehow square things out. They don't.
In 1964, Jean Anouilh's play "Becket ou l'honneur de Dieu" (Becket or The Honor of God) was made into a film, starring Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton. In the opening scene King Henry (O'Toole) was being publicly flogged for his part in the demise of Bishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket (Burton). It was a show within a show, good form, necessary price, done and left behind.
The show of contrition, I submit, is best done in private. Forgiveness is not a spectacle. Reconciliation is not a political play. 
I recall fondly the church of my youth. I've come to mistrust it, unfortunately, as one might mistrust a long history of inconsiderate behavior, arrogance, deprecation of women, hoarding of gracious humility, and failure to embrace expansive and inclusive communion with all who long to experience the Christ of cosmic and sacramental presence. How the church can try to make of Christ a private club with rigid membership requirements -- eludes me.
I've long ago accepted and thought I'd forgiven the church it's flaws. The more difficult part is comprehending the continuing hubris of its administrators their perpetuating a rubric of "sin" and "not worthy" to our brothers and sisters who are outsiders, gay, divorced, open to birth control, or experienced the distress of abortion.  
Say it as often as you will -- neither the Catholic Church, the Protestant denominations, nor any other group claiming to represent Christ -- none of these, no one, can separate us from the love of God, the touch of Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, or the inner heart of each human being. It is that love, and that love alone, that will bring to peace all those excluded or abused, as well as those who exclude or abuse -- not, I hold, not payoff money or public shows of penance or any other public relations gambit.
Rather, invite people in to the heart of divine love, share the Eucharist, step out of posturing separations, and live ordinary lives of compassion and kindness, mercy and acceptance. Then, and only then, will we know that the church is not dead. And if it has slipped away, let's see to it that the proper obsequies are observed for something, someone, once loved.
These men were like lovers who'd lost their love yet have to speak of what had gone. Part anger, part wistfulness, a dash of disappointment, a clarity of irretrievable departure. I sat alone in the middle of the prison pod while a lock-in ran its course and the cells were open once again -- whatever the cause of the increased security having passed. I thought of the irony. Where else could the fierce conclusions of recognized aggression and lamentable recollection look out and see patterns of behavior in another institution known so well in their youth?
My doctrine is to think the thought that is unthinkable, to practice the deed that is non-doing, to speak the speech that is inexpressible, and to be trained in the discipline that is beyond discipline. 
Those who understand this are near; those who are confused are far. The Way is beyond words and expressions, is bound by nothing earthly. Lose sight of it to an inch, or miss it for a moment and we are away from it forevermore.    (--Sutra of Forty Two Chapters,
The Irishman was cutting wood by the woodpile to frame the upstairs wall for bathroom. He noticed the sign I clamped to the meetingbrook sign at foot of driveway. He read it, "Quaker Meeting, Sundays 9AM-10AM, All Welcome" -- then he added, "Shhh, don't say a word!"  

Friday, March 25, 2011

(Isn't that just like her?)
If you want to learn the Principles,  Don't study fine bound books. 
The True Pearl's in a hemp sack
The Buddha nature rests in huts. 
Many grasp the sack
But few open it. 
-Shih Te (c. 730) 
We might as well open the sack. 

Try humanity.

Earth, flesh, ordinariness, unknowing.

Forgive yourself. You never accepted that Jesus was human.

Try not to be so focused on God -- everyone is that.

But human? Now there's a revelation!

We'll have to try it sometime.

Thanks, Mary!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hard to imagine darkness gone forever.
Seeing the Way is like going into a dark room with a torch; the darkness instantly departs, while the light alone remains. When the Way is attained and the truth is seen, ignorance vanishes and enlightenment abides forever.
- Sutra of Forty Two Chapters
I'd have thought light shines in and through darkness. That enlightenment was just this seeing through. And nothing, not darkness nor light, is excluded from the equation.

Each has a function.

God is what is taking place here and now.

We are one when with one another.

In this way, we are happy.

I can't help but continually wonder whether Mary will again say, 'Yes.'

Will Way and Truth find body once more?
The Governor of Maine will dismantle a mosaic. Moses he's not.
Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

(by Robert Reich,
It's an odd war to wage against history, labor, and the people who hold down jobs. It is the season in America of the Republican Governors.
I see people chanting a sutra
Who depend on its words for their ability to speak
Their mouths move but their hearts do not
Their hearts and mouths oppose each other
Yet the heart's true nature is without conflict
So don't get all tangled up in the words
Learn to know your own bodily self
Don't look for something else to take its place
Then you'll become the boss of your mouth
Knowing full well there's no inside or out.

- Han Shan (730)
I suppose the long view, if taken, will temper reaction. Or, maybe, it's possible, that there is something wrong with the working class, wage earners, and people who are not , well, Republicans. Time will tell. Even odd behavior by prominent people cannot withstand the test of time.

Nobody's perfect.

James Finley answers an interviewer's question about Thomas Merton:
Merton said somewhere that he learned to laugh at the very idea of perfection. This is one of the deepest points in his writings. We tend to think of there being some kind of arrival point beyond our foolishness, where we will no longer be susceptible to being just one more foolish human trying to get through another day. But Merton invites us to discover there is a profound level of our human weakness that we never get beyond. He once said, “The most real thing in your life is something you do not know and do not need to, because God loves you. It is in letting the acceptance of our weakness be our teacher that we discover the depths of God’s tender mercies.”
I say in the Merton talks I give that your issue could be having a temper, and your last act on this earth could be throwing a bedpan before you die. So from the standpoint of the ego’s quest for perfection, it’s a discouraging thought. But that’s the whole point: the mystery of our union with God is not reducible to ethical, moral, or behavioral terms. It’s not reducible to any terms at all. It’s the ultimate irrelevancy of all things less or other than the absolute love of God for us as precious in our brokenness. Some of the Christian mystics speak of the gift of tears. By this they mean the tears that flow sometimes literally, sometimes as an interior sense of quiet joy and amazement in realizing that one is infinitely loved — without foundations for that love within one’s having earned it — and then walking in that divine love, living by it day by day.

(--from interview, Gary W. Moon, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God, A Conversation with James Finley,
What our cranky brothers and sisters need is a good bath, a good walk, and a good laugh.

Have you heard the knock-knock joke about the interrupting cow?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snow through the night.

The best statements were by those there. The worst by those trying to capitalize or curry favor following it.
Derek Brogan of Engine 5 said in his personal account, one of more than five hundred oral histories the fire department amassed of firefighters who were at the scene on 9/11: "We didn't have a chance to do anything." James Murphy put it this way in his report: "We were just victims too. Basically the only difference between us and the victims is we had flashlights."
(--pg. 66 in The Terror Dream, Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America, by Susan Faludi, c. 2007)
No one can explain mystery for you. No one can say "God" and think he owns what he has spoken. We need more humility.

War again. Just like that. Another president orders death and destruction in the name of national security. A specific and narrow interpretation of national interest not to impede some people according to our chosen timetable from harming their people, especially when oil interests coincide with awakened geo-petroleum-humanitarian concern. We might not be so interested in democracy as in securing resources for our national interests. The US is wealthy and powerful, there are others out there interfering with our fantasy-ordained global bishopric, and we have the duty to preserve our corner of the kingdom of heaven.

God is curious about how it is who it is claim to know God. God says: "I am Insecure and Completely Accessible. I am without knowing how or who. I am that I am with you." God begins to wonder and worry that death and destruction are the only predicates humankind can think of placing after God's name. "I sent word that I have no predicate," God muses. "And now I have been made a grammar of death and destruction. What are they making of me?"
Those who have strong passions are never able to perceive the Way. It is like stirring up clear water with your hands; you may come wishing to find a reflection of your face, but you'll never see clearly in disturbed waters. A mind troubled and vexed with the passions is never able to see the Way.   (Sutra of Forty Two Chapters)
We have got to stop. Take a breath. And reconsider how we live. I don't think death and destruction constitute a meaningful sentence. They are existence with erroneous modifiers.

Here in Maine, at least this morning, God has no predicate. God is no predicate. God is without sentence. Rather, God is the silence before thought, during action, after word. God is, in the vernacular of contemporary expression, as in the lexicon of mystics throughout historical inquiry, "Way Itself."

God Is Way Itself!

Life is mystery. As God is. You are too. As am I.

Everything is snow.

 How do we turn to God? Look around. See what is taking place. Don't turn away.

This is the way it is.

Let's face it.

God is with us.

Just don't try to make something out of God.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ten years after the fact I continue to look at what happened on September 11, 2001. So much to look at.
So little seen.
Amidst a thousand clouds and ten thousand streams
There lives one ex-scholar, 
By day wandering these green mountains
At night coming home to sleep beneath a cliff
Suddenly spring and fall have already passed by
And no dust has piled up to disturb this stillness
Such happiness, what do I depend on? 
Here it's as tranquil as autumn river water.   
Han Shan (c 730)
Spring snow abets departed winter 
I am skeptical.
I am equally contemplative.

Nothing is worth seeing or saying more than the truth.

If I see nothing; If I say nothing.

Then, what is the truth?
Pathmaker, the path is your tracks,
nothing else.
-- Pathmaker, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.
And turning the gaze back,
Look on the trail that never will be
Walked again. ------
Pathmaker, there is no path,
Only the wake on the sea. 
(Poem by Antonio Machado)

This is the truth: Walk!

As you walk, so walks truth.

Wake on the sea.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Morning after full moon.

Sunrising Spring!

Just in time for Quaker Meeting in Merton Retreat.

How fortunate!