Saturday, August 02, 2014

"you can talk only about a great weariness"

Doris sends us Yehuda Amichai:

Not the peace of a cease-fire
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill, that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
A peace
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds - who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)

Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.

~ Yehuda Amichai ~


(The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)

These are the days of the daze that is Israel and Gaza reminding us that strife is only a heartbeat away from death. These tribes, as one writer puts it, will forever be at one another. One side is penned in; one side is armed to the teeth. Their antagonism is bitter. Bitter still is the suffering of the ordinary people who wish to walk with their children, cook dinner, and sleep restfully through the nights of their lives. Theirs is no respite these days of dreadful and near terror crisscrossing the arbitrary borders of ethnicity, race, religion, and power.

In Maine, we are so fortunate not to be proximate to such disorder. Green hills, blue water, light rain over backroads and wood fences. The battles here are not nearly as fierce as our Middle East brothers and sisters. Here squirrel and chipmunk scurry feeder flotsam outside glass doors where two cats twitch tails following natural desire to catch and quiet anything moving in their vicinity. Alas, they do not transgress the translucent barrier to the outside! The mountain outback is resculpted by large-mouthed orange earth movers. Trees are taken. These zen teachers are intent to teach impermanence. Everything is chewed by change. It remains difficult to digest what has already passed through.

Don't worry. Be Happy. Thanks Bobby!

This morning at practice we read about Larry's parents visiting with his zen master in Ambivalent Zen, One Man's Adventures on the Dharma Path (1997). We laugh and cry at the humor of the encounter, thinking of our own parents, the wistfulness of memory of early stages of encounter with both new practices and familial connections.

Elsewhere in his book, Lawrence Shainberg writes:
My father points his fork at the book he has brought to the table and taps it sharply with the prongs. It’s a small thin book with a turquoise cover and several pages folded at the corners: The Wisdom of Insecurity. “Alan Watts,” he says, “is the wisest man who ever lived.” “But who is he?” “Well, I guess you’d call him a philosopher. A teacher of Zen.” Mother looks at him quizzically. After all, this is 1951, nearly two decades before Zen will become a buzzword of the “Human Potential” movement; before the publication of Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis, Zen and the Art of Archery, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Zen of Running, and dozens of other such books; before the Beat Generation has made Zen its rallying cry; before there is such a thing as Zen perfume, and long before anyone other than those who practice with him is aware that Nyogen Senzaki, the only Zen master now in the United States, has begun to teach the meditation practice around which, in Japan and China, for nearly fourteen hundred years, the vision of Zen has been centered. “Zen?” she says. “What’s that?”  
Without a word, Dad stands, leaves the room and returns a moment later with another book by Watts. Opening to a passage he has marked, he reads:
“Zen Buddhism. . . is not religion or philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as "a way of liberation’. . . a way of liberation can have no positive definition. It has to be suggested by saying what it is not, somewhat as a sculptor reveals an image by the act of removing pieces of stone from a block.”
He looks at Mother to see if she is satisfied. Her smile is almost imperceptible, but I know what she is thinking. As long as we can remember, he’s been subject to these infatuations. He quit school when he was fifteen and did not read a book until he was thirty-five, but ever since then he’s been racing to catch up. Nowadays, he reads every morning from six until he goes to work at eight-thirty, and every evening after dinner until he goes to bed. Not infrequently, a book becomes transcendent for him, the answer to all his questions. And since he is by nature a proselytizer, convinced beyond a doubt that what is good for him is good for others, the book of the moment quickly appears at our dining table. Riding the waves of his enthusiasms, we have been through The Story of Philosophy by Will and Ariel Durant, The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, Henrik van Loon’s Story of Mankind, and in recent months, now that he’s interested in psychoanalysis, books by Freud, Karen Horney, and Erich Fromm. Closing The Way of Zen, he takes up The Wisdom of Insecurity again and reads aloud in a solemn voice:
“I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it the 'Backwards Law.’ When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink you float. When you hold your breath you lose it - which immediately calls to mind an ancient and much neglected saying, 'Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.’”
The reading continues for several minutes, but I hear nothing more. Indeed, the fact that I have heard this much is a kind of miracle. I am none too alert at the best of times, but usually, when Dad begins to read, I don’t hear words but pounding, a droning sound, like the hum you get with defective loudspeakers. But this time is different. The odd, reverse reasoning of the Backwards Law permeates my mind before I actually understand it. It is less a matter of thought than ventilation. Like a window has opened and a breeze is circulating in my brain. In a sudden, blinding flash, it seems to me, I have been offered my diagnosis and my cure. How can I doubt that the Backwards Law is the story of my life?
 Dad’s eyes are riveted on me. “Well?” he says. “What’s your response to that?”  
“To what?” I say. 
“Shall I read it again?”  
Without waiting for my reply, he points the book at me, crying, “For God’s sake, Larry, wake up! What is Watts talking about? Effort! Compulsion! Tension! Anxiety! Doesn’t it ring a bell for you? Don’t you realize how anxious and confused you are? How much you need to be liked, please everybody, no, don’t turn away, you know what I mean. All these hours you spend on the basketball court. Are you enjoying yourself? Having fun? Hell, no! Anyone can see that! You’re tortured! Driven by insecurity! But why? I’ll tell you why! You’re trying to make yourself secure! And it’s just that need that Watts is getting at. The need that defeats you right from the start! Don’t you see? The need for security makes you insecure!” 
* * * 
Israel wants security. Gaza wants freedom. America wants to own everything and protect everyone from minutest deviation from security or freedom. The United States sees everything  -- and knows more than it will ever understand.

In Maine, I shoot baskets remembering how important and defining such activity was 50-60 years ago  in gymnasiums and schoolyards throughout city streets. I weary early these sessions, barely leave my feet, and surprisingly sink four in a row the same experimental two-handed overhead set shot gleaned from Larry Costello, Karl Braun, Dolph Shayes, and Richie Guerin. Maybe, like Pete Maravich, I'm looking to collapse and die on the court right after another missed shot rolls to a chain link fence further away than I might prefer to walk. It's just fine. We're forever on the free throw line after a foul is called. Its the world as it is.

Our zen practice doesn't dress up as Zen. It is tee shirt and cargo shorts with idiorhythmic bell and mokta rhythm in a meditation hall bedecked with world religions symbols and droppings of mice as well as flecks of insulation fallen from excavated ceiling by cloistered creatures doing their own practice in our absence.

It is Maine. 

And summer.

All is well.

Besides, it's all zen now.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The cat said to St. Peter, "Oh well!"

At poetry today Walt reads Flynn poem.

Forty-Seven Minutes 
        (Poem by Nick Flynn, b.1960) 
Years later I’m standing before a roomful of young writers in a high school in Texas. I’ve asked them to locate an image in a poem we’d just read—their heads at this moment are bowed to the page. After some back & forth about the grass & a styrofoam cup, a girl raises her hand & asks, Does it matter? I smile—it is as if the universe balanced on those three words & we’ve landed in the unanswerable. I have to admit that no, it doesn’t, not really, matter, if rain is an image or rain is an idea or rain is a sound in our heads. But, I whisper, leaning in close, to get through the next forty-seven minutes we might have to pretend it does.
We talk about it. We like it. In the group there are four people in their 90s. The eldest is 98. She reads two cat poems. 

She says she never expected to live this long. Born in 1916. She's been part of the poetry group for the five years it's been going on.

We pretend we'll continue to go on as long as we can.

It matters.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

that’s ok; I’ll just hang out here

Reading Dan Berrigan on Deuteronomy for Thursday Evening Practice, No Gods But One.

He remains stark favorite.

Moses, the people’s leader for forty years, is denied entrance to the land he dreamt about.

Berrigan can always spot the bitter-sweet emptiness of all action.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

numbers are people; in both Gaza and Israel

From Glenn Greenwald:
Published on
The Intercept
Terrorism in the Israeli Attack on Gaza, by Glenn Greenwald 
As I’ve written many times before, “terrorism” is, and from the start was designed to be, almost entirely devoid of discernible meaning. It’s a fear-mongering slogan, lacking any consistent application, intended to end rational debate and justify virtually any conduct by those who apply the term. But to the extent it means anything beyond that, it typically refers to the killing of civilians as a means of furthering political or military goals.
Below are two charts reflecting the deaths of civilians, soldiers and “militants” in both Gaza and Israel since the July 8 Israeli attack began. The statistics used are unduly generous toward Israel, since “militants” in Gaza are often nothing more than residents who take up arms to defend their homes against an invading and occupying army. Even with that generous interpretation, these numbers, standing alone, tell a powerful story: 
graph (1) graph (2) 
If you landed on earth from another planet this week, knowing nothing other than the most common use of the word “terrorism,” which side do you think would most frequently be referred to as “terrorists”?
Often, the most vivid illustration of the criminality of this attack comes not from data but from isolated stories. Yesterday, for instance, “in Khan Younis, five members of the Najjar family, which lost 21 people in a previous strike, were killed.” Meanwhile, “in the Al Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, an airstrike from an F-16 killed the mayor, Anis Abu Shamala, and four others in his home, some of whom had taken refuge there from intense artillery shelling nearby.” 
At the same time, the Israeli government’s messaging machine quickly switched from hyping rocket attacks, which were causing relatively little damage, to featuring what it began calling “terror tunnels”. The U.S. media dutifully followed suit, with CNN anchor (and former AIPAC employee) Wolf Blitzer touring a “terror tunnel” led around by the IDF and his flashlight, while the New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren did the same in an article headlined “Tunnels Lead Right to the Heart of Israeli Fear,” quoting “Israeli military officials”, “an Israeli military spokesman”, and “Israeli experts”. But a separate article in the NYT highlighted how these “terror tunnels” are actually used:
The strikes during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr came after the latest humanitarian halt to hostilities was punctured by attacks on both sides, culminating in the most deadly incursion yet by Palestinian militants through an underground tunnel from Gaza into Israel. 
Colonel Lerner said Tuesday that between four and eight gunmen had burst from the tunnel near a military watchtower near the border and killed five soldiersin an adjacent building with antitank missiles.
In American media discourse, when Palestinians overwhelmingly kill soldiers (95% of the Israeli death toll) who are part of an army that is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately bombing them and killing their children by the hundreds, that is “terrorism”; when Israelis use massive, brutal force against a trapped civilian population, overwhelmingly killing innocent men, women and children (at least 75% of the Palestinian death toll), with clear intentions to kill civilians (see point 3), that is noble “self-defense.” That demonstrates how skewed U.S. discourse is in favor of Israel, as well as the purely manipulative, propagandistic nature of the term “terrorists.”

what do you think

Ode to Bach in E-flat Major
(two days breathing space)

morning at harbor

afternoon at Still,Marbles


reflection of things

becoming themselves

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

turn yourself inside out

Israeli bombs blow up Gaza. Many die. Many more are bloodied and hurt. In this awful choice by Israel to kill children, civilians, and decency Israel begins to forfeit whatever remaining sympathy and support there might be over its own darkened history.

Similarly, in prison yesterday, some men wondered how anyone could worship or respect the deity in biblical literature with its slaughtering commands, punishing ways, and honoring of deception and betrayal.

Then, this morning's news, Israel.

Published on Tuesday, July 29, 2014by Jon Queally, staff writerCommon Dreams 
More Than 100 Killed in 14 Hours as Gaza Death Toll Rises Above 1,200
      US continues to back Israeli assault despite international condemnation
The death toll in the Gaza Strip has now passed 1,200 people since Israel began bombing on July 8 and the Palestinian Ministry of Health reports Tuesday that more than 100 people were killed in the fourteen hours from overnight Monday into morning as mosques, homes, and other structures were hit during a sharp intensification of the bombardment.
In addition to homes, Gaza's main power plant was struck by Israeli shells which caused a massive explosion and a fire that sent thick plumes of black smoke into the air. Already suffering from massive power outages and a water crisis that puts the entire population at risk, the damage to the plant signals that those problems will likely worsen in the days ahead.
According to the Ma'an News Agency:

Earlier statements from the ministry had given the number of dead at around 57 for the morning, but after consultation with hospitals across the Strip the total was revised to more than 100 dead and hundreds more injured.
The Ministry of Health also said that as of Monday night nearly 5,000 homes had been completely destroyed, while tens of thousands more had been partially destroyed.
The United Nations, meanwhile, estimated that more than 215,000 Gazans had fled their home, or more than 10 percent of the besieged coastal enclave's total population.
Late Monday, Israeli authorities had given 400,000 Gazans evacuation orders, but with all the borders closed and the Israeli bombardment and ground invasion continuing in the northern, central, and southern Gaza Strip, the vast majority had nowhere to go except UN shelters.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the military campaign against the people of Gaza will continue until all the tunnels used by Hamas are destroyed. 
 What do you pray to? Who? Toward what end? Is prayer a quaint remnant of a magical consciousness that hopes for deus ex machina change?

Those whose business it is to write about the bombs and blisters of Middle East life measure the intent and strategies of Israel and Hamas as if a chess match before cocktails. Here in Maine this duet of disaster feels like the Tennessee prison extraction of an inmate in August 2010:
Inmate's death by Riverbend guards was homicide     Posted: Jan 31, 2011 3:31 PM EST
 Inmate Charles Toll died last August from asphyxia with suffocation.Inmate Charles Toll died last August from asphyxia with suffocation. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The state medical examiner has classified as a homicide an inmate's death at the hands of guards at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.
The Tennessean reports the medical examiner's officer watched a video of prison guards trying to get Charles Jason Frank Toll out of his cell on Aug. 17.
An autopsy report by Dr. John Davis says Toll was handcuffed behind his back and put face down on the floor where guards held him down for 10 minutes with a riot shield.
Toll was unresponsive and had distressed breathing for about five minutes. When guards rolled him on his back, he didn't have a pulse.
Davis declared that Toll died from asphyxia with suffocation.
Toll had been serving a 30-year sentence on multiple charges including aggravated burglary, escape and theft. 
Also, New York Times, 29July2014, 
There's no need to take my own life. My life is being taken in Gaza. My life was taken in Tennessee.

The author of Ecclesiastes knows meaninglessness. Meaning is not given nor is it a given.
It is found between us.

Ghazal 10

Curls dishevelled, sweating, laughing, and drunk,
shirt torn, singing ghazals, flask in hand,
his eyes seeking a quarrel, his lips saying, 'Alas!',
last night at midninght he came and sat by my pillow.
He bent his head to my ear and said, sadly,
'O my anicent lover, are you sleeping?'
The seeker to whom they give such a cup at dawn
is an infidel to love if he will not worship wine.
O ascetic, go, and don't quibble with those who drink
          the dregs,
for on the eve of creation this was all they gave us.
What he poured in our cup we drank,
whether the mead of heaven or the wine of drunkenness.
The wine cup's smile and his knotted curl
have broken many vows of repentance, like that of

- See more at:
The rock opera Tommy introduces us to a new anamnesis:
See me, Feel me 
            Touch me, Heal me!
Repentance is returning to the heart.

Go ahead -- turn yourself inside out!

Monday, July 28, 2014

after rain

Bailing Jootje in Camden harbor.

Bailing immer call in Rockport harbor.

Bailing words in harbor within.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

return to the heart

Perhaps, now, pain begins.

It occurs to me that no one has understood "repentance."

Today, rowing, it occurs that it means return to the heart.

To feeling, without coercion. 

Where there is so much to feel -- joy and sorrow, delight and despair.

On the other hand, I might be the only one not understanding what repentance is.

But now, I turn around, returning.