Saturday, December 16, 2017

saturday morning practice

Cold morning.

Now practice is in winter zendo.

We listen.
Advent Poem  by St. John of the Cross

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road 
pregnant with the Holy and say, 
“I need shelter for the night. 
Please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.
”Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes, there, under the dome of your being,
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim,
the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is His beloved servant never far.
If you want, the virgin will come walking down the street,
pregnant with Light, and sing!
 And continue to listen.
Advent, by Jessica Powers   
I live my Advent in the womb of Mary. 
And on one night that a great star swings free 
from its high mooring and walks down the sky 
To be the dot above the Christus I. 
I shall be born of her by blessed grace. 
I wait in a Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place, 
with Hope’s expectancy of nativity. 

I knew for long she carried and fed me,  
guarded and loved me, though I could not see.  
But only now, with inward jubilee, 
I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge: 
Someone is hiding in this dork it’s me.


Friday, December 15, 2017

here’s what Thomas Merton wrote in his The Seven Story Mountain

The Christ of the Burnt Men

I hear You saying to me:

           "I will give you what you desire. I will lead you into solitude. I will lead you by the way you cannot possibly understand, because I want it to be the quickest way.
          "Therefore all things around you will be armed against you, to deny you, to hurt you, to give you pain, and therefore to reduce you to solitude.
           "Because of their enmity, you will soon be left alone. They will cast you out and forsake you and reject you and you will be alone. Everything that touches you will burn you, and you will draw your hand away in pain, until you have withdrawn yourself from all things. Then you will be all alone.
            "Everything that can be desired will sear you., and brand you with a cautery, and you will fly from it in pain, to be alone. Every created joy will only come to you as pain, and you will die to all joy, and be left alone. All the good things that other people love and desire and seek will come to you, but only as murderers to cut you off from the world and its occupations.
           "You will be praised and it will be like burning at the stake. You will be loved and it will murder your heart and drive you into the desert. 
             "You will have gifts and they will break you with their burden. you will have pleasures of prayer, and they will sicken you and you will fly from them.
              "And when you  have been praised a little and loved a little I will take away all your gifts and all your love and all your praise and you will be utterly forgotten and abandoned and you will be nothing. a dead thing, a rejection. And in that day you shall begin to possess the solitude you have so long desired. And your solitude will bear immense fruit in the souls of men you will never see on earth.
            "Do not ask when it will be or where it will be or how it will be.. On a mountain or in a prison, in a desert or in a concentration camp or in a hospital or at Gethsemani. It does not matter. So do not ask me because I am not going to tell you.  You will not know until you are in it. 
            "But you shall taste the true solitude of my anguish and my poverty and I shall lead you into the high places of my joy and you shall die in Me and find all things in My mercy which has created you for this end  and brought you from Prades to Bermuda to St. Antonin to Oakham to London to Cambridge to Rome to New York to Columbia to Corpus Cristi to St. Bonaventure to the Cistercian Abbey of the poor men who labor in Gethsemani:
           "That you may become the brother of God and learn to know the Christ of the burnt men."

                                  SIT FINIS LIBRI, NON FINIS QUAERENDI

(—from, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain,  pp  422, 3)

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Played baseball as a youth years ago on Erasmus Field on MacDonald Ave just off Avenue M in Brooklyn. I was a little slow as a runner and did not have a strong throwing arm. But I had a good glove and fast reflexes playing a shallow third base and good range as a first baseman. No one would have called me a prospect. (The Yankee scout kept asking me to play back on third during drills!) My bat was mediocre. Although I did put a ball over the left fielder’s head in the first inning.

Erasmus comes to mind these half dozen decades later.
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467?–1536) was not a systematic philosopher although we discern in the large body of his writings a certain Erasmian habit of mind. He often reflected on subjects that invite philosophical inquiry: the influence of nature versus nurture, the relationship between word and thing, the ideal form of government, the nature of faith, and the theory of knowledge. Erasmus’ views on these subjects are of interest to historians today, even if they are unstructured, because his works circulated widely and his influence in Northern Europe was pervasive. In modern parlance, he was an opinion maker. If a general label is needed, Erasmus’ thought is best described as “Christian Humanism”, that is, a philosophy of life combining Christian thought with classical traditions. He embraced the humanistic belief in an individual’s capacity for self-improvement and the fundamental role of education in raising human beings above the level of brute animals. The thrust of Erasmus’ educational programme was the promotion of docta pietas, learned piety, or what he termed the “philosophy of Christ”. As a biblical scholar he supported the humanistic call Ad fontes, a return to the texts in the original language and therefore promoted the study of the biblical languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He was in the vanguard of modern philology. His pioneering edition of the Greek New Testament shows that he had an understanding of the process of textual transmission and had developed text-critical principles. In politics, Erasmus embraced consensus, compromise, and peaceful cooperation, ideals he recommended to the participants in the Reformation debate, albeit with little success. Considered a forerunner of the Reformation by his contemporaries, he broke with Martin Luther over the latter’s sectarianism. More fundamentally, the two men disagreed over heuristics and engaged in a polemic over the question of free will. Erasmus took a skeptical position vis-à-vis Luther’s assertions. Unlike the reformer, he did not believe in the clarity of Scripture and used consensus and tradition as criteria to settle questions that did not allow a rational conclusion. Erasmus rarely ventured into doctrinal questions, however, favoring simple faith and devotion over dialectics and scholastic speculation. The circulation of Erasmus’ works was temporarily curtailed when the Catholic Church put them on the Index of Forbidden Books, but his ideas saw a revival during the Enlightenment when he was regarded as a forerunner of rationalism. His most famous work, The Praise of Folly, has remained in print to the present day, a distinction shared by few books from the 16th century. 
 Heuristic is a good word.

To find out. Discover.


[hyoo-ris-tik or, often, yoo-] adjective 1.serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.2.encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error:
a heuristic teaching method.3.of, relating to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.4. Computers, Mathematics. pertaining to a trial-and-error method ofproblem solving used when an algorithmic approach is impractical.
noun 5.a heuristic method of argument.6. the study of heuristic procedure. 
Origin of heuristic1815-25; New Latin heuristicus, equivalent to Greek heur(ískeinto find out, discover + Latin -isticus -istic 
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series in 1955. I stopped into every storefront a radio sounded from on 20th Avenue making my way home from Elementary school during the series.

I never rooted for another baseball team after the Brooklyn Dodgers left Flatbush and Ebbets Field. 
The Brooklyn Dodgers played their final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, which the Dodgers won 2–0 over the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
On April 18, 1958, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game in L.A., defeating the former New York and newly relocated and renamed San Francisco Giants, 6–5, before 78,672 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.[32] Sadly, catcher Roy Campanella, left partially paralyzed in an off-season accident, was never able to play for Los Angeles. 
2007 HBO film, Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush, is a documentary covering the Dodgers history from early days to the beginning of the Los Angeles era. In the film, the story is related that O'Malley was so hated by Brooklyn Dodger fans after the move to California, that it was said, "If you asked a Brooklyn Dodger fan, if you had a gun with only two bullets in it and were in a room with Hitler, Stalin and O'Malley, who would you shoot? The answer: O’Malley, twice!"
My game, one I longed, even then, to play well, was heuristics.

Still is.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

so silent as this

listen —
a poem
as this


From the Poetry Foundation:
         Despite its many adaptions into multiple languages and styles, the haiku remains a powerful form due to its economic use of language to evoke a specific mood or instance. Most often occurring in the present tense, a haiku frequently depicts a moment by using pair of distinct images working in tandem, as in these lines by Kobayashi Issa, translated by Jane Hirshfield
        On a branch
        floating downriver
        a cricket, singing. 
(Notice how, in translating from Japanese to English, Hirshfield compresses the number of syllables.) 
The haiku continues to be a popular form today, and its different qualities have been emphasized and expanded by a wide variety of writers. Poets such as Etheridge Knight, emphasize the formal and sonic quality of the verse, as seen in his piece “Haiku,” whereas poets such as Scott Helmes have chosen to emphasize the haiku’s visual arrangement, as seen in his piece, “haiku #62.” 
For further examples, see also “Three Haiku, Two Tanka” by Philip Appleman and Robert Hass’s “After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa.” In addition, see the Imagist poets of the early 20th century, most notably Ezra Pound
Look here to browse more haiku. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the vocation of the monk

For the 20th time on a December 10th we speak aloud, in the presence of a Sunday Evening Practice community, our promises as meetingbrook monastics:
Contemplation,  Conversation,  Correspondence. held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage“m.o.n.o.”(monastics of no other). 
Contemplation  is the promise of simplicity. It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.  It is attentive presence. 
Conversation  is the promise of integrity. It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.   It is root silence.  
Correspondence  is the promise of faithful engagement.  It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.   It is transparent service. 
Our practice between traditions holds Francis of Assisi and Eihei Dogen Zenji as our guiding lights and Thomas Merton as inspiration.

We are humbled and delighted to continue our promises and our monastic life.
This is emphatically the vocation of the monk “who seeks full realization ... [and] has come to experience the ground of his own being in such a way that he knows the secret of liberation and can somehow or other communicate it to others.” At the deepest level, the monk is teaching others how to live by love. For Christians, this is the discovery of Christ dwelling in all others. 
Only with such love, Merton went on, is it possible to realize the economic ideal of each giving according to his ability and receiving according to his need. But in actuality many Christians, including those in monastic communities, have not reached this level of love and realization. They have burdened their lives with too many false needs and these have blocked the way to full realization, the monk’s only reason for being. 
Merton told a story he had heard from Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche of a Buddhist abbot fleeing from his Tibetan monastery before the advance of Chinese Communist troops. He encountered another monk leading a train of twenty-five yaks loaded with the treasures of the monastery and “essential” provisions. The abbot chose not to stay with the treasure or the treasurer; traveling light, he managed to cross the border into India, destitute but alive. The yak-tending monk, chained to his treasure, was overtaken by the soldiers and was never heard of again.  
“We can ask ourselves,” Merton said, “if we are planning for the next twenty years to be traveling with a train of yaks.” Monasticism, after all, is not architecture or clothing or even rules of life. It is “total inner transformation. Let the yaks take care of themselves.” The monastic life thrives whenever there is a person “giving some kind of direction and instruction to a small group attempting to love God and reach union with him.”   
Authentic monasticism cannot be extinguished. “It is imperishable. It represents an instinct of the human heart, and it represents a charism given by God to man. It cannot be rooted out, because it does not depend on man. It does not depend on cultural factors, and it does not depend on sociological or psychological factors. It is something much deeper.”
(—from, louie,louie blog, The monasticism of Thomas Merton, Sunday, 10Dec17 , an extract from "Living With Wisdom", a biography of Merton, by Jim Forest
Finally, from Jim Forest,
There was also the memory of Merton’s last words. Following the morning conference, Father de Grunne told Merton that a nun in the audience was annoyed that Merton had said nothing about converting people. 
“What we are asked to do at present,” Merton responded, “is not so much to speak of Christ as to let him live in us so that people may find him by feeling how he lives in us.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Δεν γεννιέται

Den genniétai -- (“not being born”, or, unchangeability.)
No wonder

we avoid


Something will

have to


for us

to see



what is being for

 Quote from Philosophy Now:
We therefore have a fundamental contrast here between being and doing. On the one side we have the champions of doing, on the other we have the champions of being, and much of our western philosophy could be seen as the battle between these two primary categories. In technical language we could say  it is the battle between deontology (the ethics of doing one’s duty) and ontology (philosophy of being). 
But in post-modern ethics both of these categories are called into question. Writers such as Emmanuel Levinas and Zygmunt Bauman want to suggest that the reason why the battle between these two fundamental schools of thought is so unfruitful is that neither of them is fundamental. They suggest that underlying them both is a much deeper category which represents a much more profound moral life. They call this category ‘Being for’. For Bauman morality cannot be derived from reason or ontology. I am for comes before I am. I am I in the sole measure that I am responsible, when I rise above and transcend myself. In other words Descartes’ cogito, “I think therefore I am”, does not take us to the foundation of the matter. It is not the self-evident truth upon which all other truths must be based. There is a much more foundational truth lurking below the “I am”. It is the “I am for” which comes into play when, before reasoning things out or before working towards being a good character, I live towards another as neighbour.

An Archeology Analogy

An analogy might help us to understand this post-modern contention. It is rather like the archeologist who first unearths one city, the city of doing, but then finds another city below it, the city of being, but, when s/he scratches the earth again finds yet another city below that, the city of being for. There is therefore a kind of layering:
below which is
below which is
Being For

What is Being For?

Being for is not merely one of the virtues which we can develop and use in our everyday interaction with other people. Nor is Being for a way of life which we aspire to, a kind of ideal which we set for ourselves, something we try to live up to. Being for is much more immediate than this. It is a way life which precedes all thinking about our actions, it is a way of life which precedes all forms of calculation about what our actions might lead to, and it is a way of life which doesn’t come more easily to us as we strive to learn more about it . The reason is that thinking about our actions puts the ‘I’ at the centre of the discussion: “What am I to do?” Training ourselves or letting ourselves be trained in the virtues also puts the ‘I’ at the centre: “What kind of person am I to become?” What Being for does is to transcend the I and look towards the Other. It comes in the form of a paradox: We cannot be fully ourselves, we cannot discover our true  identity, we cannot find the ‘I’, until we forget the ‘I’. The ethics of Being for is then not an exercise in learning but an exercise in forgetting, letting go, taking the risk.  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

next step

The psalmist asks: How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:4)

And yet, sing we must.
Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father lest it find
The Goodness it has dreaded is not good:
Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own,
Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned
Her hereditary right to passion, Mind
His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone.
Where is that Law for which we broke our own?
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
Was it to meet such grinning evidence
We left our richly odoured ignorance?
Was the triumphant answer to be this?
The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss.
We who must die demand a miracle.
How could the Eternal do a temporal act,
The Infinite become a finite fact?
Nothing can save us that is possible:
We who must die demand a miracle.
(—from W. H. Auden's long poem FOR THE TIME BEING: A Christmas Oratorio. It was written during the dark times of World War II.)
The miracle

of being


to listen

to another

is the infinite

within and