Saturday, December 15, 2018

where haiku will not go

          (after Basho)

flapping wings --

lift off, lift off, fly away --

soon, a vacant branch vacates

dark and dank

To the Washington Post:
Ach du meine Güte! 
For years I've worried that something stupid would unseat the thoughtful and considered rule of law and common sense holding up this country.When the Republican Party dissolved into the "What, me stupid?" method of governing by nonsense and narcissism, I began to breathe the new atmosphere as one does stale air in an abandoned mineshaft. The Republican Gemeinshaft has become dark and dank. Worry gives way to reality. They have been coal in our stocking.   
Ah, Christmas!
(My dear friend, Richard, departed farmer from Warren, would cluck and shake his head over such public comment on such low intelligence politics.)

Friday, December 14, 2018

incline to one or the other

Light and dark. It's where we live.

Not in the light; not in the dark.

We live in the light and the dark.

The admixture.

In prison earlier a man says that we incline toward a community of common desire.

In each moment, in each instant, we incline either toward manifesting light or dark.

But we live in the light/dark, or, dark/light.

We participate every moment in the choice to embody or manifest one or the other.
Pray for the grace of accuracy 
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination 
stealing like the tide across a map 
to his girl solid with yearning
(--from poem, Epilogue, by Robert Lowell) 
But we live, simultaneously, in both.

There is no separation.

There is only the moment of desire to incline to one or the other.

We step into the field of emptiness.

We move.

We open our mouth to say something.


what is


is what

Thursday, December 13, 2018

gracias el amigo

Yesterday, in Mexico and all the America’s, the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Three days prior, that of Juan Diego. In America Magazine yesterday, this article — 10 things to know about the Virgin of Guadalupe, by Andrew Chesnut.

The realm of faith, experiences thereof, articulation and institutionalization, remains a curiosity not easily understood or verifiable.

And yet, and yet, and yet...

10. The tilma upon which the Virgin's image is imprinted is held to be miraculous by devotees. 
Some scientists claim an absence of brush strokes on the cloak while others report that the coloration contains no animal or mineral elements. Perhaps the most spectacular miracle, according to devotees, is the tilma emerging unscathed from a bomb blast. 
In 1921 an anti-clerical radical detonated 29 sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses beneath the cloak. The blast destroyed a marble rail, twisted a metal crucifix and shattered windows throughout the old basilica but the tilma itself was untouched. (article)
We tell the stories and the implications with the ambivalent fascination we relate dreams after waking up from sleep.

The world, it seems, might not be merely binary nor bound by 2+2=4 certitude. This prospect gives me no particular joy. But it does bid me keep my eyes open and my mind inquiring into story and surprise.

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet suggests that human knowledge is limited: 

There are more things in heaven and EarthHoratio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.                         
 Gracias el amigo!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

ever deeper silence

What do we think will happen if we enter silence?

Bliss? Enlightenment? Unadulterated joy?

Or, perhaps, merely, an ever deeper silence?
Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. . . . It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him. [1] 
Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:6): “If you want to pray, enter your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Notice that “Father” refers to a personal relationship, whether you call it father, mother, brother, soul-friend, spouse or anything else. 
The first step in Centering Prayer is to enter your inner room, which is symbolized by the heart in most traditions; that is, your innermost self beyond the senses and beyond thinking. . . . 
Second, “close the door,” symbolizing your intention of letting go of all thoughts, preoccupations, memories and plans during this time. As soon as you are overtaken by thoughts, which is inevitable in the beginning, return to your original intention to let go of all thinking. You can do this in a very simple and extremely gently way, like saying a sacred word briefly, noticing your breath, or turning to God with a brief glance of faith in His presence. 
Finally, you pray in secret to the Father who speaks to you beyond words and who invites you to ever deeper silence. . . .
 [1] Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart, 20th anniversary edition (Bloomsbury: 2006), 175.
(—from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation,Week Fifty, Contemplation, Centering Prayer, Wednesday, December 12, 2018) 
And what then?

(A clock ticking. Whirling sound of machine making snow at town ski slopes across brook. The engine of pickup truck going up road. The cutting in of furnace from cellar. The field of listening itself attempting to hear itself.)
"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send My messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'" (Luke 7:24-27)
Jesus is speaking here of John the Baptist.  He could as easily been speaking of different messanger — silence.

Preparing our way.

Before us.

Silence is Spirit. The Holy. Of which we know nothing — not from where it comes, not to where it goes, not it’s name, not it’s meaning nor purpose.

Ours is a silence-deepening life.

Where, in a limitless, boundaryless, and borderless expanse of silence we gaze from silence as silence into silence.

Here is where gaze sees nothing other beyond ...


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

get the hell out of here

From “Damn It All,” by Stephen Greenblatt, in The New York Review of Books, 20dec18 issue:
The Penguin Book of Hell, edited by the Fordham history professor Scott Bruce, is an anthology of sadistic fantasies that for millions of people over many centuries laid a claim to sober truth. Not all people in all cultures have embraced such fantasies. Though the ancient Egyptians were obsessively focused on the afterlife, it was not suffering in the Kingdom of the Dead that most frightened them but rather ceasing altogether to exist.  
At the other extreme, in ancient Greece the Epicureans positively welcomed the idea that when it was over it was over: after death, the atoms that make up body and soul simply come apart, and there is nothing further either to fear or to crave. Epicurus was not alone in thinking that ethical behavior should not have to depend on threats and promises: Aristotle’s great Nicomachean Ethics investigates the sources of moral virtue, happiness, and justice without for a moment invoking the support of postmortem punishments or rewards. 
The Hebrews wrote their entire Bible without mentioning hell. They had a realm they called sheol, but it was merely the place of darkness and silence where all the dead—the just as well as the wicked—wound up. For the ancient rabbis, heaven was a place where you could study the Torah all the time. Its opposite was not a place of torture; it was more like a state of depression so deep that you could not even open a book. 
In the Odyssey, Homer bequeathed to the world a much more elaborate vision of the afterlife than the Hebrews ever imagined, one in which Sisyphus ceaselessly attempts to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again, and Tantalus, standing in a pool, reaches for fruit that forever eludes his grasp and thirsts for water that he can never drink. Yet notwithstanding these isolated examples of exemplary punishment, the land of the dead visited by Odysseus is notable not for the meting out of just deserts, whether pleasure or pain, but for a general sadness, more akin to sheol than to the Christian hell. “There’s not a man in the world more blest than you,” Odysseus congratulates the ghost of the great Achilles. “Time was, when you were alive, we Argives/honored you as a god, and now down here, I see,/you lord it over the dead in all your power.” But Achilles contemptuously dismisses the facile compliment:
No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus!By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man—some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive—than rule down here over all the breathless dead. 
Though life, as Homer’s great poem shows, can be excruciatingly difficult, it is still preferable to even the most honored place in the underworld.
For my personal philosophy, the following proposition applies: Get the hell out of here!

If “here” is all there is, no need to go elsewhere to assess and engage what needs assessment, engagement, and transformation.

by way of defeat

 We don’t understand the central symbol of Christianity, the cross. Nor do we comprehend the most obvious absurdity of the Jesus narrative, the empty tomb. But mostly, this season, the glaring question comes upon us — what does it mean to be born?

To be born is to die on the cross.

Whether the Roman implement of execution, or white nationalist tree limb of lynching, or quiet hospice bed of shallow breathing as something, something we can’t quite grasp, slows to a fragile sliver of breath fading from body, signaling the end of the apparent.

The primary cause of death is birth.

The cruelty of the cross is human denial that we are in this, and soon out of this, together. This denial, as with lynching and the blind ignorance of racism, misogyny, and classist snobbery — points out the devasting harm when willful stupidity slashes across human opinion and prejudice — instead of the conscious compassionate intelligence of spiritual and moral depth.

Chris Hedges, in an article on, writes about the radical theologian James H. Cone:
The cross, Cone reminded us, is not an abstraction; it is the instrument of death used by the oppressor to crucify the oppressed. And the cross is all around us. He writes in “The Cross and the Lynching Tree”:
The cross is a paradoxical religious symbol because it invertsthe world’s value system, proclaiming that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last. Secular intellectuals find this idea absurd, but it is profoundly real in the spiritual life of black folk. For many who were tortured and lynched, the crucified Christ often manifested God’s loving and liberating presence within the great contradictions of black life. The cross of Jesus is what empowered black Christians to believe, ultimately, that they would not be defeated by the “troubles of the world,” no matter how great and painful their suffering. Only people stripped of power could understand this absurd claim of faith. The cross was God’s critique of power—white power—with powerless love, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.  
Present-day Christians misinterpret the cross when they make it a nonoffensive religious symbol, a decorative object in their homes and churches. The cross, therefore, needs the lynching tree to remind us what it means when we say that God is revealed in Jesus at Golgotha, the place of the skull, on the cross where criminals and rebels against the Roman state were executed. The lynching tree is America’s cross. What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem happened to blacks in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Lynched black bodies are symbols of Christ’s body. If we want to understand what the crucifixion means for Americans today, we must view it through the lens of mutilated black bodies whose lives are destroyed in the criminal justice system. Jesus continues to be lynched before our eyes. He is crucified wherever people are tormented. That is why I say Christ is black.
(—from, The Heresy of White Christianity, by Chris Hedges, truthdig, 10dec18) 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (d.10dec68) obituary by Mark Van Doran in America Magazine, (4jan69)..

nothing else

As a Buddhist I recite the four vows of the Bodhisattva.

As a meetingbrook monastic I recite the three promises of the hermitage.

As a Christian I recite the St Andrew advent novena.

As a poet I recite the words of Richard Hugo, Theodore Roethke, Antonio Machado, Goethe, and Rilke.

As an American I recite the words “We the People...”.

As a contemplative I recite nothing, remaining in silence.




the mountain is seen -- Thomas Merton, 50 yrs along

Fifty years ago today Thomas Merton died in Bangkok Thailand.

We light candle in Thomas Merton Bookshed / Winter Zendo.
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans [“nature naturing” or “nature doing what nature does”]. There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia,[“holy wisdom”] speaking as my sister, Wisdom.
“Hagia Sophia,” The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton

"The full beauty of the mountain is not seen until you consent to the impossible paradox: it is and is not. When nothing more needs to be said, the smoke of ideas clears, the mountain is seen." 
(--Journal, 1968) 
We are glad for his having been on earth with us as he was. 

Sunday, December 09, 2018


Wood burns in stove

Soup warms in silver pot

We recite contemplation, conversation, and correspondence promises

Someone cries at table over losses

We listen