Saturday, June 20, 2020

where we can emerge whole-hearted

The heart doesn’t know its ground until it sits alone with everything.

Suffering is one of the deepwater mysteries of human existence. It can neither be explained nor controlled, but it can be met by a deepwater mystery of equal force – the mystery of human presence.

- Alan Lew

The stations of the cross, take a stark and riveting turn in this portrayal of Afghanistan and Iraq, 

Do we still pray?

And if we do, why we do?

These Stations of the Cross are dedicated to all the victims of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, civilian and military. + + + Written for Pax Christi USA by Rev. Sebastian L. Muccilli + + + Photo selection and blog layout by Beth Cioffoletti + + + Copyright 2006

We forget, time to time, how dark night can be. 

This world is a solitary man, a solitary woman, suffering.

If you pray, pray for human presence -- not the deluded, insane, absence we embody. What we call war.
What we call my will, my wants, my accumulation.

No wonder the myths glorify the birth of goodness and compassion to save us from ourselves.

No god out there is going to make things right.

Our deepest inner reality is the place to begin.

The place beyond illusion.

Where we can emerge whole-hearted.

where to look


Friday, June 19, 2020


     (on Juneteenth)

Sometimes truth is slow

Walking through ignorance — be

Joyful — take next step


there is nothing known

Of course the world is chaotic. Virus, odd leadership, tension between races, branding upset, racist murders, economic uncertainty, mortality.

Only spontaneous poetry will pull us through.


You are here alone

No one cares to tell you why 

There is nothing known

I feel better.

Such nonsense, thinking some meaning undergirds existence.

Sleep a while. Wake up. Take a walk. Brew coffee. Read the silliness of human hypocrisy.  

Feel the chagrin.

Feel the distress.

Allow love 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

as simple as that

Compiling yearly CEU submissions for hospice volunteer continuance, I find these excerpts:

“Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. We believe that we are born from nothing and that when we die we become nothing. And so, we are filled with the fear of annihilation. The Buddha has a very different understanding – that birth and death are notions. They are not real.”     
(– Thich Nhat Hanh.) 
A few weeks later the weather became warm again. As I walked in my garden I saw new buds on the japonica manifesting another generation of flowers. I asked the japonica flowers: "Are you the same as the flowers that died in the frost or are you different flowers?" The flowers replied to me: "Thay, we are not the same and we are not different When conditions are sufficient we manifest and when conditions are not we go into hiding. It’s as simple as that.” 
(—Thich Nhat Hanh) 

Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. Only when we touch our true nature can we transcend the fear of non-being, the fear of annihilation.

The Buddha said that when conditions are sufficient something manifests and we say it exists. When one or two conditions fail and the thing does not manifest in the same way, we then say it does not exist. According to the Buddha, to qualify something as existing or not existing is wrong. In reality, there is no such thing as totally existing or totally not existing.                   

(—Thich Nhat Hanh)


No Death, No Fear, Comforting Wisdom for Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh, c.2003; 208pgs,  

empty names

 We live. We die. No one knows why.

The greatest sages from ancient times 
Have not shown us life immortal. 
What is born in time must die; 
All will be changed to dust and ashes. 
Bones pile up like Mount Vipula,* 
Tears of parting would make a sea, 
And all that's left are empty names. 
Who escapes the wheel of birth and death?
                                                  (--Han-shan )

* A mountain in India.

Nothing but deep June green out front window facing Bald Mountain.

And bird song.

Passing motor vehicles.

Emptiness between.

Nothing else.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

truly homeless

In September 1968, three months before his death, while at Christ in the Desert monastery in New Mexico, Fr. Louis (Thomas Merton) wrote:

“...I am not going ‘home.’ The purpose of this death is to become truly homeless.”   (Journal entry, The Other Side of the Mountain, 174)
That’s what you get when you read Buddhist and Hindu writings, as he was, at that time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

we now live in an anarchic age

Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. 

The word arche* is dictionary defined as principle:

* something that was in the beginning : a first principle:

a.  in early Greek philosophy : a substance or primal element

b. in Aristotle : an actuating principle (as a cause) 

If, as one philosopher held, we live at "the end of the epoch dominated by an arche, by the principle, so that we now live in an anarchic age." (Vattimo; See below).

Has expediency**, (in its contemporary usage), not principle,  become our current mode of dwelling in the world?
** helpful or useful in a particular situation, and without considering any moral question that might influence your decision: (Cambridge Dictionary)

Principles such as fairness, justice, honesty -- have been rivalled and replaced by self-interest, power acquisition, and disregard for what is factual or true. Reality, that always elusive foundation of meaning, does not exist in itself anymore, but is a malleable and manipulated commodity in the hands of those who hold the reins of power.

We live in a dangerous time. The metaphor extended to us during this Covid-19 time is the tension of remaining inside or going outside.  

Final question. Returning to Negri and Hardt, and adding Giorgio Agamben to the discussion, they have expressed grave concerns for the future of democracy. Hardt and Negrfs Multitude begins with a crit- ical analysis of the permanent state of war that has become a standard feature of the current international order as dominated by the United States. Similarly, Agamben has written extensively about the 6istate of exception" that threatens to transform democracies into totalitarian states. Speaking from your dual expertise as a philosopher combined with your experience as an actual politician as a former member of the European Parliament, do you agree that this state of exception has become the new working paradigm of government? If so, then what can be done?

If I believed that this had become the paradigm, then the simple answer to the last question would be that there is nothing that can be done. On the basis of my experience in the European Parliament, I feel very strongly that the logic of war is becoming the logic of everyday life. We speak more and more explicitly in war terms. It is also the game of power. For example, while I would not say that Bush provoked 9/11, surely he has exploited it very, very well, to the point that books such as Before and After by Phyllis Bennis or documentaries such as Loose Change by Dylan Avery make us all wonder if such exploitation has any limits. The repercussions of this become tragically evident when his government proved too slow in responding to Hurricane Katrina, which utterly devastated the city of New Orleans, ex- posing the finite resources the government has in hand and the fragile balance of a society still haunted by its legacy of racism. Many criticized Bush for responding too late and devoting so much of the nation's resources to the war of choice in Iraq when his own country remains in such grave need.

But, returning to Negri and Agamben, my problem, as I suggested earlier, is that they are both guilty of too much ideological rigidity. By interpreting the state of exception in absolute terms, everything fits together quite reasonably. The only possibility for democracy in our current situation is to exploit the holes, the margins, which was, by the way, the idea in the 1970s behind something Tony Negri called autonomies the effort to construe or build autonomous communities—not try to take the power, but try to construe peripheral powers. If people around the world protest the war in Iraq, for example, it doesn't mean taking control of Windsor Palace or the White House, but, nevertheless, it eases and slows down the wheels of power. --"

At the beginning of the nineteenth and twentieth century, philosophy was very suspicious of technology. This has changed. The only possibility today is not to categorically reject the machinery of power but to slow down the process of the reproduction of capital. How can this be done? There are the hackers and the saboteurs, of course. But imagine, for instance, how Italians could ruin Berlusconi if we all decided to boycott any merchant who advertised on his many television stations. But we don't do it. Why? Because we are not yet so poor, so angry. But when that comes, we cannot oppose the logic of power with weapons because they would kill us. But we can try to extend the replication of autonomous centers. I believe in that. After all, there is nothing better to believe in. Isn't this the very idea of the multitude? Having many communities working—not necessarily together in the sense of a coordinated effort—but simply working against.

That is why I sometimes call myself an anarchist. I have proposed in the conclusion to one of my recent papers that we take seriously the idea from a book by Reiner Schurmann on Heidegger (On Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy). Schurmann emphasized how Heidegger had preached the end of the epoch dominated by an arche, by the principle, so that we now live in an anarchic age. But now I would say we have to interpret this a little more literally. We have to be outside. This is a postmodern idea. The idea is that I must subtract myself from the game of power. For instance, it was important for me to no longer be elected as a member of parliament. I discovered I could do something without too many engagements vis-a-vis a party. I discovered that when you get into power, it is not because you have conquered the power, but because the power has conquered you.

(-- pp.111-113, A PRAYER FOR SILENCE, Dialogue with Gianni Vattimo, in After the Death of God, by John D. Caputo and Giavani Vattimo, c.2007)

There is something else to consider, namely, the way words and their understanding shift and change over time. Remember that the Greek word arche (Gk αρχή ) also means beginning, outset, inception, origin, commencement. 

So too, the Greek word for expedience, (σῠμφέρω, sumphérōfrom σῠμ = with, and φέρω = to bring or carry), has a sense of gathering and moving together, to confer a benefit.

Heidegger says that "Language is the house of Being," that we bring Being to language, that "Thinking is the thinking of Being."

“Thinking accomplishes the relation of Being to the essence of man. It does not make or cause the relation. Thinking brings this relation to Being solely as something handed over to it from Being. Such offering consists in the fact that in thinking Being comes to language. Language is the house of Being. In its home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home. Their guardianship accomplishes the manifestation of Being insofar as they bring the manifestation to language and maintain it in language through their speech. Thinking does not become action only because some effect issues from it or because it is applied. Thinking acts insofar as it thinks.” 

(p. 217, Letter on Humanism, Martin Heidegger, 1947) (cf. Martin Heidegger: "The Letter on Humanism" A series of lectures by Paul Livingston, Villanova University March 2, 2005)

If language loses its meaning, if we no longer think, we threaten the very ground of our Being.

We have to be careful. Careful of our thinking. Careful of our language. Careful for Being.

We exist, always, at the beginning, at origin.

What we say about our existence, our world, one-another, must be said with care. 

We must bring the inside out. We must bring the outside in. 

When we behold what is within without, and what is without within, we are, once again and always, at the beginning, at origin.

There, our beginning, is the opportunity to rethink things. 

To redefine whether we wish to carry together the burden of dwelling in this world. Or, by a lapse of awareness, we might want to divide, harass, and exclude one another from dwelling productively and harmoniously in this world.


Here we go!

Monday, June 15, 2020

a reflection of a society

Jon Stewart answers a question we didn't realize needed asking: 

You know, I’ve been trying to think of some precise, encapsulating question to ask you about what we’ve been witnessing over the last few weeks, and everything I was coming up with felt forced or phony. Maybe it’s better, because you’ve been eloquent during times of crisis in the past, just to ask what you’ve been thinking about and seeing in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing? 

I’d like to say I’m surprised by what happened to him, but I’m not. This is a cycle, and I feel that in some ways, the issue is that we’re addressing the wrong problem. We continue to make this about the police — the how of it. How can they police? Is it about sensitivity and de-escalation training and community policing? All that can make for a less-egregious relationship between the police and people of color. But the how isn’t as important as the why, which we never address. The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation. But if we don’t address the anguish of a people, the pain of being a people who built this country through forced labor — people say, ‘‘I’m tired of everything being about race.’’ Well, imagine how [expletive] exhausting it is to live that.

(--from Jon Stewart is Back to Weigh In, by David Marchese, 15June20, The New York Times Magazine) 


Are the controversial things that President Trump says structurally motivated? Do you believe he’s thinking on that level?  

I think he understands very well — and the right understands very well — that undermining the credibility of the institutions that people look to for help defining and making sense of reality is the key to bending reality to your will. It’s a wonderful rhetorical trick. He had a great one on Memorial Day weekend:16

 ‘‘We’re getting great reviews on our pandemic response. But of course, not getting credit for it.’’ The twisted logic of that: If you’re getting great reviews, I’m pretty sure that’s considered credit. It’s like saying, ‘‘I’m being praised, but of course I won’t be praised for it.’’ Language is utterly meaningless. Everything is placed into its category in the tribal war and who its real victims are: Donald Trump and his minions. Poor little billionaire president who can’t catch a break. It’s incredible. Are we all just extras in this guy’s movie? But I do feel as if his approach has worked for him his whole life. 


becoming holy scripture for future reading

Kneeling on a man's neck until he dies after buying a pack of cigarettes. Shooting a man in the back as he runs from being asleep in a Wendy's drive-through. Refusing to allow those from other countries seeking refuge to enter the process of asylum to step into a refugee-capable country. Intentionally fomenting divisive and dangerous antipathy in a country and culture straining to hold together decency and creative healing. 
evil (n.)

"anything that causes injury, anything that harms or is likely to harm; a malady or disease; conduct contrary to standards of morals or righteousness," Old English yfel (see evil (adj.)). [Online Etymology Dictionary]

The words of a dark-skinned Middle-East man sound like cautionary counsel a Black father would give to his Black son about encounters with the police or anyone criticizing the president of their country: 
“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
(--Matthew 5:38-42)
Or, maybe it is clearer in Latin:
In illo témpore: Dixit Iesus discípulis suis:
  «Audístis quia dictum est: “Oculum pro óculo et dentem pro dente”. Ego autem dico vobis: Non resístere malo; sed si quis te percússerit in déxtera maxílla tua, præbe illi et álteram; et ei, qui vult tecum iudício conténdere et túnicam tuam tóllere, remítte ei et pállium; et quicúmque te angariáverit mille passus, vade cum illo duo. Qui petit a te, da ei; et volénti mutuári a te, ne avertáris».
(Excerpt From: Universalis. “June 2020 - Universalis.” Apple Books. )
Human beings have always been dangerous and unpredictable. We've tried to enact laws governing behavior, ethics to assist our deliberations as to what actions are right and considerate, customs to ease our uncertainty and facilitate communal civility.

Alfred Lord Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850 in Canto 56 referring to man:

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw 

With ravine, shriek'd against his creed     

(--in The Phrase Finder)
 It is unnerving that a virus has entered our country. A Covid-19 virus. And a Trumpian Political Party virus. Each seems to have its own mind. Each doesn't care who it attacks.

Jesus, for me, these days, is a Honduran father and son (cf. This American Life's Pulitzer-Winning Episode); is George Floyd and the too many martyrs for awareness; is the cosmos itself originating new life and new horizons of exploration toward cohesion and complementarity.

At Sunday Evening Practice we meditate on three poems: two by Wendell Berry, one by Muriel Rukeyser, and the last 5 minutes of Mandy Patinkin's interview at The New School:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(Poem by Wendell Berry)


Stay Home 

I will wait here in the fields

to see how well the rain

brings on the grass.

In the labor of the fields

longer than a man’s life

I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too.

I will be standing in the woods

where the old trees

move only with the wind

and then with gravity.

In the stillness of the trees

I am at home. Don’t come with me.

You stay home too. 

(Poem by Wendell Berry)

The Poem as Mask 

When I wrote of the women in their dances and 
wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music. 

(Poem by Muriel Rukeyser)
We are all, at this time, people of the arts. We are, in this moment,  creators of a new time. We are, courageously and compassionately, called to be what the cosmos longs to look like going forward.

The hurt and the fear and the uncertainty are our teachers. 

Let us be the bodies that become holy scripture for future reading.

Sunday, June 14, 2020


I've come to see in ordinary inclusive cosmotheandric terms what was once the presentation of exclusive religion.

In other words, earth is the earth, body is the body, and ubiquitous unknown presence is ubiquitous unknown presence.  

What is, that which is, is the body of what we long to call God, El Shaddai, Allah, Brahma, Tao, Tathagatha, The One, OM, 

The nomenclature of Corpus Christi, the feast day, is here described 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ,[2] is a Catholic and Anglican liturgical solemnity celebrating the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the elements of the Eucharist.  (Wikipedia)

Two epigraphs begin the book by Caputo and Vattimo, After the Death of God: 

In religion's perpetual agony lies its philosophical and theoretical relevance. As it dies an ever more secure and serial death, it is increasingly certain to come back to life, in its present guise or in another.

HENT DE VRIES, Philosophy and the Turn to Religion


So that, in truth, Thou didst Thyself lay the foundation for the destruction of Thy kingdom, and no one is more to blame for it. Yet what was offered Thee? There are three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness—those forces are miracle, mystery, and authority. Thou has rejected all three and hast set the example for doing so.

DOSTOYEVSKY, "The Grand Inquisitor" 
Then, later in the Introduction:

By wedding the church with the Roman Empire or, more broadly, with Western culture, the Constantinian revolution suc- cessfully harnessed the three powers identified by Dostoyevsky by adding the authority of the state to that of the church's already firm grasp on miracle and mystery. In so doing, the power of the church was consolidated in the creation and spread of a distinc- tively Christian culture. Along the way, however, the witness of Christ—especially his suffering and death—was lost in his exal- tation by the now triumphant church. It would seem, therefore, and this is something that Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor knew well: that the glory of the church was built on its rejection of Christ as the persecuted became the persecutors* and the servant the new Lord and master. From death, to resurrection, to exalta- tion—here we have the death of God in Christ twice over.

We are not working with Thee, but with him—that is our mystery. It's long—eight centuries—since we have been on his side and not on Thine. Just eight centuries ago, we took from him what Thou didst reject with scorn, that last gift he offered Thee, showing Thee all the kingdoms of the earth. We took from him Rome and the sword of Caesar, and proclaimed ourselves sole rulers of the earth, though hitherto we have not been able to complete our work. But whose fault is that? Oh, the work is only beginning, but it has begun. It has long to await completion and the earth has yet much to suffer, but we shall triumph and shall be Caesars, and then we shall plan the universal happiness of man.

—DOSTOYEVSKY, "The Grand Inquisitor 
(--from JEFFREY W. ROBBINS Introduction to After the Death of God,  by John D. Caputo and Gianni Vattimo, c.2007)

Christ, in Merriam-Webster's:

Definition of Christ

  (Entry 1 of 2)

3an ideal type of humanity
4Christian Science the ideal truth that comes as a divine manifestation of God to destroy incarnate error
History and Etymology for Christ


Middle English Crist, from Old English, from Latin Christus, from Greek Christos, literally, anointed, from chriein
Can we see yet?

Is a new reality here yet?

Are we here yet?

Are we nearing humanity?

Do we see yet the error of our ways?

Racism. Greed. Uncaring power. Authoritarianism. Fascism. Unkindness.

Is a christic emergence beginning to be seen within and without us?

Is our willingness to see and transform our fears and insecurities into trusting action of engaged continuation the beginning of seeing-humanity-reality in our time?

This reality is not the possession or property of any particular religion or philosophy. It belongs to itself. 

Itself -- the self-same autonomous presence of that which you are in your profound ground and evolving transcendence.

I watched About the Work: Mandy Patinkin | School of Drama, The New School. The final five minutes, from 53:45 tp 58:55 is worth the price of admission.
And it is all about admission, isn't it?

We are people of the arts.