Saturday, December 05, 2020


Student's words:

Doesn’t it seem like Brynhild might have a really messed up sense of what love really is? At least by our standards today? So, what does she do? She plots his murder, gets him killed (which was no small amount of effort), and then after he’s killed “Brynhild laments her cruel fate, and the role she had in the destruction of Sigurd”.   

Then, response:

This suggests, as does the Opera Dido and Aeneus by Purcell (libretto by Tate) below that there might be something called fate which is something that affects us but is not us. Here are the words:


When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.

If we are not our fate, a thought I like, then we are distinct to what is taking place in our lives, as though a series of events are happening (e.g. a play) to which we are participants (i.e. actors) – at the time fully embodied and engaged in the action, but distinct and not identical to the action. 

I still like the idea we are responsible for our every action. But there’s something about fate that suggests not only are we not in control of the surrounding circumstances within which our actions unfold, but that some sort of dramatic objective correlative* is at play. This also suggests, with your earlier observations about Stoicism, that our inner emotional equanimity is vital as we encounter the external world of events and provocations. 

( * noun, the artistic and literary technique of representing or evoking a particular emotion by means of symbols that objectify that emotion and are associated with it. ( 

Friday, December 04, 2020

what passes, for gratitude

 One more day

No reason why

Tomorrow is a good day to die

Thursday, December 03, 2020

moral injury

The student at maine state prison during our tutorial said to have a conscience is to have moral injury.

The thought struck something.

If you have a conscience you are going to feel hurt and pain.

The obverse is also true. If someone has no conscience, does that suggest merely that they do not want to be hurt?

Getting hurt is the price paid for feeling for others.

Pain means life.

No pain means no life.

There is a turn toward pathology.

To be human in a full sense is to suffer with what we are and what each other is.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

the opportunity to become

What is true for the aesthetics of one thing has relevance for the aesthetic truth of another thing.

For example, would what is relevant for the architecture of a church be also relevant for the wholeness, proportionality, and radiance of the human being, the inner spirit of the human person?

 For the medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a beautiful thing had three primary characteristics (Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 39, Article 8):

1. Integritas (wholeness) –

          It must not be deficient in what it needs to be most itself.

2. Consonantia (proportionality) and –

Its dimensions should suitably correspond to other physical objects as well as      to a metaphysical ideal, an end.

3. Claritas (radiance) –

It should clearly radiate intelligibility, the logic of its inner being and impress this knowledge of itself on the mind of the perceiver.


Architectural historian and liturgical design consultant Dr. Denis McNamara, assistant director at the Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary (Illinois, US) explains:

Integritas, claritas, and consonantia prove critical in building a church, because as a theological and sacramental revelation of the new heaven and new earth, a beautiful church will provide a fullness of theological ideas but being complete not only in all of its functional parts, but also in its sacred imagery. Moreover, these parts will be proportional to their nature, showing not merely an earthly meeting hall, but an icon of a glorified reality, conventionally understood in architecture through sophistication of design, rich materials, and high levels of craft to be worthy of a church. This worthiness and glorification is made knowable to the mind of the viewer, for whom the church building impresses into his or her mind the signs and symbols of heavenly realities. This participation in the liturgy is the aim to be considered before all else specifically because by perceiving heavenly realities in earthly matter, we have the opportunity to become heavenly ourselves, and we are suited to live happily with God for eternity.

~ Denis Robert McNamara, Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy(2009)

(— from Integritas, Consonantia, Claritas, website On Art and Aesthetics)

What liturgy of heavenly realities takes place within me? What is the liturgical dance and chant going on in my imagination that quietly intends to appear in the open proscenium of ordinary appearance in the actual world?

What is called ‘church’ might be articulated as the visible outer manifestation of our invisible inner life.

In this way, if you will, external manifestation is a hologram of inner projection onto the physical plane as indication and blueprint of intentional creativity.

The world as we see it is what our core and character creates.

It is a paraphrase of “What you see is what you get!” into “What you see is what you’ve given!”

Look at us!

Look at what we are giving as the landscape of habitation, physical and psychological, economic and philosophical, the hearts and minds of our neighbors and fellow inhabitants of country and planet.

We need to sit.

Have a think.

Feel the field.

And begin again anew to rebuild.

even a scoundrel can do good

Pardon everyone —

Be bold — empty prisons, jails

Do it, par-Don, do

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

hearts attending to the skies

First Eckhart Tolle: 

 The essence of all spirituality is presence,

a state of consciousness that transcends thinking.

There is a space behind and in between your thoughts and emotions.

When you become aware of that space,

you are present,

and you realize that your personal history,

which consists of thought,

is not your true identity and is not the essence of who you are.

What is that space, that inner spaciousness?

It is pure consciousness,

the transcendent "I AM" that becomes aware of itself.

The Buddha calls it sunyata,


It is the "kingdom of heaven" that Jesus pointed to,

which is within you

here and now.

-- Eckhart Tolle

Then Thomas Merton:

The Quickening of John the Baptist

                      On the Contemplative Vocation 

Why do you fly from the drowned shores of Galilee,
From the sands and the lavender water?
Why do you leave the ordinary world, Virgin of Nazareth,
The yellow fishing boats, the farms,
The winesmelling yards and low cellars
Or the oilpress, and the women by the well?
Why do you fly those markets,
Those suburban gardens,
The trumpets of the jealous lilies,
Leaving them all, lovely among the lemon trees? 

You have trusted no town
With the news behind your eyes.
You have drowned Gabriel's word in thoughts like seas
And turned toward the stone mountain
To the treeless places.
Virgin of God, why are your clothes like sails? 

The day Our Lady, full of Christ,
Entered the dooryard of her relative
Did not her steps, light steps, lay on the paving leaves
like gold?
Did not her eyes as grey as doves
Alight like the peace of a new world upon that house, upon
miraculous Elizabeth? 

Her salutation
Sings in the stone valley like a Charterhouse bell:
And the unborn saint John
Wakes in his mother's body,
Bounds with the echoes of discovery. 

Sing in your cell, small anchorite!
How did you see her in the eyeless dark?
What secret syllable
Woke your young faith to the mad truth
That an unborn baby could be washed in the Spirit of God?
Oh burning joy! 

What seas of life were planted by that voice!
With what new sense
Did your wise heart receive her Sacrament,
And know her cloistered Christ? 

You need no eloquence, wild bairn,
Exulting in your hermitage.
Your ecstasy is your apostolate,
For whom to kick is contemplata tradere.
Your joy is the vocation of Mother Church's hidden children -
Those who by vow lie buried in the cloister or the hermitage;
The speechless Trappist, or the grey, granite Carthusian,
The quiet Carmelite, the barefoot Clare, Planted in the night of
contemplation, Sealed in the dark and waiting to be born. 

Night is our diocese and silence is our ministry
Poverty our charity and helplessness our tongue-tied
Beyond the scope of sight or sound we dwell upon the air
Seeking the world's gain in an unthinkable experience.
We are exiles in the far end of solitude, living as listeners
With hearts attending to the skies we cannot understand:
Waiting upon the first far drums of Christ the Conqueror,
Planted like sentinels upon the world's frontier. 

But in the days, rare days, when our Theotokos
Flying the prosperous world
Appears upon our mountain with her clothes like sails,
Then, like the wise, wild baby,
The unborn John who could not see a thing
We wake and know the Virgin Presence
Receive her Christ into our night
With stabs of an intelligence as white as lightning. 

Cooled in the flame of God's dark fire
Washed in His gladness like a vesture of new flame
We burn like eagles in His invincible awareness
And bound and bounce with happiness,
Leap in the womb, our cloud, our faith, our element,
Our contemplation, our anticipated heaven 

Till Mother Church sings like an Evangelist. 

...   ...   ... 

It is now December.

It is the season of advenire arigatō -- that which is coming to be through, and even though,  the difficulty of life. Or, coming to gratefulness surrounded by what is given in life.

Is the metaphor of the cross that which transforms the givens of life into that-which-is holy?

Sacrifice, from sacra "sacred rites" (properly neuter plural of sacer "sacred;" see sacred) + combining form of facere "to make, to do" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Making holy. Doing what is holy. Transforming received experience into creative holiness.

Living and dwelling on earth.

dare to create something new

The Pope writes in the New York Times: 

Look at us now: We put on face masks to protect ourselves and others from a virus we can’t see. But what about all those other unseen viruses we need to protect ourselves from? How will we deal with the hidden pandemics of this world, the pandemics of hunger and violence and climate change?

If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain. There’s a line in Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion” that speaks to me, about how the danger that threatens in a crisis is never total; there’s always a way out: “Where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” That’s the genius in the human story: There’s always a way to escape destruction. Where humankind has to act is precisely there, in the threat itself; that’s where the door opens.

This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of.

God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth 

( from, A Crisis Reveals What Is in Our Heart, OpEd by Pope Francis, NYTimes, 26nov20)


Monday, November 30, 2020

consonance, making one's way through

At Sunday Evening Practice we read Merton's essay from 1967, Day of a Stranger

An excerpt: 

One might say I had decided to marry the silence of the forest. The sweet dark warmth of the whole world will have to be my wife. Out of the heart of that dark warmth comes the secret that is heard only in silence, but it is the root of all the secrets that are whispered by all the lovers in their beds all over the world. So perhaps I have an obligation to preserve the stillness, the silence, the poverty, the virginal point of pure nothingness which is at the center of all other loves. I attempt to cultivate this plant without comment in the middle of the night and water it with psalms and prophecies in silence. It becomes the most rare of all the trees in the garden, at once the primordial paradise tree, the axis mundi, the cosmic axle, and the Cross. Nulla silva talem profert.There is only one such tree. It cannot be multiplied. It is not interesting. 


It is necessary for me to see the first point of light which begins to be dawn. It is necessary to be present alone at the resurrection of Day, in the blank silence when the sun appears. In this completely neutral instant I receive from the Eastern woods, the tall oaks, the one word “DAY,” which is never the same. It is never spoken in any known language.



Sermon to the birds: “Esteemed friends, birds of noble lineage, I have no message to you except this: be what you are: be birds. Thus you will be your own sermon to yourselves!”

Reply: “Even this is one sermon too many!”



Rituals. Washing out the coffee pot in the rain bucket. Approaching the outhouse with circumspection on account of the king snake who likes to curl up on one of the beams inside. Addressing the possible king snake in the outhouse and informing him that he should not be there. Asking the formal ritual question that is asked at this time every morning: “Are you in there, you bastard?”


I sit in the cool back room, where words cease to resound, where all meanings are absorbed in the consonantia of heat, fragrant pine, quiet wind, bird song and one central tonic note that is unheard and unuttered. This is no longer a time of obligations. In the silence of the afternoon all is present and all is inscrutable in one central tonic note to which every other sound ascends or descends, to which every other meaning aspires, in order to find its true fulfillment. To ask when the note will sound is to lose the afternoon: it has already sounded, and all things now hum with the resonance of its sounding.  

(--from Day of a Strangerby Thomas Merton)

He was an acrobat of reflective observation and thought.

He aspired to be a hermit.

He managed becoming something more spiritual, poetic, and philosophical -- he became radically interesting. 

radical (adj.)

late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis "of or having roots," from Latin radix (genitive radicis) "root" (from PIE root *wrād- "branch, root"). Meaning "going to the origin, essential" is from 1650s.

interesting (adj.)

1711, "that concerns, important" (archaic), present-participle adjective from interest (v.). Meaning "engaging the attention, so as to excite interest" is from 1751. Related: Interestingly. Euphemistic phrase interesting condition, etc., "pregnant" is from 1748.

Interest (n) ...third person singular present of interresse "to concern, make a difference, be of importance," literally "to be between," from inter"between" (see inter-) + esse "to be" (from PIE root *es- "to be"). 

(--Online Etymology Dictionary

Hence, Merton was going to the source, engaging attention, being between.  

Between what? 

Perhaps one and the other. A meeting place wherein consonantia -- ("pleasing combination of sounds, harmony," from Old French consonance (12c.) "consonance, rhyme" and directly from Latin consonantia "harmony, agreement," from consonantem (nominative consonans) "agreeing in sound," present participle of consonare "to sound together, sound aloud" [OED]) -- gathers all sounds into one sound, a universal OM containing the voices of all, diversity and univocality, in creation and as creation itself. 

Merton was everything that everybody said he was -- both critics and aficionados -- as he made his way through his life and life itself.

It is good to share the ride with him.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

unknowing, unhidden

The world is strange 

and unpredictable

Do not be fooled

Just because there are fools —

Return to origin

Whence emerges sanity 

through unknowing,

unhidden truth

advenire arigatō

Nothing holds us together.

It’s always something that separates us.

“Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name...” (— Ernest Hemingway, A Clean Well Lighted Place)

This liturgical season of advenire arigatō.

Advenire: to arrive, to get to a certain place

Arigatō (ありがとう) — thank you; comes from the words arigatashi ("to be") and katai ("difficult"). Arigato, then, has a literal sense of "being alive is hard. (cf Self Taught Japanese)

come to




‘Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.

Cease to do evil.

Learn to do good,

search for justice,

help the oppressed,

be just to the orphan,

plead for the widow.

‘Come now, let us talk this over,

says the Lord.’

(—from Isaiah 1, first reading, Office of Readings, 1sr Sunday of Advent)