Talk of hope at Friday evening conversation.
Are you hopeful?
Hopeful? Me? No, I’m not hopeful.
Really? How can you live without hope?
I can. I do.
What do you rely on?
Not much. I’m watchful.
In this time of COVID-19 we are all sages.
Are we not?
Hence the sage is like an empty hollow. He
cherishes no knowledge. He dwells in the
world of change and utility, yet holds himself
to the realm of non-activity (wu wei). He rests
within the walls of the nameable, yet lives in
the open country of what transcends speech.
He is silent and alone, void and open, where
his state of being cannot be clothed in
language. Nothing more can be said of him.
(--p.56, Zen in Plain English, Experience the
Essence of Zen, by Stephan Schuhmacher, 2009;
from p.268, Fung Yu-lan: A History of Chinese
Philosophy, Vol. II, 'The Period of Classical
What can we say?
What can be said of us?
And 1500 years from now, who, really, will recognize our difficulty of understanding?
Though we say we live in the 'real world' -- do we?
And what are "saturated phenomena".*
Bedazzlement and overwhelmingness are marks of saturated phenomena, especially those that are "unbearable according to quantity" such as the painting as idol. It is in just this context that Marion gives the transfiguration as an example. But in the very same passage, he gives the teaching of Jesus as another example, citing John 16.12: "I still have many things to say to you, but you do not yet have the power to bear them."8 Marion might as easily have turned to the gospel of Mark. There we find people amazed when Jesus cast out an unclean spirit (Mark 1.23-27) and when he healed the paralyzed man let down through the roof (Mark 2.3-12) but also at Jesus’ teaching: "They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark1.22). The phenomenologist can and should take note of the fact that such teaching and the faith that receives it can be and have been experienced as a supernatural gift of supernatural grace. But that does not make Jesus’ teaching miraculous in the sense in which casting out demons and healing the sick are miraculous. In short, the phenomena of revelation need not be miracles.
It might be helpful here to recall Mary Magdalene as portrayed in Jesus Christ, Superstar. She sings, "I don’t know how to love him . . . He scares me so." While Jesus was unquestionably a saturated phenomenon in her experience, it would be a strange reading to assume that what scared her about him was the healings and the exorcisms. Quite clearly, what bedazzled, overwhelmed, and even scared her was the way he loved her, and there is nothing of magical realism in the implicit narrative of her relation to Jesus that underlies her portrayal in the musical.
That which exceeds what our intention can grasp. An intuition beyond verification or full comprehension.
Where fully foolish sages loiter in contemplative repose while less foolish insurgents run to tackle fabricated meaning fully geared with zip-ties tiptoeing alongside at their ready.
* Jean-Luc Marion's claims about givenness and the self of the phenomenon culminate in his new category of “saturated” phenomena. According to Marion, some phenomena give more intuition than is needed to fill a subject's intention. Such phenomena are “saturated” with intention, and exceed any concepts or limiting horizons that a constituting subject could impose upon them. Marion describes five possible types of saturated phenomenon, and then presents a “figure” as an example of each type. Marion develops his concept of saturated phenomenon across three main texts. In Marion's early texts, saturated phenomena are introduced as a way of making space in philosophy for specifically religious phenomena. Even in his later texts where Marion omits this religious context, the examples of saturated phenomena that he chooses are somewhat obscure, and might be regarded as no more than interesting curiosities.
(--The Theory of Saturated Phenomena, Shane Mackinlay, Fordham Scholarship Online)
It makes me wonder whether what we refer to as 'higher dimensions' and 'miracles' are the fields of intuition and mystical glimpse that resemble and reside in uncategorizable experiences.
“He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding his own acts with doubtful side-glances. He had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a verb in the past tense.” (― James Joyce, Dubliners)
May we all dwell well where we are!
And not be afraid of the turn, either in the road, or in our consciousness!
From his poem AshWednesday, by T.S.Eliot, an excerpt:
Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
(—from, Ash Wednesday, by T.S. Eliot)
I’ve been thinking about our practice.
We sit zazen.
We read someone’s writing.
We converse from what has gotten our attention.
We take a brief silence
We have a final circle.
We recite the bodhisattva vows.
We pronounce a metta blessing.
We say goodnight.
Post-impeachment, we can say this: Trump's presidency has amended the Constitution. Not formally, of course, but informally...which matters just as much. Here are the five Trump amendments. 1/9
1. "No president shall be removed from office for treason, bribery, or any other crime or misdemeanor provided a partisan minority of the Senate will protect him (which is always). Impeachment is thus a nullity and presidents can expect impunity." 2/9
2. "Congressional oversight shall be optional. No congressional subpoena or investigative demand shall be binding on a president who chooses to ignore it." 3/9
3. "Congressional appropriations shall be suggestions. The president may choose whether or not to conform with congressional spending laws, and Congress shall have no recourse should a president declare that his own priorities supersede Congress's express will." 4/9
4. "The president shall have authority to make appointments as he sees fit, without the advice and consent of the Senate, provided he deems his appointees to be acting, temporary, or otherwise exempt from the ordinary confirmation process." 5/9
5. "The president shall have unconstrained authority to dangle and issue pardons for the purpose of obstructing justice, tampering with witnesses, and forestalling investigations. There is nothing anyone can do about this (see Amendment 1 above)." 6/9
Let's count our blessings. Had Trump won a second term, he'd have put through a 6th amendment: "The president may ignore or violate court orders." 7/9
Still, the existing Trump amendments give the president WAY more discretion and impunity than the Founders intended. After Trump, we're more dependent than ever on the president's character to prevent a quasi-monarchy. 8/9
And more than ever, there's a howling void at the center of the Constitution...one called Congress. 9/9
“It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!” (Leonard Cohen)
As cynicism and darkness
sit shivering and dissipated
in near obsolescent
obscurity. . .
A page is turned.
Singing . . .)
Forty years I endured that generation.
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.”
So I swore in my anger,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”
Justice will walk out from the alley where it has slept the night
Walk to front door of mansion where willful depravity has lounged in silk and gold all night
When door opens, face to face for that brief archeology of trawling recognition
Will nod to the other
Shut door, turn, walk together down to river as light begins to stretch
Sit, look out side by side, begin to talk
Our attention pulls slowly away
Back up the hill
Up over tree tops and building roofs
Far out into distant spacious emptiness
Off beyond what we can possibly understand
Blinking dim distance
Out of sight
Beholding itself what is within without