you have been sent, but
You don’t know from whom or to
What. Go on! You’ll see
Turn, turn, turn —
May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on 1 May. It is an ancient festival of spring and a current traditional spring holiday in many European cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.
In 1889, May Day was chosen as the date for International Workers' Dayby the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago. International Workers' Day is also called "May Day", but it is a different celebration from the traditional May Day.
I live a useless life. That fact neither cheers nor discourages me. It sits on my desk next to lid from small container of cinnemon apple sauce. Empty, with wooden spoon diagonal, cup tilts away from hobo smiling over tealight flame. On lower part of desk, at foot of mason jar half filled with water, peeled lid lies on its back as though exhausted from holding things in for so long.
We are uncertain what to do with uselessness.
A Useless Life
A farmer got so old that he couldn’t work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there.
“He’s of no use any more,” the son thought to himself, “he doesn’t do anything!” One day the son got so frustrated by this, that he built a wood coffin, dragged it over to the porch, and told his father to get in.
Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff.
As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. “I know you are going to throw me over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?” “What is it?” replied the son. “Throw me over the cliff, if you like,” said the father, “but save this good wood coffin. Your children might need to use it.”
(--from, 10 Short Zen Stories, BY SOFO ARCHON, https://theunboundedspirit.com/10-short-zen-stories/ )
One of the perks of aging is the dropping away of illusion. This includes fabricated or exaggerated views on one's life and accomplishments. I look at my background the way the nurse-practitioner looks at me -- a twenty minute appointment, the numbers from lab, brief pleasantries, recommendations for changing diet, adding medication, scheduling next appointment three months hence, amenity goodby, pointing me down hall following arrows on floor, done, gone, over. Like a toll machine, or, now, a turnpike overhead recorder of toll recorded on digital account, my passing by is only a minúte barely notable blip on a computer in a cloud, poof, money paid. Next!
As a useless person, I do not savor photos collecting milliseconds of frozen movement, do not have a curriculum vitae, and do not expect more than a one word epitaph to be spoken when I disappear: "Who?"
For now, I sit silently.
I walk with hiking sticks.
I have a cup of coffee.
Some toast with marmalade and peanut butter.
Cycle a few miles on a loop at snow bowl base of mountain.
Listen to or read medieval classics of Cloud of Unknowing, Sermons of Meister Eckhart, Sekito Kisen's Sandokai, Dogen's Bendowa, and Being-Time.
I watch movies and series that I reconstruct and treat as Lectio Divina.
Save the wood.
We seldom get it right.
“Errancy is the essential counteressence to the originary essence of truth. Errancy opens itself up as the open region for every counterplay to essential truth. Errancy is the open site for, and ground of, error. Error is not merely an isolated mistake but the kingdom (the dominion) of the history of those entanglements in which all kinds of erring get interwoven. In conformity with its openness and its relatedness to beings as a whole, every mode of comportment has its manner of erring. Error “extends from the most ordinary wasting of time, making a mistake, and mis-calculating, to going astray and venturing too far in one’s essential attitudes and decisions. . .
By leading them astray, errancy dominates human beings through and through.”
(--Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” in: Basic Writings, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1993), 134.)
But we do have poets.
“At any rate, the vocation of human beings as such would be to bring to articulation the language of Logos as process of Aletheia, a task for which the poets serve as models.”
(--William Richardson, “Psychoanalytic Praxis and the Truth of Pain,” 341.
(--in William J. Richardson, S.J. and the Spelling of Marilyn Monroe: On Truth, Science, and the ‘Unfolding of Man’ in Heidegger and Lacan, by Babette Babich, 2019, Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Heidegger Circle ) p.207
Truth is always emerging for the first time each time it emerges from hiding.
Poets attempt to say what is taking place right now, and each occurrence of right now, as it is appearing to us.
(a haiku error)
gray cat mutters near
drapes in afternoon sleep, no-
body knows her dream
When I first read his book in 1980 it was cold water in my face. Berrigan was always annoying. Here, volunteering with the dying, was another reminder that radical response to peace and community went beyond merely being angry and protesting against the men and ideologies intent on war, cruelty, and suppression of opposition.
This priest poet, Daniel Berrigan, went to the very real.
FROM 1979 TO 1984, Berrigan cared for the dying as a volunteer at St. Rose’s Home in Manhattan. St. Rose’s housed at no charge 50 patients who were terminally ill with cancer and who came to the home to die. In We Die Before We Live: Talking with the Very Ill, Berrigan describes his experiences there, washing bodies, emptying bed pans, feeding the dying, and listening to and praying with and for them.
The staff was dedicated to making people’s lives bearable, comfortable, and lively for as long as they lasted. “No one is forced-fed,” writes Berrigan, “whether on religion, psycho-semantics, or antics” and “there are no state snoops because there is no state money.” St. Rose’s was simply “a laboratory in dying,” a “ship of fools” sailing on heroically while Berrigan and the other orderlies “bail, row, weep, swab the decks, change beds, ferry in the newly arrived near dead, and try to keep sane.”
At St. Rose’s, Berrigan found what he saw as the true church where, enveloped by the ever-present stench of cancer, the gospel was practiced. A mystical union formed between the orderlies and the dying. Berrigan offered consolation and tried to help the dying make peace with themselves and others. Why did he begin volunteering at St. Rose’s? He felt something was lacking in his life of “teaching, writing, and pilgrimaging to the Pentagon to throw ashes and blood at the idols.” He didn’t go to St. Rose’s as a chaplain dispensing the sacraments. He went to “greet” the dying, “hold their hands ... talk to them, learn from them ... dressed in old clothes, ready for whatever service seems required or helpful ... and to be found in the right place when the Lord comes.”
(--from, Dan Berrigan's Hidden Works of Mercy, by Patrick Henry, May 2021, Sojourners)
This morning after zazen I joined hands and prayed for all the men and women I'd been graced to sit with over the past twenty plus years as a hospice volunteer, and, notable gift, the recent three years at Sussman House in Rockport, a place for the final days of life. Covid-19 has kept volunteers at bay since last March, thirteen months ago. We await the release of Maine Health protocols and the return to Sussman.
Everyone knows that they, too, are dying. Most prefer not to dwell on such knowledge. We just don't know where, or when, or what specific cause. But as we live so are we dying.
I'm ok with that.
I've had my tangerine this morning. I sipped water. There's a mouthful of yesterday's coffee remaining in thermos. An english muffin and marmalade ready themselves to join their peanut butter colleague to fortify my body for recovery from morning walk.
I am one of those fools on that ship of fools making way through waters of unfathomable direction.
Loose those lines!
You do not
have to believe
to move through
You only have
to move through
that which is
God is between every thing and every other thing.
Not in anything. Between every thing.
Hence, it is when gelassenheit (tranquil submission, or releasing attachment) prompts us to fall through and from imagined internal residence (in thing, body, soul, psyche) that what we’ve thought of as “I” or “me” — falls away and groks what follows, a new reality occurs.
This, fifty three years ago in a poem written in Washington DC, I called “prescinding-after-the-whole.”
It is not this, not that. It is what insinuates itself as itself, after; after that which was thought or felt or experienced has given way to the aftered intimation of non-distinguishable presence.
It is this prescinding, this leaving out, that beckons what we’ve called the spiritual journey. (But here, in calling it a ‘spiritual journey’, there is a temptation to juxtapose spiritual with material, or corporeal).
Not the leaves, not the flames, not the smoke, not autumn — but the intimation of what arrives and lingers some distance away that draws you in, that suffuses (and suffices) your attention with this after-the-whole presence passing through awareness.
The hint of.
The ungraspable revelation of what is there, what is here, but within its own intimate the impermanent embrace of that which is, seemingly, already gone enroute elsewhere.
It is in such gelassenheit, such prescinding-after-the-whole, (so it seems this Monday morning), that “God” finds itself moving through itself with the intimation of what we are becoming.
What all of it is, not yet, becoming.
Listening yesterday while walking to a retreat given by a contemporary Dominican, Donald Goergen O.P., which included thoughts about Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). He spoke these words she experienced in a dialogue with God, “I am he who is, you are she who is not.”
This morning I find on a Dominican website, this:
Catherine initially desired a life of seclusion and lived for many years in a small bedroom in the family home; yet, there came a time when God would call her out to spread the Gospel of Christ to the sick and infirmed of Siena and even to counsel Popes. What was the secret of her spirituality? In the Dialogue God the Father says to Catherine: “Do you know daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you have beatitude in your grasp. You are she who is not, I AM HE WHO IS.”
We are not; God is.
This sentence, this picture, used as a portrait encouraging humility, is thought-provoking.
I am not.
It brings to mind something a fellow sangha practitioner sent yesterday:
“Being (yu) corresponds to form and nothing (mu) corresponds to timelessness.....” (Chris York, 24apr21)
To which, I replied:
Now we’ll have to name our next dog
(a long time from now)“Yumu.”
Being and nothingness. Form and timelessness.
This ungraspable identity of absoluteness and relativity, relatedness and emptiness, form and formlessness, peanut butter and marmalade. (Just to see if anyone was paying attention.)
These days, on a retreat of sorts, walking and listening, there is a surfeit of silence and shunyata.
Emptiness, that embrace of everything as no-other, hence, as nothing existing apart from itself — continuously eludes conception (on an epistemological level), and continuously undergoes conception (on a cosmological/contemplative level).
Everything arises out of itself, and outside of itself there is nothing that is other than itself.
We’ve grown used to thinking and saying “you and me” — we’ve written millions of songs and poems and novels and psychological treatises on such phrasing.
Now, we’ll have to contemplate what will emerge from a Chris-inspired appellation of “yumu” (or “yu-mu”) in the creative imagination of future love song or shikantaza poetics.