Saturday, November 13, 2021

contra introitum

 I pass churches now

No longer walking to locked 

doors, nothing welcomes

too fast to ever find one another

It's not that people don't care. It's more that people don't know what caring is nor what to care for. We know there are problems. But we prefer the antipathy of opposing points of view held by those with a different political or scientific vision of reality.

We're obtuse. 

But no matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough. Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was; the fact that the country is dominated by a group of technocrats who believe any problem can be solved and an opposing culture that doesn’t even see warming as a problem worth addressing; the way that climate denialism has made scientists even more cautious in offering speculative warnings; the simple speed of change and, also, its slowness, such that we are only seeing effects now of warming from decades past; our uncertainty about uncertainty, which the climate writer Naomi Oreskes in particular has suggested stops us from preparing as though anything worse than a median outcome were even possible; the way we assume climate change will hit hardest elsewhere, not everywhere; the smallness (two degrees) and largeness (1.8 trillion tons) and abstractness (400 parts per million) of the numbers; the discomfort of considering a problem that is very difficult, if not impossible, to solve; the altogether incomprehensible scale of that problem, which amounts to the prospect of our own annihilation; simple fear. But aversion arising from fear is a form of denial, too.

(--from The Uninhabitable EarthFamine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think. By July 10, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.

Suicide becomes a viable destination. We didn't know, as the song goes, the gun was loaded, and we're not really so sorry, my friends.

We will have obsequies, until we can't. Raise a glass to the good times we had. Damn those nervous nellies who are against freedom and free expression of ignorance and loaded automatic rifles. We'll show them.

Show them what?

I don't know.

Several of the scientists I spoke with proposed global warming as the solution to Fermi’s famous paradox, which asks, If the universe is so big, then why haven’t we encountered any other intelligent life in it? The answer, they suggested, is that the natural life span of a civilization may be only several thousand years, and the life span of an industrial civilization perhaps only several hundred. In a universe that is many billions of years old, with star systems separated as much by time as by space, civilizations might emerge and develop and burn themselves up simply too fast to ever find one another. Peter Ward, a charismatic paleontologist among those responsible for discovering that the planet’s mass extinctions were caused by greenhouse gas, calls this the “Great Filter”: “Civilizations rise, but there’s an environmental filter that causes them to die off again and disappear fairly quickly,” he told me. “If you look at planet Earth, the filtering we’ve had in the past has been in these mass extinctions.” The mass extinction we are now living through has only just begun; so much more dying is coming. 

And yet, improbably, Ward is an optimist. So are Broecker and Hansen and many of the other scientists I spoke to. We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation. But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.   (Ibid)

There's left-over coffee downstairs.

I'll be delighted to see what's in the white bakery bag. 

We do what we must.

Friday, November 12, 2021

proceed to indestructible concentration

 A single leaf falls through corner window view where morning cars diagonal up and down Barnestown road toward town or Hope.

There’s still time before long rain begins.

There’s not much, nearly nothing, I want. Not necessarily desireless; perhaps worn through. There’s no merit in a frayed sweater unfurled.

 If you have any desire to surpass others, or any thought of your own ability, this is egoism and possessiveness. 

These are sicknesses in the context of nirvana, so The Nirvana Sutra says, 

“Space can contain everything, but space does not entertain the thought that it can contain everything.” 

This is a metaphor for the disappearance of egoism and possessiveness, by which you proceed to indestructible concentration. 

- Hongren (602-675) (dailyzen)

I can’t complain. French Benedictines chant Laudes in Latin from Abbaye du Barroux. Black cars drop off workmen at house across the way fixing for new occupants down the days somewhere.

If God is, God keeps to God-Self. 

God-Self might be Reality-Itself. Reality doesn’t appear from some hidden place, Reality is appearance-itself revealing nothing unseen.

What do I want?


What is Reality?


Coffee from two days 

ago, cool in blue thermos 

on counter between 

sink and stove chilly kitchen

where cats will hear my footsteps

It is good to waka this morning! 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

hard to find

 Looking at congress

Hard to see an authentic

Person anywhere

partly on temperament and partly on faith

 Old and aged, he looks out over street, wonders if road crew will show up, or anyone appreciates the yellow orange leaves sticking to wet sidewalk, their survival into November, the tired letting go and twisting descent past pole wires and cable box to ground.

War was long ago. 

He’s still there, never really came home, refusing to become one of the 17 veterans per day who take their lives by suicide. There are about 127 per day of general population who suicide in the United States. He watches car roll by to corner. He knows there’s more coffee in pot on stove.

For the Student Strikers 
Go talk with those who are rumored to be unlike you,
And whom, it is said, you are so unlike.
Stand on the stoops of their houses and tell them why
You are out on strike.
It is not yet time for the rock, the bullet, the blunt
Slogan that fuddles the mind toward force.
Let the new sounds in our streets be the patient sound
Of your discourse.
Doors will be shut in your faces, I do not doubt.
Yet here or there, it may be, there will start,
Much as the lights blink on in a block at evening,
Changes of heart.
They are your houses; the people are not unlike you;
Talk with them, then, and let it be done
Even for the grey wife of your nightmare sheriff
And the guardsman's son.

(—poem by Richard Wilbur written for the Wesleyan Strike News, Spring, 1970)

Richard Wilbur was the 2nd Poet Laureate (1987) after Robert Penn Warren. He won two Pulitzer Prizes. He lived to be 96.

“I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy,” he said in an interview with The Paris Review, “that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”

(—from obituary for Richard Wilbur, died in 2017 at 96)

I knew a man who’d been a medic in the Air Force and served in Vietnam. He kept to his chair, watched baseball, filled-in boxscores, and drank coffee.

Leaves fall on his street-side lawn. He died eight months ago. Surrounded, the paper said, by his family. 

Advanced in age, of a former time, a veteran

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

what we face

 Death is what we face

Every day, loved ones, human,

Animal, near, far

one’s goodness, one’s truth

 We are lonely when

Cloaked in opinions we hide

Open wholeness there

what are we waiting for

Morning rain. 

 “A true practitioner isn’t someone who doesn’t suffer, but someone who knows how to handle their suffering.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

The sound of it. 

“If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything.” (~ Thich Nhat Hanh)

The whole of it. 

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

the reality that surrounds man, at 4:44am, some moral philosophy

Reading about Philippe Foot 

I’m a dreadfully slow thinker, really,’ she once told an interviewer. ‘But I do have a good nose for what is important. And even though the best philosophers combine cleverness and depth, I’d prefer a good nose over cleverness any day!’ Her slowness might well have ended her career had she been born in a more professionalised age. But the absence of pressure toward relentless publication meant that she could follow her nose at her own pace, taking seriously one of her favourite dictums from Ludwig Wittgenstein: that it’s hard in philosophy to be slow enough. What mattered in the end, after all, was the work, and the light it cast on the place of the human in the natural world.

 Then, later:

Moral judgments are an attempt, however flawed, to get at something true independently of human choices

Despite the enormous differences in style and tone between the Oxford philosophy of those years and the existentialism then modish in Paris, Hare’s view was uncannily like the one Jean-Paul Sartre had summarised in his cryptic slogan, ‘existence precedes essence’. As Sartre put it elsewhere, human beings do not have an essence – a basic nature – that determines how they must choose: ‘Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.’ 

The view had its attractions, but Foot, Murdoch, Anscombe and Midgley rejected them. As Murdoch put it to a New Yorker journalist, what they were united in denying was the claim that ‘the human being was the monarch of the Universe, that he constructed his values from scratch’. The four of them, by contrast, were interested in ‘the reality that surrounds man – transcendent or whatever’. 

Murdoch’s ‘or whatever’ was a reference to the things that divided them: she herself was drawn to a vision of a Universe where ‘the Good’, if not God, was real; Anscombe was a devout Catholic; Foot – in her own words – was a ‘card-carrying atheist’. But all three of them took seriously the claim that moral judgments are an attempt, however flawed in particular cases, to get at something true independently of human choices. Much moral thought – and engaging in moral debate – feels like it is aspiring to get something right, something constrained by things beyond us, not some freewheeling creative act of invention. But is this feeling justified, or is this yet another attempt to pass the moral buck on to the Universe? 

(—in, Aeon, “Is Goodness Natural?

All the years teaching ethics and moral philosophy at university, you’d think I’d learned something. Or, at least, pretend to have done so

But, no. 


Came and went like a dream in night with no dream-notebook on night table.

Slow thinking man.


Like November leaves underfoot while circumambulating state park’s after-season campground loop. The vague memory of last season’s campers nowhere in the emptiness of vacant spaces where tents and recreational vehicles, now ghosted, leave no imprint.

So, too, moral goodness?

We traverse.

The land remains fixed.

It is in the circling we wonder — what holds us upright?

Then we return to town for bagels, sausage-n-eggs, vegetable cream cheese, lemon poppy muffin, a coffee and hello to Susan M on dock by dory at harbor.

I walk to post office on chestnut street, mail letter to Charlie at maine state prison.

It is high tide.

It was, and is, a good morning.

Monday, November 08, 2021

ipso facto

 If you wonder if

Life is worth living, you are

Wondering with worth

monday morning zazen

At the Wrinkled Blanket Zendo

Sunday, November 07, 2021

consider the body as place of practice


You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.

(—Poem by Adrienne Rich)

…  …  …


(Cf — If You Are Permanently Lost, by Molly McCully Brown, The Paris Review, Issue 231, Winter 2019)

mind your life, (mend it thus)

Beannacht / Blessing

           John O'Donohue

For Josie, my mother

On the day when

the weight deadens

on your shoulders

and you stumble,

may the clay dance

to balance you.

And when your eyes

freeze behind

the grey window

and the ghost of loss

gets into you,

may a flock of colours,

indigo, red, green

and azure blue,

come to awaken in you

a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays

in the currach of thought

and a stain of ocean

blackens beneath you,

may there come across the waters

a path of yellow moonlight

to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,

may the clarity of light be yours,

may the fluency of the ocean be yours,

may the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow

wind work these words

of love around you,

an invisible cloak

to mind your life.

Poem by John O'Donohue, from Echoes of Memory (Transworld Publishing, 2010)