listen! in silent
edge of universe one sits
without cat on lap
In case of cata-
strophe I know where there’s a
year’s supply of stored
applesauce in right hand side
not far cellar better left
Rainy fog covers
Ragged mountain, remaining
Headlights mirror off wet road
Two cars accelerate west
Duplicity is rife. So much so you have to pick and choose which instances of duplicity to attend.
Putin's denial there's a war? Innocent men, women, children being shelled, shot, and detained?
Trump's lies about his not losing the 2020 election, irresponsibly leading his feckless followers into stupid thinking and mindless actions?
Manchin's posing as lone conscience of senatoral integrity, one hand behind back beckoning remuneration?
McConnell pandering and posturing denunciations of reckless democrat legislation while on record stating his sole intent is to defeat anything coming from other side of aisle?
But wait! There's something else.
In the midst of duplicity there is the recognition that, right now, we're all we have -- each one of us -- each other.
So, Vladimir, Donald, Joseph, Mitchell -- my brothers! Thank you for being my teachers. And, even if it is not obvious to me, thank you for whatever kindnesses you extend!
Expressing gratitude is just the opening gate of a deep spiritual experience of “Namo Amida Butsu.” As the sentiment of “thank you” permeates our ordinary life, we begin to replace it with “Namo Amida Butsu” or the shorter chant, “Na Man Da Bu.” The beauty of Shin Buddhism is that this practice in ordinary life leads to deeper insights. We realize that the difference between ordinary and spiritual is determined solely by our own minds. What may have been considered spiritual a century ago is now considered ordinary. But everything that has benefitted us is a result of the “efforts of others” or the “compassion of Amida Buddha.” Our human birth or the care and feeding of an infant and child could be considered ordinary. But with the perspective of 14 billion years of light and five billion years of life, we can qualify this process as spiritual. The Buddha reminds us of this reality as we voice the Name, “Na Man Da Bu.”
For those who have not renounced the ordinary life of work and family, the Buddha provided an awakening process in the practice of Shin Buddhism. Awakening to the rare opportunity of human birth balances the dread of suffering and death. However, this truth must be practiced in order to become real.
Holding the quality of gratitude opens us up to many of the deeper lessons of Shin. The three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance still exist, but do not dominate our lives. Our individual ego is merged with others and the qualities of humility, kindness, acceptance, and wholeness emerge. The compassion of Amida Buddha remains primary as we continue to experience the “efforts of others” for our benefit. Namo Amida Butsu.
(-from, The Efforts of Others, by Rev. Dr. Kenji Akahoshi, JAN 25, 2022, TRICYCLE)
We might not like our teachers, but so what?
How likable do you think you are?
And once you've done that inventory, be sure to donate to help refugees, say a prayer, go over to Ukraine to stand peacefully in the central square of the town being bombed, light a candle for the injured and murdered, give your dog a treat, thank the roof over your head.
We live in a world filled with lies.
Try, for a little while, to be a small footprint of truth in the midst of thick tracks of hideous mendacity and duplicity.
There's an emergency need for inches of sanity.
Measure yourself with modest sewing tape and stitch the torn fabric with fragile threads of caring.
It was his birthday two days ago. The first since his death coming up to a year ago in two weeks.
He'd often complain about "all the accomplished people around here." He liked to say they all looked past him, he was a nobody, they pretended they couldn't see him.
It was a style, these complaints. But I liked them. Just as I liked him. Even though the last few years we fell away. That's ok. It's part of the complaint.
He was right. The accomplished see only their own kind, even when they're helping the unaccomplished. It's a thing.
This from Sojourners:
Verse of the day
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
Voice of the day
The Holy Spirit empowers us to reject the status quo.
- Montague Williams
Prayer of the day
Turning from the unjust status quo, may we create new rhythms, just as we are new through you.
(-Verse and Voice, Sojourners)
Why not think of "new creation" as poetry hiding in breath arriving and departing our unawareness. Every intake an unseen image; each outgo an unheard melody. Once in a while there is flickering recognition "I am breathing in" or "I am breathing out."
Our great zen master Thich Nhat Hanh quietly encouraged us to be poets, to pay attention to our breath, to locate new creation in each step, in each knowing halation.
The spreading of light through fog.
"After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life's redemption. "(-from Adagia, a series of aphorisms in prose, by Wallace Stevens)
Once, in Florida, Ernest Hemingway and Wallace Stevens had a fistfight. At least that's what is written in "Hemingway Knocked Wallace Stevens into a Puddle and Bragged About It" out of Key West Literary Seminar. My dead former friend would have liked the story. The novelist and the poet squaring off. Then he'd say "Who cares?"
But he too was a poet. Maybe he didn't write what we call poems. His attitude was thirteen ways of looking at things that no longer make sense, and not writing about them.
The status quo, he would say, sucks. And he'd be right, like the guy leaning against his house in Richard Hugo's poem about the villager. Hugo added, No two hurts are the same, and most have compensations / too lovely to leave. My dear friend wasn't going to abandon what brought him to where he was.
Still, I wonder what it means to be "in Christ"?
He used to take communion to the nursing home. What I like about my friend's curious worship was the way he attended Sunday mass. He'd stand in the kitchen with the New York Times spread open on the serving table while the sounds of readings and prayers came over the sound system. Then, at communion, he'd go out into the body of the church, take communion, then return to the kitchen. Later, he'd be called to the altar to receive the pyx filled for his ministry and set out like a committed St Bernard into an avalanche.
E.E. Cummings ended his poem "the great advantage of being alive" with the line -- For love are in you am in i are in we. Maybe that has something to do with the "in Christ" phrase.
I can't figure it out.
Christ as holding place for poetry. Poetry am in you are in me is in we? So that every step we take, every sound we make, every thirst we slake -- someone watches true?
Be watchful, then. You never know what will be coming through.
Make a sound.
Make it sound.
Don't let the bastards get you down!
(a waka* for an impatient workman)
"You're busting my balls --
Next time I'll pull the boat right
out in front of you"
(Rockland marina workman
yells at old man driving slow)
... ... ...
About a thousand years ago, a poet named Ki no Tsurayuki wrote:
"The poetry of Japan has its roots in the human heart and flourishes in the countless leaves of words. Because human beings possess interests of so many kinds it is in poetry that they give expression to the meditations of their hearts in terms of the sights appearing before their eyes and the sounds coming to their ears. Hearing the warbler sing among the blossoms and the frog in his fresh waters — is there any living being not given to song!"
The "song" he meant (uta) was a waka. It is a poem in thirty-one syllables, arranged in five lines, of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables respectively. For example, here is a poem written by a famous Heian-period woman, Ono no Komachi:
The flowers withered, (5)
Their color faded away, (7)
While meaninglessly (5)
I spent my days in the world (7)
And the long rains were falling. (7) (1)
The waka is often said to have an "upper verse," which refers to the first three lines, and a "lower verse," the last two. The haiku form is based on the "upper verse"; another form, called a renga, is made from alternating the two — first a three-line, seventeen syllable verse, then a two-line, fourteen syllable one, each by a different poet for up to a hundred verses!
Three kinds of souls, three prayers:
(--Nikos Kazantzakis, author's introduction, Report To Greco)
do not belittle
death, poet Rilke said. We
listen to his words
Keep everything open, see
through -- God, nature -- be of use
What was it like to pray and believe that prayer was effectual?
Do you remember? Maybe that it would not rain? That you'd get that job? That someone clearly dying would continue to live?
It was magic, wasn't it?
Maybe it didn't rain. Maybe you got a second interview. And your grandmother didn't die -- not right away.
Jesus said, "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 'Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:7-15
Did we have to praise the father in heaven first to get in the door to be heard? Was it all a bargaining negotiation to keep the wolf from the door, to shield against evil, to navigate tit for tat forgiveness reciprocity?
Why did we...why do we pray?
Prayer is a syllogism of belief. When no belief is part of the reasoning, is there prayer?
Some say their life is a prayer.
As sweet as that sounds, I don't know what they mean.
My life, I submit, is life itself experienced through a narrow corridor of perception, thought, and imagination. I am a fleeting glance taking in a small fragment of a barely grasped reality that is, possibly, infinite and eternal.
My life is a temporary silence in a melodic echoing musical score moving quietly over the strained sentience of a listening attendance.
Most of the time I am deaf.
Nor do I have anything to say.
It is in this realization, in that acknowledgement, that the thought arises -- "I'll pray now."
And I wonder:
I look around.
Everything is as it is.
And I think --
Inner anguish is, by definition, invisible. Except in the erratic displays of either fierce patriotism or rabid antinomian protest echoing off buildings and tv stations in this time of surreptitious emotional dismantling of human psyche and spirit.
Today, most visibly, it is Ukraine.
In our mythic yesterdays, think Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam. Too difficult? You have my sympathy. Thinking is a rare form of painful recognition and realization. It's no surprise so many do not wish to think.
Wholesale destruction, including of human beings, to the US military, perhaps any military, is orgiastic. The ability to unleash sheets of automatic rifle fire, hundreds of rounds of belt-fed machine-gun fire, 90 mm tank rounds, endless grenades, mortars, and artillery shells on a village, sometimes supplemented by gigantic 2,700-pound explosive projectiles fired from battleships along the coast, was a perverted form of entertainment in Vietnam, as it became later in the Middle East. US troops litter the countryside with claymore mines. Canisters of napalm, daisy-cutter bombs, anti-personnel rockets, high-explosive rockets, incendiary rockets, cluster bombs, high-explosive shells, and iron fragmentation bombs — including the 40,000-pound bomb loads dropped by giant B-52 Strarofortress bombers — along with chemical defoliants and chemical gases dropped from the sky are our calling cards. Vast areas are designated free fire zones — a term later changed by the military to the more neutral sounding “specified strike zone” — where everyone in those zones is considered the enemy, even the elderly, women, and children.
Soldiers and marines who attempt to report the war crimes they witness can face a fate worse than being pressured, discredited, or ignored. On Sept. 12, 1969, Nick Turse writes in his book “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam,” George Chunko sent a letter to his parents explaining how his unit had entered a home that had a young Vietnamese woman, four young children, an elderly man, and a military-age male. It appeared the younger man was AWOL from the South Vietnamese army. The young man was stripped naked and tied to a tree. His wife fell to her knees and begged the soldiers for mercy. The prisoner, Chunko wrote, was “ridiculed, slapped around and [had] mud rubbed into this face.” He was then executed.
A day after he wrote the letter, Chunko was killed. Chunko’s parents, Turse writes, “suspected that their son had been murdered to cover up the crime.”
All of this remains unspoken as we express our anguish for the people of Ukraine and revel in our moral superiority. The life of a Palestinian or an Iraqi child is as precious as the life of a Ukrainian child. No one should live in fear and terror. No one should be sacrificed on the altar of Mars. But until all victims are worthy, until all who wage war are held accountable and brought to justice, this hypocritical game of life and death will continue. Some human beings will be worthy of life. Others will not. Drag Putin off to the International Criminal Court and put him on trial. But make sure George W. Bush is in the cell next to him. If we can’t see ourselves, we can’t see anyone else. And this blindness leads to catastrophe.
(--Chris Hedges: Worthy and Unworthy Victims, March 7, 2022 , SCHEERPOST)
Listening to book Thomas Merton on Marxism:The Spiritual and Secular Worlds, (released Feb.2021, talks to novices at Abbey of Gethsemane in 1965 and 1966). His thoughts about Marxism are sometimes inaccurate on the facts but always searching for underlying spiritual insight. He is concerned by the movement to secular framing of what once was the province of spiritual description of life in the world.
Chris Hedges has a more unrelenting factual eye. The journey to the secular over the last fifty five years has walked past the churches, religion, God as focal point, hope as salvation. When Merton speaks of Nietzsche's proclamation that God is Dead, he speculates that the church has killed God by speaking about God and not speaking God. It is the act of objectifying God that kills that which is pure subject.
So too in war. We objectify. No one is subject, real-in-themselves. Everyone becomes an excuse to overrun, kill, claim property and land, destroy for purposes of 'self-interest.'
'Self' has become our ambiguous reference for a solution to the problem of divine demise. 'Self' magnified into 'nation' is the new heaven on earth. Our heaven. Others need not apply.
Self interest has nothing to do with subjectivity. As Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (in 2017 TED Talk) told the audience at end:
The classic distinction between 'self' and 'other' is worn and frayed. Like the the distinction between 'God' and 'Nature' we suspect the unravelled threads in the mud under our feet will never again reassemble into a cloak that would shroud our shoulders from the cold air of desolate fear and terrifying threat of damnation and identity deprivation.
Where is the warmth? Where the protection from Cold War and frozen disaffinity for neighborly coherence? Where is God?
Good! The question is being asked.
Being, that which is -- (below beyond and before our awareness) -- longs to be asked into existence.
Being has no self-interest.
Being is the unfolding of what is coming to be.
Moving within, through, and withal the community of everything under our feet, over our heads, surrounding our shoulders.
War is the negation of life.
Let's end war, not life.
Just received, this morning, from Doris, our elder, her Monday poem offering:
All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong and varied as the land.
And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.
No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~
From Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, (ll.25):
translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.
We are, each of us, a non-technology cellular inter-communication.
And poets are our lifeblood.
Walking Brooklyn streets when I was young, back from The Narrows with anchored tankers lined like school kids at cafeteria lunch under and out from Verrazano bridge, passing houses with lights on, car engines cooling in driveways, I am not alone.
And every poem—as a tiny working model of the original act of creation—similarly begins not with “what” you want to say (whisper, shout), but from the intimation of sound, from the sense, which comes alive inside you of its own volition as if you began to recover from a long, debilitating illness, that the world is alive, that it is a who, a being. You know it, and it knows you, its vibrations come through you. The word is born—just like everything else that's alive—from this superabundance of life.
I am walking with the world. There is conversation going on at empty street corners and closed businesses and vacant front porches that defy the rules of ordinary language. Nothing is heard above the intimation of sound.
Who is it? Who the ‘someone’ reciprocating antiphonal recitation stepping over cracks in pavement, corner sewers, pizza crusts and candy wrappers?
Rilke was right. We must change our lives.
Language speaks the world into being.
What are we saying?
What is being said?