so what it wasn't
your child -- what makes you think that
such small things matter
I've never felt my life mine --
just something borrowed
We’ve been tricked into believing our lives are what we are living within this form of corporeal biology circumscribed by shoes and slacks, hoodie and docker cap in dooryard as last of winter snowpile trickles obliquely into mud.
Pin a social security number and drivers license on it, store yearbooks and old letters under chest of drawers, light candle on nightstand and call the space ‘wrinkled blanket zendo’ — and, voila — narrative mythology encircles each step, each movement, each thought for an unspecified duration with a mailing address.
Very often, happily worn and enacted.
Perhaps holiness is dwelling in spiritui sancto. Dwelling in Holy Spirit. Try not to concretize — at least for a little while — Holy Spirit into conceptual construct of a religion’s formulaic creed. Rather, imagine quiescence pervading morning stillness as each particular manifestation of movement and occasion emerges from the nothingness (both there and not there) circumscribing the theatrical performance we call ‘my life.’
Perhaps there is only Life. The misunderstanding is thinking of it as ‘mine.’
Once we come to realize we are geographical realities, we miscalculate and try to buy that real estate, trademark that personality, bank income, and ensure it gets passed on to properly designated heirs and trust signatories.
It is, we say, written.
And yet, and yet, and yet …
Holy Spirit obviates such script.
Holy Spirit is uncalculated appearance responding to the sound of what is being said by everything, everywhere, throughout all time. Especially right here right now. As it arises. As it is. Without prejudice or judgment. Nor concerned with consequences — not fearful, not congratulatory.
Holy Spirit is our true home.
Wherever we find ourselves.
Our true activity.
When done in, with, and through one-an-other.
Our true practice.
It is a glorious way
Ever shall be.
Boundless and endless.
Of course you know where you are. You're reading this. And you're not dying. Not in the act of dying. As he was.
He wasn’t sure where he was anymore, or perhaps he was in two places at once (--ch 53, Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel)
Onstage, muttering muddled line as King Lear, his heart dropped him in front of painted plywood set pillar.
But listen to the line, "perhaps he was in two places at once."
Does it happen, when we are at border of dying, we are in several places at once?
The normal rules of physics no longer apply? The solidity and stipulation of univocal utterance of physicality is no longer the sound heard in your surround, but might be resounding in multiple spaces at once?
He was elsewhere at same time as (in his) here.
Is this something we need to contemplate?
As phenomenal physicality diminishes does quiescent spirituality expand?
God is beyond (is) God.
Joseph Campbell was talking about transparency in transcendence:
The mythical figure has stepped with one foot into the transcendent. And one of the problems with the popularization of religious ideas is that the deity becomes a final fact and is no longer transparent to the transcendent. This is exactly what Lao Tzu has in mind with his first aphorism from the Daoduzin: “The path indicated by guidance is not the eternal Path. A name called by a name is not a name of the eternal.”
Make your god transparent to the transcendent; then it will not matter what name it is called.
(--Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, by Joseph Campbell)
The novelist was describing something a mythic view:
“Do you see something?” Sayid spoke in a whisper. August had been supporting him for the last mile or so, Sayid’s arm over his shoulders.
I see everything. “It’s nothing,” Kirsten said. She had once met an old man up near Kincardine who’d sworn that the murdered follow their killers to the grave, and she was thinking of this as they walked, the idea of dragging souls across the landscape like cans on a string. The way the archer had smiled, just at the end.
(--Emily St. John Mandel, in Station Eleven)
We find ways to limit the transcendent, to fit it into our mental framework, to wrap it in boxes we pull out at Christmas, Passover, Ramadan. Our observances. That which we narrative and ritualize so as to pull the transcendent down into almost reachable proximity. Even though it never comes that close, still, we extend our stories and practices as ladders and kites in service to nearness.
Some Buddhists use sutras and koans similarly. Trampolines propelling those jumping slightly higher and dizzyingly apophatic. As are mystics and seers in Western spirituality. As if utterance were a lasso being twirled overhead ready to loose from grip to ensnare a reluctant quarry.
A mythological order is a system of images that gives consciousness a sense of meaning in existence, which, my dear friend, has no meaning––it simply is. But the mind goes asking for meanings; it can't play unless it knows (or makes up) the rules. Mythologies present games to play: how to make believe you're doing thus and so. Ultimately, through the game, you experience that positive thing which is the experience of being-in-being, of living meaningfully. That's the first function of a mythology, to evoke in the individual a sense of grateful affirmative awe before the monstrous mystery that is existence. (--Campbell, Pathways)
It often feels like a bitter pill, being told that existence itself is meaningless, that it is we -- our stories, beliefs, and myths -- that create and supply meaning to existence the way a child might make up a story while holding up a twig and a stone.
It is also disconcerting to hear that our mythologies are tired and stale, no longer a vital inspiration to encourage and enliven those who long for a tale to treasure.
A mythologically grounded culture presents you with symbols that immediately evoke your participation; they are all vital, living connections, and so they link you both to the underlying mystery and to the culture itself. Yet when the culture uses symbols that are no longer alive, that are no longer effective, it cuts you off. (--Campbell, Pathways)
We have further to go.
If the transcendent is simply that -- transcendent and perpetually transcending in some infinite expansion into nothing we can conceive -- then the notions of motion and movement, journey and pilgrimage, are eternal evocations to leave where we are are make our way through what we know and continue apace into and through the ever-transcending transcendent Itself (自体 - Jitai) on its Way.
The basic story of the hero journey involves giving up where you are, going into the realm of adventure, coming to some kind of symbolically rendered realization, and then returning to the field of normal life. (--Campbell, Pathways)
Ah! Normal life!
Where the absolute is the relative, nirvana is samsara, and where satori and samadhi have entwined.
"There is a difference between satori and Samadhi.
Satori means only a glimpse, a faraway glimpse. Satori is a Japanese word, very beautiful, untranslatable, but it can be described.
It is like on an open day when there are no clouds you can see in the sun the Himalayan peaks, the virgin snow on the peaks shining like silver or gold, from thousands of miles away. You are seeing the truth, but the distance between you and the truth is there — you are not it.
This is satori. Seeing the truth but not being it is satori.
Then there is the Sanskrit word Samadhi which is also untranslatable.
Samadhi means being the truth: where the knower and the known become one, where the experienced and the experiencer are one.
It is no more a question of an open, unclouded day, it is no more a question of the sunlit peaks rising high in the sky. You are it! — not even the distance of a single inch.
Chuang Tzu says: Even the distance of a hair is enough, and heaven and earth fall apart. Just the distance of a hair — not much at all, almost negligible — but it is enough to separate earth from heaven.
When even that much difference is not there, one is enlightened."
( OSHO, Theologia Mystica, Chapter #15 - 25 August 1980 am in Buddha Hall)
[Not even the Rolls Royces should distract a good hermeneutic -- however distractible and troublesome human facticity becomes.]
Still, we should try not to kill one another.
Unless, of course, we adhere to stories that suggest to us it is ok to kill if our life is threatened.
There lies the rub! To follow stories received? Or to create stories going forward?
Until we sort this out, there are lots of cans on a string trailing behind.
And smiles without faces hovering alongside.
Linking laptop to printer yesterday, I jot a spontaneous epigram to test the link:
WE SEE AND HEAR
ONCE THOUGHT OF
This morning I read Kearney:
Creation is a poem.
(Ernesto Cardinal, Cosmic Canticle)
Why is “making” considered a sacred activity for gods and mortals alike? Making something out of nothing. Making something in the image of something else. Creators making creatures while creatures in turn make their creators. Making out, making up, making and remaking worlds in one’s image and likeness. In shapes and songs, paintings and poems, dreams and crafts. From the beginning to the end of time. One great game of holy imagination played with hands, mouths, ears and eyes. With bodies and souls. Art as divine-human interplay, again and again.
Theopoetics names how the divine (theos) manifests itself as making (poiesis).The term dates back to the early centuries, meaning both the making human of the divine and the making divine of humanity. As the poet scholar, Ephrem of Syria, wrote: “He gave us divinity, we gave Him humanity.” Or as Athenasius said in the fourth century: “God became human so that the human could become divine.” Catherine Keller puts it succinctly: “The term theopoetics ﬁnds its ancestor in the ancient Greek theopoiesis. As poeisis means making or creation, so theopoiesis gets rendered as God-making or becoming divine.”
Sixty one years ago in 1961 I graduated from my high school on north sixth street in Greenpoint Brooklyn. It, too, as with much of experiences in my so-called life, is a blur overlain with inconsequential non-achievement highlighted by a shroud of routinized invisibility. I was a nobody who travelled two hours a day by subway and sat at desks in front of next to and behind other desks for four years. The athletic kid a year behind me got a signing bonus of 10k from the traitorous LA Dodgers, then soon blew out his arm. Joe Torre graduated the year I entered and went on to baseball’s hall of fame.
In night dream I am at blackboard writing a selection of I know not what, finish, return to seat, and wonder why.
I don’t know about God.
Nor about poetry.
My throws from third base would tail into baseline pulling first baseman into danger.
While not necessarily painful, these memories are just this side of embarrassing.
I’ve always wondered about God.
Poetry is where that wonder sits.
Prayer is empty because it has no inside or outside.
It remains of itself.
For Jesus, prayer is a space for accepting the otherness of God within himself. Because the human face is the essential place where a person’s identity becomes crystallized, as it were, we see in this episode how prayer affects Jesus’ personal identity. The fact that Jesus' face becomes Other on Mount Tabor means that his visible human face narrates the invisible Face of God. Prayer has a decisive effect on the one who prays. Its efficacy is not outward but interior, as we see here in Jesus’ case. The radiance from his face is not a reflection of the light of the sun falling on him from the outside, but rather the visible beaming forth of the inward light of his divinity.
Reflection by Father Simeon. TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2022, How We Pray, St Joseph's Abbey)
So it is we pray in the desolation of no expectation, in the surround of solitude in community, "narrating the invisible Face of God."
Because that's what it means to be in the world with others in the midst of troubled times.
Longing for something beyond expectation or manipulation, considering in emptiness the improbable and impossible grace extending "a decisive effect on the one who prays," and ones for whom prayer is intentioned.
My Ukrainian family.
My Yemeni family.
My carceral family.
My hospital and hospice family.
My cosmic boundaryless horizon...
Take a nap.
Don't let them keep you awake.
Pay no mind to their clock.
He woke to quiet voices. This had been happening more and more lately, this nodding off unexpectedly, and it left him with an unsettled intimation of rehearsal. You fall asleep for short periods and then for longer periods and then forever. He straightened in the armchair, blinking. Garrett was gone. The last light of the day angled in through the glass and caught the chrome perfection of the motorcycle.
(-from Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel)
The news of the world is heavy, disturbing, and soporific.
The foreign violence, the domestic hypocrisy, the circumspecual anomalies of fabricated narratives.
Has knocked out my two companions.
I nap sitting up.
The sheer dormancy of decency.
War. Destruction. Apprehensive immobility.
Even poets claim refuge and regeneration in naps:
NM: Your poetry has the strength of an earthquake. Where does this strength come from?
CS: It comes from being lazy and never passing up an opportunity to take a nap.
NM: Do you think powerful nations will ever notice that while millions of people live in absolute misery there will never exist peace for anyone?
(-Charles Simic, e-interviewed by Narlan Matos, Fall 2003)
It's not always easy to sort truth. It could be this. It could be that. Oftentimes there's little help discerning which explanation, which narrative to take. We slumber under the options.
Motherland doesn't always help.
(by Liam Rector)
Home from school at six years old, first grade,
And uncle there to tell me Mommy
Gone, Mommy not be coming back any
Time soon, Liam, Mommy had to go to
Mental hospital. Nervous breakdown.
Years later Mommy, when she gets out
Of mental, often says, “If you’re
A bad boy for me Liam you’re
Going to send me back, back
Into mental hospital, like you did
First time.” At 13
I find out Mom had been doing years
In a federal prison all that time,
For stealing, so no mental hospital for
Mommy. Breakdown ours alone.
I was on my own.
(-Liam Rector, "Mental Mommy" from The Executive Director of the Fallen World. Copyright © 2006 by Liam Rector)
Those who know firsthand what is going on must be crazed by what others are doing with the information and visuals transmitted.
It is a time of exhausted truth.
Fais dodo, dodo, dodo, mon p’tit gars
Veux-tu la lune comme joujou?
Les étoiles viendront vers nous
Si tu ne pleures pas
Sleep, sleep, sleep, my little guy
Do you want the moon as a toy?
The stars will come to us
If you don't cry
Where did I just go?
Some are content to say “you were dreaming!” I’m not so sure. That bus was crowded, as were the streets.
So, too, where did that hour go during the night? It just disappeared.
Or did it just blink into nonbeing for a duration to be determined by calendar manufacturers over the next six months?
Maybe our forgetfulness, our dementia and Alzheimer’s are cosmic fluctuations longer or shorter transportations to the banks of river Lethe where our toes dip and dig into soft silt.
August believed in the theory of multiple universes. He claimed this was straight-up physics, as he put it, or if not exactly mainstream physics then maybe the outer edge of quantum mechanics, or anyway definitely not just some crackpot theory he’d made up.
“I’m afraid I’ve no idea,” the tuba had said, when Kirsten had asked him for confirmation a few years back. No one had any idea, it turned out. None of the older Symphony members knew much about science, which was frankly maddening given how much time these people had had to look things up on the Internet before the world ended. Gil had offered an uncertain reminiscence about an article he’d read once, something about how subatomic particles are constantly vanishing and reappearing, which meant, he supposed, that there’s someplace else to be, which he imagined might suggest that a person could theoretically be simultaneously present and not present, perhaps living out a shadow life in a parallel universe or two. “But look,” he’d said, “I was never a science guy.” In any event, August liked the idea of an infinite number of parallel universes, lined up in all directions. Kirsten imagined this arrangement as something like the successive planes formed when two mirrors reflect one another, the images shifting greener and cloudier with each repetition until they vanish toward infinity. She’d seen this once in a clothing store in a deserted shopping mall.
(-Excerpt from: Emily St John Mandel’s “Station Eleven" Scribd.)
Just like the final twenty minutes of the film “The Adam Project” — an exquisite meditation on what is most engaging — we are invited into a combined cosmological theological anthropological transitional transformation every second of sub-aware existence.
A monk in France is preaching in French.
I blink in and out of his words.
Chaque nous, peut être!