Furnace fixed again
Wood stove serving well
May all beings
Come to dwell
In their true home!
Furnace fixed again
Wood stove serving well
May all beings
Come to dwell
In their true home!
“Reading poetry, she said, should be an emotional experience.” (From obituary for Linda Pastan 1932-2023, nytimes, 3feb23)
After her reading in Philadelphia in 1979, during which I’d sat in unemotional attention throughout, she was overheard saying to her husband, “There was one man I couldn’t reach.”
It wasn’t true.
I wrote about the reading back in Germantown, “Her face was a better poem.”
Thank you, Linda, for the lines you shared!
I take Eliot to prison this morning.
It will be a very cold next 24 hours.
He might not warm us, but he’ll give us pause.
Prayer of the one Annunciation. It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations—not forgetting
Something that is probably quite ineffable:
The backward look behind the assurance
Of recorded history, the backward half-look
Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.
Now, we come to discover that the moments of agony
(Whether, or not, due to misunderstanding,
Having hoped for the wrong things or dreaded the wrong things,
Is not in question) are likewise permanent
With such permanence as time has. We appreciate this better
In the agony of others, nearly experienced,
Involving ourselves, than in our own.
For our own past is covered by the currents of action,
But the torment of others remains an experience
Unqualified, unworn by subsequent attrition.
People change, and smile: but the agony abides.
Time the destroyer is time the preserver,
Like the river with its cargo of dead negroes, cows and chicken coops,
The bitter apple, and the bite in the apple.
And the ragged rock in the restless waters,
Waves wash over it, fogs conceal it;
On a halcyon day it is merely a monument,
In navigable weather it is always a seamark
To lay a course by: but in the sombre season
Or the sudden fury, is what it always was.
(—from poem The Four Quartets 3, The Dry Salvages,, by TS Eliot, 1941)
The day, this formation of rocks,
this unrelenting ocean of time,
the feel of it.
When heroes are suspect.
When bad and good dance together and twirl so fast it is not easy to see their true shape.
Concerning Jean Vanier and L'Arche.
JENNA: Honestly, Mitchell, I'm very pissed right now at Vanier, and…
MITCHELL: ..it's hard not to be!
JENNA: Yeah, it's weird being pissed off at a dead person. But L’Arche had a beautiful founding story. He, he heard a call, right? That's what he always said: “I heard a call once, I saw this plight,” and now as the report says, we've learned, there was no call. There was no call. He saw the pain and he saw an opportunity. To use that as a screen.
So I'm just grappling with what it means that something can have such bad soil at the start and then still produce somehow this really important fruit, because I do still believe in the work that L’Arche does in the world.
So Mitchell, it's been a lot to process and thanks, thanks for being one of the people I process with it. I know you've got a lot of stuff you gotta get back to.
MITCHELL: Yeah. Thanks Jenna. Um, I really do appreciate the time to talk through this with you, to hear your process both as a person and a journalist, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the episode.
JENNA, narrating: Last week in the first episode, I said this show is gonna try to answer a key question: What do we do when spiritual leaders we once trusted turn out to be spiritually and sexually abusive? Given what we learned today, that question feels bigger. The stakes feel larger. Vanier wasn't just abusive. He founded L’Arche first and foremost as a cover for his abuse.
I'm gonna go finish reading that 900 page report and then I'm gonna work on the next episode of the podcast. And in that episode we're gonna talk to Tina Bovermann and other members of L’Arche, and we're gonna talk about how we tell our founding stories.
I'll leave you with one last thing: As I sit with this report, my mind keeps drifting to a conversation I had a month ago with Carolyn Whitney Brown. You'll hear more from her in coming episodes. Carolyn used to live at a L’Arche and she also has written multiple books related to L’Arche and Vanier. When I told her that this podcast was gonna try to focus on healing, she said something poignant: “Before we can start healing,” she explained, “we have to know what the injury is.”
This 868-page report does a lot to diagnose the injury. And today, the wound feels pretty fresh.
(Update: It's Worse Than We Thought,
All abuse is local.
We have to make our way through broken glass, not denying what the unbroken once resembled, yet affirming the journey needing to be now taken.
It's not the same thing. (Nothing is the same thing.)
This week in isolation, cloistered (if you will).
Taken by dint of withdrawing seclusion.
Religious men and women have been inspired to seek lives of solitude since ancient times, moved by the belief that spiritual fulfilment can be found in the rejection of society’s expectations and encumbrances. The desert fathers and mothers, the earliest known Christian solitaries, were inspirational role models for the professional contemplatives of the Middle Ages. They withdrew from the world for the same fundamental reason as their medieval counterparts did: that they might better come to know themselves and, through that self-knowledge, generate a more intimate connection with God.
In England, during the Middle Ages, the desire to experience religious solitude was commonly mediated through physical enclosure and could manifest as coenobitic withdrawal, which is community-based, as eremitic seclusion, or (certainly in the earlier Middle Ages, at least) as an individualised combination of the two. Medieval eremites, that is, hermits and anchorites, experienced the harshest forms of solitude known to medieval society.
The term anchorite comes from the Greek άναχωρητής (anachoretes), itself derived from the verb άναχωρειν (anachorein, ‘to withdraw’). Anchorites then, were men and women who sought to withdraw from the world as much as was practicable, often (although not always) to a small, four-walled cell adjoining a religious building. Sometimes referred to as the medieval world’s living dead, many spiritual thinkers have written for them and about them, inspired in part by the deeply dramatic notion of grave-like spatial fixity upon which the vocation is founded.
(--in, Solitude and Sociability,  The World of the Medieval Anchorite, by Mari Hughes-Edwards)
And what do I find?
Nothing to speak of. Nothing-
Other, just these words.
Fear is the response to danger or threat.
Why the words saying “the Lord has pity on those who fear him”?
Why fear the Lord?
Is it the Lord’s confusion at why such is so that evokes pity and consternation?
The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
His wrath will come to an end;
he will not be angry for ever.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins.
As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him;
for he knows of what we are made,
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flowers like the flower of the field;
the wind blows and he is gone
and his place never sees him again.
(—II, psalm 103, 1feb. Office of Readingsj
Consternation is my God.
A doorway to unknowing.
In prison once, reflecting on some words in the gospel, I pointed out that Jesus was dismayed, perhaps confused, something was shared, he didn’t know with whom, so he asked who touched his clothes, that power went out from him, someone had touched him in a crowd, he didn’t know who.
A man in his prison pod, in a wheelchair, summoned me to inform me that Jesus was never dismayed, or confused, that I was wrong.
That’s the thing about exploring something. The dialogue. The disagreement. The perspective.
If I were ever to say the words “My God” it would be a transliterative version of “and then he became distressed and dismayed”.
For me, I suspect, there is no knowing god.
Those words, “no knowing god” — are an inchoate start to the incarnate realization that there is only this, and I am only passing through this and this and this is , . . (fill in the next words for yourself).
I am bereft of predicate.
If We Could Remember… The moment of our birthWe give our voice to songs and whispersAnd know what life is worth… Remember, remember… Suddenly there's beautyIn peace there's all the pastAnd sorrow clings to angry questionsThe days of dust at last… And morning holds usWhen the worlds come tumbling downA dance of ghosts and ragged dreamsSpinning 'round, spinning 'round, spinning 'round… I rememberRemember, rememberRemember, remember… If we could remember the power of the lightThat cripple prayers are sometimes answeredAnd hope survives the nightAnd hope survives the night, the night… I remember, I rememberRemember, rememberRemember
Of all fears.
A rare look back to 2003 writing:
Harold said it as we looked for Micmac book of prayers and chants -- that Spirit is beyond smaller than quark, and has no valence. Thus, immeasurable, and present everywhere. Of itself, non-separate, indecipherable.
With his eyes on mine he quietly described Native American mind on Spirit. As he did the thought occurs -- Spirit is completely within itself -- with no outside. Harold nodded. He smiled when someone behind him said they couldn’t hear him with his low and quiet way of speaking, and quoted a Medicine man who told him to speak only to the one before you, only as loud for them to hear, for only the duration of saying what you are saying.
If a Zen practitioner were standing there she might say that God's mind is no mind -- that everything is finger pointing to the moon. Most commentators make the distinction that the finger is not the moon. But yesterday's Zen smile might have spoken alongside Harold saying that the intent of the person, the finger, and the moon are not three things -- they are the joy of learning, each alongside each in complimentarity. The mind of God is the intent, the finger, and the moon. It is also the ground the pointer and pointee share, as well as the teller of the story and the hearer in relational moment of co-presence.
Martin played his new flute for me. Sylvia read about enchantment and asked where my Irish connection with myth, fantasy, and folklore resided. She made me remember times teaching and studying. The fire lowered, night cooled, upstairs guests gone, day at bookshop/bakery waning. Saskia and Sando were on the road returning home.
The word ‘veridity’ stood out to me from Jean Gebser’s book The Ever-Present Origin.
There is an originality suggested, a prelude to time that perdures throughout.
Hildegard did not stay out of sight. In 1146 or 1147, when she was in her late forties, she wrote a letter to the French cleric Bernard of Clairvaux—a leading figure in the Cistercian Order, an architect of the Knights Templar, a propagandist of the Crusades—in which she disclosed that she had been experiencing religious visions. The letter begins with protestations of humility, seeking recognition for her newfound calling, but by the end it radiates the fearsome certitude of a prophet in the pulpit:
(—Hildegard of Bingen Composes the Cosmos, How a visionary medieval nun became a towering, figure in early musical history.! By Alex Ross, January 30, 2023, The New Yorker)
Later in the article, the author points out that Hildegard saw a nexus between Eve and Mary.
Nonetheless, Hildegard’s thinking is rife with idiosyncrasies, particularly concerning the role of women. Barbara Newman, in her 1987 book, “Sister of Wisdom,” argues that Hildegard resists the misogyny of Catholic doctrine. For example, her tendency to pair Eve with the Virgin Mary suggests that the bearer of original sin also becomes the agent of redemption. Hildegard habitually invokes female frailty—“I, a poor little figure of a woman” is a recurring formula—yet her self-deprecation is double-edged, as Newman observes: “Because the power of God is perfected in weakness, because the humblest shall be the most exalted, human impotence could become the sign and prelude of divine empowerment.”
The perdurance of origin, the linking of Eve and Mary, takes on an archetypal synchronicity that makes one shudder with new possibility of historical unicity.
The myth and the myth substantiate the Creation and the Christ.
History becomes the covers of the book that reads us into the story.
What we call ‘belief’ is only the temporizing delay anticipating full-fledged realization of the existential ontology of inseparate integrity, a deliberate wholeness not subject to, nor reliant on, the fragments of distinct and divided pericope or partiality.
“Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.” (John Fowles, in Daniel Martin)
Even on a dreary Sunday, there are words that knock at your door.
I think the early medieval Jewish commentator Rashi also had
something like this in mind when he interprets Isaiah’s God calling to his creatures—‘‘I cannot be God unless you are my witnesses.’’ He takes this to mean ‘‘I am the God who will be whenever you bear witness to love and justice in the world.’’
And I believe that the Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum was gesturing toward a similar notion when, just weeks before her death in a concentration camp, she wrote: ‘‘You God cannot help us but we must help you and defend your dwelling place inside us to the last.’’
Both Rashi and Hillesum were witnessing to the dunamis of God as the power of the powerless.
This, clearly, is not the imperial power of a sovereign; it is a dynamic call to love that possibilizes and enables humans to transform their world—by giving itself to the ‘‘least of these,’’ by empathizing with the disinherited and the dispossessed, by refusing the path of might and violence, by transﬁguring the mustard seed into the Kingdom, each moment at a time, one act after another, each step of the way.
This is the path heralded by the Pauline God of ‘‘nothings and no-bodies’’ (ta me onta) excluded from the triumphal preeminence of totality (ta onta)— a kenotic, self-emptying, cruciﬁed God whose ‘‘weakness is stronger than human strength’’ (1 Corinthians 1:25). It signals the option for the poor, for nonviolent resistance and revolution taken by peacemakers and dissenting ‘‘holy fools’’ from ancient to modern times. It is the message of suffering rather than doing evil, of loving one’s adversaries, of ‘‘no enemies,’’ of ‘‘soul force’’(satya-graha).
One thinks of a long heritage ranging from Isaiah, Jesus, Siddhartha, and Socrates to such contemporary ﬁgures as Gandhi, Havel, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier, Ernesto Cardinal, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Martin Luther King, among others. The God witnessed here goes beyond the will-to-power.
(—from, After God, Richard Kearney and the Religious Turn in Continental Philosophy) https://www.academia.edu/2248667/After_God?email_work_card=view-paper
Holy fools, indeed.
Which leaves us as…what?
Everyone is waiting to see if the former president will be indicted, tried, and convicted.
Or, is he the returned savior fundamentalist christians say he is?
In which case he ushers the grim reaper from murky mud into every inch, sound, and screen on the public platforms of technological ubiquity.
You don’t have to be a pagan heathen agnostic apostate to smell a vile scent arising from the great-again crowd.
Pilgrims are seen wandering back to mountainside huts and heather fields with bare necessities for reconnoiter and recollection awaiting the final days with chanting book, a sitting cushion, and encasing blanket to ward off the stinging chill coming up from mindless believers lifting an orange demon full of glacial hate onto the new podium of potash and putrid rot fertilizing mushy brains and fetid hearts who believe in leaving rotting garbage on sidewalks and public squares.