Saturday, May 25, 2024

totally identical with everything

We are what we are by not being what we are not. But what we are not is so easy to be. We do not know how to have both sides of a coin face the same way. Nor, perhaps, should they. Perhaps what we've come to call wholeness is the appreciation that nothing is (not) left out. 

When Heidegger asked the question Leibniz asked "Why is there something rather than nothing?" he identified the question as pivotal to philosophy and metaphysics.

Perhaps something is because nothing is. Our dividing rational mind doesn't know what to do with undivided wholeness.

Emptiness and openness are the self-same coin. Perhaps all we can do is be flipped and flip-out, be flapped and unflappable at the same time, fix and be unfixed simultaneously.

Imagine God being not-God. What then is God? 

In "Kenotic God and Dynamic Sunyata" [Maseo] Abe asserts that the aim of dialogue should be mutual transformation, which will deepen both Christian and Buddhist spirituality so that both faiths may overcome antireligious ideologies, especially Nietzschean nihilism and scientism. Working from his own religious experience and textual study, Abe offers two presentations of the ultimate religious ground. One is the "emptying God," that is, the complete kenosis not only of Christ, but of God, a kenosis necessitated by God's all-embracing love. The other is "dynamic Sunyata" which does not remain transcendent Sunyata, but ceaselessly and at every moment empties itself, thus becoming a "boundless openness" that contains both wisdom and the compassionate "vow and act" to enlighten all beings. Abe quotes the Prajnaparamita sutra as a succinct expression of his position on the nature of Sunyata: "Sunyata is non-Sunyata (asunyata); therefore it is ultimate Sunyata (atyanta-Sunyata)" (Emptying God, p. 27). In a paraphrase of this important Buddhist scripture, Abe summarizes his vision of the Kenotic God:

God is not God (for God is love and completely self-emptying); precisely because God is not a self-affirmative God, God is truly a God of love (for through complete self-abnegation God is totally identical with everything including sinful humans) (Emptying God, p. 16).

        (--in Two Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversations Review EssayAaron Gross, Watson Fellow, Katmandu,  Nepal) 

Morning sun and cool air through screen door this early Saturday Wohnküche sitting.

We are what we are not and (perhaps mistakenly) think such seeming contradiction is unworthy making. Rather, I suspect, the question we might better be asking is how is it that something is nothing and nothing is something? How is it God is complete(ly) with us and we do not realize it?

My job right now is to fill birdfeeders. 

Each husk becomes empty. Each bird, chipmunk, squirrel becomes full. That which is empty is full, that which is full is empty.

The good nuns at Neumz are in my ear. Kyrie eleison!

Friday, May 24, 2024

this brings us to us

 Today in prison:

Making Certain It Goes On

by. Richard Hugo

At last the Big Blackfoot river

has risen high enough to again cover the stones

dry too many months. Trout return

from summer harbor deep in the waters

of the power company dam. High on the bank

where he knows the river won’t reach

the drunk fisherman tries to focus on

a possible strike, and tries to ignore

the hymn coming from the white frame church.

The stone he leans against, bleached out dull gray,

underwater looked beautiful and blue.

The young minister had hoped for a better parish,

say one with bells that sound gold

and a congregation that doesn’t stop coming

when the mill shuts down.

We love to imagine

a giant bull trout or a lunker rainbow

will grab the drunk fisherman’s bait

and shock the drunk fisherman out

of his recurrent afternoon dream and into

the world of real sky and real water.

We love to imagine the drought has ended,

the high water will stay, the excess

irrigate crops, the mill reopen, the workers

go back to work, lovers reassume plans

to be married. One lover, also the son

of the drunk fisherman, by now asleep

on the bank for no trout worth imagining

has come, will not invite his father

to the happy occasion though his father

will show up sober and properly dressed,

and the son will no longer be sure of the source

of the shame he has always rehearsed.

Next summer the river will recede,

the stones bleach out to

their dullest possible shade. The fisherman

will slide bleary down the bank

and trade in any chance he has of getting

a strike for some old durable dream,

a dream that will keep out the hymn

coming again from the church. The workers

will be back full shift. The power company

will lower the water in the dam

to make repairs, make repairs and raise rates.

The drunk fisherman will wait for the day

his son returns, divorced and bitter

and swearing revenge on what the old man

has come to believe is only water

rising and falling on climatic schedule.

That summer came and is gone. And everything

we predicted happened, including the death

of the fisherman. We didn’t mention that before,

but we knew and we don’t lie to look good.

We didn’t forsee the son would never return.

This brings us to us, and our set lines

set deep on the bottom. We’re going all out

for the big ones. A new technology

keeps the water level steady year round.

The company dam is self cleaning.

In this dreamy summer air you and I

dreamily plan a statue commemorating

the unknown fisherman. The stone will bear

no inscription and that deliberate anonymity

will start enough rumors to keep

the mill operating, big trout nosing the surface,

the church reforming white frame

into handsome blue stone, and this community

going strong another hundred years.

[from MAKING CERTAIN IT GOES ON, The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo, W.W. Norton & Company]

Around the table, keen interest.  

We listen for the river.

We speak with one another.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

seeing clearly caring

Thinking might not be what we think it is.

Nor is Being what it seems to be. 

LaoTzu, Parmenides, and Heidegger look at Being and Thinking as something akin to seeing, arrival, and internalization.

It occurs to me that thinking is attentive presencing. An allowing in, a reflective corporealizing of what is there.

Parmenides (it would seem) – at least Heidegger’s Parmenides – echoes Lao Tzu’s thoughts here in that Parmenides maintains that thinking is not to be regarded as localized in the subjectivity of the subject, nor is Being to be regarded as located in the objectivity of the object. That is, Heidegger’s Parmenides perceives that “Being” becomes an object of objectivity as a result of the philosopher’s infatuation with beings and things to the extent that these metaphysicians forget the Being of this or that being or thing. A more accurate description of Being, according to Heidegger’s (hermeneutic phenomenology of) Parmenides, is that thinking and Being are unified in a more fundamental relationship. Thinking, for Parmenides (and seemingly also Lao Tzu), means: to grasp, take in, to let something come to the thinker.

Thus, the relationship of thinking and Being, according to Heidegger’s Parmenides, involves the “bringing” or “allowing” of Being – which has previously been hidden or concealed – to “stand”. Being is thus not to be understood as a product or result of thinking; rather essential – poetic – thinking is to be understood as an event of Being.

(—in ACADEMIA Letters, Heidegger, Lao Tzu and the Pre-Socratics: Thinking Being, by Greg Emery)

 Perhaps Heidegger’s concern that we are not yet thinking is connected to the possibility we have not yet arrived at where we are.

The place we occupy is the thinking of being revealing and revealed in the one there. 

When poet Charles Olson writes: “There is no intelligence / the equal of the situation” he is pointing to both the origin and expression of thinking being as the momentary apprehension and reflection of an attentive presence willing to reflect and experience what is there.

We have to be there to engage in thinking.

We have to care for where we are to grasp what is being revealed.

It is not the goal to manipulate thought to attain what we want. Rather, thinking being reveals itself to the presence in place with caring attentiveness.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

life goes on, they say, even in a moribund political environment

Perhaps we might have to inure ourselves to a second Trump presidency. After all, the Denver Nuggets lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Indiana Pacers beat the New York Knicks in the Western and Eastern Conference semi-finals. Mr Trump might have a day when, perhaps not popular vote, but Electoral College results could easily go his way this coming November.

What then?

It strikes me that a time of spectacular disruption of convention and comfortable process-as-usual will occur. Mr Trump and his advisors will have something close to carte-blanche making rulings and instigating policy regarding immigration, women's reproductive health, freedom of the press, unwillingness to brook any criticism from public figures whether on cable or in universities.

With the House and Senate stochastically aligned with him, and the Supreme Court currently and inevitably stocked with a penchant to do his bidding, the entire government will line up solidly behind him.

If you have even the slightest animus toward anarchistic outcomes you will probably consider the possibility of a Trump return to the White House a joyous event.

Watch, you might think, the minorities, the press, the lower middle class, the environmentalists, the democrats, the saps in the military, those who died for their country, immigrants from across the globe, and those who can think, the intelligentsia, the marginal, those opposing hate and those opposing the movement to fascism, totalitarianism, autocracy, and tyranny -- as they are devolved into insignificance and persecution.

It will be, some might conclude, thrilling to watch the carnage.

I do not look forward to such a future.

I do not relish the political carnival of the next six months.

However, I am interested in any indication that the American populace might be moving away from sensationalist buffoonery and prevarication and inching toward good sense, upstanding values, and the realization that suicide as a nation is an unenviable choice.

The thing about death with dignity is the faint suggestion that we are meant to have life with dignity.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


 It is quiet presence we wonder about.

The arrivals and departures, like dreams, thoroughly there, but ungraspable upon awakening.

 When Jesus is understood in relationship with Spirit as presence, wisdom, and power, we can experience Jesus as a dynamic figure, one related to God’s mysterious activity and one who dwells with us, always present.  

Butler Bass shares how Jesus’ Jewish followers might have understood his connection to the Spirit:  

Jesus, as a Jew, would have been familiar with the idea of shekhinah, the presence of God dwelling with the world. As Amy-Jill Levine says, “Judaism has the idea of the Shekinah, the feminine presence of God descending to earth and dwelling among human beings.” [3]...

Was that not how Jesus’s first followers experienced him?... As a person inhabited by shekhinah? That he somehow was the dwelling place of God, and that there was no real conflict in the mind of his brother and sister Jews between bearing the mystery of the sacred and being fully human? And if that is who he was, is that who he still is? The presence, the wisdom, the divine dwelling with us, the feminine spirit, here and now?

Like last dream before waking. That house. Those people.


Monday, May 20, 2024

mais dont on ne savait s’il fallait y lire solitaire ou solidaire

Are you, am I, isolated and alone?

Or, connected to everything and everyone? 

‘It’s nothing,’ the doctor who was called in declared sometime later. ‘He’s working too much. He’ll be on his feet in a week.’—’He will get well, you’re quite sure?’ said Louise, her face haggard.—’He will get well.’ In the other room, Rateau was looking at the canvas. It was entirely blank, though in the centre, Jonas had written in very small characters one word, which could be deciphered, but it was hard to tell whether it should be read as independent or interdependent.

—Albert Camus, Exile and the Kingdom, “Jonas or The Artist at Work”

Jonas’ falling from the entrails of the loft is deeply symbolic in that it represents his jettisoning of the final vestiges of his former self into a state of acceptance of his lot; more specifically, taken as a whole, “The Artist at Work” is about falling from societal grace and falling in love with life itself. Moreover, despite the fact that Camus was an atheist, his prefacing the narrative with words from the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale alerts us to his sardonic wit whilst simultaneously exploring the most profound of truths, namely reconciling the contradictory and complementary need for solitary reflection with communal engagement, the original French driving the point home through its enigmatic play on words: « Dans l’autre pièce, Rateau regardait la toile, entièrement blanche, au centre de laquelle Jonas avait seulement écrit, en très petits caractères, un mot qu’on pouvait déchiffrer, mais dont on ne savait s’il fallait y lire solitaire ou solidaire. » 

(Albert Camus: Jonas or The Artist at Work (Camus 1913-1960) From The CULTURIUM.)

Is it a 'd' or a 't'?

Was his long labor on the large canvas resulting in a single word in center as result of long meditation and labor a revelation that comforted or was of concern? Was it solitaire au solidaire? Was it solitary or solidary.

We spoke of this in prison this morning.

It is a long contemplation.

They found his insight after his collapse.

And we? When do we find ours?

Sunday, May 19, 2024

inter-diffusion, equally that

There is, I'm sure, much that I do not comprehend. 

When Peter. S. thirty years ago gave me a kanji brushwork of ji-ji-mu-ge I didn't know then how it would slowly reveal itself.

Ri-ji-muge literally means “things, things unimpeded,” According to Shinya Kasugai: It is “un unimpeded inter-diffusion of all particulars.” (S. Kasugai:”Kegon — The Supreme Phe- nomenon”, Dharmakaya, 1966) The intellect can conceive it, but only the intuition helps to understand the process of transcending ri into ji (Ri-ji-muge). The Kegon school states that this doctrine is not that of the true immanence of the Universal Buddha.

Ji-ji-muge means “Phenomenon-Phenomenon-Undivided”, or the direct identity in essence of all phenomena. This concept is, conceptually, an aspect of the fundamental Buddhist idea of dependent arising and a relative concept is also known in Vedanta philosophy as “non- duality” (advaita) to distinguish it from simple uniformity. In the latter one it is not mere oneness as opposed to multiplicity, since both terms are themselves polar. In Vedanta, the dualistic term “non-duality” is taken to represent the “dimension” in which explicit differences have implicit unity. Although it may seem that advaita and ji-ji-muge describe similar phenomenon (i.e. non-duality) Vedanta view is closer to the early pre-Mahayana philosophy of Vaibhasika and Sautrantika rather than to Madhyamika and Yogacara which are today commonly accepted as conceptual foundations of Mahayana Buddhism.2)

According to the Kegon teachings, when applied to human activity ri-ji-muge denotes seeking for the Buddha in the mind. The ji-ji-muge concept denotes looking for the Universal Buddha in the body. Following out the former idea, the flesh is regarded as a shackle imprisoning the enquiring spirit, so that by retiring from the world one should reduce it to proper submission and thereby obtain enlightenment. With the ji-ji-muge concept, however, illumination can be found only through perfecting flesh by bringing out its latent potentialities and thereby uncovering the Buddha hidden in the human heart. When applied this concept to the Mahayana schools of Buddhism, one may say that ri-ji-muge is the Way of Sitting (Zazen in Soto), while Ji-ji-muge is the Way of Moving in the World. (see P.K. Eidmann’”The Lion Roar”, Jodo Publishing, 1947 also various books by Kegon scholars such as Shinya Kasugai, Ryosho Takamine)

The emphasis on Mahayana is necessary here as most scholars believe that simply mechanical moving in the world is not enough — this would mean just mechanical moving. Here a Theravadian Buddhist would be aware of the ji as separate from each other, but in order to experience ji-ji-muge two conditions must be satisfied:

  1. Compassion (karuna, jap. Jihi)

  2. The Vow of Bodhisattvahood (pranidhana, jap Gan).

Only after these two conditions are satisfied one realizes that ‘no thing exists’; that is the negative side, and simultaneously the positive side must also be realized, (this is what Vedanta calls tathata). Here, the synthesis of the Hindu Way of neti neti (not this not this) and iti iti (it is here, it is here) has been reached. Original Ramakrishna’s teaching, that one must mediate on cleansing oneself of connection to the ego before transcending to connection with Brahman, can also be applied to the Buddhist Way. What is new here is that Kegon follows the iti iti with Compassion and the Vow as the “effective means” to Enlightenment

The Kegon School went further, insisting on direct relation between all “things.” In the Buddhist sense, things are but flowing events or ‘minor whirlpools on the surface of becoming’. Ri-ji-muge seeks the Buddha (the universal) in the individual mind, the body being regarded as a devil whose limitations prison the wings of spirit. Ji-ji-muge, on the other hand, the final stage of the Kegon School (and thought can go no further), with its doctrine of the direct inter-diffusion of all Ji, means finding the Universal Buddha in every particular thing. The implications of this doctrine are enormous. In the words of Hindu philosophy,“Thou art that,” and all other “thou’s” are equally that.

(pp.23-24, Ji-ji-muge and Economics of Enlightenment, by Chris J. Czerkawski)


we roll


it lives in the other world

Branch buds flower young green into air along trail and edge of bird feeder.

Spirit, they say, is among us.

You ask why I live

Alone in the mountain forest,

And I smile and am silent

Until even my soul grows quiet:

It lives in the other world,

One that no one owns.

The peach trees blossom.

The water continues to flow.

--Li Po (701–762)

Cardinal presides on bare branch, hopping higher, flying away.

No one owns that other world, says Li Po. It belongs, if that’s the word, to itself.

If you are looking, find me there.

Otherwise, just go on. There’s no need for recognition.

What we blithely call reality is, in itself, enough.

We don’t need to know. We dwell in a pentecost of unexpected and eloquent presence.

Just to be, for whatever time, is it’s own revelation.

Emítte Spíritum tuum, et creabúntur, 

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, 

et renovábis fáciem terræ, allelúia, allelúia. 

And You shall renew the face of the earth, yeah, yeah 

It’s own