Sunday, September 30, 2018

irreplaceable "thisness"

Franciscan philosopher-theologian John Duns Scotus (1266-1303) taught extensively on the absolute uniqueness of each act of creation.  His doctrine of haecceity is derived from haec, the Latin word for "this." Duns Scotus said the absolute freedom of God allows God to create, or not to create, each creature. Its existence means God has positively chosen to create that creature, precisely as it is.

Each creature is thus not merely one member of a genus and species, but a unique aspect of the infinite Mystery of God.  God is continuously choosing each created thing specifically to exist, moment by moment. This teaching alone made Scotus a favorite of mystics and poets like  Gerard Manley Hopkins and Thomas Merton, who considered themselves "Scotists" - as I do too.

 ~ Richard Rohr
from just this


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Inner History of a Day


No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

~ John O’Donohue,
 from:  To Bless the Space Between Us

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

~ Janine Jansen
Tchaikovsky's violin concerto

performed and broadcast on April 19th, 2013. 
With Paavo Järvi conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Tchaikovsky (right) with violinist Iosif Kotek

the inner landscape of beauty

~ John O'Donohue

Monday, September 24, 2018

two drinking songs


I built my hut near where people live
and yet I hear no traffic noise or sound of wheels.
Could you tell me what is happening?
An aloneness gathers around the soul that is alone.
I pick chrysanthemums underneath the east hedge,
the mountains to the south are clear.
The mountain air at sunset is so wonderful,
and the birds coming home, one after the other.
In all these details there are secret truths;
but when I try to shift to language, it all slops away.

Such a strong color on the late chrysanthemums!
The stalk sways stoutly, flower wet with dew, open.
Wandering drunk in this beauty, who cares about my sorrows.
I have left excitement behind, and what is not done.
Alone, I take a drink.
The bottle tilts by itself when the cup is empty.
When the sun goes down, all bustle stops,
and the birds on their return call from the leaves.
I walk around my study shouting and proud
because I can take up this life again.

~ Tao Yuan-Ming

being lonely

So being lonely, I want to find someone or some idea through which I can be happy.  But loneliness always remains; it is ever there, under cover.  But as it frightens me, and as I do not know what the inward nature of this loneliness is, therefore I want to find something to which to cling.  So I think that through something, through a person, I will be happy.  So our mind is always concerned with finding something.  Through furniture, through a house, through books, through people, through ideas, through rituals, though symbols, we hope to get something, to find happiness.  And so the things, the people, the ideas, become extraordinarily important, because through them we hope we shall find it.  So we begin to be dependent on them.

But with it all there is still this thing not understood, not resolved; the anxiety, the fear, is still there....Is it not very important that I should understand this loneliness, this ache, this pain of extraordinary emptiness?  Because if I understand that, perhaps I shall not use anything to find happiness, I shall not use God as a means to acquire peace, or a ritual in order to have more sensations, exaltations, inspirations. 

If I knew the content of loneliness, then I would not be afraid of it. But because I have an idea of what it might be, I run away from it.  The very running away creates the fear, not the looking at it. To look at it, to be with it, facing it, then I am capable of loving it, of looking into it.  Because all other processes away from that loneliness are deviation, escapes, distractions.  If the mind can live with it, then perhaps through that the mind will find that state which is alone, a mind that is not lonely but completely alone, not dependent, not seeking to find through something.

It is necessary to be alone, to know that aloneness which is not induced by circumstances, that aloneness which is not isolation, that aloneness which is creativeness, when the mind is no longer seeking either happiness, virtue, or creating resistance, It is the mind which is alone that can find - not the mind which has been contaminated, made corrupt, by its own experiences.  So perhaps loneliness, of which we are all aware, if we know how to look at it, may open the door to reality.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from a talk in London, 7 April 1953
art by Picasso

Saturday, September 22, 2018

the beauty we love

~ Gary Schmidt, Piano

the crucible of crisis

As unlikely as it may seem, the contemplative moment can be found at the very center of such ontological crises . . . during the Middle Passage in the holds of slave ships . . . auction blocks . . . and the . . . hush arbors [where slaves worshiped in secret]. Each event is experienced by individuals stunned into multiple realities by shock, journey, and displacement. . . . In the words of Howard Thurman, “when all hope for release in the world seems unrealistic and groundless, the heart turns to a way of escape beyond the present order.”  For captured Africans, there was no safety except in common cause and the development of internal and spiritual fortitude. . . .

The only sound that would carry Africans over the bitter waters was the moan. Moans flowed through each wracked body and drew each soul toward the center of contemplation. . . . One imagines the Spirit moaning as it hovered over the deep during the Genesis account of creation [Genesis 1:2]. Here, the moan stitches horror and survival instincts into a creation narrative. . . . On the slave ships, the moan became the language of stolen strangers, the sound of unspeakable fears, the precursor to joy yet unknown. The moan is the birthing sound, the first movement toward a creative response to oppression, the entry into the heart of contemplation through the crucible of crisis.

~ Barbara A. Holmes 
from Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church

Thursday, September 20, 2018

compassion and kinship

Fr. Gregory Boyle

Father Gregory Boyle, founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, is an acknowledged expert on gangs, intervention and re-entry and today serves on the U.S. Attorney General's Defending Childhood Task Force. 
Born in Los Angeles, one of eight children, Fr. Greg worked in the family-owned dairy, loading milk trucks to earn his high school tuition. An enduring memory of that youthful time is when "...these weathered old truckers would come up to me, put their arms around me and point at my father in the distance, on the loading dock, and say, 'Your dad is a great man.'" Lessons from that first job apply at Homeboy Industries today where employees come to change for themselves and their children. Homeboy Industries traces its roots to "Jobs For A Future" (JFF), created in 1988 by Boyle at Dolores Mission. To address the escalating problems of gang-involved youth, he and the community developed an elementary school, day care program and sought legitimate employment for young people. Boyle serves on the National Gang Center Advisory Board (Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Loyola Law School Center for Juvenile Law and Policy and previously served on the California Commission on Juvenile Justice, Crime and Delinquency Prevention. The National Child Labor Committee recognized Fr. Greg with the first Nancy M. Daly Advocacy Award for Service to Children and Youth on January 30, 2012. Homeboy Industries, now located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, is recognized as a national and international model for youth seeking to move beyond gangs and achieve a life of hope.

many routes

Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand

 in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them,
 being content to listen to others who have been there 
and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountains 
accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least
 dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination.
 Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes.
 Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will
and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware 
than any of the others that there's no single or fixed number of routes. 
There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

- Robert M. Pirsig
from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

roses, late summer

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall
away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can't sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?

Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley.
so they never seem to vanish, they are always there
in the blossom of the light
that stands up every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.
~ Mary Oliver

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

break yourself apart

Be with those who help your being.
Don't sit with indifferent people, whose breath 
comes cold out of their mouths.

Not these visible forms, your work is deeper.
A chunk of dirt thrown in the air breaks to pieces.
If you don't try to fly, 

and so break yourself apart,
you will be broken open by death,
when it's too late for all you could become.
Leaves get yellow. The tree puts out fresh roots
and makes them green.
Why are you so content with a love that turns you yellow?

~ Rumi 
 translation Coleman Barks

Saturday, September 15, 2018

the road home

An ant hurries along a threshing floor
with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks
of wheat, not knowing the abundance 
all around.  It thinks its one grain
is all there is to love.

So we choose a tiny seed to be devoted to.
This body, one path, one teacher.
Look wider and farther.

The essence of every human being can see,
and what that essence-eye takes in,
the being becomes.  Saturn. Solomon!

The ocean pours through a jar,
and you might say it swims inside
the fish!  This mystery gives peace to
your longing and makes the road home home.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

Friday, September 14, 2018


For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

~ Hermann Hesse
from Trees, Reflections and Poems

consenting to be deceived

By closing the eyes and slumbering and consenting to be deceived
 by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine 
and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations ...

I have read in a Hindu book, that "there was a king's son,
 who, being expelled in infancy from his native city,
 was brought up by a forester, and, growing to maturity in that state, 
imagined himself to belong to the barbarous race with which he lived. 
 One of his father's ministers having discovered him,
 revealed to him what he was, and the misconception of his character 
was removed, and he knew himself to be a prince.  So soul,
" continues the Hindu philosopher, "from the circumstances in which it is placed,
 mistakes its own character, until the truth is revealed to it
 by some holy teacher, and then it knows itself to be Brahma."

I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this mean life 
that we do because our vision does not penetrate the surface of things.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden, "Where I lived, and what I lived for," 1854

All my body calls

All my body calls
for something in this sleeping
we call the spirit.

But how
from lifted arms
where stars run through fingers
and the night is like sand
do I breathe a fragrance of its wisdom
do I call its name
or listen to the drops
that trickle down to earth
and hear
life being given
not only through the moving hands of the forest
but through the hand that reaches in
the dark unmoving regions of the chest
and uncovers slowly
the enormous
shape of the ocean.

~  David Whyte 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

a monk sips morning tea

A monk sips morning tea,
it's quiet,
the chrysanthemum's flowering.

~ Matsuo Basho
translated by Robert Hass 

Flowering Vetch

Each of the tragedies can be read
as the tale of a single ripening self,
every character part of one soul.
The comedies can be included in this as well.
Often the flaw is a flaw of self-knowledge;
sometimes greed.  For this reason
the comic glint of a school of herring leads to no plot line,
we cannot imagine a tragedy of donkeys or bees.
Before the ordinary realities, ordinary failures:
hunger, coldness, anger, longing, heat.
Yet one day, a thought as small as a vetch flower opens.
After, no longer minding the minor and almost wordless role,
playing the messenger given the letter
everyone knows will arrive too late or ruined by water.
To have stopped by the fig and eaten was not an error, then,
but the reason for going.

~  Jane Hirshfield
from After

Wednesday, September 5, 2018



You are me and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we inter-are?
You cultivate the flower in yourself
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself
so that you do not have to suffer.
I support you you support me.
I am here to bring you peace
you are here to bring me joy

~ Thich Nhat Hanh



No one lives his life.

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.
Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
art by picasso

Saturday, September 1, 2018

a fig in winter

Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.

~ Ryokan

When you are delighted with anything, be delighted as with a thing which is not one of those which cannot be taken away, but as something of such a kind, as an earthen pot is, or a glass cup, that, when it has been broken, you may remember what it was and may not be troubled… What you love is nothing of your own: it has been given to you for the present, not that it should not be taken from you, nor has it been given to you for all time, but as a fig is given to you or a bunch of grapes at the appointed season of the year. But if you wish for these things in winter, you are a fool. So if you wish for your son or friend when it is not allowed to you, you must know that you are wishing for a fig in winter.

At the times when you are delighted with a thing, place before yourself the contrary appearances.

~ Epictetus
from The Discourses of Epictetus
with thanks to brainpickings