Monday, August 30, 2021

births

 
 
 


 
 

We will never have any memory of dying.

We were so patient
about our being,
noting down
numbers, days,
years and months,
hair, and the mouths we kiss,
and that moment of dying
we let pass without a note—
we leave it to others as memory,
or we leave it simply to water,
to water, to air, to time.
Nor do we even keep
the memory of being born,
although to come into being was tumultuous and new;
and now you don’t remember a single detail
and haven’t kept even a trace
of your first light.

It’s well known that we are born.

It’s well known that in the room
or in the wood
or in the shelter in the fishermen’s quarter
or in the rustling canefields
there is a quite unusual silence,
a grave and wooden moment as
a woman prepares to give birth.

It’s well known that we were all born.

But of that abrupt translation
from not being to existing, to having hands,
to seeing, to having eyes,
to eating and weeping and overflowing
and loving and loving and suffering and suffering,
of that transition, that quivering
of an electric presence, raising up
one body more, like a living cup,
and of that woman left empty,
the mother who is left there in her blood
and her lacerated fullness,
and its end and its beginning, and disorder
tumbling the pulse, the floor, the covers
till everything comes together and adds
one knot more to the thread of life,
nothing, nothing remains in your memory
of the savage sea which summoned up a wave
and plucked a shrouded apple from the tree.

The only thing you remember is your life. 




~  Pablo Neruda
from Plenos Poderes (Fully Empowered)
 art by Jackie Traverse
 with thanks to whiskey river
 
 
 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

no strangers

 
 
 

 


under cherry blossoms’ shade
even those whom we don’t know
are not strangers 
 
 
 

~ Issa Kobayashi 
 
 
 





Friday, August 27, 2021

relatedness

 
 
 

 
 
 In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth 
that includes all its component members 
whether human or other than human.
 
 In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, 
its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. 
Every being declares itself to the entire universe. 
Every being enters into communion with other beings. 
 
This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings,
 for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being
 throughout the entire universe.
 
 
 
~ Thomas Berry
 photo by Edward Sheriff Curtis



 
 

a common spirit dwells within them

 
 
 
 

 
 
 Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them.
 Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them.
 Look at the tiny insects crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. . . .
 
 Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields;
 look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well.
 The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; 
and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly. 
 
 
 
from The Letters of Pelagius: 
Celtic Soul Friend,
 edited by Robert Van de Weyer
 with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations
 
 
 

desire the truth?

 
 
 



We are all convinced that we desire the truth above all.
Nothing strange about this. It is natural to man, an intelligent being, 
to desire the truth.
 
 (I still dare to speak of man as "an intelligent being"!)

But actually, what we desire is not "the truth" so much as "to be in the right."

To seek the pure truth for its own sake may be natural to us,
 but we are not able to act always in this respect according to our nature.

What we seek is not the pure truth, but the partial truth that justifies our prejudices,
 our limitations, our selfishness. This is not "the truth." 
It is only an argument strong enough to prove us "right."
And usually our desire to be right is correlative to our conviction
 that somebody else (perhaps everybody else) is wrong.

Why do we want to prove them wrong?

Because we need them to be wrong. For if they are wrong, 
and we are right, then our untruth becomes truth: 
our selfishness becomes justice and virtue: 
our cruelty and lust cannot be fairly condemned.

We can rest secure in the fiction we have determined to embrace as "truth."

What we desire is not the truth, but rather that our lie should be proved "right,"
 and our iniquity be vindicated as "just."

No wonder we hate. No wonder we are violent. 
No wonder we exhaust ourselves in preparing for war!

And in doing so, of course, we offer the enemy another reason to believe
 that he is right, that he must arm, that he must get ready to destroy us.

Our own lie provides the foundation of truth on which he erects his own lie,
 and the two lies together react to produce hatred, murder, disaster.




~ Thomas Merton, 
from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
 with thanks to brainpickings


 
 
 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

the swarming throng of "I"

 
 
 
 A detail from the Sea Journey: People Without Borders by Erub/Lifou Project, commissioned for APT9.
 
 

The secret teachings lead the pupil further. 
They teach him to look, with the same serene indifference, 
at the incessant working of his mind and the physical activity 
displayed by the body. 
 
He ought to succeed in understanding, in noting that nothing
 of all that is from him, is him. 
He, physically and mentally,
 is a multitude of others.

This "multitude of others" includes the material elements—
the ground, one might say—which he owes to his heredity,
 his atavism, then those which he has ingested, which he has inhaled 
from before his birth, by the help of which his body was formed, 
and which, assimilated by him, have become, with the complex forces 
inherent in them, constituent parts of his being.

On the mental plane, this "multitude of others" includes many beings
 who are his contemporaries: people he consorts with, with whom he chats, 
whose actions he watches. 
 
Thus a continual inhibition is at work while the individual absorbs
 a part of the various energies given off by those with whom he is in contact, 
and these incongruous energies, installing themselves in that which
 he considers his "I", 
form there a swarming throng.





~ Alexandra David-Néel and Lama Yongten
frjom The Secret Oral Teachings
 in Tibetan Buddhist Sects
 
art from A detail from the Sea Journey: 
People Without Borders by Erub/Lifou 
Project, commissioned for APT9.
 
 with thanks to Love is a Place

 
 
 
 

Friday, August 13, 2021

painting tigers

 
 
 
 



Monday, August 9, 2021

brokenness and vulnerability

 




 
 
  brokenness and weakness 
also mysteriously pull us out of ourselves. 
We feel them both together.

Only vulnerability forces us beyond ourselves. 
Whenever we see true pain, most of us are drawn out
 of our own preoccupations and want to take away the pain. 
 
For example, when we rush toward a hurting child, 
 we want to take the suffering in our arms. 
That’s why so many saints wanted to get near suffering—
because as they said again and again, 
 it “saved” them from their smaller untrue self.(1)



I think grief puts us in touch with our vulnerabilities.
 I think the feeling of grief lets us know the power of wounds
 to shape our stories. I think it lets us know how capable we are
 of having our hearts broken and our feelings hurt. 
 
I think it lets us know the link that we each have because we’re human.
 Because we’re human, we hurt. Because we’re human, we have tears to cry.
 Because we’re human, our hearts are broken. Because we’re human,
 we understand that loss is a universal language. Everybody grieves.
 All of humanity grieves. All of us have setbacks, broken dreams.
 All of us have broken relationships or unrealized possibilities. 
All of us have bodies that just don’t do what they used to do.
 Though grief is personal, every person grieves.(2)
 
 
 
 
 ~ Richard Rohr(1) 
and Dr. Jacqui Lewis(2)
 
 
 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

the world rolls right on

 
 
 
 

 
 
mountain sounds carry a chill wisdom
an upwelling spring whispers subtle tales
pine breezes stir the fire beneath my tea
bamboo shadows soak deep into my robe

I grind my ink: clouds scraping across the crags
copy out a verse: birds settling on branches
as the world rolls right on by
its every turn tracing out non-action
 
 
 
 
 
~ Shih Shu 
English version by James H. Sanford
from  The Clouds Should Know Me By Now: 
Buddhist Poet Monks of China
 Edited by Red Pine 
with thanks to Poetry Chaikhana
 
 

take a look - recognizing our biases

 
 
 

 



People can't see what they can’t see. 
Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, 
trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. 
No amount of reasoning and argument will get through to them,
 unless we first learn how to break down the walls of bias. . . .


Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complementary Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators.
 
 
 
 
 
 ~ Brian McLaren
from  Why Don’t They Get It? Overcoming Bias in Others 
 with thanks to Beth Cioffoletti, quotes and musings
art by Caravaggio
 
 
 
 

Friday, August 6, 2021

look through it and you will see the world

 
 



 
If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world.
 For zero brings into focus the great, organic sprawl of mathematics, 
and mathematics in turn the complex nature of things. 
 
From counting to calculating, from estimating the odds to knowing exactly
 when the tides in our affairs will crest, the shining tools of mathematics 
let us follow the tacking course everything takes through everything else –
 and all of their parts swing on the smallest of pivots, zero

With these mental devices we make visible the hidden laws 
controlling the objects around us in their cycles and swerves. 
Even the mind itself is mirrored in mathematics,
 its endless reflections now confusing,
 now clarifying insight.
 

The story begins some 5,000 years ago with the Sumerians, 
those lively people who settled in Mesopotamia (part of what is now Iraq). 
When you read, on one of their clay tablets, this exchange between father and son:
 “Where did you go?” “Nowhere.” “Then why are you late?”, 
you realize that 5,000 years are like an evening gone.

The Sumerians counted by 1s and 10s but also by 60s. 
This may seem bizarre until you recall that we do too, using 60 for minutes
 in an hour (and 6 × 60 = 360 for degrees in a circle). Worse, we also count by 12
 when it comes to months in a year, 7 for days in a week, 24 for hours in a day
 and 16 for ounces in a pound or a pint. Up until 1971 the British counted
 their pennies in heaps of 12 to a shilling but heaps of 20 shillings to a pound.

Tug on each of these different systems and you’ll unravel a history
 of customs and compromises, showing what you thought was quirky
 to be the most natural thing in the world. In the case of the Sumerians,
 a 60-base (sexagesimal) system most likely sprang from their dealings
 with another culture whose system of weights — 
and hence of monetary value — differed from their own.
 
Haven’t we all an ancient sense that for something to exist it must have a name?
 Many a child refuses to accept the argument that the numbers go on forever
 (just add one to any candidate for the last) because names run out.
 For them a googol — 1 with 100 zeroes after it — is a large and living friend,
 as is a googolplex (10 to the googol power, in an Archimedean spirit).

Names belong to things, but zero belongs to nothing. 
It counts the totality of what isn’t there. By this reasoning it must be everywhere
 with regard to this and that: with regard, for instance, to the number
 of humming-birds in that bowl with seven — or now six — apples.
 Then what does zero name? It looks like a smaller version of 
Gertrude Stein’s Oakland, having no there there.

While having a symbol for zero matters, having the notion matters more, 
and whether this came from the Babylonians directly or through the Greeks,
 what is hanging in the balance here in India is the character this notion will take:
 will it be the idea of the absence of any number —
 or the idea of a number for such absence?
 


~ Robert Kaplan
excerpts from The Nothing that Is:
A natural history of zero 
with thanks to brainpickings
 
 

 


Thursday, August 5, 2021

connected in compassion

 
 
 

 

No one escapes suffering in this life. 
None of us is exempt from loss, pain, illness, and death.
 How is it that we have so little understanding of these essential experiences? 
How is it that we have attempted to keep grief separated from our lives
 and only begrudgingly acknowledge its presence at the most obvious of times,
 such as a funeral?
 
 “If sequestered pain made a sound,” Stephen Levine says,
 “the atmosphere would be humming all the time.”

It is the accumulated losses of a lifetime that slowly weigh us down—
the times of rejection, the moments of isolation when we felt cut off
 from the sustaining touch of comfort and love. It is an ache that resides
 in the heart, the faint echo calling us back to the times of loss. 
We are called back, not so much to make things right, but to acknowledge
 what happened to us. 
 
Grief asks that we honor the loss and, in doing so, deepen our capacity for compassion.
 When grief remains unexpressed, however, it hardens, becomes as solid as a stone.
 We, in turn, become rigid and stop moving in rhythm with the soul. . . . 
When our grief stagnates, we become fixed in place, unable to move and dance
 with the flow of life. Grief is part of the dance.

As we begin to pay attention, we notice that grief is never far from our awareness. 
We become aware of the many ways it arrives in our daily lives. It is the blue mood
 that greets us upon waking. It is the melancholy that shades the day in muted tones.
 It is the recognition of time’s passing, the slow emptying of our days.
 It is the searing pain that erupts when someone close to us dies—
a parent, a partner, a child, a beloved pet. It is the confounding grief 
when our life circumstances are shattered by the unexpected—
the phone rings with news of a biopsy; we find ourselves suddenly without work,
 uncertain as to how we will support our family; our partner decides one day
 that the marriage is over. We tumble and fall as the ground beneath us opens, 
shaken by violent rumblings. Grief enfolds our lives, drops us close to the earth,
 reminding us of our inevitable return to the dark soil. . . .

It is essential for us to welcome our grief, whatever form it takes.
 When we do, we open ourselves to our shared experiences in life.
 Grief is our common bond. Opening to our sorrow connects us with everyone, everywhere.
 There is no gesture of kindness that is wasted, no offering of compassion that is useless.
 We can be generous to every sorrow we see. It is sacred work. 
 
 
 
 
~  Francis Weller
from  The Wild Edge of Sorrow:
 Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief; 
The Threshold Between Loss and Revelation
 with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
 
 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

How poems are made




Letting go
In order to hold one
I gradually understand
How poems are made.

There is a place the fear must go.
There is a place the choice must go.
There is a place the loss must go.
The leftover love.
The love that spills out
Of the too full cup
And runs and hides
Its too full self
In shame.

I gradually comprehend
How poems are made
To the upbeat flight of memories.
The flagged beats of the running 
Heart.

I understand how poems are made.
They are the tears
That season the smile.
The stiff-neck laughter
That crowds the throat.
The leftover love.
I know how poems are made.

There is a place the loss must go.
There is a place the gain must go.
The leftover love.



~ Alice Walker

one loss





One loss
folds itself inside another.
It is like the origami
held inside a plain sheet of paper
Not creased yet.
Not yet more heavy.
The hand stays steady.





~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come Thief