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Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
November 2001

Theme: Coming to Earth…

In prison on 5Nov we spoke about the fool. It is an easy conversation, especially when the word fits well. Some of the guys wondered where the topic was going. But everyone realized this was a safe conversation. It was one of the Meetingbrook Conversations held twice a month for two hours a visit at the Maine State Prison in Thomaston (soon to be moving to Warren). Andre read one of his poems and the rest of us worded ourselves around the edges of his gift.

In his introduction to the issue "The Fool," Parabola, Fall 2001, David Appelbaum writes,

The ego's folly has been revealed by the mirror the fool holds up to human nature. It would seem, though, that to speak of folly takes an art practiced only by a special few.

To expose a fool's ways is also to expose the heart, since he is the one who wears it on his sleeve. Feeling awakens, and we remember why we are here. We enjoy a relation to a higher purpose. Philip Zaleski reminds us that the holy fool has lightened his load and his emptiness is beloved of God.

It is November. The harbor empties of boats, floats lifted to land, schooners wrapped in white for the coming cold. The mountain trees empty themselves of leaves, cordwood is stacked outside the barn, the cabin is enclosed and wonders if it will beat the snow to completion. November empties.

We’re not whole yet. Artist friends have consoled us by telling us that we, like them, are crazy, fools, looked on askance by the more sane and secure. We finish walking larger parcels of land – places that beckon a phantom monastery – and we come home to where we are physical hermitage. Clarity (the artists’ name) says you have to go to the large to return to the small.

Perhaps death is large and life is small, or is it the other way round? The small, the minute, calls. Like fools we listen, somersault, loft juggler’s praise, prayer, & paean to the light – traipsing on!

Poet Wendell Berry in Testament writes,

But do not let your ignorance
of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
you, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say
anything too final. Whatever
is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
let imagination figure
your hope. That will be generous
to me and to yourselves. Why settle
for some know-it-all's despair
when the dead may dance to the fiddle
hereafter, for all anybody knows?

We are at war, or so they say. As fools we play out a story that is unfinished and uncertain. Here’s my play -- we stop bombing and we mourn the dead. We sip tea and listen to all the edges of words that wobble and topple into depths unseen. Then we dream death through and celebrate everything alive, everything that simply is. We smile and thank our friends and enemies for their gifts. We accept 3 juggling balls and begin to practice an art few undertake. Toss and catch, fall and retrieve, come into each other’s presence and bow with joy -- simply, silently, serving…

Perhaps, with humility,
, Sando , Mini and all who grace Meetingbrook,   6Nov2001   




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