Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
Theme -- This Now Here: Nothing Else
How far beyond?
We forget where we are going. We do this when we refuse to acknowledge where
So our Lord’s sheep will finally
reach their grazing ground where all who follow him in simplicity of heart
will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual
joys of heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded
vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.
Beloved brothers [and sisters],
let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with
so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge
us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly
for what heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our
way. No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn
us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined
to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that
leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we
shall be like a foolish traveller who is so distracted by the pleasant
meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going.
(--From a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope; Office of
Readings, 4th Sunday of Easter)
Tonight, steady rain. In the past two days soft green emergence of sprig leaf
on edge of branch the mountain length.
Always it happens when we
are not there--
The tree leaps up alive into
Small open parasols of Chinese
Wave on each twig. But who
has ever seen
The latch sprung, the bud
as it burst?
Spring always manages to get
Lovers of wind, who will have
Of a faint stirring in the
Look up one day through a
To find no star, but this
Shadow on shadow, singing
sweet and clear.
Listen, lovers of wind, the
leaves are here!
Poem: "Metamorphosis," by May Sarton, from Collected Poems 1930-1993.)
“We arrive at something,” Roethke said in a poem, “without knowing why.”
Psalms, Chapter 73
1. How good God is to the upright,
the Lord, to those who are clean of heart!
2. But, as for me, I lost
my balance; my feet all but slipped,
3. Because I was envious of
the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4. For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are healthy and sleek.
5. They are free of the burdens
of life; they are not afflicted like others.
6. Thus pride adorns them
as a necklace; violence clothes them as a robe.
7. Out of their stupidity
comes sin; evil thoughts flood their hearts.
8. They scoff and spout their
malice; from on high they utter threats.
9. They set their mouths against
the heavens, their tongues roam the earth.
10. So my people turn to them
and drink deeply of their words.
11. They say, "Does God
really know?" "Does the Most High have any knowledge?"
12. Such, then, are the wicked,
always carefree, increasing their wealth.
13. Is it in vain that I have
kept my heart clean, washed my hands in innocence?
14. For I am afflicted day
after day, chastised every morning.
15. Had I thought, "I
will speak as they do," I would have betrayed your people.
16. Though I tried to understand
all this, it was too difficult for me,
17. Till I entered the sanctuary
of God and came to understand their end.
18. You set them, indeed,
on a slippery road; you hurl them down to ruin.
19. How suddenly they are
devastated; undone by disasters forever!
20. They are like a dream
after waking, Lord, dismissed like shadows when you arise.
21. Since my heart was embittered
and my soul deeply wounded,
22. I was stupid and could
not understand; I was like a brute beast in your presence.
23. Yet I am always with you;
you take hold of my right hand.
24. With your counsel you
guide me, and at the end receive me with honor.
25. Whom else have I in the
heavens? None beside you delights me on earth.
26. Though my flesh and my
heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.
27. But those who are far
from you perish; you destroy those unfaithful to you.
28. As for me, to be near
God is my good, to make the Lord GOD my refuge. I shall declare all your
works in the gates of daughter Zion.
(in New American Bible)
The mistake we make is thinking anyone has a lock on the mind of God. The equal
mistake is imagining nature has gone any further than coming close to mere
beginning to disclose her mystery. The tragic mistake is the perennial imposition
of personal or narrow psychological interpretation on the enormous and immeasurable
realm of human existence.
Garrison Keillor writes that yesterday, the 3rd, was the birthday of Niccolo
Machiavelli, born in Florence, Italy (1469)
Machiavelli's main point in
The Prince is that the most important task for a ruler is to keep his country
secure and peaceful, using whatever means possible. Sometimes, this means
doing things that most people would consider immoral, but Machiavelli said
that that's just part of the job.
He was cynical about human
nature: he argued that it was natural for most people to be selfish, and
so a great ruler has to accept that he lives in an immoral world. He wrote, "A
man who might want to make a show of goodness in all things necessarily
comes to ruin among so many who are not good. Because of this it is necessary
for a prince, wanting to maintain himself, to learn how to be able to be
not good and to use this and not use it according to necessity."
He also argued that most people
value their property more than the lives of their friends and family, and
so in some situations it's okay for rulers to kill their citizens, but
it's almost never okay to take away their property. He wrote, "Men
must be either pampered or crushed, because they can get revenge for small
injuries, but not for grievous ones. So any injury a prince does a man
should be of a kind where there is no fear of revenge."
(in "The Writer's Almanac", by Garrison Keillor, May 3, 2004)
As a friend often says, “It is difficult trying to overcome the human.” I'd,
rather, prefer to see the difficulty as proprietary opinion claiming sovereignty
over depth consciousness. The ‘human’ is a particular mode of intelligence.
It is not the whole of intelligence. It is, however, an intelligence adept
at protecting and preserving its own interests. It is a combative intelligence
that seeks to win – (however ‘win’ is understood) -- the real or perceived
contests it engages in, the benefit of which is usually some prize, or power,
or reward available only to the winner.
Nature seems a different intelligence. The majestic mystery of nature bursts
forth in Midcoast Maine these days. Winter behind us. Now is flowering time.
The intelligence of nature stands still within itself -- where it is, as it
Meetingbrook remains uncertain. No inspiration resolves. It is a change of
season. Nothing special, nothing comprehensible emerges. What has occurred?
MME MARTIN: Quelle a la morale?
LE POMPIER: C'est a vous de
(Ionesco, La Cantatrice Chauve)
So much feels absurd. The shop is absurd. The war is absurd. The bickering,
posturing, and attacks on each other by presidential incumbent and candidate – this
too is absurd.
And then I realize most of my life is absurd.
In The Myth of Sisyphus,
Camus tried to diagnose the human condition in a world of shattered beliefs:
"A world that can be
explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in a universe
that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranger.
His is a irremediable exile, because he is deprived of memories of a lost
homeland as much as he lacks the hope of a promised land to come. This
divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes
the feeling of Absurdity." (Camus, p.18)
means "out of harmony," in a musical context. Hence its dictionary
definition: "out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous,
unreasonable, illogical." In common usage in the English-speaking
world, "absurd" may simply mean "ridiculous." But this
is not the sense in which Camus means the word, and in which it is used
when we speak of the Theatre of the Absurd. In an essay on Kafka, Ionesco
defined his understanding of the term as follows: "Absurd is that
which is devoid of purpose.... Cut off from his religious, metaphysical,
and transcendental roots, man is lost; all his actions become senseless,
(Eugene Ionesco, "Dans les Armes de la Ville") (p.xix, in The Theatre of the Absurd,
by Martin Esslin, c.1961)
Luckily (or not) I was steeped in existential philosophy, theatrical, and political
expressions of absurdity during formative years. Poetry and spirituality seemed
the only sanity. I wonder -- with what are we out of harmony? With what imperceptible
sphere of being are we attempting to find harmony?
When we forget where we are going, when we feel lost, we can at least look,
and try to see where we are.
Stand still. The trees ahead
and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you
are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a
Must ask permission to know
it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen.
I have made this place around
If you leave it you may come
back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same
No two branches are the same
If what a tree or a bush does
is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand
still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let
it find you.
(Poem “Lost” by David Wagoner)
We lose our way. We wander in circles -- first wide, then narrow. Artists we
know say it is going to the large to return to the small. This time it feels
like plunging through the open earth. What is the consequence? What retrieval
is possible in this unknowing return?
But what about things that
We see sun shining on the
ground, and the dry dust,
And at home the forests deep
And smoke flowering from the
Peacefully, near the ancient
These signs of daily life
Even when by contrast something
Has injured the soul.
For snow sparkles on an alpine
Half-covered with green, signifying
Of spirit in all situations,
like flowers in May —
A wanderer walks up above
on a high trail
And speaks irritably to a
friend about a cross
He sees in the distance, set
Who died on the path... what
does it mean?
(from poem "Mnemosyne" —Third version, by Friedrich Hölderlin)
Is the function of sighted cross for us to ask…"What does it mean?"
We turn around and find ourselves, uncertainly, where we are. Near origin.
For whatever dwells
Close to its origin is loath to
leave the place
(from “The Journey” by Holderlin)
We listen, nesciently. The sound of rain through the night – the sound of it
saying: stand still; dwell close to origin. C'est
a vous de la trouver.
In the encircling swirl of absurdity, we are lovers of the wind.
It moves where it will. And who knows?
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge ,
and all who grace Meetingbrook
4 May 2004, Full Moon