Hermit's Corner Meetingbrook Home Page
Bookshop & Bakery Running comments on Meetingbrook
Hermitage Update About Meetingbrook
Meetingbrook Events Meetingbrook Home Page

Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
May 2004

Theme -- This Now Here: Nothing Else

How far beyond?

We forget where we are going. We do this when we refuse to acknowledge where we are.

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 the air,
Small open parasols of Chinese green
Wave on each twig. But who has ever seen
The latch sprung, the bud as it burst?
Spring always manages to get there first.

Lovers of wind, who will have been aware
Of a faint stirring in the empty air,
Look up one day through a dissolving screen
To find no star, but this multiplied green,
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 is.

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 la trouver.

(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)

"Absurd" originally 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, absurd, useless."

(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 powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
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 love?
We see sun shining on the ground, and the dry dust,
And at home the forests deep with shadows,
And smoke flowering from the rooftops,
Peacefully, near the ancient crowning towers.
These signs of daily life are good,
Even when by contrast something divine
Has injured the soul.
For snow sparkles on an alpine meadow,
Half-covered with green, signifying generosity
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 for someone
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?

Beyond me.

, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
and all who grace Meetingbrook

4 May 2004, Full Moon

Email (mono@meetingbrook.org) or mail to
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St. Camden, Maine 04843.



HomeEventsHermitage Update Bookshop & Bakery
Bookshop Recommendations About MeetingbrookHermit's Corner


Meetingbrook Hermitage
64 Barnstown Rd.,
Camden, Maine USA 04843
Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery
50 Bayview St. (Cape on the harbor)
Camden, Maine USA 04843
e-mail: mono@meetingbrook.org

© Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage

Web design by Karl Gottshalk