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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
October 2004

Theme: What is truly creative must create itself

In prison one Friday, Joe and I were talking about irony. Our context was an Independent Study on “Fantasy, Myth, and Enchantment as Self Discovery.”

“Irony,” from Greek, eironeia, is feigned ignorance.

i·ro·ny  n. pl. i·ro·nies

  1. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
  2. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
  3. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect. See Synonyms at wit1.
  4. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: “Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated” (Richard Kain).
  5. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity. See Usage Note at ironic.
  6. Dramatic irony.
  7. Socratic irony.

(From http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=irony )

It is an ironic time in politics, baseball, and creative life. We pretend we do not know what is happening. Bush and Kerry will face off on November 2nd. The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals begin a World Series best of 7 on Oct 23rd. And contemplative creators continually have to decide to allow what is pulsing through them for presence in the world to come through and take “place” in the world.

What is our place in the world?

When the mind neither sorrows nor delights, that is supreme attainment of virtue. To succeed without changing is supreme attainment of calm. To be unburdened by habitual desires is supreme attainment of emptiness. To have no likes and dislikes is supreme attainment of equanimity. Not getting mixed up with things is supreme attainment of purity. Those who can accomplish these five things reach spiritual illuminations. Those who reach spiritual illumination are those who attain the inward.
- Huai-nan-tzu

Perhaps the “inward” is the thin-place between the dualistic notions of inside and outside. Perhaps the inward is our place in the world.

God is the only creator ab initio. The creation of works of art would therefore come under the head of the active life, as the enjoyment of works of art would come under that of the contemplative life. But the essential difference, as I have already pointed out, is this – that the writer of a poem or the composer of a symphony has as his end, neither possession nor contemplation, but the bringing of a new sort of thing in the world. The poet or painter may indeed give us recognizable likenesses of the forms of common experience; to this extent they use imitation as a means to their further ends. But the poem or the painting in itself is a thing in itself and not an imitation of anything already in the world. It is sui generis, a new creation, and belongs to a different order of being from anything it imitates. Y.B. Yeats speaks of the poets as people whose work exists not primarily to help or to inform us. When we read them, he says, we “have added to our being, not to our knowledge.” It is the impulse to “add to being” which is the distinctive mark of the creative way of life. (p.117 “The Three Faces of Love” by A.D. Hope, in The Poet’s Work, 29 Masters of 20th Century Poetry on the Origins and Practice of their Art, edited by Reginald Gibbons, c.1979)

How do we add to what is? Is that where the inward takes place? The place of the inward is fully dwelling Being.

The essential thing about education for the creative life as distinct from education for the active or the contemplative life is this: that what is truly autonomous must be self-initiating, or it stops being autonomous. For the active life the ends in view are practical ends which depend for their formulation on the known facts about man and society. The form that education for the active life should take can therefore be determined in advance. Similarly, for the contemplative life of the world as it exists in its object and perhaps God insofar as he is knowable. The conditions of the contemplative life can therefore be set out in advance. But the ends of the creative life can therefore be set out in advance. But the ends of the creative life can only be surmised, and the great difference between its conditions and the other two modes of human existence is that what is truly creative must create itself. This is the axiom on which any view of education for the creative life must be based. (pp.119-120, A.D. Hope)

Creating itself (or, the Creative Itself) is perhaps God insofar as God is knowable.

Irony is feigned ignorance. We cultivate ignorance in the same way we miss facts until someone gathers them in a way and, when shown, we say, “Oh, I see.”

You've always painted the Bush administration as these macho poseurs, phony gunslinger tough guys. Is that the kind of daddy we're looking for?

Yeah. And that's probably why Bush didn't let his own daddy speak at the Republican National Convention -- which was unbelievable that a former president who went to war with Iraq wasn't given a speaking slot. But Bush didn't want the real daddy, because the real daddy has differences with him on the Iraq war. The ironies of that are beyond belief. The father went to war in Iraq to defend the principle that you can't invade another country unilaterally; the son goes to war with Iraq to establish the principle that you can invade another country unilaterally.

(“Ms. Bush-Bash,” Does anyone understand Dubya better than New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd? Oct 6, 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine)

I’d not seen Dowd’s observation before.

Nor had Ron Suskind comprehended what he’d been told two years ago:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ''Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.'' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ''Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.''
(October 17, 2004, 
IN THE New York Times MAGAZINE, “Without a Doubt ‘ By Ron Suskind)

Perhaps the time for debate is over. We’ve listened to each other too long. It is time to allow those who know best to run things, run our lives, run the country and the world. Perhaps, as  Aldous Huxley’s Mustapha Mond in Brave New World says:

"The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old agethey're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma."
­Mustapha Mond (p.220)

"Call it the fault of civilization. God isn't compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice. Our civilization has chosen machinery and medicine and happiness. That's why I have to keep these books [i.e. the Bible, the Imitation of Christ, Varieties of Religious Experience, Works of John Cardinal Newman] locked up in the safe. They're smut"
-Mustapha Mond (p. 234)

Then, another voice is heard:

"But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
"In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."
"All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."

-Mustapha Mond and John the Savage (240)

I claim the right to be unhappy. Right now Boston has the reality of playing in the World Series and the possibility of winning. Right now the election between Bush and Kerry is still open to a fair and deliberative choice. Right now we each have an opportunity in our lives not to have to feign ignorance in order to have voice in the world.

"Place" is "Creating Itself.”



With gratitude,

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

Feast of John of Capistrano

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



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