Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Happy Lent!

Happy Lent!

For some reason it's always a relief when Ash Wednesday rolls around. There's something comforting about hearing the words 'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...' It's a reminder that all those imagined burdens and the weight of the world are most definitely not on my shoulders. I can fast and pray and try to make peace in my life and community, and respond to the requests made to me, but in the cosmic picture I am an insignificant speck, a speck, however, that is beloved of God. And because of that love, our prayer matters, far more than we can ask or imagine. Let us all pray for peace in this time of crisis.

Recently Graham Edwards gave me a translation of a poem by De Guileville, a tribute to St Benedict and his sister, Scholastica. You may recall that Gregory the Great in Dialogues 2.33 recounts the story of their meeting. She desires him to stay longer so that they can talk 'of the joys of heavenly life [de caelestis vitae gaudiis].' When he shows reluctance to remain, she prays with tears that miraculously set off a thunderstorm, thereby preventing his departure. [Apologies for the formatting problems]

Inundacio pluvie                           I ask that the downpouring rain
Dei misericordie                            Of the mercy of God may now
Adsit michi per sororem;               Assist me by thy sister's act.
Per vos ambos fons gracie             By both of you may grace's fount
Stillaque dulcis venie                    And the drip of gentle pardon
Recreet me peccatorum;                Revive me, sinner as I am;
Per vos spernam mundi florem,     By you I shall spurn the world's bloom,
Eius vana et honorem                    Its vanities and its honour,
Erecta mentis facie                         Having raised the face of the mind
Ad bonorum largitorum                 To the bestower of good things
Et pium distributorem                     And the pious distributor
Donorum regnil glorie.                   Of the gifts of glory's kingdom.


Anonymous Matthew said...

Hi Maggie,

I know that you're not a fan of Thomas Merton but your post reminded me of something Rowan Williams said in a lecture in 2008 - here it is:
'I think I will have to become a Christian', says Merton, meaning, if I read him correctly, 'I think I will have to understand that a proper theology of the death of Christ tells me I'm not serious: God is serious; my condition is serious; sin is serious; the Cross is serious. But somehow, out of all this comes the miracle, the 'unbearable lightness of being' as you might say: the recognition that my reality rests 'like a feather on the breath of God'. It is because God speaks, because God loves and it is for no other reason. And if we want to know what it is to say that I am, the only answer is 'I am because of the love of God'. And when I seek to justify, defend or systematize what I am, I become 'serious'. I cease to be a feather on the breath of God and gravity draws me down into darkness.'

9:24 am, March 06, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

@ Matthew

So lovely how you brought forth the thin line between physics and theology in your interpretation...

10:30 am, March 06, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

@ desertfisher
Thanks for your comment but I don't want to give the impression I wrote it - it is a direct quote from a paper Rowan Williams gave. As I have thought about it this morning I have been thinking about the 'fact' that even if we are depressed or hopeless and our subjective feelings are bleak, it doesn't change the reality of who we are in God. I guess that isn't much help when we are in the darkness of depression but it might at least alter our perception, it might give a sense that we are much more (much 'lighter') than our sometimes dark/heavy thoughts and feelings. I am no expert though - I am just speaking personally. Here is the link to the paper:

12:11 pm, March 06, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

@ Matthew

Thank you for the link. Reading the whole lecture helps a lot in understanding Merton, whose prose are profound and magnetic but whose melancholia was laden with so much guilt, and ironically, with serious self-referentiality - seems the very reason why Barth appealed to him so dearly. His religious anthropology can be gleaned from this line in his journal: "Everything else is only wrath, flame, torment, judgement."

But times have changed...

2:20 pm, March 06, 2014  
Anonymous Matthew said...

Yes there is something deeply ironic about a seriously self-referential Trappist monk!

I must admit that I did pluck the quote out of the paper but it seemed to chime in with what Maggie was saying and is a playful way of putting it. I was struck by the phrase 'when I seek to justify, defend or systematize what I am, I become 'serious'' - all those actions seem to be the self-conscious mind's attempt to maintain it's 'authority' when what is being asked is that it 'raise it's the bestower of good things', in other words, to behold, to let go...

4:45 pm, March 06, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

@ Matthew

The line "like a feather on the breath of God' is definitely playful, reminding me of Forrest Gump mesmerized by that falling white feather in front of him. Gump could also be a beautiful reminder of that 'lightness of being' that resonates with a beatitude: blessed are the simple. Density in simplicity...

3:53 am, March 07, 2014  
Anonymous Abigail Tingman said...

Dear Maggie et. al,
I am so enjoying this discussion so far. It brings to mind something I read recently (but cannot locate) which paraphrased stated: our importance lies in that we exist. There is nothing more to do. To realize it is of course good, but to not realize it ... well, doesn't alter the fact. (I especially enjoyed it being contrary to the "I think therefore I am" foolishness.) If we see our own implicit importance, can we then deny anyone else's"? Blessings all.

4:39 am, March 07, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie et al,

On a day when (I think!) we are celebtrating the prayer of women, a prayer I came across in a book about The Virgin by Spretnak. The prayer is by Alla Bozarth.

"Before Jesus
was his Mother.
Before supper
in the upper room,
beakfast in the barn.
Before the Passover Feast,
a feed trough.
And here, the altar
of Earth, fair linens
of hay and seed.
Before his cry,
her cry.
Before his sweat
of blood,
her bleeding and tears.
Before his offering,
Before the breaking
of bread and death,
the breaking of her
body in birth.
Before the offering
of the cup,
the offering
of her breast.
Before his blood,
her blood.
And by her body and blood
alone, his body and blood
and a whole human being.
The wise ones knelt
to hear the woman's word
in wonder.
Holding up her sacred child,
her God in the form of a babe,
she said: "Receive and let
your hearts be healed
and your lives be filled
with love, for
This is my body,
This is my blood".

It makes me think/realise: no Mary = no Lent.


8:38 am, March 07, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Buddhist might say, "We are the universe regarding itself."

Abigail, If it is true that we are because we are is it also true that we do because we do? That's it and enough and fine because how can it be otherwise?

It seems we choose to draw a line and think/say/act as if this line is Something! Noticing the fallacy of and then letting go of the idea that boundaries we deem true are fixed (thus the crux of reality until it is proven otherwise) is a large part of the so called maturation process. Letting go of becomes habitual in other words.

A Buddhist might then say, "Watch out! Don't stop there!" Or just laugh.


5:53 pm, March 07, 2014  
Anonymous abigail Tingman said...

Mike, I'm not so sure we do because we do. Consider,
when asked, "What are you?" Most people answer with what they do. "I am a doctor, lawyer, butcher, etc." We (folks) generally evaluate ourselves by what we do. However, the writing I was referring to was saying "What we do doesn't matter," doing being more and less than our occupations. The point is, I think, that our importance lies in our being, because we've done nothing to be. We can take absolutely no credit for it whatsoever. We are here by another's plan (read God's) and therein lies our significance. Bless. G.

8:31 pm, March 08, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

Doing is a function and helper of being. Doing is (humanely) a function and helper of silence. Discernment or embodied habit of silence allows the seeing if a doing is organically derived from being, otherwise the alternative is self-destructive ego-tripping even in its sugar-coated prose or any logos.

11:52 pm, March 08, 2014  
Anonymous Abigail Tingman said...

dear desesrtfisher...
Yes! Doing is a function of being, and as I think you also point out, so is not doing. I have found, in the church especially, that there are the "see-ers" vs the "doers" with much animas between (never mind the competition within} each mounting an imagined platform from which to condescend. If we could better appreciate that our doing and our seeing are simply functions of our being, might all the lines that Mike refers to, disappear? Thanks and blessings, A.

9:44 am, March 09, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe so! At least the structures which tend to lineate being/doing would be less discerning!

Suppose being/doing moves. From I am because I am (to) I am BECAUSE God speaks Love (to) I am IS God's Love (to) I am God's love.

Call this Qualifiers falling off. Making less of lines. Within this being/doing becoming less a part from and more part of.


3:51 pm, March 09, 2014  
Anonymous abigail Tingman said...

Mike, I like that. How about this: "I am because I am" - to - "I am because I am loved (by God) - to - I am because I am God's love -to- I am because you are God's love. ?
You wrote, "we are the universe regarding itself." Curiously, last week a thought confronted me... which was: each one of us contains a universe. (The thought was more a picture than words )This helped me to see, again, the unique and immense value of each one, regardless of earthbound assessment. Compatible or no? Abigail

6:22 pm, March 09, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abigail, A "we contain a universe." awareness is not so different than "we are the self awareness universe." I think it somewhat presumptuous altogether but tools for modeling, come where they may, are to be used.

Regarding the progression. I am trying suggest that we do not need to have a say in this. There is no "because" involved. There is no equation with factors like because and is making linkages. I stopped the progression but that does not mean it ends because imagination or experience runs dry.

Perhaps there is no balancing necessary in this God/I stuff. The sense of separation is a seeming, so not a truth. If the truth was separation, beholding would be nothing at all. There would be no echo to birth a thought. Seems to me anyway.

The "I am because you are ..." is a good step in extinguishing distinctions of separation so I like it.

Dualities, as systems, are to be regarded with suspicion as such are incomplete. Thus it seems to me to be something to consider when thinking about God/I (am not you) stuff.


12:49 am, March 10, 2014  
Anonymous desertfisher said...

@ Abigail and Mike:
Your attempts for the erasure of all distinctions may be laudable in its ideal sense. But even Eckhart and past writers were wary of the blurring of the distinction between Creator and creation not until the promise of the afterlife probably will make it real, or the occasional "experience" of self-forgetfulness while sitting in the dark. Otherwise, every human consciousness has to return to its creatureliness, and from there and through it, soar over and over despite the many falls. Paradoxically, the 'not arriving' renders its own joy.

3:24 am, March 10, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


well ... speaking for myself.

When I engage here it is play, albeit play with a serious purpose. That playful purpose being to live as best I am able inclusively. In this life. I am not good at doing this.

Nor am I presenting "an ideal" of anything laudable. Just working on a model. As Meister Eckhart did. Yes?

Take care.


5:30 pm, March 10, 2014  
Anonymous sgl said...

unrelated to this post, but thought you and your audience might appreciate the following (~5 min) video:

Robert Coles on Ruby Bridges

robert coles is a child psychologist, and ruby bridges was a 6 year old black girl in new orleans during the civil rights era. she was the first and only black girl sent to a white school under court order, escorted by 25 federal marshals every day thru protests and death threats, with every other white family withdrawing their children from the school, so she went to school alone. yet she didn't suffer any psychological effects from that. in this interview with the psychologist who worked with her, he explains why.

(source i originally heard about the video:

for those that prefer text, here's ruby's story in her own words, much the same as the video:

8:44 pm, March 12, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie, Desertfisher, Abigail and ...

If letting go of all that I have must, it seems, include the ideas arising from/in living this life, then this surrender must include created and creator, it must include faith in the certainty of Gods presence, Love has to go, and any idea concerning/about what might follow death.

Given this, what is meaning and what is present? What does it mean to be present as a hidden life?

This is why I can only describe (my participation in) this as play.


5:02 pm, March 14, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all again,

"Enlightenment is not an isolated state, and the pursuit of enlightenment is futile without a context. The recourse is to establish a way of living, a path." (quoted from Not this, not that, an essay by Meng-hu filed under Hermits Thatch on the blog site Hermitary.}

I am answered (again and well it seems) in this essay particularly as it regards Desertfisher's comment on caution and having a concern for limits. And what historically might be included in establishing such.

This essay is on topic with what we were discussing here and IMO worth reading.

So, as I did not include such (or particularly well understand the nature of what you wrote) thank you Desertfisher.


7:35 pm, March 14, 2014  
Anonymous abigail Tingman said...

Dear Mike,
I think we might all agree that though we aspire to erase lines and separations, we do so knowing we will not succeed, at least for very long, as Desertfisher points out. So, is this foolishness or wisdom, to keep trying? There is an irony to our solitude bringing us together, just as there is irony to a person in a crowded bus station never feeling so alone. I have found that not succeeding is very different from failing, and not so different from succeeding. So we go on, alone together. Yes? A.

11:14 pm, March 14, 2014  
Anonymous deserfisher said...

On the paradox of context:

I hear the one true thing
Black rain on the roof of Fukakusa temple

Master Dogen

6:19 am, March 15, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just sitting, breathing.
rain murmurs of nothing much.
who shall count this ten?

2:49 pm, March 15, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abigail & desertfisher,

Perhaps the desire to eliminate divisions is most strong when what one sees/feels is perceived as bars on a cage rather than the spaces in between.

Thank you both.


1:50 pm, March 16, 2014  

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