Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What stranger miracles are there?

Yesterday Bro. Juniper picked up a copy of "Leaves of Grass" from a used book store, and just moments ago, outside with but lantern light, read "Miracles" to himself, to those of us still sorting through our seeds and nuts, and to the overhead canopy of stars.


WHY! who makes much of a miracle?  
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,  
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,  
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,  
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,  
Or talk by day with any one I love—or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,  
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,  
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,  
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,  
Or birds—or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,  
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down—or of stars shining so quiet and bright,  
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;  
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best—mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans—or to the soiree—or to the opera,  
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,  
Or behold children at their sports,  
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman,  
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;  
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,  
The whole referring—yet each distinct, and in its place.  
To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,  
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,  
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;  
Every spear of grass—the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns them,  
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.  
To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships, with men in them,  
What stranger miracles are there?

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
Leaves of Grass

Preparing for the journey

Bro. Clarence and Bro. Juniper returned with the pickup truck filled with seeds and nuts and grains and dried fruits and an assortment of ingredients that will become our diet for next week, some call it trail mix. I understand that Bro. Clarence will be collecting yucca leaves, or I should say, the fibers from the yucca that he will use in his ongoing weaving projects. Most of us are now sporting woven yucca fiber hats, a few with woven yucca fiber sandals, and I can only imagine what his creative mind will come up with next. But for today and tomorrow, several of us will be mixing and bagging our trail mix, and with this vacuum contraption that Bro. Juniper purchased, we will be filling plastic bags with trail mix, then the bags will be vacuumed-packed for long term storage.

On another note, Bro. Robert said something interesting during our noontime meal: "Many people believe that you must first somehow decide whether or not God exists before joining a religion, but the opposite is true. One becomes religious so as to make God present in one’s life. Whether or not God exists is a separate issue. The important point is to make him present and real, and thus inhabit the space where our true humanness emerges."

I thought this is very fitting with Rosh Hashanah just past, the Jewish New Year, the time of reflection, the time to ponder who we now are and who we wish to be or become, and as is his custom, Bro. Sedwick sounded his shofar, the rams horn, the trumpeting that awakens us all from our slumber and reminds us of the coming judgment, and hearing this I ask myself, can one as Bro. Robert suggests immerse oneself in the unknown, at least unknown for the one taking the leap, and upon this new and uncharted path that one then finds oneself, can one experience a newness that one had never experienced before?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A time for retreat

Bro. Clarence along with Bro. Juniper have departed on a mission to Barstow to pick up some provisions for our anticipated retreat the first week of October. A few of us have decided that with the dropping of the daytime temperature, that we take advantage of it and will do a bit of desert hiking and camping for a week. I must admit, I do need to retreat from electricity and all things electrified from time to time. We do keep these sort of retreats very simply, none of the modern camping gear, certainly no global positioning devices, but I will have an old Boy Scout compass, and a hand drawn map that late Bro. Donovan left us. He was a true trailblazer, and if one simply follows the lines drawn on his numerous maps, one will not fail to be taken on an extraordinary journey through this Mojave landscape. Oh yes, as Bro. Clarence was getting into the pickup truck, he handed me this handwritten paper, and with no time to explain, he simply said, "Something to discuss upon my return." With that, the pickup sped away, and for half an hour I could still see a far off swirl of dust and could only imagine Bro. Clarence holding on for dear life as Bro. Juniper, behind the wheel, drove that dirt road like it was the Indy speedway.

Bro. Clarence's handwritten note:

"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For He spoke and they came into being

During break fast, Bro. Juniper was musing about Psalm 148, which I do think was prompted by his predawn desert walk, which I admit, put me too in the same frame of mind. First he questioned just how does the wind, or a cloud praise God? How does a tree praise God? How does the rain, or how does a rock praise God? As you can imagine, the break fast table remained silent, awaiting Bro. Juniper's "punch line" which was, each creation gives praise by its being itself. A tree is a tree and by being a tree it shouts to the universe, a tree I am, just so. But then Bro. Clarence questioned humans, can a human give praise to God just by being itself? He thought not, for of all creation, only humans can choose to be not what they are to be. Which Bro. Sedwick thought gave whole new meaning to Hamlet's "To be, or not to be." With that we heard shouts from outside, break fast was over, there is work to be done, yes, another chance to be human, another chance to praise God.
Bro. Bartleby

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens! Praise Him on high!
Praise Him, all His angels! Praise Him, all His army!
Praise Him, sun and moon! Praise Him, all you shining stars!
Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord! For He spoke and they came into being.
He has made them last forever and ever. He has set a Law which will not pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you large sea animals and all seas, fire and hail, snow and clouds, and wind storms, obeying His Word.
Praise the Lord, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all tall trees, wild animals and all cattle, small animals that move on the ground and birds that fly, kings of the earth and all people, princes and all leaders of the earth, both young men and women who have never had men, and old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord. For His name alone is honored. His shining-greatness is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all who belong to Him, for the people of Israel, who are near to Him. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


How can a rabbi not live with doubt? The Bible itself is a book of doubt.
--Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg

Monday, September 18, 2006

Where were you?

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
--Job 38:4-7

Friday, September 15, 2006

Monkeying around

"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
-- Frederick Hoyle (British astrophysicist)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Do you think that is really small?

This evening at the dining table Bro. Juniper produced a tiny artifact, held in the palm of his hand, yet for the life of me, for I was seated across the dining table, his palm appeared to be empty. "See," he said as he thrust his open hand under the nose of Bro. Simon. "You mean that?" Bro. Simon blurted, his brow furrowed as his nose actually touched Bro. Juniper's hand. "Exactly," replied Bro. Juniper with a bit of bravado in his voice, "a grain of sand!" And with that he plucked the grain of sand up and held it for all to see, yet I confess I still could not see that grain of sand, and now scooting his chair back, Bro. Juniper quickly rose and after clearing his throat, recited William Blake:
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour..."
With that Bro. Clarence, with chicken drumstick still in hand, said, "Do you think that is really small?" Bro. Juniper turned to Bro. Clarence and said, "Yes." Bro. Clarence, seated at the end of the table, finished picking his drumstick clean, then paused while wiping his hands on a napkin, then said, "In string theory, the average size of a string is somewhere near the length scale of quantum gravity ... that called the Planck length ..." and now finished with his hands, Bro. Clarence rolled the napkin into a ball, and continued, "do you understand that the Planck length is about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter?" Then with the tiny compacted spitball of a napkin, he positioned it between his "spring loaded" middle finger and thumb, then released the spitball into the air, sailing over Bro. Juniper's head while saying, "I think you're poetic grain of sand is about the size of Jupiter in comparison to that spitball ..." With that, Bro. Juniper burst into laughter, and so too Bro. Clarence.

The pith of the pithy few

"Naturally there are many forms of stupid religion, for there is nothing touched by humans that cannot be made stupid. But at least religion as such does not exclude the possibility and priority of Intelligence, and therefore, Truth."

Over at One Cosmos One Cosmos: Atheism and Other Attacks on Mind Bro. Bob is the pith of the pithy few, habitually straying off the beaten paths, yet never failing to discover gems and nuggets that all others have overlooked on those less travelled ways. He will open your eyes, your mind, make you shake your head, sometimes in disbelief, sometimes in disagreement, but that is how it should be.

Friday, September 08, 2006

a Verb

"God, to me, it seems, is a verb, not a noun, proper or improper."

-- Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)

[Rethinking the Lord's Pray, Fuller came up with a new version each night! But here is one version from 1976 "Being With Bucky"]

Our God, who art in we even,
even we who know most intimately
of our own weaknesses, failures, faults, and outright sins
our selfishness, fear and cupidity,
of our moments of jealousy, rage and hate
secret cover-ups, lies and self-deceits
God even of we
Our God -- our intuitively-apprehended comprehensive-admonisher
Omni-experienced is your identity,
the everywhere and everywhen evolving omnireality
is your presence

and as the reality differs _uniquely_ from moment to moment
in respect to each individual
so do you speak to each
in exquisitely relevant, instructive terms
regarding that which the individual
can most effectively do
not in behalf of self
but in behalf of all humanity

and Thus in support of the intellectual functioning of humans
thereby in local universe support
of the eternal integrity of omniregenerative universe
which is God.

As omniexperience, you have given us
overwhelming manifest
of your complete knowledge
your complete comprehension
your complete concern
your complete wisdom
your complete responsibility
your complete co-ordination
your complete competence to cope
with any and all problems
and of your utter reliability
always so to do
Yours, dear God, is all the glory.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Desert Island Book

Bro. Cosmos has recommended this:

Meditations on the Tarot, by Anonymous.

"First of all, don’t be put off by the title, because it’s not really about the tarot per se. Rather, the author simply uses the cards as archetypal launch pads that inspire among the deepest and most wide-ranging meditations on spirituality I’ve ever encountered."

I hope to read it soon, and before the other brothers chime in with their desert island picks.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When bad skeptics became good skeptics

What I find most interesting is how the negative attributes of folks in the past became positive attributes when the scientific method took root. The doubters and the skeptics of the past, all the attributes that the church frowned upon, became the lifeblood of science -- organized skepticism. Rome would never reward the doubting bishop, yet the scientific community embraces the doubters, that is, as long as the doubters and skeptics can prove their doubts. Doubts and rewards, the driving force of science. Present your theory, and you have just invited all your colleagues to punch holes in it, yet if they can't, then you're the hero of the day! And this is why traditional organized religion has been left behind, those that yield not to challenge and debate, those that still scorn doubt and skepticism, must either retreat to their sheltered enclaves, or prepare themselves for many bloody noses in the days ahead.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open.
--Thomas Merton