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Friday, March 31, 2006

Notes on the back of a pizza box

From the Big Bang (or any other starting point you wish to imagine), you are the results of a chain of a zillion events, and here you are, with that backpack of ‘all time’ on your back, every breath you take is that which moves you into the ever present. And now what?

Can you imagine jogging on a road paved with gold, not only would it be hard on the feet, but very cold.

Check eBay for bid on Jimmy Durante "September Song" LP.

I think the secret for an atheist to live a seemingly fulfilling life is to keep as busy and comfortable as possible. I can see that the life of science would be an ideal environment for this, because one could fill one’s life as a materialistic reductionalist, contently probing the ‘what, when, and how’ questions of the universe, and forever excluding or simply ignoring the ‘why’ questions. Alas, theologians find themselves with the ‘why’ question on their plate, and wrestle with it, even when ‘what/when/how’ folks point their collective fingers and laugh at the sorry sight. But, what can I say, free will made us do it.

To acknowledge one will never know the unknown does not negate the innate quest-seeking urge that one finds oneself harboring. I know that for me it would be an impossible quest to climb Mr. Everest, yet the effort and all that one would experience trekking up the foothills of that mount would be of great value to me. Yet also, to sit where one finds oneself and to meditate upon one’s present, would also be of great value to me.

Bro. Bartleby

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
—Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Passing of the Megaphone

At the monastery all speaking is done around a rather large wooden dining table (this the original handcrafted by Sherwood Covington) during either break fast or final meal. Years ago Abbot Eastley started the tradition of ‘passing the megaphone’ which allows all brothers to voice their opinions, but only when they are holders of the megaphone (the megaphone a gift from the dear abbot, it has painted on the side “YALE”—his alma mater, of course that from his former life). When one is ‘holder of the megaphone’ one is allowed to speak, and all other brothers must remain silent, that is, we are allowed to chalk retorts on our small hand-held chalkboards (that we carry during vows of silence). Frequently the retorts are hot and heavy, with many brothers waving their retorts above their heads, but still, the ‘holder of the megaphone’ commands the air, but if the biscuits begin flying, and many fingers are pointed to a particularly clever chalked retort, then the ‘holder of the megaphone’ must past the megaphone to the brother of the clever retort. This ‘passing of the megaphone’ normally is done without incident, but at times the holder simply talks on. At this point it becomes obvious that said brother is a ‘refusee’. If further chalked retorts do not resolve the matter, then Bro. Sedwick, a rather large and dour brother, manhandles the megaphone from the hands of the ‘refusee’. Thus the megaphone is passed, not the normal 'passing of the megaphone,' but what we call a 'forced passing' of said megaphone. I should add, sometimes after a particularly eventful forced passing, the ‘refusee’ is pelted with biscuits (a sad sight indeed if the break fast fare included biscuits and gravy).

Bro. Bartleby

Anyone here with two ears?

His disciples said, "Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it."

He said to them, "Anyone here with two ears had better listen! There is light within a person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark."

Jesus said, "Love your friends like your own soul, protect them like the pupil of your eye."

Jesus said, "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye."

"If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath you will not see the Father."

The Gospel of Thomas 24-27

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stripped Bare in the Monastery

Since those primeval nights we have sought to clothe evil in ever more elaborate finery, creating at times the garish and at others the sinister. So much so that we mistake the garb for the entity. In God's light all things stand naked, Truth is revealed and the nocturnal is exposed to the light of this Truth. Stripped naked evil quivers for what it is, the image of God denied. Free will is the agent.

Bro. Bartleby

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Notes on several napkins

The Big E-V-I-L

I'm more inclined to believe that evil is when one turns away from God, or even in ignorance, acts in opposite to the Light of God. Much of what in the past was considered evil incarnate, I would say was ignorance of mental illness. Of all the countless electrochemical processes that take place in the human brain, a symphony of precision and exactitude, it is mindboggling how we can be so 'normal' and then add the burden of the modern environment (or the ancient environment), and add all that takes place in the formation of the brain from conception until whatever current state you find yourself, amazing that 'it' works at all. So I view aberrations in human behavior as understandable, understandable in the sense that any man-made complex machine that could function year in and year out without 'crashing' is really unthinkable. Yet we consider it normal for the brain to do just that. But it does 'crash' in many nonfatal ways, in the ancient world we could only make sense of someone so 'disabled' as being possessed by evil spirits, today we seek to either repair the brain chemistry, or 'help' the mind to self repair. Some speak of great evil beings, such as Hitler and the Nazi 'elite', yet some of the decent beings that were eye witness to the Nazis more often than not came to report their own astonishment at the banality of these evil beings. In which I return to what I believe is the greatest evil, the 'reverse born again' or the turning away from God. I have never experience a credible personification of evil, one medical doctor that I know who once examined prisoners said he once experienced a prisoner that he was sure was possessed by a real evil that transcended 'mental illness'. For me, the first step in discernment is to use common sense and logic, and when it comes to evil humans, I find it too easy to logically uncover their behavior. If humans behaved as most animals behave, then we would call all humans evil, yet animals are not evil. Without self awareness, animals act only to survive, their actions are appropriate for survival, even when the actions bring horror to us humans. We do not consider animals possessed because they slaughter other animals, for them it is normal. So as we need not a personified evil such as Satan or devils to explain the actions of snakes and tigers and sharks, so too with those humans that turn away from God, for them evil is when one's self awareness is perverted to the point where empathy is lost, and then, with the masks of humans, these humans become animals.

Shalom,
Bro. Bartleby

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Reaching out ...

Recently we have noticed that when conversing with atheist about matters of spirit and soul, either their eyes glaze over or more often than not, they simply bristle. When we attempt to steer the conversation to matters of faith, simply bristling becomes hackles raised. So in the spirit of love and kindness, we in the monastery are attempting to reach out to atheist, especially those dedicated to the sciences, and this week the brothers are practicing the art of 'bristling' as many atheist seemed to have mastered. So this morning at break fast, instead of our usual spiritual cheerfulness, steeped in wittiness and sprinkled with sidesplitting laughter, we all attempted to furrow our brows, purse our lips, and hurl snappy retorts at one another. So far the experiment has gone exceedingly well, Bro. Cecil (in the kitchen this week with baking duties) ran out of biscuits and had to hurriedly bake a new batch, these being somewhat under baked, so many of the brothers left break fast with sticky biscuits still clinging to their robes. In our previous spiritual humor a brother with a clinging biscuit on his robe would produce much laughter, but a curious thing happened this morning, in our newfound 'bristling' it appears that these clinging biscuits are a sort of medal, or badge if you will, and Bro. Sedwick who had the most sticky biscuits clinging to his robe, seemed to bristle with delight, however paradoxical that may sound.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Unhappy Happy Satan Paradox

At break fast this morning (ham and eggs, sunnyside up, biscuits and gravy, and a cup of hot Bosco) Bro. Juniper presented what he described as the Unhappy Happy Satan Paradox. What I find remarkable is that not one of the brothers piped in, in fact, I observed more than one hurriedly taking notes, with Bro. Cecil kind of fiddling with his hand-held device. Okay, for the paradox, which I do find puzzling in a rather paradoxical way.

"Is Satan happy? That is the question. For I posit that an unhappy Satan is a 'happy' Satan, in an 'unhappy' sense. For happiness is not in the realm of Satan, so Satan can only be unhappy, and if you really bow before Satan, Satan gets really, really unhappy, to the great misery of those who share Satan's unhappiness. But how could one 'worship' Satan, one would need to 'unworship' Satan in order for Satan to be unhappy, otherwise Satan would become happy ... and we know Satan doesn't like that. But then, Satan can't 'like' anything, so Satan must be unhappy in order to 'dislike' those who 'do not worship' said Satan. So, Satan cannot be happily happy, only unhappily happy, in a very unhappy sense."

There, to the best of my recollection, I think that's how it goes.

Shalom,
Bro. Bartleby

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Awaiting the blaze

The Gospel of Thomas

Saying 10

Jesus said, "I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am guarding it until it blazes."

Saying 17

Jesus said, "I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind."

Saying 113

His disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?"
Jesus said, "It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying 'here it is' or 'there it is.' Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wake up!

At break fast Bro. Charles made some very interesting comments on his current studies in New Testament translation. Here he looks at Matthew 5:3 in three English translations from the original Greek. But then Bro. Charles takes this a step further, he then compares Greek with Aramaic and discovers, as he says, a whole new Jesus.

Matthew 5:3

King James Version:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Young's Literal Translation:
"Happy the poor in spirit -- because theirs is the reign of the heavens."

Wycliffe New Testament:
"Blessed be poor men in spirit, for the kingdom of heavens is theirs."

Greek for "blessed" is the passive makarios: (supremely blest, fortunate, well off or happy)

So you have Greek into English:
"Happy are the poor in spirit ..."

But in Aramaic the Greek 'makarios' translates into 'ashrei' and 'tovahoun', and unlike the passive Greek makarios, the Aramaic words are active. The translation from Aramaic would be something like "Wake up" or "Get up". Of course the language of Jesus is Aramaic, so in this new translation, He becomes very active:

"Get up you who are the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven"

or even:

"Wake up! you who are the poor in spirit ..."

This passive into active brings whole new meaning to this Scripture. Here is a Jesus of action. Jesus telling us to "wake up!" and to be active participants in seeking righteousness.

Wake up you who are poor in spirit, get moving! The kingdom of heaven awaits you now!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gospel of Thomas Saying 3

Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Take a Scientist to Church Week

This is dedicated to all the scientist who also happen to be atheist:

"IF" there were a God/Creator, could we call "Him/Her/It" a loving God if he has duped all of you scientist into spending your entire earthly lives minutely examining His/Her/It's Creation, while you, not even receiving a comforting Cosmic pat on your collective heads in acknowledgment for doing all this labor for free?

And is it fair that while the non-scientist diddle their lives in cushy comfort while pondering the results of your free labor, without even acknowledging said labor, only because the results of your labor verify the existence of their Creator?

Of course I cannot offer a Cosmic pat on your heads, but in matters of fairness, I can offer this proposal, a "Take a Scientist to Church Week" as a grand thank you to all scientist, especially those that happen to be atheist, for your continuing free labor of which each new "discovery" only makes us nonscientist gush (and blush) at the continuing revelations of the ever more intelligence of our grand Designer -- God.

Shalom,
Bro. Bartleby

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Assisi Warriors?

A rumor is afloat in the monastery, Bro. Dominick while preparing corks in the cellar overheard Bro. Simon muttering to himself, something about having to type a proposal for the dear abbot on a very pesky Remington Rand typewriter. From what Bro. Dominick could gather after confronting Bro. Simon, the scheme is this: the monastery will use the funds from painted icon sales to purchase obsolete fire lookout towers in the national forests, and thus converting them to, what Abbot Eastley will call, Assisi Retreats. These fire lookout towers will house captains of industry who will spend a week in the company of several brothers, who will in the tradition of St. Francis, preach to the birds and rabbits and deers and any other critters who wish to join the captains of industry. It is the abbot's hope that these retreats will produce a new breed of environmentally-sensitive captains of industry who will return to industry wearing the "Assisi Warrior" T-shirts, and as Bro. Simon added somewhat sarcastically, "silly smiles on their faces."

Bro. Bartleby

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."
--Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Notes on a napkin

1.) As Augustine illustrates, our soul is the "conduit" between our mind and the Spirit (or Holy Spirit), or as John called it, the Spirit of Truth. Many interesting terms used: Holy Spirit, Advocate (Latin ad-vocatus), Intercessor, Paraclete (Greek parakleitos). All the same. This "Spirit of Truth" acting as conduit between individual humans and God. As Hebrew scripture warns in Exodus 19:21, that even to gaze upon God, many would perish, so humans are incapable of direct contact with God, we like a tiny moth fluttering into the burning Sun. So through Jesus/Holy Spirit/Advocate/Intercessor/Paraclete (and how about Holy Ghost!) we can know the ways of God. And to be "born again" or turned around, turned toward the light of God, we surrender that inner monologue --that "voice in our head" -- over to God, and God allows the Holy Spirit/Advocate/Intercessor/Paraclete to speak and teach and guide our thoughts. And as John says, the Paraclete is teacher as well as accuser (teaching us right from wrong). Our conscience is made anew!


2.) "I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you forever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him" (John 14:16-17)

3.) Felix seems depressed, perhaps time to set him free?

4.) "Give me chastity and continence, but not just now." --Augustine

5.) "It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes" --Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Angels and Pinhead Project

This morning at break fast, at the dining table, I attempted to describe to the brothers a vision I had during my desert trek. I had the vision and I'll try to relate it here as I related it at break fast. I only relate it for Bro. Juniper assured me that this vision may ultimately have great ramifications in our 'angels and pinhead' study (a current monastery project). First, imagine a circle that is composed of a sequence of the digits of Pi.

-----------------314159-----------------
------------2653589793238462------------
---------6433832795028841971693---------
-------99375105820974944592307816-------
------4062862089986280348253421170------
----67982148086513282306647093844609----
---5505822317253594081284811174502841---
---0270193852110555964462294895493038---
--196442881097566593344612847564823378--
--678316527120190914564856692346034861--
-04543266482133936072602491412737245870-
-06606315588174881520920962829254091715-
-36436789259036001133053054882046652138-
-41469519415116094330572703657595919530-
-92186117381932611793105118548074462379-
-96274956735188575272489122793818301194-
--912983367336244065664308602139494639--
--522473719070217986094370277053921717--
---6293176752384674818467669405132000---
---5681271452635608277857713427577896---
----09173637178721468440901224953430----
------1465495853710507922796892589------
-------23542019956112129021960864-------
---------0344181598136297747713---------
------------0996051870721134------------
-----------------999999-----------------

And as Bro. Fauxman (a former mathematicians from the former Soviet Union) explained to us this morning, the first 768 digits of pi end with the classic '999999' -- or as our late Bro. Richard called it, the 'Feynmann point.' This he calls a very interesting number, for 768 has several curious properties, first being it is three times a 4th power, second, three times a power of 2, and third, twelve times a cube. But back to our illustration, using the first 768 digits of pi and ending with the Feynmann point, we have 'discovered' a circle -- a pinhead! And now you may ask, where do the angels fit in? Well, I'm working on that ... let me sleep on it.

Addendum:

Bro. Fauxman, at our lunch time, raised what he described "an interesting issue" concerning our 'Angels and Pinhead' study, that being that if you add 768 together and take the square root, the result 4.582575666 actually ends in 666. "Not a likely place for angels to dance, is it?" said Bro. Fauxman. Whereupon he called this the "Danger Point."

Addendum addendum:

Bro. Fauxman at the dining table announced that he had a rather pointed vision just prior to entering the dining hall. With megaphone in hand, he stood atop his chair (for Bro. Fauxman is rather not tall) and spoke:

"Let me confess the errors of my ways, several hours ago I presented the 'Danger Point' as the platform on which dancing angels do their dancing, but I was in error, my calculations were in fact referring to the 'pinpoint' which is of course the opposite end from the pinhead, where said angels dance. And the said 'Danger Point' or pinpoint, where the '666' doesn't end, but 'begins' -- for said pinpoint is the entry point of the 'pinhole' where Satan gets his pinprick. And that is why all the angels are dancing."

With that Bro. Fauxman was cheered as a jolly good fellow, then raised atop the shoulders of Bro. Juniper and Bro. Sedwick, and with megaphone still in hand, Bro. Fauxman cheered most loudly: "credo, quia absurdum!"

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

"…Here were decent godless people:
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls."

--TS Eliot
The Rock