Monday, April 30, 2007

Almost May Day

Bro. Sedwick is a bit of a poet and pointed out that W.H. Auden wrote of the Romantics, and he thinks now of William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" and how they thought the opposite of today's scientific age of reason trumps all. Auden wrote: "... imagination, not reason, is man's defining power, and his gift from his creator - the divine element in man is now held to be neither power nor free will nor reason, but self consciousness." I must say, I had Bro. Sedwick repeat that very slowly so that I could write it all down, for all I had was a stick of chalk and I hurriedly printed each work onto the concrete floor of the dining room. Right now I have the chalked marks surrounded by a circle of paper cups inverted, so as to keep the words from being trampled upon. Now this morning I find that others have added more chalked text to mine. First is this quote by Blake, "I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination." And then chalked in another hand this, "I know of no other Christianity, and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination: Imagination, the real and eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow, and in which we shall live in our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no more." I can see that if more chalk quotes are added to the concrete floor and the circle of cups continues to expand, then we all may be outside for our noon time meal, yet again, if it stirs our imaginations a bit, then I would say it all worthwhile. We'll see.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Anticipating May

Auguries of Innocence

By William Blake  (1757–1827)
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.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.

A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm'd for fight
Does the rising sun affright.

Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.

The wild deer, wand'ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus'd breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.

The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.

He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov'd by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov'd
Shall never be by woman lov'd.

The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.

The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgement draweth nigh.

He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.

The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy's foot.

The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist's jealousy.

The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;

This is caught by females bright,
And return'd to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.

The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar's rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.

The soldier, arm'd with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.

One mite wrung from the lab'rer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.

When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket's cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.

The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.

The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding-sheet.

The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

April is the cruellest month?

Out for an extended walk and what can one say when one witnesses so much violence, I mean my every observation today seemed to lay bare cruelty to the extreme, and the world I speak of is that which surrounds us (and inhabits us?), all the very tiny creatures that bring life (and death) to all the earth. Fire ants, or as I called them as a child, red ants, march with so much purpose that woe to the critter that stands in the way, and as I stooped, then knelt on the crusted sand, the lizard had since expired and the red ants seemed puzzled at so great an offering, around and atop this huge creature they danced in tiny circles with some so in a frenzy that I pitied the next to happenstance upon their ceaseless march. And over there a Loggerhead Shrike, as cute as a sparrow and about the same size, yet woe to the critter -- even a small mouse! -- that this bird manages to hold, but being so small the Shrike cannot hold the struggling prey for long, so in a bit of ingenious cruelty it impales the prey on a cactus spine! And no need to speak of the snakes and all the strategies up their sleeves. But they beware of the Roadrunner, the unruly bird will circle even a rattlesnake and faint injury, luring the snake into thinking a quick meal, but that long and sharp bill can snatch snake and fling it into the air, then will fling it and beat it against a rock. Yes, to witness this affair is most unpleasant, yet it and all the other countless acts of violence surround me every minute of every day. Yet, daily my mind prays to God and thanks God for all creation. Does not God think I joke?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fishing in a sea of sand

Years ago I viewed a Zen rock garden, with not a petunia in sight, just sand raked into swirling patterns of the sea, and a few large rocks here and there, I guessed then they represented islands, the sand the watery sea, with the raked swirls that which created the metaphor in my head of watery sea, and not simply bone-dry sand miles from any body of water. I returned a few times to that garden, once watching a solemn monk carefully dragging a rake as he first made a course around one large rock, and then the others, and then seemed to have a course already memorized, for he dragged that rake as I recalled I used to push a lawnmower in my youth. In the backyard I would not cut the lawn as my older brother did, in careful, overlapping rows, but I would push that old lawnmower in circles and swirls and zigzags, anything but in straight lines. It was fun, drawing with a lawnmower, I would stop to admire the meandering course cut through the tall grass, but in the end I would always have to do a quick back-and-forth to clip all the tall grass, all before my father returned home from work. The Buddhist dragging the rake didn't appear to be having as much fun as I did pushing a heavy lawnmower. I wondered why. At the time I supposed it had become ritual to him, and sand patterns did create looks of awe on the faces of visitors when they first came through the wooden gate. So in the spirit of pushing a lawnmower in a carefree manner, and in the spirit of the look of a Zen rock garden, I fashioned myself a wooden rake and outside the monastery, perhaps a quarter mile away, I discovered a small dune of sand that I have often gazed at, for the wind-created patterns are always a delight for me. So it was with a bit of trepidation (and boldness?) that I first began to drag the wooden rake over the dune in a pattern that I recall from that Zen garden. My thoughts when raking the dune:

A small sand dune suddenly grows large when one takes a rake to it.
What animal was missing from Noah's ark? The fish!
What is the only meal that Jesus prepares? Fish!
Sandals are useless on a sand dune, barefoot better. In April yes, in July no.
Jesus said to them, "Come and eat breakfast."
Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them,
and likewise the fish.

Sitting on a boulder and taking in the raked sand, I see that I seem to have a penchant for spiraling swirls. And God seems to have a penchant for rather beautiful waves of sculpted sand. I say that for the wind was kicking up and before my eyes I could see the fine sand slowly erasing my efforts, and after an hour or so of silent meditation, I had to admit, indeed, I have much to learn, for my sea motif of dervish lines now seemed so out of place, yet before I could return to rake the sand back in place, the wind picked up, sending me on my way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I read the news today oh boy

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul

--Leonard Cohen

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I heard a cock crow
this morning in a new light
Tyrannosaurus rex!


Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures
--Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274


cock-a-doodle-doo - English
kykyliky - Danish
kukeleku - Dutch
kukko kiekuu - Finnish
cocorico - French
kikeriki - German
coo-koo-ri-koo - Hebrew
chicchirichí - Italian
ko-ke-kok-ko-o - Japanese
kukareku - Russian
quiquiriquí - Spanish

Friday, April 13, 2007

We now call him Sir Charles

Bro. Juniper is the keeper of the chickens and his hen house provides us with a continuous supply of break fast eggs, but outside the chicken coop he allows Charles, a New Hampshire Red, to wander about the monastery, and that he does, a regal cock of the walk if there ever was one. Now this morning as I was staring at two yolks, over easy, I heard Bro. Clarence clear his throat, a signal to all that something was afoot. He told of a 68 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex bone being found in Montana and what was unique about this bone was that some soft tissue was still present. Unique indeed, after 68 million years! But the amazing part, the scientific part, is that some of this soft stuff produced genetic material that was decoded, and more so, when they sought the closest match to modern-day creatures, they discovered the closest match to be ... to be that of a chicken bone! From T-rex to Charles in 68 million years? So it was a sight to see, after break fast many of the brothers sought out Charles, and from a distance, just observed, observed the child of the dinosaurs. So with that, Bro. Juniper renamed our regal cock of the walk, Sir. Charles.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Two fishing nets

At the noon meal Bro. Theo was comparing the two fishing net stories, the first in Luke and the second in John The first story tells of a net that is so full of fish that it is bursting, while the second story tells of a net, equally full, yet not bursting. In the first the net breaks and of course many of the fish escape, but in the second the net holds and all the fish are caught. The first story takes place when the apostles are "still in training" and as the story suggests, they follow Jesus' order, yet are skeptical of the wisdom of it, after all, he a carpenter, and they the fishermen. The second story takes place after Easter, Jesus returns, this time the apostles are finally ready to be fishers of men, for now their spiritual nets can hold the wisdom of Jesus, whereas before, their spiritual nets were weak and unready for what Jesus had in store for them, and us.

Luke 5:1-11

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

John 21:1-13

After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately[a] got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” -- knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ham or eggs, which are you?

On occasion I've heard Bro. Juniper ask of a visitor, "Ham or eggs, which are you?" I must admit that most times his question is received with a puzzled look, a few times I've heard, "Oh, I've had breakfast already." Then he repeats, "Ham or eggs ... which are you?" After which he will smile and go about his business, leaving the visitor to either think the dear brother a bit of a mystery, or, in most cases, will turn to another brother seeking an answer. To which my reply (I think each brother gives a different reply) is, "Ham or egg? Which do you bring to the table? Think of it this way, if you produce the eggs, you are a chicken, the one who is somewhat involved in matters; whereas, if you produce the ham, you are the hog, the one who is fully committed to the matter. So, so to speak, we at the monastery are the hogs of life -- committed fully -- we bring all to the table."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007