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Category Archives: Sabbath

Clever or Wise?

Clever or Wise?.

I spent two days on a break of sorts. I intended to post something late Saturday afternoon, but spent the day and good portion of the evening being a minion to our 5 month old grandson.

He is getting to the age where he can play games i.e. peek-a-boo and he recalls that he has played the game with you. When I walked into the house on Sunday, he smiled and wanted to play.

Small things and children help us grow and become wise. We want to change our self because it is the best way to change the world we come in contact with. We blend the passion for life with compassion, because without the integration we are incomplete.

1996 X (Some Sunday Afternoon, It May Be)

Thich Nhat Hanh suggested our ancestors are always with us. They join us in places and moments that hold special meaning to us. Place is particular. Wendell Berry who wrote this poem suggested we have lost our sense of place.

When we sit quietly and sense the world, just soak it in, it is an opportunity to re-discover place and its essence. We become grounded in the world and not sitting outside and observing. The ordinary reveals itself as extraordinary.

Some Sunday afternoon, it may be,

you are sitting under your porch roof,

looking down through the trees

to the river, down to the river. The circles

made by raindrops’ striking

expand, intersect, dissolve,

and suddenly (for you are getting on

now and much of your life is memory)

the hands of the dead, who have been here

with you, rest upon you tenderly

as the rain rests shining

upon the leaves. And you think then

(for thought will come) of the strangeness

of the thought of heaven, for now

you have imagined yourself there,

remembering with longing this

happiness, this rain. Sometimes here

we are there, and there is no death.

Mysteries, Yes

Mary Oliver writes many poems about life’s mysteries, life’s questions, and the sacred spaces we enter in listening. During Sabbath time, I use her poetry to focus on stillness and allow questions to emerge. They poke their heads forward and are always joined by other questions. The answers are less relevant than the wondering that flows from each question. The mysteries are truly too marvelous to be understood.

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

The Art of Blessing the Day

I am taking a few days off from digital technologies. I am traveling to an area where the only Internet access is via dial-up. It is not that remote, but it is probably the imperfect alignment of satellites, mountains, and other geographic features.

Having said this, it is nice to take a break. I spend considerable time between social media and dissertation writing on computers. Sometimes the imperfections of the world and the universe act in ways that bring about a necessary change.

Marge Piercy’s poem suggests we bless everything we can. In the busyness and hurry of life, we run past much of life and forget blessing. I have a few days to count my blessings in quiet moments away from the hectic.

This is the blessing for rain after drought:
Come down, wash the air so it shimmers,
a perfumed shawl of lavender chiffon.
Let the parched leaves suckle and swell.
Enter my skin, wash me for the little
chrysalis of sleep rocked in your plashing.
In the morning the world is peeled to shining.

This is the blessing for sun after long rain:
Now everything shakes itself free and rises.
The trees are bright as pushcart ices.
Every last lily opens its satin thighs.
The bees dance and roll in pollen
and the cardinal at the top of the pine
sings at full throttle, fountaining.

This is the blessing for a ripe peach:
This is luck made round. Frost can nip
the blossom, kill the bee. It can drop,
a hard green useless nut. Brown fungus,
the burrowing worm that coils in rot can
blemish it and wind crush it on the ground.
Yet this peach fills my mouth with juicy sun.

This is the blessing for the first garden tomato:
Those green boxes of tasteless acid the store
sells in January, those red things with the savor
of wet chalk, they mock your fragrant name.
How fat and sweet you are weighing down my palm,
warm as the flank of a cow in the sun.
You are the savor of summer in a thin red skin.

This is the blessing for a political victory:
Although I shall not forget that things
work in increments and epicycles and sometime
leaps that half the time fall back down,
let’s not relinquish dancing while the music
fits into our hips and bounces our heels.
We must never forget, pleasure is real as pain.

The blessing for the return of a favorite cat,
the blessing for love returned, for friends’
return, for money received unexpected,
the blessing for the rising of the bread,
the sun, the oppressed. I am not sentimental
about old men mumbling the Hebrew by rote
with no more feeling than one says gesundheit.

But the discipline of blessings is to taste
each moment, the bitter, the sour, the sweet
and the salty, and be glad for what does not
hurt. The art is in compressing attention
to each little and big blossom of the tree

of life, to let the tongue sing each fruit,
its savor, its aroma and its use.

Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.

In Silence

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk known for essays, letters, and writing books. He was an artist and poet, as well.

Sabbath is a retreat from the busyness encountered in daily life. It is less about separation from the world and more about finding bridges linking us with the world and others in the world. The word treat suggests healing and making whole.

We seek bridges allowing us to let go of baggage we carry and skeletons we dance with. Parker Palmer used Thomas Merton’s writing explaining the need for peace, solitude, and silence in life. This is not a withdrawal, but a different way of encountering the world and hearing the words it speaks more clearly.

Part of Taoism is seeking principled paths and ways forward. Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton drew on this thinking in expressing a need for silence in life otherwise the noise of daily life is deafening.

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

name.
Listen
to the living walls.

Who are you?
Who
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

Rather
be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”

Untitled (Where are you going)

We flew across Canada today, returning from holidays. We spent time in nature and exploring historical roots in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Maine but is nice to be going home.

We discussed that this is the first time we went on an extended holiday in many years. We spent over two weeks on the road and it is tiring. The days we stayed put and did not move from one place to another allowed us to recoup.

This poem reminded me of home’s importance. When we stop and take a moment to see the place we call home through new eyes, we see and feel its heart, the rhythm of what home means. Peter Levitt concluded it is in extraordinary moments  we find the place closest to our hearts.

I am reading James Hillman and he suggested we sometimes limit our thinking about the heart to a physiological pump. The heart serves a greater purpose in that we find our purpose within it and have courage to follow those purposes. It is being in the moment we find courage and confidence to feel at home in each moment. The heart is a rhythmic source for our moment-to-moment journeying. We are always going somewhere and it is important to be at home wherever we end up.

Where you are going

and the place you stay

come to the same thing.

What you long for

and what you have left behind

are as useless as your name.

Just one time, walk out

into the field and look

at that towering oak—

an acorn still beating at its heart.

O Slave, Liberate Yourself.

The second stanza drew me into Kabir‘s poem. We search for homes throughout life. It is right there embedded in each moment. When I am awake in each moment, the search is easier. I become aware and attentive sensing each moment’s  transience.

When we let go and stop grasping, we are released from slavery and tyranny chasing tails and tales. When we fail and chase, the feeling enslaves us and it is worse than death. Living each moment is the antidote to this feeling and is liberating.

O Slave, liberate yourself.

Where are you, and where’s your home,
find it in your lifetime, man.

If you fail to wake up now,
you’ll be helpless when the end comes.

Says Kabir, listen, O wise one,
the siege of Death is hard to withstand.

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