I’m searching for my voice, listen…is it here?
Mine is a voice of prosody, though sometimes of verse
It has rhythm that often falters, skipping, out of time
It meanders like a cat, its tail waving
I have seen my voice in print, I hope it sounds like me
I am looking for it here, it might be lying in a notebook
or a scrap of paper, a random scribble on a page
Shattered in the wind and rain
Jagged mountains fall
Icey fingers twist
Prying into limestone hearts
Ancient glaciers weep
Lifted to the morning sun
Countenance of stone
Rounded moments shift
Undulating curves, breathing
There is nothing fixed
Curling waves, white with foam
Salt and sand are mixed
Wind strafes the beach-grass
Winsome reeds dance in the sun
Sighing in the dunes
Time is linear
Rising crest, falling trough
Crickets play staccato
You have heard it said that you are where you have been; you are, this is true
You are, and you are what you eat: gram by gram, ounce by ounce, pound by pound
Amino acids, proteins housing memories, engram by engram
Wraiths rush past me, reflections in the dirty-glass, reaching out for me
The rainfall pools, collected in the dirty-street, ghosts jump in the light
Places I have been, the trajectory of fate—weaving memories
Warped purpose, threads patterns on the loom, spindle fibers and neurons
Electrons repeat on the skein, loop in their circuit, strange and funny
Projections of the self, shuttled forward and backward, upside down through time
Lowly little worms emerging from the cocoon, butterflies with horns
Chrysalis in the milk-weed, monarchs in the street dressed in silk, burnt orange
Soft winds returning, lilac scents my garden, warm rains after winter
A powder-blue parallelogram, like an unplanted—field, broken
Blue-black ink flows from the pen
A string of sapphires, dawn’s bejeweled horizon, smoke curls off the tongue
The trumpet wails in mourning
The azure summer, naked in the cloudless sky, a flight of sparrows composing
The poetry of shadows
As a Roman Catholic Theologian, and a student of philosophy, Saint Katherine of Alexandria is my patroness.
I have this image of her, painted by the renaissance master Raphael tattooed on my right arm.
Her legend tells us that she was born in Alexandria, Egypt around the year 287 CE, and that she died as a martyr during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maxentius c. 305.
She was broken on the wheel; she was tied to it, impaled on its spikes, and crushed beneath it as it was rolled through the streets.
Katherine was only eighteen years old but gifted with a rare intellect. She was from a wealthy family and used her fortune to hold salons where she invited pagan philosophers to debate with her and other Christian scholars on matters concerning the central tenets of the faith and the doctrines of the Church.
Katherine is always depicted in the saffron and ochre robes of the philosopher, which had been the tradition throughout the ancient Near East and Hellenistic Civilization since at least the time of Socrates (mid-fourth century BCE). It is likely that these colors, and their association with philosophy come from the Buddhist missionaries travelling west from as early as the sixth century BCE.
Given First 11.25.2020
Huineng lived between the mid-seventh century and early eighth century CE. He is the author of the Platform Sutra and is the principle proponent of the doctrine of sudden enlightenment.
He was a Chinese Buddhist of the Southern Chan school, which became known as Zen Buddhism when it moved across the waters to Japan.
Huineng was a lay person, according to the legends which pertain to him, upon reading the Diamond Sutra he attained a state of perfect enlightenment and was able to expostulate his understanding of the teachings of the Buddha to Hongren, the Fifth Ancestor of Zen. Even though Huineng was considered to be an uneducated barbarian Hongren chose him as his successor over the monk who had been groomed to fulfil that role.
Huineng’s Platform Sutra recapitulates all the major teachings of Chan Buddhism including the Diamond Sutra, the Lotus Sutra and the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana.
Huineng taught “no-thought” and the purity of the “unattached mind” which comes and goes freely, functioning fluently without any hindrance.
The principle of “no-thought” does not mean that a person is not thinking, but that in the state of “no-though” the mind is a highly attentive to its immediate experience, unentangled by the exigencies of the past or the expectations of the future.
The state of ‘no-thought” is understood as a way of being, wherein the mind is open, non-conceptual, allowing the individual to experience reality directly, as it truly is.
Huineng criticized the formal understanding of Buddhism which suggests that the individual must devote themselves to a life of quiet contemplation, likening it to the same trap that the Gautama Siddhartha the Buddha sought to free people from when he taught them that they did not have to endure innumerable lifetimes and countless rebirths before they can be free from the wheel of life.
Huineng’s teaching on sudden enlightenment is a doctrine of liberation such as that taught by the Buddha when he instructed the people that they could experience immediate release by following the five-fold path.
The Buddha was a liberator and Huineng cast himself in the same mode.
Huineng taught this: When alive one keeps sitting without lying down. When dead, one lies without sitting up.
Observing that: In both cases, one is a set of stinking bones!
Asking the most important question: What has any of it to do with the great lesson of life?
When I was given my first Koan to meditate on, my teacher offered me the old cliché:
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
In the spirit of Huineng I understood the Koan to be meaningless and I replied: There is no sound.
He insisted that I answered to quickly, suggesting that I must meditate on the Koan further, which was unnecessary because in speaking from the immediacy of our experience we are able to understand that one hand does not clap.
Given First – 2020.08.28
Today we celebrate the life Saint Romuald, I lift up his memory for one reason in particular, and that is this:
The man was a realist and he encouraged a sense of realism among his followers.
He was an outspoken critic of the way the lives of the saints were written about and disseminated, he could not tolerate the popular tradition of the hagiography, replete with their embellishments, miracle stories which he flatly called out for the lies that they were.
His criticism of the tradition merits our respect.
Romuald was a member of an aristocratic family, he lived between the mid tenth and early eleventh century CE. He was the founder of the Camaldolese order, in the Benedictine tradition.
He had a wild youth and was said to have given himself over to the sins of the flesh, but later he became credited for breathing new life into eremitical and aesthetic monasticism.
He became a hermit.
He is said to have founded and or reformed many monastic institutions, though not all of his work was successful.
Through the promulgation of his rule he encouraged monks under his care to lead solitary lives, engaged in mediation and the interior reflection on the self. He was interested in the process of a person’s inner thoughts. He encouraged his followers to watch and be mindful of their thoughts as if they were watching fish in a stream.
In this way he was like a Zen master.
Romuald was heavily influenced by the Orthodox practice of hesychasm, which has also been associated with quietism, both of which highlight the long standing practice of deep mediation in the Christian tradition, which puts it his teaching on par with the practices of Buddhist monks in the Himalayas and Japan.
Tell no lies about him, he was an ordinary man.