Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Max Picard - The World of Silence

Silence, however, stands outside the world of profit and utility; it cannot be exploited for profit; you cannot get anything out of it.  It is “unproductive.”  Therefore it is regarded as valueless.  Yet there is more help and healing in silence than in all the “useful things.”  Purposeless, unexploitable silence suddenly appears at the side of the all-too-purposeful, and frightens us by its very purposelessness.  It interferes with the regular flow of the purposeful.  It strengthens the untouchable, it lessens the damage inflicted by exploitation.  It makes things whole again, by taking them back from the world of dissipation into the world of wholeness.  It gives something of its own holy uselessness, for that is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.

We need to recover an oasis of silence within the rhyme and reason of our active life, 
for it is in silence that we meet God face to face.


Michael Casey - Leisure As Silence

Leisure is not idleness or the pursuit of recreational activities.  It is, above all, being attentive to the present moment, open to all its implications, living it to the full.  This implies a certain looseness in lifestyle that allows heart and mind to drift away from time to time.  Monastic life is not a matter of shoehorning the maximum number of good works into a day.  It is more important that monks and nuns do a few things well, being present to the tasks they undertake, leaving room for recuperation and reflection, and expecting the unexpected.  Leisure allows openness to the present.  It is the opposite of being enslaved by the past or living in some hazy anticipation of a desirable future.  Leisure means being free from anything that would impede, color, or subvert the perception of reality.  Far from being the headlong pursuit of escapist activities and having fun, authentic leisure is a very serious matter because it is the product of an attentive and listening attitude to life.

Benedict’s monastery is a place of leisure because those who live there are committed to a life of mindfulness.  Being attentive requires, first of all, that we renounce the desire to control what happens around us, to manipulate reality, to impose our will on events or on other people.  We often think that those who try to keep control of everything around them are strong and domineering people, attempting to rule others and to mold them in their own likeness.  Usually this is not so.  Control-freaks are most often fearful people who are threatened by the prospect that events would be allowed to take an independent direction.  Underneath the firm grip and the bluster is a wavering self-confidence that fears to face the unexpected.  By constraining everything to squeeze itself into the hard shell of their expectations, they fail to read and respect the reality of the world around them.  They are heedless of what is outside themselves because they are driven mercilessly by their own insecurity.  Their life is a constant battle to prevent reality from asserting its independence.  Their inner voices are shouting so loudly that they can hear nothing else.

We all need to learn the art of silence, to still the clamor that comes from within as well as securing for ourselves a zone where outward noise is sometimes hushed.  Above all we need to teach ourselves to become somewhat more silent, because it is through an undisciplined tongue that much of our personal and social disturbance comes.  In a world where communication is huge, it takes a fair amount of resolution to create for oneself a sphere of silence, in which external urgencies are put on hold and words are weighed.  Just as it is important for us to make “quality time” for people we love, so we need to reserve some moments – and more than moments – for coming to an understanding of what is happening within us and around us.  We will never have a listening attitude to life unless we spend time listening.  That means we stop talking and we stop engaging in the consciousness-absorbing activities and start paying attention.  If we do this often enough, it may become semi-habitual.

Of course, such periods of silence and solitude have to be purchased at the expense of other activities, and that is what we do not like.  We do not want to give up any of the elements that we have built into our lives, be they ever so trite and paltry.  We have first to be convinced of the value of holy leisure.  This is where a problem arises.  Leisure is content-free; it is good in so far as it is filled with goodness, but it obviously has the capacity to be poisoned by malice. This is why there is, notably in Latin, a certain ambiguity about the term itself and a corresponding ambivalence towards the reality it describes.  Leisure is empty space.  We find it hard to make room for nothing in our crowded lives; like nature we abhor a vacuum.  Better to do something useful, we say, than simply mope.  A period of involuntary inactivity due to unforeseen circumstances we find very hard to endure.

Attentiveness is acquired by most people through a habit of reflectiveness – learning to step back from experience to ponder its meaning.  Most often meaning presents itself to a gently disengaged consciousness – fierce interrogation habitually yields nothing.  As Archimedes discovered, insights often come at the most unlikely moment.  Those who give a high priority to the pursuit of wisdom should, accordingly, try to structure their lives so that times of disengagement are multiplied.  This is not necessarily a matter of scheduling in high-powered periods of concentration; at least this is not Benedict’s way.  In the traditional ordering of the monastic day “intervals” were provided in which nothing much happened.  Provision was made for the possibility of moving from one place or activity to another, for leaving aside a particular occupation and temporarily disengaging from its concerns.  Leisure means living gently; it is the opposite of being driven or obsessed.  It involves getting on with the job at hand and detaching oneself from it when it is time to move on to something else.  To some extent leisure invites us to cultivate the virtue of inefficiency.  We are far more likely to notice the scenery if we dawdle along the way than if we rocket along at mind-numbing speed.  Leisure calls us to avoid the cumulative sense of incompletion that occurs when we find ourselves burdened with the weight of so many cares and unfinished tasks.  It is a childlike concern only for the present.  I suppose it was easier in a world not dominated by calendars and clocks simply to take each day as it comes.  On the other hand, making the effort to overthrow the tyranny of time yields proportionately higher profits to those of us who try it sometimes.  It is like a liberation.  We have to realize, however, that the tyrant is inside us, not outside.

 From Strangers to the City

Monday, November 12, 2018

Chuck Surface - What is it like?

There are many transient experiences,
“States” experienced along The Way,
Which, although coming and going,
Become, in passing, a part of our totality.

Like a sudden rain of Benediction,
Showering Grace upon our wilted spirit,
Such are these transient states,
Refreshing, renewing, inspiring.

Some rue their ephemeral nature,
And in their passing, deem them “gone”,
But their Waters only appear to have dried,
Having sunken more deeply into our Roots.

There are “stations”, as well, along the Way,
Enduring Transmutations of our Being,
No longer coming and going,
Having become inherent in our experience.

Like the Sudden cracking of a green bud,
Revealing pedals formerly hidden,
Never again a seed, never again a bud,
An event in time, as the Timeless Blossoms.

I smile at the implication of finality,
In words like enlightenment and awakening,
For no matter the profundity of one's station,
“Enlightening”, as I see it, is an endless affair.

The mystic poets use the word Love,
To describe the longing that moves us,
And That to which our longing aspires,
For longing is “of” That which is longed for.

And although Love is a word so entwined,
With romantic, embodied connotation,
Even so, when we read the Mystic Poets,
It is our Souls that leap in Recognition.

Recognition, Remembrance, Knowing,
More Intimate than any other,
An Ancient Memory of Something Known,
But somehow, along the Way, forgotten.

A whisper, from the depths of our Soul,
A still, small voice, Reminding us,
Of Existing before all dualities,
In the Ecstasy of
Heaven .

Remembrance, whether transient or enduring,
While birthed in Oneness beyond duality,
Contains, in our manifest experience,
A masala of qualities, an advieh of attributes.

You Feel Loved,
Wholly, Completely, Absolutely,
In a way you could not have conceived,
But… no one is there, Loving you.

You Feel Held,
Not in imagination, but tangibly,
Embraced, enfolded, enveloped,
And yet… no one is there, holding you.

You Feel Richness and Warmth,
Filling your Experience, within and without,
No matter the ever-changing nature,
Of that which appears without, or arises within.

You Feel Fullness and Completion,
In your Deepest Interiority,
Unmoving, Impenetrable, Absolute,
The end of lack, and grasping for “more”.

You no longer feel “your” self,
Though all that defined “you” remains,
Unowned, in a space now Serene and Empty,
But Full, of Exquisite, Vibrant Aliveness.

You feel Bliss, a touch of Union's Ecstasy,
Shining without center or periphery,
That when Rested into, carries you away,
Into the Ecstasy of Dissolution.

Radiant, as well, in the Heart of Being,
Is Fathomless Gratitude and Appreciation,
For the Experience of manifest existence,
For the Kingdom of Heaven is Within.

However futile it may seem to reason,
You cannot help but Pray,
For the end of all suffering,
Everywhere, Now, and forever.

You Feel Affection for all that appears,
In the Dream of manifest existence,
A Tender Hearted but Fierce Desire,
For the Happiness, the Rightness, of All That Is.

You Feel yourself in Intimate Relationship,
With this Incomprehensible Mystery,
And are ever in communion and dialog,
In the wordless language of The Heart.

Like Attar, You no longer know anything,
No longer understand anything,
You feel yourself so Deeply in Love,
But with whom, with what, you do not know.

Like Rumi, you no longer know who you are,
The Beloved having woven Herself,
So Intimately into the fabric of your Being,
That you live in Astounded, Lucid, Confusion.

Like Ibn Arabi, yours is the religion of Love,
And wherever you come upon its Sweetness,
In mosque, temple, or church, or tavern,
There is your belief, the faith you hold.

Like Hafez, and “every sane person he knows,”
You have jumped overboard from the ship,
Of binding orthodoxy and shackling dogma,
Into the lifeboat of the Poet, the Lover.

You have become as a Mad Dervish,
Wandering the Wilderness of The Unknown,
Cherishing Experience above ideology,
Dancing, where dancing is

Your Life is a Play of Mystical Delight,
In which the Player upon the stage,
Is ever Enfolded in the Love,
Of The Director's Gaze.

You are a Wave no longer separate,
Dancing upon, and as, the Ocean of Bliss,
In which the tides of life's ecstasies and agonies,
Ebb and flow in the Mystery that You Are.

Do you see why it is called madness?
Do you see why it is called Intoxication?
Do you see why it is called the Beloved?
Do you see why it is called Love?

For this one, at least
That is what it is like.