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- midwinter project: dig deeper into Thomas Merton
midwinter project: dig deeper into Thomas Merton
if we do not see clearly. A few little flames, yes. You can’t grasp
them, but anyway look at them obliquely. To look too directly at
anything is to see something else because we force it to submit to the
impertinence of our preconceptions. After a while though everything will
speak to us if we let it and do not demand that it say what we
dictate.” (Thomas Merton, "Courage for Truth", p. 198)
via Parabola magazine:
"The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to
receive them as gifts, we have to be open. In order to be open we have
to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of
ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed destiny. We
have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us
in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know of ourselves."
?Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,” (Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), p. 204. Also mentioned in Roger Lipsey's
extraordinary homage to Merton's art: Angelic Mistakes: The Art of
Thomas Merton (Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 2006)
I'm starting to suspect that-- for me at least-- 'meditation' is about how to see. And the teachers whom I understand most readily practice some art that has enabled them to articulate the process of looking and the discovery of what is to be perceived. The Merton quotes are associated with books compiling his brush painting.
Thanks, Ona and Mark for having reached out. It’s been a minute…
I’ve lurked a bit, this past week, catching up some, noting with curiosity some of my old enthusiasms and predilections. I caught fire, sometimes. It’s fun to see that.
Reflecting on the events and currents of the interval, I’d say some fundamental personal re-arrangements have been taking place, concurrent but often crosswise, of the general social upheavals of the last half decade. It has been so idiosyncratic that it has taken a long time to contextualize and articulate— even to myself. The question of how generally useful to anyone else my observations might be, remains.
But maybe I’ll venture a bit. Central overarching issue has been exploring what, exactly, growing old is about, for me. First it was necessary to inventory all the models and assumptions I’d acquired along the way. And set them aside for future reference, as needed. And IF needed. So far, no need for preoccupation with health or cognitive decline.
In an odd way, I’ve always had a sense that I was born to be old. Jung’s “memories, dreams, reflections” have always been more substantial for me than the maelstrom of social endeavors. And as my little boat has drifted merrily, merrily downstream, most of my face-to-face connections have let go.
In plain terms, I have come aground in Philly. All the circumstances that brought me here have morphed, except the constraints that pretty much mean that I’ll most likely remain. I hadn’t really expected or intended this outcome, but I’m okay with it. The urge to impose a trajectory on my life has kind of withered in this, my seventh decade.
(maybe more, later…)
Hope Philly is treating you well enough and that you are riding out this midwestern winter without too much challenge!
Kate Gowen wrote: ... First it was necessary to inventory all the models and assumptions I’d acquired along the way. And set them aside for future reference, as needed. And IF needed.
I like this perspective, and it seems applicable to many things.
Kate Gowen wrote: In an odd way, I’ve always had a sense that I was born to be old. Jung’s “memories, dreams, reflections” have always been more substantial for me than the maelstrom of social endeavors. ...
This resonates, too.
道可受兮 “The Way can be received –
不可傳 but cannot be transmitted.
其小無內兮 So minute it has no interior –
其大無垠 so vast it has no bounds.
無滑而魂兮 Don’t let your soul be agitated –
彼將自然 but rather act spontaneously.
壹氣孔神兮 Unify your vitality, concentrate spirit –
於中夜存 maintaining them through the nighttime.
虛以待之兮 Respond to all while being vacant –
無為之先 and before anything else do nothing.
庶類以成兮 Let each kind achieve fulness –
此德之門 this only is the gate of Potentiality.” -
From 'The Verses of Chu', transl. by Nicholas Morrow Williams in 'Roaming the Infinite”: Liu Xiang as Chuci Scholar and Would-be Transcendent'
I was about to post something that was my first thought on waking this morning— “ what if ‘all’ meditation is, is something the (body/mind) does. Not something more spiritual or special or better than eating, sleeping, defecating, vomiting, becoming alarmed, running away, being attracted, moving toward…?”
The second thought was bemusement at having ever preferred anything more complicated.
I am entertaining the notion that Daoism is the final frontier, that it is the basket of teaching most specific to the old, those “returning to the marketplace with open hands,” those arrived at having no choice— both the naïveté and ambitions of younger years having fallen away.
I am beginning to understand the Buddhist “poison” of ignorance as the habituated ignoring of what we think we have no use for.
… the Buddha touched the earth and said “the earth is my witness” and Mara disappeared.
What seems to be a recurrent theme in my life now is a question “what else is here-there?”
I guess realising that This pain right now is not the Only thing there is as in truth it’s already gone and is but rolled on and on in memory and story.
So what else is here-there? “Touch the earth”.
It’s not just You, Mara, gibbering here but also that sense of the but on the chair and feet in the ground and air in the nostrils, hearing of sound, touching of fingertips on this screen …
Thanks for sharing!
We did at some past point in time have a discussion about the difference, or similarities, or maybe the relationship of age and experience to awakening. I don't recall what conclusions were drawn, but my vote is that experience and age have their own unique wisdom. That wisdom is additive to awakening, to the Buddhist/Taoist version of wisdom.
... both the naïveté and ambitions of younger years having fallen away.
Yesterday, the thought elaborated into a fleeting series of overlaid portraits of a person from infancy to old age— such as have popped up on social media the last few years. Then I thought, yes, movies are 4-D representations, to the 3-D of photography.
Maybe aging has the potential of adding dimensions to our understanding, in ways that mostly go unrecognized— “unseen because unlooked for.”
This is a filament in the thread of “awakening makes further dimensions apparent.”
I am feeling more on that theme gestating…