Monday, February 28, 2005

Idée d’jour

The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.
— Chinese proverb

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I'm Back!

I got back to my blessedly familiar bed this morning a little after 2:00 a.m. this morning (Sun, Feb 27). You can imagine what condition my brain is in, even after a three-hour nap.

I didn't get lost in Kansas City. Once I got the hotel, I never left. This was not entirely motivated by fear; it was primarily because the conference offered so many things I was excited by that I wanted do attend them all.

The schedule ran from Morning Prayer, at about 7 a.m., to Compline, at about 10:15 p.m. Between those services, every hour had some event. The organizers took it for granted that people wouldn't participate in every single hour. In my view, the experience was organized very much like a buffeteria, where one might sample this or that as whim and taste dictate.

Given my decision to keep moving practically from the time I arrived until early Saturday afternoon; given the excitement of new ideas and being with people who were equally excited by those new ideas; given the strange bed and the foreign ambience; I did not rest well.

I don't intend to be as obsessive in recording the events of this con fence as I was my time at Winfield last September. For one thing, I flat don't have the time. Right this minute, as you might suppose, I don't have the energy.

There are two bits of exciting news, only one of which I can talk about right now (the other news will need some more processing).

I be published in the near future. If I had to guess, maybe the next year or so.

Here's how it happened: one of the "Learning Opportunities" on the conference buffet was titled "Making Prayer Beads." Now, as I have mentioned, I have led (and am leading) a class at the Cathedral on the rosary which has included an opportunity to make one's own rosary. But, what with answering people's questions, I never had a chance to make one. I went to this session to make up that loss.

Each "Learning Opportunity" began with people introducing themselves and (sometimes) explaining why they were there. Naturally, I shared the above information. The instructor expressed interest, but (to honor the time) needed to move on.

I discovered beading requires patience and manual dexterity; skills in which I could stand some development.

So: the class had wrapped up, with only two or three of us struggling to finish our Anglican Rosary prior to going to the next event on the agenda. The instructor now asked me to talk more about what I was doing. I gave her what I call the "Reader's Digest" overview of the rosary's history, and how I am using it as a tool for people to share a bit of their faith journey.

Well, immediately, she was impressed by my fund of knowledge on the topic, and said she wished I had shared it during our session. Then she said: "I'm with Leader Resources. Would you be willing to record that lesson plan for one of our formation programs?"

I said yes, and she gave me her card.

I'll keep you posted. And stay tuned for the other bit of news; I promise it will be shared within the next week or so.

Until then: Samaste

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Goin’ to Missouri

Woke up between 2:30 and 3 Tuesday morning. Maybe it was the dark chococate I ate shortly after lunch. Maybe it was anticipatory stress as my subconscious ran through the list of the day. Maybe it was anticipatory excitement regarding my trip to Kansas City for that Educational Conference I mentioned on Sunday.

Truth be told, I'm more than a little anxious about the drive to Kansas City. The last time I went to Kansas City was with Mary Ellen. What year was that? Early 90s? I guess.

We went for the KS City Jazz and Blues Fest, primarily to see one of Mary's favorite performers, Michael Franks. I bought the trip during a public radio auction as a gift for Mary. Either for her birthday or Christmas, though the concert wasn't even close to either one.

Mary Ellen got bad sick the day before her trip. I was willing to cancel the thing, but she insisted. She slept most of the way to Kansas City, which was probably a 6-7 hour drive. She still felt bad when we got there. The next morning, she seemed to be running an impossibly high temperature, so I rushed her to the nearest doc-in-a-box.

There went our vacation money, such as it was. We learned Mary had strep throat, got some antibiotics, and got her back to bed. That was on a Friday. Michael Franks performed on Saturday afternoon, and Mary was well enough to go hear him.

I spent most of this "vacation" sitting by the bed, reading The Alienist. In fact, I finished that novel over that four-day weekend. I also watched several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation — with the sound off and the subtitle feature on.

But none of this is the reason I feel anxious about driving to Kansas City. Actually, I suspect I'll get to the city limits with little problem. It's a straight shot after all, pretty much.

No, I'm more anxious about driving in Kansas City. Aside from how Mary's illness affected our vacation, the main thing I remember about driving in Kansas City is getting lost.

Seemed like it didn't matter which way I turned, it was the wrong way. Almost every trip I made — to the doc in the box, to the Civil War Museum, to the Hallmark Factory — was marked by having to double back. If I turned right, I should have turned left. If I turned left, I should have turned right.

I even played a little game with myself. I asked myself which way Ithought I should turn, then turned the opposite direction. And, as it would turn out, I should have gone with my gut instinct. So, the next time I would turn as my gut instinct sensed; and it would develop that I should have turned the opposite direction. Don't remember howoften this happened. In my memory, it was a lot.

We even ended up on the east side of Kansas City, Kansas. Which is not a fun place to visit, believe me.

By the time we got home, the situation began to feel like a metaphor for my life. It was quite depressing.

So, you can understand why I might feel anxious about this trip.

But this trip is for me. It's to feed me.

And this time, I'm buying a map.

Calendar Cat

Calendar Cat
As I may have mentioned, I will be out of town for the next couple of days, and I'm not likely to have access to a computer (no laptop). So, we'll have our kitty picture two days early.

Here, the regal lass strikes her best "cheese-cake" pose.
I tried to post a longer entry concerning my trip via e-mail, and it seems to be wandering the ether like the flying dutchman. Expect something more by early tomorrow morning, at the latest.

Idée d’jour

The hallmark of a realized person is lightness and briskness.
— Yamada Roshi

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Quote d’jour

Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the Divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable. It is true.
— Thomas Merton

Loving the Voice

she fell in love with the voice
that bathed her afternoon eyes.
the voice drew her close
and supported her evening curls.

she fell in love with the voice
when she lived at the lighthouse
when her heart was a wind-surfer
when light was rainbow water

she fell in love with voice
as its vowels tenderly
rolled up the ridge of her back

the voice echoed beside her
and warmed her hand
when the light was open

when consonants were water
at the finger-tips and at the breast
when breath gently licked
the shell of her ear

she fell in love with the voice
just as it pledged faith
to earth, and wind, and water
to fire, and stars, and sand

just as, just as
the voice fell in love with her

Click for full-size version

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Jonquil Shoots

Jonquil Shoots
Click for larger view

Bolder than any groundhog,
the brave daffodils
exhale spring hope

Yesterday's Saturday

It took the better part of last week for me to record what I did last Saturday. I did so much on that day, it seemed like three days in one. The entry is not far in the past — it was posted Thursday, February 17. Some people (e.g., Pam and Alexandria) have gotten the impression that I keep myself pretty busy.

So, it seems only fair to give a rough indication of what I did yesterday.

As little as possible.

OK. I woke between 5:30 and 6. This has become "normal," even for weekends. Don't know if I've trained my body for this, or if it's due to the addition of a certain furry creature who starts purring very loudly about that time.

I debated about going to my favorite greasy spoon for breakfast, but ultimately decided against it. For one thing, they didn't open until 7, and I was pretty hungry by the time I got out of the shower. For another, if I didn't spend money on breakfast, that would be cash I could spend on something else. Like a movie with a friend. Or, toward the trip I'll be taking later this week.

About which, more later.

Anyway, it was a bit before 7 by the time I finished breakfast. My primary goals for the day were to get my hair cut and stop by the library. Neither place was open yet, so I had to fill the time somehow.

Why not do my taxes?

Week before last, I heard on NPR that the IRS had made arrangements with several tax-preparation software manufacturers to offer use of the on-line version of the software free for those who filed electronically. I decided to risk it. (BTW: links here)

I used H&R Block last year, and it cost a little over $200 dollars for them to prepare my taxes. Happily, my state refund covered the bulk of that cost. But, free versus 200 bucks. It wasn't hard for my miserly heart to do that math.

The newscaster on NPR stated it would take the average tax payer about two hours to go through the process. It took me about an hour and a half to do both Federal and State taxes. There was a charge to do the State form, but I decided 25 dollars was worth it. Again, compared to 200 smackers . . . .

Going on the Internet to do my taxes naturally necessitated surfing to some of my favorite spots: feral, Dick Jones' Patteran Pages, Stick Poet (etc, etc). It was about 9 by the time all that was done. The library and SuperCuts would be open by then.

I went to SuperCuts first. There were only two "hair stylists" on duty at the time: a man and a woman. The man was finished with his previous customer first, so he called me next. I found out that he really wants to be a computer programmer. His speech was heavily accented (I think he was Vietnamese), and it was difficult for me to understand everything he said, but I got the impression he had been a computer programmer once before. He told me that he'd recently been offered a job in Nashville, TN, but his wife wasn't willing to move that far.

Went to the library next. I had a book on reserve, Jim Wallis' Faith Works. Actually, I didn't think it would come so soon; I'm reading two other books at the moment. But, after seeing the clip from The Daily Show in which refers to Jon Stewart as being a modern prophet, I knew I wanted to check his writing out. I've read his introduction, and the book is definitely off to a good, thought-provoking, start.

Any time I go to the library, I have to check out the newly received books. I also wander through the 811-899 section of the Deweys, where the poetry, literature, and plays live. From this section, I checked out Shel Silverstein's Light in the Attic. Quite a striking difference — a book of light verse and a book on putting faith into action. Maybe I felt the need for some balance.

Well, that left the rest of the day. I decided to watch a bit of the Wonderfalls Viewers Collection. "Wonderfalls" was a quirky dramedy that ran on Fox for four episodes. After which, it was cancelled. Entertainment Weekly had recommended the program when it originally aired, and I enjoyed the two episodes I could catch. When EW praised the release of the full intended 13-episode season on DVD, I had to check it out. I've got a little over two-thirds of the way through this collection, and I shall have more to say about it after I've seen it to the end.

I took naps between, and sometimes during, episodes. Long naps. Woke up around five thirty, decided I needed to move around, so I went to Borders — just to wander. While there, I realized there were some food stuffs I needed, so I went to the grocery store.

Got home, watched a bit more of "Wonderfalls," then watched some regular TV. And then, to bed.

Exciting day, nu?

Oh, yeah: if you were reading really closely, you may have noticed that I mentioned I'm taking a trip late this week. I have been asked to represent St. Paul's at an Adult Christian Ed Conference which is meeting this Thursday through Saturday in Kansas City, MO.

Imagine that. More churchy stuff.

Well, I am flattered that I was asked. I mean, to represent the Cathedral is quite the thing. Aside from recognizing my interest in teaching, it's quite an honor to be asked to represent the Cathedral, for gosh sakes. It assumes that I won't do anything to embarrass the Cathedral.

Wait a minute, did I just say I'm interested in teaching? Pam has been saying for the past three years that she sees me as a teacher, and I've demurred. But, the truth is, I've enjoyed leading Christian Ed classes. I have ideas that interest me, and I presume they will interest at least a few others as well.

I've done several classes now, three of them at the Cathedral, and all have been respectably attended. So, it would seem I have some talent in that area. Now, I'm going to a regional conference (about seven states will be represented) where I'm likely to get more ideas and more tools.

I'm excited and looking forward to it.

Wish me safe travel. Pray, if that's part of your discipline and tradition, for my growth through this opportunity.

Quote d’jour

All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.
— James Thurber

Friday, February 18, 2005

Quote d’jour

One day a student asked Taiga, "What is the most difficult part of painting?"

Taiga answered: "The part of the paper where nothing is painted is the most difficult."

— Artist Zen
I believe the same thing could be said of poetry.

Friday's Cat

She stalked raiku sunflowers
until she came upon the dream
of a watercolor dawn

Here, we see the demure young teenager marking her territory.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Saturday: Three Days in One

This past Saturday (Feb. 12) was a long day. It was as if I was living three days in one.

Day One
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. No, not on purpose. I can't even blame it on DJ. I just woke up.

It had been a stressful week, and I have an equally stressful week ahead of me. So maybe that was it. I've also developed the theory that, when I feel like I don't have enough time to do all the things on my list, I wake up early.

Waking up at 4:30 was impractical for the first thing on my list: shopping. Not many stores open at that hour. Heck, even the greasy spoon I often go to on Saturday mornings wasn't even open yet.

But after a period of tossing and turning, it became clear I wasn’t getting any sleep or rest; so I got up.

Made breakfast. Then started playing on the computer. Finally posted something here. Did some work fine-tuning how the page renders. Added some recommendations (as I mentioned several weeks ago), which you'll find under the long archives list.

Surfed to the Metropolitan Library Site to reserve a pair of books by Jim Wallis (editor-in-chief of Sojourners). While I was at it, I sought the dates for the next library book sale. No, they don't sell books from the library. People donate books, and the profits go to benefit the library. If you're interested, the sale will be last week-end of February.

By this point, it was 8:30, and I figured the grocery store was open. Had a couple of stops first: refueling the car, getting cash from the ATM, post office. Then, the grocery store. Early in the morning is a great time to go to the grocery store, as there are relatively few other people around.

If you want to feel like you've stepped into an especially cheesy episode of "The Twilight Zone", go to the Super WallyWorld early in the morning.

Like 6 a.m.

Day Two
Got home between 9 and 9:30. I figured I would need to leave around 10:00, so this gave me time to do some reading. I read about three articles in the last issue of Parabola (The Seeker). I'm taking my own sweet time about it, but this may be the first issue of Parabola that I've read cover to cover.

Where was I going at 10:00? I was going to a diocese-wide meeting reflecting on, and responding to, the Windsor Report. Yep, more church politics. Must be a glutton for punishment or something.

This was a bit of Episcopal trivia that actually made the national news, so you may have heard a bit about it. Last summer, the Episcopal Church in America ordained Gene Robinson, an openly homosexual man, as bishop.

At the same time that General Convention approved this action, it also opened the door a crack for the blessing of same-sex unions. And, coincidentally, the Canadian diocese of New Westminster actually did begin blessing same-sex unions.

Most Protestant denominations in America answer only to themselves. What the Presbyterian Church does in the U.S. has little impact on the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, so far as I know. There may be denominational "family" relationships across international borders in the Lutheran Church or Baptist Church, but I'm not aware of them.

The Episcopal Church recognizes that it is part of the wider Anglican Communion, and many in the Episcopal Church take great pride in this knowledge. As the Windsor Report takes great pains to point out, there is no central authority in the Anglican Communion. While the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is symbolic of our unity, he is not an "Anglican Pope". Nor is the Lambeth Congress a Curia.

The 1998 Lambeth Congress resolved that homosexual practice was incompatible with Scripture, and advised against ordaining those involved in same gender unions. This resolution was not a law, per se, but was certainly a concern to be taken seriously by members of the world-wide communion. Approving the ordination of Rev. Robinson, the Episcopal Church, to quote the report, had "not attached sufficient importance to the impact of their decisions on other parts of the Communion."

When the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.'s General Convention voted in favor of ordaining Rev. Robinson, they acted unilaterally. The interesting thing about this is the action took place last summer, just a few months after our national leaders acted unilaterally to invade Iraq. I mentioned that connection at the time, in this space.

So: all this is the background for the meeting I attended Saturday at St. Mary's Church, Edmond. Thirty churches from across Oklahoma were represented; I estimate there were a little over 100 in attendance.

The session began at 11:00, and was divided into three parts. In the first two parts, two different priests offered synopses of the report. Although neither directly stated his opinion on the question of the ordination of gays, I suspect they represented opposite points of view. The room was already divided into small groups (13 tables with about 8 people at each table); these groups then addressed the question of the day.

The Windsor Report states that the Episcopal Church has strained the bonds of affection within the world-wide Anglican Communion by its actions. So, the groups were asked a two-fold question: how have we experienced "bonds of affection" in our own lives, and how can we strengthen them.

Interestingly, our table focused on a very local level – regarding relations in our state rather than the national church or the world. As one member put it, "How can we hope to mend relations with folk across the sea when we can't face the person sitting next to us?" It's a statement reminiscent of the First Letter of John: "How can you say you love God, whom you cannot see, at the same time you hate your neighbor, whom you can see?" (paraphrased).
The Episcopal Church in Oklahoma is far from dominant. We are a very small pocket in a predominantly fundamentalist Baptist territory.

Episcopal congregations in rural Oklahoma communities are struggling to keep their doors open. The fact that our Diocesan bishop, Robert Moody, chose to vote in favor of Gene Robinson's ordination has not helped.

Even the larger churches (like the Cathedral) have lost members; other members have chosen to stop donating to the church. So, while a brave and bold stand, Bishop Moody's vote has had a direct economic impact on churches in the Diocese of Oklahoma.

Given this, the focus on strengthening the bonds of affection at home make a great deal of sense.
The meeting ended a little after 3:00, with a prayer.

Day Three
I had already made arrangements to meet Alexandria at 3:30 at a local bookstore. Alexandria recently moved to Oklahoma City from Michigan, and has been attending St. Paul's since November of last year. I first became aware of her when she attended one of the classes I was leading on the Rosary.

Being a typical straight guy, I noticed right away that Alexandria was single and attractive. I soon learned that we have many common views and common interests. So, it made sense to ask her out for a "coffee date".

We'd been visiting for a while when Alex told me she was already seeing a man in Florida - she goes to see him about once a month. He is someone she has known since high school, and it's clear the ties between them are pretty strong. She also mentioned that she had once tried dating two men at once, and found it to be too stressful.

Naturally, I was a tad disappointed. But I found the way she shared this vital information to be very caring and tender.

When I asked her out, I figured the worst that could happen would be that I gained a new friend. And we seem to be off to a great start.

We met a little after 3:30, and parted about 7:30. It seems telling to me that, even as tired as I was, I wasn't aware of the time. I thoroughly enjoyed Alex's company; and it would seem that she enjoyed mine as well. Even though I was very scattered, in my sleep-deprived state.

I gave her a school-style valentine on Sunday, and she sent me a very nice electronic valentine on Monday.

We agreed we'd like to see each other again.

Idée d’jour

Karma means you don't get away with nothin’
— Ruth Denison

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
— John Lennon

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Idée d’jour

All the way to Heaven is Heaven.
— St. Catherine of Siena

The Voice in the Dark

he had never been stripped naked
to stand before the voice in the dark
he'd never had his flesh flailed
by the winnowing fire

his head had never been shaved
in the house of loneliness
his feet had never been washed
by ferris wheel tears

the voice in the dark
spoke like autumn
the voice in the dark
knelt like the stars

the voice in the dark loved him
like water breaking through stone
the voice in the dark loved him
like night loves dreaming of dawn

he stood naked before the voice
the voice was prostrate before him
his head was shaved, his flesh was pure
the voice loved him like a desert

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Evening Suburban Sky

Click for full image
This is the same section of sky I shot this morning for "Suburban Sky". This was taken at 6:30 p.m.

Click for larger image
Also taken at 6:30 p.m. Note the tattered flag in the distance.

Suburban Sky

Click for full-size image

This seasonal blue
clouds explode on the east
winter hunkers down
Picture taken at 7:30 a.m. this morning. Props to Dr. Omed's "Open Skies"
Morning and evening we watch
as the dome spins through singing stars
and we count the drifting notes
of our private cantatas

Rooting for the Underdog

In a recent entry, Michael Wells (defender of poetry in the modern world) mentions that it is soon-to-be baseball season. He notes that this will be welcome to news to all but Cubs fans.

Now, you don't have to be around me for very long to realise that I'm not much of a sports fan. I didn't know who played in the Superbowl, nor did I care. Football was the True Religion at my high school and my college, and I've drawn a considerable amount of energy from being anti-football.

I've watched a few baseball games on the tube, and with the exception of the Yankees in the 70s, I have not been impressed. OK City does have a triple-A team, the Redhawks, which I believe is a farm team for the Texas Rangers. I have attended one Redhawks game. Which I found to be about as exciting as watching paint dry.

However, I do start every baseball season with the intent of following the Cubs. Just for the sheer perversity of it. I often enjoy rooting for the underdog, and the Cubbies are pretty much the definition thereof.

Well, I have good intentions, but I never make it past the first couple of Games. Then I get distracted by less important things.

Like, say, poetry and religion. Or life. You know, stuff like that there.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Idée d’jour

Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

I am here, or pretty darn close

I got pretty excited yesterday morning, when I checked my referrers and noticed that someone clicked to this space from the Jim Behrle Show. Naturally, I had to check in at Jim's graphics-heavy site to see where he had linked me. As it turns out, my name appears in his rather extensive blogroll (btw, many thanks, Jim).

I check in on Jim's Show at least every other day. I've become a fan of his little comic strips. What they lack in draftsmanship they make up for in humor. Honestly, his art is better than mine is these days; so, who am I to judge.

Now, I don't get all of his humor. Some of the strips require inside knowledge of the current American poetry scene. For example: on the surface, Foetry dot com would seem to serve a useful function (warning people away from bogus or dodgy poetry competitions). Jim seems to be having a bit of fun imaging the Foetry offices as some sort of X-Men style HQ.

I learned sometime back that my name and link also appear on Ron Silliman's blog. I get the impression that Ron has linked to just about every person who has even mention poetry, or the desire to write poetry, even in passing. I respect him for this radically democratic spirit. The examples of his poetry which appear on his blog seem about as different from my style as possible. I find most of his writing so steeped in modern academic jargon that it's nigh unto impenetrable. Still, I'm honored to be part of his blogroll.

Jim has had an on-going series titled "Ron is Ron" which pokes fun at Mr. Silliman and one of his "disciples" (Curtis). Since I don't read Ron's blog that often, and rarely read the comments, I have little notion of what the bottom-line gag is in this series. Though I do appreciate the implicit humor of a parrot writing Ron's blog entries.

There are two comic series by Jim that I enjoy: "Horatio the Unicorn" and "The Purple Ninja". "Horatio" is political commentary using furry animals. Significantly more blatant than "Pogo", but still a great deal of fun.

I think some inside humor is at work in "The Purple Ninja", as well, but there's enough slapstick (primarily of the Monty Python/Black Knight variety) to carry the day.

Well, like I say, I got pretty excited when I saw somebody had clicked through from Jim's blog. I thought I had *ahem* arrived.

I thought I had appeared in one of his cartoons.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Work in Progress

The cosmic chamber pot has cracked
as decreed by the winter leaves.
Shallow salamanders pace the track
under squirrel-haunted eaves.
‘It's a subtle cancer,’ he said,
his miser’s smile a golden spike,
‘that changes water into bread.’
I'm still here. It's just been a hectic couple of weeks. Slightly busier evenings, much busier days. Above, you see the border-line nonsense that has been in progress for over the past week.

Idée d’jour

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it.
— Tom Robbins, writer (1936- )

Cat Friday

Cat's in the bag!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Shrove Tuesday (belated)

I am thoroughly enjoying Cosmo Doogood’s Urban Almanac, published by the folks responsible for the Utne Reader. The calendar portion of the Almanac records various holidays, and people’s birthdays. This gives me a chance to see curious cross-cultural coincidences.

For example: this past Tuesday (Feb 8) was Shrove Tuesday, in the Christian tradition, and Nirvana Day in the Buddhist tradition. The Christian holiday is also known as Mardi Gras (literally, “Fat Tuesday”). It’s called “Fat Tuesday” because people once literally cleaned all the fat out of their cabinets prior to Lent (which begins tomorrow, Ash Wednesday). Lent is a time of reflection and disciplined sacrifice, so many deny themselves the relative luxury of fat. This is the reason many churches have a pancake supper on this evening.

It’s called “Shrove Tuesday” because people prepare to be “shriven” (or liturgically forgiven) of their sins. This liturgical act once took place as part of a personal confession with an ordained priest. One was expected to be painstakingly rigorous in considering sinful acts, thoughts, and omissions. The priest would offer the penitent a penance – generally a discipline such as reading certain psalms for a certain period of time or praying the Lord’s Prayer for a period; perhaps all of Lent for either.

The dates of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are determined by the date of Easter, which is determined, in turn, by highly complex set of mathematical formulae, levers and pulleys, all related to the moon.

I’m not familiar with the Buddhist calendar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were lunar-based as well.

Sin is an alien concept in Buddhist tradition. One might be asked to leave a Buddhist monastery because one is behaving in ways that are unhealthy for oneself or the community, but no one in the community would go so far as to call the behavior “sinful” (see "What's So Special About Sex?" in the January 2005 issue of Shambhala Sun). Heck, they might not even call it “unhealthy” for all I know.

Since I have done superficial reading in Buddhism, my understanding of Nirvana is very limited. In fact, it depends a great deal on an over-view I received in my senior year of high school.

It's easy, having been raised Christian in a predominately "Christian culture", to think of Nirvana as a sort of heaven. But, just as there is no sin in Buddhism, nor is there a heaven. No heaven in the way we normally think of it, as some sort of alternate plane.

Nirvana is that state attained when one has totally divested him/herself of ego attachments. One does this through a process of mindfulness. Being mindful, that is, of the present moment. Being mindful of one's ego needs, desires, and motivations.

I think a parallel may be drawn between this discipline of mindfulness and the discipline of being shriven, for both involve honest and humble self-reflection. The Buddhist's goal is to be constantly mindful. Most Christians do not participate in a formal rite of confession; those who do may only do so two or three times a year.

There is a Christian saint who has called us to this sort of mindfulness. St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, called people to perform a daily inventory. I suspect Thich Nhat Hanh would nod his head approvingly.

Quote d’jour

As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place.
— Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday

More to come, time & muse permitting

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Quote d’jour

To the right, books; to the left, a tea-cup. In front of me, the fireplace; behind me, the post. There is no greater happiness than this.
— Teiga (from Workman's Zen Calendar)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Idée d’jour

People with opinions just go around bothering one another
— The Buddha
Well, gosh, that's the foundation of the blogosphere. If Jonathan Mayhew and Mike Snider didn't have very different opinions about poetry, they'd hardly have anything to write about. If I didn't foam at the mouth everytime I even think about our Fearless & Handsome Leader, I might be speechless.

There are certain religious issues that I have come to consider as "matters of opinion" which have helped me be less up-tight about them. For example, I think the question of whether the resurrection was a historical event is a matter of opinion. Most people who call themselves Christian would consider the resurrection a historical event; I'm aware my agnosticism on the issue is a minority opinion. But, since I recognize my view is an opinion, I don't feel compelled to argue for its facuality.

In the same manner, I think Jonathan and Mike are expression opinions about poetry. I hope to someday write more on this, but I don't suppose there to be a Platonic ideal which absolutely defines poetry. Right now, today, I'm more interested in doing my best to write a poem. My goal is to communicate - first with myself, and in accord with my variable aesthetic; then with as wide a society as possible.

I have a relatively liberal definition of poetry, which I suspect would annoy both Jonathan and Michael.

Maybe what the Buddha was getting at is the notion many people have that they must defend their opinions. The view is common that one's perception of the world, and the solution to the world's problems, is the only accurate perception. So one will defend that perception when someone offers an alternate, or conflicting, perception. This defense comes out of the sense that the other person is just plain wrong. Or, perhaps we have wrapped so much of our self-worth and identity in this "world view" that we feel attacked when someone disagrees.

As is so often the case with Buddhism, it all comes down to ego run rampant.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday's Cat

Artist Julian
Monday had a sweet beginning. DJ sensed I was close to waking up around five, and walked up from where she was – in the crook of my knees – up to my left shoulder. She set her front paws in the depression just under my shoulder blade, then started purring up a storm. Naturally, I started petting her. But it was an awkward position for either hand, so I stopped after 15-20 minutes. She was feeling pretty relaxed, I guess, because the next thing I knew her chin was resting on the left side of my mouth.

Thursday morning wasn't quite so nice. I woke at around 1:30 or 2. Which didn't make any sense, because Wednesday was the big stress day. If I was to lose sleep due to stress, it would've made sense on Wednesday morning, in anticipation of the day. But no. I wake up early the morning after the mission has been accomplished. After the goal had been achieved, all three grants got out the door in acceptable condition.

So I sat up and played solitaire for a bit, which normally is sufficiently boring to put me to sleep. I guess the fact that I wasn’t paying attention to her was distressing to DJ, because she became very vocal. Her meow is beginning to show a fascinating variety and musicality. After several losing hands of solitaire, I decided to lie down again, in hopes that DJ would understand it was time to be quiet and curl up in one of her favorite spots.

No such luck. The meowing continued. Then she started running and playing around the bedroom. At this point, I was lying on my tummy – a position that often facilitates sleep. She jumped up on the bed and – you guessed it – landed in the small of my back.

She was gently ushered from the room, and the door was closed. Amazing I could be gentle at that hour and in that condition. But I was.

It’s been a hard week for Miss Julian. I’ve not been home but one evening this week (except to eat and sleep of course). Next week will be slightly better – I’ll only be gone Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.

No doubt I’ll be buying her a new toy in the near future to relieve minor guilt pangs.

What Will I Say?

What will I say when I see her again?
I made a fool of myself.
Well, ok, that's the human condition.
She thinks I was just infatuated, or had a crush.
Doesn't matter what she thinks;
what matters is where you're at right now.
I still like her. I still think she's pretty special.
I hope we can still be friends.
I think we can still be friends even though I made a fool of myself.

How did you make a fool of yourself?
By saying you cared for her?
Too many people go to their graves
without expressing their love.
It's good she knows.

Well, there's my feelings and then there's her feelings.
You know, she was probably uncomfortable with all that attention.
I mean, I broadcast it to the whole friggin' internet!
Well, of course I hid her name, but still.
And even if it had been a series of e-mails to her alone,
she still would have been in that uncomfortable position.
That position that nobody wants to be in,
of saying, "I'm sorry, but I just don't think of you in that

I think maybe she's forgiven you.
After all, she's open to seeing you again.
So, go meet with her.
Greet her as a sister and friend.

You know, I never did sing for her....
Oh man, just grow up!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Idée d’jour

A little nonsense
now and then
Is cherished by
the wisest men.
— Roald Dahl

Five Minute Exercise

Second hand sweeps backwards
as the house sighs in candlelight.
Break open the stars!
The ground is swollen with shadows;
the night slips through intimate keyholes.
Break open your heart!
This stone heart in the stew pot,
this lonely stele.
Break open the wine!
Drink the candlelight down
in one gulp, me hearty,
be the light you seek in the world.
Discipline suggested by Reverend Mother

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Iraqi Election

I took it as a given that the Administration would spin the elections in Iraq as a victory for democracy, no matter what happened. I did not suppose that every media outlet in America - including my beloved NPR - would also proclaim it as a victory.

Much of what I would say on this topic has been said better by Rob Salkowitz. In this entry, he offers a brief civics lesson, while at the same time enumerating a number of the problems with proclaiming the Iraqi election a victory for democracy.

Let's not forget that over 150,000 American troups occupy the country. Let's not forget that the polling places were heavily guarded by those troops. The High Council for Elections was appointed by the occupying force. The current head of state, Ayad Allawi, was installed by the occupying force.

Enough Sunni boycotted the election to call its results into question.

For security reasons, there were no names on the ballot. People voted for a list, which could represent one person or a number of people. People were not voting for a party, in the sense we understand the term. There was little in the way of pre-election information, so people did not know what they were voting for.

Just a few months before the Americans invaded Iraq, there was another election. The only choice was Saddam Hussein. A majority voted for him. I agree with those who would question the validity of that election.

I would suggest, however, that the only difference between that event and what happened this past Sunday is in the number of candidates.

Haiku d’jour

Winter having come,
the crows perch
on the scarecrow.
— Kikaku (from Workman Press' Zen Calendar)