Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
the Final Say
Just like this.
What do we hear when we listen for truth? Who has final say?
If one were to despair their country because of disbelief in its
way of life, where would they go? If one no longer recognized those
who say they represent you, where turn? If one feared rather than
loved the institutions pledged to serve, how continue in their shadow?
The spirituality of redemptive violence put forth by any administration
conducting a global war, nominally to extract terrorism and insert
democracy, is antithetical to the spirituality of redemption embodied
by the person in whose name the violence is done. A spiritual bait
and switch, a scam selling faux-Christian battle plans disguising
apocalyptic economic control in shiny wardrobe costume of democratic
principles, a play to overcome non-like-us peoples, has begun and
How can we ever lose interest in life?
Spring has come again
And cherry trees bloom in the mountains
- Ryokan (1758-1831)(dailyzen)
Spring comes to soothe tired hearts. Words and ways of arrogance,
dominance, and condescending certitude exhaust dwindling remnant trust.
In birth country many once great dreams strain in vacant eyes. Calculating
souls use errant ambition to conquer, grab spoils, and disregard decency.
If we conceive of God as somehow violent, however redemptive
we imagine this violence to be, we will then conceive of the road
to peace as also lying in violence.
Sadly that is often the case, within Christian and secular circles
alike. We too often think of God as someone who will use violence
to overthrow evil and bring about justice and peace. We conceive
of God as a force for redemptive violence.
What is redemptive violence? It is what happens
at the end of a movie, storybook, or song, when the hero finally beats
up the bully who has been terrorizing everyone.
At Sunday Evening Practice we read this section from The Holy
Longing, chapter “A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking” subsection
‘A Nonviolent God Who Underwrites Justice and Peace.’ It was Mother’s
Day. Three of us sat with soup and bread, mothers gone beyond, and
wondered, male and female, what mothering is desperately called for
Finally, the story reaches its climax.
The bully corners the hero, who now has no choice – either fight or
die. The redemption takes place. The hero, pushed beyond the limit,
takes off his jacket, calmly rolls up his sleeves, and beats the bully
to death…and tears come to our eyes because now, finally, justice
has been done. Evil has been crushed and goodness has been vindicated.
We hardly stop to think that what
has really happened is that goodness has now been more violent than
evil. We fail to notice that our good hero began as Mother Teresa
but ended as Rambo and Batman. We certainly fail to see that the ending
of this redemptive story is radically opposite to the story of Jesus.
When he, Jesus, was finally cornered and the choice was to fight or
die (“If you are the son of God, come off that cross!”) he, unlike
our mythical heroes, chose the latter.
We must be careful, particularly
in trying to create justice and peace, not to confuse the Christian
story of redemption with the story of redemptive violence. We must
try to bring about justice and peace as Jesus did, recognizing that
the God whom Jesus called “Father” beats up no one. (- Rolheiser)
In Conversations at the Prison a recent Friday a sentence emerged
from variety of phrases spoken by inmates and guests. “It is a necessary
offering of life. Take away intentional hostility and arrives homage,
acceptance, and humility.” Hostility and violence breed hostility
and violence. What is needed is absence of hostility. What is needed
is the truth of reverence, acceptance, surrender, and walking humbly
on this earth.
Prisons are places to contemplate the experience of what it means
to be trapped by time and circumstance. There is much to contemplate
in our contemporary culture, in and out of prison, that threatens
fear and rejoices violence. The freedom of people to choose their
own leaders and way of life is at risk everywhere. Dictators, terrorists,
and errant administrations all force their will on peoples too powerless
and heedless to resist.
Leaves refresh branches hiding houses
up high hill, only new life
surrounding light green solitude (- wfh)
In the Gospels, Jesus is described as powerful, more powerful
in fact than anyone the crowds ever encountered. However, the word
that is used to describe Jesus’ power, exousia (in Greek)
does not refer to the power of muscle, speed, or even extraordinary
grace or brilliance. It refers to something for which in the English
language, we have no easy translation. What is exousia?
What constitutes Jesus’ real power? What ultimately brings about
justice and peace?
Daniel Berrigan provides a good answer to this question. He
was once asked to give a talk at a university gathering. The topic
was something to the effect of “God’s Presence in Today’s World.”
His talk, I suspect, surprised a number of people in his audience,
both in brevity and in content.
He simply told the audience how he, working in a hospice for
the terminally ill, goes each week to spend some time sitting by
the bed of a young boy who is totally incapacitated, physically
and mentally. The young boy can only lie there. He cannot speak
or communicate with his body nor in any other way express to those
who come into his room. He lies mute, helpless, by all outward appearance
cut off from any possible communication. Berrigan then described
how he goes regularly to sit by this boy’s bed to try to hear what
he is saying in his silence and his helplessness.
After sharing this, Berrigan added a further
point: The way this young man lies in our world, silent and helpless,
is the way God lies in our world. To hear what God is saying we must
learn to hear what this young boy is saying. ( - Rolheiser)
The practice of true reality
Is simply to sit serenely
In silent introspection.
When you have fathomed this,
You cannot be turned around
By external causes and conditions.
This empty, wide-open mind
Is subtly and correctly
- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)(dailyzen)
To work for justice and peace in this world
is not to move from being Mother Teresa to being Rambo or Batman.
The God who undergirds justice and peace beats up no one and His or
Her cause is not furthered when we do.
(-- quotes excerpted from pp185-188
of The Holy Longing, The Search for a Christian Spirituality,
by Ronald Rolheiser, c.1999)
It has been a stark, long, cold, and desolate time. That’s what different
people in Cape Breton said about the winter. That’s what many in Maine
say about this past time and the uncertain path our country is marching
Buds emerge. Seeds crack open. Remaining patches of snow huddle in
shaded places facing north. Something is ending.
To hear what God is saying we must learn to hear what this young
boy is saying.
Truth, a Zen Master said, is just like this.
Our spirituality is to listen with holy longing.
God never overpowers. God’s power in this world
is never the power of a muscle, a speed, a physical attractiveness,
a brilliance, or a grace which (as the contemporary expression has
it) blows you away and makes you shout: “Yes! Yes! There is a God!”
The world’s power tries to work that way. God’s power though is more
muted, more helpless, more shamed, and more marginalized. But it lies
at a deeper level, at the ultimate base of things, and will, in the
end, gently have the final say. (- Rolheiser)
What is this?
If we ask, so must we listen and long.
Mother this; mother truth.
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
, and all who grace Meetingbrook,