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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
January 2004

 Theme: Wholly Other, No Other --
" The little phrase ‘God is’ amounts to a revolution."

"What if God was one of us?"

That first line of the song by Joan Osborne opens the Friday evening television show on CBS, Joan of Arcadia. It's a good line. It’s a good question.

The phrase "One of us" suggests that God might be right here, among us, not far from the person beside us, "a stranger on a bus," and even in the guise of that very person. A particularity.

The phrase "One of us" also has a more troubling interpretation, namely, that God is the collective as singularity. "One of us" -- as the experience of what prophet, physicist, and messiah have told us -- we are not separate, we are family, a cellular wholeness that does not exclude but includes each and every being, each and every atom existing in space and time.

If, in this second instance, "One," is as verb, it suggests that God is one-ing and we are being one'd.     

This first month of a new year suggests change. Meetingbrook makes a few changes in schedule effective immediately:

  • Monthly 3rd Saturday Mindfulness Retreat has new form -- including six 40-minute sittings.  (No morning bookshop conversation on 3rd Saturdays.)
  • Earlier daily opening of bookshop bakery, 9:30am-6:30pm. (Saturday/Sunday 9:30am-5:30pm)
  • New Friday Evening Conversation, Interreligious Dialogue: Unveiling and Practicing Peace Between Ways
  • Saturday Afternoon Conversation at 4:30pm is now Poetry, Tea, & Literature.
  • All silent sittings are now 40 minutes in duration, (whether at 6:05am daily mornings, 6:00pm Sunday evenings, or 3rd Saturday Monthly Retreats.)

And proposed other changes for this year:

  • Continue to work to acquire land next to ours for guesthouse with retreat rooms and library with conversation space.
  • Secure a lovely old and inexpensive wooden sailboat to continue and expand the retreat sails Saskia does summer and fall. (These are free events, anyone is welcome,)
  • Restore what can be restored of hermitage old house and barn.

[These proposed changes entail funds we do not have. Any and all donations for the continuation and deepening of Meetingbrook will be gratefully accepted. Now that we have our permanent 501 (c)(3) non-profit tax-deductible charitable organization status, we plan to actively engage and invite individuals and grant conferring foundations to donate financial assistance to Meetingbrook. We pray for generosity.]

What is 'peace' that we think conversation about the many world religions has any relevance to unveiling and practicing peace between ways?

No one has ever seen God.
Yet if we love one another
God dwells in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
The way we know we remain in him
and he in us
is that he has given us of his Spirit.
(-- from letter 1John4: 12-13)

Peace is not the absence of conflict. Conflict seems always to exist as tension between any two things, persons, or systems. Two views, two beliefs, two ways of doing things -- is a common experience, even within oneself.

Peace is the willingness to reside in the midst of conflict with equanimity. Seeing both sides, acknowledging different beliefs, accepting there are two ways of doing any one thing. Where peace has a possibility of entering these constants of twoness is by the inner realization that two seems to be the way of all existence.

And yet, all the while, one is part of two – something resides in the middle of ‘two.’ Each side of an argument, or, each side of a proposed way of doing things, is itself one point of view, one approach, looking through a ‘between,’ a middle place, as it looks to the other. We realize we have to consider what is one and what is the other –- and what is it we look through? 

Maybe there’s something profound for us to ponder if it is true that ‘No one has ever seen God.’ One doesn’t see ‘Spirit’ as something to look at. Spirit is seen through. Spirit is what is within and between one and the other.

Peace is willingness to state one's preference -- there's no need for diplomatic vagueness. Peace is willingness to accept differences of thought and behavior while working to diminish the attachments to thought and behavior. These attachments might be angry, harmful acts that seek to eliminate or subjugate the other -- or even oneself. Zealous intent to eliminate or conquer, possess or secure beyond doubt, are signs that attachment is at work. Peace seeks equanimity-dwelling one with the other. 

In the phrases ending the last two paragraphs, ‘and’ and ‘with’ reside between ‘one’ and ‘the other.’ These two words, ‘and’ and ‘with,’ might be words mostly invisible, as is the word and reality ‘Spirit.’ God, says John, is love, is Spirit – “and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”(1John4) 

She dwells in God and love dwells in her with God. Is this peace? Is this what is being seen through? Is this what is between us? Is this middle way where God is not-one, not-two? Where does one end? Where does other reach? Is Spirit and peace what is dwelling between us? Finally, are we willing to dwell in that holy peace between, and with, ‘whole’ and ‘no?’

Meetingbrook took mono as a characterizing description of our way of life -- monastics of no other. It, like most of our life, is a koan, a riddle containing within itself the answer. We are taken with Isaiah's words, even with applying some poetic license, "I am the Lord, there is no other."(Is.45: 6)(or Dt.4: 39)  Even if God were to be considered, in Karl Barth's words, “ganz Anderen” or, "wholly Other," still, mono applies. We can be monastics of no other. Of course there is the inquiry – might God be wholly other and no other?

Driven back to the New Testament, Barth recognized within its pages the centrality and sufficiency of "the Word made flesh." He saw that the basis of the Church’s proclamation and pastoral care was not the world’s self-understanding, but rather the very Godness of the God who is "wholly other" than his creation and is therefore "wholly free" to give himself to us and for us.

(-- from the writings and sermons of Victor Shepherd, on Karl Barth)

We are not God. God is be-ing us. God no-others us. God might be called "wholly other" and we might be called "monastics of no other." What relation has wholly other with no other?

He will be remembered as one who recalled the Church to its foundation: Jesus Christ is given to us as Judge, Saviour and Lord inasmuch as the world’s sin renders it both ignorant of its condition and impotent to do anything about it.

It had all been anticipated decades before in a remark of the young pastor in Safenwil: "The little phrase ‘God is’ amounts to a revolution."

(Shepherd, on Barth, http://www.victorshepherd.on.ca/Heritage/Barth.htm)

Peace dwells in the midst of mystery and contradiction. Conflict is the tension, perhaps creative tension, between one and the other.

Failure to accept and honor this tension between one and the other is cause for war, murder, and destruction. Human history is rife with that failure.

What is peace but the willingness to dwell creatively and prayerfully in the midst of contradiction and dilemma? All life is replete with contradiction and dilemma. By acting to rid one or the other, by entertaining thoughts that suggest one or the other is good or bad and therefore one or the other must be solely remaining or solely eliminated -- is the cause of much suffering in the world.

We need to try to dwell peacefully in the world. The koan of Jesus -- "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"(Mt.10: 34)  -- has to be engaged. Awareness of the split that severs our consciousness from one to two, one from the other -- is the beginning.

Peace is a profound reality. It is not the absence of war, or the absence of conflict. Rather, I suspect, the riddle of sword and split contains within itself the answer. If you were the Prince of Peace, where would you dwell?

Peace is not the absence of anything. Peace is the between of everything. Peace is dwelling between ‘each and every’ in existence.

Peace is unveiling the mystery and practicing caring loving presence between one and the other, between ways of seeing, living, and dwelling in the world.

The sword brings itself to transformation into ploughshare. The ground is split for seed to be planted, seed split into growing food, which is torn from ground to nourish hungry bodies, which themselves are transformed into energy engaging the world, itself split by ideology, resources, and religion.

Peace isn't brought into the world. Peace, I submit, is the very reality of the world.

But it is the reality we mistakenly look for, and not through. It is the reality we ignore and are impotent to bring about. We erringly try to create existence from two pieces of wood, missing the foundational fact that two pieces of wood, themselves, exemplify existence.

A.J. Muste said it, ''There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.''

It is our task, our work, and our practice to dwell in the very reality of the world -- acknowledging, accepting, and engaging the transformation of one and the other -- living centered in and seeing through the mystery.

This mystery is peace. This mystery is God.

This mystery is all that is.

God is.

Tea anyone?

With gratitude.
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge
and all who grace Meetingbrook

Epiphany, 6January2004.

Email (mono@meetingbrook.org) or mail to
Meetingbrook, 50 Bayview St. Camden, Maine 04843.



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Meetingbrook Hermitage
64 Barnstown Rd.,
Camden, Maine USA 04843
Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery
50 Bayview St. (Cape on the harbor)
Camden, Maine USA 04843
e-mail: mono@meetingbrook.org

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