Hold It All

Gratitude/909

I spent the afternoon in Benton Park with exuberant Penny Smith  who, last night, pulled out one of her notebooks, opened to a random page and found this advice she’d scribbled down during one of our tête-à-têtes at Northwest Coffee two plus years ago– “Don’t read books by Dostoevsky; read your own journal! — Mark Chmiel”

 

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Raising the Alarm, Or Not

I just finished the book Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom  by Ariel Burger and found this interview segment on Wiesel and Palestinian Rights.

Burger quotes Wiesel as follows, which reminds  me of Israeli journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass– “The ones who recognize the coming of evil, of oppression, are often seen as madmen. They are attuned to a reality that most people do not see, to a vision of the world without hatred, a messianic vision. They live for this vision, and they are so sensitive to whatever threatens it that, unlike others, they react immediately. They are usually the first to raise the alarm.”

 

“Show Me Your American Buddha”

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace was published  31 years years ago, and it remains fresh, challenging, and practical.  While there are thousands of books on Buddhism,  this short  text of 115 pages, graced with the illustrations by Mayumi Oda, can be a sage guide for  personal and social transformation.  

Being Peace long predates Thich Nhat Hanh becoming an American, even global, spiritual phenomenon.  The  seven chapters are based on talks he gave in 1985 to U.S. to peace activists and meditation practitioners, not exactly mainstream America.  The chapter “Interbeing” gives an inspiring introduction to his community that seeks to practice mindful social action through 14 exacting precepts. Another chapter gives an illuminating,  contemporary take on the three traditional refuges in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. There is much here to orient a new student  and remind an experienced one of the essentials.

May the following short excerpts prompt you  to go to your library and check out this book from a man Daniel Berrigan once described as “foam-rubber dynamite.”

_________________

“In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats can sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, hr or she can help the beat survive. His or her expression—face, voice—communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will lsiten to what he or she says. One suc person can save the lives of many.”  11-12 Read the rest of this entry »

Snowed In

Chris’s driveway, Fenton, MO

Old, Learned, Respectable Bald Heads

I saw this book on my shelf, opened to a page, and found this–

But that is the sort of thing we can expect from the Abstract Owl, the dried-up Western descendant of the Confucianist Dedicated Scholar, who, unlike his Noble but rather unimaginative ancestor, thinks he has some sort of monopoly on—-

“What’s that?” Pooh interrupted.

“What’s what?” I asked.

“What you just said—the Confusionist, Desiccated Scholar.”

“Well, let’s see. The Confusionist, Desiccated Scholar is one who studies Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge, and who keeps what he learns to himself or to his small group, writing pompous and pretentious papers that no one else can understand, rather than working for the enlightenment of others. How’s that?”

“Much better,” said Pooh.

–Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Title above is line 2 from W. B. Yeats’s poem, “The Scholars”

Books To Read before We Die

Recently, I gave a bibliophilic friend the new book by James Mustich, 1,000 Books To Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List. It is a delight to peruse the tome, as the author and his associates have done a brilliant job of layout, summary, enticement—each day I pick it up, I make mental notes of works to reread or discover afresh.

Mustich encourages his readers to start their own list and add books that have been significant in their lives. I noticed that of his thousand, there’s not one by Noam Chomsky. This reminded me that a book by Chomsky that I read, way back in 1985, deepened how I was then learning to see the world.

The timing was perfect. With friends in Louisville, I had the good fortune to be a part of three projects that had as their focus U.S. foreign policy and Central America—the Sanctuary Movement for Salvadoran refugees; Witness for Peace in the war zones of Nicaragua under attack by the U.S.-backed contras; and the Pledge of Resistance which aimed to make Congress accountable for funding the terrorists against the Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan people.

During that period I read Chomsky’s Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America & The Struggle for Peace. I had already been developing a sharper, critical perspective on the role of the U.S. government, having been informed by the radical Catholic perspectives of Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan, and Thomas Merton. Chomsky, free from all religiosity, set as his task to de-mystify the U.S. policies and to expose the intellectuals who were the agents and beneficiaries of that mystification. (It was shortly after this period that I read The Fateful Triangle, Chomsky’s book on the U.S., Israel, and the Palestinians, which influenced me to such a degree that I later expanded a small point Chomsky made therein about Elie Wiesel into my first book.) Read the rest of this entry »

Be Here Now: American Sadhana and the Search for the Real

If you’ve ever …

put your faith in a guru
traveled to India and were blown away and never took a single drug

recited a mantra throughout the day
met your future wife at  a retreat in north India

had a mid-Seventies practice of TM
acknowledged 1970 seed planted from radio frequent playing of My Sweet Lord

engaged in a conversations where such words as Atman, samadhi, and sattva were common
quoted often one of your Gujarati-American students who told her classmates, “I look at you and see God”

went “off-script” after having read Be Here Now
smiled with a Namaste and palms together several hundred times

underwent 190+ hours for Yoga Teacher Training
learned how to play the sitar Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Ahead to a Spring Trip to Washington, D.C.

I want to listen to your tales of triumph and disaster

I want to massage your feet, long oppressed by heels

I want to be present to all you cannot say

I want to be restored by seeing your samadhi in the flesh as you whirl around in the kitchen (darshan)

I want to buy you three books (at Busboys and Poets) you will actually want to read before 2020

 

The Bloom of Youth

I came across this photo of Hedy Wachenheimer (later Epstein) from one of my files; this is likely  from when she was in her teens.

Thought for the End of One Year and the Beginning of Another

“Why count the days, when even one day is enough for man to know all happiness. My dears, why do we quarrel, boast before each other, remember each other’s offenses? Let us go to the garden, let us walk and play and love and praise and kiss each other, and bless our life.”

~Markel, in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov