Keep Breathing

“God is closer to me than I am to myself: my being depends on God’s being near me and present to me. So God is also in a stone or a log of wood, only they do not know it. If the wood knew God and realized how close God is to it…it would be blessed as the highest angel. And so I am more blessed than a stone or a piece of wood because I am aware of God and know how close God is to me. And I am the more blessed, the more I realize this, and I am the less blessed the less I know this. I am not blessed because God is in me, but because I am aware of how close God is to me, and that I know God.”
– Meister Eckhart-

This is a great point, especially for me. I tend to forget. So, if I tend to forget God is in me, does that make me, like, a block of wood or something? That’s a metaphor I will have to ruminate on…

And when we say to one another, on parting or in prayer, “God be with you.” or “Via con Dios.”, or even “God Bless You.” it’s kind of stating the obvious. Like saying, “Hey, keep breathing, okay?”

What’s a good salutation phrase that effectively says “Don’t forget God is with you.” that doesn’t sound pedantic?

Well, if the difference is awareness — and since for me the act of focused breathing helps me center myself and tune out distractions, thus helping me increase my awareness of God within me — then maybe “Keep Breathing.” is not such a bad salutation to greet and part with after all.

So with that, I am off to prepare for my childrens’ baptism, the subsequent party, and then a trip up yonder to the hills of Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. I may post here if I can find a moment and a thought, but since the computer room will be a makeshift guest bedroom for the next few days and the prospects of finding a cybercafe in Poteau are slim, I suspect any updates will be spotty until after the first of next month.

Have a good Thanksgiving. And y’all Keep Breathing, okay?

A fountain empties itself

I came across this beautiful poignant poem while doing some research for a writeup of poet Brian Patten for Everything2. I just had to share:

‘Sometimes it Happens’

And sometimes it happens that you are friends and then
You are not friends,
And friendship has passed.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself.

And sometimes it happens that you are loved and then
You are not loved,
And love is past.
And whole days are lost and among them
A fountain empties itself into the grass.

And sometimes you want to speak to her and then
You do not want to speak,
Then the opportunity has passed.
Your dreams flare up, they suddenly vanish.

And also it happens that there is nowhere to go and then
There is somewhere to go,
Then you have bypassed.
And the years flare up and are gone,
Quicker than a minute.

So you have nothing.
You wonder if these things matter and then
As soon as you begin to wonder if these things matter
They cease to matter,
And caring is past.
And a fountain empties itself into the grass.

— Brian Patten

Futurists' Bible Study

Whereas I aspire some day to be paid to be a religious futurist, that is to be both religious and a futurist to get paid, and Whereas I believe that the foundational spiritual approach to any subject like planning and the future is found in scripture, and Whereas I cannot find any such collections of related scripture on the future, I am now informally collecting such scripture for study and meditation.

Like this from James:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.”
— James 4:13

and this from Luke

Luke 14:27-33 And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come
after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you having a mind to
build a tower, doth not first sit down, and reckon the charges that
are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it: Lest, after
he hath laid the foundation, and is not able ti finish it, all that
see it begin to mock him, saying: This man began to build, and was
not able to finish. Or what king, about to go to make war against
another king, doth not first sit down, and think whether he be able,
with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand, cometh
against him? Or else, whilst the other is yet afar off, sending an
embassy, he desireth conditions of peace. So likewise every one of
you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my
disciple.

Whereas I am both a Catholic and a scripture greenhorn, I’d be grateful for any help in my newfound collection.

Swap Miss

Well, I’m bummed. A few years back I attended a swap meet at the Orange Show and had a blast. Now they’re finally having another one.

Cool Event I Can't Attend

But it’s this Saturday. We’re baptizing our two youngest that day — we’ve claimed ’em for the Clarks, now we’ll claim ’em for Christ — and we’ll be having 120 or so of our closest friends over for a party afterwards (That’s based on RSVPs, not just invitations. Yikes!). And then after that, we’re having a Hebner Thanskgiving dinner celebration, as it is an “off” year for Hebners and “on” for Clarks at Thanksgiving. So we are booked solid that day.

But y’all go and tell me how it was. I wanna have my own swap meet…

Cube Farmers' Anthem

This excellent Hemingway poem came across my metaphorical desk. As a cubefarmer, the tone sounds distinctly Dilbertian:

The Age

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

— Ernest Hemingway (1922)

Any skilled composers out there want to set this to music?

We are made of Ocean

Even a strong wind is empty by nature.
Even a great wave is just ocean itself.
Even thick southern clouds are insubstantial as sky.
Even the dense mind is naturally birthless.

-Milarepa, “Drinking The Fountain Stream”

Circumstances found me on a boat last night. Spectacular night, calm seas, beautiful lights on the shore. Reflections of light on the water at night always make me think of impermanence and dependence. We are like reflections on the water, distinguishable but distorted, who rest entirely on and in the Ocean. We may think ourselves to be distinct individuals, but really we are all just ocean. It’s a metphor that breaks if you stretch it too far. Just take away that we depend on God as reflections depend on water.

And then the waves, each appearing distinct, arising from and rushing back to the Ocean. Each wave merging into the place from which it came. We are maybe more like waves — we think we are separate, but we are all made of Ocean.

Moby is wrong.

Veronica's Bored. Congratulations, Veronica.

Dear Veronica,

Welcome to Boring. I’m a native in these here parts — second generation Boring. I was born here and hope to retire here. I love Boring. I’d be happy to show you around.

So you’re from Drama, huh? I’ve vacationed there before. Yep. Did a week or two in Desperation a few years back. Spent a three day weekend in Despair too. All very exciting for sure, but I’m always glad to come back home. To Boring.

Storms of Life are exciting, yes. Boring is all calm seas and still winds. You can take off and land from Boring. To anywhere your heart desires.

The soil is fertile here in Boring. Good for growing things. You can grow children if that’s your crop of choice. Children thrive on Boring. But, without all the rocks and earthquakes of Drama, whatever roots you want to put down here will grow straight deep and strong.

Boring is the Heartland of everywhere you’ve ever been. But just because it’s the Heartland that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your mind. In fact, Boring gives you time to think, to use your mind. To write.

Granted writers in Drama produce better narratives, but here in Boring, we prefer a well-developed character.

That’s why I’m sure you’ll do well here.

Now there’s one rule all newcomers to Boring need to know — there’s a difference between being Boring and being Bored. Boring is a judgement others put on you, Bored is a judgement you put on yourself. You have control over the latter without having to leave the Boring city limits.

Well, there I go, talking too much again. I’ll leave you to get settled in. There’s a block party every week in Boring. Usually a pot luck. Your potato salad will be fine. Hope to see you there.

Cody

Three Down. One to go. I think.

So, Petunia is now a Clark. She was not as impressed by this as we all were. She was like, “What? I thought I was a Clark already. What’s up with the court thing?”

We went to court and it was standing room only in the hall outside the courtrooms. Lawyers meeitng with clients in doorways. Impatient children running around in the halls. Parents shushing and trying unsuccessfully to entertain their broods. Typical scene for the Family Court building.

Except this day, everybody was cheerful. It was almost all adoptions, being National Adoption Day and all. We were one of the last families to go before the Judge, so we got to see all the other families go in. There was one with an adorable autistic boy. There was one family with three little hispanic girls all dressed in identical frocks which matched their mother who’d obviously sewed them herself. There was the one with two little African American boys dressed in identical bright purple suits, who looked so happy it made your own smile muscles hurt. And then the family who went right before us made me cry a little bit — nine children, two little African American girls to be adopted that day, two with mental handicaps and one with a prosthetic leg, two had bald or partially bald heads which suggested maybe some medical condition like cancer. Damn. Sometimes I consider the greatness of love that people can show and it gets me all choked up. It was a very feel good day.

Later that night we talked about what to do next. You see there’s this voice that tells me that three kids is enough. It was the same voice that told me that two was enough, except now it is stronger. I’m going to ignore that voice. That voice that says, “Enjoy the three you have.” I’m going to ignore that voice, that voice that says, “You’ll be paying for college educations until after your retirement. You’ll never own a really cool car, no dream vacations, no summer homes.” I’m going to ignore that voice.

Because all of the best stuff in my life has come from ignoring that voice. I can’t live my life listening to that voice. That voice is not from God. Somewhere out there there’s a kid who needs a forever home and will be glad we ignored that voice.

Our compromise is that we will not extend our child rearing years by taking on another baby. Petunia will be our youngest. We are looking for an African American child — because Heidi is firm in her conviction that Mr. Freshpants “should not be the only black person in the family” — to be our second oldest child. So we are being a bit more picky with our third foster/adopt. But then older children are hardest to place, so hopefully we’re still filling a need.

In a way, we’re leaving it up to God. We’ll let our agency know what we’re open to and then wait faithfully. God will send us one if it is her will. All we have to do is say “yes”. And ignore that voice.

The Big Day

Today is the day. After a whirlwind stint as a foster child in our home, Petunia goes to court today to finalize the adoption.

Houston celebrates National Adoption Day today, so it should be quite the “to do.”

Only other foster parents can truly appreciate how astounding this is. She was placed with us in early January as a foster and we’re finalizing adopting by November. Record time. This for a child that would have gone on the private adoption block for tens of thousands of dollars. (Don’t get me started on what I think of the baby market, um, I mean, the private adoption process.) So instead of spending tens of thousands to adopt her, we’ll just put that money toward her college education.

The key here, the reason why she went through the system so quickly and cleanly I guess, is that nobody fought for her.

Except us.

We are extraordinarily blessed.

Attention.

“Attention is living; inattention is dying.
The attentive never stop; the inattentive are dead already.”

-Dhammapada 21, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

This reminded me in prayer this morning of the Romans 6:23 — “The wages of sin is death,” — which I am used to hearing since I grew up as a more or less Judeo-Christian type.

When I first heard that phrase, it was back when my understanding was, um, less mature. I figured it meant that if you did something bad enough, God would fry you with a bolt of lightning. That was back when I veiwed sin as offenses against a list of laws — bad stuff you do. I also believed death was something that happens after you, well, after you die.

We Christians believe in how Life can extend beyond Death, thus conquering its power. Now I understand how Death can overtake Life *before* you die. Sin is not just a big rap sheet of legal offenses, it is a state of separateness, disconnectedness. It is a sort of self-centered autopilot that eventually turns you into a “Living Dead.” Just like in the old movie, except you smell better.

Try this experiment: Sit and watch eight straight hours of TV. I did this a coupla Saturdays ago watching College football all day. Afterwards, I just felt like a slug. The catatonic state induced by extended TV watching left me feeling tired, scattered, vaguely cranky, and well, dead. It’s a little taste of the death brought on by living inattentively.

What you pay attention to, or don’t pay attention to, determines if you Live or Die. Before you die.

One of the web writers I admire, Eliot Wilder (over there on my sidebar), is the author of some of my favorite web quotes:

“Is your first responsibility to yourself? The question is misleading; that is, it misleads the person who takes it to heart. It’s like asking, must you shift your weight in order to walk? Of course you must, but anyone who concentrates first on shifting his weight will not walk well — Eliot Wilder”

Which says to me that if I want to walk well in this Life, I must not focus my attention on myself.