Posts Tagged ‘ Religion ’

Frederick Buechner

I happened randomly on this author today through a Jesuit blog. I saw a quote of his on the sidebar and had to investigate. I read through more of his quotes and I quite like them. I love it when someone sees the personal significance behind what we claim to believe, and when someone finds beauty without dismissing the bad things in life.

“Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it. You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is. You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn’t.”


“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

And then, after reading all these quotes, I found one by someone I greatly respect.

Annie Dillard (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) says: “Frederick Buechner is one of our finest writers.”

Looks like I may have to read some of his books.



Oh God, I wish from now on
to be the first to become conscious
of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;

I want to be the first to seek,
to sympathize, and to suffer;
the first to unfold and sacrifice myself,

to become more widely human
and more nobly of the earth
than any of the world’s servants.

 –Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Thomas Merton from Raids on the Unspeakable

“And to have the will to be saved, must one limit oneself very carefully to a few select things that are taken seriously? And must everything else be ignored? In other words, to be saved is to exclude from consideration the possibility that one might be damned?

To take that possibility of damnation seriously is, then, to be lost?

But how do anything else? How not to take it seriously?

(Think of the unspeakable triviality of popular religion which consist in not taking the possibility of damnation seriously anymore!

To be saved, is then, to be rescued from all seriousness!

To fall into the ludicrous and satanic flippancy of false piety, kitsch, Saint Suplice!–or the euphoria of busy and optimistic groups!)

So, unless you can falsify and dominate reality with will, you are lost–and if you can impose your own obsession on reality (instead of having reality impose itself as an obsession on you) then are you perhaps doubly lost?

The question of this book, the deeper question, is the very nature of reality itself.

Inexorable consistency. Is reality the same as consistency?

The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

There is, above the consistent and the logical word of justice, and inconsistent illogical world where nothing “handing together,” where justice no longer damns each man to his own darkness. This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

The world can only be consistent without God.

A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of “things to be taken seriousely” because they “save,” because they are “his affairs.”
(Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency.)

The Cross is the sign of contradiction–destorying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy! This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved–while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.”

The Purest Wine

God has given us a dark wine so potent that,
drinking it, we leave the two worlds.

God has put into the form of hashish a power
to deliver the taster from self-consciousness.

God has made sleep so
that it erases every thought.

God made Majnun love Layla so much that
just her dog would cause confusion in him.

There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.

Don’t think all ecstacies
are the same!

Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley.

Drink from the presence of saints,
not from those other jars.

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.

Be a conoisseur,
and taste with caution.

Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,

the ones unadulterated with fear,
or some urgency about “what’s needed.”

Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it’s been untied,

and is just ambling about.


Jalal ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi

On this day, 802 years ago, one of the greatest poets and mystics to ever live was born.  To celebrate, here are some of his powerful quotes:

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.”

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

“Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more – more unseen forms become manifest to him.”

“You are quaffing drink from a hundred fountains: whenever any of these hundred yields less, your pleasure is diminished. But when the sublime fountain gushes from within you, no longer need you steal from the other fountains.”

“Reason is like an officer when the king appears. The officer then loses his power and hides himself. Reason is the shadow cast by God; God is the sun.”

“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

And a poem:

I’ve said before that every craftsman
searches for what’s not there
to practice his craft.

A builder looks for the rotten hole
where the roof caved in. A water-carrier
picks the empty pot. A carpenter
stops at the house with no door.

Workers rush toward some hint
of emptiness, which they then
start to fill. Their hope, though,
is for emptiness, so don’t think
you must avoid it. It contains
what you need!
Dear soul, if you were not friends
with the vast nothing inside,
why would you always be casting you net
into it, and waiting so patiently?

This invisible ocean has given you such abundance,
but still you call it “death”,
that which provides you sustenance and work.

God has allowed some magical reversal to occur,
so that you see the scorpion pit
as an object of desire,
and all the beautiful expanse around it,
as dangerous and swarming with snakes.

This is how strange your fear of death
and emptiness is, and how perverse
the attachment to what you want.

Now that you’ve heard me
on your misapprehensions, dear friend,
listen to Attar’s story on the same subject.

He strung the pearls of this
about King Mahmud, how among the spoils
of his Indian campaign there was a Hindu boy,
whom he adopted as a son. He educated
and provided royally for the boy
and later made him vice-regent, seated
on a gold throne beside himself.

One day he found the young man weeping..
“Why are you crying? You’re the companion
of an emperor! The entire nation is ranged out
before you like stars that you can command!”

The young man replied, “I am remembering
my mother and father, and how they
scared me as a child with threats of you!
‘Uh-oh, he’s headed for King Mahmud’s court!
Nothing could be more hellish!’ Where are they now
when they should see me sitting here?”

This incident is about your fear of changing.
You are the Hindu boy. Mahmud, which means
Praise to the End, is the spirit’s
poverty or emptiness.

The mother and father are your attachment
to beliefs and blood ties
and desires and comforting habits.
Don’t listen to them!
They seem to protect
but they imprison.

They are your worst enemies.
They make you afraid
of living in emptiness.

Some day you’ll weep tears of delight in that court,
remembering your mistaken parents!

Know that your body nurtures the spirit,
helps it grow, and gives it wrong advise.

The body becomes, eventually, like a vest
of chain mail in peaceful years,
too hot in summer and too cold in winter.

But the body’s desires, in another way, are like
an unpredictable associate, whom you must be
patient with. And that companion is helpful,
because patience expands your capacity
to love and feel peace.
The patience of a rose close to a thorn
keeps it fragrant. It’s patience that gives milk
to the male camel still nursing in its third year,
and patience is what the prophets show to us.

The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains.

Friendship and loyalty have patience
as the strength of their connection.

Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates
that you haven’t been patient.

Be with those who mix with God
as honey blends with milk, and say,

“Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets, is not
what I love.” else you’ll be like a caravan fire left
to flare itself out alone beside the road.

Letting Everything In

There is a certain comfort in letting certain things in and excluding others from our view.  The same goes with people.  There’s people who have God, and people who don’t.  People who know what’s up, and people who are idiots.  People who pay attention when they drive, and people who should never be let out on the road.  People who have truth, and people who have no grasp of it whatsoever.

This method of looking at others has it’s comforts, has it’s securities.  It is a means by which we can understand the world by translating it into what is approved and what is not.  It certainly makes life much more simple.  Here’s what’s on my list of approved things, ideas, and people, and I reject what’s not on this list.

We all do this, to a certain extent.  And it makes sense.  We *are* trying to constantly simplify our experience to make it easier to handle.

But it’s interesting what happens when you stop putting people and ideas in categories.  You start looking closer, you start seeing more.  Because you’ve stopped filtering things out.  The priest at the church Ben and I go to was leading us through a meditation, and she said for us to stop filtering, and to let everything in.  Do not exclude any sounds, feelings, thoughts…just let it all flow and observe it.  Then, you start to see deeper.

The same is true for people and ideas, I think.  When you stop trying to declare something as either bad or good and just witness it, you see deeper.  And seeing this way allows you to see the truth hidden in everything, because it frees you from your misconceptions and even your opinions.  It humbles you because you *have* to let go of the things that make you comfortable in order to let everything in, and in doing so, brings you closer to truth.

Compassion and love break down barriers.  They stop us from doing this categorization and from simplifying the world.  Love asks us to look at the whole, to see each person, each idea, each moment as valuable in some way.  There is no in group or out group.  There is only truth, and what it is buried underneath.

And when you see things this way, you approach conversations, people, ideas with an entirely different perspective.  You start to understand the subtle language of the heart, and how it is speaking even through people’s so called intellectual ideas.  You start to see how someone’s pure intuition or pure desires were led astray.  And instead of feeling contempt for their ignorance, you can feel nothing but compassion and love.  You see their soul buried under so much weight, and you long to free them.

You are no longer distracted by the wrongness of what people say.  It seems petty to argue about it, almost tragic.  And it gives you patience and strength.  When you talk with someone it’s more like a jazz improvisation…each of you contributing ideas and playing off one another to build something interesting that may open up both of your understandings.  You don’t feel attached to (or the need to reject) any one concept or dogma because you sense the truth in all of them.  This gives you a freedom, a spontaneity, a creativity that you never had before.

And it is all in ceasing to seek comfort, and treating people and even their ideas and their words with compassion and love.  It’s not always about simplification; often, it’s about inclusion and integration.

Free Will

I kind of made this up as I went.


How I’ve come to view free will (keep in mind the specifics are still developing in my head):

To me, free will has nothing to do with what choice you eventually make. Determinism doesn’t harm the dignity of a person. You are ultimately going to make the choice that is determined by who you are and what you’re presented with, and that is a good thing. Otherwise, your choices wouldn’t make sense!

You can always look back and try to think about what your motives were for a certain action, and there are always motives. You never do anything without reasons, even if you don’t take the time to make a mental list of what those reasons are before you do the action.

So I’m not going to focus on *what* decision you make, but the conditions under which you make it. Having more than one option isn’t what makes us *feel* free. What if someone is holding you at gunpoint and you can choose between telling them vital information or allowing yourself to die? Does that seem like a free decision? You *do* have more than one option, right?

I think that simple example is enough to show that our freedom is not based on the options, but based on the conditions. As such, I drew up a little continuum of free will, where the left represents no free will, and gets progressively more and more free as you travel to the right.

<–restraint/force—-marketing—-egocentricity—-authenticity—-harmony with God/the universe–>

Starting on the left, you have examples like the one I gave above. Where some outside force is forcing you to do something. The decision of whether you do what they say is still up to you, but the presence of the coercive force alters the situation quite a bit and makes you feel bound, regardless of how metaphysically free/not free you are.

Next on the scale we have marketing and consumerism. The whole art of creating needs in the people rather than trying to fill pre-existing ones. They’ve done quite a number on us. People think that their identity is tied to what clothes they wear and how they decorate their houses. Men and women are convinced that the only way for a man to show his love is to buy the girl jewelry. We think that our monthly income and what we’re able to buy is what determines our worth…and if not that…then how we look. Such a way of living life and making decisions is definitely not free or genuine in any respect.

Now we come to the ego. This is possibly one of the harder concepts to understand, but we’ve all felt it at some point. Most of us have felt at some point that our actions weren’t really coming from ourselves. Perhaps our emotions seemed to cloud our judgment, or we just got trapped in the heat of the moment. Or it can be even more subtle…as it is a continuum. Perhaps you listen to Switchfoot’s This is Your Life, and you feel saddened. Maybe you *aren’t* who you want to be. Maybe you chose a job that keeps you dead inside, and you long for something more. Maybe you’re just going through the motions. Maybe you’re avoiding really looking at yourself and who you are. Whatever it is, it keeps you from acting out of your genuine self, and in that sense, you aren’t all that free.

If that’s true, then the next step is obviously when you act out of who you are deep inside. The times when the whole of your energy and passion light you up and threaten to set you on fire. Your heart feels like it’s about to explode and you’re just so *present* to the moment. The decision seems clear, even if it means consequences that you don’t really like. Our actions, when they stem from our deepest self, are motivated by love, devotion, and self sacrifice. It’s as if everything inside you is screaming at you to make the decision, and you can’t help but do it. Notice that here, there really *is* only once choice that you can make, but it feels exponentially more free that the first time, when you had more than one option.

But most of us don’t live like that all of the time. Usually we just catch glimpses of that feeling here and there. But if we work at it, and keep ourselves aware and open, we eventually can come to the last stage. This one is more of an ideal than anything else. Imagine that you are genuinely yourself at all times. At some point, making decisions comes as naturally and as freely as breathing. You don’t need to control yourself, you just act. You don’t need to limit yourself, you don’t need to think about morality or law because at this point, whatever you naturally do is in complete harmony with the universe and with God’s will. You’re acting out of a place that is so rooted in unity, in God, in the entire natural order that you just become part of it. You join the dance, and dance spontaneously and beautifully in the complete and utter oneness of everything. Nothing can harm you, at least mentally and spiritually, because you know that every move is part of that dance, and that the dance itself is beautiful. Every action is pure joy.
Most people live somewhere between the marketing phase and the ego phase. When I look at the general population, it just saddens me, because so many people are caught up in this, and are unknowingly slaves to consumerism and their own egos. Those who have just broken free tend to look back and hate the system, and show quite a bit of contempt for the people still chained to the wall. But I can’t feel anything other than sadness and compassion for them. It makes me want to spend my life working to help them, to break their bonds and help them become the people they really are inside.
Reply from subtle seem the stars:

“I’m not sure how i feel about the possibility of interfering (i can see the appeal/compassion from the high level person’s point of view, but not really vice-versa especially if the person is not feeling miserable/desiring of any more), but i just thought the example was relevant to the idea of looking back from the more advanced phases onto those in the lower ones.”

Yeah you can’t just interfere and tell someone they are miserable and can’t see it. You have to kind of taunt them out of their mindset slowly but surely. You have to find a way to get them to look inwardly without insinuating that they currently suck. Basically, you have to write songs like Jon.

The other thing that is worth pointing out is that you *can’t* progress on your own. Like you said, people who aren’t feeling miserable and who don’t desire anything more won’t budge, they’ll just continue being what they think is happy. Something has to happen that comes from outside of you that makes you realize what is going on. And it’s not necessarily an easy process. It can be downright painful, even.

In that way I don’t really want to think of the more free person as “higher” than someone else. In a sense, they are actually lower. They didn’t do it themselves, and they only got to where they were by grace of a number of falls. The other people are just the same as they are, but they haven’t had the fortune to have suffered enough to break down the walls that surround their heart.

So for me, when I look at a close friend, or anyone really, who’s having a really tough time…half of me is drenched in compassion (co-feeling), and the other half of me is shouting for joy. Because every glimpse of pain is an opportunity to move deeper…it’s up to us if we decide to take it or not.

As far as how I interfere…I don’t really. Most of the time is just spent being patient, letting them work things through on their own…but being there as a guiding voice to try to get them to think in such a way as to help them open up, rather than close themselves off and rebind themselves again. Life does the work for me…I just try to guide them in the right direction when the going gets tough.