existentialist cafe

life is sacred

Month: December, 2013


Sorrow is yearning for the infinite.


I believe that

I believe that
in the economy of grace
the demand we make of the world
and the gift we give to the world
are one and the same.


No words of my own today, but here are some from Erazim Kohak:

The golden leaves line the river bottom, setting the water aglow in the autumn sun. The forest dies and is renewed in the order of time; the sparkling river bears away grief. In the pained cherishing of that transient world, the human, a dweller between the embers and the stars, can raise it up to eternity. That is the task of the human.

And Saigyo:

inviting the wind to carry
salt waves of the sea
the pine tree of Shiogoshi
trickles all night long
shiny drops of moonlight

Three haiku about the sunrise

I don’t know, I have been writing more haiku lately.

Blue, yellow, and pink
I never knew that sunlight
Could be so fragile

you winter-beaten city
your nerves are exposed

After a cold night
Happy to see the kestrel
Lit by the sunrise

Two haiku

spring-born maple tree
struggles to hold his own now
that winter is here

the sweet taste of bread
on the cold walk home from church
lingers in my mind

The world has received us without questioning
showing us a model of grace
the way we ought to receive ourselves

Two winter haiku

pigeons overhead
flying straight as chariots
of the winter sun

all alone at night
I still have the memory
of dogwood blossoms

First snow

The first snow fell this week in Philadelphia. I wondered what Basho might have said about it – he wrote many beautiful haiku about the first snow.

New Year’s first snow–ah–
just barely enough to tilt
the daffodil

The new year’s first snow–
how lucky to remain alone
at my hermitage

First snow
on the half-finished bridge

I did not have any verses to write about the snow, but it was beautiful and brought to mind that awe is still a viable response to the world. Despite many snowfalls, snow is still quite reliable in its ability to transfix me. This, even though I have also come to dread it. My changing attitude towards snow is quite possibly the signal of my transformation to adulthood. Enough of that, though! It is a vestige of childhood delight that greets the blazing white blanket as I step outdoors. No matter that evening will bring biting cold, and cars will bring dirt and slush. I thought I was wise when I grew out of my wide-eyed childhood wonder, but this was really the beginning of my foolishness. Now I must make effort to recover that wonder. The snow helps.

Brokenness and redemption in human relationship

Like a great elliptical orbit, I return again and again in my life to the same theme: brokenness and redemption in human relationship. It gets bigger each time. All held in delicate, precarious balance by the social self in constant return: I see you seeing; the I gifted in the sight of your sight. Indelibly interwoven, never atomized. For that reason, vulnerability and trust have such deep power, but create such deep clefts in our experience of ourselves. If I can not take your perspective, then ‘trust’ has no hold over me. People remain pure objects to be moved and manipulated as far as desired. Openness, though, is a perforation of the boundary, making permeable what was impermeable, pregnable what was impregnable.

It begins in the garden. The man incomplete without a helpmate. The interfusing of flesh; the same flesh- bone of my bone. Why is it that we do not avail ourselves of the help of others? Why is it that we generally do not make ourselves available to help others? Pain, it is said, is interesting only to the sufferer; it seems banal to others. Do we need to drive these sufferers out of the camp? Are we afraid that they will infect us? I hate suffering in other people. I want them to shut up about it. I have extraordinarily small amounts of patience to hear other people whine. Suffering in the abstract, yes, because that is really MY suffering, which I find terribly interesting.

Maybe it is just that trust and compassion take a wholesale reversal of momentum. I really have to believe in the worthiness of unworthy people, including myself. People who are not movers and shakers, but who are low-lifes – cats-asides and passed-overs. Not the pleasant type, but often the unpleasant type. Or the uninteresting type. Or the unsophisticated type. This is not an easy thing. I must depend on grace every day to supply me with the compassion for myself and others that I otherwise do not have.

I Cor 13

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

A majestic passage, which as been somewhat hackneyed by its (over) use in weddings. Knowledge tells us all about the world and the various things that happen in it, but loves meets the world in its mere existence. And later Paul says, “Love never ends…. As for knowledge, it will come to an end.” He has in mind, I think, a cosmic ending, but in the soul’s ascent to God also there is a point at which there is a cessation of knowledge and speech. There, one exists in pure abiding. As people, we may master all things which can be said to exist within us. Here we meet that which transcends our personhood, so it remains a mystery. Even so, there “[we] will know fully, even as [we] have been fully known.”