Thursday, April 17, 2008

upcoming services

Beloved Community,

April 20 -- Labyrinth Walk at University of St. Thomas, weather permitting (it's supposed to be nice). Attached is a map showing the location of the Labyrinth in relation to the Rothko. We will meet at the Rothko at 10:00 a.m. and walk over, or you can meet us there around 10:15. If you don't think you'd be interested in walking the labyrinth, according to what I've read and experienced, watching others walk can be a rewarding experience, too. I will have the same information that I gave you when we walked in November.

April 27 -- Passover service with Cyd Baron

May 4 -- "Exploring Belonging" with Ann Bugh

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Opening Meditation

Will we ever know who s/he is? And can we ever feel what was done to her/him? Can we feel it in a way that goes deeper than guilt? We can begin by looking more closely, albeit from outside, at the culture of the American Indian.

Inevitably, the first thing that strikes us is the American Indian's relationship to nature. We know now that there was nothing "primitive" about it; we are beginning to be aware of the subtlety and sophistication of American Indian religion, its symbolism, ritual and mythology which altogether embody a vision of the universal world as profound as anything offered by the Judeo-Christian tradition. And, with this awareness, we are all the more struck by the fact that this religion is immersed in the realities of the nature world. For us in modern society it is only in special moments that we directly sense meaning in nature. Experientially and psychologically, nature, virgin nature, is only part of our world. For the Indian, nature is the world. How is it that a people who lived directly in nature also exhibited extraordinary qualities of wisdom, generosity and deep social intelligence? ...We do not understand the Indian's relationship to nature, perhaps because - even with all the knowledge that science brings us - we simply do not understand nature itself. Perhaps it is from the Indian that we can confront the fact that we do not understand the earth - and what the earth really needs from us.

Readings from Jacob Needleman: "The Culture of the American Indian"

Off all the features that characterize the Indian's vision of nature and reality, perhaps none is more mysterious and frequently overlooked or set apart than the emphasis he puts on what we translate by the word "peace."

Speaking from my own past experience, which I am sure is quite common, I was never able to grasp the importance of that word, neither as a boy enthralled by the Indian's way of living, nor as I grew older and became a student of philosophy and the world's religions. I remember looking at pictures of Indians: the dark, stone-strong face of a chief or warrior, his body dynamic and still, his costume intricately and mystically wild, his eyes direct and unwavering. This is a man: why should he desire "peace"? Surely, it was power that he represented, the power of the storm and sky; and wisdom, the secrets of the animal and the forest; and freedom - from all the social artifice; and solitude, his mysterious capacity to be with himself and with the powers of the wild; and courage, his capacity to withstand pain and suffering; and silent force, the power to move through nature without making a mark, to disappear into the forest beyond all the discovery; and cunning, and fighting skill and physical prowess that could often defeat the heavy-handed genius of the white man. What could "peace" mean to such a man?

For many of us, the world "peace" evokes something static or dull, or some fantasy of endless pleasure or rest or safety. On a societal scale, it often means nothing more than political conditions that permit the unhindered pursuit of material good and psychological satisfaction, which are certainly normal human goals when understood in a normal way. But in the conditions of the modern world these goals are not understood clearly at all. They are taken as ends in themselves, as the main source of human well-being. The condition of our lives in the modern world shows us that this perception is illusory. When an individual or a community or a nation stakes personal gain of one sort or another as the basis of value, the end result is despair. Such is the teaching of the ancient wisdom: man [the human] is built to serve, consciously serve a purpose beyond himself, greater, higher than himself. It is not a question of morality in its conventional sense; it is actually or precise to call it a question of our physiology, our very neurological makeup: man [the human] is built to serve. Our well-being and our happiness depend on our capacity to become conscious individuals who are at the same time conscious instruments of a greater universal purpose.

Seen from this point of view, our usual conceptions of peace appear puerile, and what we call peace has very little relation to what was so valued under the name by the American Indian. For the Indian peace is hugely dynamic and includes all the forces of life - in nature and in man [the human]. It includes, it does not exclude, what we often call "evil"; it includes, it does not exclude, struggle, suffering and sorrow; it includes the whole range of error and foolishness; it includes passion, tenderness, but also anger and defeat. And paradoxically enough, it includes even war - a certain kind and with a certain intent.

But what is it that includes all these things, and whatever it is, why call it peace? The answer to t his question will help us see m ore clearly an essential aspect of the American Indian culture and will help us see what our nations killed when it killed the culture of the American Indian. We may perhaps feel guilt - even unbearable guilt - when we contemplate the death and destruction that were brought upon the Indian. But something in us that is deeper than guilt may be touched when we try to understand more completely what and who the American Indian was.

For the American Indian - and this idea lies at the hidden root of every great spiritual teaching of the world - to be at peace means to be at peace with one's conscience. And to be at peace within the community or to live in peace with other nations is to submit to a rule of law that is the communal expression of conscience and that provides conditions within which an individual is free to listen for that voice within himself. The establishment of such conditions, the establishment of such law, requires an intelligence of a very high order - what is called "the intelligence of the heart." And to find such intelligence requires, in turn an effort of exceptional people working together to respect each individuals fragment of truth until an objective, all-inclusive truth descends into the community from "above", that is, from the Great Spirit. Such an objective moral truth may be linked with the word "justice"...

The question is...How to think and live according to conscience, which is the voice of the universe within each man or woman? How to think and live in a manner that allows a relationship between the greatness of the cosmos and the need of the earth and all that lives and happens on earth? It is the ancient and eternal question of man [the human] as the bridge between heaven and earth, between levels of being in the universe--man [the human], the being of two worlds, two natures, two directions. Man [the human] the contradiction and man [the human] the reconciliation. The religion and culture of the American Indian rests on this perennial concept of the meaning of human life on earth. To live at peace is to embrace life in all its aspects, all "four directions", all the winds' all the creatures outside and within. This is the basis of peace and the basis of the Indian's understanding of justice in nature and was this understanding of justice and its necessary expression in human life that brought forward the great law of the Iroquois nations, which many observers now see in certain key respects as markedly similar to the American Constitution. Could it be that just as our sense of the land and nature is bone deep in us because of the Indian, so equally is our sense of freedom and justice, which we rightly think of as intrinsically American? What is going on here? What did we destroy when we destroyed the Indian? And who are we that destroyed it? To what extend did the Indian form our nature deep down even as we destroyed his culture?

The opposite of this sense of peace and justice is that which divides and separates parts of reality and keeps these parts away from each other. Morality becomes "moralism" when it imposes a sense of good and evil that diminishes the interconnectedness of life.

Call to Conversation

Closing Meditation

"Attachment to matter gives rise to passion against nature. Thus trouble arises in the whole body; This is why I tell you 'Be in harmony...'If you are out of balance, take inspiration from manifestations of your true nature. Those who have ears, let them hear."

After saying this, the Blessed One greeted them all, saying: "Peace be with you-may my Peace arise and be fulfilled within you! Be vigilant and allow no one to mislead you by saying: "Here it is!" or "There it is! For it is within you that the Son of Man dwells. Go to him, for those who seek him, find him."

We ask for your thoughts/comments to continue our Sunday conversation. THank you.