Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From a Point of No Dimensions



                       From a Point of No Dimensions…

“The big bang theory states that at some time in the distant past there was nothing. A process known as vacuum fluctuation created what astrophysicists call a "singularity".  From that singularity, which was about the size of a dime, our Universe was born.”
                   ------------------------------------------
The above description of the very beginning of the cosmos was written in 1997. In reading it, one should focus on some very important and very mythological expressions.

First of all, the term “Big Bang” itself is filled with mythological formulation, i.e., the use of words to describe an otherwise incomprehensible reality. An example of this use would be our daily habit of referring to the moment when the light emanating from our nearest star first passes through our atmosphere in a refracted trajectory to allow the  light to directly enter our eyes. We call this “sunrise”. We use this term so as to not be required to express the event scientifically each time we refer to this phenomenon. The “Big Bang” is a similarly used mythological reference.
         
Physics understands a “sound” as requiring three essential components:                                                                     
1. A vibrating source ( which the initial event would
    produce);
2. A transmitting medium (which air provides but space
    does not);
3. A vibrating receiver (an “ear”, which of course did not
     then exist).
Therefore, since two of the three requisites for sound to occur did not in fact exist, the term “Big Bang” is inappropriate to describe this  creational first event.

Additionally, the description of creation given above, states that at some time in the distant past there was no thing. If there was truly no thing, then no thing moved with respect to any other thing, therefore there was no change, thus no time.  Therefore, there was no time when there was no thing, or in other words, no “before”, prior to Creation. That being the case, there could only be a non-changing, a-temporal reality in that state or in fact an “eternity” which is actually a present moment situation or a now state.

The definition above states that a process created a singularity. This cannot be true since a process involves a changing reality and it requires time to provide duration. Thus there cannot be change  as this pre-creation would seem to require in the above definition. This hypothetical (and mythological) “process” is described as a “vacuum fluctuation”. This is an oxymoron since a vacuum consists of “no thing” and is thus incapable in and of itself of being created and/or of being in and of itself changed or fluctuated.  To describe the product of this imaginary fluctuation as being a singularity about the size of a dime, seems ridiculous, since before it grew to that size, it would have first had to have been the size of a point of no dimensions, i.e., no length, no width, no thickness, no mass or volume, thus simply a locus, a location in space but without dimensions.While I cannot deny that such an event might have actually been the “original” event of creation seen empirically, it is surely not an understandable event and thus remains and shall ever remain a mystery, not a problem.

Granted, all of man’s attempts to describe creation employ myths of one sort or another.  This applies even to those aetiological accounts found in the Jewish/Christian Bible, the Quran, and the mythologies of all the ancient world’s creation accounts.
         
                                A Cosmos of Signs
One common element in many, indeed most, of those ancient religions is the caution that the ultimate Cause of creation remains inconceivable to the intellect of man. The TAO, or YHWH, or Allah or whatever name chosen to refer to this Cause, is so inadequate to capture the Essence of Its reality that these various religions advise against using this name at all in human discourse, or at most allow using a substitute word for it.

In the ancient Chinese document, Tao Te Ching, the first essay declares  :
        “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,
        The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
        The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
        The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
        Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
        Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
        These two spring from the same source but differ in
        name
        This appears as darkness.
        Darkness within darkness.
        The gate to all mystery.”

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Name of God is treated with utmost reverence and is allowed to be spoken liturgically only in the celebration of the Feast of Yom Kippur.  In the liturgy of Atonement, the High Priest of the Jews, parts the curtain of the Holy Place, and enters the Holy of Holies with the blood of the select sacrificed lamb which is sprinkled over the Propituatory, the Mercy Seat, while he intones the sacred name YHWH and asks the mercy of God be bestowed upon His people for their sins of the past year. As he says the Name, Jewish priests on the steps of the sanctuary blow loud blasts on horns called Chofars so as to prevent the people outside from hearing the actual Name of God. The name, YHWH, originates from the text in Exodus wherein Moses asks God to tell him His name [Ex.3:13-15].
          “But Moses said to God, “If I come to the
         Israelites and say to them,’The Lord God of
         your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask
         me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to
         them?”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
         He said further, “I AM has sent me to you.” God
         also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the
         Israelites, ‘The LORD [YHWH], the God
         [ELOHIM] of your ancestors, the God of
         Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of
         Jacob, has sent me to you’; This is my NAME
         forever, and this is my title for all generations.”
In the commandments handed on to the Israelites, one dealt with the reverence with which God’s name must be used,
          “You shall not make wrongful use of the NAME
         of the Lord your God [YHWH your ELOHIM],
         for the LORD will not acquit anyone who
         misuses His NAME.” [Ex.20:7]
As Jewish cultic directives evolved, this one was taken and observed very faithfully, to the extent that whenever a scriptural reading involved the word YHWH (literally ‘I AM’), a substitute word ADONAI was inserted into its place. This word was a most respectful address to a very important person, similar to “Reverend”, or “Sir” in common use. Now Liturgical ancient Hebrew did not use vowels initially, so as written the letters YHWH would be the way God’s Name would be written, but in order to remind the reader to avoid saying the word YAHWEH, the vowels of the substitute word ADONAI would be interspersed  between the consonants of the former. Thus the name of God as printed in the text would be: YAHOW­­aH­­­.    Through thousands of years of pronunciation avoidance, the actual pronunciation of YHWH was forgotten and German Judaism printed Bibles with the incorrect version of “Jehovah”.

In Christian Scriptures, the name JESUS, which has the Hebrew-Aramaic root of YahHoshua/Yeshua (“YHWH Saves) was endowed with identical reverence by Paul:
        “Therefore God also highly exalted him
        And gave him the NAME that is above every
        name, so that at the NAME of Jesus every knee should
        bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
        and every tongue should confess that Jesus is LORD
       "kyrios" in Greek, to the glory of God the Father.” 
                                                                                   [Ph   2:9-11]                                   
The author of Hebrews proclaims a new Feast of the Atonement with Jesus as High Priest:
        “But when Christ came as a high priest of the
        good things that have come, then through the
        greater and more perfect “tent”(not made with
        hands, i.e., not of this creation), he entered
        once for all into the Holy Place, not with the
        blood of goats and calves, but with his own
        blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption .”
                                                                   [Hb.9:11-12]
Thus, a temporal and three dimensional event, the Feast of Atonement of the Jews, is a sign of the reality which cannot be conceived adequately by humans, but is that reality believed to be Christ’s “work” on earth, his Opus Dei.  In Christianity, we have the same mystery, the need to use signs to communicate our knowledge of reality. We have, however, a great tendency to see the sign as if it were the reality, or even to ask for a sign in order to believe in an inconceivable reality.
         “The Pharisees came and began to argue with
         him, asking for a  sign from heaven, to test him.
         And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said,
        “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I
         tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.
                                                                            [Mk. 8:11-12]
After Jesus’ death and his being “taken up to heaven”(Mk.16:19), Mark’s gospel concludes with the significant words, “…and they went out and proclaimed the ‘good news’ everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the “signs” that accompanied it.”

And what exactly did Mark believe to be the “good news”? It is told to us in Jesus’ keynote words at the beginning of this gospel:     
          “Jesus went to Galilee and preached the ‘good
         news’ from God saying, ‘The present moment is
         the right time, the Kingdom of God is WITHIN
         you, Change the way you think about reality
         (Мετανοιετε). Believe THIS 'good news'".                                                                                         [Mk.1:14-15)
In the last gospel to be written, the Gospel of John, each of Jesus’ major miracles is described as a sign. Even his enemies refer to his doings as signs;
          “So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a
         meeting of the council, and said, ’What are we
         to do? This man is performing many ‘signs’. If
         we let him go on like this, everyone will believe
         in him.”                                           [Jn.11:47-48]
In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he describes the human condition which for all of us makes it difficult to believe,
          “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the
          world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the
          world did not know God through wisdom.
          God decided, through the foolishness of our
          proclamation , to save those who believe. For
          Jews demand “signs” and Greeks look for
          wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a
          scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.,
         but to those who are called, both Jew and Greek, 
         Christ the power of God and the wisdom
          of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than
          human wisdom, and God’s weakness is
          stronger than human strength.”[1Co.1:20-24].
       ----------------------------------------------------------------
                                                 Death

Every human eventually has  a comparable experience of death. Even as a child, watching an ant die provokes wonder. Is death only an event in which everything that we consider to be a “a living being” ceases to be able to see, hear, touch. smell and taste; to grow, move, experience feelings of happiness or sadness, hope or fear, love or hate anymore? Is death the END?

As we age, we eventually experience the death of people we know and eventually of those we love and those who love us. Their loss generates a pain unlike any before in our life. Frequently, our grandparents are the first of those closest to us who die. Some very large questions about life originate with such losses. If God is so good, how come the good suffer and die? Why, if God is all powerful, does he allow it to happen? The question of life after life nags at us, especially when we begin to contemplate our own last things. We would like to have a sign to give us security, confidence and hope. Some of us get that sign through religion, some through personal experience, sometimes termed an awakening.

A few years ago, Doctor Raymond Moody, M.D., wrote a book entitled, Life After Life. In his practice, he interviewed large numbers of persons who had claimed to have had a “near-death experience”. His first encounter was with a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. Moody heard that the doctor had experienced near death twice, about ten minutes apart and afterwards recounted his experience. Dr. Moody filed the story away. Years later in one of his own classes after discussing Plato’s Phaedo, a student approached him and told him of an account his grandmother told him of a similar experience she had. Thereafter, without informing students of the two cases, he conducted an informal survey and discovered that on average, one out of every thirty students he polled told of a similar experience. At the time he wrote the book, approximately 150 cases had answered his request for life after life experiences from his peers and patients. Dr. Moody reported answers from persons of all different ages, religious/ethnic backgrounds, atheists, agnostics, men and women, yet found the descriptions to follow a similar pattern. He has written down a brief, theoretically ideal, or complete experience which embodies all of the common elements, in the order in which it is typical for them to occur:
          “A man is dying and, as he reaches the point of
         greatest physical distress, he hears himself
         pronounced dead by his Doctor. He begins to
         hear an uncomfortable noise, a loud ringing or
         buzzing and   at the same time feels himself
         moving very rapidly through a long dark tunnel.
        After this he finds himself outside of his own
        physical   body, but still in the immediate
        physical environment, and he sees his own body
        from a distance, as though he is a spectator. He
       watches the resuscitation attempts from this
       unusual vantage point and is in a state of
       emotional upheaval. After a while, he collects
       himself and becomes more accustomed to his
       odd condition. He notices that he still has a
       “body”, but one of a very different nature and
       with very different powers from the physical
       body he has left behind.  Soon other things begin
       to happen. He experiences a being of light, a
       warm loving spirit of a kind he has never
       encountered before. This being asks him a
       question, nonverbally, to help him evaluate his
       life… At some point he finds himself approaching 
       some sort of barrier or border, apparently
       representing  the limit between earthly life and the 
       next life. Yet, he finds that he must go back to earth,        
       that the time for his death has not yet come. At this
       point he resists, for by now he is taken up with the
       experiences in the afterlife and does not want to 
       return. He is overwhelmed by intense feelings of joy, 
       love and peace. Despite his attitude, though,  he
       somehow reunites with his physical body and lives.  

      Later, he tries to tell others, but he has trouble doing 
      so. In the first place, he can find no human words    
      adequate to describe these unearthly episodes. He 
      also finds that others scoff, so he stops telling other   
      people. Still, the experience affects his life
      profoundly, especially his views about death and its
      relationship to life.”     [Moody  pp. 31-32]

One of the women with whom Moody talked described how all the words we know come from a three dimensional world in time, but the experience she had was one in which she can see that the world to come is not, but she has to try and use three dimensional concepts to talk about it, but they are inadequate.

In my high school classes, I would occasionally read excerpts from favorite writings, and occasionally when talking about death, I would discuss Dr. Moody’s interviews with my  students without making it any kind of preaching. In every class I would later hear from a student in writing or in conversation, that he had had such an experience. A member of the faculty recently underwent surgery during which an artery was accidentally severed and he suffered the loss of a great deal of blood. Many weeks later, he spoke of his experience, “I had one of those experiences you talk about from the book by that doctor whatever his name was.” I sent him a copy of the book. He is not an overtly “religious” man, but a very good person. He is reluctant to talk about it with anyone but me.
         
In the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke as the second volume of the Luke/Acts diptych in 80-90AD, the author describes Saul/Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus in ~37AD:
          “Meanwhile, Saul,  still breathing threats and
         murder against the disciples of the Lord, went
         to the High Priest and asked him for letters to
         the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found
         any who belonged to the Way (Christians), men
         or women, he might bring them bound to
         Jerusalem.
          “Now as he was going along and approaching
         Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven
         flashed around him. He fell to the ground and
            heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you           persecute me?’”
          “He asked,’Who are you, Lord?’
          The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are
         persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and
          you will be told what you are to do.’(Acts 9: 1-6)
Now this theophany to Saul (Paul) as described by Luke, definitely is presented as having occurred in three dimensions and time. Yet we have an earlier description of his conversion experience, told by Paul, himself, thirty years earlier than Acts, and found in his second Letter to the Corinthians written about the mid-50’s AD. In Chapter 12:1-5, Paul proclaims his conversion experience:        
          “It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it,
           but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
           I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was
           caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or
           out of the body, I do not know; God knows. And I
           think that such a person—whether in the body or out
           of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up
           into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told,
          that no mortal is permitted to repeat.”(II Cor. 12:1-5).
Paul goes on to describe this revelation as interior and real by saying:
          “Examine yourselves to see whether you are
          living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you
          realize that Jesus Christ is IN YOU ?—unless,
           indeed, you fail to meet the test.” (II Cor. 13: 5)

Thus, the point of no dimensions from which the entire cosmos evolved, is at the center of each and every cosmic reality, including our very selves. When we pray, we pray to God within. When we die, we live to God within, and thus the Kingdom of God is truly within each and every one of us and Jesus’ main task in being incarnated was to tell us this good news: that God and His Kingdom is within us. We no longer should be afraid, for happiness does not come to us by stretching, reaching and grabbing for goods outside of us, but by recognizing that the one thing necessary[cf. Lk.10:32] is very near, and is, in fact, within us.

                Zen, Christian, Astrophysical Spirituality 

The withinness of our ultimate destination is a truth many spiritualities share, even though not many religions emphasize this. The reason they do not is twofold: First, people find it difficult or impossible to believe that they possess an interior dimension. Instead many think that if one believes that the kingdom of God is within them, then they somehow are claiming divinity for themselves which is not acceptable. Secondly, since our conceptual life is based upon three dimensional and temporal experience, many believe that if we cannot know God conceptually, then it becomes impossible to believe in God.

Because of these limitations and our needs, many of the world’s religions strive to express the ineffable, inconceivable Divine reality in terms of which we can conceive, thus by parable, signs, poetry, mythological legends; or by experiencing acts which can be sensed, in miracles, signs and wonders, near-death experiences, or in trances, by use of drugs, séances wherein the dead communicate with us, or in nature from the awe produced in contemplation of the Cosmos, or by the witness of holy people.

In realizing our own frailty and repetitious sins and failings, we begin to worry about our being judged a failure and being condemned to just punishment for our wrongdoing. Religion often teaches us that we cannot forgive ourselves and offers us the hope of forgiveness of God because of the mercy God has towards us and/or because of the merits God’s incarnate Son has won for mankind through the atonement he worked on our behalf. We believe that religion shows us the way to attain to this salvation and gives us the security we all seek.

The history of religions have been a record of the concretization of divine realities in spatial and temporal reality with which we feel more comfortable , and it is that very security and comfort that keeps alive the desire to remain within the institution of our Church and allows many of us to say: “There is NO salvation outside this Church.”

Many years ago, as a teacher I acted as a prefect for a high school dance. During a break, one of my students, a born-again Christian, came up to introduce his girl friend to me. After he had, he described me as his favorite religion teacher. She smiled broadly and said, “Oh, are you saved?”I hated to disappoint her but I had to say, “I’m hoping for it”. She said,”Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll pray for you.”

As an Irish Catholic from Boston, I had to say that many tongue lashings from Jansenist clergy in the Confessional had not instilled in me the security of that young lady.

I’ve often wondered exactly what made one a good Catholic. Was it one who went to Mass each Sunday, completed his Easter duty and fasted and abstained as required.  My idea of salvation had little to do with Buddhist awakening or realization. We absolutely could not save ourselves, that was for certain. Monastic training had helped me to appreciate a reinforcement of this certainty when my only prayer became the Jesus Prayer of the monks, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.  It was OK to have low self esteem, I believed, because I was so low. Even the psalms we chanted daily seemed to reinforce that belief as they alternated between lamentation (as I looked inward) and praise (as I looked upward).

Then I met Dom Thomas Keating, our Abbot. He revealed to me the insight that I must be worth more than a turd, because God sent His Son for me. It has taken me forty five years to begin to get what he said to me, but I think I’m beginning to get it. As I have reached seventy seven years, been seriously operated on twice, been retired and more or less leading an eremitical life, I have been reading mostly Scriptural, Astrophysical, Christian and Zen books of interest. I have begun to believe in the synoptic writings of the experts in these fields. By this I do not refer to the academicians in those fields, but to those who live their beliefs. I wish to list the writers who have had the greatest effect upon me in these last few years and follow with selections from their works which seem to be synchronous.

                    Bibliography on Zen-Christianity

1.    The New Oxford Annotated Bible , Oxford University Press,1991
2.   An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond E. Brown,Doubleday, New York, NY 1997
3.  Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, Vintage Books, 1997
4.  The Way of Chuang Tzu, by Thomas Merton, New
Directions,    1965
5. Tales of the Magic Monastery by Theophane the
Monk, Crossroad, 1981
6.   Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki, Shambala,    2006
7.   The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Thomas H. Johnson ed., 1890
8.  The Desert Fathers, edited and translated by Helen Waddell, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1936
9.Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist by D.T.Suzuki, Routlage, London, 1957
10.Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean P.
 Caussade, S.J., Benziger, 1887 New York
11.An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by
D.T.Suzuki,
12. Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas
 Merton, New Directions, 1968, New York
 13. The Silence of Saint Thomas by Josef Pieper,
 Henry Regnery,   Chicago, 1957
 14.   Life After Life by Raymond A. Moody, Jr.,
 M.D., Stackpool,  Harrisburg, PA 1976
15.  Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato, Sorin, Notre Dame IN, 2006
16. The Third Jesus by Deepak Chopra, Harmony, NY, 2008
17. Intimacy With God, by Thomas Keating, Crossroad, NY 2005
18. Not Always So by Shunryu Suzuki, Harper-Collins, NY 2002
19. The Cloud of the Unknowing, Penguin Books, NY, 2006
20. Zen Buddhism by D.T.Suzuki, Doubleday, NY, 1956
21. The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, Bantam Books, NY, 1975
22. The Zen Teachings of Jesus by Kenneth S. Leong, Crossroad, NY 2001
23. Mystics and Zen Masters by Thomas Merton, Delta, Gethsemane, 1966
24. Zen and the Kingdom of Heaven by Tom Chetwynd, Wisdom,  Boston, 2001
25. Christian Zen by William Johnston, Fordham, NY, 2003
26. Western Asceticism, Ed, Owen Chadwick, Westminster,                              Philadelphia, PA, 1958
                                             Also:
27. APOD, the website for Astrophysical Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope and other sources, [one per day from 1993]   http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html                                                                                               
           ---------------------------------------------------------------




As I stretch toward the end of my own journey, several books I have been fortunate to have read, and to re-read over the past ten years seem to saying the same kind of message. I wish to share with you some of these writings to demonstrate that the greatest teachers in this world are of kindred spirit:

                                      Jesus of Nazareth
“The present moment is the right time, the Kingdom of God is within you, Change the way you think about reality; believe this good news.” (Mk.1:14-15)
                             ----------------------------------
“But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…’ (Mt. 5:44-45)
                             ----------------------------------
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and there he prayed.”(Mk. 1:35)
                             ----------------------------------
                                         Chuang Tzu
          “To name TAO
          Is to name no-thing.
          TAO is not the name
          Of “an existent.”
          TAO is a name
          That indicates
          Without defining.

          TAO is beyond words
          And beyond things.
          It is not expressed
          Either in word or in silence.
          Where there is no longer word or silence
          TAO is apprehended.” (p.152)
                                         
                                            Lao Tzu
          “The wise man has no mind of his own,
          He is aware of the needs of others.

          He is good to people who are good,
          He is also good to people who are not good.
          Because virtue is goodness.”
          He has faith in people who are faithful,
          He also has faith in people who are not faithful.
          Because Virtue is faithfulness.

          The wise man is shy and humble- to the world
         he seems confusing.
          Men look to him and listen.
          He behaves like a little child.” (#49)
                   --------------------------------------
                             Theophane the Monk
                   [from Tales of the Magic Monastery]
He asked me what I was looking for.
“Frankly,” I said,” I’m looking for the Pearl of Great Price.”
He slipped his hand into his pocket, drew it out, AND GAVE IT TO ME. It was just like that! I was dumbfounded. Then I began to protest: “You don’t want to give it to me? Don’t you want to keep it for yourself? But…”
When I kept this up, he said finally,”Look, is it better to have the Pearl of Great Price, or to give it away?”…

Well, now I have it. I don’t tell anyone. From some there would just be disbelief and ridicule. “You, you have the Pearl of Great Price? Hah!”  Others would be jealous, or someone might steal it. Yes, I do have it. But there’s that question—“Is it better to have it, or to give it away?” How long will that question rob me of my joy? (p.10)
                   --------------------------------------------------
                                      Suzuki
"The desire to possess is considered by Buddhism to be one of the worst passions with which mortals are apt to be obsessed." [An Introduction to Zen Buddhism p.120]
                   --------------------------------------------------
                                      Theophane
"I had just one desire—to give myself entirely to God. So I headed for the monastery. An old monk asked me,”What is it you want?”

I said,” I just want to give myself to God.”
I expected him to be gentle, fatherly, but he shouted at me, “NOW!!”  I was stunned. He shouted again, “NOW!” Then he reached for a club and came after me. I turned and ran. He kept coming after me, brandishing his club and shouting, “Now, Now.”

That was years ago. He still follows me, wherever I go. Always that stick, always that “NOW!”  (p.50)
      ------------------------------------------------------------
                             “Boozy” and  ‘Bram Edwards
Over the course of my first year as a lay missionary in Jamaica, I came to know our Swiss nurse, Louise Reimann.  In 1960, Louise was in her fifties and had dedicated her life to helping the poor people of Jamaica in whatever way she could. I never met Mother Theresa of Calcutta, but Louise was at least as dedicated.  Louise would go out into the "bush" and find people who needed medical attention. She would do for them what she could, and if that were not enough, she would see to their transport to the best hospitals and make sure that there was no cost to the poor for these services. One day Louise told me about an elderly couple she had discovered in a "wattle and daub" (bamboo, mud and cow hair) hut in the bush. She asked Chuck Duncan and me to accompany her to their hut. When we arrived, we found the old man (~75) in the bamboo lean-to kitchen behind the house, stirring heated water in a large iron pot. When “Boozy”, our loving nickname for “der nurse”, asked 'Bram (Abraham Edwards) what he was cooking, he showed us the rind of a hand of bananas. He was making a tea for his wife as they were out of food. When we went into the hut, we discovered Mrs. Edwards lying on a wooden platform as a bed, and covered with layers of newspapers for blankets. Louise subsequently discovered that 'Bram’s wife had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed down the left side of her body.    
Later that day, we transported Mrs. Edwards to an ambulance and saw that she was admitted at Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Kingston.  'Bram was moved closer to the school in a vacant hut nearby. In the hut he had a bed, a crude table with pots and utensils, and a kerosene lamp. The hut had a wooden door, a wooden cover over a window opening, and an earthen floor, with a makeshift bamboo kitchen outside.                   
Every night after school, we teachers would eat together. There'd always be leftovers. Chuck or I would take turns carrying a pot of these leftovers to ‘Bram. It would be after sunset when we’d get there and ‘Bram would eat his supper gratefully.  We’d smoke and sit and talk with this wise man. He had never learned to read or write, but he had memorized huge amounts of the Bible, or poems he’d heard, and he possessed depths of wisdom from all the goodness he was and all the sufferings that he had endured. In all my life, I had never met a man who lived the Sermon on the Mount as had Mr. Edwards. He never said a bad word about any one, not even of those related to him who had abandoned him in his present plight.       
Many years later the memory of this man would be at the center of my prayer, as it was when a letter came to me from Jamaica when I was in the  in the monastery, telling me that after 'Bram’s wife died, he had walked out into the bush  and was never  seen again. The local people started a rumor that he had been taken into heaven directly, as had Elijah.                            
I don’t know about that, but now, fifty years later, “Bram and Boozy remain two of the most saintly persons I’ve ever known. That is why I place them here as  perfect followers of Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu and other spiritual fathers who recommend that we live in the present moment, here and now in obedience to the will of God, Tao, YHWH,  Allah or Whomever; regardless of the necessity of our “belonging” to a “saving religion”. If mankind has been on earth for millions of years, then it hardly seems reasonable that “holiness” of life did not take place until 2000 years ago.                                                    
On my last night in Jamaica, after supper, I filled the bowl with food for Mr. Edwards and walked the last half mile to his home. I was filled with sorrow at leaving Mr. Edwards, just as I was at leaving all the students, not because I couldn't be replaced, but because I loved them and needed them. I had arrived in Jamaica thinking that they would be needing me. In certain respects they did, but on a much greater scale these wonderful happy people with barely a "pot to piss in" taught me how to live. They were not envious of others having greater material wealth, but were infused with a belief in a God who cared for them and someday would wrap them in His love and bring them to eternal happiness. This concrete witness of faith should speak to us in the "First World" and make Jesus' words from the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee strike our hearts.
Instead, the very next evening I stood at a large glass window at La Guardia Airport and stared unbelievingly at people rushing frantically, in their cars or on foot, as if to a life or death appointment. They all seemed to possess a "get out of my way" demeanor, and I seriously contemplated just what I had done by returning to this rat race. In two weeks, I would be back in it myself and have no awareness that it was anything unusual. Many years later I would read the following words written by Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher of the 4th Century BC, and realize how contemporary was his reflection.            -----------------------------------------------------
                                      Chuang Tzu                                                                                      
                                     PERFECT JOY“                                                    Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy, or is there no such thing? Is there some way to make life fully worth living, or is this impossible? If there is such a way, how do you go about finding it? What should you try to do? What should you seek to avoid? What should be the goal in which your activity comes to rest?  What should you accept?  What should you refuse to accept? What should you love? What should you hate?“What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to.  
“What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death.
“What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labor, no chance to get your fill of good food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy. The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves in order to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing they are alienated from themselves, and exhaust themselves in their own service as though they were slaves of others. The ambitious run day and night in pursuit of honors, constantly in anguish about the success of their plans, dreading the miscalculation that may wreck everything. Thus they are alienated from themselves, exhausting their real life in service of the shadow created by their insatiable hope.

“The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach!  His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present...
          “I cannot tell if what the world considers “happiness” is happiness or not. All I know is that when I consider the way they go about attaining it, I see them carried away headlong, grim and obsessed, in the general onrush of the human herd, unable to stop themselves or to change their direction. All the while claiming to be just on the point of attaining happiness.
          “For my part, I cannot accept their standards, whether of happiness or unhappiness. I ask myself if after all their concept of happiness has any meaning whatever.
          “My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it. My greatest happiness consists precisely in doing nothing whatever that is calculated to obtain happiness:  and this, in the minds of most people, is the worst possible course.
                             -  Chuang Tzu ( pp.99-101)[ ca 300 BC]
[As edited by Thomas Merton in “The Way of Chuang Tzu” p.99-101; 1965]
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          From 1963 to 1968 I spent five years in a monastery outside of Boston and I often thought of the simple life of my Jamaican friends, especially “Bram Edwards, and realized that the life of the monk, the life of the “holy” poor and the teachings of Eastern and Western “Fathers” were all focused in the simplest directives of Jesus whom we refer to as “Christ”. So often I have gotten “lost” in theological doctrines and argument, and forgotten the simple spirituality of men of prayer everywhere. 
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                                      Chuang Tzu
          “In the age when life on earth was full, no one  paid any special attention to worthy men, nor did they single out the man of ability. Rulers were simply the highest branches on the tree, and the people were like deer in the woods. They were honest and righteous without realizing they were “doing their duty”. They loved each other and did not know that this was “love of neighbor.”
They deceived no one yet they did not know that they were “men to be trusted.” They were reliable and did not know that this was “good faith.” They lived freely together giving and taking, and did not know that they were generous. For this reason their deeds have not been narrated. They made no history. [p.76]
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                                      Emily                                                                Another person I have grown to know through her poems is Emily Dickinson. I include her poetry here as witness to a zen-like appreciationof reality:                                                                           
                   How happy is the little stone                                                        
                  That rambles in the road alone,
                   And doesn’t care about careers,                    
                   And exigencies doesn’t fear,
                   Whose coat of elemental brown                         
                    A passing universe put on;
                    And independent as the sun,
                    Associates or glows alone,
                    Fulfilling absolute decree
                    In casual simplicity.

                                                             [#1417]                                            
 This poem captures the utter simplicity of the spirituality of ‘Bram Edwards. Theological, Liturgical and Ecclesiastical evolution have had a tendency to make us focus on the concepts of God and God’s Kingdom which are and must be inadequate and by which we have so often judged others to be or not be orthodox and/or“saved”.  To repeat, Jesus did not say that the Kingdom of God is within his “church”, but that the Kingdom of God is within each and every one of us.                                                                                      
Emily Dickinson seems to capture this with her version of the best liturgy:                                                                                                                                                                                                               “Some keep the Sabbath going to church;           
 I keep it staying at home,                                      
 With a bobolink for a chorister,                                        
 And an orchard for a dome.
 Some keep the Sabbath in surplice,                                   
 I just wear my wings,                                                             
 And instead of tolling the bell for church,                   
 Our little sexton sings.
 God preaches, --a noted clergyman,--                         
 And the sermon is never long;                                                 
 So instead of getting to heaven at last,                                   
 I’m going all along![#324]
          In the Apothegmata Patrum, (the sayings of the ancient Desert Fathers), we read of a tradition of prayer within one’s cell which both monastic and mystical traditions in both the East and West have frequently reiterated with less than consistently positive reception in the churches at large.                                      

          “A certain brother came to the Abbot Moses in Scete,
            seeking a word from him. And the old man said to
            him,’Go and sit in thy cell, and thy cell shall teach 
            you everything.’” 
                                  [The Desert Fathers by Waddell, p.92].               
 This is a parallel to Jesus’ teaching on how to pray:                        “But whenever you pray, go into your inner room
            and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in
            secret, and your Father who sees in secret will
            reward you.” [Mt. 6:6]                                                      
  
and by setting the example:
          "Very early the next  morning, long before daylight,
          Jesus got up and left the house.  He went out of town
          to a lonely place,  where he prayed." [ Mark 1:35]

Thus, the point of no dimension, from which the entire cosmos emerged into a reality of space and time, is in reality  the center of all, including the center  of our very selves and the interior life is the good news of Jesus’ incarnation and proclamation.
It is the direction in which to face when we pray; WITHIN. Within is where the Kingdom of Heaven is indwelling and the direction in which we all "go" when we die.

                                                                        Charlie Mc