Taking “another trope’s” words of wisdom

I was urged to post anything here.  By our host.  And I’m taking him at his word.  Plus, this post has come into existence in large part due to his words.  It’s a crosspost:

Nailed to the Sacrament of the Present Moment

This blog is following allusions.  Taking side turns to consider turns of phrase and words that provided linkages from one thing to another, thus gradually deepening understanding of all of them.  Thus the circuitous route I am taking in tackling these subjects here.

Allusions to the title above:   I got the idea for this title from Pima Chödrön because of a comment by another trope, which was very helpful.  So I took the book off my shelf and started to read.  Pretty soon she mentioned, with regard to insight meditation (being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings, while accepting them), the words: “nailed to the present moment”.  That set off a lot of thoughts for me:  One blog.  Now this one.  Nailed, of course, made me think of Jesus.  The cross.  Suffering.  Redemption.  Lifting up, as prayer.  And the words “present moment” reminded me of a French spiritual writer, a very helpful one actually, whose book, published long after his death I think, is called:  Sacrament of the Present Moment. That title relates to the genesis of my new blogs and the reason for this post.  Sacrament.  Priesthood of the Faithful.  Our task in order to grow into that priesthood.

First, let me say right here and now how much I love Buddhism.   And how much I revere the Buddha.  Eastern traditions, and that includes the Orthodox, have long delved into the psychology of the spiritual path.  They’ve nailed it!  In my book.  Indeed the part of the early church that most interests me is the church that developed in northwestern Iraq.  Yes!  Where East meets West.  Lots of similarities in some ways between insight meditation and what the Orthodox call “guarding the heart”.  It’s practically the same thing – to me.  Though I find the word “guarding” to be a mistranslation.  Or maybe I’ve been too much influenced by Buddhism.  To be honest my interest in Buddhism seems never to have dissuaded God from radically breaking into my life.  So I take that as a comfort.  Unless the inbreakings have some other meaning… which I am missing.

The interesting thing about this particular concept, the sacrament of the present moment, is that not long after certain events, recorded here, I had the good fortune of a spiritual adviser who understood me.  That is such a rarity!  Such a blessing.  For two years I was fortunate to have him as a pastor – till he retired.  And when we talked the first time, really talked, he suggested two books, one of which is the one I’ve mentioned above.  Not only that, it was not till after I ordered the book that I found another smaller volume already in my possession – the short one I’ve linked above.   So you see how this is striking my attention.  One thing leading to another.

This time (nearly 6 years ago now) the book really resonated for me.  The concept of the “sacrament” of the present moment really, really seemed important.  The consecration of time.  The sacredness of time.  (Reminding me just now of a lecture I heard, as a Sophomore in college, by Abraham Joshua Heschel, on the sacredness of time – I can recall it still!  He was a holy man, the first man, whose presence conveyed Holy Mystery.  And not the last.) This one concept (and all it held) seemed to point me in the direction I needed right then.

And I think that part of this development I’m bidden to follow, and it would seem to analyze (even in two new blogs I’ve had to start), is connected to this sacrament – of the present moment. So what does this entail?  Very simple actually.  Though the Frenchman, who was a spiritual director to nuns, goes on at length (as it seems his varied pieces of advice were collected by his disciples and no one could allow a word to be edited out, you see).  But in a nutshell (ah, now that reminds me of Julian of Norwich – who had a vision of the world as like a hazelnut in the hand of God…. sorry folks, I can’t help myself!).  Ok, in a nutshell, it means that at every moment, whatever is going on in our life is like a window into eternity, like an intimate connection to Holy Mystery, like a communication between ourselves and the Divine.  Mind you, if you get the book, you will never read those words I’ve written.  I’ve distilled it for you.  In modern prose.  In our modern way of thinking.  And beyond that, for me anyway, this concept of priesthood, this sense that there is an inner liturgy going on in our heart, that every instant, every event, can be viewed as part of our lifting up of the cosmos, part of our prayer on behalf of “the whole world, to the last speck of dust.”

And honestly, isn’t that “sacrament” or inner liturgy, if you will, very much like the Buddhist calling of a Boddhisatva, someone of great compassion, who vows to dedicate their life to saving all beings?

Great Compassion. That is the first task.

13 thoughts on “Taking “another trope’s” words of wisdom

  1. another trope

    This is wonderful blog. There is a lot of words spinning here in my head.

    “whatever is going on in our life is like a window into eternity, like an intimate connection to Holy Mystery, like a communication between ourselves and the Divine.”

    another mystic William Blake began “Auguries of Innocence” with:

    To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.

    A robin redbreast in a cage
    Puts all heaven in a rage.

    I would say that through this poem that Blake would also agree with “Great Compassion. That is the first task.”

    If only this this was the task all cultures put forth as the first one.

  2. Beautifully put. And here is more confirmation. From Lux:

    “The universe is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable…” –Martin Buber
    One can be so concerned for one’s children that one loses all fear of being unseemly.

    At Vulture Peak the Buddha held up a flower.

    93,000,000 miles away the sun was burning furiously and the great wheel of the cosmos was slowly spinning, slowly spinning in a space of its own being.

    Today walking home someone saw a small earthworm crossing the dry sidewalk.
    Picking up the creature to deposit it in the grass, she lifts up Buddha, flower, sun, and cosmos.

    The poignancy of everything and everyone. And the task of being sensitive to all of that.


    1. Wow, a lot of Lux’s blogs (with comments) are still there…


      (the quote above was from a comment of his at DD’s blog)

      I’ve saved some of Lux. A few of the best blogs. Complete with comments (did that right after I saved mine). One of his blogs was called “The Great Community” – and filled, I think, with the Great Compassion, as you’ve termed it.

      I am very moved today. Take a look if you have time at the link to an article about Heschel. It completely affirms my own experience of the man at maybe 19 years old. I was transfixed when he spoke.

    2. another trope

      The “The poignancy of everything and everyone. And the task being sensitive to all of that” which kind of crux of the matter – culturally we are taught to control rather than just be with something. So when the whole universe comes “crashing in” we feel overwhelmed. We can’t get our arms around it (partly because our arms are part of what we are trying to put our arms around). And then even if for a moment, we allow ourselves to be with that poingnancy it is almost too much.

      That is why we do need “teachers,” those who gone down the path before us and struggled with all that poignancy surging in. To help us contain it by being contained by it.

      Which I think breaks down that sense of autonomous self. Which scares the hell out Westerners. Where is the independent “I” in all this.

  3. From Rabbi Jay Litvin:

    “Pity, sympathy, empathy, compassion. Each is received at various times by one in distress. They are the responses engendered by our misfortunes from those we encounter. And each feels different when received. Each has a different effect on those who are suffering in the midst of psychic or physical crisis.

    Of the four, compassion has a unique quality, a quality so different from the rest that it connotes a certain spiritual as well as emotional characteristic. Perhaps for this reason it is often cited in spiritual/religious texts as a virtue to be sought and developed.

    The recipient of compassion feels its superiority immediately. Unlike pity, it has no condescension. Unlike empathy, it does not require a past or present similar experience on the part of the giver. And while sympathy is a wonderful virtue, it connotes less spontaneity and variety than compassion; one would not normally associate laughter or frivolity with sympathy, for example. And there is also a certain distance or separation inherent in sympathy, one sympathizes with the other. A very wonderful quality, still, sympathy stands at a different level than compassion.

    While sympathy is a tender response to misfortune or difficulty, compassion is a way of life.”

    1. another trope

      I believe it was Milan Kundera who in an interview talked about compassion in Czech was “co-passion” in the sense that there was a merger of the two, and thus deeper than what we normally experience in our human relationships. This is similar to what the Rabbi is saying.

  4. This is all so interesting.

    The moment seems so singular to me at times even though my life is rather drab.

    sometimes I am ‘caught up in it’

    Other times I feel that I must remember that even ‘this’ will pass.

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