Author Archives: turmarion
An outstanding memory is often associated with weak judgment. … If, thanks to memory, other people’s discoveries and opinions had been kept ever before me, I would readily have reached a settled mind and judgment by following other men’s footsteps, failing as most people do to exercise my own powers.
—Montaigne, Essays, as translated by M. A. Screech, pp. 32-33.
With the possible exception of Bodhidharma himself, the greatest of all Zen masters is usually considered to have been 趙州從諗, or, as it is pronounced in Modern Mandarin, Zhàozhōu Cōngshěn. In Japan, he is known as Jōshū Jūshin. Most commonly, he is known merely as Zhaozhou or Joshu (henceforth I drop the diacritics). The tendency in writing about the Chinese Zen masters these days is to use the original Chinese forms of their names. Since Zen came to the English-speaking world mostly via Japan, older books typically use the Japanese forms of the name. Thus, for example the noted Zen scholar and popularizer D. T. Suzuki, in his seminal works on Zen, always refers to the worthy we are considering here as “Joshu”. For the rest of this post, I’ll follow his lead. Yes, it’s less accurate; but then again, the Chinese of the Tang dynasty, during which Joshu lived, was pronounced significantly differently from modern Mandarin; and Joshu probably didn’t pronounce his own name as “Zhaozhou”. Certainly, with Western religious figures, it doesn’t bother us that we don’t use the original forms of names–that we call the carpenter of Nazareth “Jesus” instead of Yēšūă‘ and his disciple “Peter” instead of Kêphā. I certainly first encountered and developed an admiration for Joshu under his Japanese name; so Joshu it will be for the rest of this post.
Simone Weil was a French philosopher and writer of the mid-20th Century. A child prodigy, she learned classical Greek by the age of twelve, and Sanskrit later on. She obtained a certificate in general philosophy and logic from the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, and worked intermittently as a teacher. From early in her life, she was drawn to left-wing politics (she even had an argument with Leon Trotsky to his face when he visited her parents in 1933, when she was twenty-four years old). She wrote political pamphlets and was involved in activism and strikes on behalf of workers’ rights. In her personal life, she was extremely–some might say quixotically–dedicated to solidarity with the oppressed. Even as a child, during World War I, she refused to use sugar in her food because it was not available to the troops at the front. Later, she worked briefly in a Renault auto factory to experience what the workers experienced, donating her salary to various causes. Though originally a pacifist, she tried to participate in the Spanish Civil War. Being naturally clumsy and having very poor vision, though, she displayed no military competency at all, and no commander would actually assign her to an combat position. Her brief stint in Spain ended ignominiously when she accidentally scalded herself after tripping over a pot of boiling liquid, and was burned so severely that she had to return to her parents’ home for recuperation. Ironically, this was a blessing in disguise for Weil–not long after she left Spain, her unit was attacked and suffered massive casualties. Every single woman in the unit died.
During World War II, she fled with her family to New York. She wished to be active for the French cause, though, so she left America for England in 1943. There she hoped to be able to train so that she could return to France as an allied agent. She had contracted tuberculosis by this time, though. In line with her idiosyncratic notions of solidarity, she not only refused special treatment, but she refused to eat more food than was available to her compatriots in the war zone. Thus, while she didn’t cease eating altogether, her food intake was not nearly adequate for her fragile condition. Despite the best attempts of her frustrated doctors, she died that year at the age of 34.
Relatively unknown outside of left-wing political circles during her life, her writings have been posthumously collected and printed in the years since then. Gradually, Weil has come to be considered a significant thinker, and there is increasing study of her thought. Recently a biographical documentary about her has been made. Given all this new prominence, it is interesting that much of the renewed interest in Simone Weil is not an interest in her politics–the thing for which she was most known during her life–but her religious views. It is for these, in fact, that I am including her on my personal altar.
One of the best meditations on the Lord’s Prayer that I’ve ever read.
Our Father which art in Heaven
He is our Father. There is nothing real in us which does not come from him. We belong to him. He loves us, since he loves himself and we are his. We do not have to search for him, we only have to change the direction in which we are looking. It is for him to search for us. We must be happy in the knowledge that he is infinitely beyond our reach. Thus we can be certain that the evil in us, even if it overwhelms our whole being, in no way sullies the divine purity, bliss, and perfection.
Hallowed be thy name
God alone has the power to name himself. His name is unpronounceable for human lips. His name is his word. It is the word of God. Man has access to this name, although it also is transcendent. It shines in the…
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May the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
bring fire to the earth
so that the presence of God
may be seen
in a new light,
in new places,
in new ways.
May our own hearts
burst into flame
so that no obstacle,
no matter how great,
ever obstructs the message
of the God within each of us.
May we come to trust
the Word of God in our heart,
to speak it with courage,
to follow it faithfully
and to fan it to flame in others.
May the Jesus
who filled women
with his Holy Spirit
fill the world and the church
with new respect
for women’s power and presence.
Give me, Great God,
a sense of the Breath of Spirit
within me as I…
(State the intention
in your own life at this time
for which you are praying.)
By Sister Joan Chittister, OSB; courtesy of here.
Today is Pentecost, obviously.
[A] problem calls for a solution; the only question is whether one can be found and made to work, and once this is done, the problem is solved. A predicament, by contrast, has no solution. Faced with a predicament, people come up with responses. Those responses may succeed, they may fail, or they may fall somewhere in between, but none of them “solves” the predicament, in the sense that none of them makes it go away.
For human beings, at least, the archetypal predicament is the imminence of death. Facing it, we come up with responses that range from evasion and denial to some of the greatest creations of the human mind. Since it’s a predicament, not a problem, the responses don’t make it go away; they don’t “solve” it, they simply deal with the reality of it. No one response works for everybody, though some do tend to work better than others. The predicament remains, and conditions every aspect of life in one way or another.
–Archdruid Emeritus John Michael Greer; courtesy of here.
The ascension of Elijah may be compared to the flight of a bird, which none can follow; the ascension of Christ is, as it were, a bridge between earth and heaven, laid down for all who are drawn to Him by His earthly existence.
–Baumgarten; courtesy of here.
The Ascension of Christ is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday–hence, “Ascension Thursday”. The Catholic bishops where I live–and in many parts of the USA–have moved it to the nearest Sunday, which is today. I don’t agree with that change; but at least the quotation is appropriate. Sigh.