I have a friend.
Sometimes I refer to him as a Dharma Bum. What he really is, is a spiritual pilgrim. A little like Elijah he often appears when he is needed, shares a word, often a just right word, and is gone.”
He is one of the wisest of my friends. And he writes like an angel. I’ve called him our own prose Han Shan, well, with a dash of Ikkyu. If that doesn’t convey information, you might look them up.
On occasion he sends me a note, often just an anecdote or a reflection. I’ve dined out on one of his observations:
“I was asked, ‘Are you an atheist?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then you believe in God?’ ‘No.’ ‘Then, what do you believe?’ ‘As little as I can.'”
Wonderful. Wonderful. It contains a map toward an authentic life. And just a taste of what he offers.
He’s lived in a Zen monastery for some years. He studied with Sufis and magicians and a great deal among our Native American elders. I believe he finds his greatest teachers the rocks and trees and racing creeks of far Northern New England. Among the names he is happy to answer to, is in fact one given him by a Native American elder, Weasel Tracks. He’s also sometimes referred to by friends as the Wayfarer. In a sort of last analysis I consider him a lay Zen monk, a true person of clouds and water.
In 2017 he sent me a slightly longer piece, he titled Theologia Belaruscia. And today he offered a second chapter. Theologia Belarusica II [2a]. I received permission to reprint it, and with just a little nagging, the cover letter.
He also mentioned he has opened a Patreon page. I’m glad to hear this as I worry a bit about his keeping body and soul together.
And this noted, without further ado…
I just spent a nice coupla weeks in Metro Boston, seeing some old friends and going to Orthodox Palm Sunday and I sat with three different sanghas. I resolved some stuff with family. Now M is on a road trip with her sister C, who is moving from Tampa to Colorado Springs, and I hope to make use of the alone time in the comfort of electricity, internet, and flush toilet to do some writing and house maintenance, before going home to my rough camp in my beautiful woods where the running water is Stearns Brook. Good to see I can still run on with the best of them.
In 1972, I was a man of 25 and life was strange. One of the least strange things was that I went to Belarus with my mother, who hadn’t been home in thirty years. I had never been there, being born in a refugee camp in Germany in the English Sector, then emigrating to the US. We stayed in Moscow with relatives, some of whom were a bit reluctant to have us as they worked for the government and the ghost of Uncle Joe was still everywhere. But family is family, and our people shared their tiny apartment, making a bed for my mother on a window seat, and a pallet on the floor for me. As a usually penniless hippy vagabond, I was on good speaking terms with floors.
As I lay there in Moscow, amazed I was in this place we so often heard about and from, and in the heartland of my native culture, the usual nonsense sequences of words and images took place. A perfect quatrain formed, perfectly rhymed, cleverly worded, shining in its brilliant wordplay. It was obviously the seed for a longer poem that would from it. But I did not want to turn on a light to write it down but disturbing my mother. The stanza flowed from line to line in such obvious poetic logic, that I believed I only had to memorize the first line and the rest would unfold. I went over the whole unit a few times, and the first line a few more, and drifted off to sleep in the happiness that’s a receipt for the gift of art.
When I sit, things form that are amazing. A few times, I was sure I could remember, just like I thought in Moscow, but I was less surprised to learn that usually such thought patterns melt like the frost art on windows in subzero air, leaving not even memory. So I keep a notebook by my sitting place so when such gifts come, I can take a few notes. It’s less disruptive than trying to memorize, not to mention the feeling of loss when a jewel melts through your fingers.
Much of the Theologia I sent you before, the part called “Rainy Afternoon” (from something Alan Watts said) was based on such notes. Sometimes they’re something really good, sometimes I wonder why I thought they were good enough to bother with, and sometimes I just can’t judge them.
Anyway, here’s a little more.
Theologia Belarusica II [2a]
Friday, March 22, 2019
I stopped in to see the God as is my wont, and as is hers she gave me tea.
“Tell me more about the universe and how you created it. How many times did you do it?”
“The usual countless.”
“And you kept them all separate, self-contained? You would have to, of course, or else risk utter chaos.”
“Well, actually, I did at first. But when I was done with the first round of infinite possibilities, I started again, only allowed a little karmic leakage between one universe and its neighbor. A most interesting complexity evolved. All kinds of abstractions expressed themselves in the stories of cosmic material.
“One day I thought to correlate some of them without mutual symmetry, allowing communication freely one way, but limiting it the other way. One realm could act as a repository of principal and memory for another.”
“Oh? Like ranked geometric spatial dimensions?”
“Yes, but not really. By the way, what do you have against chaos?”
“Well . . . is there anything to say that’s good about it? It seems like the forces of order — which I assume are your forces — are forever in a struggle to keep the crawling chaos at bay. Isn’t the victory of disorder a tragedy?”
“Oh yes! But what about the defeat of disorder? Just imagine — nothing out of place, everything where you think it will be. Nothing new, nothing unexpected, nothing interesting.
“In truth, perfect order is stagnant, while perfect chaos nothing beyond itself. I found the perfect proportion is two parts regularity to one part disruption. 66% order, 33% chaos.”
“You have a 1% unaccounted for.”
“That’s the mysterious remainder. The salvation of the ages! The silence that lines the signal and the noise.”
“Say, I’ve been meaning to ask you ― the principles of a reality reside in some other ‘place’ outside that reality, like the principles, rules, axioms, and natural laws of Flatland come from our own 3-D world. So, that which made the Big Bang possible ― You ― because obviously the universe didn’t exist before it did . . . ”
“Are you going somewhere with this?”
“I wouldn’t want to be offensive . . . ”
“Sweet Boy, we own each other.”
“Are you the ultimate repository of principle? The Alpha & The Omega? Or have you a Creator and a Law?”
She smiled and stretched. Stretching, she covered earth and sky. Her face was all the many colors, and many I’d not seen before. The rosy-gold of dawn settled on her, and she let the birds laugh for her.
“Dear Boy ― it’s Turtles . . . all the way up!”
“Well, nice talking with you, as always. Maybe we can talk some more on my way back.”
“Anytime. I’ll be here