PHOTOGRAPH: Aerialist Philippe Petite opens dedication of St.John The Divine. Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times, 1982
Luke, over at Intense City has an intriguing post ("Settling into the Heart") today about the movement from the head to the heart, referencing the word munem, which in Japanese Zen means intelligent action without thinking, and a quote from a Chinese Zen master: “If you want to see into it, see into it directly. When you begin to think about it, it is altogether missed.”
Luke provides Unknown Friend’s notion of concentrating without effort with the wonderful example of the tightrope walker:
“Look at a tightrope walker. He is evidently completely concentrated, because if he were not, he would fall to the ground. His life is at stake, and it is only perfect concentration which can save him. Yet do you believe that his thought and his imagination are occupied in what he is doing? Do you think that he reflects and that he imagines, that he calculates and that he makes plans with regard to each step he makes on the rope?” - Unknown Friend
(This all sounds like how Cynthia Bourgealt teaches Centering prayer. Cynthia says that one moves out of the head into a sort of vague area where one trusts the awareness of that moment.)
Anyway, Luke expresses this all so well over at his site. The photo that he posted, which I have re-posted above because I love it so much, is of Phillipe Petit, the French high wire artist walking on a wire to the Cathedral of St. John of the Divine in 1982. Petit is best known for his wire-walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. When I watched the film, Man on a Wire, about this walk, I recognized that Petit was, in fact, a contemplative; he embodies concentration without effort! Of course, this is the point that Luke makes.
Can performance art be called "prayer"? Lax does:
“It has all the business about the sun coming out and Mogodor coming down the field and they way he said hello. Completely casual – hello. They didn’t leave any doubt that they were pleased to see me. They took me right into the family. Mogador and I would go out on the trucks all night and talk. He enjoyed talking. He suggested calling my book “Unfolding Grace.” He had been reading some mystic and he was getting good ideas. He said the thing about a performance or anything like it was throwing everything away. What you’re doing is getting rid of everything by every gesture and everything you do. And then you’ve got this pure thing left.
“… even a somersault on horseback, for example, after it had gotten to be everything you might think it was – like a test of your strength, a test of your power, or a good way to amaze the public – everything it might be except just this thrill act itself – is what you’ve thrown away. It is like a mystical thing.
“… I think it’s what Merton is saying about prayer, - whatever it is, anything in it that is an impurity, that is anything but the act itself, which is practically unnamable. And if it is what it should be, then the poetry is prayer, the acrobatic act is prayer.
“Pure act, I think it’s a metaphysical concept starting with Aristotle and flowering in St. Thomas that God is pure act and that there is no POTENTIA in Him. But that almost everything else in the universe is IN POTENTIA, it’s on its way to being pure act, on its way to unity with God. But only God is pure act. And that made me think about a lot of things. One of them is that business of the purity of an acrobatic performance, of any performance, at the point where it becomes really pure, is at its closest to the divine and closest to that unity.”
“Throwing everything away except the act itself, and I think at that point it also joins with the ideas of Zen, that everything is right here in this moment, and all those same things are being thrown away in what they describe as the Zen act. So if you were living in that kind of purity or call it action, it would be close to the kingdom of heaven. = Lax (p. 437-438, "When Prophecy Had A Voice")
- see also the louie blog post: "lax on pure act"It certainly seems like this is what is happening during Centering Prayer.
HT: Intense City
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