Anthony Pau Cabrales: journal — II

From the journal of Anthony Pau Cabrales, Associate Justice

21. On the Fifth Circuit, at home

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake, centered near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, leaves some 200,000 and more dead, dying. Night after the quake, in the streets of Port-au-Prince, packed in the safety of outside, a capella music begins, the hymnal phrase Blessed be the Lord weaving through the streets. January, 2010.


I tread the earth, and the earth is firm beneath my feet, and there is no motion to the earth, and the earth is the center of all things, and I am the center of the earth, and the eye of the Creator is upon me.


–Cardinal to Galileo Galilei

Bertolt Brecht




When the dice are thrown on the table of the earth it trembles and is broken.


Gilles Deleuze

Nietzsche and philosophy


We have no name for you, you no Katrina whose path becomes a personality, whose turn of desolation becomes someone else’s grace. No: you are everywhere, at once, existence falling from itself, theology shattered into dumbed ignorance. You dissolve what we were, shatter every tie, erase every petty monument to our climbed successes, dead bodies grounding our heights turned liquid in physics, drowning us as we drowned them.

This your grace: all done in no hand of ours. Grace beyond Apocalypse, Apocalypse which shall be made in our own engines, we thereby revealed as your destructive hand, then knowing there never was a we, only a you, awaiting End. But not this day. Today you invite us to struggle ourselves anew; to war, not against some of us, but all of us. We go to battle ourselves, to stand on the dead necessarily uncountable and make ourselves something new, no sea of shacks to topple in the next time, desperation fragile which was and is our living murder. In that desolation is humanity unowned, the lumber of our building, the only ground we have ever had. You clear the land in irresponsible lumber so we may war in charity toward a bloodless victory; yet we fearful of what shall outreach to us, that when the grief clears we will see nought but us again.

Streets flow with Blessed be the Lord, detritus of survival offering grace to the creator, needs be in lower case, that this time the he that is we can get it right.

Added later:

Lord, see our struggle. We level Europe in rehearsal of your End, raising thereafter a world incomprehensible to our past. But you turn eyes to the protective sky called United States, saying not yet, not yet. And shatter some others’ worlds for a try again.


22. On the US Supreme Court, before appointment of Suzuki

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, takes the name Francis I upon election to the Papacy.  When greeting the crowd below, he asks for their blessing before blessing them.  March, 2013.


Bless me, I above, tiered toward Heaven, a would be infinity point, trick of perception salvation’s map.  Web me in your say, tether me, my ride to Heaven not that but floating wayward loss into oblivion; out of your sighted site I no longer would be.  Keep me here, tell me my path can be, see me so there is a path.  I am not toward God but a signal to God, and when I look down I see up is there.  The path to Heaven is in the distance.  Climb hard, turn around; there is God.

Around me riches of red and gold, I holed within them, a hermit from empowered belief, impoverished through self humiliation.  They’ve sayed me out, pushed my backwall chiseled out of prayer forward with their words, back filled my doubt with doctrine until I spilled forth among them.  Red eyes capture me, lead us, miracle they made yet no one made, Godded act, take us into forward as we harness you, existence the church, cardinal belief, so many says woven into election, where can doubt have a place to rest?  Into the room of tears, borne yet again, crying out the route of faith, its door closing me into a silence of no one’s making, no cave but cell empowered.

They will come and ask my name, their chance for difference, for novelty in all the sayed said.  Francis, stigmata, still pin pointing truth for all to see.  Francis, condemned, then sainted when he would not go away, our truth that which survives our flay.  Francis, who walked the desert, his survival your Act of God.

Francis.  Your beady eyes peck at this gift of God.  Poverty raised to grandeur in our robes, whatever I say shaped by your mouths.  So say.  Francis I say and watch you say, flowing through the rich red no color of blood.  Say the name.  You took the story.  Mayhap it will now take you.

Bless me.  Then I can bless you, all of us distanced from God.  The kingdom amidst us, in the looks distant but here, intersection of our glanced queries the locus of God.

[Editorial note: The room of tears, where the newly elected goes to dress himself in Papal attire alone, before greeting the outside crowd, is entered after declaring the Papal name.  Cabrales has reversed the events.]


23. On the US Supreme Court, otherwise undated

Refractions of Gandhi

August 1914.  Gandhi travels by sea to England as World War I begins, with him his closest confident, a well off Jewish architect, who carries an expensive pair of cherished binoculars.  Gandhi convinces him to throw them into the ocean.

To toss that for a moment beyond our acts yet present, above a barrier that marks oblivion upon which we travel, terrain of unlived science beneath, instrument to spy distance abandoned into the final reality beyond us all.  Death comes to our tools too.  Glistening surface of waves anonymous to cause, gentle force ready to dissolve all, pierced by an extension of our eyes now blind, to drift downward on currents of spent purpose lost to all but the actions of millennia.

Gandhi chuckles.  Why spy far what cannot be touched when without each other nothing can be touched?  Their knowledge leaves us isolate grain for harvest.  But around us is another sea, of people who in their touch send waves to toss they who ride our medium using us for travel which drowns us in ourselves.  They stay afloat on us.  But we will not drown them as would the sea we ride today–just nudge them in gentle current through which they live, our life their support until they flow away.

This sea which shines blind then invites entry in trough and swell yet can break us with a density of universe; we are not that.  We are what we ride, the hands which keep ourselves afloat.  They–they ride purpose beyond themselves which will smash them into walls of their own body.  Each sea makes you its own.  Let us go down below to forget where we are until arrived at the hope of hands that pull us out onto the land of our making where they too will be grateful for a sojourn.  Surrounded by their purpose, we will be the island they hope to spy, unaware they shall walk on others’ water, miracle unknown yet there.


23. On the US Supreme Court, walking with former clerk Gerrard Ponti after Suzuki’s funeral.


Walking streets of this capital, traffic pushing with purpose beyond reach of any mind.  Yet we think we can contour it, belief which is its engine.  Our delusion is our success.  But that “our” switches meaning, first being a sum of individuals, second something corporate, no sum at all.  Humanity, [Justice] Henry [Mitland] tells me, is not us.  Our youth raises its head in anticipatory success, ready to take and shape; aged, we find we are shaped, Purpose perhaps reclothed, but still not us.

Does water know its floods, or is speed scaled to that which it pulls along?  The bank knows–but who to tell?  Walking, we enter a residential area, cars passing these anchors of life to flood into Purpose.  Slight echo of a Suzuki (quasi) haiku, one jotted on a circulating draft opinion, my clerks about every year of his tenure holding contest of how best to make jot relevant to opinion content.  A free dinner the prize–that and relief that our Chief wasn’t actually insane.  I imagined Ben on Bench announcing a decision by single haiku, then silence.  But I never said so to him, for fear it might happen.

So an echo of one of these travels with me this funeraled day

in city’s hamlet
avenue flows
erasing sounds
of imprisonment

Cries from the bank of passing Purpose, unaware that salvation rests where they are.  Perhaps it is chunk of residence dislodged into Purpose which makes their cry, at first lament, turned into desire of flow in fearful realization it will happen anyway.  Purpose as anticipated execution, perhaps some bashing their bank so chunk becomes flow.

Oh, Homo sapiens, rushing into itself to make a stillness in win, yet wanting rest beyond any day.  Is interment that rest or a chunk of bank we stand on until Purpose dislodges, captures into only flow?

Ben saw flow unending yet cultivated Zen stillness.  Nirvana is not in any after but brief in now, then housed in memory of was.  So Nirvana is mostly not in later but before, this Zen’s topsy-turvy trick on Buddhism.  Trick perpetual, to survive Purpose never owned.  You use me up, so I exit you in all the moments you do–this Zen’s pivot.  A mortal death, brief, lost to life again, recovered to lose again.  An orthogonal hopping flow against the flow called History.

This hop, on the downside, becomes interment upon re-immersion.  Orthogonal to Purpose it can nudge direction in splashed return, paid with sweeping current in the outcome.  This the locus of Suzuki’s crazy, huffing and puffing to ready jump in a direction that should not exist–all so he can strategically plunge back in.  You can’t live in Importance, becoming History’s avatar if enslavement is unavoidable, with such a scheme.  Oh, Ben was Important all right, so Important in his foolishness that no one could ride him to their own Importance.  The price of his Zen was being nowhere, no lasso able to pull his furious horse to training.  Even in funeral he wasn’t there, dancer and singer walking his after, coffin empty, guarded by Purpose thinking at last he had been contained.

He was catholic and that is why I loved him.  Hopping in and out of History, he could not know where he would land:  that is catholic.  This so too the way of great books, speeches, film, music.  These dislodge from flow, tangling into bank by that which cannot move from where they are, roots of presence not wanting fame paid in overwrite.  There the stationary cherishes diamonds jettisoned from the consuming flow, where all value is measured in how long it takes to dissolve into flow anonymous.  Tangled bank of hands hold on to these works, sometimes dislodged in junk of soil made Purpose, sometimes letting go in hope that diamond will attach to detritus in the flow, keeping personality alive in the surround of anonymity.  Personality is war against the ephemeral which is anonymity.  It always loses; Henry would say that’s how evolution works, from genes to culture.  That’s how death works, the final coin of evolution.

I am Catholic; we live forever, eternity the sky over flooding Purpose, every bit so consumed not lost but placed overhead.  Stars candles to the drowned, our night travel through their memory.  But sky has no boundary.  Catholic capital is not catholic–appropriately–lowercase.  Ben showed me so through his infuriating hops, once removed from hopes.

Gerrard and I pass a Catholic church, he confused at my dismissal, I who go out of my way to find a Catholic sanctuary in the remote.

“Not catholic for this day,” I say, adding, seeing his confusion, “lowercase today, Ben’s day.”

“But Holy Church is open to all.”

“Many will not enter, making Catholic uncatholic.”

“Church awaits them.”

“Church is reason they won’t come.”

“Decision cannot be forced.  Salvation can be offered, not imposed.”

“Decision creates boundaries, Gerrard.  Salvation creates an outside.”

My believing clerk.  Sometimes I think he would have been better off with a Scalia, but he wanted the authenticity of Hispanic Catholic risen from the El Paso barrio.  Authenticity dies when spoken.  My family was authentic and didn’t know.  My Grandparents.  Didn’t, couldn’t know; that’s authenticity, innocently unknown to itself.  If you’re looking for it, all you can be is window shopper.  I went to Harvard.  Authenticity there is, but not what the classroom thinks it finds.  Authenticity is ever elsewhere save in the faces not looking.  The curse of academics is perpetual alienation from its object of search.

I’ve lost my laboratory stamp of approval, even though I confess every third day, to the weariness of my padre prone to ask when I go on holiday at rite’s end.  Wait till he hears my confession over Suzuki’s funeral.

We keep walking, Gerrard’s face a little flustered.  I continue

“You know the Qur’anic verse

He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you. So vie one with another in good works. (5:48)

That test is the engine of finitude.  Whatever we do is finite, even within finite humanity.  We cannot know humanity, yet proclaim universality.  Our salvations are damnations.  Our test is how to deal with that.  Humanity is a test of ever truncating finitude.  Vie one with another in good works is a way of indefinitely postponing the truncation of finitude, who is right, wrong deferred for the common gain of good works.”

Gerrard is discomfited:  “There is 1st Corinthians

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.  (11:19)

“Approval always in the group I am in, hey Gerrard, or that to which I switch.  The law cannot do that; judge cannot do that.  Being right is something we can’t get to.  Oh, not right in law.  Right in the kind of truth that builds a life–lives, for a life is built of lives.  We judges are looking glass shoppers, ensuring the displays can be built.  But those building, they do not build displays.  We are forced to see it so to keep impartiality.”

“You think the Qur’anic verse better than that of Corinthians?”

“I think law must hold an attitude similar to the former.”

“Yet you are a practicing Catholic.”

“Because I can’t be a practicing catholic.”

A confused face.


“You confess not to remove sins!”

“I confess because I am located in the world.  Existence is antithetical to the catholic.  Lowercase.”


“Is the wish for a single humanity.”  I pause.  “I confess because I am not like the priest.  And I pray to thank God for his sake.  I mean the priest’s sake.  I worship because most people aren’t like me.”

I turn onto a minor street, dead-ending at a Lutheran church.

Lutheran?” my former clerk says astonished.

“Fine choice for this Suzuki day.  He will never again have the hold on us he has this moment.”

As we approach the door I say “Herein there is no theater of illogic to pop us out of our day–to force a hop into an elsewhere.  No, here is unavoidably lived day.  The only day.  And its always right here.  You can’t escape here.  Humanity is a collection of residences, but we each are ever only in a residence.”

Reaching door, I open into the nave.  “Let’s barge into another’s home.”

Brighter than a Catholic forum, alcove lit from behind by a tall, wide stained glass depiction of the Apostles at Pentecost, fire over their heads, Holy Spirit alight diverse, no single light parsed out in hierarchy, hidden signal that neither Church Catholic nor Lutheran is catholic fine.

A few isolate are in pews, tiny before the doorway to God.  We find God by making ourselves small, tiny and tinier until we vanish into Being, that which houses all.  Our finite forms blind us to this housing; encompassing some, we think our bodies housing, spend our days housing this housing, building more, residence, family, status, history, unable to see our housing of housing of housing is already housed, within each house.  Striving to not become but substitute for God, we see not God is space itself.  Only the housing of worship reverses this, ground structure not to make us larger but small.  We greet God in the vanishing of all our efforts, becoming the space through which others will build.  This is death; and in a pew aloned, distress feels the shrinkage, the binds of our finitude helping us traverse Zeno’s distance to the infinitesimal, each another half to cover the true locus of vanishing.  The closing toward emptiness is the only emptiness we can know.

The minister is at the pulpit, cleaning or preparing for later service.  He casually looks up as we enter, does a double take.  I have been recognized.  This is the capital, on the wealthy side, and today was Suzuki’s funeral, a walk away.  Flustered a moment, he descends to greet.

“Judge–Justice–Cabrales.  A surprising honor.”

“I felt the need for solace after Suzuki’s funeral.  We walked therefrom.”

“But there is a Catholic Church between there and here….”

“This is Benjamin’s day.  As you shall soon hear via the media, his funeral was–odd.”


“A ceremony for that which cannot be located with an audience not always there.”

Gerrard interjects:  “With an honor guard with nothing to guard.”

“Yes.  Benjamin would want me to travel further than I am.  So I walked further to encounter you.”

“The church.”

“Which houses you.”

Gerrard again:  “Some temples have no resident.  Like hospital chapels.”

“Interesting, Gerrard, that robed faith abandons the hospital chapel.”

A quite awkward silence.  I continue

“I seek refuge in God, from a man who had no God as most…”

“All,” Gerrard mumbles.

“…understand it.”

It?  Not Him?  A Suzuki move, dislodging the concept, or the feeling scaffolding the concept, from our practice.  This won’t sit well with a minister with congregation, and it doesn’t.

“Well, some in our pews approach God.”

Did I come here to be snide?  Maybe:

“We do not believe God can be approached singly.”

A frown.  “All have private prayer.”

“It is not supplication I speak of, but reply.”

“No one can speak for God.”

“Exactly.”  I see now I mourn by channeling Ben, thrusting him, unseen, into the face of the Lutheran.  No one is not no one, but no singleton.  Ben would chop laugh, then say “very mean:  only do this to people paid to listen to you–or as immediate interdiction.”  Neither applies here.

The minister’s face becomes wrinkleless in beatitude.  “We can suggest but not, as your priests, stipulate.”  He points to the stained glass.  “The Holy Spirit knows no hierarchy.”

“Not quite true, on that beauty’s own terms,” pointing to the glass as well.

Revelation is only stable if restricted in genesis.  Martin Luther in correspondence thought the Book of Revelation should be purged, tool as it was in peasant’s rebellion.  If God talks anew, let no one listen.  Faith is finite.  As it enlarges it becomes prairie fire.  Whether contained faith is controlled burn I leave an open question.

This Shepherd is not dull:

“The glass depicts the first descent of the Spirit into Church, ecclesia, the calling out to proclaim faith, which is worship.  True, thereafter the Spirit fans out from the Apostles, forming communities of worship.  But can and does alight distant.”  A bit defensively he adds “Luther was one such, I’d say.”

“I agree.”

All three of us seem embarrassed–for different reasons, no doubt.

“Mother Church has often faced the exterior presence of Holy Spirit.  As in Saint Francis.  Perhaps Church failed Luther in his difficult anointing.”

Minister blinks.  More than once.  “Are you saying that the denominations are–necessary mistakes needed for the descent of the Spirit?”

Ah, Ben, this one could sit with us.  If not on Bench, in the many necessary afters.  This is why I walked here:  to convince myself, and maybe you so housed, that the program is not yet failed.

“All houses are finite.  Mother Church erred in thinking it could be as large as God.”

He bows his head.  I add

“And with global travel and communication, finitude’s acuteness remains.  At the time of the Protestant schism, Christendom thought it housed the world.  But it didn’t house what it thought it housed, let alone the world.”

“So salvation is individual, not corporate.”

I half smile.  “Take a look around you.  I doubt you believe that.”

The face of a man who does not want to harm.  Silent a moment, he says “I do not know how to solace your grief.”

“Ah, Reverend, you have.  I go back to my Church, you are in yours.  Suzuki would be pleased.”

“Not is pleased?”

“I cannot mutilate the man.  Wouldn’t be much of a heaven.  A good place to exit.  And that last, Reverend, is a most Suzuki line.”



Gerrard and I walked back to the theater housing Ben’s once in a lifetime performance, our cars nearby.  Gerrard was more sanguine toward me now.  I had confirmed Mother Church, confession, the mediation of priests.  But eternity remains.  If only that would end the problem:  eternity remains.  He asks:  do I hold the soul immortal.  Ah, Gerrard, how could I hold the soul immortal, even if I immortal?  Isn’t that God’s place?  But what I say is this:

Asserting immortal soul is harmless absent a technology of immortality.  One technology would be to craft immortality.  Nirvana might be an anti-immortality, bliss removal of rebirth, perhaps even the brief knowledge rebirth is done; so some are said to forego Nirvana to aid here, living forever a kind of secondary Nirvana.  More common is the placement of immortality:  heaven, hell, limbo, bardo.  The fight is over placement, not existence.

That fight is over what happens among us here.  The religious wars used eternity to structure life here.  Islamic militants use eternity to deploy their violence here.  Who makes incantation and salivates over your placement in eternity thereby, admitting absolutely no import for this life?  The only way it could matter here would be if people shunned you for fear of incantation.  But that would matter only if incantation threatens them.  The real threat is the very present world threat of being shunned.

Eternity is not about eternity but our finitude here.  When eternity is asserted absent consequence it becomes impotent.  American civil peace rests in some measure on impotent eternity.

Gerrard would press:  answer the question:  say you yes or no on eternity?

What I say is that the West’s social evolution has turned the question into a variant of what videos you like.  Play it in your head; find others who do the same.  A kind of weak association results, the trauma of centuries bled away into an inarticulate worry of the beyond.  And, as with videos, tastes change, so our associations are weak.  We can escape one another.  Freedom makes associational weakness.

Eternal salvation was crucial because we demanded it be so for all.  Eternal life had material consequences here, enforced by the State or Crown or Principality.  Religious tolerance removed enforcement save social, and with the enforcement of civil liberties and free commerce religious tolerance came to include religious withdrawal.  Eternity, as social weapon, did not cease but became second or third order.

Gerrard could say:  Say you do not believe in God and see how your life goes.

True, but the question cannot be so easily asked for direct answer now.

None of the above answers Gerrard’s demand:  yes or no on eternity.  Social efficacy is not truth.  Bertrand Russell quite late in long life demanded believe something not for convenience but because it is true.  I wonder if society could survive global application of that doctrine.  If my family needs eternity I will believe it with them.  If mountain hermit I don’t think I would care.  If, please no, I outlived my family I might believe eternally for them.  But these are not individual decisions.  I think that key.  We present eternity as individual determination, but it is not.  Yes or no, it lives amongst us as fellow intimate.  As upper case Catholic, then, I must believe to kindle the fire of intimacy among strangers which belief gives.  I walk into Church to find a humanity beyond my ken.  We believe to keep stranger at bay.

But only at bay.



Suzuki left many (quasi) haiku.  He had pocket notebooks full of them.  Some hitched rides on draft opinions, memos, invitations, but I never saw one committed for immediate discard.  When he first joined the Court I found them quite odd.  He never mentioned them.  Yet sometimes I felt them background where conversation went.  He seems to have believed that only through escape could thought survive.  Haiku were vehicles of escape.  Later I began to record those coming my way, as though preventing a drowning.  As we left the Lutheran church one of these came to mind, unspoken:

tall pale limbs
reaching skyward
to shape a face
from which we see

Referent a tree, perhaps leafless,  limbs combined outlining a face with eyes.  But its import that reach toward the unattainable precedes, makes, sight and the recognition of face.  And that our eyes come from outside us.  Churches are that, still reaching, still forming their face, offering eyes to see.  An American conceit of progress.  But Ben was American, Japanese American.  All his hops outside our world were for progress’ sake, no completed salvation for eternity.  Jump out of where, so what, you are to see where you can go.

Coffin empty, he jumps again.



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