Believed to be compiled by Confucius, Shih ching or "Book of Odes" is a collection of 305 poems, dating from 1000 to 600 BC. These are believed to be the oldest existing examples of Chinese poetry.
The collection includes refined folk songs, ritualistic poems, dynastic legends and hymns for ancestral temples. All were intended to be sung, although the musical accompaniments are long lost. The subject matter centers on daily activities such as farming, gathering plants, farming, courting, feasting and going to war. The imagery is concrete and the poems themselves focus on youth, beauty and vigor. The tone is wide, from festive and lighthearted to bitter and satirical. Children and old age are largely ignored.
The construction of the poems is very consistent. Each line contained four characters (note: a Chinese character is not equivalent to an English word; Chinese characters often encompass an entire phrase or idea). The lines are arranged in stanzas of four, six or eight lines. Rhyming occurs infrequently.
Economy of expression is predominant. Most begin with an image of nature, which oftentimes leads to a parallel in human life, or, just as often, a contrast.
"Book of Odes" is considered one of the Five Confucian Classics and became a basic text in Chinese education. For many centuries, the Chinese have studied the text for its wisdom relative to history, philosophy, ethics and politics.
GWAN! GWAN! CRY THE FISH HAWKS!
(a wedding song for the royal family)
Gwan! gwan! cry the fish hawks
on sandbars in the river:
a mild-mannered good girl,
fine match for the gentleman.
A ragged fringe is the floating-heart,
left and right we trail it:
that mild-mannered good girl,
awake, asleep, I search for her.
I search but cannot find her,
awake, asleep, thinking of her,
turning, tossing from side to side.
A ragged fringe is the floating-heart,
left and right we pick it:
the mild-mannered good girl,
harp and lute make friends with her.
A ragged fringe is the floating-heart,
left and right we sort it:
the mild-mannered good girl,
bell and drum delight her.
HOW IS THE NIGHT?
How is the night?
The night's not yet ended.
Courtyard torches are lit;
our lord is coming,
his bridle-bells make tinkling sounds.
How is the night?
The night's not yet over.
Courtyard torches shimmer and shine:
our lord is coming,
his bridle-bells make jangling sounds.
How is the night?
The night gives way to dawn.
Courtyard torches are glimmering:
our lord is coming,
I can see his banners!
The book Ephesians in the Christian bible makes it quite clear that women are subservient to men. Being a feminist I found this a little hard to swallow during my three years at The Master's College (a private Christian college). I found myself continually questioning things that seemed unfair or geared towards a different era and culture. I always felt awkward walking among women who agreed with the inequality in a male/female Christian relationship.
Once I stopped conforming to the conventional picture of femininity I finally started to enjoy being a woman. I realized that my dreams do not consist wholly of getting married and having children. Although many Asian cultures practice the traditional family roles, I found it quite inspiring that one of the seven main elements of Buddhism was Egalitarianism. Meaning, women are just as capable of enlightenment as men are. I believe that if we took Buddhism and put its elements into practice in today's society we would only be benefiting our children and ourselves.
Looking to Buddha and his teachings seemed odd to me as a white American female. I found it difficult to open my mind to eastern thought and I kept wanting to argue Buddha's logic with Christianity. However, once I sat down and finally began to really think about what he was saying, it all fell into place. It starts with following the Four Noble Truths:
1) All life is suffering (dukka)
2) Suffering is caused by desire (tanha)
3) Suffering can only cease if desire ceases
4) Follow the Eight-Fold Path
Overcoming dukka and tanha through the eight-fold path:
1) Right thought
2) Right conduct
3) Right speech
4) Right livelihood
5) Right effort
6) Right mindfulness
7) Right concentration
8) Right understanding
And using it as a map to direct our lives, we can only make things better for ourselves. "The 8-fold path can be grouped into 3 groups. The first is "Morality". The idea here is to live a life where one tries to constantly practice kindness and love, and to live life such that one's conscience is clear. That comes from our practice of Perfect Thougths, Perfect Actions, Perfect Speech and Perfect Livelihood. Basically, we live life to the best that we can.
The 2nd group is "Concentration". With a clear conscience cultivated with "morality", we cultivate our minds so that it'll be calm, peaceful and concentrated. This comes from our practice of Perfect Effort and Perfect Concentration.
The 3rd group is "Insight". With a very strong, calm, concentrated and peaceful mind, we learn to work with ourselves, to gain insight into ourselves, to eventually overcome all our problems and all the unsatisfactoriness in our lives. This comes from our practice of Perfect Mindfulness and Perfect Understanding. " (http://www.serve.com/cmtan/buddhism/fournt.html)
When I first looked at the eight-fold path I thought that it was practically impossible to carry out, however, many of the things on there are things that we do everyday anyway. Right conduct involves no stealing, no killing, no intoxicants, and no immoral sexual acts. Some of these may be very easy, and others extremely difficult. I believe that religion cannot all be done for you. There must be some sacrifice and work on the believers part or it is not actually pertaining to your life. How can you say you truly practice something if you aren't doing anything different?
Buddha asks us to focus on ourselves and have continuous self-examinations, and awareness, he asks us to act out of love and have a steady effort. He preaches self-discipline and no slander, which leads us to be kind to one another and ourselves. This is what I want for myself. This is what I want for my children: A society that doesn't long for genetic engineering but a society that continues to better itself through its actions toward one another. It starts with controlling our road rage and being nice to the person who cuts in line at the gas station. It starts with less "one night stands" and more meditation. It starts with what I need to work on not with something I find wrong with my neighbor.
It is possible to integrate this into our society. I believe it is. I believe by offering yoga classes and a class such as Asian thought at the local junior college is a pretty good start. Buddhism should not be dead to America, it should be offered as an alternative to our tired and overworked religions such as Catholicism or Christianity. We should delve in and seek to understand what has not been placed in front of us. We cannot simply accept one religion as truth when we have not studied or put into practice other religions.
I believe that as a woman and as an American we need to search for different views on society and do all that we can to better ourselves. If enlightenment is possible, then we should overcome our ignorance and strive to understand what holds us back.
UNIVERSAL PRAYER By SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
O Adorable Lord of Mercy and Love !
Salutations and prostrations unto Thee.
Thou art Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient.
Thou art Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute.
Thou art the Indweller of all beings.
Grant us an understanding heart,
Equal vision, balanced mind,
Faith, devotion and wisdom.
Grant us inner spiritual strength
To resist temptation and to control the mind.
Free us from egoism, lust, greed, hatred, anger and jealousy.
Fill our hearts with divine virtues.
Let us behold Thee in all these names and forms.
Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms.
Let us ever remember Thee.
Let us ever sing Thy glories.
Let Thy Name be ever on our lips.
Let us abide in Thee for ever and ever.
In the article written by brooklyn on this same website, Ralph Waldo Emerson had this problem: "Emerson's inability to serve as a traditional pastor caused him serious distress. Stumbling for appropriate words at the bedside of a dying veteran of the American Revolution, he was famously told by the irritable patient, 'Young man, if you don't know your business you had better go home.'"
There are many variations to what people believe in Transcendentalism. You don't have to be an atheist, for example. The beauty of Transcendentalism is that we can discuss these things without fear of judgement. I had the good fortune to discuss the meaning of God with a number of people on this website. I will refer to these fellow travelers by their screen names.
joshuagriffin writes: "Okay, so, to answer the question of 'God': I believe in the prime catalyst; that is to say that the "thing", for lack of a better term "god", that was the mechanism for the first chemical reaction that began evolution ... not necessarily of Humankind, but of everything. I'm against organized religion, because it only offers close-minded regurgitations of texts written centuries ago. Unfortunately, I'm basically ignorant in the details of every major religion; however, I believe that I know enough about the basics of Religion in general to write/speak my opinion. I feel that one should have ideas of their own, rather than memorizations of the all-encompassing book of whatever religion. In closing, Ideas lead to Spirituality and memorizations lead to meaningless conversation. Remember this, ideas are better conversation topics."
Then there was a response by jamelah, which said, "what about the issue of faith? i think faith transcends religion."
Then there is microknee finger, who responded to a question about brain synapses, that mysterious moment in the brain when thought sparks like electricity, who said, "Actually, electricity is made of electrons, I believe (I think it's time to dip into my Feynman's Lectures on Physics again), which are subatomic. But yeah, the idea that conscious thoughts are physical I find incredibly fascinating that subatomic particles can mingle in just such a way to create and sustain life and consciousness is nothing short of mind-bogglingly beautiful ..."
And popejoebaby says: "Native Americans have it right as far as i'm concerned. They worship that which gives, and sustains our lives. Air -- the first breath we take feeds life to our presense. It is present all around all that is present. Water -- we come from water, the water of our Mothers. Water gives us spiritual cleansing. That's why it comforts us when we hear it, see it, feel it. Earth -- our true Mother. We live upon her, feed from her, die upon her, and in the end, return to her unbounded by human frailties. If we have hunted, been brave, been kind, been with the spirit of life, we will live again."
There is a theory that when we first noticed our thoughts, we thought it was God speaking to us. Like when an idea pops into your head from somewhere, they thought, "God is telling me this." And you can always find someone, like my friend Jim Westcott -- and no one can prove he is wrong -- who will say, "I was thinkin' about the brain speakin' to itself and I heard God say, 'Of course I speak through your brain, you moron, how else would I speak to you?'" and if you think about it, it makes sense that all we can know is what our senses and mind can grasp; the physical realities of our world -- planets, atoms, protons & electrons; carbon and oxygen, iron & orange juice, and whatever. Am i a robot? (ooh, that would be kind of cool).
My favorite book of the bible is Ecclesiastes, because it's so much written from the physical, down to earth, mortal viewpoint -- trying to find reason and meaning and satisfaction in work, play, sleep, sex, money, wine, knowledge. To me it has a zen quality to it. Balance.
It's funny how humans almost have to believe in something. In Communist Russia, where they officially didn't believe in god, up until the 80's they were studying psychic phenomena like someone bending a car-key or spoon just by thinking about it, or a medium with a crystal ball solving a murder.
My friend Richard Phelps, who was a seminary student, kept asking questions of his teachers, until one professor finally said, "If a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass on the ground." Apparently the boy had been asking a lot of "if" questions, and there's nothing wrong with that. But it's nice to know that even a seminary professor can get to the point where he can talk about a frog's ass.
America hadn't created many literary movements by July 1840, when Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller began publication of an idealistic journal of social criticism and poetry called "The Dial".
Based in Concord, the journal was published on a quarterly basis between July 1840 and April 1844, and helped to create the sense of an exciting movement of writers, theologians and intellectuals working together to promote their ideas. Other key members of this group included Bronson Alcott, Orestes Brownson, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, James Greeman Clarke, George Ripley, W. E. Channing and W. H. Channing. This movement became known as American (or, New England) Transcendentalism.
The term 'Transcendentalism' had earlier referred to a group of German philosophers such as Fichte and Schelling who espoused similar ideas. Schelling's 'System of Transcendental Philosophy' is highly abstract, and in fact the younger New England thinkers had most likely encountered this philosophy in literary treatments by advocates of the movement such as Goethe, Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle.
Transcendentalism has also been seen as an American outgrowth of the British Romantic movement and other European progressive trends.
Born on May 25, 1803 into a lineage of esteemed Boston clergymen, young Ralph Waldo Emerson initially aimed for a career as a Unitarian minister. He studied divinity at Harvard and became pastor of Boston's Second Church (his father, William Emerson, had been the pastor at the First Church).
His sermons were well liked. But it didn't take long for the parishioners, and for the young preacher himself, to realize that his teachings were straining at the boundaries of conventional religion. He would begin his sermons with words from the Bible, but would gradually find himself discussing the unfathomable ideals found in nature, or the irony that wealth made men unhappy, and he would have trouble finding his way back into the Bible to close the speeches. Some of the parishioners loved this -- and the young man had early inklings that he was destined for wide acclaim and fame -- but many of the parishioners did not.
His inability to serve as a traditional pastor caused him serious distress. Stumbling for appropriate words at the bedside of a dying veteran of the American Revolution, he was famously told by the irritable patient, "Young man, if you don't know your business you had better go home."
When his beloved wife Ellen died from tuberculosis (which was then called 'consumption'), a full life crisis began and Emerson began stubbornly refusing to perform the prescribed rites of the Unitarian Church. It was agreed by all that he should resign. In 1832 he was 29 years old and needed to find a new path in life. He travelled to Europe to meet several liberal intellectuals he'd been corresponding with, such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, John Stuart Mill and the historian Thomas Carlyle.
He returned to America energized with new ideas. Settling in Concord northwest of Boston, he remarried and began a family. In 1836 he began publishing his essays. Inspired by the literary Romantic movement that had already swept through Europe, he wrote freely of the great potential of the human spirit, and of the importance of breaking with tradition. One of his greatest essays, "Self-Reliance", urges complete individual freedom as a moral necessity: "Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist." Sarcasm and anger bubbled beneath the calm and dignified surface of his words as he exposed the cowardice and intellectual sloth that shielded the conventional wisdom of his time.
He co-founded a journal called the Dial, and gathered around him a group of like-minded men and women, including Margaret Fuller and Bronson Alcott (the father of Louisa May). They became known as the New England Transcendentalists. Emerson's two greatest literary discoveries, though, originated outside the original circle.
First was a young neighbor named Henry David Thoreau, who asked Emerson for a letter of recommendation to Harvard when Thoreau was eighteen and Emerson was thirty. Emerson would gradually come to understand the talent of this eccentric neighborhood schoolteacher, who lacked Emerson's graceful personality but made up for it in sheer dynamism. Emerson was a family man and a famous public citizen who could take few risks, but Thoreau, fired with similar ideas, could put these ideas to the test by spending two years in a cabin observing the flow of nature, and allowing himself to go to jail to protest the institution of slavery.
Two decades after Emerson met Thoreau, he received a self-published book of poetry in the mail from an unknown admirer from Brooklyn, New York. Emerson immediately understood the odd genius of Walt Whitman and mailed a letter back to Brooklyn with a famous endorsement, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career" (exactly a century later, Lawrence Ferlinghetti would echo the same words to Allen Ginsberg after hearing Ginsberg perform his new poem Howl).
Along with Thoreau and the Transcendentalists, Emerson fought vigorously against slavery and other forms of prejudice throughout his life. He was also one of the first Western intellectuals to treat Asian religions, such as Buddhism, with respect.
Ralph Waldo Emerson lived a long life devoid of scandal and high drama. He died of pneumonia on April 27, 1882.
It is unfortunate that Ralph Waldo Emerson is only vaguely known among those interested in today's alternative culture. While his writings are universally acclaimed in literary circles, his name seems to induce boredom among everyday readers, who often confuse his refined-sounding name with those of other lofty Anglo-Saxon eminences like Wordsworth or Longfellow. These were all important writers. But Emerson's "Self-Reliance" is to today's indie scene what the Declaration of Independence is to modern-day political freedom.
The first e-book to catch my attention was 'The Plant' at Stephen King's website. I downloaded the first couple of chapters, which were free at the time, and I had fun reading them. When it came time for me to start paying for installments I fell off, not because I didn't want to spend two bucks but rather because I always have too much to read anyway and I didn't feel motivated to fill out yet another annoying credit card form. Still, I *almost* paid for it. And this was the most time I'd invested in reading Stephen King since 'The Stand' when I was a kid. So overall I'd say my first experience with e-books was pleasant and painless.
A couple of weeks ago I tried my second e-book, a review copy of Jack Kerouac's 'Orpheus Emerged.' This is a previously unpublished story from Kerouac's formative years, produced in a lively multimedia format by an electronic publisher called Live Reads. While Stephen King's novel was presented in austere, dignified black-and-white, this book is a colorful, highly designed hypertext experience. I'm not tremendously excited by this particular story, which is in the same collegiate hyperintellectual vein as Kerouac's first novel, 'The Town and the City'. But I like the idea of Kerouac in e-book form, and I like what the publisher did to liven up this work. I also enjoyed toying around with the Adobe E-Book Reader as I read. After I was done I found a nice pile of free classic novels, poetry books and non-fiction works, among other things, at the Adobe E-Book Library. A free library of classics is a nice touch, and I think it's smart for publishers to keep giving away e-books to help readers get comfortable with the concept. I'm looking forward to what comes next.
Back to traditional formats -- here are a few new things worth checking out:2. Halfmoon is a film setting of three stories by Paul Bowles, and Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider is a documentary about the writer, created by Catherine Warnow and Regina Weinreich.
3. The Bop Apocalypse is a study of the religious significance of the Beat Generation. A long overdue topic!
4. So George W. Bush is going to be president. Well, I don't dislike him nearly as much as I disliked his father. Not yet, anyway. And so far he's saying some decent things about bipartisanship and reaching beyond divisive party boundaries -- and maybe he'll actually deliver on this. But just in case he doesn't -- a refresher course in political dissent couldn't hurt, and there is no better place to start than the recently republished Autobiography of Abbie Hoffman.
5. Beat poetry and punk rock may not seem to have a lot in common. But in downtown New York City, the two scenes have always travelled together. This literary/musical intersection is the subject of an enjoyable new book of essays and interviews, Beat Punks by Victor Bockris, a familiar biographer and chronicler of the New York downtown scene. The East Village is the locale, St. Mark's Place is the epicenter, and Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol are the characters who show up in these highly interesting pages.
It took me a while to figure out how to memorialize William S. Burroughs.
There's something about Burroughs that makes words seem ridiculous, especially trite sentimental words about death. This is the writer, after all, who'd coined the phrase "Language is a virus." When Burroughs' fellow Beat writer Allen Ginsberg died a few months earlier, the emotional response flowed easily, as Ginsberg's own literary style was warm and highly personal. With Burroughs it would be more tricky.
I had gathered a few pieces that I wanted to work with. The first was the transcript of a telephone interview conducted by poet and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, which Lee had sent me along with three surprisingly great photos he'd taken when visiting Burroughs at his home in Kansas. The second two were short tributes I'd solicited from two writers who'd known Burroughs personally, Robert Creeley and Carolyn Cassady -- not because the pairing of these two people had any special significance in the life of Burroughs, but mainly because I happened to know both their e-mail addresses. Carolyn Cassady's reply was extremely curt and not very complimentary to Burroughs, but I considered her point of view as valid as any other, and it did not seem unfitting that there should be some divisiveness within a memorial to this highly controversial personality.
The fourth piece is, I think, the most remarkable: a personal account of the Tibetan/Egyptian-inspired after-death ceremony, a bardo, conducted by Burroughs' closest friends and partners shortly after his death. This was written by Patricia Elliott, who'd been Burroughs' close friend, and who originally posted it to the BEAT-L internet mailing list.
Unsure how to make these pieces fit together, I finally decided to follow Burroughs' own example and give up on trying to
reconcile the individual parts. Burroughs had found meaning in the "cut-up" style of writing, in which sentences and paragraphs from various sources are spliced together intuitively but not logically, often revealing hidden meanings within. Getting into the spirit, I took inspiration from his title "Naked Lunch" and Ginsberg's related title "Reality Sandwiches" and decided to call this whole project "Sliced Bardo". That's it, and here it is.
As James Grauerholz says in the final section, facing the fire: Let's burn it.
"Give the director a serpent deflector
a mudrat detector, a ribbon reflector
a cushion convector, a picture of nectar
a viral dissector, a hormone collector
what ever you do, take care of your shoes"
-- Phish, "Cavern"
"If I don't explain what you want to know
You can tell me all about it at the next Bardo"
-- David Bowie, "Quicksand"
Many thanks to Lee Ranaldo, Robert Creeley, Carolyn Cassady and Patricia Elliott.
Bardo in Kansas by Patricia Elliott
Patricia Elliott, a friend of William S. Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas, posted many heartfelt accounts of his last days and the days that followed his death to the BEAT-L, an internet mailing list where she is often a lively part of the conversation. (If you'd like to know how to join this list, visit this page).
I was tempted to include all of Patricia's posts here, but decided instead that this description of a Tibetan/Egyptian-inspired death ceremony had special power and was best left to stand alone. Burroughs was a writer who thrived on contradiction, and so I particularly liked the idea of a Buddhist death ceremony for a man whose strong skepticism and libertarianism did not make him a natural Buddhist in life. (Example: In a letter to Jack Kerouac, who was deeply involved with Eastern philosophy for most of his later life, Burroughs once wrote: "A man who uses Buddhism or any other instrument to remove love from his being in order to avoid, has committed, in my mind, a sacrilege comparable to castration.")
The energy and humor of clashing ideas has always been at the heart of Burroughs' art. In that spirit, here's a scene from the final act of his life story.
-- Levi AsherAll week long I didn't want to go. I felt swept with anxiety and decided about 7 times I wouldn't go. James [Grauerholz], who never calls me, called me around 1 PM and said he was just checking in to make sure I knew to come. Bob, John Myers, Lena and I drove out to Wayne Propst's farm for the bardo around six. Wayne was a close and dear friend to William and an old and dear friend to me. Wayne is a mad scientist, ingenious with all things mechanical. I made a pasta salad and John Myers took a six pack.
Wayne and his family live on lush riverfront land, lots of outbuildings, scene of hundreds of experiments and gatherings. William really never missed Wayne's parties. Lena heard at school from a friend, who was also going to the bardo, that Wayne might blow something up. The excitement builds when Wayne is involved. Wayne has an old farm house, many outbuildings, trees, giant warm barn. His property runs along the Kansas River (we call it the Kaw River). Beautiful kaw valley bottoms.
The bardo is staged to be in front of the barn, in a small pasture. The big barn doors open to the pasture, flooding light from one space into another. In the middle of the pasture there was a massive dome-shaped heavy wire cage with a wire doorway. Inside were lumber, fireworks, pictures, and pages and pages of things that people brought and were bringing. I guess there were a hundred and fifty people. I knew a hundred of them, wide varieties of different folks, overwhelming for me. Actually exchanged cards with some kid that does a Burrough's site. Perfect weather, light breeze, around 60 degrees.
Around dusk, standing in front of the barn, Wayne spoke (on a nice speaker system), then introduced James Grauerholz. Now it is getting dark. James reads a farewell to William's soul letter from David Ohle, first by lighter -- of course at one point you heard a little sound from James, when it got hot, and then someone brought up a kerosene lantern from the barn, and James then read a note from Giorno. Then James said a few things and explained some of the Egyptian and Tibetan Buddhistic relationships in the ceremony, tying in the significance of William's writings in his book "The Western Lands".
Wayne goes to the dome and lights the fire. It was glorious, it grew, it swirled, popped, pulsed, danced. The cage was a dome about 12 feet high and 20 feet across. Things like pictures, posters, objects d'art, and many many papers were laid on the lumber, but things and paper also hung suspended from the cage. Once the fire flowered came Williams voice, reading from "Western Lands". It was perfect, I swear the fire danced with his voice. The Cheshire cat had his smile but William's voice was the most evocative voice. I got up and went nearer the fire, strode around the fire, circled it three times. Most people sat in chairs and on benches in a large semi circle, music, flames, love. I stood up with James and Bill Hatke, the sparks flew wild. In the crowd was William's dentist, Charley Kincaid, (he had been one of the pallbearers at the Liberty Hall service), and he is the wildest, funniest man, with a wonderful good soul. That guy can distract you from a root canal with his wit. Fred Aldridge sat in one chair, He shot with William weekly for ten years or more. Fred is a tall skinny redhead. I've known him for 30 years. I introduced William to Fred. William was like a father to Fred's soul. Fred is a talented musician and artist, driven always to some elegant perfection. There were the New York suits standing in the barn. They seemed to be having a remarkably good time, the most relaxed I had ever seen the suits. In the crowd are such a variety of people that I am stunned but recognize that these were all people that William had built a relationship with over the 16 years he had made Lawrence his home. William loved persons rather than people, and he loved fun. It was a fun and a sober sight to see the embers chasing to the sky and think that's William's soul flying to the western lands.
I feel when William first died, his spirit was there in the room with his body. It was comforting. Then I felt his spirit whirling around the world, I almost know he went to Tangiers for a moment. I feel he is gone. We have lots to do now.
Two additional notes: Sue Brossau (David Ohles' wife) mentioned that the fire cage was one that Wayne and William had made for a bardo they'd held for Allen Ginsberg.
For a little illumination, here is, approximately, James Grauerholz's remarks at William's Bardo Burn, 9/20/97
Why are we here?
Each and every one of us has a different answer to that question, and we can meditate on those reasons while we take part in this event tonight.
It has something to do with our hosts, Wayne and Carol, and I know we all thank them for making this gathering possible.
It has something to do with Lawrence, our community - not the "metropolis" of Lawrence, frankly - but the community that we found when we came here, however many years ago we came here ... the community that we built here, over the years that we have been here ... the community that we share, now, while we are still here.
And it has something to do with William Burroughs. William lived here for sixteen years, longer than he lived in any other place in his life.
Every time William went out in the town, he always ran into friends; he had friends here, everywhere he went.
And every time he travelled far away, he always came home to Lawrence.
Lawrence was William's home, his final home. He lived here, he lived well here, and he died here.
And we all miss him very much.
Now, I don't know how many of us are Buddhists, and I'm pretty sure there are no more than one or two ancient Egyptians here tonight, but I'd like to say a few words about their belief systems concerning life, and death, and life after death.
The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls - as William's voice will be explaining for us, in a moment ... three of those souls split, at the moment of the death, the other four remain with the subject, to take their chances with him in the Land of the Dead. But first he or she must cross the Duad, the River of Shit, all the filth and hatred and despair of all human history -- then, on the other side, lay down the body, the Sekhu, the Remains, and journey through the Land of the Dead, encountering souls from your own life who have gone before - through a thousand challenges and trials, you try to make your way to the Western Lands ...
The Buddhist belief (I can't do this justice right now, but this is basically it) is that your soul, more or less, is reborn again and again, into new lives. Ideally, you would not be reborn, but escape the wheel and of death and rebirth, into nirvana; but the highest enlightened ones consciously vow to be reborn as many times as it takes for all sentient beings to become enlightened, they sacrifice their opening to nirvana - that is the boddhisattva vow.
The idea is that after physical death, the soul wanders through a spirit region known as the Bardo, re-living past experiences, facing images left over from other lives, other karma - and then, usually after about seven weeks, is re-born - attracted to a male and female coupling, and born again, to suffer again.
We are gathered here tonight to perform a ceremony that is ancient and universal - the burning of objects and images associated with the departed, to symbolize the dissolution of the physical body and its intermixture with all other elements - for example, Native Americans, it was pointed out to me tonight, burn the dead person's belongings immediately after death ...
Now if I haven't waited too late and I can still read this, I'm going to read you some short remarks sent here by David Ohle, and by John Giorno:
First, from David Ohle:
"Sendoff Message to the Soul of Bill
Well now, Bill. They say you've done your Bardo time, and now your SOUL is fixing to head off somewhere.
But look here, baby. We're gonna miss that creaky old soft machine you've been walking around in these eight score and three. We got used to it, you know. Those wise and witty things it said. And wrote. And it must have pumped fifteen tons of lead into the world.
I don't know about souls, my dear. But if you have one (and I know you believed you did), then let's give it the giddyup 'n' go. Shoo! Everybody say it, "Shoo! Giddyup! Git on, Bill's soul!"
And take care crossin' that River of Shit.
Sorry I ain't there today, my dear, but I figure when you're talking soul travel, what the fuck is a few thousand miles? I'm looking toward Kansas right now. I see something."
And this from John Giorno, and I'll try to approximate his delivery:
to fill the world,
you have accomplished
and great bliss,
and the vast empty
of Primordially pure
I mean, in the larger sense ... William had a very definite answer to that question:
We are Here to Go.
Okay, let's burn it.
But then I caught his act at the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe, sharing a bill with Ron Whitehead, Brian Hassett and others, on a night that happened to be the night William S. Burroughs died (though nobody knew this at the time). He didn't sing "Pull My Daisy" and I ended up loving every minute of his performance. I think the problem has been the bright lights, the uncomfortable chairs and the academic atmosphere of some of these earlier events. In a small dark smoky club way past midnight a vintage hip-cat like David Amram can finally show us who he is, and this night at the Nuyorican I understood for the first time why Jack Kerouac wanted him onstage while he read his poems. Amram's passionate belief in the power of music is infectious. At one point he had the entire crowd going in a two-part syncopated handclap -- one half of the room providing one beat, the other half complementing it -- that was, I realized, probably the most complicated musical arrangement I will personally ever participate in.
David Amram also has his own web page now, so I figure it's about time I write about him in Literary Kicks.
2. This must be my month for coming to terms with people I didn't appreciate before. A few weeks ago a young editor at William Morrow named Benjamin G. Schafer challenged me to read a book he'd just put together: the Herbert Huncke Reader, published by Morrow this month. I've always found Huncke an intriguing personality -- a more street-wise original-junkie friend of the core New York beat writers in the 1940's, he shows up as a colorful character in 'Junky','On The Road', 'Howl' and many other Beat classics. He's written books, (for Hanuman, Cherry Valley Editions, etc.), but I'd personally never read any of them, and I sort of casually dissed him as a writer in my Herbert Huncke biographical page here at LitKicks. Benjamin Schafer, who worked hard putting this book together, asked me to put aside my preconceptions and give Huncke a fair reading for the first time. He pointed out a few pieces for me to read, and I began with 'The Magician,' a haunting, honest tale of heroin addiction that reads like a Buddhist parable. I also tried, at his recommendation, 'Beware of Fallen Angels', 'Faery Tale' and 'Easter', and the long autobiographical novella 'The Evening Sky Turned Crimson.' And, okay, I admit it: Huncke is a talented writer, and obviously took the craft seriously. His picturesque slice-of-life tales express with honesty and humor the state of mind of the City Hobo: junk-sick, impoverished, stripped completely naked of his own morals. This theme reverberates in the writings of William S. Burroughs, as well as movies like 'Midnight Cowboy' and the songs of Glen Campbell (just kidding about the Glen Campbell part).
If you are interested in the roots of the Beat Generation -- it was Huncke, by the way, who introduced Kerouac to the term 'Beat' -- you don't want to miss this book.
3. Speaking of Kerouac -- he's all over the place lately. This month is the 40th Anniversary of the publication of 'On The Road,' and a 40th anniversary edition of the book has been published, along with some other fanfare. More interestingly, Viking Penguin has finally published an unseen Kerouac work of major importance: 'Some Of The Dharma.' It's a thick hardcover volume of Kerouac's notes and musings about Buddhism, and stylistically it's somewhere between a Joycean literary experiment and a personal journal about the tragicomic spiritual condition of mankind. It has no plot, almost no characters or dialogue, and the sentences are laid out like free verse. This book is not for everybody, but I've been skimming several of its hidden surfaces for a few weeks now, and I haven't run out of interesting discoveries yet. Among other things, we know now the origin of the phrase "God Is Pooh Bear" from the last paragraph of 'On The Road': Cathy Cassady, the daughter of Neal and Carolyn Cassady, said it when she was a few years old.
Other Kerouac web news: there's now an online version of Paul Maher's Lowell-based Kerouac Quarterly, and there's a new permanent web page to describe the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival which takes place this weekend. Still no news of the Francis Ford Coppola film of 'On The Road', and I'm figuring this film will never get made. One film that will get made, though, and which I'm really looking forward to, is a Burroughs-related project, partly based on the novels 'Queer' and 'Junky,' that will be directed by Steve Buscemi (I wrote about this in a previous Beat News entry, below, and have since gotten word that the project is still on and gathering steam).
4. Other new books: 'A Far Rockaway of the Heart' by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (whose City Lights bookstore finally has a web site!). 'A Different Beat: Writings By Women of the Beat Generation' is another spin on the theme begun by last year's excellent "Women Of The Beat Generation" anthology published by Conari Press. This book is written by Richard Peabody and published by High Risk Books; I just bought it so I don't know if it's good or not, but it has writers like Carolyn Cassady, Elise Cowen, Diane Di Prima, Joyce Johnson, Hettie Jones, Lenore Kandel, Jan Kerouac, Janine Pommy Vega and Anne Waldman, so I'm pretty damn sure I'll like it.
Finally, my wife and I have both become incredibly fascinated by the new edition of the Folkways' Records 'Anthology of American Folk Music', originally compiled by Beat outer-orbit personality, experimental filmmaker and all around strange-guy Harry Smith in 1952. This thing is wild. We see folk music in it's rawest form: authentic jug bands, porchlight crooners, church choruses, and numerous other characters from the deep country, both white and black (you often can't tell which), singing and talking in a mega-hick vernacular as compelling as it is strange. Many of these singers were the country-hobo equivalents of the city-hoboes presented by writers like Herbert Huncke (above). When these guys sing the blues, they sing the blues.
This record was one of the first collections of folk music available in public libraries, and as such played an important role in the developing sensibilities of future folk-rockers like Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. You can read more about this historic re-release in Wired News and Furious Green Thoughts/Perfect Sound Forever.
5. Farewell -- one last time -- to Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and William S. Burroughs.