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Central Europe Review
Killing the Buddha
Web del Sol
[W r i t e r' s N o t e b o o k]
He was saying, "I am proud at this point to be relatively devoid of a jungle of facts and superfluities." We were talking about personal development while standing on the sidewalk of an outdoor cafe, along that broad thoroughfare known as Shattuck Avenue. "A lot of my reading was an initiation into a particular freedom to view the world with many senses. We inherit the intellect as a god and we who water at its oasis find myths to satisfy its greed. Pleasures? They are painful memories and I have been cleansed of them, if I may allow myself a Puritan moment."
He was not a writer I knew well but he would use phrases such as, "putrid air," to describe his life in academia.
Academia had not been on my mind for quite awhile. There were many rogues in this part of the territory and they were caught up in some blinding amnesia. It was the kind of suffering that possessed the body in revenge of its general neglect. Several days before I had been walking down Telegraph Avenue. I was walking behind a professor who was carrying his briefcase and looking rather abstracted. He was suddenly accosted by three or four of these rogues and give a bad time.
"You want money? Is that it?" He kept asking and the rogues cackled and yelled obscenities at him, bumping into him and trying to start something. I was in the middle of remembering a scene from a novel when the little street fracas broke up and the rogues went off, leaving the professor looking straight ahead of him as though nothing had happened.
Then again, appearances can be deceiving. Later that day while down on Shattuck, I had waited for a bus and an old man, wrapped in blankets came up. He was wearing one of those hats that appear all the time in Bosch and as he came closer I saw that he was really a younger man whose hair had turned prematurely white. He was carrying two packages with his belongings in them. One of the packages was from a fashionable store. He wiped off the bench before he sat and then, suddenly, bolted up and helped a blind man find his bus. Everyone had ignored the blind man but this fellow.
And I thought at that moment, when one doesn't pursue a strictly academic career, all kinds of interesting possibilities open up. One enters nooks and crannies one couldn't imagine existed. Hope and faith re-enter the picture. Pretensions snake out of one. Propitious connections are made with flesh and blood. Often the connections were not sustained because there were no rituals that permitted it, but, the imagination got fired up by the courageous attempts to live out the heroic; live out the hero in oneself in whatever form.
Here's a phenomenon that always fascinated me. Why is a poem of only a few lines more fulfilling than a novel of 500 pages? If you unlock that puzzle you will become a better writer. And not every poem and not every 500-page novel fits the bill. One of the great problems for the novel is that it began as a way to instruct people in what they should do and what they needed to know. It still carries that burden in some quarters but it is useless against the modern world of specialization and video transmission of how people live. In this case, the well-executed image on TV is worth the 500-page novel; another reason why poetry will come into greater focus in this new era.
Do I trust any novelist to tell me anything? No, because in this free society I want to find out myself. That is one of the great tensions in America life; the desire to live and find out for oneself. There is then the moronic desire to impose our experience and knowledge on everyone around us.
The best novels are full of outlines and mystery; full of art. But who teaches art? Who embraces it? Certainly not the ones writing novels these days who listen to the propaganda served up by their professors. Then these writers go out and embarrass themselves by writing novels. Aren't they concerned how far the novel has fallen from its past? The novelists today can't be taken seriously if they can't even recognize the death of this form. But, it's been said over and over and, afterall, an audience does exist.
Politics certainly ruins art; it always has. If the political class changes every four years or so why doesn't the political atmosphere of the university? The political attitude of the university is like the old king or queen that lingered on for 40 years even when they were getting senile and sick. Why is this?
SOME BRIEF NOTES ON THE NATURE: OF RESOURCES AND THEIR APPLICATION TO THE WRITING OF FACT AND FICTION
Anything that crosses the mind is either a flash impression or a resource which must be handled with some care.
The flash impression has to do with that which other people want you to know but which you have absolutely no interest in and which, all told, doesn't help in any endeavor in which you are engaged in.
The resource enters a category of interest.
The highest form of communication carries the most potent information and is communicated to one of several nodes; intellect, feeling, intuitive, sense
Resource is perspective.
To a man standing on the moon the fact that a gigantic resource such as New York City exists is irrelevant. It is, as a matter of fact, a small irritation perhaps and a small matter that he laughs about when he is surrounded by infinity. To someone crossing Times Square at 2 in the afternoon, New York City is as complex as the universe.
Silence, ironically, is a resource since it introduces the absence of resource. What seemed full before is now seen as empty. The human being is surrounded by what preceded him and what will follow him and so, eternity, from which the religious masters speak.
© 2002 David Eide. All rights reserved.