Friday, June 22, 2012

Where the Heart Beats 2

Chapter 1 is part of the first section: Mountains are Mountains.  Everything is as we understand it, before Zen makes us unpack everything.  D. T. Suzuki is introduced through his influences on the Beat Generation, notably Gary Snyder, Allan Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.  With the Beat set up, suddenly we are shifted to Project Manhattan and Robert Oppenheimer for a brief look at Dr. Atomic's association with Vishnu, before sweeping over to Japan for a biographical account of Suzuki's early life.  The descriptions of life in a Zen temple are very appealing.  They filled me with peace, and got me thinking about starting to meditate again.  I'm also impressed by Suzuki's dedication to Zen, even though he never formally became a monk.  While at university, he would walk over 30 miles to sit zazen (meditate) instead of going to class.  He was brought to the U.S. by the abbot of his temple, Soyen Shaku, to serve as a translator both for Soyen and for Paul Carus, who wanted to translate ancient Buddhist works into English.  Suzuki is portrayed as an incredible workaholic.  He translated many works, wrote his own texts, and traveled all over the world to study different philosophies and to give lectures on Zen Buddhism. 

After 14 pages, Cage is allowed to quote a koan as part of the supposed conversation on which this book is structured.  But the author does not respond to this quote as part of a dialogue.  Rather, she explains where Cage heard that koan, and some of the first works Cage composed based on Buddhist ideas.  The chapter ends with another koan, written as if Cage is quoting it, but not why.

I'm intrigued by Suzuki's story, and want to hear more about how he influenced Cage.  But the structure of this book is bothering me.  Perhaps I'm being too Western-minded, expecting a linear logic that isn't appropriate here.  But I certainly feel that the author is flitting from subject to subject without making clear transitions. 

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