For anyone interested in Taoism, this is the place to go after the Tao Te Ching (preferably in Stephen Mitchell's translation, although the one by ThoFor anyone interested in Taoism, this is the place to go after the Tao Te Ching (preferably in Stephen Mitchell's translation, although the one by Thomas Cleary, who translated this book, is also solid). Most of the 180-odd sections in Wen-Tzu are attributed to Lao-Tzu, but the name was used to represent the wisdom flowing from a particular source, so it's really an anthology (which accounts for a certain amount of repetition).
More even than the Tao Te Ching or Chuang-tzu, Wen-Tzu reflects the breadth of Taoist thinking, from the intensely introspective (though never solipsistic) to the worlds of politics, the economy and war. The central message is clear and familiar to anyone who's spent any time with Taoism: circumstances change in ways the render rigid rules destructive; correct behavior is likely to become part of the problem unless it flows from deep roots in an acceptance of the Way. Nothing that differs from the Tao Te Ching, but the connections between levels are elaborated at greater length. As a teacher, I found myself frequently reflecting on the connection between a section and classroom practice.
As I reached the end of Wen-Tzu, which I read while on retreat at a hermitage in the Rocky Mountains (Nada, near Crestone, Colorado--if you're in need of withdrawal and rejuvenation and don't mind silence, you can't do better), I found myself thinking of how difficult it would be to realize any of the Taoist vision in the culture we've created for ourselves. Our media, politics, insitutions, everything militates against the clarity and dispassion--not to be confused with non-involvement--Wen-Tzu counsels. That situation wouldn't have been unfamiliar to the writers who put the book together; they clearly felt that the world they were living in had lost contact with the Way. That doesn't really change the call to us as we work in the world--it's still a matter of acting in ways that nurture the harmony and balance that feels a million light years away.
First book I've added to the "favorites" shelf in quite a while. I'll revisit regularly....more
Somehow or another, I'd failed to add this when I was compiling my life-time bookshelf, but I'm happy to rectify the error. Whether you're atheist, agSomehow or another, I'd failed to add this when I was compiling my life-time bookshelf, but I'm happy to rectify the error. Whether you're atheist, agnostic, or theist, Comte-Sponville's elegant apologia (in the classical sense--explanation more than apology) will force you to rethink the ethical implications of where you stand. I'll leave it there and let C-S speak for himself, but this is as good a book on the spiritual/ethical life as I've ever read....more
Not st all sure why it took me as long to read Murakami as it did, but I'm very glad I finally did. This is a great novel, one that ranks alongside GaNot st all sure why it took me as long to read Murakami as it did, but I'm very glad I finally did. This is a great novel, one that ranks alongside Garcia Marquez, Lessing's Golden Notebook, and the small handful of books that combine formal inventiveness and the proverbial "something to say." Coming at it from my post-Jungian perspective, I read it in part as a parable of the relationship between the different parts of the psyche--the dream world negotiating the incoherence and chaos of the social world, a meditation on the shadow figure and the search for what Jung called individuation. It works that way, but it would respond equally well to many different interpretive lenses and/or experiences. It's one of the smartest books about the role of information in the 20th and 21st centuries, raising the ante on the best cyberpunk (thinking of William Gibson and Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash); it's a political allegory of sorts. Wasn't sure how he'd pull the two major currents of the apparently split narrative together, but I was totally satisfied with the ending. I obviously don't read Japanese, but the translator convinced me of the voice so thoroughly I forgot I was reading at a certain distance. Highly highly recommended....more
It's a bit difficult to figure out where to begin in describing this rich, multi-faceted gem. In part a biography of John Cage, Where the Heart BeatsIt's a bit difficult to figure out where to begin in describing this rich, multi-faceted gem. In part a biography of John Cage, Where the Heart Beats honors the composer/philosopher/sensei by understanding that his life took on meaning in large part because it inspired so many others to take themselves (not too) seriously, which is why the book's also a kind of group biography of those who either gathered around or shaped their journeys in response to Cage: Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Duchamp, the Fluxus artists among them. (I'd never really felt Rauschenberg before I read Larson on the white paintings. I get it now.) That points to another of Larson's achievements: providing quietly incisive "criticism" of works like 4'33 and a host of dance and performance pieces.
All of that's grounded in Larson's clear understanding of Cage's Buddhism, which developed in conversation with the brilliant teacher D.T. Suzuki and was in constant conversation with Huang Po and (though Larson doesn't emphasize this quite as much as I would have) the Tao Te Ching. Usually (and not inaccurately) cast as an engagement with the epistemology of perception, 4'33'' emerges as a manifestation of interpenetration, the sense that we're part of a field in which all beings occupy their own centers. By the time I finished, I was pretty much convinced that the art I love most deeply is part of an unfolding, and only rarely self-conscious, Buddhist tapestry. (I loved that Larson began with Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and, while I wished she'd come back to them, the whole point is that she, like Cage, provides tools to use in whatever way we choose.)
Stylistically, Larson made the perfect choice in constructing her text around (italicized) quotes from Cage. Among many other things, Where the Heart Beats is as good an anthology of the master's parables as we're likely to get.
If I could give it six stars, I would. It's hard for me to express how much I've gotten out of a month-long journey through Snyder's work, from his unIf I could give it six stars, I would. It's hard for me to express how much I've gotten out of a month-long journey through Snyder's work, from his undergraduate honor's thesis on a Native myth through the completion of his epic poem River & Mountains without End (which I'm going to read in its entirety soon). Reading Snyder from my vantage point at the Nada hermitage near Crestone, Colorado, overlooking the San Luis Valley, living mostly in silence, was ideal. No one writes more intelligently (or humorously) about what it means to live in a landscape. The poems and essays and interviews here cover Snyder's many physical, intellectual and spiritual travels--he insists that being grounded, as he is in northern California (he prefers to define place in terms of watershed, in his case the Yuba) is the best foundation for travel. He writes about his experience as a Zen acolyte in Japan, his time in a commune on an island off China, his wanderings through Asia and Australia. But most of all what it means to be a conscious citizen of Turtle Island. Along with James Baldwin, Snyder is probably the most important writer to me at this stage of my life. Anyone who doesn't want to commit to 650 pages can start with Snyder's book "The Practice of Place," his 60s classic "Earth House Hold" or his selected poems, No Nature....more