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Thoughts On And For A Structured Existence

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Religion

“Walking The Walk With Dante” On The Camino De Santiago In Spain

raymond-meeks-on-the-camino-de-santiago-nyt-magazine On the last page inside the back cover of the New York Times Magazine, in Part 6 of “The Voyages Issue“, photographer Raymond Meeks walked the 500-mile road in Northwest Spain that for 1200 years been one of the great spiritual quests.

Dante, in Canto XXV of the The Paradiso, stated:

“…in the narrow sense, none is called a pilgrim
save him who is journeying towards the sanctuary
of St. James, or is returning.”

The monks of Cluny built monasteries along the trail with the new “pilgrim funds” that flowed after the discovery of the tomb of St. James, apostle to Jesus Christ, was discovered in 814.

“The Poem of the Cid”, written in the mid 12th Century, was a true story of a Castilian hero El Cid during the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors.

It was a sight to see the lances
rise and fall that day;
The shivered shields and riven mail,
to see how thick they lay;
The pennons that went in snow-white
come out a gory red;
The horses running riderless,
the riders lying dead;
While Moors call on Mohammed,
and ‘St. James!’ the Christians cry,
And sixty score of Moors and more
in narrow compass lie.”

walking-the-walk-with-dante-on-the-camino-de-santiago

Did The “Undisciplined Whimsy” Of Jack Kerouac And “Beat Zen” Prove The Need For A Structured Existence?

Reading the paper edition of the Sunday New York Times is a rewarding ritual. Like the comfort of a classic book or poem that gives the allusion of an unexperienced life unfolding even though you know the ending, a structured safe zone is created. People, places, events and ideas flow from the pages to nourish the mind and promote thought.

The “Cultured Traveler” section visited the Boulder, CO homes of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and Beat Generation poet/writer Allen Ginsberg. The article quickly sent thoughts to the battle of American Zen in 1958 between Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts.

Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen - Alan Watts quote on Jack Kerouac 1958

Watts (Square Zen) writes of Kerouac (Beat Zen) as lacking the discipline needed to attain Satori In Paris by Jack Kerouacenlightenment (“Satori“) through a comparison of rival 17th Century Rinzai Zen Masters Hakuin and Bankei. Kerouac, who died of cirrhosis after a lifetime of heavy drinking, wrote “We were never really born“, echoing Bankei’s realization of “Unborn” after a near-death experience.

Square Zen requires “years of meditation-practice under strict supervision”, quite the opposite of the “undisciplined whimsy” of Beat Zen. The Beat Generation/Beatniks gradually vaporized into the 1960’s Hippie Culture, providing future generations a literary raison d’etre for a structured existence.

Shakespeare’s Inventive And Elusive Critique Of The Church During The 16th Century English Reformation

BBC Radio 3 recently presented the podcast “Shakespeare: Religion and Clerics“, featuring the Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London and Professor Ewan Fernie of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

Playwrights, during the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and James I (1603-1625), were prohibited by Royal Proclamation from writing about religious matters on the stage. So history’s greatest English writer innovates.

King Lear   Take physic, pomp. Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them And show the heavens more just.

Bishop Chartres recites a passage where “King Lear”, no longer in his castle, calls on powerful men (“the Church”!) to embrace “compassion” and “fairness” in his Orson Welles-like voice:

People were commanded to take sides in the great divide between Protestants and Catholics, or risk death. Chartres discusses Shakespeare’s message, asking the audience to “go beyond those antagonisms” to “search for a truth that is elusive”, “and only is revealed if you look from various angles and perspectives”.

The presenter, Rana Mitter, and Professor Fernie discuss Shakespeare’s use of Falstaff to parody religious actions lacking conviction:

Falstaff  To die is to be a counterfit

To “Counterfeit” is “to stage resurrection on the Shakespearean stage”, “linked to the second life of an actor playing another part”, as in acting the part of a born-again Christian. Hypocrites never “feel what wretches feel”.

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