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Thoughts On And For A Structured Existence

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New York Times

“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

“To Read, Perchance To Write”: The Eloquent Life Of Editor And Avid Reader Robert Gottlieb

The New York Times “Books” section featured a review of the life and work of Robert Gottlieb, the accomplished editor and publisher for 60 years at Simon & Schuster, Knopf and The New Yorker. His memoir “Avid Reader” was published this month.

The message that resonates from this narrative of interaction with loyal best-selling authors and robert-gottlieb-new-yorkerwriters, is the inestimable value of focused reading and attention to detail in the world of literature.

Gottlieb thrived in the realm of eloquence, finding a “cognitive music” in the structuring of sentences, paragraphs and edited manuscripts.

In the book, he discusses editing Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22“:

“I wasn’t experienced enough back then to realize how
rare his total lack of defensiveness was, particularly
since there was never a doubt in his mind of how
extraordinary his book was, and that we were making
literary history. Even when at the last minute, shortly
before we went to press, I told him I had always disliked
an entire phantasmagorical chapter—for me, it was a
bravura piece of writing that broke the book’s tone—and
wanted to drop it, he agreed without a moment’s hesitation.”

robert-gottlieb-editor

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.

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