Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days in a cabin near Walden Pond where he wrote Walden. He spent a little over two years at the cabin, and used one year, the four seasons, as a metaphor for growth in Nature and in human nature. He was urged on in his inner pursuits by Ralph Waldo Emerson, his neighbor, who was firing up the emergent, new American imagination. Walden was Thoreau’s personal attempt at spiritual enlightenment and a flag for self-reliance in the search for inner growth and peace. Again, I have to say the book that opens up Walden like no other is Stanley Cavel’s Senses of Walden, which really should be read before reading Walden.
Thoreau’s notebook journal from Nov. 11, 1858.
Achan Sumano in the Double-Eye Cave in Thailand, where he has lived for more than 20 years. He practices Buddhism in the tradition of the late Achan Mun and Achan Chaa of the Forest Meditation Center near Ubon, Thailand. Photograph by Roy Hamric
“Viewing TV, reading newspapers, and staying on top of the dramas happening in the world causes a lot of anxiety and frustration to short circuit our ability to respond appropriately to events in our personal lives. In our intimate relationships, more so than any other, there is a need to function with spontaneous penetrating wisdom, with humanity, with love and with compassion. Penetrating wisdom is a critical aspect because it can see through circumstances. Wisdom recognizes the need for compassion beginning with compassion for ourselves. I regard family and intimate relationships as the ground for training ourselves to act and live as whole, kind-hearted human beings. In the family, in marriages and partnerships, we soak up massive amounts of pain from disappointment, frustration, jealousy, misunderstanding, etc. As painful as this is, all of this is needed to cultivate wisdom…” For more, see here.
Here’s Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize speech, which is a peek at his inspirations, entanglements and bondings and the power of stories to convey word pictures of the world. I was surprised he barely mentioned poetry.
Denis Johnson, my generation’s Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, a prolific and beautiful writer who had a key to the confused hearts and minds of people derailed by life and who lived in worlds filled with tragedy and oftentimes transcendent beauty died at his home in California on May 24, 2017. He wrote many books which will stay with you forever. His own life started as a spiritual and mental struggle that was dominated by the fringes of American evangelical religion. He understood its believers’ rock solid spiritual search, their urge for apocalypse, their assurance that we live in a fallen, irreparably damaged world. He left us luminescent novels and nonfiction (See Angels, The Stars at Noon, Tree of Smoke, Jesus’ Son, Seek (nonfiction) . Read any book he wrote as if it’s a holy testament to flawed humanity, a paean to each soul’s blind rush to mortality, a prayer to language to reveal truth, and you will have come a small distance to where his spirit and art lived.
“And many of the Serranos, the Indians from the hills, wearing their little conical black felt hats, seem capped with night, above the straight white shoulders. Some have come far, walking all yesterday in their black hats and black-sheathed sandals. Tomorrow they will walk back. And their eyes will be just the same, black and bright and wild, in the dark faces. They have no goal, any more than the hawks in the air, and no course to run, any more than the clouds.”
– D.H. Lawrence, in his nonfiction voice, heavy with mysticism and lyrical description on the otherness of the Indian culture he observed while staying near Oxaca in the mid-1920s.