Sunday 14 December 2008

An endless folly

Lynn Jenner has won the Adam Prize for the best portfolio of her year in the Creative Writing course at the Institute for Modern Letters at VUW - the course that is generally known as 'Bill Manhire's course'. Richly deserved - I have heard poems from the poets who studied with her and enjoyed them too. Lynn's work is very very good.

After many years, have re-read Carlos Castaneda and am struck about how good his writing is - fluent and descriptive. The book is A Separate Reality, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Further conversations with Don Juan - there are two subtitles for some reason. (Penguin Books reissue 2003, first printed in 1971).

An impatience grew in me with all the stories about smoking drugs, being dunked in water and washed, seeing allies or green mists, hearing cracking branches, being very afraid, questions being answered by Don Juan laughing merrily, or heartily and not saying anything, it felt invented, or the product of the drugs, except for about 3 passages which stand out, which seem real. Someone else (it's a library book) had turned over the corner of the page where one of these passages featured, perhaps having a similar reaction to me: This is what matters, this is the important bit.

In the original, it is written as a dialogue. Castaneda's questions have been left out here.

Don Juan says (p. 226):

"You talk to yourself too much. You must stop talking to yourself. [...] You're not unique in that. Every one of us does that. We carry on internal talk. [...]We talk about our internal world. In fact, we maintain our world with our internal talk. [...] The world is such-and-such or so-and-so only because we tell ourselves that that is the way it is. If we stop telling ourselves that the world is so-and-so, the world will stop being so-and-so. [...] confuse the world with what people do. [...]What we do as people gives us comfort, and makes us feel safe; what people do is rightfully very important, but only as a shield. We never learn that the things we do as people are only shields and we let them dominate and topple our lives... [...] The world is incomprehensible. we won't ever understand it; we won't ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat it as it is, a sheer mystery!...a warrior [ a truth-seeker] treats the world as an endless mystery and what people do as an endless folly."

Don Juan mentions the folly of human actions earlier, referring to his own vain attempts to influence his grandson into a more thoughtful life-style.

Tried a couple of other books, including a biography of Allen Ginsberg, and a detective story translated from the Japanese, but a few pages were enough - the first far too detailed, the second too slow and stilted.
Back to the library with them.

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