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Saturday, June 20, 2015



Another writer I hold almost the equal of Tolstoy in depth, breadth and beautiful writing, Patrick White, of Australia. He caught my attention when he received the Nobel in 1973. I first read The Eye of the Storm, the novel written after the prize, fifteen years later. From first page to last, it was the most amazing story I'd ever read, and writing as beautiful as Tolstoy's, though mid-Twentieth Century Australian English, instead of 19th Century Russian in translation. A quarter century has gone by since reading it and I can still see the characters, the images as I saw them in the mind's eye, remember the story as if I'd just finished it. I've thought of reading it again, but know it so well, I don't feel need for a refresher. It is the story of a woman in her 80s, the richest and once the most beautiful woman in Australian society, confined in bed with a form of dementia, unable to talk or move on her own. Parts of the story are written from inside her mind, her thoughts, memories, from a clear mind. The characters are the four round-the-clock nurses with their own stories, the woman's accountant, and later, her son and daughter, son from London, daughter from France. Son was the Olivier on stage of his time. Daughter was married to a French prince. Brother and sister hate each other. They don't like mom either, and she has no use for them. No one in the story is likeable. And all the characters dislike the others. They're every one flawed, vain, realistically illustrated characters. It caused me to realize the people I can't like have good and valid stories, like the people I like, maybe better. 


Another one I loved by White, the Vivisector, a fictional biography of an Australian painter of abstractions, so beautifully written each page is a wonderful place to be-here-now. Another one, Riders of the Chariot, brings memories of the characters, a curious variety of people that come together for a symbolic crucifixion. White's writing is concise, clear, devoid of flourishes, trim and spare. A verse I believe attributed to Kabir, "Dive deep, O mind, dive deep, in the ocean of God's beauty. If you dive to the uttermost depths, there you will find the gem of love." White dives deep into his characters and writes a living story of people you can't help but care about for knowing them so well. I'm not pointing these writers out as the best ever, etc. These are the ones who have made a major difference in my reading and my view of the world. I've come to see that reading has been one of my life's major purposes. Reading and the pursuit of inner growth, it turns out, have been my life's purposes. Reading feeds the growth, fertilizer. Before 1970, there weren't many books available of spiritual writings from the East. Since 1970, we have a major market of books concerning spirituality that get into something beyond you-better-not. I read the discourses of masters from India, Meher Baba, Upasni Maharaj and some others. Zen writings, Sufi writings, Tibetan writings, can be found in abundance now.  


Without books, my interior growth would have been restricted to having to learn everything by direct experience. I can read Tibetan writings, journals by Zen masters, Buddhist sutras and other writings. At least to be familiar. All my life I never understood people who did not want to read. I take them for not very curious people. I'm ok with people who lack curiosity, considering they're the majority. It's the nature of the world I live in anywhere. However, I cannot limit myself to the incurious state of the people around me. That they're not curious about much is theirs, not mine. Mine is to take care of my own interior needs, concern myself with what's mine, not somebody else's. Everybody has their own shit to go through, reading or not reading, and how they take care of their own lives is the only part that matters. Same as with myself. Before coming to the mountains, I felt separate from everybody else for reading. I can't talk with people I know about books I'm reading. I learned a long time ago never to mention a book, reading a book or the existence of books. I've learned it so well, it has inhibited writing about books and reading here. I do, but not much. Once I started writing a few days ago about reading, I realized y'all who read this are readers. I can talk about reading with you. 


This is part of why I like writing to y'all. You have become the ones I can open up to, reach way down inside when necessary to look for something obscured deep in the interior Marianas Trench of experiential memory. I can't talk with anybody about any of what I talk to y'all about. I live in a world of interests totally different from mine. My friends have families, shoot deer, drive power pickups, watch tv football, fish, have all kinds of interests that are not mine. And I have interest that is not theirs. We balance well. I like to listen to friends tell hunting stories and archery tournament stories, and I like to hear about working on cars, though it's not an interest of mine to do. I tend to appreciate in my friends their abilities that are not my own. Like Philippe Petit, who walked the wire between the WTC towers. I totally admire what he did. It is something I could never learn the rest of my life if I were to practice every day. I hear a fiddler, or violinist, and listen in awe. It is something entirely out of my possibilities, no matter how much training and practice. I like to read about Crazy Horse, who shot arrows accurately from the back of a running horse in a herd of stampeding buffalo. And he got that rascal Custer. Got himself bayoneted in the back inside an American general's office immediately after a truce. I've learned from reading that Van Gogh did not kill himself, but was shot by somebody he knocked to the ground after an insult. I like knowing such sorts of things. I like access to what other people have to say. Many tell a good story. 

matisse by matisse


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