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37 minutes ago, romansh said:


I suspect you must be aware of the connection between Campbell and Joyce ... Just in case you are not .... this

Hi Romansh, yes I have that book. Its synopsis of the novel is helpful, demonstrating the themes that Joyce "orchestrates". 

(Finnegans Wake itself remains one of the best books I have never read... ūüėĄ)


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Just to add that there is another fine book by Joseph Campbell on James Joyce, "Mythic Worlds, Modern Words". I wrote a review of this on Amazon:-

Long being a lover of biographies, I have read a couple of James Joyce. The human being always comes first ( I seem to have more knowledge of John Keat's life story than knowledge of his actual poetry)

Yet the works of many do follow once I can put flesh to the words. "Ulysses" comes pretty cheap on Kindle and eventually after a couple of false starts I read through to the end - astonished when I was moved to tears by the long monologue of Molly Bloom and her final YES to life. As Joyce once said:- "If Ulysses is unfit to read then life is not fit to live".

Yet I remained much in the dark about what the book was actually about and I dipped into quite a number of attempts to make it more accessible.

I wish I had found this book by Joseph Campbell sooner. It is by far the best explication of just what Joyce was up to, explaining whole sections, and in a manner than is as simple as possible for such material. Mr Campbell's book also covers "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and "Finnegans Wake". He makes each able to be understood as far as the intent of Joyce is concerned and as with Ulysses, long passages are quoted which gives a true flavour of the complete works.

I have yet to really try "Finnegans Wake" - one step too far I'm afraid. Perhaps my next step will be to find another biography of James Joyce. I find that to know him more is to admire him more, even to love him more. Mr Campbell at one point even uses the word "saint".

Anyway, this is a fine book and certainly worth reading closely by anyone interested in Modernist Literature.

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Back in the safety and therapeutic pleasures of Costa's after a previous day of Grandad duties. i.e. One third messenger, one third escort and the final third pack donkey. But we do love them, one of life's blessings, yet I just wish our grandson's dressing skills were as advanced as his Inverse Ratios and he could actually learn to pull on his trousers after his underpants. Anyway, the day negotiated without serious mishap.

I've been thinking about suffering (Pali dukkha) Years ago I asked on a Buddhist forum "In what sense does suffering end?" given the Buddha's claims. I had read a word or two by a disaffected buddhist who rejected what he saw as a "pseudo evolved transcendence of personal pain" and his objections made sense to me, with his testimony of his mother's death and his felt need to grieve.

I have found that much of the problem is found in seeing "suffering" as one side of reality, with "joy" on the other. A superficial wish to "end" suffering would then imply a life of unending joy. But the Buddhist word "dukkha" covers all life, a pervading arena that is integral to all experience/existence. (Much like in Christianity, we are "sinners" and any good work does not change that - thus moments of joy do not solve dukkha)

Well, I could waffle on, but recently I read a fine book by the Eastern Oryhodox theologian David Bentley-Hart who wrote well on subjects pertinent to all this. He spoke of a Chistian story of a saint descending to hell and finding there line upon line of people in anguish, all facing one way - thus seeing only the backs of each other. The saint simply turned every second person, and each saw the other, their face, for the first time. Sartre said once that hell is other people, but in this context he is wide of the mark. The story of Mr Bentley-Hart reminded me of the Buddhist story, of the Buddha descending into hell carrying a lamp. By its light the people there, thinking till then in the pitch black that they were alone, cried out:-"Ah, there are others here besides myself", which, as I see it, is the beginning of the moral sense, of "salvation/enlightenment" itself. 

But I would like to quote from Mr Bentley-Hart's book, as he wrote a passage concerning just how suffering can end which involved Bodhisattva's (enlightenment beings), a passage I found deeply suggestive:-

"I had even come by then to know quite a lot about the Mahayana Buddhist understanding of bodhisattvas: those fully enlightened saviors who could, if they chose, enter finally into the unconditioned bliss of Nirvana, but who have instead vowed not to do so until all other beings have been gathered in before them, and who therefore, solely out of their superabounding compassion, strive age upon age for the liberation of all from Samsara, the great sea of suffering and ignorance. They even vow to pass through and, if need be, endure the pains of all the many narakas, those horridly numerous and ingeniously terrifying Buddhist hells, in pursuit of the lost. But then, in fact, in a marvelous and radiant inversion of all expectations, it turns out that such compassion is itself already the highest liberation and beatitude, and that, seen in its light, the difference between Samsara and Nirvana simply vanishes."

Further on in the book the "self" is recognised not as a congealed essence, but more as "relationship". Here we see - at least I do - how interfaith dialogue is drawing forth deeper understanding. It's not a matter of conflicting truth claims, more a meeting of experience and mutual understanding. The "ground" of our "being" is not static, but is more a "becoming". Which brings me back to Dogen, who saw this in his own time and place of 13th century Japan. 

Yes, I do read a lot. I have lived too! But another quote to finish (I have shopping to get) drawn from a book where a practicing zennist is drawing out the implications of Dogen's writings in relation to our need for a new cosmology that is more aligned to the current understanding born of the latest scientific findings.......bending of space-time, multi-verses, distant "objects" nevertheless affecting each other - mind boggling stuff that perhaps is much like in days of yore when it was suggested that the earth was spinning around in space and not the solid ground we experienced. 

Here is the quote, and then I must go:-

"This practice-enlightenment is an ever-enhancing universal process of liberation and fulfillment. The place-and-time of this way and realm is the here-and-now of the individual sentient being; its richest fields for cultivation are the expressions of awakened hearts and minds that ring out through space and time in the ceaseless actualization of the universe into novelty."

 As Ecclesiastes doesn't say, "there is always something new under the sun".

The road goes on forever. 

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Back in Costa's I contemplate the Grandad Duties that await me this afternoon. Looking at the Duty Roster it would appear that being a pack donkey is top of the agenda, with herding (Rawhide fashion) a close second. Anyway, a cappuccino will act as some sort of stimulant for the trials ahead. (We do love them, really.)

Lately I've been thinking again of my long interest in the history of astronomy, ever since reading "The Sleepwalkers" by Arthur Koestler. One interesting facet of the whole adventure of "Man's Changing Vision of the Universe" (what women were doing or thinking about is anybody's business...ūüėĄ)¬†is the sheer absurdity of some of the descriptions - even beliefs - associated with what Koestler referred to as "saving the appearances". From around Plato onwards the assumption was of the circular motion of the planets. The heavens above were the realm of the gods; perfect, unlike our corrupted earth. Circles were the most perfect form, thus the planets literally circled us. Well, it was Kepler who finally found otherwise, but until then the presumption of circular motion ruled virtually all minds. Obviously, observation of the planets was more rudimentary than today, with out finer, more accurate telescopes etc. Yet certain discrepancies in the planets movements, if circular, still had to be accounted for. Thus, the EPICYCLE, which saved the day. Not only did the planets circle the earth, but they did so as they themselves went round in circles! Actual diagrams are often used to demonstrate this, and they make for a slightly Monty Pythonish vision.¬†

Koestler asked:- Did people really think such movement represented reality? A good question. But as he pointed out, the "system" worked, worked as far as navigational charts based upon such movement were capable of guiding ships on the oceans. 

But now to today. Our current cosmology "works", one based upon totally dualistic assumptions, of our own independent subjective realities confronting an independent objective reality outside of us. Technological advances tell us so. 

Yet any reader of popular science books knows full well that such an assumption is not only questionable, but in fact has been as good as totally disproved by hard core scientific experiments and findings over the last 100 or so years. Our own, "modern", vision of the Universe is outdated, and given the state we find ourselves in, both as individuals and as a human community, unfit for purpose.

Getting back to Dogen, and his significance, he would have argued that our subjective reality does indeed "exist" as does an "objective" reality, but that they are interdependent. Or as a commentator has asserted Dogen taught that non-duality had to be realised within duality. I understand the "mumbo jumbo" aspect of this, the cry of "so what", yet I myself see the significance, for me, now, seeking my own path, time and place, of "justifying" my own faith in a COSMOS (rather than merely a chaos, of no significance or ultimate meaning) 

For me the "old ways", the - can we call it "conservative"? - Christian mythos of a transcendent Being, of gardens and sin, of incarnations to heal the rift, of ultimate divisions, all taking place in a linear time-frame.........allr me meaningless, beyond redemption as offering any picture of reality that I can "rest" in and not feel as if I am clinging to the wreckage. New cosmologies are needed. Looking around me, I think many also are adrift and if we choose to move forward, into "ever advancing novelty" rather than pull a blanket over our head and cling to outmoded pictures that have had there day, then maybe we need to take a chance. 

Maybe a Bibliography, to give reference to current reading:-

 "Eihei Dogen:Mystical Realist" by Hee Jin-Kim

 "Zen Cosmology" by Ted Biringer

 " Visions of Awakening Space and Time" by Dan Leighton.


All the above relate to explication of the thought of Dogen. Believe it or not, I find each day a greater clarity of understanding, deeper faith that my hope that our Cosmos is "healing" and meaningful is not simply wishful thinking


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Resting this evening I thought of just one example of relevance for the inter-relationship between "subjectivities" (which Dogen emphasises in addition to the inter-relationship between "subjectivities" and "objective" reality.) It comes once again from the words of David Bentley-Hart, this as he seeks to argue the case for Universal Salvation. He says that Christians are obliged "to take seriously the eschatological imagery of scripture; and there all talk of salvation involves the promise of a corporate beatitude‚ÄĒa Kingdom of love and knowledge, a wedding feast, a city of the redeemed, the body of Christ‚ÄĒwhich means that the hope Christians cherish must in some way involve the preservation of whatever is deepest in and most essential to personality, rather than a perfect escape from personality. But finite persons are not self-enclosed individual substances; they are dynamic events of relation to what is other than themselves.¬†(My own emphasis, which relates to my previous post)

As a Buddhist I am more into what is called a "realised eschatology of the present moment" rather than any anticipation of future events dictated by a linear time-frame. But Mr Bentley-Hart makes extremely pertinent points, this for himself in respect of, and against, those who would argue that "redemption" can ever involve the complete loss of any human being, either in annihilation or in being cast into some eternal diabolical realm of perpetual suffering. Mr Hart argues that such would demand a "heavenly lobotomy" if any were finally "lost" (His words:- Think of it as a kind of heavenly lobotomy, a small, judicious mutilation of the intellect, the surrender of a piece of the mind in exchange for peace of mind. After all, consider how happy we could all be if we never had to think of anyone’s sufferings at all.)

Again a reference:- "That All Shall Be Saved" by David Bentley-Hart.



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Back in Oxfams, the morning guy I took over from told me he had had no customers all morning. I'm hoping things will be as quiet for me and I can read and listen to my music undisturbed. The Travelling Wilburys playing once again, only two left now, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne, the others have travelled on. The voice of the Big O still sends shivers down my spine, the only singer I have ever known who can convey such emotions of loss and yearning without even opening his mouth.

Getting back to Dogen, I threatened way back to write of "zazen as metaphor", which must come across as pretty dull. But life and blood to me. Thoreau once said:- it's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see. Or as Dogen has it, "we are what we understand." Zazen "as metaphor" takes the actual sitting practice of zazen, the hours sitting upright on the zafu, and opens the dedication, the commitment, the authenticity, into all life, where the only extension to the present is intensity. 

 In these often dim days of celebrity culture and facile "commitments" it is impossible to avoid seeing and admiring the contrasting integrity of Dogen, his own intense search for meaning, answers to his own deep existential questions, the need to find his own path, time and place. In 13th century Japan, given that time and place, he found his own. In zazen. As I see it, if I learn from Dogen, it is the integrity, the intensity, the commitment to finding my own path, time and place that matters, which may or may not involve hours on the meditation cushion. As a Pure Land Buddhist, this commitment will necessarily be enfolded in Grace, of the "deep hearing" of the infinite compassion of Amida (Reality-as-is)

One thing I find in Dogen is the lack of any "systemisation". His teaching never involves preconceived ideas and meanings that we are then called upon to print upon the unfolding moment, killing the "spirit". Dogen sought a radical freedom. Nietzsche (I love the name dropping of these intellectual giants, hoping some of it rubs off and tells another story of myself, far removed from the grandad who plays marbles and lego with his grandson and has been known to talk in a high pitched voice to Barbie dolls - this without the need of alcoholic stimulation...ūüėĄ), yes Nietzsche said:- "I distrust all systematisers and avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity." Of course, William Blake, who spoke to angels, once said that he must create his own system "or else I will be enslaved by anothers". But I'm with Nietzsche.¬†

I may have mentioned the Blue Cliff Record before (I've certainly used that Nietzsche quote before  somewhere above, which shows the downside of waffling) and an intro to that strange book is relevant here. The author, Terrance Keenan, quotes a guy called Joshu, who says:- "Remake what has gone by and work with what comes. If you don’t remake, you are stuck deeply somewhere." As I see it, such advice is the  antithesis of being "systematic". The wind needs to blow where it will. 

" Remaking what has gone by" might or might not be able to be fitted into Dogen. I'm not sure. No clarity at the moment. Would that be radical freedom? Whatever, Joshu's suggestion certainly supports the insights of such poets as T. S.Eliot, who wrote that "immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.....the good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.' Certainly such thinking gives insight into "behold, I make all things new", with the Christian emphasis upon redemption, of taking what is , what we are, and using our frail frames to be an integral part of the "new world."

 Well, that is enough. Still no customers (just one guy bringing back a dud DVD, "The Punisher" which has an 18 certificate as it contains "Strong and Sadistic Violence". Well, a narrow escape for that guy perhaps)

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I was dipping into a few old quotes, those I had seen fit to include in my cyber notebook. I found this, taken from the Introduction to Richard Ellmann's biography of James Joyce:-

 "The initial and determining act of judgement in his work is the justification of the commonplace....Joyce saw joined what others held separate: the point of view that life is unspeakable and to be exposed, and the point of view that it is ineffable and to be distilled.....he denudes man of what we are accustomed to respect, then summons us to sympathise."

 Strangely perhaps to some, I see this very much related to all that has been said here about Dogen, of his search for his own path, time and place. 

"Perfection" is very much overated, and the search for it - I think - futile. As I see it, if we are always looking for something more, whether it be happiness, contentment, even meaning, then we seek for something outside of ourselves that will forever recede out of reach. It comes back to "acceptance", paradoxically the catalyst of genuine change.

There is a zen proverb, "never add legs to a snake", or, don't try to add what is unnecessary. Nothing need be added to the present moment. 

Anyway, a few more bits and pieces about James Joyce (whose words in Finnegans Wake are also worth absorbing:- "We are once amore as babes awondering in a wold made fresh.......") that I find relevant here:-

Joyce offers a new litmus test for what we call the hero, not gigantic feats of strength, but small and simple feats of kindness.
An epiphany was not a miraculous dispensation from above but, as Joyce defined it, an insight into 'the soul of the commonest object' "
(Kevin Birmingham, from "The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle For James Joyce's Ulysses.")
And finally:- 
"No, it did a lot of other things, too"
(when turning down an admirer who asked to kiss the hand that wrote "Ulysses")


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Back in Costa's, following a couple of days with the grandchildren, getting them to school and back, feeding and playing. The little lad, 9, is very inventive as far as creating his own games is concerned (when we can drag him away from his kindle) Yesterday he drew over 60 tiny little stick people, each with a number. My job was to cut them out as he is left-handed and we have no special scissors. What I noticed as I cut was that each stick person had individuality, different haircuts - afro's, mohicans, pigtails, punk! It amused me - luckily I'm easily amused!

Anyway, I've drifted as usual. For some reason the idea of WWJD has been rolling around in my head, or What Would Jesus Do. I suppose I should rather consider WWBD ( "Buddha", get it?) but the options there are limited to sitting in the lotus position and closing the eyes......ūüėĄgiven the textual evidence. Which in fact makes me think of some of the textual suggestions for copying Jesus.

What would I do if I found no tomato's on a tomato plant at Christmas time? What would I do if I found people in a temple or church acting inappropriately? How would I address those whose religious persuasion was different from my own? How would I seek to help a person mentally challenged? How would I care for a parent in certain circumstances? Well, some textual evidence suggests curses, fetching a whip, vindictive and acrimonious language, spying out a herd of pigs, getting someone else to care.......yes we are talking fig trees, money changers, Legion, Pharisees etc etc. 

Not trying to be controversial. Simply recognising the difference between literalism and what might be called the spirit that blows where it will. Between commandments on tablets of stone and those written on the human heart. Even the literalists, our fundamentalist friends, in effect recognise the difference when they seek WWJD - and thus, the difference in many ways between "Jesus" as historical figure and "Christ" as the eternal logos, or as Thomas Merton said:- The Hidden Ground of Love. 


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