The Dalai Lama, Salvadore Dalí, Torture, and Zaire
Salvador Dalí:
A Biography
Meryle Secrest

At the end of her tale and after many attempts, Ms. Secrest finally succeeds in meeting Dalí face to face:

    He sat in his elegant, airy, light room, in a bedside chair covered in white. He was dressed in something white and flowing, white socks, and sandals...the famous moustache, once so elaborately clipped and waxed, now drooping and misshapen, white hair untidily pushed back and with straggling ends.

He had a breathing tube up his nose and stared blankly. Secrest attempted to make conversation but Dali did not participate. She gave him a small wrapped gift he set it aside unopened. When she was about to leave, he finally spoke:"You know, I am a better writer than I am a painter."He's right too. His The Secret Life of Salvador Dali(Vision Press; 1948) is the proof. It gives a better sense of the peculiar Spaniard than anything written before or since.

Selected Works of the
Dalai Lama III
Edited and Translated
By Glenn H. Mullin
(Snow Lion)
    Although they looked rather like a band of robbers and thieves, they were spiritual people with faith in the Mahayana. But they were nomads with no source of subsistence except for animal flesh. They would always kill their animals as humanely as possible while whispering prayers into their ears...

This work -- subtitled "Essence of Refined Gold," contains writings of the third Dalai Lama of Tibet, So-nam Gya-tso of the 16th Century, with commentary by the present Dalai Lama-in-exile. At a time when the religious folk of the Western World were drawing and quartering people who worshipped non-Christian gods, mounting their heads on poles, sending sword and cross into heathen countries (the soldiers to murder, the priests to bless) --- while this was going on, in Tibet, Gya-tso was expounding on the effect of one human killing another

  1. the main effect is lower rebirth;
  2. the effect similar to the cause is that in a future rebirth you will be killed or will see many dear ones killed;
  3. the effect similar to the action is that you will have the tendency to kill again in future lives and thus will multiply the negative karma; and
  4. the effect on the environment is that even if you gain a good rebirth your environment will be violent...

There is an emphasis on the study of death in Buddhism, a meditation concerning

    the certainty of death, the uncertainty of the time of death, and the truth that at the time of death only one's spiritual development is of value

The Essence of Refined Gold, as always, should create in its readers a bemused acknowledgment that the Tibetans were able to follow, so long ago, a study of divinity at once so humane and so civilized while the rest of the world, contrary to the teachings of the Gita, the Koran, or The Bible, was practicing a ritual of blood lust called "destroy the unbelievers."

The Forgotten
A Naturalist
in Baja California

Joseph Wood Krutch
(University of Arizona)
We always liked Krutch because his name was so strange: that was before we learned that it rhymed with "smooch." Forgotten Peninsula first came out in 1961--- and even now it could be used as a day-to-day travel guide down Baja. Krutch not only takes us through the peninsula as it existed a quarter-century ago --- he takes us there with lucidity, prophecy, comprehension, and wit. The single road they used was rough, at times impassable --- but times mired in the sand or dry arroyos were times for Krutch to practice his original love, that is, keenly observing plant and wildlife:

    The boojum certainly does not conform to conventional ideals of beauty. Perhaps only a botanist could love it...There it stands holding within its thick, somewhat spongy trunk the last remaining drops of the water it had snatched on that almost forgotten day when some rain did fall...It dominates the landscape and imposes upon it an air of dreamlike unreality. If one is reminded of anything, it is either of the imagined surface of some distant planet or one of those reconstructed scenes from a remote geological era when there were no real trees

Krutch was sixty-two when he took the arduous journey down to San Jose del Cabo, and his comments about areas now saturated with tourists and roads are enough to make a grown man cry. His prescience is astonishing: can easily (and uneasily) foresee a possibly not very distant future when a good road may make it accessible, hotels may spring up, and miles of beach be strewn with umbrellas, bathers, and their paraphernalia of radios and sun tan lotion....Greater good of the greater number? Well, greater number, certainly. Greater good is not so obvious, for the greater number and the greater good are often not compatible.

Of Prisons and Ideas
Milovan Djilas
(M. B. Petrovich, translator)
(Harcourt Brace)
Djilas might be called one of the first true Media Dissidents. He was part of the underground that fought the Germans in World War II, then, later, after breaking with the nominal leader of the Balkans, Josip Broz Tito, was imprisoned in Yugoslavia for almost twenty years. His previous books include The New Class, a description of the structure of Stalinist society, and Conversations with Stalin, which details Russia under Stalin during and after World War II. Of Prisons and Ideas is his 15th book, with an extension of his thoughts on revolution, prisons, freedom, dissidents. It's pretty flaccid until he gets down to the specifics of, for example, torture and torturers: torture has ever been devised that a victim dedicated to an idea and ready to die for it cannot withstand. Torturers are seldom possessed of a particularly inventive imagination in devising their terrors. Most frequently they find it easiest to follow long trodden paths and make use of those tried-and-true methods handed down from the past. They rely on ready-made instruments --- whips, truncheons, sandbags, needles, castor oil, electric currents, and the like. It is common, of course, especially where torture is not standard procedure, for the police to use, particularly in anger and haste, whatever instruments may be at hand --- pencils (for jabbing between fingers), drawers (for crushing hands), chairs (for jamming bodies against walls), and most frequently, to be sure, the most direct, handiest instrument of all, their fists.

What we have here is a primer for those who plan to spend any time at all in jail, being worked over by their captors. Djilas speaks of the need to control the mind, giving as an example the fact that the anticipation of torture is far worse than torture itself (with too much pain, one simply faints). He speaks of the value of simple things --- for example, meticulously cleaning the cell each day, or

The Symbolic and the Real
The Crucial Value of the Slop Bucket (Chamber Pot)

Most of all, it is a matter of control, and the need to abandon the belief in life. "For life," he says, in true dialectic spirit, "is itself a mistake and a betrayal."

Volume II:
Eastern Zaire

Daniel Biebuyck
(University of California)
Biebuyck is professor of Anthropology at the University of Delaware, and is an expert on Central Africa (he has authored or co-authored three previous works). This is a highly detailed study of the Lega of Zaire, which --- for the purposes of Biebuyck's scholarly pursuit --- are divided into six regional groups. The Southern Lega, for example, consists of the "Bakabango...with subgroups Babongolo, Banangabi, Banikinga, Banakinkalo, Banasunguli, Banalila, Balambia, Banakasyele, Banamombo and Banantandu." (The Banjo, Banana, Bandanna, and Bandersnatch are not even mentioned). Various ceremonies are described to point up the use of the hundred or so illustrated masks, skullcaps, figurines, spoons, pounders, and animal representations. One is staggered by the sheer complexity of the Lega ceremonial institutions, which include elaborate play acting, dramatic representations, and lessons for the uninitiated. It's a scholarly work, but a pretty one; the tone is set by this introductory koan from the Lega:
    Porcupine does not eat fallen bananas in full daylight.

--- R. R. Doister

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