Of the Slow
(Seven Stories)Once Paul Krassner asked me for a loan. I sent him a ten page, typed, single-spaced letter explaining why I couldn't loan him the money. Carefully hidden near the bottom of page nine was stapled a check for $5,000.
The letter was filled with big words to take up more space, viz, "If you think assertively of the dialectics of such an existential paradox of need, as necessity is perceived, you will find that we must accept phenomenology --- per se --- or, alternatively, to eschew it. At worst, it becomes a stipulatory act, one of retroaction," etc etc.
I figured he would either he would read the whole existentialist exegesis and find the prize at the end of the trail or would throw it away after reading the first page, in which case, the check would never be cashed and no one would be the wiser.
Well, the son-of-a-bitch evidently reads everything that comes in the mail. The check was cashed, and I promptly forgot about it. Not Krassner. For years, he kept whittling away at the debt, sending me dibs and dabs at random intervals, $25, or $50, or $100. Last winter, almost thirty years after the fact, I received the final check for $500. I wrote him immediately, said he was the only person I knew who paid back a loan, and asked if he would please let me loan him some more just so we could keep up the connection.
In keeping with his LSD-infected mind, he recently wrote about the loan in one of the last issues of The Realist. He made up all the facts, just like he's been making up facts all these years --- and calling it "satire." He said that I loaned him the money in 1984 so he could start the magazine up again. Not so. It was made in 1972 or 1973. My mind is capable of making up lies too, but when it comes to writing checks, especially checks for loans, my memory is unbearably unforgiving. Furthermore, the money wasn't for The Realist at all, at least, that wasn't what he told me. It was for what we used to call, in the stockbroking business, a "no purpose" loan.
That's all right. Those of us who survived the 60s know that not only do we all make up our own facts to suit our own needs --- we know, too, that there are no facts: only the fictions we choose to saddle with the believe that they are the truth. Slow Bicycle is chock-a-block filled with these fictions. They are, here, the writings of Krassner, presented in reverse order...the first essay is dated 1995; the last is 1958.
In between we find Lenny Bruce, Joseph McCarthy, Lyndon Johnson, the Pope, Jack Kennedy, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Hinckley, Thomas Eagleton Seagull, Kitty Litter, and all those others who made acid trips seem so unnecessary because all these people, and their deeds, were so unreal.
There are humor conferences, theologically correct condoms, letters to Patty Hearst, letters to Life Magazine, and a tart letter to Dick Gregory, who was demanding a ban on rolling papers because they are "used to smoke marijuana." Krassner wrote to him to chastise him for his lapse of judgment, if not memory. "You must remember how marijuana-smoking was not exactly an unknown pleasure in the civil rights and antiwar movements," he said. Krassner suggested that Gregory address the problem of cocaine instead:
A $150 billion business leaving in its wake murder, addicted babies, jail time, robberies, ruined lives and billions of dollars spent on punishment, protection and treatment...The American chemical companies, Exxon Chemical and Shell Chemical are the leading suppliers of an ordinary chemical called methyl ethyl ketone --- the chemical of choice for Columbian businessmen to process cocaine base into cocaine...According to the Los Angeles Times, U. S. experts in Columbia were quoted as saying that as much as 90% of the 13 million pounds of American-made MEK imported by Columbia winds up being diverted for use in cocaine manufacturing...So why not boycott Exxon and Shell?
Krassner pretends he is a satirist. In fact, he hides behind his wit to tell us ghastly facts about our life and times. He tells us that The Realist will stop being published soon, because reality "keeps nipping at the heels of satire, more and more overtaking it." He then goes to list twenty-one of the most astonishing of these, including:
And our personal favorite, not listed here --- but one that appeared in an earlier edition of The Realist --- "The background music used for a recent telethon for Muscular Dystrophy was She Walks Like an Egyptian."
- America Online purged the word breast from profiles of women seeking to share information about breast cancer;
- The National Association of Radio Talk Show hosts has presented a Freedom of Speech Award to G. Gordon Liddy;
- Heroic firefighters from the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City are featured in a 1996 beef-cake calendar;
- When Michael Jackson collapsed while rehearsing for an HBO special, folks backstage were quoted as saying, "He looks pale;"
- Kidnapping has become such a way of life in the Philippines that gangs now accept checks to cover their ransom demands;
- The Department of Agriculture allows two pellets of rat fecal matter per two kilograms of breakfast cereal.
O Krassner. You are right. Satire is no longer appropriate. Life has just gotten too strange. Thank god you were around for the years when we needed you. And thank you for writing one of the funniest biographies, at least since Boswell's Life of Johnson --- that being The Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture. Between this and The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, we've got most of a generation pegged as it should be: pegged as mad and wrong --- but pegged nonetheless.--- L. W. MilamThe
The Fundamental Tantra
Of the Dzogchen Semde
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu,
Andrew Lukianowicz, translator
His wife, who had gone, returned from the market where she had bought a woman's left arm, still fresh and with five bracelets fastened on it. She cooked and served it up, but Sri Simha exclaimed, "I am a bhiksu and cannot eat meat, especially not human meat, man's nor woman's." The teacher took hold of the arm and snapping his fingers, made it disappear into the sky enveloped in a mass of light. In that instant, Sri Simha understood that the person before him was truly Manjusrimitra.
Those who are interested in Tibetan buddhism will probably be fascinated if not bewildered by The Supreme Source. It gives us the fundamental text of what is known as Dzogchen philosophy, which is more than 2000 years old.
Dzogchen got started in what must be one of our favorite places in the world --- the Swat Valley in Pakistan. It's an oral teaching that emphasizes "the primordial state of enlightenment." Kunjed Gyalpo literally means "King Do-All," but is better translated as "The Principal Tantras of Infinite Emptiness." Tantra means "without interruption." This volume thus incorporates teachings of the-
infinite- within- the- self that were first set down as writings some 1200 years ago.
The Supreme Source is divided in three parts: the history of Dzogchen; extracts from the original documents "within sutra and tantra;" and the present-day teachings offered by the master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, who currently resides in Italy.
As with much of Tibetan teaching, there seems to be an obsession with numbers. We are told of the five sense objects, the three passions ("attachment, anger, and ignorance,") and the five primordial wisdoms. There are the eighty-four thousand Dharma methods, which includes twenty-one thousand, each, of Vinayapitka, Sutrapitaka, Abhidarmapitaka, and Tripitaka. It does tend to befog one.
Even more bizarre and wonderful are the Twelve Primordial Teachers. Dzogchen exists in thirteen other solar systems as well as our own. In the begining, "all life span was incalculable:" all beings were "born miraculously, did not wear clothes, and had bodies of light." In the sky, there appeared "six million four hundred thousand stars" that represented the tantras, and Buddha made his first of twelve appearances --- as an "eight-year-old child in the center of a golden, thousand-petalled lotus" (each petal contained yet another Buddha). His name was Supreme Child Inconceivable Vision.
Alas, passion began to arise, and the light of beings began to dim. Life span dropped to 10,000,000 years, but they all "were as vigorous as 16-year-old youths" who were "tall as arrows and dressed in leaves." Buddha had returned again, this time as Child Imperturbable Light.
When the life-span of beings dropped to 100,000 years, Buddha appeared, teaching the philosophy of "The Peacock's Entwined Neck" --- but he barely whispered his words, making them "like the buzzing of bees conveyed on the wind."
Unfortunately, more passions arose, the average life-span fell to 80,000 years, and "sexual organs sprouted." At first, love could be accomplished merely by looking at one another; then it became necessary to hold hands; finally, alas, coupling and procreation were required, and beings "started to dress in cotton or tree-bark and eat the fat of the earth."
When life span dropped to 60,000 years, the Bodhisattva appeared as a "frightful dwarf with three faces and six hands." His disciples listened "immersed to the navel in clouds" and he went into samadhi (bliss) for 100,000 years.
Life-span continued to shrink --- down to 10,000 years ---and the Buddha appeared in a cave "that spontaneously radiated the sound rulu." He went back into samadhi for another 50,000 years, until he was reborn at "Vulture Peak." When the life span dropped to 1,000 years, he returned yet again next to a bodhi tree in Mongolia, at the place known as "With Turquoise Eyebrows." And when life span dropped to 100 years --- presumably our own eras --- he arrived for the final vision, to teach the four noble truths, the "diverse gradual paths," and accomplished "the twelve great deeds."
§ § §
Not only is there a rich poetry in these historical eons of Buddha's twelve lives, the actual teachings convey a grace: a pacing and phrasing that flows from the oral component (these lessons were handed down orally from teacher to student for centuries; the writing of them did not come until around the year 800.) "Listen, great being!" is the constant exhortation of "The Root Tantra," indicating that you and I (or any seeker) is already possessed of enlightenment. There is a sense of cosmic acceptance and forgiveness implicit in this, and in statements such as,
If enjoyments are anointed by compassion, in any object of pleasure one enjoys the essence of enlightenment. Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly of the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss.
In other words, if what you do is accomplished with a spirit of compassion, what you are is what you are. Furthermore, "all phenomena being such, this is the true nature of existence. Thinking that reality can seek itself, that the sky can seek itself or that an 'outer' reality can exist is as useless as attempting to put out fire with fire."
The narrative voice is as of the gods, and it rings with Old Testament vibrancy:
Listen! As all of you are created by me, you beings of the three worlds are my children, equal to me, the supreme source. You are me, inseparable from me, so I manifest to you and through the five teachers of my natures I teach the single state of the five essences. I am the single state, I, the supreme source: you too are...If I did not exist, neither would you exist.
There is an appealingly anarchistic element to Dzogchen which says that we do not need help to get on the path. Self-liberation is the key, and we are already there --- we just have to recognize it. The disciplines of religious forms are delusions:
There is no need to correct the body posture or visualize a deity. There is no need to correct the voice or speech. There is no need to correct the mind through meditation...In liberating itself, it also shows the path of liberation...Liberation arises from within oneself and not from outside...
--- A. W. Allworthy
(Spike)Ryan Slint has the ability to transmogrify into a fly, and falls in love with a waitress at a local greasy spoon named Cassandra who can appear and disappear at will.
It's not a bad plotline, but the writing leaves something to be desired. Here is dialogue between Ryan and his roommate Phil:
"Mind if I read in here?" Phil asked after a moment of watching the snow, waving a book called Games Zen Masters Play.
"Go ahead, see if I care," I said cheerily. "Have a seat on the bed. Not as comfy as this chair here, no siree, but..."
"Shaddap," muttered Phil, flipping open his book.
This is followed by a page or so about squishing a fly on the wall.
In the old days, they would refer to this kind of writing as "zany." But if we want zany, give us Lewis Nordan, Will Cuppy, or Marcel Proust. Further, when Munroe tries to get serious --- mother with cancer --- it's neither zany nor sad. It's plain awkward.Pages in book: 248.
Pages read: 33.--- Laura Hanwell