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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

=Schopenhauer on Patriotism=

The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.

=Self-sacrifice: a mini-essay=

All the major sorrows, mistakes, and regrets in my life I see now were the consequence of well-intentioned decisions on my part to do what would please others at the expense of my own desires. If I had one piece of advice to give anyone, it would be to accept the risk of one day regretting that you'd lived too selfish a life rather than risk looking back and regretting that you sacrificed traveling your own path to help someone else travel theirs. If you're going to suffer from selfishness, it's better to suffer from your own. As for that great exemplar of selflessness whose example we are heeded to imitate, one has to swallow an awful lot of nonsense and blind oneself to a terrifying number of atrocities committed in his name to believe that Jesus Christ accomplished anything truly worthwhile by allowing himself to be crucified.

=An Alphabet of My Creative Icons=

Anais Nin was born in France on February 21, 1903. Her father was a Cuban pianist and composer. He was also an adulterer. He was also one of Anais’s many lovers.

Nin’s mother, a classically trained singer, was of French and Danish descent. She was something of a pain in the ass.

Nin’s official full name was Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell. Quite a mouthful. You can see why she shortened it to the more manageable, euphonic and ultimately iconic Anais Nin. She first came to New York as a young girl after her parents split up.

Early on, Nin married a well-off banker which enabled her to immerse herself in the arts without having to trouble herself with financial concerns. She and her hubby moved back to Paris. She used her husband’s money to help out the then poor and unknown Henry Miller, for one thing. She also used her body to help him out, too.

She would go on to have affairs with lots of other men, including her psychiatrist, Otto Rank.

In 1939, when the Nazi writing was on the wall, she left Paris for New York City. She would live in America for most of the rest of her life.

She wrote a critical study of D.H. Lawrence, which earned a fair amount of respect.

She was an artist’s model and appeared in several movies. Later, she became the subject of movies.

Of course, she wrote her diaries, which would eventually make her famous.

She wrote short stories and novels, too, but they never fared as well, despite the fact that she assigned them a much higher literary value than she did the diaries. She was alone in this estimation, however. It was Henry Miller who constantly tried to convince Nin that the diaries were The Thing. Eventually, she concurred. The problem was trying to find anyone to publish them.

When I say her short stories never fared as well, I’m talking about her “serious” literary fiction and not about her erotica, which has since became famous and fares extremely well to this day.

For ten years of her life Nin was officially a bi-coastal polygamist, marrying a second man in California while still married to her banker husband.

Eventually, Nin’s banker husband decided to become an artist, too. He called himself Ian Hugo and made experimental films. He forgave Nin the affairs, the second marriage, everything. Some people see him as a dupe, others as a saint, others, still, as a man who loves another person the only way you should: totally and for who and what they are.

She was largely self-published for most of her life. She bought a second-hand press, learned how to typeset, and published her own books when no one else would.

The feminist movement of the 60s revived Nin’s all-but-otherwise-forgotten career. In the last decade of her life, she became an extremely popular university lecturer. Her diaries were elevated to near sacred texts, venerated as a record of the archetypal struggle of a woman to define herself as sexual being and artist in a male-dominated society.

Eventually critics began picking the diaries apart to reveal inconsistencies, omissions, distortions, and self-aggrandizing changes, showing how they aren’t so much “diaries” at all, but literary creations. That is to say, not a strictly honest recounting of Nin’s life compared to the measure of established facts. But established by what? By whom? Consensus? Whose consensus?

Nin believed in the individual’s right to create her own life however she chooses, and that included the free play of illusion and fantasy. Call it lying if you lack the courage to follow you own vision, as opposed to the determined reality you are handed by others.

Whether the diaries are truth or fantasy or some unavoidable alloy of the two, irony wins again. Nin’s diaries prove her to be more than a mere diarist, but, in fact, the great writer of literary fiction that she strove to be her entire life.

Anais Nin died on January 14, 1977 three years after cancer began a ravaging and obscene attack on her body. She was 74.  What remained of Nin was cremated and the ashes scattered at Mermaid Cove on the Santa Monica Bay. Her “California husband” was her primary caretaker as she died and he became her literary executor. Her original unexpurgated diaries remained in his custody until his death in 2006. Now they’re in the UCLA library. They still haven’t been published in their entirety.


=Book recently read: Lucky Alan by Jonathan Lethem=

Well-written, mildly inventive, these stories touch on the mild weirdness of ordinary life. By keeping one narrative foot planted solidly in the “real” world, Lethem insures that you can never entirely dismiss his paranoiac imagination and conspiratorial obsessions as mere flights of fancy. His stories don’t leave you feeling like you’ll never see the world the same way again as they make you aware that you never suspected that you saw it as so weird in the first place. (Well, I needed no reminding, but the average reader might. If anything, I would’ve liked the weirdness dial turned way up.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

=Tape transmission (2:45): To Be or Not to Be=

If you commit suicide because you're life is no longer worth living they’ll blame you. They'll blame you for leaving them with the psychic damage of your death and they’ll blame you for being selfish and accuse you of being a coward. But if you go off and live your life the way you need to in order to survive, they’ll still call you selfish and they’ll still blame you for shirking your responsibilities and instead just going off without any concern for them. Basically what people want you to do is to stay in place and fulfill their needs and be what they expect you to be in their lives and go on in that way no matter how miserable you are. That’s what they want. They don’t want you to take your life and they don’t want you to change your life. They want you to devote your life to their expectations of how you should live so that you fit in with what they want from you and they insist that alone should make you happy. And if you don’t do that, if it's not enough for you, then you’re a bad person, you’re a selfish person, a mean-spirited person, an irresponsible person. It’s bullshit, of course. It’s bullshit. Everybody has got to survive or not in the way that they see fit in order to make their lives worth living for themselves. And if they can make their lives of use to someone else that’s great but that’s just gravy. You can’t live your life for someone else because they’ll blame you for that, too. It’ll be like “Well you shouldn’t have lived your life for me. Who asked you to, anyway? You should have lived your own life.” And you’re like, “Well I would have liked to, but you would have blamed me for living my own life.” Really it’s just best to ignore people altogether and do whatever it is you want to do. In the end that’s what it comes down to. You just have to do what you have to do to get through every day in the best way you can to make the death waiting for you…well, not worthwhile or even bearable…but at least not the last of a lifetime of bitter pills you were forced to swallow...

=An Alphabet of My Creative Icons=

He started off life as Kimitake Hiroka. He died Yukio Mishima.

He was born on January 14, 1925. He committed ritual suicide by seppuku on November 25, 1970.

He lived forty-five years.

He was bullied a lot as a child for his artistic and literary leanings. The Japanese of that time were a notoriously macho culture. He was bullied by his father for the same reason. Dad believed in old school discipline. Like holding his young son out the window of a speeding train in order to…what? Toughen him up? Turn him into a psychopath or a gibbering schizophrenic? It’s hard to gauge such intentions. He used to search young Yukio’s room for traces of girliness and when he found any evidence the boy had been writing he tore it to shreds.

Mishima caught a break when a Japanese Army doctor misdiagnosed a cold he had during a routine check-up as tuberculosis. Otherwise, he might have died as another one of the extras on Iwo Jima.

His first novel, published when he was only twenty-four, was Confessions of a Mask. It was about a young homosexual man who had to keep his inclinations hidden to fit into society. It made Mishima a big success in 1949. Critics consider it semi-autobiographical. Due to the novel's acclaim, Mishima was able to quit his miserable, if financially promising, job in the Finance Ministry and devote himself to writing.

He was an avid bodybuilder. A beautiful mind in a beautiful body, that was Mishima’s motto. He didn't believe in letting himself go to hell-in-a-handbasket physically like, say William Faulkner or Truman Capote. He was a devotee of kendo, traditional Japanese swordsmanship. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. But came up a bridesmaid on all three occasions. What were perceived as his right-wing politics didn’t help his chances any, that’s for sure. He was a model and a movie-actor.

He was once set to marry the woman who would eventually marry the man who would eventually become the Emperor of Japan. Michiko Shoda is Empress of Japan. She’s still empressing today at 81. Her husband is still emperoring. 

Instead Mishima married another woman and had two children, a daughter and a son. None of them liked the rumors that emerged after Mishima’s splashy death by seppuki that he was not-so-secretly gay.

There’s a notoriously homoerotic photo of Mishima in loincloth and pierced by arrows suffering beautifully ala Saint Sebastian.

Mishima formed and trained a secret paramilitary-spiritual society of young men who practiced the martial arts and swore allegiance to the Emperor. Except it wasn’t so much the Emperor they honored, but the divinity that traditionally resided within him. Mishima was committed to the bushido code and considered himself a modern-day samurai. It was Hirohito’s renouncing of his traditional divine role that Mishima found so troubling and the true defeat of Japan after World War 2. It meant that Japanese culture had lost its soul—a loss more devastating than the loss of any one war—and that the warriors who died in the war had ultimately died in vain.

It was Mishima’s intention to protest this vulgarizing trend in Japanese culture that led to his storming a civil defense headquarters on November 25, 1970. Ostensibly Mishima was attempting to incite a coup. It was a spectacular failure. He looked like a fool to everyone but his small circle of like-minded followers. It’s suspected that Mishima knew full-well just how quixotic and vainglorious his plan was and only used it to make his suicide all the more symbolic. He’d been planning his final act for a whole year and had already put his affairs in order.

Traditionally seppuku involved disemboweling oneself with a short blade, plunging it into the abdomen and drawing it upwards. The coup de grace comes by way of decapitation. Apparently the man Mishima chose to behead him as part of the ritual wasn’t as up to the job as one might have hoped. After several failed attempts to hack Mishima’s head off Mishima’s shoulders, a second man had to take over.

This is not the way you picture a great author going out and it’s had a dampening effect on Mishima’s legacy. But it's probably better than having your liver explode from alcoholism the way Kerouac went out. Indeed, despite his many missteps and perceived embarrassments, a prize has been established in Japan to honor literary excellence in Mishima's honor. It’s called, no big surprise, The Mishima Prize.

His work drips with eroticism, kinkiness, and death- obsession which is precisely why I like it—and him—so much.

For this reason too: He was a guy who lived life at a higher frequency than most people ever dared…or even dreamed. He lived life as if his life were a work of art that he was consciously creating.

If you turn your life into a line of poetry, Mishima wrote, written with a splash of blood, then perfect purity is possible.

His was a truly beautiful life.

=How to Be a Completely New Person Every Single Day=

Sunday, June 28, 2015


=Inquiry into a Mirror=

They are better than me. I mean, other people. I mean, other people are better than me
at being people. They talk just the way people
are supposed to talk.  
One word after another about the weather,
television, what happened
at work, children, someone breaking up with someone, who's not doing well after the initial
round of treatments.   
When they approach you,
they stretch their lips until they disappear and show their teeth and it looks completely natural. Not like a
monkey in a cage. Not like a disintegrating corpse. 
I mean, everyone agrees they are doing it right
They say “hello.” 
Then they say did you hear, 
isn't it a shame, can you believe it.
It’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I mean, other people are the way people 
are supposed to be. 
It's a mystery to me, that’s what they are.
It's like a secret cabal I'm not part of. 
How did they learn this complicated thing? 
I mean, this being-people thing? 
They are so much better than me at being people. 
How did it happen? How did they get so far ahead of me? Where did they learn? When? 
They laugh just like they do
on television when someone does something
that isn’t too funny. When something sad happens, 
they open their eyes wide and furrow 
their brows
and show a very deep concern and everyone
knows they're truly sad about someone's
ovarian cyst or flooded basement. 
I find it difficult. 
I mean, I find it difficult to say anything. 
I stand there, as if stumped. 
When I say “I’m sorry” it sounds like 
someone asking “Would you like some salt?” 
Other people
are better at walking down the street. 
They do it effortlessly. 
They look around themselves 
as if they were seeing things 
that really interested them.
I have to think “left-right-left-right.” 
I mean, otherwise I'll fall flat on my face 
like my shoelaces were tied. 
When other people see other people
they recognize, for instance, they do a complex facial yoga
that is beyond me. 
I mean,  if I meet people unexpectedly
I look up like someone's interrupted me 
in the toilet.   
Just in case, I have to write crib notes
 on the inside of my wrists 
exactly where you might cut them. 
I write notes to remember: “Smile. Nod. Hello. 
Take care. How are you?”
Okay, I’m exaggerating. 
No I’m not. 
Yes I am. 
Still other people are better than me
at being people.
It comes naturally to them, 
as if they’ve been doing it their whole lives,
as if that’s what they really are.
I watch their faces closely for signs of tension. 
For cracks. 
When I’m around people I feel like I’m going to blow apart in a thousand pieces. 
Like something awful is going to 
emerge from the fragile egg that I am. 
It takes all my effort to keep it inside,
like I'm standing on the brake of a car skidding on ice. 
But other people. I mean, other people seem so sincere. 
So natural, 
so at ease. Like seals in the water.
How do they do it? When someone shows them a baby picture they go “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh!” 
right on cue no matter how many times it's been
done before. 
I stand there
like someone has presented me a complex problem
involving differential equations.
I jerk around like a marionette.  
Everyone is better than me at being people. I saw a show once about a serial killer. 
He had a thousand friends. Even in jail, other people still couldn’t help liking him. They said, “He was a really nice guy, except for the serial killing thing.”
What I mean is other people can be people 
without any effort at all. It’s like they were born being people. 
What would it be like, I wonder, to be one of these other people? How does one do it? Is it too late, surely it’s already too late, but just imagine it's not. I mean, not too late to become other people.
Let’s say I could.
If I could become other people would I scare myself the way other people scare me now?
 Would I even recognize myself and if so would I walk right by me without a word pretending I didn't recognize me because I'm just too damn weird
even for other people? 
Would I glance quickly at my wrist
 and read in the same dull lifeless voice
 I have now “Hello? How are you?” 
Would I smile and nod? Would I say “Take care”? Would I  mean it? Would I at least sound like I mean it? I mean, would I feel any sympathy for me at all?
If so,
which me would I be when I did?
I mean, of course it's too late,
but what if?
I don't answer. I just stare back.
I mean, it's embarrassing enough
even to have to ask.
I mean, I have nothing written on my wrist 
to cheat from.
I mean, not so much as a scar.

Friday, June 26, 2015

=Did I Did I Not?=

I don’t remember. Did I do that?
Did I just do that? What did I do?
I don’t know what I do. What do I do? Do I do anything? Did I do that?
What is it that I do when I do what I do? I don’t know. I don’t remember what I do. Did I do what I remembered? Do I remember what I do?
What do I do?
I don’t think I do anything. Did I just do that? I don’t know what I do. 
Do I do anything? What is it that I do when I do what I do? 
When do I do what I do when I remember what I do?
I don’t think I do anything.
Sometimes I think I’m going to do something.
I try to do something.
I thought I did something but it turns out I did nothing. Nothing. I do nothing. Am I nothing when I do nothing? Is anything I do worth anything I do?
Is anything I do nothing?
Do I do nothing?
Am I nothing? Do I do nothing
when I think I do something?
Am I anything when I do nothing?
Have I done anything?
Is anything I do worth anything I do?
Do I do nothing?
Did I do nothing?
I wish I did nothing.
I wish I said nothing.
I wish I’d done nothing up to now, nothing to say
nothing to do, nothing
to remember or not to remember,
nothing to regret doing or not doing.
If you didn't do want you wanted to do
did you do anything?
If you can't remember what you did
or didn't
did you do anything or nothing?
Is anything nothing?
Is nothing anything?
Is it too late to do nothing?
Is nothing too late?
What did I do?
Nothing in the end?
Is the end nothing?
Is nothing
Do I hope for anything when I hope for nothing?
Is nothing something
to be hoped for?
Having said this much have I said nothing
having said nothing have I said anything
or nothing?
Is it possible to say nothing at all?
Did I do this?
If so, what have I done
if not?

=Book recently read: The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan=

Post-modernist experimentation applied to the sonnet: cut-up, collage, chance operations—whatever works. These sonnets are hermetic, full of personal references you’d need to know Ted Berrigan to identify. Why should you bother?  I wouldn’t. Except the work serves as an example and inspiration to create your own hermetic work. Best way to read these sonnets: let the language, rhythms, and images wash over you. The repetition and variations on line and theme build power and momentum as you read. Meaning, except for the Berrigan scholar (or old friend), remains elusive and largely what you make it. So? It’s more fun that way. 



Today marriage equality is finally affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.  At last gay Americans are granted the rights  they should have had 239 years ago. It took African Americans 89 years to secure their emancipation from slavery and a further 100 years to earn the right to urinate in the same toilet as a white person. It took women 144 years to earn the right to vote.

I wouldn't complain, except the United States has, after all, long billed itself as the "Freest Country Ever to Exist in All of Recorded History." Sorry, but I would have expected more considering the bombastic worldwide advertising campaign.

=envelope art=

=Book recently read: Selected Cronicas by Clarice Lispector=

This collection of informal stories, reminiscences, anecdotes, reflections, and flights of fantasy were culled from a weekly column Clarice Lispector wrote over a six-year period for a Brazilian newspaper. They could have been blog posts if there’d been such a thing as blogs in the late 60s and early 70s. These wide-ranging pieces offer easier access into Lispector’s complex and original mind than do her notoriously challenging stories and novels. Sometimes chatty, sometimes surreal, they prove again the old adage that a great writer can make any subject interesting and even the ordinary revelatory.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


=Clarice Lispector=

To write often means remembering what never existed. So how can I know what has never existed? Like this: as if I were remembering. By an effort of memory, as if I had never been born. I was never born. I have never lived. But I remember and remembering is like an open wound.

=An Alphabet of My Creative Icons=

It was late November, 1870. Napoleon III, who’d marched off to war against Prussia that summer, had been captured and the tide of victory had turned. Now the Prussians were laying siege to Paris. For two months conditions in the city had been steadily worsening.  Food and medicine were scarce, disease was running rampant, and the people were growing desperate. In a not-so-clean hotel room, a young poet had lain sick with fever for days. Sometime on the morning of November 24, he died. Fearing epidemic, the authorities had the body quickly buried in a provisional grave.

In one of the few works he had time to write in his short life, Isidore Ducasse, who wrote under the pen name Comte De Lautreamont, declared “I will leave no memoirs behind.” What little we know of his life must necessarily be pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle with three-quarters of the pieces missing and the pieces that remain colored by his mythologizing imagination.

I won’t even bother to reprise here his famous quote about the sewing machine and the dissecting table. Just look around you. It’s been behind a great deal of what we today take for granted as “beauty” in the arts from the Surrealists to the present day.

Isidore was born in Uruguay to a French consular officer on November 16, 1847. His mother died shortly after he was born. 

He went to high school in France. He could speak French, English and Spanish.

He was described by his publisher as “large, dark, beardless, mercurial, neat, and industrious.” He was said to compose his work while seated at the piano, banging the keys, and yelling out verses inspired by the wild sounds.

His most famous work, The Chants of Maldoror, is arguably the most transgressive text ever accepted into the literary canon. It’s an attempt at unexpurgated “celebration” of total evil, narrated with a great deal of black humor and irony by a cold-blooded, nihilistic would-be super-being who revels in detailed descriptions of violence, sadism, blasphemy, pederasty, perversion, and murder. 

With indignation Maldoror reluctantly acknowledges, “I am the son of a man and a woman, from what I have been told. This astonishes me. I believed I was something more.”

Are his chants a dream-fulfillment? An intimation of the outrages he would commit if only he possessed the infinite satanic power necessary to fulfill them? Are they an earlier expression of what Bataille meant when the latter wrote “I have in mind an obscenity so great I could vomit the most dreadful words and it wouldn’t be enough!”? Are they an expression, in other words, of the despair of a transgressor who, being only mortal, can never transgress enough?

“Oh if only instead of being a hell,” Maldoror laments, “the universe had been an immense anus!”

What, it’s not?

He was Dada before there was a Dada: “Neither I nor the four flippers of the sea-bear of the Boreal ocean have been able to solve the riddle of life.”

He was master of the “surreal” metaphor before there was even a surrealism: “O Ocean, you remind me somewhat of the bluish marks one sees on the battered backs of cabin boys.”

He was three years younger than Nietzsche when he wrote the words “Love of justice is for most men only the courage to suffer injustice” and “When one wants to be famous, one has to dive gracefully into the rivers of the blood of cannon-blasted bodies.”

He developed a theory on the use of plagiarism and appropriation to create new works a hundred years before the Situationists and contemporary conceptual writers made such practices avant garde.

Ducasse out-Rimbauded Rimbaud. And, when all is said and done, he had arguably a greater, deeper, and more lasting influence on the course of literature than the more celebrated, more “romantic” Rimbaud.

“Farewell until eternity,” Lautreamont said in anticipation of his death, “where you and I shall not find ourselves together.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

=Clarice Lispector=

Creation is not an understanding, it is a new mystery.

=3 Sonnets=

I am convinced that the greatest drawback about writing is that one has to use words.—Clarice Lispector

…like-minded popcorn. There I was
methodically covering a fish in paint
blinking what would bother the critics.
What oblivion do you
not understand? Benzoyl peroxide.
I didn’t say, “He’s not my father.”
Instant Ways to Know Without Me?
I swore I wouldn’t do it anymore.
A writer writing for money is no more
or less admirable to me than a sex-worker
who fucks for it. Someone else
lived most of my life. But that’s okay;
it’s still other people who are dad dead.

Calling on his breast and the copper
dagger of Inanna.
The servants who follow
one’s carriage must have at least a few
good points. Call the next witness,
said the king. The sphere of their influence
is confined to their own.
If reminded of the proceedings against him
he flew into a rage. “Oh you
lifeless accursed automaton!”
For three days now a little dribble begins.
An agent that increases the functional
with a mulatto girl. My love for the egg
is a motor stimulant.

More gray weather. Light rain.
Breakfast. Don’t know what I did exactly.
Wrote a poem.
Hungry. Probably ate too much (for lunch).
Things I wish I hadn’t said: how great a movie
I once thought Natural Born Killers was.
How I used to cook a London broil.
Why people are conservatives.
Did laundry.
Washed hair. Sat on porch.
Pulled weeds.
Read more Ron Padgett. Every time our digestion works, we should stop, notice, be thankful.  Nothing
is the past. I’m imagining it all.

=Clarice Lispector=

All that was unworthy about me was also my treasure.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

=Bernard Berenson=

A complete life may be one ending in so full an identification with the non-self that there is no self to die.

=Madness, Truth, & the Solace of Others: a mini-essay=

"I am not mad," Clarice Lispector wrote, "out of solidarity with the thousands of people who, in order to construct the possible, have also sacrificed the truth which would be madness."

And I have neither made solidarity with the majority, nor descended—or is it ascended?—into an entirely solitary madness. I have mediated between the two, aware, as only the non-mad can be, of my utter alienation, but unwilling, maybe even unable, to sacrifice my devotion to the madness of the truth.

"Future technology," Lispector continued, "threatens to destroy all that is human in man, but technology cannot touch madness and so that is where all that is human in man can take refuge."

Is this any surprise? Haven't we long suspected this to be true? Asylums and mental hospitals have always had an aura of holiness and taboo, like a monastery. Inside the walls of such institutions, a special kind of person is segregated from the profane who populate our everyday world. The monk and the lunatic themselves are separated by only the thinnest of margins. Maybe all that separates them is that the monk is "crazy" for God in the company of a society of lunatics all fixated on the same obsession. The true lunatic, like the saint, stands alone. 

For their protection and for the protection of society, both monks and lunatics must be put away in a safe place. Out of sight, they are nevertheless thought of with awe. But they are not thought of too often. They are repositories, like ancient libraries full of indecipherable texts, of the highest degree of humanity. As in an H.P. Lovecraft story, to read such a text is to go mad oneself. Ordinary people are glad these invaluable human "documents" are being preserved, somewhere, so long as it's at a safe distance. Humanity can proceed only when what is most human is suppressed and hidden.

=orange-headed girl=



=An Alphabet of My Creative Icons=

His dad worked on the grounds of the Theosophical Society in India. This was back in the day when India was a British colony and the West still believed in “the mystery of the Orient.” One day handsome young Jiddu was spotted at the beach by one of the Society’s leaders, Charles Leadbeater. “Wow!” Leadbeater exclaimed from behind a window. “What an aura that boy has about him. One day he’s going to be a world spiritual leader. And I’m just the man to see it done.”

Krishnamurti was fourteen. Leadbeater took the boy under his wing. Naturally, speculation has arisen ever since what else he took him under. But back in 1909 people weren’t quite so suspicious as they are now of the motives of well-to-do white men in authority over disadvantaged little brown boys. Or they kept quiet about their suspicions. Or maybe they just took a lot more for granted back then.

At one point, Jiddu’s father tried to get his son back from the Theosophists. The case went to court and dad lost.

Whatever else Leadbeater intended, he did keep his promise. Krishnamurti was raised and educated by the Theosophical Society and prepared for his role as a World Teacher. Some observers of the period weren’t so impressed by young Krishnamurti’s potential. They recall Jiddu as a rather dim-witted, passive boy, who would go along with what anyone said. “His head’s like a sieve,” said one such witness. “Whatever you put in the top comes pouring right back out the bottom.” Seeing as how they were trying to stuff his head with a lot of Theosophical mumbo-jumbo that may have been the best proof of all of Krishnamurti’s intelligence—and his instinct for survival.

Krishnamurti was raised to be a proper English gentleman, who also just happened to be a vehicle for Lord Maitreya in our time.

When he was twenty-seven, he began having these really bad pains at the back of his neck, like an eagle was grabbing his nape in it’s talons and trying to lift him up into the clouds as prey. The pain continued for quite some time. Krishnamurti decided it was a spiritual
transformation. Something was taking hold of him, clearing his consciousness. Then his beloved younger brother, always sickly, got sicker. The Theosophists assured Jiddu that his brother would get better. They were wrong. He unexpectedly died. Krishnamurti found himself a changed being. He quit the Theosophical Society. He was about to embark on his role as a World Teacher, but not the one everyone had planned for him.

He started off by declaring that “Truth is a pathless land.” That gives some indication of what was to come out of his mouth for the next 60 years.

The Theosophists were outraged. “And after all we did for that kid! Ungrateful little bastard.”

Krishnamurti never got tired of saying basically the same thing. “You can’t get the truth from anyone. Not from a priest or rabbi. Not from a psychoanalyst. Not from a guru. Not from a Zen master or a philosopher or politician or a Theosophist. Not from any book or Bible or Constitution or authority whatsoever. Oh, and, by the way, not from me either.”

Krishnamurti was like a magnet for disciples with his anti-authoritarian rap but he turned into a lightning rod once he attracted them, blowing their expectations to smithereens, because these people were still looking for an authority—an authority who would tell them that there was no authority. Krishnamurti wasn’t that. He wasn’t the sign pointing to anything at all. Enlightenment was just this: the idea that whatever you expected enlightenment to be—it wasn’t.

Whatever self-improvement people think they’re pursuing is nothing more than a variation of something they already are—it’s not a true transformation. What is necessary is a complete break from the “known.” When you think of being good, peaceful, loving, forgiving, etc…all you’re doing is projecting an idea of those qualities and conditioning your future behavior accordingly. You’re taking your idea of those qualities from some book or teacher or philosophy.

Krishnamurti urge those who truly wanted to change to inquire into the situation of their daily for themselves, without the crutch of authority. He urged those who came to hear him speak to observe their own thoughts and behaviors. Don’t try to change, he advised. That involves conflict, that involves time and a sequence of events that never breaks from the past, and is therefore no real change at all. You cannot “change” into something premeditated; that’s just an exchange of one “idea” of how you should be for another idea of how you should be. What you need to do is to break completely from the past, from the known. That is the only way to discover the unknown. And that’s precisely why people are so afraid to do such work. They are afraid of the unknown. Because the unknown is death. Any kind of real change requires a complete dying to yourself, to your thoughts, dreams, ambitions, beliefs, loves, hatreds, family, friends, country, job…your entire past self.

He said that when you’re doing or thinking something shitty, don’t try to discipline yourself, don’t force yourself to stop. Instead just watch yourself doing or thinking it that shitty thing. Even if you’re acting out that shitty thing, just keep watching, watch it like you’d watch a poisonous snake that had gotten loose in your room. Don’t take your eyes off it for a second. That’s what true meditation is—not sitting cross-legged in a room counting breaths awaiting Samadhi.

Just before he died, he issued a statement saying that he was authorizing no one to carry on his teaching. And that he shouldn’t be remembered as any kind of guru or demigod. “You’re on your own,” he said. “You always were. That’s what I was trying to tell you all along. What—you still don’t get it?”

He died in Ojai California on February 17, 1986. Of pancreatic cancer. At the age of ninety.