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Writing For Readers, Reading for Writers

by: Douglas Winspear

April 2007

Douglas Winspear is also a painter of Dreamscapes and photographer.

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Returning to Henry Miller, it was through his writings that I was introduced to the books of the Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti. He had this to say in The Books in My Life-

“What distinguishes Krishnamurti, even from the great teachers of the past, the masters and the exemplars, is his absolute nakedness. ... If he had a mission, it is to strip men of their illusions and delusions, to knock away the false supports of ideals, beliefs, fetishes, every kind of crutch, and thus render back to man the full majesty, the full potency of his humanity. He has often been referred to as "The World Teacher." If any man living merits the title, he does.”

The first of his books that I’d read was, Think on These Things. I would also recommend The Awakening of Intelligence. Not only did Miller quote J. Krishnamurti, but he had had this to say after returning from Europe to America:

“This world which is in the making fills me with dread… It is a world suited for monomaniacs obsessed with the idea of progress - but a false progress, a progress which stinks. It is a world cluttered with useless objects which men and women, in order to be exploited and degraded, are taught to regard as useful. The dreamer whose dreams are non-utilitarian has no place in this world. Whatever does not lend itself to being bought and sold, whether in the realm of things, ideas, principles, dreams, or hopes, is debarred. In this world the poet is anathema, the thinker a fool, the artist an escapist, the man of vision a criminal.”

But, it seems that Mark Twain had said something similar, back at the end of the nineteenth century:

"Our civilization is wonderful in certain spectacular and meretricious ways; wonderful in scientific marvels and inventive miracles; wonderful in material inflation, which it calls advancement, progress, and other pet names; wonderful in spying out the deep secrets of Nature and its vanquishment of her stubborn laws; wonderful in its financial and commercial achievements; wonderful in its hunger for money, and its indifference as to how it is acquired;..........."
     "It is a civilization that has destroyed the repose and simplicity of life; replaced its contentment, its poetry, its soft romance dreams and visions with the money-fever, sordid ideals, vulgar visions and the sleep which does not refresh; it has invented a thousand useless luxuries, and turned them into necessities; it has created a thousand vicious appetites and satisfies none of them; it has dethroned God and set up a shekel in His place." (Letters from the Earth.)

In Sexus, Henry wrote:

“We (Americans) take to dope, the dope which is worse by far than opium or hashish - I mean the newspapers, the radio, the movies. Real dope gives you the freedom to dream your own dreams; the American kind forces you to swallow the perverted dreams of men whose only ambition is to hold their job regardless of what they are bidden to do.”

Of course, one could find similar sentiments expressed in the writings of Henry David Thoreau, and even of Walt Whitman, Henry Miller’s favorite American poet. In the case of these writers, that disillusion had set in after American military adventures. For Whitman and Thoreau, it had been the Civil War, and for Twain the Spanish-American War. Somehow, most of the American writers that I’ve enjoyed reading had been in opposition to America’s military/industrial complex. I should add to the list, writers like Charles Bukowski, who’d been jailed briefly during WWII, for draft evasion, (or being a fan of Hitler, or because they’d mistaken him for his uncle, depending on the historical account), along with the Beats, like Jack Kerouac, author of The Dharma Bums and On the Road. Kerouac was popular for the Vietnam War generation, along with Terry Southern, who wrote the screenplay for the film, Dr. Stangelove, directed by Kubrick.

Lately I’ve been reading a book of short stories by the writer Terry Southern, called Red Dirt Marijuana. The title story, taking place in the countryside of East Texas was quite moving, contrasting with his New York hipster stories, of which the story Blood Of a Wig is a great little example of Southern’s macabre sense of humor. Another book that had been written during the sixties, Going to Meet the General, by Warren Miller seems to be out of print, although I’d recommend reading it.

The master of this genre, a type of American Magic Realism, was Thomas Pynchon, who’d written the book Vineland, an extraordinary novel taking place on the west coast during the Nixon era, dealing, in an entertaining, amusing, yet serious way with the encroaching technocratic police state and the destruction of the left and counterculture during the Nixon era.

Now that we’re on the subject of the corporate takeover of America which culminated with the election of the b movie actor twenty-five years ago, I’d like to suggest a couple of books which were published around 1970 and based upon interesting developments in the world of so-called alternative science. These two books are, The Secret Life of Plants, and Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, which, after the curtain dropped, has been re-published as Psychic Discoveries. These two books point to a deeper understanding of nature and the universe, which will be explored in the future when the present ruling corporate technocracy has run its self-destructive course. These books explore developments in the science of post-quantum physics and particularly in the case of Secret Life of Plants, the re-examination of our relationship to nature after the demise of the materialist scientific models from the so-called Age of Enlightenment, from Descartes to Darwin.

Returning to writers such as Dostoyevsky and Hamsun, I’d like to mention other books from that corner of Europe that I particularly appreciated. First I’d like to mention the person that had inspired Henry Miller to break with the rat race and have the courage to express his creative gift. And that was Emma Goldman, the anarchist. I’ve read her two volume autobiography, Living My Life, and recommend it, not only for its artistic merit, but as the personal testimony of an extraordinary individual, a free thinker in every sense of the word. Lately, I’d taken to reading the second volume, dealing with the period around the time of the First World War, when pacifists and anarchists were jailed, killed and deported. Her observations about Bolshevik Russia are incisive, since she’d been personally involved with many of the key players in that drama. Her description of going to the Kremlin to meet with the new Czar of Bolshevism, Lenin, was priceless.

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