using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 55 We are a dynamic country, fast-paced, ever onward. Can we make sense of love and ambition, pain and longing? In the center of our speed, in the core of our forward move- ment, we are often confused and lonely. That’s why we have turned so full-heartedly to the memoir form. We have an intuition that it can save us. Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It’s not a diet to become skinny, but a relaxation into the fat of our lives. Often without realizing it, we are on a quest, a search for meaning. What does our time on this earth add up to? We hope for a linear method of writing. Do A, B, C, and voilà—your memoir is before you, sprung like a cake from a pan. But look at your life: A often doesn’t lead to B or C. And that’s what makes it compelling—how things worked out in the wrong places or were a disaster where they were supposed to bring happiness. Even if you managed to nar- row your life to one thin line—born, went to school, worked a job from nine to five, saved your money, ate a single lamb chop and baked potato on Saturday night—there were still dreams and nightmares, the gaping hole of death at the end, the sudden unmistakable crush on the woman with pale eyes who worked the register at the employee cafeteria. And because life is not linear, you want to approach writ- ing memoir sideways, using the deepest kind of thinking to sort through the layers; you want reflection to discover what the real connections are. A bit of brooding, pondering, contemplating, but not in a lost manner. I am asking you to make all this dynamic. Pen to paper gives muscle to your deliberations. The title Old Friend from Far Away comes from the Ana- lects by Confucius. We reach back in time to another coun- try. Isn’t that what memory is? To have an old friend visit from far away— what a delight! THE FOUR-LETTER WORD Let’s dare talk about love for a moment, shall we? Being in love is a loss of control. Suddenly your life is de- pendent on the eyebrow twitch of Joe Schmo. It’s terrible— it’s thrilling. Everyone wants it. No one says it but writing induces that state of love. The oven shimmers, the faucet radiates, you die into the mouth that only you see. Right there, sitting with your notebook on your lap, even the factory town you drove through heading north to Denver, the town you hated and prayed no flat tire, no traffic jam would hold you there, even that place while writing about that trip, that day, that year, you caress now. Your life is real. It has texture, detail. Suddenly it springs alive. Hardly moving, only the pen, hand, wrist, lower arm in a quiet stir, yet love is exuding from your every cell. You are like a great mountain, a buddha. You are yourself. Tell me about a breakfast you were once privileged to have. Eggs over easy? Grapefruit? One thin slice of toast? Not even that. You ate a pickle—and it never tasted so good. You vowed to eat pickles for breakfast for the rest of your life. Then what happened? Tell me. Be specific. Go. WILD AT HEART In the essay “Wild at Heart” in a book called The Poem that Changed America: “Howl” Fifty Years Later, Vivian Gornick writes: Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1926 to Louis and Naomi Ginsberg; the father was a published poet, a high school teacher, and a socialist; the mother, an enchanting free spirit, a passionate communist, and a woman who lost her mental stability in her thirties (ulti- mately she was placed in an institution and lobotomized). Allen and his brother grew up inside a chaotic mixture of striving respectability, left-wing bohemianism, and cer- tifiable madness in the living room. It all felt large to the complicated, oversensitive boy who, discovering that he lusted after boys, began to feel mad himself and, like his paranoid parents, threatened by, yet defiant of, the Amer- ica beyond the front door. None of this accounts for Allen Ginsberg; it only de- scribes the raw material that, when the time was right, would convert into a poetic vision of mythic proportion that merged brilliantly with its moment: the complicated aftermath of the Second World War. . . Let’s look at this. The first paragraph is a detailed list of the specifics of Allen Ginsberg’s early life. Yes, he was born in Newark; yes, yes, his father was what Gornick says he was and his mother is described aptly. It is true he was inclined to love boys when he was young. But then the stunning line: “None of this accounts for Allen Ginsberg.” Huh? I It has texture, detail. Suddenly it springs alive. MAR 52-57.indd 55 MAR 52-57.indd 55 12/19/07 2:14:35 PM 12/19/07 2:14:35 PM