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Lions Roar : January 2005
64 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 In the sense of being a show-off and selfish—that kind of ego—I feel a struggle with that, with trying to be less selfish. Artistically, I felt I made a breakthrough when I stopped writ- ing in the first person, which I did for about thirty years. All of a sudden, I used third person pronouns and “you.” “You” comes later, too, after the third person. I became less and less egotistical, less selfish and more able to consider other people. I think of ego like that, which I don’t think is the Buddhist sense of ego. I think in the Buddhist sense, proper selfhood involves the sense that all living beings are connected. I can feel this ring of connection, or I can see it as an electric grid in which we’re all connected to it and we are all life. I guess that is what “no self ” is. It’s just—all of us. How does your most recent book relate to your first book? Is The Fifth Book of Peace your fifth book of peace, and does that mean The Woman Warrior, which you wrote six books ago, was not a book of peace? No, I never thought about it that way, that the other books were not. The Woman Warrior was already struggling with the question, What good does war do? I put the Woman Warrior story in the middle of The Woman Warrior because I wanted to test that myth. I say something like, Any problems that we have, what good does it do to find this horse and ride off with a sword? I cannot solve any of my problems by using those techniques. Can you say something about future work? What might happen with your hero, Wittman Ah Sing—where do you think he’s going? Well, right now I have lots of beautiful blank notebooks, and when I have a thought or an idea or a word or an image, I find a notebook and I put it in. Each notebook has its own category. Right now I have eight of them and none of them has cohered into a story or poem yet. But I do have something about Wittman, who is now sixty years old and has heard of the Hindu idea that when a man reaches sixty, he can leave his wife. So at last he can have his big fantasy. He can leave Tanya and he can do it right because he’s decided that he’s going to follow Hinduism now. In the Hindu idea, when you’re sixty you could either have a new marriage ceremony or go on your way. You can follow your guru. You can follow your vision. So, he’s got to work this out with Tanya. Tanya’s going to kick his ass. Yeah. [Laughter] Because she’s just a little bit younger than he is, so how come she doesn’t get to decide? Maybe she gets to leave him. Is the artifact that the artist creates for the reader a kind of guided meditation? Well, I have thought of writing itself as a meditation, because one is sitting alone in a posture of receptivity, with instruments of reception right in front of you. You sit in such a posture that the muses can find you and inspire you. I do that. And then I receive something, which it’s up to me to put into form. If a “Buddha” is a highest-level teacher, and “dharma” is the col- lection of stories and instructions we may read or hear, what is a “sangha,” the community? I feel that to have a full life, everyone needs to have a commu- nity. It could be one’s family or at least one beloved one. Then there have to be friends, lifelong friends, or friends for life. I’ve always thought that, but just recently, meditating with Buddhists, I realized that sangha and community are not I have thought of writing as a meditation, because one is sitting alone in a posture of receptivity, with instruments of reception right in front of you. PHOTOBYGAILEVENARI