Buddhism at Millennium's Edge - Seminar 3

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Copyright 1998 by Peter Matthiessen - Unedited Preview Cassette

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Good afternoon, everybody. Before we were speaking about the specificity of detail that's so important in good writing. And I mentioned various, you know, examples of that. And I thought I might make sure I understand our time constraints here. Yeah, I think I'll read you a couple of things. This is from a piece about, I'm very interested these days in cranes and tigers. I'm doing a book on that. Fifteen Crane Species of the World, and also eventually a book on long Asian pieces. One will be about Lake Baikal, and one will be about Mustang, and one will be about tigers. And I've had a chance to do quite a lot of research with


tigers and cranes, because both of these very beautiful and splendid life forms seem to have originated in Eastern Asia. So I've been going over there and trying to combine our trips. And I went back to the Siberian Tiger Project. Those of you who, you may have seen a wonderful Kurosawa film called Dersu Utsala. How many people have seen Dersu Utsala? Oh, my goodness, quite a lot. That's great. Well, as you know, the original book from which it came, which is a masterpiece in my view, is called Dersu the Trapper, and by V. K. Arsenyev, a young Russian geographer lieutenant, exploring this eastern part, very far eastern part of Siberia. If you see it on the map, it looks like a great claw of Siberia reaching down to touch North Korea and Algeria. And it's an extraordinary faunal area with, you know, bears and lynx and


wolf and salmon in the north and leopards and tropical flycatchers and tigers in the southern part, but all kind of intermingling in the zone in between. There's nothing quite like it in the world. And it's very beautiful. It has a climate more or less like here, although colder in the winter, quite a lot. But anyhow, I'm going back and forth to the Siberian tiger project that's there. And just briefly, the Siberian tiger and the Bengal are probably the only two races of tiger which will make it through the next 25 years. There are eight races altogether, and three are already gone, and at least two and perhaps three are on the brink of extinction. So they're one of the animals that we are most interested in saving. They're called by biologists umbrella species, because if you save them, you also save many others and a great deal of habitat. So I'm very interested in the tigers and the cranes and the whales, all for the first, because


they're magnificent, and second, because they are very important in terms of biodiversity and saving things. I went to Siberia for the tigers the first time, and there was also a crane expedition up the Amur River. It was wonderful. And at that time, I got there a day after they had trapped this beautiful young tigress. They called her Lina. That was her nickname. She was only the second one trapped by the project, and I got there the next day. And we trekked through the woods because she'd been trapped and, you know, tranquilized with a rifle-fired dart. And then they took blood samples and weighed her and so forth just to check her health, and then she was released. But she didn't move very far. She only moved about a mile up this little creek, and then she was still for about three or four days, and they were very worried. And we didn't really know whether she was pregnant and because of the


shock of the capture. Even though the capture is very well done now compared to the old days, it's a kind of a clamp on the forward part of the paw. It doesn't even break the skin. But as the creature struggles, it tightens, so she really cannot get out of it. And there's a lot of emotional stress for the tiger, of course, involved in that. It's not desirable. They've sort of perfected the tranquilizing treatment now, and they lose very, very few animals, but occasionally they do lose one. But she seemed not to be recovering from this drug or this experience. She just was not moving. And she had the radio collar on, so they could tell that when she's lying still or standing still. It goes like, meep, meep, meep. Maybe not even that fast. So we went up to this beautiful woodland. And as you know, this woodland is a sort of temperate, sort of boreal woodland. And it's very much like our woodland here. The same genus,


the same genera. You know, oaks and elms and various evergreens and maples and everything. Pretty much the way we have across the temperate regions here. But the species are different. So you seem to be going to this kind of dream wood, which is almost like the wood you know at home, but not quite. And it's like a childhood tale wood, you know. And it's full of wonderful flowers and ferns. And you hear thrushes going, but they're not our thrushes. And it's that sort of situation. And we snuck up to within about 100 yards of this tigress. I'm just going to read you a couple of passages here. And I just want you, not reading this to really to flog my work, but probably I am way down deep. But I want you to see if you notice, what are the details, the kind of details we were talking about earlier, the ones that really make it


come up, if they do, and they may not. But you can be the judge of that. The researchers told me that Lena's signals were still coming from a wooded drainage area known as the Kuna Laika in the southern part of the reserve, very close to the site of her capture two days earlier. Immobilization drug stuff. The next day, in the hope of monitoring the tiger's signals more precisely, we trekked into the forest following a creek upstream for several miles through hardwood taiga of oak and birch, cottonwood and maple, poplar, ash, and elm with scattered pines. On a dim old trail, all but closed by ferns were big raw pug marks or footprints. Perhaps these had been made by Lena, perhaps not. Farther on were deep-scratched trees where a tiger had sharpened its claws. Eventually we arrived at the site where Lena had been snared, a large cottonwood where the ground was torn up all around, and a strong sapling as thick as a man's


arm that had been snapped off clean. Lena's captor spoke with quiet awe of the terrible roars and lunging ferocity with which this young female had made three swift charges on the cable of her snare before she could be tranquilized. Since then she had moved less than a mile upstream. Using some rough triangulation to fix her precise location, we paused at a point estimated by Dr. Hornacher to be approximately a hundred yards from the tiger. Over the receiver came more rapid beepings, beep, [...] more or less corresponding to my heart at that moment, because you know this tiger is up and you know she sees you and she's not that far away and she's not, well, you see, over the receiver came rapid beeps indicating that Lena was up and moving and had us located too. She did not roar, but nobody believed that she was in good temper. I envisioned her with her head raised and alert, her small round white-spotted


ears twitching in the greenish sunlight. In the fragmented sun shafts of the woodland, the head would be camouflaged by bold black calligraphic lines inscribed on frost-bright brows and beard and ruff in a beautiful and terrifying mask of snow and fire. Well, a few days later we had to go even closer because she still hadn't moved and when I left there, in fact, she hadn't moved and they were really seriously worried and we really tried to get her up and going. That's how close we pushed it that second day and actually a day or two after I left she did get up and she was fine. She went back onto her hunting circuit and this was June and in October she had a litter and she had four kits. They could tell that by the little prints where they tracked her and so this was very, very exciting for this project because this was the first continuity of generations that they had had and so for study purposes it was critical to the biologists. Well, in November


they heard the beep slow down again and it was static again and one of them drove out to this part of this lumber road, which is the only road out there. It's a lumber road, in fact, the only vehicles or lumber vehicles and there the collar was cut through and thrown off into the snowdrifts and she had clearly been poached. And while they were talking about it and consulting how to do, somebody over somebody else's shoulder saw this cub. Well, by this time the cubs are bobcat sizes up like this and he was struggling up the hill through this drift and they knew those cubs are not the word I want, only tiger cubs. Yeah, cubs. Bear cubs, tiger cubs. The next day they came and they made a kind of a surround and they caught all four of them. They all got clawed up apparently. These little guys are tough as they can be. Well, two died very shortly out of genetic faults and this is probably because of inbreeding. When you get a low population like this


they are prone to that sort of thing. It was not apparently because of the poaching episode and none of them were hurt in any way. And the other two are here now. I think they're in Indianapolis in the Minneapolis Zoo. I went to see the Indianapolis one. She's also called Lena and she's very beautiful. So if you go to Indianapolis, it's a nice zoo anyway, if you like zoos. They asked me to come back and see one in the wintertime and I didn't get back for about four years. By that time another young tigress had moved into Lena's range and Lena's range meant crossing this logging road and there's not a truck out there that hasn't got a rifle ready to go. These tigers are worth about 15,000 bucks a piece to the Chinese medicine trade and you can hardly blame people in today's Russia for shooting them. They're really looking for elk. We had elk every suppertime while we were out there and that's the prey base for the tiger. So one way or another the tiger's getting kind of squeezed out here.


So I saw the, oh here we are, 13 tigers have been collared and released since 1992. That's when I first went. And were monitored, being monitored bi-weekly from the air and one morning as the plane used in project surveys crisscrossed an open valley and made a slow grinding turn over a logging road, I saw the first wild tiger of my life bounding swiftly across open ground through two feet of powder snow and whisking out of sight beneath a great lone spruce. Alerted the pilot circled the spruce tighter and tighter. I should tell you this airplane was like a huge, it was built in Poland about 1908. It was just, it was really an old crate. There was absolutely nothing in there to hang on to, no seats, nothing. Just a big old tin tube with a big motor up front and two wings and a pilot who was perfectly suited to this craft, a crate. Snaggletooth and wild and unshaven and even his hat was


cocked over on one side and he, and you know we had to go up to about 3,000 feet to, in order to receive the tiger, the signal from the collar. But as soon as he had that signal he was like a pointer or something. And we were grinding around these hills, you couldn't believe it, you know, it just was terrifying. And we didn't see the tigers at first, even in the winter sometimes they're very hard to see. So we saw this one though and there it was but I almost only saw it kind of in silhouette and it was bounding across the sun, just this little tiger emblem, emblematic tiger, this very low winter sun over the Japanese Sea of Japan, you know, it was very, very beautiful. And, but then it got into this pine grove and I glimpsed a flash of bold color in the shining greens, then the sunlit burnt orange and golden brown of a splendid creature moving purposely but without haste over the snow, sheltered by the trees it did not bound or hide but advanced unhurriedly down a sparkling


white corridor between the pines. Well while I was there, and I'll read this last little thing, I had another experience that was really, even though that was my first tiger and I've been to India a few times and I've never seen a tiger, the tigers and snow leopards, you don't see them. But something happened and I, and you can tell, and I tried to capture this experience of what it was that was so awesome about this, even though it seems not to have been so significant. This new tigress, Katya, it was rather eerie, she'd moved into the same territory and she too apparently had a cub and she too was crossing the road and we were terribly scared that she was going to get shot. And she seemed to be going over into the same Kunalaika Valley, there were a lot of elk in there and that's where she was hunting and then she, we could, we found her tracks, we found her tracks crossing the road not 50 yards from where they, where Lina had been shot. And this is on a long empty road, so empty and so vast, you know, the common, just the coincidence


that these two tigers two years apart would have the identical range was kind of spooky. The following day in the afternoon we stopped again on the ice-bound empty road where Lina's collar had been found, not to commemorate Lina but because Katya and so forth. She came down from the ridge and crossed the road to make her way to the elk bottoms. Her radio signal, a pulsing beat like the hard chipping of a bird or like the rubbing of two stones together, was loud and fast but that might mean only that her collar was rubbing on a frozen kill. To verify the existence of the litter we wanted to check the tiger tracks around the kill. We couldn't do that while she was present, we didn't want to crowd her and we didn't want her to crowd us and it might not have been good for the cub and so forth, so we sensibly abstained from going down. But then the radio collar, when we came back one afternoon she was up on the ridge


on the other side of the road, so we decided to make a descent quickly to the kill and see what we could find in the way of evidence down there. We knew there was a kill there because we could see ravens going to it. The snow in the woods was too, this is the one, just listen and I'm just going to ask for a response after this is over, just to see if you pick out the details that bring this alive for you. I'm just curious to know what works here and what doesn't, if it brings it alive for you. If it doesn't bring it alive for you, please say that as well. The snow in the woods was two feet deep and fluffy with dry cold. In the deep frost a pea green moth cocoon suspended from a twig was the solitary note of green. In the bottoms we followed the smooth white surface of the Kuna Laika, which in this place might have been 40 feet across. On the river ice the snow left by the wind was light and Katia's pug marks were sharp as if


incised in steel. In one place the tigress had lain down and stretched, leaving a ghostly outline, even to the great head and long tail, the leg crook and the big floppy paws, so clear that one could almost see the stripes. Her ambush site was a river island of small bent black saplings against snow, uncanny camouflage for the white accents of her mask and her vertical black markings. Not far away the heart-shaped prints of a young elk broke the ice glaze on the oxbow off the river, and from the snow evidence we were able to reconstruct precisely what had happened. The four prints came together where the elk stopped short, in a place of elms and cottonwood some 70 yards from the crouched tiger. Perhaps the elk listened, sniffed, and trembled for a moment, big dark eyes round. From this taut point it suddenly sprang sideways, attaining the far


bank in one scared bound, as the tigress launched herself from hiding and cut across her quarry's route in ten-foot leaps, leaving silent round explosions in the snow. Shooting through the dark riverine trees like a tongue of fire, she overtook the big deer and hauled it down in a wood of birch and poplar, about 37 yards, we walked it off, from where she'd started. Striking from behind, she'd grasp the throat to suffocate her prey, for there was little blood, only the arcs of a bony elk leg sweeping weakly on the surface of the snow, and a last sad spasm of the creature's urine. With logging trucks howling past, perhaps 60 yards up the steep slope, this wood was much too close to the road. The tigress had dragged the elk some 90 yards farther back, across the oxbow and the swamp island to the western bank, where she had lain in hiding. I should interrupt here to say the day before this we'd gone up to a village in the mountains that Arsenyev talked about in Dersu. Be sure to get Dersu, you'll love it.


And we were talking to them about an extension of this biosphere reserve that's there, but they had just lost somebody to a tiger, Sergei Denisov, and we were shown exactly how that tigress took him and kind of why, what had happened up there. And so they were still a little bit in shock, but they still said they wanted their tigers there, that the tiger would not be the same without them. And this is a countryside where there are so few people. We drove all the way from this little fishing port of Terni on the coast up into the mountains. We drove, I don't know, four hours, I guess. We never saw another vehicle except for the logging trucks that are ripping off all the Korean pine for Japanese companies. And no houses. There are very few people in this landscape. So even one person is a measurable fraction of the human population. So Sergei Denisov was a serious loss. He was a sable trapper. Anybody see Gorky Park? If you did, you remember those beautiful sables going across the snow, the most valuable fur in the world.


They're kind of a big weasel. Okay. And seeing this tigress drag this elk, it was a young elk, but even a young elk is massive, as you know, a big one. The tigress had dragged the elk some ninety yards further back. And seeing the smooth drag mark with its spots of blood, one unwillingly imagined the similar tract left by the body of poor Sergei Denisov, who must have been close to the size and weight of this young carcass, with the same astonishment in his wide eyes. Of the elk, all that remained were the legs, the head, and the stiff, coarse hide, which are usually abandoned by the tiger. There was no meat left on the twisted carcass. The eyes were frozen to blue ice, too hard even for ravens. Um, what detail, or detail, who'd like to say? Anybody? Have you forgotten the whole thing


already? Explosions of snow. Yeah, they were, they were perfectly round, like potholes in the snow was, you know, was extraordinary. A body impression. On the ice. I think that was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, and yet you couldn't photograph it. It was so light and so slight and so gossamer. It was kind of a Zen teaching all by itself of the perishability, except it was just so clear, so precise, and then the next snow would, it would disappear, you know. Yeah. The elk in its motions. The circles on the snow. Good, good. These are all great. Anybody else? The what? That's, this is, I want to compliment you on two things. Those are the four details I


would have chosen myself. Those are the things, those little inconsequential seeming things that really, I think, this is what you're looking for. That I, I was very struck by that green pod, that cocoon, because it was the only thing, the only hope of future. The whole landscape locked in by ice and cold, you know, kind of thing, and these black silhouetted saplings, but this one green pod of incipient life, you know, waiting for spring to come over. Yeah, that's great. I also want to congratulate you on your sitting. This was, that was a very strong sitting that last time, and many of you have probably not sat before, so I compliment you on your, on your stillness. Even my own group at home is sometimes more restless than that. Yeah, I'm not going to read anymore. No good doing that. I want you to do, now we're talking about, and we have been in the previous period,


we've been talking about this immediacy of effect, and, and how often you can't find words for it. It's a real struggle, because it's overwhelming the way Antarctica was. But sometimes it's not that, it's just you, it's that we have, our minds are so clouded by ideas. You know, we always, we have all our symbols, for example, of death. I talk quite a lot about death in my own group, because a lot of people are interested in that, and there are people who will shy from that and say, oh, you're so negative, you know, you're so morbid. Well, I don't know, I think death is sort of ever-present with us. Castaneda pointed that out, death is your best friend, is your best advisor, makes you appreciate your life. And so I had this, I gave a Dharma talk, on, on death and dealing with it from a Zen point of view, and how we, you know, how we think we see it and handle it, and maybe we'll be better prepared than most, maybe we won't, we may be


whining like dogs at the end, you know, no, no, not me, no, no. But to show you how incipient it is, remember what every man said, I think I quoted that as an epigraph in a book, death thou comest when I had the least mind. We all know people who are suddenly, just suddenly overtaken by death, they have an incurable cancer or other disease that suddenly comes on and they're gone in a very short time, or an accident can happen very, very quickly in life. So we should have this kind of awareness and try to understand what it is, you know, in our existence and how ephemeral it is, and also how glorious everything. So I want you to turn to the person next to you first, and whether you know them or not, and don't be shy, put your hands up on their cheekbones. So just, just, just feel that, feel those cheekbones, okay? Now really have a sense of that,


look into each other's eyes, look into each other's eyes, and just hold that for a minute as if you were in meditation. And now with your little fingers, if you can, or however you can do it, and the other person can help you a little, lift their upper lip. Don't, don't be shy, do it, do it. Maybe the person, like a wolf, can curl her or his own upper lip. All right, now holding the cheekbones, and there you are, and now you can put your hands down. I'm hearing a lot of nervous laughter.


No, but I mean that, we think of these, we have these symbols about death, and the skull is probably the leading one. And we don't really think that the skull is already there, but there it is, the teeth and the bones, that skull is right there. The same skull somebody's going to find in some digging sometime, the very same one of your loved one, or your friend, or your Dharma brother, or whoever it may be. And that skull is with us always, so is the skeleton, of course. But it's a good reminder, you know, how close everything is. Well, if you were to describe that in writing, you see, that's the immediacy. We can talk about skulls, we can philosophize about death, so we're blue in the face, we can say, death thou comest when I had thee least in mind, but that's not nearly as powerful as that. That's the thing itself, that's what we call Tata, it's the suchness, the thing itself.


You don't have to say skull, you don't have to say hollow eyes, and morgues, and cemeteries, and stuff, it's just the thing itself, it is right there with us. Okay. When you are writing, I got you, this is a rather melodramatic thing to choose, but when you are writing, that's kind of what you want. You want to, if you possibly can, get clear impressions of things, see, see, see, hear, hear, hear, hear that scrap of dialogue. Get that smell, smells are very difficult to describe, but smells you know, we all know, we have certain smells in our life that come from childhood or wherever, and you have one little sniff and a whole world comes back. Think what that smell carries, either good or bad, doesn't matter. Smell is enormously, we don't even know what smell is. They talk about pheromones, these little particles in the air and stuff, but it's very hard and it lasts forever. You know, certain smells seem to stay right in your sinus or someplace and they're very easily


evoked. It's very mysterious. We don't even understand actually what electricity is. And I'm delighted, I'm delighted that there are things we don't understand. Do you remember Rilke's great quote about the fear we have of anything, anything we don't have vocabulary for we call supernatural. And so we close our minds to enormous mystery. Last night I was talking about the power in Auschwitz. You all know Michael O'Keefe, he's made this wonderful film about Auschwitz. Where was I? I got derailed introducing you. So you really do, you kind of know this. And if you read prose, it's full of abstractions and cliches, what we call dead prose, dead thought, dead whatever. There's no life in it, no guts, no spirit. And by that I don't mean it has to be overwrought or purple. You have to beware on the


other side. Usually purple prose, so-called, is full of cliches. There's no freshness in it at all. If you want to read a truly fresh passage in this most unlikely place, it's also, I think it's as good a description of mystical experience as you can find anywhere. And I'm positive that the man who wrote it had no idea what he was describing. He'd experienced it, but he probably didn't know what mystical experience was. And that is in a very, very well-known children's book, The Wind and the Willows. You all know The Wind and the Willows? If you don't know it, rush to your friendly neighborhood bookstore. There's a chapter in there called The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It's simply a description of dawn in this way, and it is pure opening up. It's opening up to the universe. It's just absolutely extraordinary. And you do run across these things in literature, where the person really knew nothing about mystical experience, and yet this thing happens. Usually they suppress it. You know Florence, what's her name down in Santa Barbara?


Florence Courtois. Yeah, right. Flora, Flora Courtois, wonderful lady. She lives in Santa Barbara now, I guess. And I went to see her one time. She had, as many people have, she had an opening at the age of about, oh, 17. And she tried to tell people about it, and everybody naturally thought she was crazy and told her so. And they just scared her off, and she just suppressed it. And then years later, she heard about Yasutani Roshi coming in. It was in Los Angeles. She thought maybe he has a clue, and he just, of course, laughed. He said, yes, this is what we call an opening. Many people have it outside of Zen practice. It's not that uncommon. I was once working with, when I was working with American Indian people, I was way up on Blue Creek, up in the headwaters of that, called the Dr. Rock. It's a holy rock up there, northern California. And I was with a very rough logger. I mean, this guy, he was part Indian and part white and whatever he was. He was extremely rough, but a really nice guy.


And we were alone up on this ridge above Blue Creek where it went down into the Klamath River. And the sea fog had come up through the delta and then had worked its way around a big headland up there, and then was going back up Blue Creek. It was a sinuous sea fog, and it was thousands of feet below us, and it was truly beautiful. And this guy was staring at it, and he told me then that he'd seen this once before, like that. And then he told me how he'd felt. And this was a guy with about a hundred-word vocabulary. He really was almost inarticulate, but he then went ahead to describe mystical experience. And he was so scared and looking at me to see if I might laugh. He would beat me senseless if I'd cracked a smile at a certain juncture there. And he just said everything was perfect and complete, just as it was, you know. He didn't quite say it that, that's a little bit more like our parlance, which is a cliche too.


But it was unmistakable what he was describing. And his eyes were misting up as he said it, which is diagnostic too. And then I did laugh. And he said, what are you laughing at? And I said, well, you just, you described mystical experience, and this is what it is, and it's wonderful, and I congratulate you. The poor guy was so relieved, and he told me he always thought he was crazy to have had this experience. And I kind of submit to you, I think many people who come to this practice have had a glimpse of that. A little light off the pines, something happens, and something goes past, and you have that little glimpse of the lost paradise or something, and you know something very important is out there that you should be seeing, but you're not. You know, you know there's another way of seeing, another realm, and you have that, that glimpse. I don't know how I got off on that. I'm obviously punchy and rambling here. I'm sorry. So I've talked enough for the time being. I'll talk again


when I have a captive audience. Are there any questions? That was in the New Yorker. It's called Tiger in the Snow. They usually tack these terrible titles on. But we, oh yeah. January 6th, 1997, last year. Yeah, I think storytelling is an extraordinarily important, the important part of our, the human culture, not our culture. All people tell wonderful stories, and they have myth and everything. One thing that interested me about the Watson story, in other words, my trilogy, I don't want to


keep blowing that up, but still, what's happening down in southwest Florida right now, even though this man was killed 87 years ago, they are still talking about it. And you see the legend of Mr. Watson, who supposedly killed 55 people. He didn't. But you see that legend gradually turning into myth, and the two sides that were against each other that day, and one side says they shot in self-defense, they killed him because he raised his gun, and the other side say, no, you people ambushed him, you were set to kill him when he came in on his boat to this little island. And this is still being debated. And I like to watch that transition of story into legend and myth is really wonderful. But all cultures have this, and all the myths we know, I think, in traditional peoples were originally stories that gradually over the years in the telling became fixed, you know, fixed in the culture. And for some reason, they're enormously important. I knew a man, these people, these Stone Age people we work with in New Guinea. He was a terrible coward on the battlefield. He had


all kinds of moral defects that were quite noticeable at once. But he knew the stories, and he was absolutely treasured in the culture for that reason. He was the only one that knew all the stories. He was very smart. They forgave him everything for that. You know, certainly the Navajo people, they tell stories only in winter. You're not supposed to tell stories in the summer. In the summer, there's plenty to do. There's hunting and your gardens and your work or whatever. So you save stories for winter when people really need them, especially in the northern tribes, Inuit and places like that. Stories are very, very precious. The tale-tellers are always precious. And they have been throughout history. Even, you know, we haven't been writing very long, but the tale-telling has been going on forever. And that's why I think it's so important for writers. I don't mean you can't do wonderful little sketches. Because even somebody like Ray Carver, he wrote these little, they weren't little. They weren't because he picked the right details. And even though they were extremely spare, there was a whole story unraveling behind


this selection of details. So he's a real master. But the Carver imitators, they're pretty thin stuff. You know, really they are. And they're not really telling stories. And I think most of those kind of things will blow away in the future, like old dry leaves, you know. But storytelling for me in writing is very important. Now, I know it's out of fashion. That's considered old-fashioned. I'm kind of an old-fashioned guy myself now. I'm getting kind of, you know, along there. But maybe it's my prejudice, but I don't think so. I don't think so. I think the storytelling is going to come back in the novel. I think it's very, very important. I think people who don't tell stories, they're at risk of vanishing forever, except in their own little group. But I'll leave that prejudice aside. Next question. No question. Oh, here. Since you come from a whaling family, do you know lots of sea shanties, sea stories in song? In which? Because you come from a whaling family. Oh, yes. Storytelling is great.


Do you know lots of the sea songs, sea shanties? In Danish? Yeah. I'll tell you a little song in Danish if you want. My forebear, the first Peter Matheson, was a whaler. But then he got into Burak. He was a smart fellow. Probably not very honest, but he did quite well for himself. And even for a while, he was the mayor of Copenhagen in an illicit government that took over Mad King Christian's government and threw him out. And these guys were all beheaded and drawn and quartered, except for Peter Matheson, who sneaked away and later became a director of the Royal Greenland Whaling and Sealing Company. He's still hated in Copenhagen because he got away with murder. Not only did he get away, but he somehow arranged things for himself that he got an annual stipend from the city, from thenceforward. Well, I don't know if he is the same one. There's a very famous Danish poem, and it shows a really stupid looking guy in a sort of a derby hat. He's riding a pig.


The pig is going out on the thin ice and falling through. I don't speak Danish, but this is approximately what it sounds like. Anybody who does speak Danish here can correct me. I think it's on the ice. This is a very well-known poem. And that's the only Danish chandy I know. I do know a few years ago, I went to this little island called Foer. There's only one Matheson left there, and he's a rather decrepit figure. But there were a lot of cousins and things, and they showed me. And there was a cathedral there that my great, great forebear. He was a great whaler, even by their standards, he really was. And he was called Lucky Mathias, Matheson, son of Mathias, you know, Mathiason in their pronunciation.


And there was an old woman hanging around this cathedral that he and his brother had kind of contributed chandeliers to or done something to, and they were whatever. And we said, I had a, she spoke sort of Frisian and German, and Frisian has quite a lot of English words in it, too. And they're also considered to be extremely stupid people. There are jokes about Frisians up and down the coast. Anyway, we asked her, do people still remember Lucky Mathias, who really died at the end of the 17th century? Yes, and we hate him. How's that? Wow. Talk about tradition. Yeah, I'm sorry, I'm rambling. And could you talk a little bit about how teaching, sort of intersection of writing and teaching


works for you, and what one brings to the other? Well, I do, I do, I do. And I have my own Zen group, and I teach elsewhere, too, a little bit, as, for example, today, last night, a little bit. But I really am essentially a writer, you know? And I didn't even want to teach very much. My teacher, my former teacher, no, he's still my teacher, Tetsugan Oshi, he wanted me to teach. But now, he's a contrary devil, you know? You can never count on him to say the same thing twice in a row. And I told him not long ago, I said, listen, you know, I wonder about running a Zen group. I give it a lot of time. I think, again, if you do that, you've got to do it. But I spend a terrible amount


of time with Zen students, and I love these people, and I'm very glad to do it. But I'm also running out of energy. I'm trying to do a great many different things at once. And I've told him, I said, you know, I really would like to go back to writing, if I write about, you know, write about Buddhism again, or something. And I'm gradually moving my group over to my senior monk. So that is, that'll happen. But it's still a few years. And then Tetsugan immediately said, you should be writing. He said, you should not be running a sitting group. I said, you're the guy that got me into this. You know, and I feel that more and more. So I don't know. There is a conflict there, no question about it. And also there's a conflict, as somebody asked earlier, you know, in a way, today, no matter how I approach it, who am I talking about? I'm talking about number one. I'm telling stories that reflect more or less well on myself,


or on my work. And people, often when I give a talk in public, I feel, even if it's going very well, I feel a big down afterwards. I feel as if I've been eating nothing but the icing on the cake. There's something unhealthy about it, you know. And even, you know, in a way, on the other hand, it's very good practice. It throws my own ego up into my face all the time. I have to deal with that. Whether it works or not, I don't quite know. But there's no question it's a conflict, yeah. Yes. Does that answer your question? Okay. Could you differentiate story and plot, and then say something about both? Yeah. Story, it is hard, it's hard to distinguish superficially between story and plot. Story is really a kind of a, it's a tale involving, there's a reality to it. It's


shared experience. It's a story that illustrates something for us. It's a story that moves us. Plot is simply the plot line, wrapping things around so it comes out neatly or not neatly, whatever. But it's a structural thing. I think heavily plotted books are really like, for me, kind of like non-fiction. It's an art. It's not art, but it's an art that you learn. It's like detective stories, stuff like that. They're very, very carefully plotted, often brilliantly plotted, you know, brilliantly plotted. But that's what you're reading. The plot is what keeps you in the book. See how he works out this puzzle. It's like reading about a puzzle. And no matter how much skill he brings to it or she brings to it, finally, those characters, even if they are given all the wonderful, lively characteristics and all sorts of quirks, they don't quite, they aren't deeply felt by the writer. They are simply constructions, sometimes artful constructions so that you can hardly tell them from a live, organic character.


I've just finished a book that somebody thrust at me and I thought, where the hell has this writer been? This marvelous stuff about World War I and a very, very powerful love affair interest. And my brother, I guess I was talking to, he'd read it. And I said, I can't make up my mind whether this is really good or just enormously skillful. Well, at the end of the book, it really unraveled. It was plotted and the plot came roaring out. And you simply, it was very neat. I saw the construction, but suddenly all the staging showed, all the whole thing. But the writing is absolutely beautiful. It's really artful writing. But in my view, this book is not a great art. It could pass for it, for an awful lot of it. It's wonderful. It's called Birdsong. Anybody know Birdsong? Yeah. And sometimes a book like that is confusing. You don't know quite what category to put it in because it's so skillful and so well, written. This man, Patrick O'Brien, who writes sea tales, a lot of people like those. They're


very, very well done. But the characters really are beautiful constructions. And it's not what interests O'Brien, nor is it what interested the author of Birdsong. I think he's interested in how this thing is made and how it affects. And I'm sure he's interested in his reader more than he is in his own clarity. But that's opinion. And I'm sure I would get an argument with virtually every critic alive on all these things. Again, don't trust my, that's the way I see it, the story and plot, really. It's really the characters are probably the key thing. Are these real people that grow out of the author, including the people of the other sex, or are they very skillful constructions? I'm going to paste in a little of this here and a little sex there and maybe a little bit of violence here. And we need a little so-and-so here. That's carpentry. That's not the way a novel should go or be.


Could you say something about the cultivation of that authenticity that you're talking about instead of relying on plot? How do you cultivate that kind of truthfulness or inspiration when it seems like it's essentially a non-intellectual exercise? I think it's true. I think when you begin, you have certain ideas for the characters. You have this person or that person. But if they're truly, fully imagined, you have to grow into them. This character has to, in some way, take you over. You have to become that person. In this trilogy, for example, Mr. Watson, Mr. Watson is very difficult to write about because he's apparently a killer, a sociopath, who behaves more or less normally most of the time and is a very able, attractive person, good-looking. How do I get into this mind? How do I understand why he comes into this island where he's killed knowing that those men must be waiting for him? What is in his head? How did this happen and this happen? There's so many kind of mysteries. I can't solve


that until I'm really in him. Just as you can't—I did a book in Caymanian dialect, and you can't really write that dialect, I don't believe, until you can speak it yourself. You have to learn how to speak it. Then it comes naturally. But if you're trying to remember, how do they say this? Even if you're wrong, even if you're just simulating it, if it's felt this way, you have to know how to do it. Has anybody got a copy of Lost Man's River here? I know there are a few around. Anybody have one in the room? Yeah. Lost Man's River. Yeah. Here's one. Here's one. I see one lifted up. Let me just—now, you may not think this is as funny. I happen to have a predilection, for backcountry, rural, black humor. This is a little passage by a man named Speck Daniels,


who's a perfectly terrible guy. He's a gator poacher. He smuggles drugs. He's into everything. He's cruel, vicious, drunk. I don't know what, but he's funny, I think. Let's see if I can remember where it is. Oh, yeah. He's talking about—I'm always banging the environmental drum. A very, very rare animal in southwest Florida is the American crocodile, which, as you know, is a little bigger than the alligator and quite a lot more dangerous, potentially, at least. And—but for a time, there were enough of them around, so you saw them in zoos and stuff. And there's actually, if you ever go to Sanibel Island, there's a very big one in the Ding Darling Bird Reserve there that's come in. It's rather north of its range, but for some reason, it's wandered in there. And so, this guy is talking about—and he poaches crocodiles, alligators, everything that


moves. At this time in his life, he's selling crocodiles to zoos and stuff. One time, a fellow from St. Augustine had him a zoo. He paid me to hunt him up some crocs. Sure enough, he shows up at my house at Flamingo, got my crocodiles. I said, sure thing, I got 16 right out back. Only thing, all he had out front was a pink Cadillac. What the hell you aim to haul him in, I says? Well, crocodile car, that's her you're looking at. Why, hell, I says, I got me a croc back here that goes 12 feet, till that whole limousine. 12 feet, he hollers. I want that one now. So we jump on that croc and wrassle him around, roll him up into a ball, get him humped some way into the trunk. And that old tail whacked that Cadillac a lick that rung out like a dang mule in a tin stall. I fling the smaller ones in the back seat. They hit that Velveteen just a snapping and a crapping. And this croc, fancier don't mind one little bit, take off for St. Augustine, bump


in the ground with a load of crocs he's got in there. Left a big old ugly cloud of smoke right in my yard. Next time he showed up, he bought him a hen crocodile. That's what they call a female crocodile. He bought him a hen crocodile. Had a big hump on her shoulders, big as a coconut. Said, that one don't look so good, my friend. I'll give you 10 down and 25 on top if she goes two weeks. So he sent a letter with no money in it. Notified me she had upped and died. Well, the next year I was passing through St. Augustine, dropped in to see him. And there she was, my humped up crocodile, star of the show. So I says, my, my, that sure is a pretty little hen you got in there. Well, you fellas know something. Darn it all if I ain't went and hurt his feelings. Cause he hollers out, no, no, no. That ain't your pretty little hen. Ain't her at all. Speck nodded some more. And that's the way we left it. Cause she didn't have no pedigree or nothing. He shook his head over life's vicissitudes. That fella sure had


him a good head for the croc business is what it was. That's how you get you one of them Cadillacs, I reckon. Well, I love that kind of stuff. But I couldn't write it if I couldn't, and I can, I do. If I go down there and I hear a few sentences of that stuff, I'm talking the same way they are. I'm kind of like a chameleon. It's awful. If I go to England, I have a sort of British accent, too. But you do have to learn that language. And if you don't think you know it, don't write dialect. Cause you'll just infuriate your reader. Most of them hate dialect, even if it's well done. They hate it. Fort Tortuga got a lot of flack for dialogue. People don't even like to read Huck Finn. One of two great American masterpieces are Huck Finn and Moby Dick. But Huck Finn, great, great book, and a lot of people won't read it just because of the dialect. Probably they'll have to change all that. The PC groups will take over,


and they'll have to put all Jim's speech back into straight Harvard English or something. Well, your own dialect, how about a passage from Fort Tortuga? Oh, yeah. No, I haven't. Well, this is different. This is completely different. Caymanian dialect is really Chaucerian. It's old Chaucerian English, and the rhythms are completely different. These people, there's a lot of them. There's a lot of black in them, but there's some Indian. There's a little bit of English. There's a little bit of, well, who knows what. And they're very mixed in color and in background, but they all have this sort of ancient English. You know what I'm going to do, Norman? I'm going to not do that. I'm in the swamp mood. And also, I haven't done it for so long. One time, I had a reading with Truman Capote, and Capote had that old chestnut that he always did.


It was called A Crispin Story, and it was so cinematic, you can't believe it. Truman, and I had to follow that act. And I read from Fort Tortuga, and I had to have about six glasses of wine to get cranked up for it, and I let fly. I risked everything, and somehow it came out right. It was like remembering a language at all, but sometimes it doesn't, and it's very hard to mix it up with this one, so I'm going to cop out. Anybody else? Yeah? I'm wondering if you could maybe talk about your influences a little bit. It's hard to, I don't know what I'm after, but I think of Fortortuga as having been written out of a certain experimental reach that was occurring when you wrote it in that decade. And if you want to talk about, you know, writers who influenced you, or grand theories. This may be really, this question I get asked kind of a lot,


and it always makes me slightly uncomfortable because my response seems arrogant. I mean, I was a terrific reader as a kid. I read everything. I was down in the library all the time. I can remember reading books, like Norman, when writers would tap into some little truth that everybody recognized. And, oh, ladies of that, or did I say that? How true, how true, you know? That, I mean, that goes, that's how far I am. Yellow slips and cards and all that stuff. And I read certainly all of Dostoevsky. I read all of Conrad, and I think those two, if I had to say what my influence would be, it'd be those two writers. But I don't see it in my writing, and I don't think, as far as I can see, is it detectable. Not that my writing is so original. It's just writing. But I don't see, some people you can clearly see, Faulkner or Hemingway or whoever it may be. And it just may be that I don't know how much I've stolen, and it's all blurred together. But I don't know, really, who influenced me. Yeah.


Rick. Yeah. Well, there's Lady Murasaki, the horse, and yeah. Lady Murasaki is, it's kind of more of a memoir.


Yeah. Well, I think it is. I think the tradition of the modern novel goes back to, you know, 16th, 17th century England, Richardson and people like that. But I think the tale telling goes back forever. And the novel is simply the form that we put it in. It used to be in epic poems, great narrative poems of enormous length, which go back a thousand years, you know. And the novel is the form we have, and then we adapted. For Tortuga, really the form of For Tortuga, I used a screenplay. I didn't, except I eliminated all the indication of who was speaking. But it was really, it's sort of, and that's where the Zen came in. I just used this very sparse description, and just the thing itself. Again, not that it looked like something. There is one simile that snuck into it. And I said, For Tortuga is an island like a memory in the ocean,


emptiness. And that one slipped by my thing. And somebody else said they found another. But there aren't very many. And what I really wanted was to get, as soon as you put in a simile, you're getting intellectual process in there. You're getting something between you and the thing itself. So I would just say that from underneath the galley, for example, on the ship, a little separate galley shack on the ship, just an old beat up, you know, kind of thing. And I described the antenna, the antennae, rather, of a cockroach coming out in this sort of trade wind, in this sort of fierce Caribbean light. And these two gold things coming out, tasting, hearing, you know, whatever they do. These extraordinary, delicate apparatus, you know, that's coming out there. What does that need? Why garnish that, what it looks like? Should I say, like a radio tower or something? You know, I mean, all you do is bring it crashing down. I described the old diesel drums, decks of diesel fuel on the deck. And they have, as you know,


drums have a little rim around the top. And they collect rainwater. The thing is never straight up and you have a little pool of rainwater. I just described the shivering of the rainwater in the oil drum because of the ship's motor. Or, you know, whatever. And just say there was a line of shore, migrating shorebirds in the distance. I just wanted these resonances of the things around. They were oblivious to these men's fate. These men are sailing toward their doom. They don't know it, of course. But there is this world still going on, vibrations and cockroaches and, you know, just that. And not say they looked like or were like or anything. So, I don't know. That's not Buddhist writing. That doesn't really answer your question. Is this Buddhist writing? But I don't, no, I don't, you see, I don't, I think that the people who say things like that are the same ones who say that Buddhism is fatalistic. You know? And it isn't fatalistic. Buddhism accepts what is in that moment. And you can't do anything about anything


that's past. So, to that degree, you could say this is fatalism. But then you are free in the next moment to do something about it, to take care of that, as we say. So, that idea that Buddhism is fatalistic is completely wrong. It's just a misapprehension of what it is. I thought I was taking off the restraints in a way. I thought I was doing exactly the opposite. Taking off the restraints? Yeah, because if I eliminate the speaker, it seems to open out and I left white space everywhere. I was trying to get away from the shackles of the conventional novel. Did you take that any further? Did you do anything after that?


Well, actually, I would like to try it again. It was easiest to do it with a ship, because you have a confined stage and you have a small company of men. Other people come and go, but mainly it's a small group so that the reader can follow it. The reader can follow it easily anyway after 30 pages of Fort Worth. The first 30 pages may be a little confusing, because you've never seen anything like that before. But after that, you have so many clues. You know, I had this theory, and I think it really is true, and especially among very simple, uneducated men. And we do too, but ours may be more subtle. We have our life song. We really do. We have our song line. And I found that these men were singing their own song over and over and over again, and so that almost from the intonation, you can tell who's talking. And by this time, you know them. I put in a ship's manifest, so you know all their names and their age, and it's right there. I use the ship's manifest as a device for identifying the characters. There's all kinds of hints, and I make it very easy for the reader in the beginning. But after that,


you're kind of on your own. It's how clearly you've seen the characters that makes it possible. Well, as you know, I mean, people either hate that book or they love it. But now, I don't think I answered your question, but I haven't answered your question properly in the last 10 questions. Have you seen what you call positive results or negative results to your influence on the preservation of biodiversity in the world? Do you see yourself as an optimist? You're saying, do I see the results of my work in positive results on biodiversity and so forth? Do you speak to what power or what influence you may have exercised in your life? Yeah. I think I'm probably the least qualified person to answer that. I like to think,


let's put it that way, that I've had some educational value. I know that other people have told me those books have had that. This book, Wildlife in America, it was the first book of the modern conservation movement. It was even a couple of years before Rachel Carson, who was very, very significant indeed. So, I like to think that book had some effect and other books too, maybe in drawing kids into nature study. I think there's been effects like that, pointing up animals that are disappearing or whatever. But to say that we are winning this war, I'm afraid I'd have to say we are not. There are lots of local victories. There are certain birds that have really come back. If you check the old list in Wildlife in America of the threatened species, you'll see that many of those birds, like the brown pelican, the peregrine falcon, a number of them have come back, but a number of others, of course, have gone way down. So, last night somebody came up and said,


you seem to be a little gloomy about the future of the world. What's your real feeling? I said, how much do you want to hear? And I really don't want to get into that. I think we have to fight. I think we have to go down fighting for every species, every whatever. We have to fight to educate people. We have to fight to get people elected who have some sort of vision. We cannot see. Some of the corporations actually are coming around. One of you here is working with, told me, I was very pleased to hear that, working with educating the corporate leaders because they need education worse than anybody. Joseph Kennedy, who was a bounder and a scoundrel and a thief and a crook from everything we can hear about him, the president's father, he was a real rapscallion, this guy. But he did say one great thing for which he should be honored. He said, the brain of the American businessman is the most overrated commodity in this country today. And he should know. But there are some businessmen who are really great. I mean, they really are


trying to lead it back in the other way. And I think it'll pay off. I think it's the best financial investment they can make. I truly do. I think the environment, I had a chance to talk to Secretary Babbitt last year a little bit. And I said, you know, your job is the least sexy job in the cabinet, I guess. But what you decide here is going to be, 50 years from now, will be far more important than any decision taken by the Secretary of State or any of the other people. These decisions are really going to hurt or help our country. I truly feel that. I think the environment is, and has been for a long time, really, the field that young people would be most excited and helpful to go into. And I think it's going to be more and more and more. We have no choice. It has to become huge. Cleaning up has to become huge. All of the related disciplines. Yeah? You described before when you're talking about


hero and hallelujah, you described inertia, people's inertia in terms of what can one person do. And I'm just curious to hear you say something about, it seems to me, the other component of the inertia is being so caught up in the consumer culture and the sense of not just what will my 10 phone calls do, but how could I possibly make 10 phone calls when I have to go to the gym? Exactly right. Yeah. And I just, I mean. People have to be, yes, because there's a certain investment in time. I mean, if you're going to help, you have to be generous with your time. It's really true. I think people have let other people go to their death, really, because it was too much trouble. You know, it's very easy, the further the remove, you know, you've read the 250 people die in a Japanese ferry on the sea of Japan. You don't have much of a


emotional response, but suppose you use your imagination. Suppose you think of that ferry overturning and 250 people fighting for their lives hysterically. The minute you think, this was Hannah Arendt's point, the minute you think, then your imagination starts going, and then you can relate to these people. Otherwise, it is simply a statistic on the page, and we very easily brush it off. We don't contribute to this, or we don't do that. You know, we can't, and we can't be a sort of a live nerve all the time. You can't do it. You have to, to a certain extent. You couldn't be a state cop and not develop a terrific callousness about blood and gore and fear and screaming. You've got to have a very strong stomach, and it's very good that you do, because otherwise you couldn't do your job. Doctors, surgeons, the same. So, I don't mean that we should all be, you know, doing that, but you see how easily we do turn off our imaginations and how easy it is under those circumstances not to take the trouble to help, even on things much closer to home,


you know. And you're quite right, that is the other side of that. I'm just wondering what you think might change that. I think it's a decision, I think it's a decision on each individual's part, but education certainly will. I mean, you haven't, I don't think I've ever seen a kid, if you take them out and show them animals and stuff, who isn't fascinated. Kids love animals, and they're horrified at the idea that animals might go extinct. They really are, and kids are easily trained not to litter. You know, and we do it in, I know in my zendo, during the samu, the work practice, you know, we always do, if it's winter time, there's no work to be done around the zendo. I send everybody out on the road, and all they do is pick up litter all the way down toward the ocean and back and along the roads, and they give them all garbage bags, and away they go. And, you know, that's an awful lot more effective than going to people and saying, you pig, why are you littering the beach? You know, most people really don't want to


do those kind of things, and if they see somebody cleaning up after them, then you get, that's when you get ashamed. What is it? People really do have, I'll tell you a very strange little story, just happened to me the other day, but I wish you could explain this. I'm a little paranoid, no doubt, over suspicious, but I was in the airport, where is it, somewhere, Houston or someplace, and I was waiting for the plane, and they announced the plane. People started to board, and I thought, well, I'll check out the men's room for a second here before I go on the plane, and I stood up too quickly, and I had this little pair of rather expensive glasses, and I don't know what, anyway, I couldn't find them. I said, hey, where am I going? You know, and I rushed back to where I'd been sitting, and I looked under the seat, and nothing, and there was a woman sitting there. I said, did you see anybody, did you see a pair of glasses, or did you see anybody? She said, yes, somebody picked up a little pair of glasses that was there, so I rushed to the counter, I said, did anybody turn in my glasses? No, I had three counters, nine attendants, all said, go to the lost and found, you know about the lost and found,


fill out the forms. I said, I'm getting on this plane. If I don't hurry up, I won't get on it. Well, I decided to bolt for the plane. On the plane, I was kind of depressed about this stupid loss, and then I thought, well, hey, all these people on this plane were in that same waiting area. Surely, one of them can give me a clue that at least I can put on my form when I send it in to American, you know. So I had the steward announce, has anybody on the airplane, did you happen to see a pair of glasses in the waiting area? And I stood up, this nice-looking old guy standing up there between the first and economy compartment. Look, hopefully, not a hand went up. I said, oh, that's too bad. So I went back to my seat. Five minutes later, I hear the call bell go. Five minutes later, and I don't even notice it because I didn't think it had anything to do with me. Somebody wanted a Kleenex or something. Steward comes running down the aisle waving my


glasses, and the guy who had him was in first class. Why didn't he turn him in? Why did he wait five minutes before answering this plea? What was going on there? Why did I tell this story? I'm afraid I think for want of a better solution, this person recognized they're probably sitting in first class, so this makes it a little bit more shameful. They have the money to pay for first class, which is probably the worst buy in America today. But they also know an expensive frame when they see one. And as you know where those were glasses, those frames on those little glasses, which I don't know where they are, are outrageously high. And they may have thought, hey,


I need a new pair of glasses. I'll just punch the lenses out of this, and that frame is worth some money. It'd be pretty cheesy, but I'm afraid I don't see any other explanation. And then, also, here's another clue. The steward told me it was a man, but the woman at the place told me it was a woman who picked them up, which suggests that those two were together. And one of them worked on the conscience of the other. One of them had more of a conscience than the other, and it took him five minutes to straighten it out. I can see him hassling up there in first class. I don't know. If you've got a better solution, I'd be happy to hear it. I have been writing letters for years about the wolf killing in Alaska, and periodically I just get so depressed I can't deal with it. And I'm just wondering, you know, as an environmentalist, just seeing the work that the old women do, and the buffaloes, and that situation's getting a little bit better. But I just get overwhelmed by grief and loss and frustration


and feeling that anything that I can do to write a letter, whether it's money or whatever, is just hopeless. And then I'll get re-energized. But it's such a struggle. It is a struggle. I'll tell you, because you see, it's a little bit like, I wrote somewhere about Sherpa people. Of all the peoples I've met on Earth, the Sherpa and the Inuit, the Eskimo people, so-called, have an extraordinary philosophy, and it's totally generous. They just give everything away. They're just like that. And Sherpas, they may have clients who are extremely rude and inconsiderate. And it doesn't bother them. They are loyal not to the client, they're loyal to their job. They just do it, because that's who they are. That's their training as Buddhists. That's their training as Sherpas. They're not serving you. They're serving the dignity of their own job, and that absolutely liberates them


from spitting that guy's supper or something. They don't have to do anything like that. And I think that's the way we must be. We must be loyal to our planet. We must be loyal to our idea, our notion of what is right and what would bring things into balance. And the people I'm thinking of are those people who were with Robert Falcon Scott coming back from the South Pole. I thought about them a lot when I was in Antarctica a few weeks ago. And these guys, really, they got to within 18 miles of their depot where they could get food, but they knew they weren't going to make it. And they never complained. They never talked. They wrote in their journals. All the journals were found. With the bodies, we know exactly what they were thinking and doing, and writing last notes to their families, wives, and children and stuff. But they also, it's very, very clear, even though long after they knew they were doomed, they kept on going. That, they felt, was their obligation.


They'd been financed by the Royal Geographic Society, and they felt, hey, we are not permitted to give up, and we're not permitted to complain, because we take responsibility. Nobody made us go to the South Pole. And I think, in a way, that's the way we, kind of in a much less scary or dramatic way, we have to think about it. I think we have to keep, I'm going to fight for that airpelt here and the wildlife and the whole works. I won't go into what my feelings about it are unless we turn it around. As I say, our leadership and our whole view and who we put in office and everything, we're not going to change it. We're not on a success course here. Things are happening very fast. We don't even understand what's happening when we're doing so much damage. But that doesn't mean we should give up. For your own sense of yourself, for your own fulfillment of your, even your Buddha nature, one could say, of your own being, spontaneously, moment after moment, taking care of things.


That's our training. And we take care of the Earth, too. That's what we try to do. But part of that is educating your kids, other people's kids, spreading this, because that's what will turn it around. Have you thought of running for Congress? Never. It's not because I would love to be. I wouldn't want to run for Congress. I'd like to be a beneficent dictator for a year. I could never run for Congress. I'm a lefty, longstanding. I've been divorced. I used a lot of drugs in the 60s. Come on, I'd be shot out of the saddle in about two days. You know, in Vermont, Vermont's a real cranky state.


There's only two, I think there are two states in the country where a guy, I know who you're talking about, and he could be elected in Vermont and Minnesota. And those are the only two, I think. You know, I don't think it would work anywhere else. Yeah. Sure. Sure. Yeah. What time is three? Okay. Yeah. Let's take a break and then we'll... I never got to your question, but I will. No, don't ask it now. We're going to have a break.