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#2573 - Sunday, September 3, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz

Start with an article on the nonduality of Keats and Shakespeare. Then writings by Jim Dreaver. Finally a review about a movie in which nothing much happens.    

Brother Beatnik  

Contributed by ts to Nonduality Salon  

In a letter to his brothers, in 1817, Keats wrote:
"...It struck me what quality went to form a Man of
Achievement, especially in Literature, and which
Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative
Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being
in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any
irritable reaching after fact and reason".
Keats knew! Keats knew! Even though his life was brief
he deeply understood that life cannot be understood because
it is the immensity that cannot be grasped, measured, defined
or controlled. Life is the flowing and living energy which
cannot be frozen into concepts and formulas. Life cannot be
understand, only lived. Therefore the philosophers who see
life as a problem of philosophy are wrong; life is the
solution and philosophy is the problem.
Keats recognised that seeking after certainty was the seed of
insecurity, and that paradoxically security could only be
found in insecurity through a recognition of what is. To quote
Keats again, the genuine truth seeker is a man "capable of being
in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, without any irritable
reaching after fact & reason." Keats called this Zen-like
quality "Negative Capability." "Negative Capability" involves
the loss of self-identity and the disappearance of the illusion
of separateness.
Keats appreciated that whenever people are facing two
conflicting arguments, they naturally seek a rapid closure,
a conclusion. They try to figure out which argument is right
and which is wrong, which is stronger and which is weaker.
And Keats wrote admiringly of how William Shakespeare could
resist the impulse for closure; how he could "luxuriate in
uncertainties and doubts, entertaining two opposing ideas
without irritable reaching after fact and reason." Shakespeare,
to Keats, was a master exponent of Negativity Capability.
Like a Zen artist fully exploited the creative emptiness of
the mind of Negative Capability.
In Zen the seeker dwells in a kind of Negative Capability in
which there is a state of uncertainty, doubt and mystery without
being uncomfortable with this or being irritated by facts and
logic. After this there may a come a stage of explosive insight
known as "satori".
Keats had a similar concept to Zen satori. He recognised that
there was a state beyond Negative Capability which he called
the Chief Intensity, a state of "fellowship with essence", a
state of oneness in which the relative terms of certainty and
uncertainty have been transcended through the realization of
no-self. In the life of the Chief Intensity nothing is sought
behind phenomena and the meaning of life is seen as life
itself. Spiritual problems are simply dissolved in the
brilliance of the Chief Intensity, the no-mind state of Zen.
 I don't know what to say when it comes to Shakespeare. I find
it hard to believe that such beauty exists in this world. I
remember when I first across Shakespeare in a English literature
class the cadences and rhythms of the blank verse would send me
into an hypnotic trance of bliss and my mind would be catapulted
into undreamed possibilities of thought, feeling and emotion.

Keats mentioned Shakespeare as a man of "Negative Capability"
and he's right: Shakespeare is full of paradoxes, puns,
compressed metaphors that contain universes of thought and
feeling, jokes and profound poetry and philosophy. Shakespeare
says in a line what it takes a philosopher to say in a book.
Fittingly for a man of "Negative Capability", nothing much
is known about him. He remains a dark infinity who broke the
English, taking it the extremes of what is expressible in words.
Beyond Shakespeare there is only Infinite silence:

Examples of "Negative Capability" in Shakespeare:

Hamlet: ...What news?

Rosencrantz: None, my lord, but that the world has grown honest.

Hamlet: Then doomsday is near. But your news is not true. Let me
question more in particular. What have you, my good friends,
deserved at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison

Guildenstern: Prison, my lord!

Hamlet: Denmark is a prison.

Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.

Hamlet: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards,
and dungeons, Denmark being one o'th'worst.

Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord.

Hamlet: Why, then, `tis none to you; for there is nothing either
good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

Rosencrantz: Why, then your ambition makes it one; `tis too
narrow for your mind.

Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself
a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Guildenstern: Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

Hamlet: A dream itself is but a shadow.

Rosencrantz: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.

Hamlet: Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretch'd heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we to th' court?
For, by my fay, I cannot reason.

-William Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act II, Scene II, 235-264)

humour...negative capability!

Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so...pure Zen!

Your brother in Tao,

Jim Dreaver  



To be awake, or enlightened, is to realize that everything between your ears, all your thoughts, memories, beliefs, stories, judgments, even your sense of “I” and “me,” is fundamentally an illusion. It is knowing that the only thing that is permanently real is consciousness itself, manifesting in this body, mind, and personality known as “you.’’ It is recognizing that the same consciousness which expresses as “you” is also expressing through every other human being as “them.” We truly are connected.


To be awake is live in inner freedom. That means no more personal drama, conflict, or emotional suffering. You always feel at peace inside, regardless of what is happening in your life. You are free of fear, and always in the flow. You are present in your relationships, your work, wherever you are, responding creatively to the real needs of the moment. Your essential nature is happy, loving, playful, and content.


As the residues of your old, illusory psychological and emotional “self” fall away, consciousness, the experience of yourself at a pure being level, gradually becomes your new “identity.” It usually takes a long time to fully embody, or integrate, our true nature. The following practices, if you do them diligently, will help you shorten the process.


Be Very Present


As you learn to be relaxed, centered and grounded in the present moment, you free yourself from your “stories,” from the past, and thus from mental and emotional conflict. Presence, or consciously inhabiting your body, is the source of your physical energy, strength, and power. This practice will help you become more present:


Expanding Awareness: Sit, and close your eyes. Breathe down into your belly. Now visualize the focal point of your awareness as being just behind and above your head. From this place, see and feel the length and breadth of your body within your awareness. Notice your breath, your bodily sensations and feelings, arising and falling away within your awareness. Notice the thoughts and images in your mind coming and going. Notice how sounds come and go against the background of this silent, expanded awareness that is your natural, relaxed state of being. Welcome it all, resist nothing.

Everything arises and disappears within your awareness. But awareness itself, this sense of inner clarity and spaciousness, is always present. It is who and what you are. Be present, then, as this awareness as you open your eyes.


Go With The Flow


This practice is about understanding the nature of rhythm and change, of ups and downs, and learning to flow harmoniously, to stay present, with whatever is. The flow happens naturally as you become sensitive to energy itself, to the underlying quality of mood, sensation and feeling. Most of the stress people experience is because they live too much in their heads, in their story. They are not in touch with their felt, present-time reality.


Energy Awareness: Start paying more attention to what you sense and feel, rather than to judgments, opinions and thoughts. When you are with people, take a few moments to tune in. Open up to the deeper energy that is present. Become aware of awareness itself. Listen for the silence behind the words, beyond the surface activity. This will help you get out of your head, into your body and into the moment. As your sensitivity to energy increases, you'll be more in the flow. Then you will know when to be soft and when to be strong; when to move forward and when to pull back; when to speak and when to listen.


©Jim Dreaver, 2006

Watching Silence

A film in which nothing much happens is packing movie houses
by Carol Ann Raphael

There's a buzz in Germany about a movie in which there are barely two minutes of dialogue, no interviews, no voice-overs, no archival footage, and no sound track. In other words, a silent movie. Or, more accurately, a movie about silence.

For nearly three hours, Into Great Silence, directed by Philip Groening, tracks the lives of resident monks in one of the most ascetic monasteries in Roman Catholicism, the Grande Chartreuse. The mother house of the strict Carthusian Order, it was founded nearly one thousand years ago in the French Alps between Grenoble and Chambéry, and little has changed since then. The monks carry out their days in almost complete isolation and silence, each inhabiting a two-story cell where he works, prays, eats alone, and sleeps on a straw bed. The monks leave their cells only three times every twenty-four hours to journey down the corridor to the chapel.

This makes for a film of startling simplicity and unusual concentration. The tolling of the bells announces each activity during the tightly structured day: 8:00pm bedtime, 11:30pm rise for prayer, 12:15am lauds and matins in the chapel for two to three hours, 6:30am rise, 7:00am prayer, and so on throughout the day. A single meal is delivered at midday. There is never a full night of sleep. There is no free time. And there is no fear, according to the filmmaker who shared the monks' rigorous life over a period of six months to make his documentary of this world set apart.

Into Great Silence has become a cult phenomenon in Groening's native Germany, filling theaters and climbing the box office charts since its premiere in November 2005 to reach the rank of fifteen in movie attendance. That's a remarkable achievement for a film in which virtually nothing happens. It was awarded the World Cinema Special Jury Prize in the documentary category at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, and distributors are quickly acquiring the rights to show it in other European countries and in North America.

What's attracting these audiences? Unlikely that it's nostalgia for the early days of silent film. Nor does the memory of Andy Warhol's deathly boring eight hours of the Empire State Building seen from a single point of view seem likely to ignite enthusiasm in today's sophisticated cinema buffs. Could it be something akin to a recent trend to convert monasteries into chic hotels that has been sweeping through Italy, or the popularity of staying at convents instead of equally pricey hotels? That too is doubtful, since the preference for cloistered accommodations probably reveals more about the skill and ingenuity of marketers than it does about any real desire on travelers' part to experience a medieval way of life.

Groening explains that he originally wanted to make a movie about the present moment, about that single moment of time that is always “now.” Only later did he realize that he could do this by documenting life in a monastery, a place where one's relationship to time is completely altered. As he put it, “What is time for someone who knows that he will never leave this building, this cell?” After waiting sixteen years to be granted permission to enter the remote world of the Grande Chartreuse, he moved into one of the cells, participated in all aspects of monastic life, and shot his film in the two to three hours allotted each day for labor. He worked entirely on his own, with no artificial lights, no crew, nothing superfluous.

Reviewers are praising the film's poetic vision, magnificent austerity, visual splendor, and what one critic referred to as nearly “tactile” sound. When all one hears is the occasional rustling of cloth or opening of a door, the quality of sound is essential to revealing the pervasive silence in which the monks conduct their lives. Some have commented that the film becomes a literal extension of the monastery and that the theater itself embodies monastic space. It's this sense of hermetic time, of the eternal, that Into Great Silence seems to be offering moviegoers—a view into a world where the present moment is all there is.

The recognition that solitude may have a beneficial, even vital function in our busy contemporary lives is beginning to surface in other places as well. A recent internet buzz was created when a University of California neurobiologist named Leo Chalupa proposed a national day of absolute solitude. Chalupa believes an entire day spent without verbal exchange of any kind with another person would be the best antidote for our overtaxed, overstuffed brains and the ideal way to attain optimal brain performance.

A researcher at the University of British Columbia has come to similar conclusions. Psychologist Peter Suedfeld found that “people are chronically stimulated, both socially and physically” and that we “are probably operating at a stimulation level higher than that for which our species evolved.” His remedy? More time alone. And what to do during all this time alone? Two French scientists have a suggestion: listen to the silence. In their recent experiments with eleven people who did just that, who listened to the sound of silence, they discovered that such attentive listening can actually help the brain to focus.

The silence of the Carthusian monk clearly is of a different order and gravity altogether. The Carthusian monk listens for God, and silence is the condition in which this can occur; it's not the goal. But as the growing numbers of people wanting to see Into Great Silence attest to, there are rewards for taking the time to pay attention, to see and hear things precisely—whether it's a few hours of mental freedom at the cinema, improved brain performance, or finding God.

There couldn't be a better reason to go to the movies.

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