Nonduality: The Varieties of Expression Home

Jerry Katz
photography & writings

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality:

Click here to go to the next issue

Highlights Home Page | Receive the Nonduality Highlights each day

How to submit material to the Highlights

#3484 - Friday, March 27, 2009 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights -



Featured are Saul Bellow and John Updike in excerpts from Alan Mann's NOWletter 139. Alan's comments are included.

You may read the entire issue in PDF format: 



Mr Sammler on Death and God—Saul Bellow


Andrew Hilton gave me a pile of his cast- off books during a recent visit. The pile included Mr Sammler’s Planet by Saul Bellow, an unlikely title as far as I was concerned, not a book I would have chosen myself. However, I found myself thoroughly gripped by Mr. Sammler and include this brief extract from his conversation with Dr. Govinda Lal because it seems to fit well with the theme of this issue. Alan


…But it is not even for us to vote Yea or Nay. And I have not stated my arguments, for I argue nothing. I have stated my thoughts. They were asked for, and I wanted to express them. The best, I have found, is to be disinter­ested. Not as misanthropes dissociate themselves, by judg­ing, but by not judging. By willing as God wills.


"During the war I had no belief, and I had always dis­liked the ways of the Orthodox. I saw that God was not impressed by death. Hell was his indifference. But inability to explain is no ground for disbelief. Not as long as the sense of God persists. I could wish that it did not persist. The contradictions are so painful. No concern for justice? Nothing of pity? Is God only the gossip of the living? Then we watch these living speed like birds over the surface of a water, and one will dive or plunge but not come up again and never be seen any more. And in our turn we will never be seen again, once gone through that surface. But then we have no proof that there is no depth under the surface. We cannot even say that our knowledge of death is shallow. There is no knowledge. There is longing, suffering, mourn­ing. These come from need, affection, and love—the needs of the living creature, because it is a living creature. There is also strangeness, implicit. There is also adumbration. Other states are sensed. All is not flatly knowable. There would never have been any inquiry without this adumbration, there would never have been any knowledge without it. But I am not life's examiner, or a connoisseur, and I have nothing to argue. Surely a man would console, if he could. But that is not an aim of mine. Consolers cannot always be truthful. But very often, and almost daily, I have strong impressions of eternity. This may be due to my strange experiences, or to old age. I will say that to me this does not feel elderly. Nor would I mind if there were nothing after death. If it is only to be as it was before birth, why should one care? There one would receive no further information. One's ape restiveness would stop. I think I would miss mainly my God adumbrations in the many daily forms. Yes, that is what I should miss.



From "A Soft Spring Night in Shillington, '' a memoir By John Updike

Two sensations stood out as peculiarly blissful in my childhood... The first has been alluded to: the awareness of things going by, impinging on my consciousness, and then, all beyond my control, sliding away toward their own destination and destiny.


The traffic on Philadelphia Avenue was such; the sound of an engine and tires would swell like a gust of wind, the head- light beam would parabolically wheel about the papered walls of my little room, and then the lights and the sound would die, and that dangerous creature of combustion and momentum would be out of my life. To put myself to sleep, I would picture logs floating down a river and then over a waterfall, out of sight. Mailing letters, flushing a toilet, reading the last set of proofs—all have this sweetness of riddance. The second intimation of deep, cosmic joy, also already hinted at, is really a variation of the first; the sensation of shelter, of being out of the rain, but just out. I would lean close to the chill windowpane to hear the raindrops ticking on the other side; I would huddle under bushes until the rain penetrated; I loved doorways in a shower. On our side porch, it was my humble job, when it rained, to turn the wicker furniture with its seats to the wall, and in these porous woven caves I would crouch happy almost to tears, as the rain drummed on the porch rail and rattled the grape leaves of the arbor and touched my wicker shelter with a mist like a vain assault of an atomic army. In both species of delightful experience, the reader may notice, the experiencer is motionless, holding his breath as it were, and the things experienced are morally detached from him: there is nothing he can do, or ought to do, about the flow, the tumult. He is irresponsible, safe, and witnessing: the entire body, for these rapt moments, mimics the position of the essential self in its jungle of physiology, its moldering tangle of inheritance and circumstance. Early in his life, the child I once was sensed the guilt in things, inseparable from the pain, the competition: the sparrow dead on the lawn, the flies swatted on the porch, the impervious leer of the bully on the school playground. The burden of activity, of participation, must clearly be shouldered, and had its pleasures. But they were cruel pleasures. There was nothing cruel about crouching in a shelter and letting phenomena slide by: it was ecstasy. The essential self is innocent, and when it tastes its own innocence knows that it lives forever. If we keep utterly still, we can suffer no wear and tear, and will never die.

John Updike, December 24, 1984


Sam Blight sent me the Updike piece and it reminded me of one of my very earliest memories. It was an occasion when I was four or less when my grandfather took me to window of the front room of my grandparent’s terrace house in Newhey, Lancashire during a downpour. He pulled aside the lace curtains which were mandatory in those days to keep the nosey parkers, only an arm’s length away on the pavement outside, at bay and said, " you know Alan there's nothing I like better than sitting here by myself, dry and warm, when it's cold and raining out there, looking out at the downpour and especially the water sliding down the windows, splashing on the pavement and rushing down the gutters".  I could never understand why that particular memory stood out from all others until I realized that, even at that age, I must have intuited his words and enthusiasm for this experience as a metaphor for Home at centre. It might also have something to do with the number of insights that seem to strike me in the shower! Alan

You may read the entire issue of NOWletter 139 in PDF format: 

top of page