Enter Raymond Chandler: Master of L.A. Noire

The immortal Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, on this day, the 23rd of July, in 1888.He spent much of his childhood and youth in England. After passing on going to University, he worked briefly for the Admiralty, then as a journalist for the Daily Express and then the Bristol Western Gazette. Chandler returned to the land of his birth in 1912, ending up in Los Angeles.He fought with the Canadians during the First World War. With the end of the war he returned to L.A.There he … [Read more...]

I Leave This Old Heart to the World: 3 Poems by the Zen Priest Ryokan

After our Boundless Way Zen West three day zazenkai in Seattle, while on my flight home I was reading a small collection of Sam Hamill's poetry and translations. I was especially taken with three of his renditions of the Soto Zen priest Ryokan's poetry.Alone in this strange machine hurtling through the air down the coast of the North American continent I found them catching my heart, capturing in some ways in my imagination my own life.It occurred to me you might like them, as … [Read more...]

Novels Recommended by Noted Contemporary Spiritual Figures

I sent off an email to various friends who I think of as prominent in our contemporary spiritual scene, asking if they would be willing to share five titles of novels that they consider "spiritual." I avoided defining spiritual. Sixteen responded with lists. Some gave five, others did not. (And, okay, I threw in my own five titles.)For those interested in counts. Fyodor Dostovyski's Brothers Karamozov appears three times. Shuzaku Endo's Silence, appeared twice. As did Neil Gaman's American … [Read more...]

Hesse Begins His Journey to the East

Hermann Hesse is one of the icons of my reading life. His books opened the door for me on my own Eastward walk. Or, at least helped to open that door.As it happens he became available in the English language in popular editions in the late nineteen sixties, early seventies, at just the right moment for me. And, actually, even the order in which I read his books accompanied me in critical ways in my spiritual formation.So, as I said. Icon. Important. Very important.And as it happens … [Read more...]

Remembering the Immortal James Weldon Johnson

The immortal James Weldon Johnson was born on this day, the 17th of June, in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida. I think of him as one of those wonderful examples where genius rises despite astonishing obstacles.Against a backdrop of terrible racism and bigotry he made a life. Johnson was at various times in his remarkable life a poet, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and always, an activist. He was never interested in his success alone.James Weldon Johnson’s writings included the Auto … [Read more...]

The Roman Index Goes Away

It was fifty-one years ago today the the Vatican announced it had abolished the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Index of Prohibited Books. The Index can be traced, at least spiritually to the 9th century and the Decretum Glassianum. And, as the book we know and love since 1559. It would go through twenty editions, the last in 1948.It would come to an end on the 14th of Jun, 1966, when Pope Paul VI abolished publishing an official list of books that the faithful should not read. A fairly … [Read more...]

Sir Edwin Arnold and His Light on Buddhism

Edwin Arnold was born on this day, the 10th of June, 1832 at Kent, in England. A graduate of University College, Oxford,  his early promise as a poet won him the 1852 Newdigate prize.Upon graduation Arnold became a schoolmaster. After a few years serving in England he accepted a position as principal at the Government Sanskrit College in Poona, India. Arnold was there for seven years, which included the great mutiny of 1857. He returned to England, working as a journalist for the Daily … [Read more...]

The Truth About George & the Dragon, Long Suppressed, but Now Revealed

As it happens today is the Feast of St George. I've always been suspicious of the original story. However, thanks to the scholarly investigations of Stan Washburn, we have access to what really happened in those days of yore when the dragon and George walked this good earth. Sadly, this study has been long supressed (okay, out of print). But, thanks to my own relentless digging around the web, I've found the text, nearly complete. I reprinted it back in 2011. I was hoping the book would be … [Read more...]

A Feast for John Donne

John Donne was born in London on the 22nd of January, 1573 and died on this day, the 31st of March, in 1631.His family were recusant Roman Catholics. He studied at Cambridge but was not awarded a degree as he could not take the oath of supremacy, which included acknowledging the sovereign as head of the church. Donne then read the law, and was admitted to the bar.Rather than take up a practice he traveled through Europe giving him the opportunity to master several modern languages. And … [Read more...]

Holy, Holy, Holy: Recalling Ginsberg’s Howl

It was on this day in 1957 that US Customs seized a shipment of Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems.The title poem Howl was purportedly largely written at the Caffe Mediterranean in Berkeley. A coffee house of some importance to me, the Mediterranean. In my teen years it offered me my first latte. and later when I worked across the street at Moe's Books, it was a comfortable place for a break and a cuppa and some very interesting conversations.The poem took shape over several years. … [Read more...]