Transition to Spiritual Quest, 1958-1959

I’m back home in Oregon again after almost 2 months on the road. My wife, Susan, and I drove our small (16 foot) camper van to Bellingham, Washington, took the ferry to Haines, Alaska, drove many of the roads in Alaska, to the coast, to Anchorage, to Denali, to Fairbanks, then drove the Alaska highway down through the Yukon, British Columbia, the Rockies, Montana and back to Oregon. It was my first time in Alaska which became state # 50. Now back home it is time to write and post a blog entry.

Let me continue by talking about spiritual quest, next stage, 1958-1959. This is going to involve talking about Zen Buddhism so let me say a few words on that subject.

First I should address my concern that to many the word Zen rightly conjures up some kind of new-age, hippy, Eastern garbage. Indeed, often when one runs into people who talk or write about Zen one hears what I would characterize as “pop Zen”, supposedly stunningly wise statements that if understood will turn ones life into enlightened bliss. Such pop Zen seems “self-indulgent [and] egoistic” to quote Owen Flanagan, professor at Duke University, talking about “New Age style religions” in general. See http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/2016/06/30/philosophers-and-their-religious-practices-part-22-comparative-philosophy-the-unforced-moral-consensus-and-the-charms-of-expressive-theism/. (Link valid as of 8/1/16.) I hope here to strenuously avoid pop Zen.

Another concern is that Zen arose out of Buddhism, an Asian religion, and seems irredeemably associated with Eastern cultures, especially Japanese culture. It is clear to me that Zen, if indeed there is such a thing, is independent of culture. So, although I grew up in Hawaii and am by no means hostile to Chinese or Japanese culture, I will try to emphasize Western ideas in this blog, at least at first. It seems to me that Western analytic philosophy of the 20th century associated with the analysis of language is relevant, as well as 20th and 21st century physics and cosmology; and that the kind of spiritual quest I want to talk about is completely rational.

Still another concern is that nothing can actually be said directly about Zen and that in fact, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as Zen. This fact smacks of deliberate obfuscation so anyone who is going to say anything about the subject has a lot of explaining on their hands and will necessarily be, in an ultimate sense, talking nonsense. The hope is that the nonsense will be interesting or even a fun kind of nonsense so that it will be enjoyable reading and may perhaps lead to some kind of worthwhile understanding.

Note to self: Avoid “strict speaking”, lighten up, avoid the word “Zen” as much as possible.

So, though the “Z” word will, I hope, appear infrequently, if at all, when I talk about various subjects, it will lurk like some kind of insubstantial ghost in the background.

All of this being said, let me now go back in history to 1958, skipping lightly for the moment, over the years 1954-1957 when I was in the army and then in Innsbruck, Austria, for a year on the GI bill, where I met and married my first wife, Barbara.

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