[Jean-Marc Barr as Jack Kerouac in Michael Polish’s 2013 film adaptation of Kerouac’s 1962 novel, “Big Sur“]
AG: What? Did you…?
Student: Yeah. This is making me nervous, but I wanted to say how it [Samatha Vipassana meditation] was different from (Jack) Kerouac‘s sketching. Like when you lose yourself, like when he went down to the sea
Student:…and then you’re aware that you’re listening to the sea, or that you’re listening to the wind, rather than just having it come through, and not… you know?… I wanted to (know)…
AG: What’s the difference between what we were (doing) and…
AG: Well, we just began with the breath
Student; Yeah, I know, I know
AG: We just began with the breath. I’m just trying to establish some common space that everybody would know what we’re talking about from the very beginning..
AG: …without any difficulty, without ideas.
Student: Yeah, I didn’t want to bring it up, any..
AG: Withouy ideas. Then we’ll get to applications.
Student: Yeah. Just the difference of not being aware and having the wind come through or thinking about the wind and going in it.. Yeah.. that’s..
AG: Well, there’s some similarity, actually, between being totally concentrated on listening to the sound, or totally concentrated on paying attention to the breath. Some similarity. It’s the concentration – and the absence of day-dream – or the recognition of day-dream as day-dream.
I guess you’re thinking of Kerouac’s poem about the ocean at the end of Big Sur?
Student: Just about sketching yeah
AG: …and his notion of sketching, which he exemplifies best (including sketches of sounds) in Visions of Cody. Something I might recommend as a writing exercise – to check out, in relation to this, Kerouac’s Visions of Cody. I have a handbook-guidebook to those sketches called Visions of The Great Rememberer – which you an check out in the Library here..in the Naropa Library. It’s a little blue book, which is an outline of Kerouac’s big thick Visions of Cody, and there’s some discussions of sketching and some mention of the different sketches. His idea was just sort of bare atttention to the phenomena outside his eyeball, bare attention to the optical field, sketches, almost on that level, or bare attention to the auditory panorama.
Student: Is your outline more than just the Introduction?
AG: Yes. The outline is more than the Introduction. The Introduction is boiled down from about a third of that…So it’s about three times that size. It’s a whole book discussing the sketches.
Kerouac began from this point of view of examination of universal mind, or examination of mind. In other words, what we’re talking about is mind, amazingly. Stop talking about poetry and we’re talking about mind. Does everybody recognize that? And how can you make poetry out of mind, or how can you take hints from actual mind, from the way you think, from the structure of mind, from the procession of thoughts in mind, from the way the mind operates? How can you take hints from actual mind as to how to make a work of art out there on paper? or vocal?. In other words, what structures do you notice in the mind that can be applied to sentences? What sequences or ways of thinking do we find inside of ourselves when we observe them that could be reproduced on a page (like with blank pages for, blank lines for no thought, with cutting off a line in the middle when a thought wakes from itself, or when you wake from a thought. Like, (William Carlos) Williams has a poem called “The Clouds” that I always thought was…”The Clouds” is that in here?
Student: Is it in the “(Collected) Later (Poems)”?
Student: It’s from the (19)40’s
Student: “The Clouds”?
AG: Yeah. It’s one that ends, “…plunging on a pismire, a moth, a butterfly, a….” (dot dot dot dot).. He just sort of broke up in the middle of the sentence – “…plunging on a pismire, a moth, a butterfly, a….” And he read it that way. So he got that from his head. It’s just the way he thought, like everybody thinks, sometimes. The thought stops, or you get exasperated and say, “Oh, forget it, I don’t want to finish that”. But he used that as a model for how to put it on the page. In other words, he didn’t have to finish the sentence. In other words, he was using mind and operation of mind as a model for how you would write, as Kerouac did. That’s why I started talking about mind. Kerouac was interested in mind, in the jewel center of the mind, as he called (it) – which is a litle complicated, the attention, where the attention was, for him. You brought up the sketching, so I was trying to fill (in). Yes?
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in]