AG: Another proclamation – from (William) Burroughs – this is somewhat a mindfulness proclamation – from Exterminator! , page fifty-seven. (It features) his favorite character, Colonel Sutton Smith (he wrote another chapter of Colonel Sutton Smith this summer), sort of a parody of an English ex-military Zen man, so to speak, someone with perfect Western consciousness, or perfect Western mindfulness. But what’s interesting in (that) Burroughs outline is a kind of precision and mindfulness very similar to, say, Zen gardening,or flower-arrangement, or archery. Burroughs’ own system, which, with his usual humor, he even parodies – or he sets forth, and then parodies. You have here, also, Burroughs’ accounting of returning to present consciousness and present space. So you could say this, to begin with….(is a) somewhat Vajrayana-stye parody of what he respects, which is total precision:
“A cold, dry, windy day. Clouds blowing through the sky sunshine and shadow. A dead leaf brushes my face. The streets remind me of St Louis… red brick houses, trees, vacant lots. Bright and windy back in a cab through empty streets. When I reach the fourth floor, it looks completely unfamiliar as if seen through someone else’s eyes. “I hope you find your way… red brick houses, trees…the address in empty streets. Colonel Sutton Smith, 65, retired, not uncomfortablyon a supplementary private income…flat in Bury Street St. James’s….cottage in Wales… could not resign himself to the discovery of Roman coins under the grounds of his cottage, interesting theory the Colonel has about those coins over two sherries – never a third, no matter how nakedly his guest may leer at the adamant decanter…” – (Burroughs has a great sound, too) -“He can, of course, complete his memoirs…extensive notes over a period of years, invitations, newspaper clippings, photographs, stretching into the past on yellowing dates. Objects go with the clippigs, the notes, the photos, the dates… A kris on the wall to remember Ali who ran amok in the marketplace of Lampiper thirty years ago, a crown of emerald quartz, a jade head representing a reptilian youth with opal eyes, a little white horse delicately carved in ivory, a Webly .455 automatic revolver….(Only automatic revolver ever made the cylinder turns on ratchets stabilizing like a gyroscope the heavy recall). Memories, objects stuck in an old calendar.
The Colonel decides to make his own time. He opens a school notebook with lined papers and constructs a simple calendar consisting of ten months with twenty-six days in each month to begin on this day February 21, 1970, Raton Pass 14 in the new calendar. The months have names like old Pullman cars in America where the Colonel had lived until his eighteenth year… names like Beauacres, Bonneterre, Watford Junction, Sioux Falls, Pike’s Peak, Yellowstone, Bellevue, Cold Springs, Lands End dated from the beginning Raton Pass 14 a mild grey day. Smell of soot and steam and iron and cigar smoke as the train jolts away into the past. The train is stopped now red brick buildings a deep blue canal outside the train window a mild grey day long ago.
The Colonel is jolted back to the now by a plate streaked with egg yoke, a bacon rind, toast crumbs on the table, a jumble of morning papers, cigarette butt floating in cold coffee right where you are sitting now. The Colonel decides on this mild grey day to bring his time into present time. He looks at the objects on the breakfast table, calculating, then moves to clear it. He measures the distance of his chair to the table, how to push the chair back and stand up without hitting the table with his legs. He pushes his chair back and stands up. With smooth precise movements he scrapes his plate into the Business News of the Times, folds the paper into a neat triangular packet, sweeos up plate, knif, fork, spoon and coffee cup out the kitchen with no fumbling or wasted movements, washed and put away. Before he made the first move he has planned a whole series of moves ahead. He had discovered the simple and basic discipline of D.E. – Do Easy. It’s simple to do everything you do in the easiest and most relaxed manner you can achieve at the time you do it. He has become an assiduous student of D.E. Cleaning the flat is a problem in logistics. He knows every paper, every object, and many of them now have names. He has perfected the art of casting sheets and blankets so that they fall just so and the gentle silent sopoon or cup on a table. He practices for a year before he is ready to reveal the mysteries of D.E. As the Colonel washes up and tidies his small kitchen, the television audience catches its breath in front of the little screen. Knives, forks and spoons flash through his fingers and tinkle into drawers, plates dance onto the shelf. He touches the water tap with gentle, precise fingers, and just enough pressure considering the rubber washers inside. Towels fold themselves and fall softly into place. As he moves he tosses crumpled papers and empty cigarette packages and crumpled papers land unerringly in the wastebasket as a Zen master can hit the target with his arrow in the dark. He moves to the sitting room, a puff of air from his cupped hand delicately lifts a cigarette ash from the table and wafts it into the wastebasket. Into the bedroom smooth movements cleaning the sink and arranging the toilet articles into a…..
AG: (So Burroughs) follows that little charade with a little essay. So this is like home-made American mindfulness:
“D.E. is a way of doing. It is a way of doing everything you do. D.E. simply means doing whatever you do in the easiest, most relaxed way you can imagine, which is also the quickest and most efficient way, as you will find as you advance into D.E.”
If you think this Buddhism is paranoid, listen to Burroughs:
“You can start right now tidying up your flat, moving furniture or books, washing dishes, making tea, sorting paper. Consider the weight of objects. Exactly how much force is needed to get the object from here to there? Consider its shape and texture and function. Where exactly does it belong? Use just the amount of force necessary to get the object from here to there. Don’t fumble, jerk, grab an object. Drop cool possessive fingers onto it like a gentle old cop making a soft arrest. Guide the dustpan lightly to the floor as if you were landing a plane. When you touch an object, weigh it with your fingers. Feel your fingers on the object, the skin, blood, muscles, tendons of the hand and arm. Consider these extensions of yourself as precision instruments to perform every movement smoothly and well.
Handle objects with consideration and they will show you all their little tricks. Don’t tug or pull at a zipper. Guide the little metal teeth smoothly along, feeling the sinuous ripples of cloth and flexible melt. Replacing the cap on the tube of toothpaste…(and this should always be done at once. Few things are worse than an uncapped tube maladroitly squeezed, twisting up out of the bathroom glass, drooling paste, unless it be a tube with the cap barbarously forced on all askew against the threads). Replacing the cap, let the very tips of your fingers protrude beyond the cap, contacting the end of the tube, guiding the cap into place. Using your fingertips as a landing gear will enable you to drop any light object silently and surely into place.
Remember, every object has its place. If you don’t find that place and put that thing there, it will jump out at you and trip you or rap you painfully across the knuckles. It will nudge you and clutch at you and get in your way. Often such objects belong in the wastebasket but often it’s just that they are out of place. Learn to place an object firmly and quietly in its place and do not let your fingers move that object as they leave it there. When you put down a cup, separate your fingers cleanly from the cup. Do not let them catch in the handle and if they do repeat movement until fingers separate clean. If you don’t catch that nervous finger that won’t let go of the handle, you may twitch hot tea across the Duchess.
Never let a poorly executed sequence pass. If you throw a match at a wastebasket and miss, get right up and put that match in the wastebasket. If you have time repeat the cast that failed. There is always a reason for missing an easy toss. Repeat the toss and you will find it. If you rap your knuckles against a window jam or door, if you brush your leg against a desk or bed, if you catch your feet in the curled-up corner of a rug, or strike a toe against a desk or chair, go back and repeat the sequence. You will be surprised to find how far off course you were to hit that window jamb, that door, that chair. Get back on course and do it again. How can you pilot a spacecraft if you can’t find your way around your own apartment. It’s just like retaking a movie shot until you get it right. And you will begin to feel yourself in a film moving with ease and speed. But don’t try for speed at first. Try for relaxed smoothness, taking as much time as you need to perform an action. If you drop an object, break an object, spill anything, knock painfully against anything, galvanically clutch an object, pay particular attention to the retake. You may find out why and forestall a repeat performance. If the object is broken, sweep up pieces and remove from the room at once. If the object is intact or you have a duplicate object, repeat sequence. You may experience a strange feeling, as if the objects are alive and hostile, trying to twist out of your fingers, slam noisily down on the table, jump out at you and stub your toe or trip you. Repeat sequence until objects are brought to order…”
[Audio for the above can be heard here at approximately twenty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in]