On Mexico City Blues – (28th Chorus)

Allen Ginsberg on Jack Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues continues from here

AG:  28th Chorus:  “The discriminating mind.” –   (So, if everything is balloons, then what is the discriminating mind which wants to choose one balloon above another balloon?) – “Discrimination is when, say,/you’re offered something/And you accept it one way/or the other” – (Like, “Well, alright, I’ll take it”, or, ‘Yes, I want it”,  or,”Are you sure it’s for me?”, or, “I don’t want it, but I’ll take it”) – “Discrimination is when, say,/you’re offered something/And you accept it one way/or the other” – (But still no big deal there – just you’ll take it.  And you accept it one way or the other) – “Not thinking of improving..” – (Somebody’s given me a balloon, so I’ll accept it.

“Then comes the Craft Gleam/And you look over to see/ What’s to be to advantage,/And find it, pouncin like a Puma,/Like a Miser Hero of Gold/ Cellars/& Herring/ in barrels,/ -And you seek to achieve/ Greater satisfaction/ Which is already impossible/ Because of Supreme Reality/ and Time/ And Timelessness Entire/All conjoined & arranged & finished/By Karmas of Rue/In heavenlands remote -/  You suffer & you fall,/ You discriminate a ball.”

So it’s actually a very good definition of discrimination, which is a key word in Buddhist thinking – they say suffering is caused by the discriminating mind – wanting pleasure and grabbing for pleasure and refusing pain, or clinging to pleasure –  Or else, if struck by pain, complaining and cursing and saying, “Fuck ’em!”, and resenting.  So the discriminating mind… Non-discriminating mind, I guess he’s actually saying… This is actually following.. if you’ve read  Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) the Chinese philosopher, he’s got a chapter on discrimination, on the discriminating mind, which fits in with this real well.  So Kerouac is defining non-discriminating mind as “ …is when, say,/ you’re offered something/ And you accept it one way/ or the other,/ Not thinking of improving;/Then comes the Craft Gleam”

So the first flash of the mind is, “Oh, you get something.”  And then, “Maybe I can get advantage of him, why is he giving it to me?”, or, “Do I have to given them back?”, or, “I better take it, it’s really expensive-looking, this ring.  I better accept it, I can always sell it later on when I’m old and hungry and tired.  Or will I have to give it back?”

So he’s also here talking about poetry – the discriminating mind –  “Discrimination is when the mind “offers you something”, like a phrase, like balloons. “And you accept it one way/or the other,/Not thinking of improving” – (Just writing it down like he is in a notebook) – “Then comes the Craft Gleam’ – (“Hey, this is a good poem, maybe I can improve it a little bit and sell it to Hudson Review, sell it to the New Yorker, get famous as a poet, then I can go out and give poetry readings and make a million dollars at this racket, and die with people around my bed and people putting a big tombstone….”)

Student:  And try to make everyone else suffer.

AG:  Yes. So this is actually a really pretty interesting (poem) – “The discriminating mind./Discrimination is when, say,/you’re offered something/And you accept it one way/or the other,/ Not thinking of improving:/Then comes the Craft Gleam/ And you look over to see/What’s to be to advantage,/And find it, pouncin like a/Puma,/Like a Miser Hero of Gold/Cellars/& Herring/in barrels..”

I always liked the “…Miser Hero of Gold/Cellars/& Herring/in barrels”. It’s sort of an anti-Semitic remark there –  that an old Jewish miser with pickled herrings in barrels in his basement, plus barrels of gold – “a Miser Hero” – (but he’s a miser hero. So it’s actually like he’s describing a kind of (Fyodor) Dostoevsky character – “….Miser Hero of Gold/Cellars/& Herring/ in barrels”) – (might be old man Karamazov, probably, he’s referring to there, in The Brothers Karamazov, who was a miser hero, mistreated his sons, but had a lot of money that he buried under the floorboard).

“ – And you seek to achieve/ Greater satisfaction/Which is already impossible/ Because of Supreme Reality..” – (He doesn’t want to go through the whole explanation again, so he just jumbles all the words to this – “ ….Supreme Reality/and Time/ And Timelessness Entire/All conjoined & arranged & finished/By Karmas of Rue/In heavenlands remote -” So, “You suffer & you fall,/You discriminate a ball” – (You want to have a ball so you discriminate in order to get a ball to have a ball.  And in the action and grasping of trying to have a ball you just make more suffering).

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-six minutes in and concluding at approximately forty one minutes in

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