Wednesday, June 18, 2008

West lacking East

Currently reading a book called “The log from the Sea of Cortez” by American author John Steinbeck (1902-1968).

John Steinbeck

In 1940, Steinbeck and the biologist Edward F. Ricketts ventured aboard the “Western Flyer”, a sardine boat out of Monterey, California, USA, on a 4.000-mile voyage around the Mexican Baja peninsula into the Sea of Cortez.
The sea next to which the Fuso Szulc is parked.

“The log from the Sea of Cortez” is a day-by-day account of the expedition.
But it is also about science and philosophy.
The extraordinary presence of nature inspiring Steinbeck to higher levels of thinking.

On page 218 we find the following statement:
“There is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him.”

We must understand that probably Steinbeck means with “man”, the human being.
Including women also.

Steinbeck’s statement is very true.
Of course a person will feel very lost in life if a perfect and certain pattern dissolves.
For example if a person is used to a life with plenty of money and suddenly all material wealth is gone.
To adapt to poverty will be difficult and painful.
Or if a person is in a harmonious and happy relationship and suddenly the partner dies.
How else can the person feel but lost and miserable?

Steinbeck gives as an example:
“There is no hater like one who has greatly loved”.

This might be an extreme way of putting it and the statement suffers of generalizing.
There are plenty of people who lost the love of their life and did not become haters.

What Steinbeck was totally lacking in 1940 was any knowledge of ways of thinking about life as they do in the Far East.
In India, Japan and China.
He was unknown with concepts like transformation, sublimation and enlightenment.
He therefore could only conclude that a drastic change in the life of a person would lead to war, negativity, depression and destruction.
Writing his book during the Second World War he was unable to see that a person may have experiences in life that seem to be dramatic and destructive.
But that eventually they turn out to be the best that could happen.
Because the person manages to go through the deep and dark valley while learning and growing to ultimately manage to climb out of the personal hell to reach new and higher levels of living.

This concept was unknown to Steinbeck.
He writes:
“Little enough is known about the function of individual pain and suffering, although from its profound organization it is suspected of being necessary as a survival mechanism”.

The truth is that for thousands of years a lot is known about the reasons for human beings to have suffering and painful experiences in life.
But Steinbeck was living in a context of extreme violence and worldwide conflict: the USA in the 40’s.
Making himself go deeper into this context by becoming a war correspondent.
Allowing violence and conflict to go even deeper inside him.

Remarkable enough, very near from where Steinbeck was living, a spiritual master was expressing an opposite message.
Steinbeck was in Salinas, California, USA and Jiddu Krishnamurti was in Ojai, California, USA.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

275 miles (442 kilometres) away from each other.
But Steinbeck never heard that life is a process of learning.
Not to survive, but to grow.


To learn more about Jiddu Krishnamurti, click on:

To learn more about John Steinbeck, click on:

To learn more about the book “The log from the Sea of Cortez”, click on:


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