Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer"....Gertrude Stein

Here, in front of my treasured literature are my favorite philosophers. There's the Buddha, of course, and then there are Kikazaru, Fuazaru, and Mizaru of hear-speak-and-see-no-evil fame. It's a little known fact (besides the little-known fact that the monkeys have names) that these fellows come to Japan via India via Buddhism. They were originally considered wise monkeys, but in Western translations, they have come to mean ignoring evil--which is not so wise. Must we Westerners screw everything up?

A, Zen! Let's empty our minds, shall we? Get down to the real nitty gritty by admitting that there is no nitty gritty. Old Gertrude and at least three monkeys understood that and so can we.

I was just sitting here in one of my two fat recliners and I happened to take a break from my struggles with the written word when I looked up an started scanning my book shelves.

Most people give books away/throw them away when they've read them. But my attitude is that we need to cling to wisdom and so I cling to my books. In short, my books are part of me, of who I am. I'm not getting too serious here, because a lot of my books are not serious. For example, I have one big, fat volume of limericks--just limericks and it's a prized possession. Yes, there is wisdom in a good limerick.

Yet I do have more than a few "serious" volumes, like Faulkner, Hemingway, Marquez, The Genre of the Dirty Joke, and the two my eyes fell on tonight whilst sitting and watching "The Colbert Report." To wit: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.

Both of these tomes are definitely serious stuff by a cracked "genius" named Robert Persig. Mr. Persig, armed with an I.Q. of 170 (I thought the Stanford-Binet only went up to 165) and a brain that is wired differently than ours (so he must be right?) tackles the dichotomy between Western values and those of our brethren in the Orient (forget that most of the Orient, these days, is interested in technology and money--mostly American money). Specifically, Zen Buddhism which teaches that enlightenment can be reached through meditation as opposed to Western thought, which teaches that enlightenment can be reached through collecting guns, watching the Colbert Report, and eating doughnuts and pizza.

Not, I'm not kidding. It's all true. The problem for the mysterious Orient, though, is that the Western philosophy of food, power, fame, and money seems to be winning. Take China, which, since the death of Mao and the Cultural Revolution, is focused on that fine old capitalist goal of industrial production and which produces vast amounts of Zen-be-damned pollution.

Nonetheless, I love Persig's writing. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is, of course, a classic, while Lila picks up the philosophical thread and weaves it into somewhat less entertaining, but equally interesting cloth. In Lila, the author, presumably Persig, is sailing his sailboat from western New York State to New York City via the Erie Canal. Along the way, he picks up a woman of questionable values--indeed, she turns out to be a hooker--who, after many ship-board discussions and subsequent cogitating, causes Persig to posit that New York City, because of its anything-goes-if-it-goes creative environment (its hooker virtues, apparently) is the most moral place in the world; that the most moral thing a human can do is be positively creative. Kinda elevates hookers to an unheard of level in the scheme of things befitting the oldest (wisest?) profession.

In the end, though, we'll all have to admit that, Persig notwithstanding, old Gertrude and the monkeys were right: There ain't no answer. And there ain't no reason there has to be an answer. Why does there have to be an answer? Or, in the words of a bumper sticker I saw once: What if the hokey-pokey is really what it's all about?

Of course, Gertrude (who was no hooker and may or may not have been familiar with the practice of Zen) is most famous for declaring, A rose is a rose is a rose, so when it comes to philosophy, you have to consider the source.

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