Late Zen

Craig Sisman C.Sisman
Mon Sep 13 10:17:25 EDT 1999

Peter (High) wrote: 

"before embarking  on a project 
attempting to relate Zen to Japanese cinema, we have to acknowledge that in
past similar attempts tended to dead end in a slough of platitudes. That in
is all right, I guess, but in terms of film analysis its not very
enlightening. I 
think its also significant that, so far, the whole thread on the subject has
yet to 
evoke a single actual film reference, let alone an analysis. In fact--and
me if I'm misreading here, Craig--the rest of your above paragraph  seems to

represent a stepping back from the attempt yourself. :-)"

No correcting necessary Peter :-)
- you have read me more accurately than I was able to read myself!

One of the nice things about KineJapan threads is that you can see your own
position shifting - and Peter's postings have certainly helped moderate some
of my own initial naivety. Although I have to say that I never intended to
actually do any of the research on Zen and Film myself - I was, in a rather
lazy and cowardly way, interested to see if someone else had already done
the hard work! What this thread on Zen and Film has helped me realise is
that my laziness was perhaps due to the fact that deep down I felt that such
an attempt would ultimately be futile. Nevertheless, I still feel that
others should not be unduly discouraged from trying to make meaningful
connections between Zen and Film.  
I should also say here that I think I was wrong to assume that the initial
silence on the list re. Zen was symptomatic of a lack of interest or
appreciation of Zen - I now realise that this silence may well have been one
of respect.

A submerged, more general issue that this thread has raised that I'd like to
make a little bit more explicit is the conflict between the experiential and
the academic. Both Joss (Winn) and Peter (High) referred to having spent a
year or so in a Zen monastery and I am sure that other list members have had
similar, equally rich, experiential encounters with various aspects of
Japanese culture. Perhaps trying to say something meaningful about Zen is
just an extreme example of how our attempts to combine the vividly
experiential with academic analysis always seem to dessicate and impoverish
that experience  (while on the other hand our attempts to couch the
experiential in more direct forms of language always seem so infuriating
vague and woolly).  Perhaps this is just one of my private obsessions - I
wonder, do other list members feel a similar frustration????
One final bit of irony: Perhaps the issue of Zen and Film could be settled
quite simply if we took an ontological position in line with the Chinese Zen
Masters that (the very un-academic) Alan Watts was so found of quoting 
- the quest for a 'Zen film' is, like the quest for Zen itself, futile
because 'every film is already Zen'.

Yours with a (playful) twinkle in his eye,


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