Letter from Rick Levine to Michael Downing
concerning Shoes Outside the Door
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002
This note will be a brief instance of fan mail. I've got your address from my good friend David Chadwick....The book has been a delight to me.
Please let me introduce myself--arrived at Zen Center 1968, and resided there variously (including almost 3 years at Tassajara) till roughly 1992. And I continue practicing zazen uninterruptedly. Treasurer at Tassajara for a while; head Tassajara guest dinner cook for the summers of 1970 and 1972; "anja", private secretary, and chauffeur for Richard Baker 1974 for a year, in association with Lucy; emissary/secretary in residence and correspondent with Nancy Wilson Ross and Stanley P. Young 1975; private secretary, student, and correspondent with Edward Conze 1973; priest ordination 1977 by Richard Baker; Later, physician and close friend to Dr. Masao Abe; Physician to Issan Dorsey and to Philip Whalen....I hope this "C.V." doesn't appear intended as self-referential, I only want to indicate that I was in the room during many of the scenes you depict, and knew/know many of the players personally....The stories you tell are well-chosen and intelligently spoken. I think you've done an excellent job, and I'm personally grateful to you for writing about those events more effectively than anyone else who has tried.
My one itsy-bitsy little criticism is that the sense of how absolutely fun and edifying it was to live connected to the ZC community in those days, might be enhanced some, not for propaganda, but so that the lurking darknesses are all the more poignant. In my eyes that "fault" (forgive me) doesn't matter much; and to your credit, I believe that it likely does matter some that the psychodrama be well-told and understood. "Shoes Outside..." helps me notice how both the individual and social psychopathology that's described is of a distinctly "ordinary" type, the type found rampant in what Conze referred to as "foolish common people" i.e., most of us . We are not in any rarefied transcendental stages of Abhidharma Psychology, the psychology of the "upper reaches of the spiritual path" (Guenther?)...I found Yvonne Rand, and Stewart Brand's comments to be especially well-considered...
The Roshi's unseemly attempts to rehabilitate his reputation do not have underpinnings in the Buddhist canon or any oral Buddhist teaching traditions that I know of. (I say that in the face of my abiding affection for the man). Now let's cut to the chase: I think you've written an outstanding book, I loved reading it, and wish to thank you for the pleasure.
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