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March Readers' Comments on
Thank You and OK! an American Zen
Failure in Japan
Just a few here now. I plan to go back and get some of the past ones here.-DC
Click here for basic info on TY&OK! For more, just go to Amazon.com. There's plenty there and great reviews. Some day I may get more on this site on it.-DC
3/2/2000 - from McCann [extracted from a longer note]: By
the way, I think a guy named David Chadwick wrote a book on being a Zen
student in Japan. It rambled some, but there were some very funny parts, a
bit of pathos, and a few glimpses of insight. Overall it was a pretty good
book. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. If you've already
seen it, disregard the preceding paragraph. I'm sure you've already drawn
your own conclusions.
[I'm beginning to understand you. That David Chadwick who wrote that book is a pompous imposter and should be routed out of his miserable hiding and made to pick up trash along the highways. - DC]
3/6/2000 from McCann:- I'm not sure we're talking about the same David Chadwick here. The one I'm thinking of wrote a book entitled Thank You, I'm O.K., and You're O.K. It had a funny shaped box of matches on the front. I vaguely recall he had a few too many moments of stumbling from here to there and occasionally wallowing in indecision, but when he focused on what was going on outside of his head, he was able to capture it in words quite well. Picking up trash by the highway, on occasion, would probably be good for him but no more than it would be for the rest of us. As far as being any harsher, I don't really think he deserves that.
I was going to quote a bit of Shakespeare here, something from Hamlet, but I can't find it. Either it isn't there or it's somewhere else. I thought I remembered a scene where a troop of players came by Hamlet's castle and entertained Hamlet (in his madness) to some extent. Hamlet (as I recall) tells his chief servant to see that the players are well taken care of. The servant does not approve of the wandering players and says, sarcastically, "I'll see that they get what they deserve." (That's what I hear you saying of this Chadwick fellow.) Hamlet immediately catches his servant's drift and says, more or less, "Oh, no, not what they deserve! If we all got what we deserved we'd be burning in Hell as we speak! See that they are well taken care of."
Well maybe it wasn't in Hamlet but I remember a story like that from somewhere. If you'd like something from Hamlet anyway, of the following I am sure: "Brevity is the soul of wit." and "That he is mad, 'tis true; 'tis true 'tis pity; And pity 'tis 'tis true." I hope this helps.
[Close to what Rick Fields would say: "What's that book again, "I'm OK, You're OK?" It reminded me of the mother who says to her son who's brought his girlfriend Marianne to dinner: "Dear, why don't you pass some more peas to your friend, what's her name? Mary? Here Mary, have some more peas."
He's Obviously a confused fool.
But picking up trash by the highway is a good thing to do, indeed, noble.
And yes, that helps. - DC]
3/7/2000 - from McCann: On the one hand I can see that you're bound and determined to be heavy handed with this Chadwick fellow, "a confused fool" you say. Then you go on, in response to my anecdote that may or may not have been from Hamlet and reply, "A severe attitude, human, not divine, not even karmic. The gods have more pity." Perhaps we do understand one another.
3/9/2000 - From: Michael Thaler: Subject: No, thank **YOU** and OK!
In 1994, I read "Thank You and OK!" and fell in love with it. As someone just becoming interested in studying Buddhism, I found your descriptions of temple life most interesting insight.
My budding interest, in part, led to my decision to travel to Japan in 1995. As a member of the JET -- Japan Exchange and Teaching -- Program, I lived in Chiba Prefecture for three years, teaching English in a public junior high school.
I reread "Thank You and OK!" this week, and thanks to my own insights gained through my stay there, it meant so much more to me this time. The first time I read it, your very subtle criticisms of some of the more annoying (to foreigners, anyway) Japanese social mores went totally unnoticed.
But on second reading -- and by virtue of my stay in Japan -- I can see just how skillful your critique was. You held those mores and conventions up for criticism by citing them without passing judgment.
Your critique was all the more powerful and effective by your not being judgmental, by letting those mores stand or fall on their own merits. I'm not sure I'm explaining myself effectively, and I apologize for this awkwardness.
Anyway, I really immersed myself in Japanese culture and religion during my stay, and must have set a record for shrine and temple visits by a gaijin. I even walked the Tokushima Prefecture portion of the Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage.
I also wrote a profile for the Japan Times of a Shingon-mikkyo priest who graduated second in his class from Koya-san seminary and is a respected member of the English faculty at Koya-san University. He also is a sought-after speaker on Shingon theology. Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Catholic altar boy from Brooklyn!
My very deep thanks to you for writing such a wonderful book!
PS - May I ask the name of the temple at which you stayed while in Japan? What municipality served as the model for "Maruyama"?
[The Soto temple I was at was Shogoji in Kyushu near Kumamoto. The Rinzai temple I studied at was Sogenji in Okayama where I had the good fortune to study with Shodo Harada Roshi. I lived in a section of town called Maruyama. I changed the names in the book so I wouldn't have to worry about what I said so much. Still one neighbor who speaks good English is, as far as I know, still mad at me (though I did get some letters which specifically mentioned how much they liked her). I'll be more careful in the future.- DC]
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