The Visuddhimaga (“Path of Purification”)

buddhaghosa-with-visuddhimaga

I finally finished reading the Visuddhimaga by Buddhaghosa (translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Nyanamoli). The Visuddhimaga (“Path of Purification”) is a comprehensive summary/analysis of the Theravada understanding of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Written in the fifth century, this 900-page book can make reading Proust seem like a walk in the part, but the little gems tucked away in the text make it worthwhile, like the verse in the section dealing with anapanasati:

“So let a man, if he is wise,
Untiringly devote his days
To mindfulness of breathing, which
Rewards him always in these ways.”

Or the lines on aging:

“With leadenness in every limb,
With every faculty declining,
With vanishing of youthfulness,
With memory and wit grown dim,
With strength now drained by undermining,
With growing unattractiveness
To wife and family and then
With dotage coming on, what pain
Alike of body and of mind
A mortal must expect to find!
Since aging all of this will bring,
Aging is well named suffering.”

I’d already read sections of this book over the years, but it was nice to read and view the work as a whole for the first time. That said, I prefer practical Buddhism and don’t like to waste time on such ideas as rebirth-linking, supernormal abilities, etc. I’m glad I read this book. To be honest, though, I’m up for a little light reading.

Why I Moved From Tumblr to WordPress

wordpress-logo

I recently moved my website from Tumblr to WordPress. Here the top 5 reasons I switched:

1. Tumblr’s lousy search engine optimization
2. More customization with WordPress
3. Tendency to overshare on Tumblr
4. Plugins!
5. Yahoo

The move took more of my time than I wanted it to (like the time I moved from Blogger to Tumblr), but I needed a content management system and space to grow, and the obvious answer was WordPress. I’m glad I switched.

Last Words Spoken By Famous Authors

Goethe

Here are the last words spoken by some famous authors:

“How gratifying!” ~ Robert Browning

“The damned doctors have drenched me so that I can scarcely stand. I want to sleep now.” ~ Lord Byron

[As he jumped overboard:]: “Goodbye, everybody!” ~ Hart Crane

“A dying man can do nothing easy.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“More light!” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Well, I must arrange my pillows for another weary night! When will this end?” ~ Washington Irving

“Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to die.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“I am dying as I’ve lived: beyond my means; this wallpaper is killing me; one of us has got to go.” ~ Oscar Wilde

From Strouf, Judie LH: Literature Lover’s Book of Lists: Serious Trivia for the Bibliophile; Prentice Hall; 1998.

What Is a Künstlerroman?

The Way of All Flesh cover

With Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe introduced me to the Künstlerroman (German for “artist novel”), and I have been a huge fan of the genre ever since. Some of my favorite novels (eg, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, The Way of All Flesh, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are of the Künstlerroman variety, and I even wrote one of my own.

The Künstlerroman is actually a subgenre of the Bildungsroman. A Bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story, that is, the story’s focus is on the psychological and moral growth of the main character from childhood to adulthood, with maturation as the goal. According to Wikipedia, “The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society.”

When the Bildungsroman’s main character is an artist, the work is a Künstlerroman (Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister is considered to be the first of its type). In other words, every Künstlerroman is a Bildungsroman, but not every Bildungsroman is a Künstlerroman.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Bildungsroman and a Künstlerroman, as illustrated by the list that currently appears on Wikipedia’s Künstlerroman page, but that confusion disappears when you consider the fact that the “artist novel” is a sub-genre of the “coming-of-age novel” and not a separate genre altogether.