Burrough’s chatter

Beat generation writer William Burroughs broke with his compatriots in not being enamored with Buddhism. Burroughs was once persuaded — in 1975 — to attend a retreat with the famous Chogyam Trungpa and loathed it. First he wanted to bring a typewriter but the request was turned down. So he took concealed paper and pencil. He insisted on recording his every thought and dream. Burroughs argued that he did not like Buddhism’s closed and predictable system of karma and rebirth, and preferred instead the open system of Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books. In that system, the individual is like a warrior cutting a path through unpredictable obstacles, there being no “final solution or enlightenment.”

I’m not sure all Buddhists would agree with Burrough’s dichotomy. In any case, he is not so independent of his culture as he might imagine. Burroughs’ creativity is as much the journalist’s and diarist’s less the artist’s, meticulously recording what goes on around him, including everything that goes on in his mind. Self-perception is inflated to the status of a raging warrior’s combat against the universe. It reminds me of what one of the characters in a beat story objects to about meditation, about its silencing all the chatter in the mind: “But I like all the chatter.”