John Cage on Enlightenment, Control, Indeterminacy, & Why

March 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm (John Cage, Silence) (, , , )

p. 6 “A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances so that he was able to travel to a distant island to study Zen with a certain Master for a three-year period. At the end of the three years, feeling no sense of accomplishment, he presented himself to the Master and announced his departure. The Master said, “You’ve been here three years. Why don’t you stay three months more?” The student agreed, but at the end of the three months he still felt that he had made no advance. When he told the Master again that he was leaving, the Master said, “Look now, you’ve been here three years and three months. Stay three weeks longer.” The student did, but with no success. When he told the Master that absolutely nothing had happened, the Master said, “You’ve been here three years, three months, and three weeks. Stay three more days, and if, at the end of that time, you have not attained enlightenment, commit suicide.” Towards the end of the second day, the student was enlightened.”

p. 37 “From that point of view from which each thing and each being is seen as moving out from its own center, this situation of the subservience of several to the directives of one who is himself controlled, not by another but by the work of another, is intolerable.”

p. 39 “Nothing therefor is accomplished by [an indeterminate] performance, since that performance cannot be grasped as an object in time. A recording of such a work has no more value than a postcard; it provides knowledge of something that happened, where as the action was a non-knowledge of something that had not yet happened.”

p. 42 “Is there any reason in asking why? Would I ask why if the questions were not words but were sounds?”

Silence: Lectures and Writings
John Cage

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