Saturday, July 28, 2012
Like so many at the time, I was completely and forever blown away by the stories of magic and the possiblity of other worlds, other existences, other ways of seeing the world, "a separate reality" as Carlos often puts it.
But in this one I miss the appearance of the Brujos (sorcerers) Don Juan, and his magical sidekick, Genaro. I'm not sure how many books there are in total, but some eight or nine? All telling of the amazing encounters Carlos had with the other world, in the deserts of central Mexico. He was a graduate student doing his thesis on the use of medicinal herbs among the Yaqui Indians of the Southwest, and in a Greyhound bus depot he meets an old Yaqui man he called "Don Juan", asking him if he might know someone who can tell him about medicinal plants. Don Juan says no, but he himself has "a little knowledge"
of their use, the qunitessential understatement of modern times!
The books are somewhat chronological, and I suggest reading them in order if possible, because they document Carlos first encounters with the magical world of sorcerers, his initiation into to it, and his clumsy and frightening journey to becoming what Don Juan and Genaro call a "man of knowledge." The power and beauty of their "teachings" compares to any of the ideas of the modern Western world of philosophy and psychology.
By the time this book is written, Carlos finally realizes that he was not alone in his intitiation, but part of a group of apprentices, 4 women and 3 men, although he had met them before briefly. What a movie this would make, putting modern psychological thrillers to shame! Carlos is a master at detailing the supreme fears and terrors he experiences, his stupidity and his debililitating clinging to his reason in the face of the inexplicable.
Anyway, I am glad to be reading again. I was an avid reader in my youth and years have passed since I have picked a book, and actually read it, so it feels good, a sense of accomplishment. I also just finished reading "Letters to a Young Poet", by Rainer Maria Rilke, a book I had been introduced to by my college philosophy instructor. Rilke's message seems simple: Find courage in your solitude, embrace it because from it you grow stronger.
It is tragic that today there seems to be fewer and fewer readers. I had to labor ceaselessly to get my students to read an essay or even a short story! And I was dismayed when they would confess, with a measure of glee, "This is the first book I have read in my whole life", or "This is the first book I read all the way through, "Mr. Rivers."
I hope this reawakening to the pleasures of reading in me, is not a passing fancy but hangs around for a while longer.