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November 9, 2004

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claude anshin thomas at elliott bay book company novemebr 9 2004
[ view movie - 3.8 M ]

After seeing a quote from Thich Naht Hahn on this website, Mike recommended I go see Claude AnShin Thomas speak at Elliott Bay Books. (It's nice to be in a place where authors come and read for free.  I've also seen Andrei Codrescu and Susan Schaeffer read there.) Claude AnShin Thomas did not read directly from his book At Hell's Gate, but rather summarized his experiences as a soldier in VietNam, his disappointing homecoming (people cursed at and spat on him), and subsequent discovery of zen buddhism via the teachings of Thich Naht Hahn. I didn't know if it was proper or polite to take pictures of a buddhist monk, but I shot one short film anyway, certain that it would be perfect in the sense that it would be what it would be. The film depicts AnShin describing his walk through Pennsylvania. (It just happens that he was born, suffered, and studied in Pennsylvania, so perhaps when he says "it's complicated getting through Pennsylvania" there's more to it than meets the ear.) After his talk, he invited his friend Charles Johnson onto the stage and the two fielded a range of questions from the audience, interrupted periodically by AnShin's German-born assistant whose spiritual discipline consists of ringing a bell at precise intervals. When she did, the room became very still and everyone focused on the sweet singing of metal. It was a welcome practice, one which reminded me of Poet-O, may he--and all of us--know peace.