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Chicken Soup. Notes from Bottom

You can say the Jesus Prayer from now till doomsday, but if you don’t realize that the only thing that counts in the religious life is detachment, I don’t see how you’ll ever even move an inch.

When speaking of detachment, desirelessness. or the „cessation from all hankerings“, there we are, right in the middle: The very first book that once sparked me for spirituality, is Salinger’s novel about Franny and Zooey, the two youngest members of a jewish-irish family from New York city. The following synopsis, which includes two quotes, might tell you of what is figured to religion in this modern „Zen tale“.

Franny is an undergraduate and actress, who is depicted reading the book: The Way of a Pilgrim, which contributes to an emotional breakdown. Zooey, her brother, five years older than Franny, is an actor too.
He visits Franny’s in her room and they talk about her dreams, the religion seminar professor that hates her, and acting. Franny shows him the pilgrim book, which tells how a Russian wanderer learns to take the prayer to a point where it becomes unconscious, almost like a heartbeat, ultimately leading to spiritual enlightenment.

But Zooey totally questions that reciting of a prayer and leaves the room.
… if it’s the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you’re missing out on every single goddam religious action that’s going on around this house. You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup– […] Even if you went out and searched the whole world for a master –some guru, some holy man–to tell you how to say your Jesus Prayer properly, what good would it do you?

A little later Zooey calls Franny by phone, they continue to talk, and remembering the Fat Lady in their audiences, he shares with Franny some words of wisdom that their eldest brother, Seymour, once gave him:

The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do, is act. […] I don’t care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I’ll tell you a terrible secret– Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know–listen to me, now–don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is? . . . Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.

(C) Kathrin Drescher, (aus: „Notes from Bottom“ vom 22.12.2008)