Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction

Shattering Glass Houses: Destroying the Self in J.D. Salinger College

Time surges relentlessly, uncontrollably, and all too irrevocably for Buddy Glass in J.D. Salinger’s “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” and “Seymour: An Introduction.” Ever since his older brother Seymour’s death, Buddy has struggled to piece together the fragments of his existence, the diary entries, letters, and mirror notes scrawled in soap to create a perfect image of his lost hero’s life. Only, in the process, he comes to realize that his brother as a permanent, unchanging entity, never existed and that the idea of self or other is only an illusion. With Seymour’s words as guidance, Buddy begins to grasp the Zen concept of shinjin datsuraku, mind and body dropped off” to destroy the illusion of the self that prevents him from letting go of his brother’s death.

Mahayana Buddhism, of which Zen is a school, endeavors to reveal the truth of reality, that all factors of life are empty of independent existence. All elements are mutually dependent, like fire and firewood or a begging bowl and the rice that it contains[1]. As Dogen, the founder of the Soto school of Zen, said, “The begging bowl has for its function eating rice, and the function of eating rice is the begging bowl”[2]. In different contexts, each element serves...

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