Writing as a Tool to Enlightenment in Invitation to a Beheading

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Writing as a Tool to Enlightenment in Invitation to a Beheading Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading concerns a man struggling for enlightenment against a society that demands its citizens question none of the absurdities that rule their world. In this restrictive environment, where a person can be killed for having depth--for being “opaque”--Cincinnatus uses writing to help him obtain enlightenment. First, Cincinnatus writes to preserve “a record of verified thoughts” (Nabokov 51). He wants to give hope to those who, like him, may be persecuted and alone. However, Cincinnatus constantly struggles to express, through writing, ideas that cannot be articulated. This inability leads Cincinnatus to finally understand that writing prevents him from gaining ultimate freedom and enlightenment. He realizes that writing is merely another shackle binding him to the physical world. Cincinnatus finds enlightenment when he willingly rejects all that binds him to the corporeal, including the inspirational writings dedicated to his fellow nonconformist, which provided him with so much relief during his imprisonment. This idea of releasing the soul from the burdens of the body and the physical world is greatly enhanced when connected to some of the basic principles of Zen Buddhism. These principles are built around the idea that removing the self from its physical limitations is the key to enlightenment, which is what Cincinnatus finds himself doing. Therefore, each step Cincinnatus takes along the path to enlightenment, aided by the knowledge gained through his writings, is best understood when related to Zen, for each step corresponds to an important teaching within this Eastern faith. Zen Buddhism is based on “th... ... middle of paper ... ...nnatus’s journey reveals. To truly achieve enlightenment, a reader and a writer, must transcend reading and writing for what the mind already knows. Works Cited Bancroft, Anne. Zen: Direct Pointing to Reality. Spain: Thames and Hudson, 1979. Champawat. “Samsara.” Online posting. VT EReserve. 30 Mar. 2001 http://ereserve.ward.vt.edu/view.jhtml?crn=20010112004. Cooper, J.C. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. Kapleau, Roshi Philip. Zen: Merging of East and West. New York: Doubleday, 1989. Kotz, Sean. “Buddhism, Taoism, Zen.” Online posting. VT EReserve. 30 Mar. 2001 http://ereserve.ward.vt.edu/view.jhtml?crn=20010112004. Nabokov, Vladimir. Invitation to a Beheading. New York: Vintage, 1989. Radcliff, Benjamin, and Amy Radcliff. Understanding Zen. Boston: Tuttle, 1993.

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