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Long Strange JourneyOn Modern Zen, Zen Art, and Other Predicaments$
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Gregory P. A. Levine

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824858056

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.001.0001

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What’s So Funny?

What’s So Funny?

Zen Cartoons, Zen Humor, and Bodhi-Characters

Chapter:
(p.158) 7 What’s So Funny?
Source:
Long Strange Journey
Author(s):

Gregory P. A. Levine

Publisher:
University of Hawai'i Press
DOI:10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.003.0008

Chapter Seven takes up the topic of Zen cartoons, which provide further glimpses of Zen and Zen art concepts, perceptions, and desires in operation away from the canon, even as they draw at times from canonical works and have their own “canonical” tropes. The chapter also explores the larger question of Buddhist/Zen humor in order to think through the very question of cartooning Zen. It proposes the category, “Bodhi-characters,” various figures drawn from the classical Chan/Zen pantheon along with recent Zen-master-esque figures, such as The Dude from The Big Lebowski (1997), who perform and are adored for their counter-normative if not absurdist attitudes and utterances that intimate (to some) Zen philosophical and spiritual truths. These figures create, I suggest, a modern-contemporary neo-“pantheon,” that embodies often the conception of Zen as residing in particular attitudes and demeanors, often linked to the comedic.

Keywords:   attitude, The Big Lebowski, Buddhist humor, cartoon, The New Yorker

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