Natalie Goldberg is the author of 10 books including Writing Down the Bones, which has sold over one million copies and has been translated into 12 languages. In her memoir Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, the author paid tribute to Katagiri Roshi, the Zen teacher who gave her the idea of making her writing into a spiritual practice. In this very personal look at the two fathers who shaped her soul her birth father and her teacher Goldberg explores love, loss, and betrayal as their legacies. This cathartic volume will speak to all those who have struggled with flawed parents and spiritual teachers. In a country where success and getting ahead are lionized, it is refreshing to read a memoir about failure as a path to truth and a part of the process of healing.
Goldberg's Jewish father, Ben, was a formidable presence in her childhood. Consumed by a gambling addiction, he did not take much interest in Natalie. He passed on to her his determination, but he didn't respect her boundaries, and this caused the author many problems later in life.
Goldberg spent 12 years with her Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi, who taught her to continue under all circumstances, to stick with things, and to make an effort for the good. The author respected his enthusiasm, his ability to be totally present, and his refusal to criticize and judge people. When her father met him, all he could say was, "I fought them and now you're studying with them." An even greater hurt came when Goldberg discovers that Roshi had sexual relations with one of his female students. It takes the author a long time to accept this shadow side of her teacher.
The Great Failure enables us to see the value of doing work in our hearts as we accept the flaws of those nearest and dearest to us. Or as they say in the Zen tradition, we all have a stinky side that must be acknowledged and dealt with honestly.