When I said that Colombo was shocking I did not mean it morally, spiritually, or aesthetically, but literally: just as a ride in an old car over a dirt road is shocking, so the unevenness, the drive, the rush, the movement of Colombo is shocking after the calmness of an unhurried contemplative life. To judge from recent reports life in the West must be even more shocking these days. Most people, of course, want and even seek out such activity: it is an excellent way of avoiding the necessity of facing one's existence, since activity and reflexion are antithetical.
One of the things I got rid of in Colombo was most of my connexion with the book publishing -- that, too, has simply become too great a disturbance to my real work and goal, and although it might have been nice to publish, it is actually not only peripheral but even unnecessary. And the work involved, of course, as I can see clearly, would have been detrimental to my meditation -- which comes first because I want it to come first: it's the only thing I've ever done in this life that has provided mc, independent of everyone else, with actual satisfaction. Nevertheless Ñānasumana is still holding to it, and he may (or may not) eventually get the manuscript into print.
As you've had the Letters for more than half a year now and have said nothing about them, I assume you haven't found them enlightening or even relevant. If this is so, or you're done with them, in any case, could you please send them to my friend Eric in British Columbia? You might find a book called Anti-Semite and Jew by J.P. Sartre (Schocken Paperbacks, New York) more to your taste (except the last few pages, which bit of propaganda may be ignored as irrelevant to the excellent portraitures of the rest of the book).
Sorry to hear of the Ra's failure. Where exactly is Barbados? I mean how much of their journey did they complete? But the moon-walk, I suppose, would impress the majority of people far more than the Ra ever could, which is an extremely paradoxical fact: the thing I felt about it was that although it was a 'triumph of science' (actually it was a triumph of technology, which is not at all the same thing as science; in this regard I'm now reading Jacques Barzun's Science, which clarifies the issues of a 'scientific culture' and is beautifully written as well; I was very impressed by another book of his The House of Intellect and all the other cant phrases, there was a sense of disappointment in that everything happened on schedule: theme was so much planning that the feat itself was not and could not possibly be considered as a 'triumph of man', who, after all, is truly a non-rational creature who chooses to live in a planned society (which is one of the great causes of the anxiety so much more prevalent in the West than the East). I do not condemn planning, of course, but merely observe that you have to pay the price for everything, and the price for planning (actually 'pre-planning by Others': what is removed here is the individual's own present choice when he allows his actions to be dictated by a distant organization in regards to which he reduces himself voluntarily to a fraction, thus sacrificing -- again, not without benefit or justification or loss -- his individual identity) seems to be the loss of certain human values the absence of which creates (or arouses) a feeling of malaise and insufficiency.
How much more human the Ra expedition is! (or, alas! was). It is unfortunate that the Ra expedition did fail, but its real attraction -- an attraction I did not feel towards the moon-trip -- was that it could fail. After all, it is only possible to succeed to the exact same extent that it is possible to fail, and, in that sense, the moon trip was not such a success. But, perhaps, at this point, you will feel that I am overreaching my point. Physically, of course, the moon-trip could fail, but emotively it could not -- there was a feeling -- in Ceylon, anyway, I can't say about the U.S. -- that there was a certain omnipotence at work: but this opens up a discussion of social values East and West beyond the scope of a letter.
(After re-reading this I think what I want to say is simply that the Ra had in it more of a sense of adventure. In the moon-shot, technology was the middle-man between man and the elements: the encounter was not so direct and man dealt more with the machine than with the moon -- and his own mind.)