I don’t know why, but something about the following bugs me.
I really didn’t want to write about Groundhog Day. In part because while Punxsutawney Phil claims there’s six more weeks of winter, we’ve been stuck in a drought in these parts; it feels more like six more months of summer to me. Bah. But I think the real reason I wanted to stay clear of Groundhog Day is because of this weird affectation I have that whenever something I really really like becomes popular, I start becoming deeply cynical about it. (You can imagine how confusing Obama’s election was for me.) I think this has to do with the fact that I was deeply unpopular as a kid, so all the things I really liked were really mine. They were safe, in a way, like a security blanket. But…I digress. No one’s here to listen to my self-analysis.
Where was I? Oh yes. Groundhog Day. It’s all over the buddhoblogosphere today because Buddhists really want to claim this movie as one of ours. I don’t know about that. I mean, I get that. And I liked the movie and all. But I have a hard time seeing it as a Buddhist movie. I mean, sure, it’s got certain themes and a certain narrative arch that could be read as Buddhist or interpreted from a Buddhist point of view. But that’s true of a lot of movies and when something is true of a lot of movies it becomes less and less meaningful.
Besides, if you want to see a really Buddhist movie, check out Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring. Freaking beautiful.
I guess I should be clear that I’m not particularly annoyed at Groundhog Day. I think I just got a little riled up by this article by Perry Garfinkel on Huffington Post. My biggest “ugh” moment came in this midst of this sentence:
Ramis [the movie’s director and co-writer] isn’t Buddhist, does not meditate, but is well read on the principles and consciously practices the simple tenets that weatherman Phil Connors comes to embody (picture a bald Bill Murray in saffron robes).
Ugh. Actually, I’d rather not picture a bald Bill Murray in saffron robes, thanks though. Now, before you all jump all over me, let me be clear: I like the movie Groundhog Day. I like Bill Murray. I know this article is completely tongue in cheek. (And much of this here post by me is, too!) But I’d like to gently point out to everyone that Bill Murray is not a bodhisattva and neither is Phil Connors.
Garfinkel goes on to write about the Four Noble Truths with phrases like “This can make you think that life â€” being alive â€” is good” and if you do good things “the day will feel better.” And I’m reminded of a piece over in the Enlightenment Ward from a week or two ago about new and improved Buddhism. NellaLou writes that
Buddhism has become confused with, exploited by,Â and a replacement term for self-help,Â 12 step programs, secular humanism, security blanket, social club, dating service, social activism, political lobbying, recreational drugs, advertising agency, kitsch decor, therapy, New Age ideology, environmentalism, vegetarianism, antidote to whining, ego posturing and other attention seeking activity.
Right on, NellaLou.
Wanna know something scary? When the Buddha says, in the Second Noble Truth, that the cause of suffering is desire, he also says that the reason we have desire is because we mistakenly believe that we have a self. The whole purpose of Buddhist practice is to deconstruct the self. (Anyone telling you anything differently is trying to sell you something.) Self-decontruction scares the hell out of me. If it doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should. And you might wanna consider practicing harder.
Y’know, I don’t know how I feel about this post. I told myself a few weeks ago that I wanted to write something “thoughtful” at least once a week. And I’ve got some stuff written for a book review I’m writing for the Journal of Global Buddhism (but feel like I should hold off on that till the review is actually accepted/published). So I think I might be, as the phrase goes, talking out of my ass here. If that’s true, maybe this should go in that file of unpublished blog posts I have. But I also know that this blog is all about first drafts, all about me talking out of my ass and looking for that one bit of something really good. And I think I’m on the verge of writing something very meaningful about how contemporary Buddhism in the West, particularly of the fashionable-zen-meditation-retreat variety, is becoming less and less meaningful because it’s all starting to look alike. And if it all looks alike, what difference does it make whether you’re doing Zen or psychotherapy? I know, I know. From the point of view of the ultimate, it doesn’t matter at all. But down here, in the real world, what are all you meditation center runners going to do when people stop showing up? You’ll have to get real jobs or something….See, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But to hell with it. I’m posting this anyway. Open up the flood gates!