This much I know.
No one likes their identity to be defined or described by a third party, particularly when that third party is an anonymous total stranger. No one likes to be labeled or defined or described by someone else; and when they are, they’re understandably upset by it.
Here’s a couple more things I know.
I have absolutely no problem, in principle, with white folks “remaking” Buddhism to suit their particular cultural needs. I have no problem, in principle, with Buddhist teachers reinterpreting Buddhist doctrines or practices to better serve the needs of some group of practitioners, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background. (I say “in principle” because the Buddhist apologist in me has concerns about some of these changes, but that’s beside the point. Or, rather, beside the point of this particular post.)
One of my favorite moments from last year’s presidential campaign was when Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama. Not because I particularly cared who Mr. Powell thought we should vote for, and not because I agree with the man or thought his endorsement, that late in the game, was really going to change anything. What I liked about that moment was what he had to say about the Tin-Foil Hat Brigade’s claims that Mr. Obama was a Muslim. To which Mr. Powell said, “So what?” “Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”
And I’ve been having the same reaction lately in this health care debate as the Tin-Foil Hat Brigade marches to town halls to scream about Pres. Obama being a socialist. I had that same reaction, thinking to myself, if Pres. Obama’s “socialism” is little more than the type of health care enjoyed by most of Northern Europe and Canada, who cares?
Earlier this summer, I started a little research project based on this post. I asked folks to submit their own coming to Buddhism stories. While the project is still on-going, I wanted to report some initial thoughts as well as where I’m thinking of heading with it.
First and foremost, an update and hearty thank you!
I received a number of responses from my initial post from Buddhists who had either converted or had rediscovered a forgotten family tradition. Much thanks to everyone who contacted me; you’re willingness to share your experiences, I believe, will go a long way in helping us understand the nature of the American Buddhist landscape.
Ethan Nichtern wrote a compelling, thoughtful, and all-around lovely post over on the Huffington Post about the current health care debate, Whole Foods, and (as is his m.o.) interdependence. It reminded me of some political commentator I read in the paper the other week. (Can’t recall now where or who; you’ll just have to take my word for it.) He mentioned that one of the reasons that the Democrats and Pres. Obama may be loosing the fight over health care is that they’re not telling people “what’s in it for them”; that people are worried about losing coverage they already have and can’t see what benefit they have in covering the millions of uninsured people in this country.
I don’t know the merits of this claim. That is, I don’t know if that’s really true or not, that health care reform is going to fail because of the “message” of the DNC and its spin doctors. It seems pretty obvious to me that if health care fails it will be because the Tin Foil Hat Brigade was loud enough to scare anyone in Congress who might have stood their ground into giving up on the whole thing, as if those in the Tin Foil Hat Brigade are the only ones whose votes matter. But that’s beside the point.
I’ve been mulling over the design of this blog for a few weeks now, maybe even months. Part of the reason is that this site is something of my hobby, so tinkering is in order. But over the last couple of weeks, thinking more about the “big picture” issues of my life, work, career, future, whatever well, sometimes it helps to rearrange the furniture.
To whit. Welcome to the fourth incarnation of the buddha is my dj. I wanted to maintain the simple design that highlights the writing (it is a blog after all); but I also wanted to highlight some of my many projects the podcast, the Buddhaworld directory, academic stuff stuff that gets lost in the shuffle of a traditional blog where only the most recent posts show up on the front page.
It started with a short bit I read (via Loden Jinpa) about the demise of publishers due to the rise of e-book readers. It suggests that in five year’s time, Amazon, Apple, whomever, will cut out the “middle-man” of traditional publishers and work with authors directly to deliver content to our devices of choice. It really is a short bit, and I didn’t have time this week to read the article it’s referencing. And, let’s be honest, this is an an area of expertise that’s a little far-afield for me. (Like, for example, the article suggests that the iTunes Music Store is circumventing music labels. That’s not actually true, is it?) Nevertheless, it raises some interesting questions for me.
I am having something of a crisis of faith around here. I recently received some harsh but appropriate criticism of this pretty shabby looking blog in a private communique. That coupled with the increase in traffic to the site along with some other conversations I’ve had in comments and elsewhere have made me painfully aware of the fact that I can no longer blunder my way through this blog as if no one is watching. Because the fact of the matter is, people are.