Star Wars Episode I pretty much sucked. I think we can all agree on that. But there was a throw-away line by Qui-Gon Jinn that went, “your focus determines your reality.” I think there’s a bit of truth in that.
I’ve been thinking lately about our little corner of the Buddhist blogosphere. I’ve been reflecting on how, very often, we comment on one another’s blogs, how we write posts in reaction to posts one another’s blogs, endless chains of back-and-forth criticism. If you follow a chain of links from my blog to, say, Dharma Folk, to somewhere else, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t end up back here pretty quick. That’s what I mean about our little corner of the Buddhist blogosphere.
It makes me wonder. It makes me wonder where our focus is and how that is determining our reality.
Specifically, I wonder: how diverse are we? And here I don’t mean, necessarily, “diverse” in the sense of ethnic or gender or class diversity. I do mean that in part, but not just that. I also mean diversity in terms of practice traditions and especially topics of conversation. I can only assume the ethnicity or gender of my fellow Buddhist bloggers; but the truth of the matter is, I may never know if Arunlikhati is an Asian-American, college-aged woman or a fifty-year-old white male truck driver from South Dakota. All I have is our words; and our words are all starting to blend in together. Granted, this is just a passing idea I am having pretty late in the day on a Friday afternoon; it is not (let me repeat, not) a well-researched survey of the genre. But it does seem to me that there are recurring themes in this corner of the Buddhist blogosphere, recurring topics of conversation, and that they are pretty a pretty limited set.
If we expand our view of the Buddhist bloggersphere to a longer list, what happens? What happens if we take a list like, say, the blogroll over at the Tricycle Editor’s blog which, currently, has just shy of ninety different blogs and other Buddhist sites how diverse is this set of Buddhist voices? Or an even longer list such as NellaLou’s list on Enlightenment Ward which has more sites that I care to count this late on a Friday afternoon does that create a larger collection of different voices?
What else is out there? What else are you reading that I’m not even aware of? That barely registers in our ongoing, circular conversations?
While I certainly don’t think that this circular conversation is a bad thing, at times I wonder if we’re not just talking to ourselves. If all we do is comment on each other’s blogs, write lengthy critiques of each other’s posts, how much of an influence are we exerting beyond our little corner of the Buddhist blogosphere? (I’ll concede, readily, the following: it is not necessarily a requirement that we have any influence outside our little corner in which case, who cares? And, therefore, this whole post may be pointless.)
And on the flip side, what are we missing? What other voices or viewpoints are not influencing us? If we close ourselves off to this one little corner of the Buddhist blogosphere, are we not missing other expressions of Buddhism, other insights into Buddhist practice?
I mentioned above that I can only guess the ethnicity or gender of a lot of my fellow Buddhist bloggers; and I was speaking specifically of those bloggers who live in the Anglo-American, English-speaking world. I neither have the language skills nor the time to dive very deep into the world of non-English speaking, non-American Buddhist bloggers; but their stuff is out there. What are they writing about? What lessons do they have that I’m missing for lack of education or time?
Or, for that matter, what about those bloggers among us who are self-described Buddhists but don’t spend all their time blogging about Buddhism? I’ve been following the blog The Republic of T for some time now, a blog I stumbled across because of the tag-line: “Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.” I can’t tell you the last time I read a post on his blog that was explicitly about Buddhism. Politics. The health care debate. Marriage and equality rights. Sure. But Buddhism? Long reflections on his meditative experiences? Endless posts about Buddhist books or poetry? Incessant critiques of every little post every other Buddhist blogger has posted this week? None of that.
Perhaps being truly engaged means letting Buddhism slip into the background.
So. Having said all that, none of this is a prescription for any of my fellow Buddhist bloggers. If anything, it’s a plea for help. What are you reading? What am I missing? What voices are out there, Buddhist or not, that aren’t featured regularly in our little corner of the Buddhist blogosphere?
I am actively expanding my Buddhist horizons.