I had a morning meeting today wherein I was reminded of the importance of my task blurring the boundaries between “scholar” and “practitioner.”
Also today, when other meetings I (thought I) had scheduled didn’t actually happen, I slacked off and went through over six years of blog posts looking for things that might be controversial. I was thinking about this blog project of mine, my transitional state between grad student and full-time academic, and whether or not this blog may have deleterious effects on the later. I do occasionally look back, of course, at what I’ve written. But not in such a systematic way. Looking over almost everything I’ve written in this space all at one, I am left with the following conclusion: I write a lot of really pointless dribble.
And, my god, thanks for sticking with it, my loyal but quiet regular readers! You are awesome.
Lost amid all that dribble, and particularly over the last two years, some real gems stand out. And as I lingered here and there over the more obviously controversial bits, I realized something: I stand by it. All of it. To be sure, there are some things that I’ve written that, if I had to, I might revise, I might elaborate on in order to make particularly sticky or vague comments more clear. And certainly there’s a lot of bad language out there (both in terms of Richard Gere’s bane (four-letter words) and in terms of just bad writing). But there is nothing that I outright regret or reject.
And I am reminded that there is a reason I got into this mess in the first place to highlight the following two points: (1) that objectivity is a myth, and that (2) there’s work to be done to make our communities stronger, more open and respectful of dissident and historically marginalized voices.
Of the first item, that objectivity is a myth, this is what I meant by my opening statement, my task in blurring the lines between scholars and practitioners. As I have mentioned briefly in passing before and as some of my more scholarly-inclined readers will already know, there is a tendency in humanities-based disciplines to valorize objectivity as if objectivity is possible, as if we can compartmentalize ourselves and our perspectives, don white lab coats and gloves like our hard-scientist colleagues and dissect culture as if we are apart from culture when we all know deep down inside that we are, in point of fact a part of culture.
So let’s face it. This blog may be the death of my “professional” career. But I highly doubt that. And let’s face another thing. I am already a “full-time academic.” And I really oughtta get used to it. (The real question is what type of full-time academic do I want to be and I think we all know the answer to that question; a public intellectual. This blog is part of that larger project, but just that part of a larger project that includes publishing and public speaking and teaching and podcasting.)
Of the second item, that there’s work to be done in our communities, I take “community” to be both broad and specific. And I acknowledge that I am part of multiple communities, that I have multiple loyalties. I am a member of one community called “academia” that has decidedly different concerns and aims and issues than the explicitly religious-spiritual-Buddhist communities that I am a part of. But I am also part of a larger community that, for want of a better word this late in the afternoon, I’ll call “American Buddhism.” And I will not make apologies for wanting that community to be as expansive and inclusive as possible, that designation to designate the broadest number of Buddhists possible. How could I, in clear conscious, limit “American Buddhism” to the Buddhisms practiced by well-intentioned middle-class white folks when so many others have been just as influential in bringing the Dharma to these shores?
I am feeling reflective. (This always seems to happen so close to my birthday.) And so I don’t know if there is any specific point to this post or if it is, like so many of its predecessors, pointless dribble. And I am fighting the strong urge to fall heavily into melodrama or to make grand pronouncements on what my readers can expect in the months to come. All I will say is this: there’s work to be done, and you ain’t heard the last of me!