Over the past couple of months, I have not felt a particularly strong urge to blog. I’ve been compelled to write. Some of that has ended up in other places, but most of it has ended up in stuff that I hope to have published in that old-timey medium called “books” (all fingers and toes crossed). So my writerly impulses have been satiated elsewhere, offline. Moreover, to paraphrase Grandpa Simpson, I used to pay attention to the news and read blogs, but they angry up the blood. So, in an effort to be self-compassionate, I’ve been keeping my head down a lot lately.
Via @claudia_m, I came upon this brief bit about Facebook (and promptly posted the article to my Facebook page where a couple of folks commented on it ah, irony!). The article is provocatively titled “Quit Facebook” and is about the obsessive amount of time we spend constructing our online identities.
Next Friday we’ll be releasing the second installment of the live podcast. And in this episode, someone in the audience (you know who you are) asks about the stereotypes or assumptions people make about Buddhism that really bug us. When Harry reminded me of this question (I’d completely forgotten about it (they say the mind’s the fist thing to go) and Harry’s in the process of editing it), I got to thinking about where this question may be coming from. I’m sure I’m projecting my own egotistical shit onto the questioner (sorry about that), but I can’t help but wonder if my own online identity prompts people to think I’m little more than a rabble rouser, bitter and angry.
Not infrequently, people I consider to be very good friends (in one or two cases, people I’ve known since I had Flock of Seagulls hair), will call me up or send me an email asking if I’m okay. They’re wondering what the backstory is to whatever travesty must have inspired some random thing I Twittered/blogged/Facebooked about. And my usual response is, “what?” I have no idea what they’re talking about. Whatever travesty of injustice got me so riled up on the Internets was a fleeting concern, something that really chapped my hide during a lunch break, but now that I’m home, now that I’m with three dimensional people, now that I’m sitting on my sofa listening to music or hanging out with my wife I’m sorry, what were we talking about?
Shortly after I posted my last entry, wherein I talked about the Buddha’s compassion embracing everyone without distinction, I received an email forwarded to me from my lovely and talented wife. A friend of ours’ daughter recently married, and her husband is now serving in the Army Reseve. In point of fact, he is right now at boot camp somewhere in the South.
Without revealing too many personal details, he is not currently a U.S. citizen. Turns out that one way to fast-track your citizenship is to join the Army Reserve. (Add that to my list of things I’d never thought about and was surprised to learn.) The gist of the email was to ask folks to send him letters, postcards, care packages. Something about being in boot camp means not having regular access to the Internet or email. And something about being a newlywed far from home means missing your family.
Early this morning, from a variety of places, I found out about Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam which is, at present, the subject of some sort of oppression from either the government or local population or both. What’s happening on the ground, in Vietnam, is obviously a little outside my area of expertise, I will freely admit. Regardless of what I know, don’t know, or think I know about Vietnamese Buddhism or the various organizations under Thich Nhat Hanh’s umbrella, it seems pretty clear to me that monks and nuns being forced from their monastery is an event that should give us pause, that we should take notice.
I decided to write something, very briefly, as a way of alerting people to what’s happening in the hopes that they would take the ball and run with it however the chose, whatever their prerogative. I wasn’t planning on taking a particularly strong stand, one way or the other, because, like I said, this isn’t my area of expertise. But, then again, knowledge is power.
[Engaged Buddhist social theory] holds that the traditional “three poisons” greet, anger, and ignorance do not apply only to individuals; these behavior patterns must also be analyzed and combatted as large-scale social and economic forces.
Kenneth Kraft, “Looking Ahead,” from Engaged Buddhism in the West
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about engaged Buddhism not only in the more obvious, social justice, Buddhist Peace Fellowship sense of the term, but also in the more everyday sense of remaining engaged with the world outside the hondo, temple, or off the cushion. I think I often take for granted that my continual harping on social justice issues around these parts is an expression of engagement. Reading the article quoted above just now, though, some explicit connection was made in my brain.
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.
In today’s installment of shameless self-promotion, first I give you a new episode of the DharmaRealm. This one is another answer to another listener question about ordination in Shin Buddhism. Harry and I, of course, meander though the whole of Buddhist history before getting to Shinran’s scandalous decision to get married and be neither monk […]