dear future self

Dear Future Self,

I’m writing to you from the end of 2009. For Christmas this year, someone gave you Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. I haven’t finished reading it, yet, but let me say this up front: I love it. I have a feeling it’s something I’ll come back to time and again. But, last night, reading a couple of essays about childhood here in the 21st century (a.k.a, The Future), I detected the familiar stench of the bitter old man, just beneath the surface.

You may remember the bitter old man. Many years ago now I wrote about him when he popped up in an article on Wired.com. Those there dark days, to be sure. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I saw bitter old man’s snarky female cousin in an essay by Barbara Ehrenreich (more on that later). So perhaps I’m just overly sensitive. To be sure, whereas Mr. Chabon (rightfully) laments the loss of what he dubs the wilderness of childhood and the move from sterile, minimalist Lego blocs to recreations of George Lucas’ memory, there are real gems in here, too. There is the acknowledgement that not all hope is lost, that children, as they always have, will find new avenues of creativity and imagination; they will transcend the crap of mainstream media.

response to a sociopath

I lieu of anything more profound, on a general interest or even, dare I say it, Buddhist topic, and in lieu of a long-winded diatribe about the general hypocrisy and double standard in American media whenever a Muslim, a person of color, a non-Chrisitian — in short, a non-white heterosexual middle-class male — does anything, I offer the following.

I’ve been thinking about the tragedy at Ft. Hood, and I’ve been actively boycotting the media ever since I heard an interview on NPR — NPR of all places! — of an Army chaplain who happens to be a Muslim. They were interviewing him and asking him asinine questions because another person who also happens to be a Muslim went on a sociopathic shooting spree, as if there’s something about being a Muslim that makes one predisposed to being a sociopath or that there’s something about being a Muslim that makes you able to relate to all other Muslims. And I found myself thinking, after another sociopath who happens to be a Christian gunned down an abortion doctor earlier this year, did NPR seek out the nearest Christian clergy member and ask similarly inane questions about Christianity? Or did they just assume, rightly, that that one lone sociopath was indeed a sociopath, nothing more and nothing less, who happened to use his religious views as justification for his behavior? It’s a fine line. But it’s a line worth keeping in our minds. I’d like to call that line: “Sociopathic behavior is bad no matter what; but just because said sociopath happened to belong to marginalized group X does not mean that all members of marginalized group X are sociopaths.”

bitter, with a splash of loving-kindness

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?

theravada, podcasts, kids, and cancer

The most recently released IBS Podcast episode is a lecture by UC Chico’s Daniel Veidlinger, and it’s quite good. His overall project is to examine how changes in technology effect the way Buddhism is practice, and, in this case, he’s looking at the transition from a predominately oral and aural culture to a culture dominated by the written word in ancient South and South East Asia. In other words, the basic question is, what effect did this new invention of writing have on the early Buddhist communities? The answers may surprise you. Or, maybe they won’t, but either way the talk is well worth watching.

In other, completely unrelated news, my lovely and talented wife, a force of unrelenting good in this world, is doing a 10K run to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For those who don’t know, St. Jude’s hospitals do research to prevent childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases. So, you know, also damn good work but of a different sort than historical/textual scholarship.