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.
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 on other 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.
I know, I know. Dancing teddy bears. But at least Jedi has that element of redemption. At least its basic message is that there is an innate goodness in Annakin that can be pulled out from behind the silly plastic mask. And I would argue that the path away from suffering is the crux of the issue in Buddhism; not suffering. Not a self-righteous Jedi knight who ” calmly sits in a meditative posture in order to prepare to face the villain.”
As many of my faithful readers take more of an interest in my personal comings and going than my academic/political/spiritual/etc. ones, I wanted to remind you all that my wife and I have a photo-blog over at PrecariousCat.com. I updated the blog a little while back, and Dana and I really are trying our best to keep it updated. To help in that regard, we posted some pictures of our new apartment something a lot of my out-of-town friends have been clamoring for. In the coming months, I hope to post more updates over there, especially as we’re doing a fair amount of traveling this summer and fall. Whimsical pictures from such mythical lands as Atlanta and Chicago are sure to follow!
The circle is now complete. When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master.
But I think he’s misguided about the assumption that Buddhism is not flourishing or that there is no “Buddhist culture” in America. And so I think his article is mostly off base. What I was hinting at in my previous post is actually just the opposite. First, I think the numbers are clearly in my favor, that there are all sorts of actual living and breathing Buddhists crawlin’ around all over the place in these parts. So it seems that what Strand is concerned about is one particular type of Buddhism which may be in danger of failing: his type. “Convert” Buddhism. Boomer Buddhism.