little help?

I’m looking for some dharma tattoos.

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digest: what have i done

One shouldn’t mistake a lack of blogging for a lack of productivity. This little Buddhist blogger has had one helluva productive month. Many things are happening. Some, I can’t reveal just yet. But here’s some stuff that I can.

announcement: prapañca

So this year I am getting involved in a new project, once the hectic first couple of months of the new year settle down (after seminars, classes, conferences, vacation). It’s a project I’m feeling extremely optimistic about, one that touches on a topic near and dear to my heart, and one that I hope will be of value to the larger Buddhist community.

Along with the help of some friends, we’re launching Prapañca, a quarterly, online Buddhist journal featuring both original reporting and opinion pieces on a wide variety of Buddhist topics, but also fiction, poetry, and the arts. The co-founders/editors and I are passionate not only about bringing a wide diversity of Buddhist voices to our future readers, we’re also passionate about creating a venue for writers of Buddhist fiction and poetry to showcase their work.

The journal is set to go live in June of 2010. I recognize that a more than three-month lag between announcement and launch is a near eternity in Internet time, but I wanted to make this announcement now as a way to solicit contributions. We’re taking this project seriously, which means that we want to create something of real value, something of substance, and that means we want to give folks plenty of time to write their hearts out before the official launch.

Please check out the submission guidelines here and contact us with any questions, with your ideas, with your feedback, with offers of help. We’re all ears!

And of course there will be occasional updates leading up to the launch. We’ve set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for just this reason. Feel free to follow, become a fan, etc., etc., and stay tuned for further announcements.

a skimpy-looking post

When I am asked what attracted me to Buddhism, one of my stock answers is a story about a community college course I was in and an instructor who told us that the first Noble Truth of Buddhism is that life is suffering. And my response, as an angry, confused, seventeen-year-old ne’er-do-well was, “Hell yeah.”

It was that sense of existential uncertainty, of pent-up frustration, that attracted me, like a lot of other young men and women for more than half a century, to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. And then, over the next decade or two, everything else he published that was still available in print or, in one case, at my university library in microfiche form.

J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday at the young age of 91, forty-five years after his last published short story and spending most of his life in “a little cabin somewhere” in New Hampshire, away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”

on writing

Via the ever-wonderful RMS at the Worst Horse, I have discovered, downloaded, installed, and am now using Ommwriter. As my long-time readers know, I have a complicated relationship with all things marketed as “Zen” or “Buddhist” or in any way a part of the spirituality business to the extent that it rubs my leftist leanings the wrong way, raising my quiet indignation against the system, the market-saturated culture of oppression in which we often find ourselves.

But. I digress.

I digress because I may be a convert here. The experience of actually using Ommwriter is, to put it bluntly, pretty freakin’ cool. I think part of the reason I’m enjoying it is because I was reminded yesterday about an article I read some years ago — one of those articles written by a linguist or a statistician at MIT back when the Internet was still called ARPANET, the kind of paper that gets shuffled from hard drive to hard drive before ending up in some dusty corner of the web to be found by the likes of me. I can’t now recall where I found that article, but I do recall that its author claimed that word processing programs are evil. They are evil because they force users to become two fundamentally different types of people simultaneously: typists and typesetters. The art of writing, of typing, is something that requires focus and dedication. And word processing programs, to the extent that they distract you with auto-spelling corrections and troubling you with type face and fonts and margins and so on, get in the way of writing. A good writer, the author suggested, should just write — and only once she’s finished, should she worry about Helvetica or Times New Roman, single or double space.