What am I doing here? By this, I am not asking about my place in the universe (short answer: marginal) but rather here, in front of this glowing monitor on a Monday afternoon, writing about a topic of which I am wildly ambivalent and know little about.
I am not a Buddhist.
I don’t mean this as some sort of mind-binding Zen paradox—this is not some sort of uncanny meditation on emptiness and negation. I mean it literally. I’m not a Buddhist and not sure I ever could become one.
The Buddha once fasted himself to near-death and struggled for 49 days to achieve nirvana, whereas I am prone to gorging myself on corn dogs and struggling with my flabby gut.
I do not strive towards transcendent knowledge–and I am beyond the point of trying to lure dreadlocked girls in Whole Foods with my sensitivity and spirituality. In fact, if I ever utter the phrase “I am spiritual but not religious,” please, please slap me across the face.
No, I am simply a guy who finds Buddhism interesting and thinks it has practical value in a world that has become cluttered and noisy, alienated from nature, and fascinated with the inconsequential.
This blog will chronicle the tension between my attraction to, and resistance to, the teachings of Buddha.
My resistance can be summarized in five points:
- What kind of pretentious jackass calls himself a Buddhist? I lived in Portland, OR, for three years– and the place with filthy with ersatz Buddhists walking around with copies of Shambala Sun stuffed into their hemp backpacks. I knew plenty of guys whose idea of a perfect afternoon was an hour of meditation followed by a discrete patchouli-filled orgy. After three generations of hipster-Buddhism, the word seems to have lost all meaning in the U.S.
- I like my jagged edges. As a lifelong smart aleck, I admire sarcastic humor. I like dirty jokes and German paintings so anxiety-riddle it makes you want to jump off a bridge. I like drinking good beer and arguing for sport. I like my angry contempt for the Republican party. Buddhists say the self is an illusion. Its a concept that is frankly lightyears beyond me.
- It’s still kind of a religion, isn’t it? Science and reason come first. That is nonnegotiable. I am not sure to what degree Buddhism conforms with science. I know too little to say for sure. But that is something I will investigate.
- Empting the mind of concepts is a bad career move. All of the jobs I’m interested require significant mental slicing and dicing. I’m not sure that shutting down the mind is what most employers are looking for.
- It’s really hard. It takes immense discipline to achieve mindfulness. I do not have immense discipline.
Watch as these basic conflicts collide. But wear a raincoat. It could get messy.