Blog Entries tagged 'buddhism'
Rebecca Walker shares five ways out of the muck for all those not immediately feeling the happy new year vibe.
By Rebecca Walker
The dawn of 2011 has been mixed. Healthy family, busy writing life, and beautiful Hawaiian rain. Watched Inception and I Am Love, two brilliant films that inspired me no end. Patti Smith’s Just Kids is bringing me back to the magical vortex of New York--the mecca where somany of us began on this perilous road of love, life and art. I’m having one hell of a literary visit.
But honestly, I’ve also been feeling melancholy. I’m working on a book in its one-millionth draft, missing friends six thousand miles away, and shielding my eyes and soul from the news on more iGadgets than I can shake a stick at, Twitter and FB on iPhone, The New Yorker and The Guardian on iPad, cnn.com on my iMac. The world is looking bleak, people. Folks losing homes and jobs. America not living up to its ideals. Legos selling Prisoner Transport Vehicles as toys. Our lovely President looking exhausted and defeated. Sometimes it’s easy to be mesmerized by all that’s wrong. My husband says negativity is like a bullyon the playground, and he’s right. The bully is the same size as all the other kids, but seems so much bigger. Just thinking about that mean kid makes the heart pound with fear. Everything else falls away--your best friendand good grades, the leftover pizza from Chez Panisse your mom tucked into your lunchbox...
So how to keep our eyeson the prize? How to acknowledge the truly awful, but rob it of oxygen? How to banish that bully and magnetize the coolest bunch of friends a girl could ever want?Here are my tools to fan the hot flames of everything enlightening and regenerative. These are the ideas that bring me back from the ledge:
I like to visit the Campaign for Love and Forgiveness from time to time. This piece especially spoke to me today. The online ritual of forgiveness is a favorite aspect of this ongoing project.
From their site:
Celebrate the Happiness of Another
In The Kabbalah of Envy, Rabbi Nilton Bonder explains a practice that will reinforce love in any situation. "Yiddish has a very special verb, unknown to most other languages: farginen. It means to open space, to share pleasure; it is the exact opposite of the verb to envy. While envy means disliking or resenting the happiness of others, farginen means making a pact with another individual's pleasure or happiness."
The next time you hear about someone else's good fortune, notice your reaction. Do you find yourself having to force a smile and giving rather insincere congratulations? Do you ask, "Why didn't this happen to me?" It is in such moments that many relationships start to deteriorate, so it is important to be able to practice farginen with another person instead."To develop the ability to farginen," Bonder advises, "we must first recall from our own experience those moments when we were able to do it. And if this feeling was sincere, it will certainly have been felt with great happiness, a kind of catharsis. Every time we are able to celebrate someone else's happiness, we will, by definition, have greater reason to celebrate ourselves. In this way, we can widen our chances for enjoying life, freeing ourselves from the imprisonment of our own luck. Farginen sets up networks of confidence that enrich life."
Show Simple Affection
Do you shy away from hugging family or friends? From putting an arm around someone's shoulder or showing affection to your husband, wife or partner in front of your children? Many of us like to receive affection. A pat on the back, a smile and squeeze of a hand can generate good feelings. Still, social conventions and fear of what people may think can stop us from expressing our feelings in simple physical gestures. Perhaps we need more of that. Over the next week, try showing more affection to your family and friends. Note how it makes you feel and whether you detect any shifts in your relationships because of it.
An excerpt from Culture and Barbarism: Metaphysics in a Time of Terrorism
By Terry Eagleton, in Commonweal
"The prevailing global system, then, today faces an unwelcome choice. Either it trusts its native pragmatism in the face of its enemy’s absolutism, or it falls back on metaphysical values of its own-values that are looking increasingly tarnished and implausible. Does the West need to go full-bloodedly metaphysical to save itself? And if it does, can it do so without inflicting too much damage on its liberal, secular values, thus ensuring there is still something worth protecting from its illiberal opponents?
If Marxism once held out a promise of reconciling culture and civilization, it is partly because its founder was both a Romantic humanist and an heir of Enlightenment rationalism. Marxism is about culture and civilization together-sensuous particularity and universality, worker and citizen of the world, local allegiances and international solidarity, the free self-realization of flesh-and-blood individuals and a global cooperative commonwealth of them. But Marxism has suffered in our time a staggering political rebuff; and one of the places to which those radical impulses have migrated is-of all things-theology. In theology nowadays, one can find some of the most informed and animated discussions of Deleuze and Badiou, Foucault and feminism, Marx and Heidegger. That is not entirely surprising, since theology, however implausible many of its truth claims, is one of the most ambitious theoretical arenas left in an increasingly specialized world-one whose subject is nothing less than the nature and transcendental destiny of humanity itself. These are not issues easily raised in analytic philosophy or political science. Theology’s remoteness from pragmatic questions is an advantage in this respect.
We find ourselves, then, in a most curious situation. In a world in which theology is increasingly part of the problem, it is also fostering the kind of critical reflection which might contribute to some of the answers. There are lessons that the secular Left can learn from religion, for all its atrocities and absurdities; and the Left is not so flush with ideas that it can afford to look such a gift horse in the mouth. But will either side listen to the other at present? Will Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins read this and experience an epiphany that puts the road to Damascus in the shade? To use two theological terms by way of response: not a hope in hell. Positions are too entrenched to permit such a dialogue. Mutual understanding cannot happen just anywhere, as some liberals tend to suppose. It requires its material conditions. And it seems unlikely these will emerge as long as the so-called war on terror continues to run its course.
The distinction between Hitchens or Dawkins and those like myself comes down in the end to one between liberal humanism and tragic humanism. There are those who hold that if we can only shake off a poisonous legacy of myth and superstition, we can be free. Such a hope in my own view is itself a myth, though a generous-spirited one. Tragic humanism shares liberal humanism’s vision of the free flourishing of humanity, but holds that attaining it is possible only by confronting the very worst. The only affirmation of humanity ultimately worth having is one that, like the disillusioned post-Restoration Milton, seriously wonders whether humanity is worth saving in the first place, and understands Swift’s king of Brobdingnag with his vision of the human species as an odious race of vermin. Tragic humanism, whether in its socialist, Christian, or psychoanalytic varieties, holds that only by a process of self-dispossession and radical remaking can humanity come into its own. There are no guarantees that such a transfigured future will ever be born. But it might arrive a little earlier if liberal dogmatists, doctrinaire flag-wavers for Progress, and Islamophobic intellectuals got out of its way."
Which is why, my friends, I ultimately believe more in Buddhism than liberal politics, but remain open to both.
I share this hour-long interview (which I did from the Costco parking lot!) with Louie Gong, President of Maven. I come in after first half-hour--and have a lot of fun with the chicks.
We talk Buddhism, coming to the end of identity, and much more--all while trucks and cars and huge shopping carts careen past. I love these chicks. We met when they invited me to give the inaugural opening keynote at their baby, the Mixed Roots Film and Literature Festival in Los Angeles.
So of course I love this shirt, and contemplated buying it for Tenzin during the campaign.
But I didn't.
Because I don't want to politicize Tenzin's body any more than it is already. Because he didn't choose Obama himself. Because he is not a walking billboard for my beliefs.
Because it just didn't feel right.
Because politics is a divisive, winner takes all paradigm. Because while I engage and vote, I do not view the world in terms of sides or camps, and would like to allow my son the same freedom for as long as possible.
Because even though I believe in Obama, I am not certain that inculcating my son into the spectacle, the theater, of politics is actually in his best interest.
Et vous? What did you do?
I'm a Buddhist.
Not just a part-time Buddhist, but a twenty-year Buddhist.
I'm a Buddhist because I grew up amongst Baptists, Jews, and Goddess-worshipers, and none of them spoke the language of my particular heart. I am a Buddhist because my parents, generously, gave me the freedom to find my own spiritual path.
I'm a Buddhist because for many years I was a seeker. And because I was a seeker, for some time, books were my religion, my life.
I read so many books! About the lives of women all over the world. About people fighting for freedom. About people making beauty under unspeakable conditions. I read Franz Fanon, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, T.S. Eliot, Bessie Head, William Faulkner, Ayi Kwei Armah. I read Liberation Theology, French feminist theory...
I read about the artists I loved--Mark Rothko and Roy Decarava, Frida Kahlo and Seydou Keita, who took the photo above.
I read poetry, like June Jordan's The Things I Do In The Dark, and
And I also read a lot of books about Buddhism. The first was Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk nominated for the Nobel prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dozens of others followed, from every Buddhist tradition, but that book was the beginning.
Buddhism's teachings on interdependence, compassion, and the cultivation of happiness rather than regret, were just what a mixed race, multi-everything girl needed to hear to feel whole. Buddhism said the fragmentation I felt was an illusion. My essential nature as a human being had never been broken, never been stained. My thoughts about myself were problematic.
But my thoughts could be changed.
There is more to say about this, but watching "Buddha's Warriors" on CNN last night, I couldn't help but think about CNN's "Black in America." There were no African-Americans in "Buddha's Warriors," and no Buddhists in "Black in America."
And yet there are many who have feet in both worlds, many who feel the idea of "two worlds" is, itself, an illusion.
Many who are free.