Friday, April 09, 2010

OK, this is REALLY the last post for a while...about that Tiger Woods & Slate Article



Indeed, when you think of Buddhism's place in mainstream American consciousness, it's most often seen as, if not a punch line, then a fashionable cause (think Tibet), a counterculture relic (think the Beats and their psychedelic '60s followers), a marketing gimmick (think "Zen" teas and glossy yoga magazines), a quasi-spiritual travel itinerary (think generations of Western backpacker-seekers in Asia, among whom, I confess, I must count my younger self)—or some combination of the above.

For the most part, outside of religion departments and the pages of Buddhist magazines and blogs, it's rare for Buddhism to be seen squarely and simply as what it is: a vibrant global religion and spiritual practice that's been offering "balance" and "centeredness" for 2,500 years and counting...


I think the legacy of the '50s and  '60s is still not being given the credit it deserves...in fact, I know it.

What these writers leave out is a very, very simple fact: at the time, the 50s, that is, it was existentialism that was the prevailing Western philosophy, and its descendants, post-modernism(s) and deconstruction were the most relevant (and ultimately useful, yes useful) philosophies of the later decades.

Why is this relevant, other than the confluence of your author's understanding of these philosophies and your author's own life experiences and troubles led to his embrace of Buddhism?

Well, I'll tell you.    Because these philosophies were not born out the idea that smoking cigarettes in coffee shops and listening to poetry accompanied by bongo-drums was cool.  No, the thing is, these philosophies were born of the zeitgeist of that era: the ravages of World War II brought about by the most civilized people the world had known a mere decades after their civilized parents brought forth World War I (and mutatis mutandis w.r.t. the Cold War).

These philosophies - as a form of proto-Buddhism as I see it - provide a cogent explanation of why Western "Enlightened" Man (in the Western Enlightenment Philosophy sense)  got it wrong (and the Marxists and Idealists did too).  And because of these philosophies, Buddhism looks even more cogent, as it can be practiced to a degree to which horror and suffering can indeed be transcended.

There's a business in bashing the '50s and '60s that continues in the media, even in mainstream publications like Slate.  But the fact is, generations of Europeans, Asians, and more than a few Americans have Gasped at the Horror that had been wrought by the Cool Kids.  Not enough people have though; huge swaths of the Middle East, the Southern US, and Africa have not been privy to this Gasp of Horror.

Of course, too many hippies never had this Horror experience either,  or drew lessons that taught that denial and escape were possible, and that's why many of them in the US wound up in megachurches and listening to right-wing trash media.  But enough did, and thus Buddhism has seriously taken hold in America, whether or not the official media grants it recognition.

3 comments:

VenusinNYC said...

Why are you announcing "the last post for a while..." when your blog is saying so much ...

I am a filmmaker who is helping to promote world religions ... by producing a film on "A Week of Spirituality" celebrated each year at the United Nations. This group of diverse spiritual organizations are working towards passing a UN resolution so that the whole world can celebrate "A Week of Spirituality".

Notes in Samsara should be invited ... Do start networking so that we can really grow ...

VenusinNYC Email:vinanti.v@gmail.com

Mumon said...

Because I'm on business; if I get a chance to blog, I will.

趙于毓 said...

困難的不在於新概念,而在於逃避舊有的概念。......................................................