Saturday, March 17, 2012

Right livelihood and knowing one's bedfellows

While I was in the middle of what I do during the day, obviously some Buddhist blogs started talking about blogging and ads and making money and such (Nathan, James Ford, No Zen in the West, etc.).  And I've got a thing or two to say in response, which I'll list in no particular order other than how  they popped into my noggin:

  • Today I'm making a decent living.  I don't know how long that will last  - I guess nobody knows until they're within a factor of 10 of Mitt Romney's income.  But if you're not managing your career like you would any other asset, I'd say you're not engaging in right livelihood.
  • Increasingly I find discussion about how capitalism is bad Buddhism ...ummm...tiresome. Capitalism is problematic for a host of reasons, but if you're focusing on that all the time, chances are you're not engaging in right livelihood.  You're not even scratching your foot through your shoe.
  • I've had ads on my blog for years.  I have tried to follow Google's policies in this regard; I don't find them overly burdensome.  
  • I don't  pretend that I'm the most morally or ethically pure exponent of Buddhism in meat-space, and I certainly would feel stupid maintaining a holier-than-thou persona here.  
  • The nice thing about Google's ad policies is that I have a choice of whether or not I want to block a particular advertiser. I'll admit that it's mostly laziness that keeps me from blocking out some that might have to do with a Maharishi guy or something.  I do sedulously block ads where I feel there is a chance of a conflict of interest potentially with my current employer.  And Scientology - I block them (to the best of my understanding here).
  • Nobody at Patheos ever asked me to join them. I'm shocked.  Actually, I talked about Patheos over here. It's not out of any supreme moral purity that I'd decline joining them even if asked to do so.  It's that I think it's inherently absurd to create an even playing field, a mass of "he said, she said" views when it comes to the issues involving what people call "spirituality." I'd rather not go there.  I'd rather go where I can do good in meat-space and think about how to write about that here. Mais chacun a son goût. 
  • I think the Freethought blogs bit is good.  They take advertising. They do not subvert "capitalist norms." They don't have anything to prove about their own moral purity and the marketplace.
  • One's bedfellows may be one's own greed for purity instead of "the system."
  • Capitalism is a strong force, but unless you know how to work in the midst of strong force, you will likely continue to feel impotent.  That's still the post I really wanted to write this morning instead of this one.  Ah, so it goes.
  • Update:  "Too often, we Zennies speak of liberation, but fail to risk the whole nine yards of ourselves. To place the cultures and social norms we have built ourselves out of on the fire, and let it all be burned straight through if necessarily through deep inquiry."  Bah.  Nathan, do you realize the bizarreness of this passage? Have you inquired on it? Introspected on it? Placed it in historical context? In a Buddhist context?  To put it front and center: Why do you think "Zennies" "fail" to "risk" "ourselves" qua cultural and social norms? Maybe it's order to help all beings, in order to be liberated, you don't have to be the kind of guy that could see eye to eye with the desert monks who called lice "pearls of god."  Maybe, in fact, if you get into such a state, it might actually prevent you from helping all beings!


James said...

Thank you, Mumon. Little sparks in the night... James

Mumon said...

You're very welcome, and hope things are going well.

Nathan said...

Eh, ... I write about capitalism and Western Buddhism online because it barely gets touched in my own sangha. Some of us try to engage the many issues around said topic, but so often, it just goes nowhere. And from what I have seen in a few other sanghas, that's a pretty common experience.

I'm guessing others writing online about this are doing so for similar reasons, although I don't actually see that many people blogging much about capitalism and Buddhism.

I'm feeling cranky about some other unrelated things in life today, so I'll stop there.

Mumon said...

Thanks for your comment. I dunno, maybe because I've been doing this for so long I seem to see a lot of what seems to be issues of capitalism raised from what is said to be a Buddhist or engaged Buddhist perspective.

There's good uses for collective action; there are devastating critiques of capitalism.

To me though it all goes back to putting the label "engaged Buddhism" on anything we want to do or express for political change.

I'm pretty far left politically, but how and where and why I want to effect political change, while consonant with Buddhism, I'd not call Buddhism itself, let alone "engaged" Buddhism.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Mumon - thanks for the link to No Zen. While I often feel like I'm 'too busy' to undercut capitalism (and do I really want to?), I appreciate that people are looking into this.

Mumon said...

I too appreciate that people are looking into undercutting capitalism. It's just ... the game theory aspect of it...

Capitalism is basically unstable; people have known this for decades of the order of 100 years. Maybe it goes back to Marx? But certainly back to Keynes.

It might be more helpful, I think if people looked towards going past and around capitalism though. There ought to be a way.

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