Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Patheos and the True Person of No Rank...

Have you ever had the fortune to meet one, or have you  at least  met somebody who's at least had a modicum of success trying to attain no rank?

It is hard because a lot of folks kind of like the rank, even if the rank is pretty meaningless.  Some people like the rank of being Buddhists so they can set that in opposition to some kind of straw-man "scientist."  (And some scientists like to point out that some Buddhists...)

Some folks want to be called European-descended, or Asian-descended, or don't care to be bothered that there are European descended or Asian descended...and amongst the two categories just mentioned there's a host of other sub-categories, too...(Asian? What kind of Asian? Laotian? Japanese? Nepalese?)

I could go on.  The "No Rank" in the title of course doesn't refer to the deliberate blindness to difference; it refers to the not making a big deal out of difference where it exists.  Sogen Roshi could make a 心 that could dance off the paper; mine ain't gonna be within a light year of that for this lifetime, perhaps. Perhaps not.  But vendors still sell me the paper and ink.

Assuming Rank or being blind to difference can cost you in the business world; I know of more than one manager who soured his relations with a company by not treating the very junior guy who met him with a modicum of respect. I can't remember how many times the gaijin (外人) made a presentation to the locals assuming they were smarter, more capable, etc. than the  日本人 to whom they where presenting.  Deals have been soured because  vendors have perceived the customer as "Other" or because they became just a bit too aggressive and assumed to much of the customer.

All of which is to introduce - briefly - why I find the whole thing about Patheos more overblown than not, and  not because of the "Asian Thing." (What kind of "Asian?" Tibetan? Chinese? Is that a distinction or not?)  But because its kumbayasity is also creating a rank where none need exist.  The people who might ban the practice of Buddhism in the United States or fly planes into buildings or launch drones into places where they might kill innocent people aren't going to take the stuff at Patheos seriously.  Yeah, they won't take my blog seriously either; you got that right.   But I don't really pretend that it would; like I've said numerous times, the purpose of this blog is to more or less help in the struggle of memory against forgetting, and as a kind of practice in itself.   If somebody reads this and figures out that that they can still suck at 99.9% of what they do and perhaps improve, today, this moment some 0.01% of their life, perhaps in that moment their lives and the purpose of this blog can be made worthwhile.  And sometimes, - heck perhaps often - despite what this Ph.D. says,  it is profoundly difficult work of vital importance to change that 0.01%. (Kierkegaard was right - sometimes somebody's got to come around to make everything difficult.)  

I think the mission of Patheos is doomed to failure because it takes its "mission" too seriously to include that which would pop its bubble of inclusive self-righteousness.  Patheos's mission limits itself to the point where it excludes the very real fact that some folks are going to be jerks on the highways, including but not limited to yours truly on a bad day.  It excludes Kyle the Reformed Buddhist (sorry Kyle, but the "Men's Right's" movement reminds me too much of the He-Man Woman Haters Club to be taken seriously, even though I will grant that there are real issues with presumputions of the law and unequal treatment of gender that does give men the short end of the stick at times.)  It might include me; in fact I'm sure it would, but the reality is the work and the reward and the fun and the true changes that can be made are elsewhere for me.  I wish the folks at Patheos well, but when the Buddhist folks move en masse to the Next Big Spiritual Place (can the Huffington Post be far away?) well, re-read this.  Not to say the Patheos folks might not do some good, but as long as the on-line sutras and other stuff are elsewhere, I've no real need to poke around there very much.


Brikoleur said...

Dunno. I looked at Patheos. Ni chaud ni froid, as the French say. Doesn't speak to me.

Perhaps it does have some of that tang of repressive "niceness" about it that I so dislike about the Buddhosphere. Y'know, people more concerned about harshing each other's mellow than, say, speaking the truth. Fetishization of Noble Silence and all that commotion.

Mumon K said...


Yeah, that repressive "niceness" that masks a great big tense angst.

But "Doesn't speak to me" is also problematic first reaction was "What, another 'sprituality' site?"

Then I read this bit/...

Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion. Patheos is unlike any other religious and spiritual site on the Web today.

As evidenced by the company founders' story, religion and spirituality continue to be an important part of American life, with more Americans today than ever before identifying themselves as spiritual...

Can not you just see the PowerPoint slides?

It doesn't speak to me in the same way that 90% of the PowerPoint presentations I see don't speak to me. (The other 10% concern stuff I actually have to deal with in my job, naturally, and of them 99% are crappy, too.)

Brikoleur said...

Oh. Eww.

I detest PowerPoint. Nothing has done as much damage to the art of public speaking, Teleprompter included.