Not Good Enough <rant>

 

Life creeping you out?

The cool people, the important people shutting you down?

Tedious morons trying to troll you into silence?

Pressure to be “good enough” breaking you down?

I read some things tonight and I finally just feel angry. here’s why

Somebody wasn’t going to enter her poetry in a contest because she was beset with demons about it not being “good enough”, her writing wasn’t good enough, her words weren’t good enough, her emotions weren’t good enough, her experiences weren’t good enough…she was crying as she typed her message out…weeping was her word.

Forget the analysis. I’ll just spill out what I see.

Lots of times on social media I see people lamenting that they are not “good enough” for something—a job, a relationship, a certain crowd, some institution or organization, some bullshit awards, the attention of some clique, the attention of the world, a little bit of fucking consideration or respect…

not good enough to bridge the distance

not good enough to dare to ask

not good enough to trust…themselves or anybody else

not good enough to continue to draw breath

Oh there’s a hell of a lot of suicidal ideation floating around on the Internet.

There’s no such thing as good enough.

Where’s the fucking list of “good enough” criteria?

What are the top 10 items on the “good enough” list?

Who makes the list?

Who maintains it and checks off whether you’re doing things right or wrong?

Santa’s long dead and buried once you get past the age of 5 or 6.

People getting all tormented by unending thoughts

“You’re so fucking special,
I wish I was special.”

 

Maybe you think you’re a creep or a loser. So what! Even if you were you could make art out of it and get a couple million bucks, fame and popularity. Works either way. If that’s what you’re after. If the adulation of others is so important. Is that the only thing that matters? That’s some kind of fucked up priorities.

If everything’s turned into a contest. A competition.

Oh maybe there’s an app for winning that!

For every winner there’s a hundred losers all nursing the same wounds. The judges move on. They move on fast and don’t even remember your name.

 

Nobody gets through without wounds. Nobody even gets out of here alive.

Climbing all these mountains of emotional turmoil for what? For what?

Carrying some burden of the pain of sharp words knifed in the back when you find out the world’s not what you thought it was. It’s not what was promised.

It’s not really real. Whatever the situation. Mediated by desires messaged and massaged 24/7. Oh where’s McLuhan when you need him?

Maybe it’s not that kind of competition.

Maybe it’s a lover leaving.

Thinking the scent of somebody else’s sweat will be somehow more intoxicating, will be a better trip, for a while longer.

Maybe even your best friend has grabbed the goods while you weren’t looking

…there’s never going to be a world without the Jolenes in it.

 

Was it because you weren’t beautiful enough. What is beautiful enough?

Do we need reasons to be beautiful? Why?

“And they said in the end…you’d get better just like them..”

 

The only way to be different is to be the same.

All those beautiful lonely people…an accomplishment?

Everybody’s looking for a place with a sign that says “Come as you are” Bring your wounds, bring your pain and your insecurities, bring something honest and real…

When you lay it down on the table they all turn away because of the reminder…

…of everything that they sold to be where they are.

But there’s no neon flashing in the distance, there’s no rest stop along the dark highways

There’s no place to land

There is a flash of the truth every now and then but it’s gone before it can be captured, before it can stop your world from being upended.

The people you love say they don’t have a gun, either literally or metaphorically, but you walk around feeling like you’ve been shot with something anyways.

Yet how can you walk so wounded?

How can you carry a lead filled heart that weighs so much?

How can what you dream of be so daunting and impossible?

Maybe you’re not seeing it clearly.

It’s all been dreamed before. A billion billion times.

It’s all a fucked up Californication…a spectacle that sucks up what’s left of humanity in people and turns it into fast cash and flashy pictures. Hurray for fucking Hollywood that tells us if we’re “good enough” the world is just and we will all get what we deserve because…

…God or gods, karma, the universe, justice, fairness or some hero will fly in to save the day?

Nothing is promised when your head emerges into this world and you take your first breath.

“What a bitch! Taking away all the hope and promises.”

Whatevs babe. That’s the way it goes.

We can sit around and wait to be deemed “good enough”. We’ll be waiting til we die because nobody’s ever “good enough” by everybody, all the time, or for long.

So I say to that poet, that musician, that artist, that scholar, that person who wants something out of the funhouse, who craves a place at that banquet table…go for it, but remember

it’s not about you, it’s not even about your words or your song or anything like that. It’s not personal. It’s about what the market will bear, about tastes and trends, about who a few people think are in charge, about desire and craving, it’s about being insatiable, it’s about dissatisfaction and regret, it’s about arbitrary lists that change on a daily basis, it’s about ratings and profit, it’s about fake and faker, it’s about an enactment, a pretend sort of life that emulates human thought and desire, imposters playing imposter games…

but it’s not about you, or what you are really worth. If you can keep that in mind, go for it, grab some of the goodies, and be prepared to walk away when the time comes.

"Californication"

Psychic spies from China
Try to steal your mind’s elation
Little girls from Sweden
Dream of silver screen quotations
And if you want these kind of dreams
It’s Californication
It’s the edge of the world
And all of western civilization
The sun may rise in the East
At least it settles in the final location
It’s understood that Hollywood
sells Californication
Pay your surgeon very well
To break the spell of aging
Celebrity skin is this your chin
Or is that war you’re waging
[Chorus:]
First born unicorn
Hard core soft porn
Dream of Californication
Dream of Californication
Marry me girl be my fairy to the world
Be my very own constellation
A teenage bride with a baby inside
Getting high on information
And buy me a star on the boulevard
It’s Californication
Space may be the final frontier
But it’s made in a Hollywood basement
Cobain can you hear the spheres
Singing songs off Station to Station
And Alderon’s not far away
It’s Californication
Born and raised by those who praise
Control of population everybody’s been there
and I don’t mean on vacation
[Chorus]
Destruction leads to a very rough road
But it also breeds creation
And earthquakes are to a girl’s guitar
They’re just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn’t save the world
From Californication
Pay your surgeon very well
To break the spell of aging
Sicker than the rest
There is no test
But this is what you’re craving

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Emotional Policing

On Facebook Brad Warner asked a question:

Does anyone else routinely get people they don’t know at all complaining that they "lack compassion"?

My response was:

Yes. Emotional policing is a very popular pass time in the Buddhist community.

A whole bunch of people clicked like on Brad’s status and on my comment so I’m going to elaborate on my response a little more for those who aren’t on FB or who haven’t run into the term “emotional policing” before.

Emotional policing as is meant here, is usually done by strangers in a drive-by fashion on the Internet and occasionally even in person in a social setting. They’ve generally never interacted with the person on the blog, twitter or whatever, never tried to have a conversation with them nor are they likely very familiar with the body of work the writer has put out. They read one post (and badly read it generally) or heard one talk or more often go by innuendo spread by others, make a snap decision based on it and pronounce judgment due to their own discomfort with the issue, language, tone or content.

Here’s some examples of emotional policing:

  • “You need to spend more time on the cushion!”
  • “You’d get more readers if you were nicer.” (that’s the tone argument)
  • “Why are you so angry?” (ignoring content in favor of tone again)
  • “One word…loving-kindness meditation”, “One word…golden silence” (lol. not exactly one word.)
  • “I hope you get over your problem with people.”
  • “Buddhists are supposed to be compassionate.”
  • “If you can’t control your words better then you’re a Bad Buddhist.” (this is my personal favorite)
  • “You have serious issues.”
  • “You’re so insensitive.”
  • “I thought Buddhists were supposed to be serene.”

You get the idea. There are a huge number of fallacies and assumptions in those kinds of statements but I won’t go into that aspect here. Instead I want to write about the emotional part rather than the logical part.

There are a number of reasons people opt to emotionally police others. There are Psychological, Socio-cultural and Political reasons. I’ll give a brief overview of each of these areas.

Psychological

Many of the reasons for emotional policing are related to psychological defense mechanisms due to a lack of adequate coping skills when something unpleasant or disturbing is encountered or when it invokes cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when the outside world does not conform to our beliefs about it. That makes people uncomfortable and self-doubting, which is a state many are uncomfortable with and want to escape so they employ defenses against it. These defenses are unconscious or subconscious and are conditioned behavior learned in their environment. All of this is often used to reduce a person’s anxiety or to avoid confrontation and reality.

In many cases instead of reflecting, for even a moment, on why something read or heard is causing  distress, the knee-jerk reaction is to strike at the emotion that arises in them and try to deflect from feeling it. One of the most frequent combinations of defense mechanisms I’ve taken note of in Buddhist contexts is a combination of reaction formation and projection.

Reaction formation is when we feel an emotion and in order to not feel it we try to do the opposite usually in an exaggerated way. This is the realm of the Superman Buddhist who goes to the greatest lengths to appear holy, blissful, dutiful, pious, enlightened…the perfect Buddhist. It is often a place that is full of psychological self-loathing. It is also the basis for a lot of passive-aggressive behavior. It manifests like this (in brackets is the real feeling):

“I appreciate your sentiment here.(no I don’t) It’s not how I’d react (it is, if I felt I could but I don’t want to acknowledge that) but you have a right to free speech I guess. (but I wish you didn’t)”

“I’m really only interested in trying to help here. (I really have another agenda I don’t want to admit to) No need to get excited.” (I’m the one avoiding getting excited so I’ll project that on to you so I don’t have to deal with it)

“I’m just being honest! (I am really being aggressive so you be quiet) You don’t need to get defensive. (Comply with what I want)”

Reaction formation is a slippery beast in that it’s hard to pin down if a person is actually sincere in their remarks or are using it to deflect from or deny their honest reaction. When questioned on their statements, there tends to be a lot of over emphasis on the “goodness” or “rightness” or “innocence” of the person doing the emotional policing. That is one of the ways to differentiate.

Projection is when we feel something and attribute that feeling as coming from whatever upset us rather than within us. Here’s an example:

(after repeatedly provoking someone) “You’re irrational and maybe should get some help.” (trolls often use this one)

“You’re such a narcissist to always write about yourself and your own experiences.” (Why don’t you write about me and my life instead since I feel I’m so much more important than you.)

There is also the issue of displacement. The writer of a post or article may become a substitute (scapegoat) for someone else or for a situation in which it isn’t safe to express one’s hostility. For example in a scenario where a powerful figure has done wrong, those who blow the whistle on that behavior may be accused of wrongdoing themselves (usually via ad hominem accusations) in order for those in denial to avoid confronting the powerful figure or having to deal with the more serious problem and all the emotions surrounding that.

Rather than simply moving on from unpleasant material some people will engage in elaborate withdrawal rituals in order to solicit emotional responses. This kind of emotional manipulation is also a form of emotional policing.  One sees this on Twitter or Facebook quite often. “I’m not going to be your friend any more.”, “I’m immediately unfollowing you” etc. Withdrawal, also known as “the flounce” or “the pout”, is a passive aggressive dismissal and/or refusal to engage. It is generally a secondary defense mechanism after other defense mechanisms don’t bring about the anticipated effect or anxiety relief.  “I’m not speaking to you any more.” or “I’ll leave you alone to your echo chamber” are both dubious threats that depend upon their speakers believing their presence or engagement is actually of value or importance to those they direct it towards. It’s purpose in terms of emotional policing is to punish it’s recipient by denying them engagement, defend their own ego against upset and to coerce the recipient into some kind of penitential behavior like an apology, even if they are not in the wrong. It is a highly manipulative form of denial. It is different from simply needing time to emotionally process a situation or taking a time-out in a discussion, in that withdrawal as a defense mechanism tends to be highly dramatic and attention getting. Withdrawal is in part regression in that it can appear quite childish, in part acting out and in part a coercive attempt for a person to obtain compliance from someone else. 

Defense mechanisms can become weapons and if deployed by both sides can escalate a situation into something that is damaging and cruel. Those types of conversations generally occur between people who are more familiar with one another than just reading a few paragraphs on the Internet. But they can also escalate online as well in the form of flame wars. In the personal situation often the weaponization is engaged when one party begins a sentence with “Remember when you did…<whatever hurtful thing>”

There are all kinds of defense mechanisms and they work in many combinations depending on the unconscious intent of those enacting them. The whole point of acting out of defense mechanisms in a public sphere, and often in private too, is to shame the other party. Shame is all about social control and validating the ego and possibly the sense of authority of the shamer.

Don’t get the wrong idea about defense mechanisms as they have some purpose in our everyday close personal interactions until we can learn to cope in more useful and beneficial ways. Sometimes in a very vulnerable moment, we just can’t take being questioned on a certain subject by someone close to us so may invoke some of these. While not the best solution, learning coping skills is better, it’s completely understandable and completely human. People shouldn’t beat themselves up if they do this once in a while. Everybody does.

They become a problem when they become our only response, when we have no insight into why we react the way we do, when we feel we cannot choose to behave differently, when we cannot control our reactions or when we employ them on random strangers (like in air rage or as a screaming customer or drive by comment accusations or in scapegoating individuals or groups for social problems and so forth).

In the extreme, when these defense mechanisms can become habitual, sometimes to the point of obsessiveness, and are employed against strangers with whom one has little or no interaction or knowledge, and especially when someone has deliberately and repeatedly sought out these strangers, there is much more at issue. I could speculate at length about why someone would do that (mainly due to prior traumatization IMO) but suffice it to say some serious self-examination as well as possibly counseling might be in order.

You can read more about psychological defense mechanisms here in a brief synopsis 3 Vaillant’s categorization of defence mechanisms

Socio-cultural

There are also some sociological explanations for emotional policing:

1.) Privilege and Entitlement: Some people feel, by virtue of whatever privilege or sense of entitlement they have grown accustomed to, or through having a narcissistic personality, that everyone in their lives or on the Internet or in the entire world should treat them in a particularly good fashion, should cater to their tastes, should address them in a particular fashion, should place their feelings first and foremost in any interaction. This applies to strangers on remote blogs who have never heard of them, people in a coffee shop, family members, whatever. It really means “accommodate my preferences even if I don’t know you and you are in your own or a public space” or as one of the commenters put it on Brad’s original post, "please put up with my bullshit and tell me what I want to hear".

This kind of entitlement is often rationalized (another defense mechanism) on the psychological level with things like, “I’m only trying to maintain the harmony of the sangha.” (narcissistic distortion)  or “It’s only because I care.” (rationalization via reaction formation) when a question is put to statements of entitlement.

2. ) Overvaluation of positivity:

There’s a huge market for positivity. In the old days (like the 50s and 60s-watch some old movies, you’ll see it.) people would just say “We don’t talk about that” out of shame and things of a negative nature were never talked about. The 60s changed that mainly due to a lot of social activism that brought to light and really defined sexism, racism and a whole host of other things “we don’t talk about”.

With the cat out of the bag, new mechanisms of mass avoidance have become popular. There are many but one of the most prominent is The Positivity Movement which really got a kick start by psychologist Martin Seligman and his definitions of Positive Psychology. (Note he has backtracked on some of his more enthusiastic statements) It’s now a huge industry. From Oprah to Chopra, everybody’s effervescing happiness bubbles and in case they’re not there’s always sweat lodge camps you can go to and pills you can take to adjust yourself to that Zeitgeist. Nobody wants to feel left out, right?

The reality is, life is not always positive and happy. If we think it is or that it should be, we are setting ourselves up for major disappointment and cognitive dissonance and all the fallout that entails. We won’t learn appropriate coping skills and we won’t be able to cultivate empathy and compassion if we deny everything in life that is not of a positive nature.

I said the positivity movement was about avoidance. What is it that is being avoiding? Pain, sex and death mostly. But increasingly we are being culturally conditioned to try to avoid any sort of human discomfort at all. This is a fool’s errand.

Political

Then there is the political element, which is rather involved to go into in it’s entirety here, but for now, a gloss.

Another commenter on Brad’s post wrote:

“I have strong opinions, but according to some people I’m not allowed to speak them because I’m Buddhist and there for not supposed to have an opinion and that I lack compassion and I’m thinking dualistically, us against them, when it comes to labor, race, class and culture and politics in general. And it’s usually from someone I don’t know. WATCH OUT FOR THE DHARMA POLICE!”

Having heard all of that kind of stuff myself, in response I graciously extend my middle finger to these privileged DHARMA POLICE wherever they are. Is that a little over the line? Good.

Here’s where we get into the policing and authoritarian attitudes that go along with it. As much as we don’t like to admit it the political does intrude on the personal. One is punished for speaking out in an “incorrect” fashion and rewarded for either following the script or remaining silent. That it happens with strangers is interesting because that demonstrates some amount of overlapping domains (individual psychology, social group and status within it, and a certain will to power or need to maintain a dominant position within the status quo aka political). When someone appoints themselves not only an authority but a vigilante who feels it is incumbent upon them to punish a stranger, ostensibly at the behest, and often with the tacit approval of the larger community (the power holders) we are definitely into the political realm.

There is a difference between policing peers, punishing subordinates and speaking truth to power. Differential power is the domain of politics. When we challenge authority it is always from a position of relative weakness compared to that authority and its privilege. When we police others of similar or lesser position (actual or incidental) we are simply bullies and enforcing our own dominance within the power structure.

There’s a difference too between policing, criticizing the issues of statements and asking questions. This often gets conflated. The power dynamics (politics of the situation) dictate which category the activity falls within. Policing is usually personal, deals with personal characteristics (“You’re not compassionate enough.”) and not institutions or groups (unless it’s one group policing another which varies the dynamics and is beyond the scope of this post) and the ultimate intent is to silence. Policing seeks to silence. Criticism, even negative, and questioning seek to elicit more information, such as a response by way of explanation/apology/acknowledgement of harm done/rectification, not less.

When we combine some of this we get a more complete picture of the complexity involved. For example here is a good explanation of some of the socio-cultural and politically repressive aspects of positivity and it’s relationship to power. Emphasis is mine.

" In particular, I am concerned with how the cultural demand for positivity in all aspects of life enacts a reciprocal prohibition on negativity. This prohibition extends to critical discourses from the Left as well. I consider negativity an indispensible aspect of any cultural endeavor that frames itself as “critical.” What is “resistance” if not a negative push against domination? Conversely, what shame-based system of domination does not associate its own power with goodness, pride and positivity? Like it or not, the language of positivity is infused with an ideological desire for power-sharing, and not actual divestments of power.

Such power-sharing is at the core of any humanist democratic project: the right to share in the privileges of others. Within such social contexts, dreams and hopes become culturally necessary points of focus. The optimistic desire to transform according to one’s longings becomes the only valid source of motivation for cultural transformation. We become culturally unable to sustain a sense of urgency rooted in the horror of material reality’s unbearable brutalities. People say, “That’s too depressing. Everyone needs hope!” It becomes “wrong” to focus wholeheartedly on simply stopping that which is no longer tolerable, and “right” to work for that which one desires. The stopping of violence becomes only seen as a side-effect of our pursuit of loftier objectives. And in this way, ultimately, positivity is a language of acquisition. It is a language of achievement. It encourages our moral ambivalence toward, and affirmation of, our own acts of conquest. It stops us from seeing how our desires emerge from the dominations of our current contexts. Our failure to continually and actively address the ways in which today’s dreams are both symptomatic and affirmative of today’s dominations is the formula which ensures Marx’s proverb that culture repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce."

~Terre Thaemlitz, We Are Not Welcome Here: Address for “Charming for the Revolution: A Congress for Gender Talents and Wildness

This means, enforced positivity does not address structural change since it does not address the whole of the structures in which we live. It dismisses and denies unpleasantness, which is the source of the misery that positivity advocates seek to escape. It is a massive contradiction that escalates. The more people escape into “positivity” the more suffering is borne by those who cannot access that escape mechanism. (It’s just like capitalism, which structure it emulates in many ways—that digression is way too long for this post too)

The psychological reasons for emotional policing arise from a larger socio-cultural context which is rife with behavioral rewards and punishments. It is the power structures (the political climate) around us which set the norms and provide those rewards and punishments for following or breaking those norms. We internalize those power structures when we learn our culture, go to school and interact with our families, which are also products of that structure, and society at large which maintains those power relations in the reward/punishment feedback loop. The more we enforce it the more we are apparently rewarded or being promised rewards at some future time (the rewards are actually illusory). This is the maintenance mechanism of the status quo.

The common thread through all of this is that policing is the desire to dominate and to control. That can be self-domination and control, including to escape, in terms of one’s own emotions, discomfort and anxiety, which manifests in the urge to dominate and control another in terms of emotional or tone policing. This can extend up to one’s group or society at large.

Domination, control, rewards, punishment—those all relate to the manipulation of power and that is the essence of politics.

How to stop emotionally policing people

I’ll just give a few points that come to mind. These may be kind of pointless in this section because those who emotionally police others with regularity generally aren’t interested in not doing it any more as it satisfies a psychological need for them. But I’ll give it a shot anyways.

  • Don’t react immediately when you encounter uncomfortable material. Wait a while, reread the material a little more carefully to make sure you understood it fully and weren’t just jumping to conclusions based on certain trigger words that jumped out as you skimmed.
  • Note your own emotional response. Make a bunch of statements that begin with “I feel…” to figure out where you’re at.
  • What did you expect from what you read? Why were those expectations not fulfilled? Why should they have been fulfilled? Is it your blog or something under your control? If you are placing your expectations before anything else then you’re probably off topic and into emotional policing.
  • Think of reasons you object to what you read. How many of them relate to the issue and how many relate to the person bringing up the issue or the tone they used and how many relate to your own feelings? Deal with the first ones and try to distance yourself from the rest in further discussions. If the tone is not to your liking you can have some influence on it by staying on topic. (not always but often)
  • Respect other’s boundaries and integrity. What gives you the authority to make that statement? What is your evidence?
  • Develop empathy. Ask yourself, “How would I like to be on the receiving end of this?” when you are commenting to an individual. Consider the individual’s relationship to you, not only in that space, but in larger socio-cultural terms.
  • Ask questions rather than make statements, especially general statements that have no specifics. “You lack compassion.” means nothing, whereas “Did you mean that statement to come across as callous? Were you snarking or being sarcastic?” gets to specifics.

How do deal with being emotionally policed

(this all depends upon the circumstances)

  • Acknowledge to yourself that their comment made you uncomfortable
  • Did their comment give you the sense that they wanted you to shut up or to give them an explanation and more information? If the former it’s likely policing and in the latter case maybe not
  • If possible ask them for an explanation of their remarks. If not possible then “accept the things you cannot change” and move on.
  • If it’s a purely ad hominem attack like “You aren’t compassionate enough” by a stranger, it really has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them overstepping boundaries and having some kind of distorted filter of the situation. What is “compassionate enough?” According to whose rules? How is compassion supposed to be expressed? What are the grounds for their complaint? What evidence? There’s so many questions left open by such a statement that it performs no function other than for some internal purpose of the commenter.
  • Is their criticism specific or general? If it’s specific then there might be some grounds to self-examine or discuss the situation with them. For example “Your anger seemed really explosive when you responded to my last comment” is a specific which addresses an actual situation, whereas “You’re an angry person”, a general statement, means nothing. (especially if it comes from a stranger over the Internet)
  • Sometimes people are not going to treat you the way you would hope, they are going to say stupid and hurtful things and often not even realize it and it’s not going to be fair. You have a choice as to whether you give more weight to the opinion of a stranger than that of all your friends, family and yourself.

Conclusion

The thing I find ridiculous about this whole situation is the statement that started it. What kind of an action is it to say to a stranger, particularly to a Buddhist priest of several decades,

“You lack compassion.”

It’s an accusation of the first order. It’s callous in any situation and could even be deemed cruel in this context. It basically implies that years of Buddhist practice have been wasted, that the person, in this case Brad Warner, has failed to live up to some Buddhist ideals and that he lacks the self-awareness, insight and intelligence to be able to monitor his own compassion levels or express them as circumstances he encounters require, and that he must rely on drive-by strangers to point this out to him.

Really?!

With such a statement the question that is being begged is, “Who is it that really lacks compassion?”

Safe word

Domestic relationships of all sorts might work a lot better by having a safeword in case an argument starts to hurt someone too much. To disrespect a safeword would be grounds to dissolve the relationship. It’s got to be that serious.

A safeword is sort of like a “block” at Occupy general assemblies.

It means you have gone too far and this situation is in danger of losing my continuing participation. Let’s call it a radically mindful slap.

The original idea for safewords comes from the kink sub-culture. Emphasis mine.

A safeword is a code word or series of code words … to unambiguously communicate their physical or emotional state … typically when approaching, or crossing, a physical, emotional, or moral boundary.

~abbreviated from Safeword from Wikipedia [to make this post safe for work]

In any case boundaries of every sort need to be negotiated.

Might be a good idea for friendships and other situations too.

Great Stuff About the End of the World: 2012 edition

Satirical writer Andy Borowitz [@BorowitzReport] wrote on Twitter:

One upside of a 2012 Mayan apocalypse is no more Republican debates. #2012 #HappyNewYear         Dec 31, 2011

Aside from the end of the fake debates, there’s more good news for 2012’s apocalypse:

No more fake Kardasian weddings.

No more fake orange-glow tans (Boehner, Trump, Snooki).

No more fake Zen masters, fake Tulkus, fake monks, fake yogis, fake gurus.

No more fake politicians selling fake hope.

No more fake reasons for going to war.

No more fake celebrities fake singing fake songs.

No more fake theatrical productions for fake security reasons.

No more fake trials for fake political reasons.

No more fake military faking being cops.

No more fake smiles, fake concern, fake sympathy, fake compassion.

No more fake emails for fake products and fake services and fake offers.

No more fake research on fake patients for fake patents for fake medicines.

No more fake demonstrations of fake outrage funded by fake corporate backers.

No more fake celebrity authors pushing fake autobiographies.

No more fake passports for fake citizens to hide their fake financial transgressions.

No more fake schools selling fake credentials.

No more fake charities.

No more fake TV presenters reading fake news.

No more fake enthusiasm by fake audiences for fake talk shows that are really extended advertisements.

No more fake links on fake websites.

No more fake outrage over fake issues.

No more fake conspiracies to cover fake operations.

No more fake parents pushing fake children in fake gem tiaras down fake runways for fake reality programs.

No more fake accounting by fake fund managers for fake mortgages.

No more fake bargains for fake products.

No more fake food.

No more fake hysteria over fake emergencies.

Too bad it’s just another fake apocalypse.

 

But let’s suppose it isn’t. Let’s suppose we know our deadline. Let’s suppose we have 11 months to make it mean something, to make it all worthwhile. Let’s fake it. For real.

How do you really want it all to end?

Not like this.

Not like this.

Not like this.

Western Buddhist Teachers-Activists in Everybody Else’s Backyard

Have been seeing a lot of Western Buddhist Teachers, including the Zen variety, signing on to help free Burma. Good for them.  The brutality of the Burmese junta is an abomination. The captivity of the population as well as the militarily enforced deprivation is certainly an affront to human rights and the dignity of the population. It’s good to see so many willing to put their names out in public, in a letter to President Obama no less.

It’s interesting to run through that list of names. Most are recognizable to anyone familiar with the American convert Buddhist scene. And particularly on the engaged Buddhist front. So this post is not about most of them. But it may be about some of the others. Yes I am deliberately being vague, but only for the moment. Hold on.

There’s plenty of those others running around Rawanda, Thailand, India, holding Peace Conferences, Seminars, big meetings with lots of important people. Changing the world one backward country at a time. Not unlike NATO and it’s allies.

Of course there are always the retreats to the Greek Islands, the Caribbean and lovely Bali, for which attendees are urged to raise funds from friends and strangers, and no one is[edit del n’t] going to sleep on the streets there, although the climate may be quite appropriate for that. There is no end to all the do-gooder campaigns overseas that can be manufactured and lipsticked up to look like “serious political activist work”. But these forays into hedonistic service-something of an oxymoron yes, I can’t think of another term-are also something other than the point here.

So back to that.

Yes, let “them” “over there” all be like us.  Full of knowledge, wisdom and answers. So free, so democratic, so rational, so ethical, so honest, so incorruptible, so holy, so righteous, so compassionate, so caring, so educated, so socially minded, so concerned, so relevant, so clear minded, so intelligent, so right.  So…distracted.

Yes, let’s all go somewhere else and play at politics for a while. And get a nice vacation in to boot. We can put the pictures up on our blogs, tell everyone about our great work and encourage others to sign up as well. We can put out our begging bowls on Twitter and Facebook and get people to support our roles as “facilitators” in this fabulous endeavor. [Never mind actually getting a job to pay our own way.]  And most importantly it allows us the luxury of forgetting whatever is going on “back home”. To even admit anything is going on “back home” would destroy the little escapist bubble we’ve created in that exotic place. OMG, if there really was a MG, please don’t  let me have to deal with that possibility.

Now it needn’t all be quite that elaborate. Escapist social action, with minimal actual work is easily available with the strokes of a computer keyboard. Add one’s name to a petition or letter. The further removed the subjects of the contents of the letter from one’s own situation the better. Looks good on the Internet and feels good too. Now we’re really doing something! And without having to disturb our regular schedule. And you know if there is little to no possibility of any kind of feedback so much the better. Always good to have a safety harness, helicopter and stunt double when one goes out on a limb even metaphorically.

So today I undertook a little compare and contrast exercise of two lists. One is of the letter to Obama regarding the Burmese situation and the other is the list of signees of a petition to remove Eido Shimano from ZSS. [you dear reader can sign it too if you feel so inclined]

Now it seems ZSS-Zen Studies Society is celebrating Eido Shimano by not only continuing his residency but by allowing him to give Jukai to new students. A whole new bucket of fresh meat. How nice for him. My heart’s absolutely bursting with mudita! The generosity of the ZSS board knows no bounds with regard to their leader. Return every slap by turning the other cheek, or even better offering some fresh cheeks for a bit of slap [and tickle] as well.

[Yikes! The snark beast has been rebirthed! Feeling so much better and re-energized after hibernating through the rainy season.]

So back to those lists. I’ll confine this comparison to Zen teachers. [I tell ya it was some work looking all these up too in order to find their affiliations and roles. I was tempted to put the whole AZTA list here in addition to the letter signatories, but I don’t have that kind of time.]

 

Burma letter Affiliation/Role Shimano petition Affiliation/Role
(where not otherwise indicated information is from the petition site)
Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke Soto Zen priest…residing at the Berkeley Zen Center (BZC) in Berkeley, California, where he currently serves as Vice Abbot. He is a former Executive Director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship…received Dharma transmission from…Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1998 (from) Rev. Hozan Alan Senauke <—–same as
Robert Joshin Althouse Robert Joshin Althouse  is a Zen teacher in the White Plum Asanga and a dharma heir of Jikyo Nicolee McMahon Roshi. He is the current abbot of Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago in Illinois.(from) Robert Joshin Althouse <—–same as
Rev. Susan Myoyu Anderson spiritual director of Great Plains Zen Center (GPZC) studied for over twenty years with Taizan Maezumi Roshi(from)
Carolyn Atkinson Head Teacher a Dharma Heir and Lineage Holder of the late Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi (from)
Rev. Zentatsu Richard Baker founder and guiding teacher of Dharma Sangha—which consists of Crestone Mountain Zen Center located in Crestone, CO and the Buddhistisches Studienzentrum (Johanneshof) in Germany’s Black Forest. (from)
Ezra Bayda received dharma transmission from Charlotte Joko Beck, and presently teaches at the Zen Center San Diego.(from)
Mitra Bishop a Dharma heir of Ven. Philip Kapleau-roshi.
Abbot of Mountain Gate in Northern New Mexico, and Spiritual Director of Hidden Valley Zen Center in San Marcos CA.(from)
Many of her students have signed the petition
Melissa Blacker Zen priest with Boundless Way Zen, a Dharma heir of James Ishmael Ford (from)
Bruce Seiryo Blackman Zen teacher in the White Plum Asanga of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi and a Dharma heir of Sr. Janet Jinne Richardson-roshi (from)
Joe Bobrow a Zen teacher in the Diamond Sangha (from)
Dae Bong Sunim resident Zen Master of Gye Ryong San International Zen Center- Mu Sang Sa in Korea. He became a monk in 1984. He received Inka from Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1992 and Dharma Transmission in 1999. (from)
Merle Boyd Zen priest with the White Plum Asanga lineage of Taizan Maezumi…founder and guiding teacher of the Lincroft Zen Sangha located in Lincroft, New Jersey and is a Dharma heir of Wendy Egyoku Nakao (from)
Mitchell Cantor Mitchell Doshin Cantor Sensei has been a student of Peter Muryo Matthiessen Roshi since 1986. Doshin received Denkai from Muryo Roshi in 2002. He additionally studied with Madeline Ko-I Bastis Sensei…and received dharma transmission in 2006. Doshin is the teacher at the Southern Palm Zen Group in Boca Raton FL(from)
John Crook dharma heir of the late Chan Master Sheng-yenof Dharma Drum Mountain, Taiwan, having received dharma transmission in 1993 (from)
James Ford a Soto Zen priest… serving as a guiding teacher at the Boundless Way Zen Network (from)
John M. Gage abbott and sensei of the Vista Zen Center (Hotei-ji) (from)
Elizabeth Hamilton teaches at Zen Center San Diego  She received dharma transmission in 1994 from Joko Beck. (from)
Rev. Zenkei Blanche Hartman a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, a Dharma heir of Sojun Mel Weitsman. Zenkei is a Senior Dharma Teacher at San Francisco Zen Center (from)
Kip Ryodo Hawley Sensei with the White Plum Asanga of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi and a Dharma heir of Wendy Egyoku Nakao-roshi (from)
Taigen Henderson a Dharma heir of Sensei Sunyana Graef (from)
Joan Hoeberichts Zen priest in the White Plum Asanga, the lineage of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi (from)
Amy Hollowell Amy Hollowell Sensei is one of three dharma heirs, or successors, of the French Zen master Catherine Genno Pagès Roshi, who founded Dana Zen Center in Montreuil, France, in 1994. Genno Roshi is the first dharma heir of the American Zen master Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi (from)
Zen Master Soeng Hyang (Barbara Rhodes) is the School Zen Master and Guiding Dharma Teacher of the Kwan Um School of Zen. She received dharma transmission from Zen Master Seung Sahn (from)
Rev. Keido Les Kaye Les received Dharma Transmission, authority to teach, from Hoitsu Suzuki son and successor to Shunryu Suzuki. He was appointed teacher at Kannon Do Zen Center (from)
Rev. Taigen Dan Leighton a Soto Zen priest and Dharma successor in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. (from)
Stanley Lombardo was a founding member of the Kansas Zen Center (from)
Barry Magid a Zen teacher of the Ordinary Mind School of Zen..heir of Charlotte Joko Beck (from)
Genjo Marinello Abbot of Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji (from)
Rev. Nicolee Jikyo McMahon received Dharma Transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 1995. (from)
Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakau abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles (from)
Rev. Tonen O’Connor Soto Zen Buddhist priest and has been the resident priest at the Milwaukee Zen Center (from)
Rev. Enkyo O’Hara Abbot of The Village Zendo in New York City. A Soto Zen priest, O’Hara, Roshi received Dharma transmission from Tetsugen Bernard Glassman. (from)
Rev. Joen Snyder O’Neal ordained as a Zen priest by Katagiri Roshi in 1980 and received Dharma transmission from him in 1989. (from)
Michael O’Sullivan Senior Dharma Teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen, is the founder and abbot of The Three Treasures Zen Center, located in Oneonta, New York (from)
Ji Hyang Padma currently serves as the Buddhist Advisor at Wellesley College….has served as Abbot of Cambridge Zen Center (from)
Rev. Tony Patchell Zen priest and Dharma heir in the Suzuki-roshi lineage, trained at the San Francisco Zen Center. (from)
Rev. Josho Pat Phelan a Soto Zen priest in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki currently serving as guiding teacher at Chapel Hill Zen Center (from)
Rev. Dosho Port Soto Zen priest and Dharma heir of Dainin Katagiri-roshi (from)
Rev. Susan Jion Postal Susan Ji-on Postal, teacher and founder of the Empty Hand Zen Center in New Rochelle, New York (from) Many of her students have signed the petition.
Rev. Taihaku Priest founder of Shao Shan Spiritual Practice Center (from)
Jason Quinn Abbot in the Empty Gate center in Berkley California (from)
Rev. Densho Quintero Soto Zen priest and Dharma heir of Shohaku Okumura-roshi (head teacher of Sanshin Zen Community in Bloomington Indiana and Director of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center (from)
Sylvan Genko Rainwater Zen Buddhist monk at Dharma Rain Zen Center – Portland, Oregon. (from)
Rev. Zuiko Redding Soto Zen priest and the guiding teacher of Cedar Rapids Zen Center in Iowa. (from)
Caitriona Reed received Lamp Transmission from her teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. She is co-founder of Ordinary Dharma in Los Angeles (from)
Joan Rieck Sanbo Kyodan, Three Treasures Sangha of the Sandias, Bernalillo, NM (from)
Judith Roitman JDPSN began practicing Zen with Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1976 at the Cambridge Zen Center. She was one of the founders of the Kansas Zen Center (from)
Rev. Daigaku Rumme Soto Zen priest and resident of City Center (from)
Rev. Seisen Saunders founder and head teacher of Sweetwater Zen Center (from)
Elihu Genmyo Smith first Dharma Heir of Charlotte Joko Beck (from) (more)
Abbot Myogen Steve Stucky received dharma transmission from Sojun Mel Weitsman in 1993. He founded Dharma Eye Zen Center in Marin County (from)
Rev. Heng Sure senior disciple of the late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, and is currently the director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery (from)
Rev. Jisho Warner founder of Stone Creek Zen Center (from)
Tom Aitken Family heir & POA for Robert Aitken
Jiro Andy Afable Second Dharma Heir [of Eido Shimano] – Former Vice-Abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo (1998 – 2003)

/Rinzai teacher and founder of Early Light Zendo in Southbridge, Massachusetts (from)

Ji Kai Myo-on (Yvonne Rand) a “lay householder” Soto Zen priest and guiding teacher of Goat-in-the-Road (from)-a Dharma heir of the late Dainin Katagiri (from)
Kan-kan (Kurt)
Spellmeyer
Head Teacher, Cold Mountain Sangha
Sante Poromaa Co-Leader of the Zen Buddhist Society of Sweden and Teacher of the Cloud Water Zen Group) (from)
Zuiko enji Angie
Boissevain
Soto Zen roshi and guiding teacher of Floating Zendo (from)
Shodo
Spring
resident priest at Anchorage Zen Community (from)
Amala
Wrightson
sensei at Auckland Zen Centre(from)
Susanna
Stewart
NC Zen Center Founder
Gentei Sandy
Stewart
abbot, North Carolina Zen Center
Sunya
Kjolhede
Sensei at Windhorse Zen Community
Lawson
Sachter
Sensei atWindhorse Zen Community
Jigen
Billings
priest withFive Mountain Sangha
Kojun Jean
Leyshon
Teacher in Kobun Chino lineage
Shusan
O’Brien
Soto priest, formerly Kwan Um/Chogye
Barry
Briggs
Teacher with Kwan Um School of Zen
Patty Jishin
Pecoraro
teacher at Twining Vines Sangha
Jane Genshin
Shuman
teacher at Twining Vines Sangha
James
Frechter
Former Dai Bosatsu Zendo Ordained/Former ZSS Board Member
David
Loy
Sambo Kyodan teacher
Myonen/Eve
Marko
Teacher, Montague Farm Zendo
Marian
Morgan
Diamond Sangha Teachers Circle; Clear Spring Sangha
Daizen Brian Victoria Soto Zen Priest, Author of “Zen at War”
Bodhin Kjolhede Abbot of Rochester Zen Center

 

Interesting contrast between the domestic and foreign policies of these teachers and leaders of the Zen community dontcha think? Not much overlap. Of course there are thousands of other teachers who don’t bother with this kind of thing at all. And many of the above listed are very fine teachers. As are most of the Zen teachers in America. Check the AZTA website and Sweeping Zen for more names. I’m not saying it’s necessary to bother with any of this either. It just seems rather interesting that so many jump on board for these high profile (I mean the President himself will possibly read one’s name! And who knows maybe having one’s name on the same page as the President will sell a few more books. ) international campaigns but few can bother with issues at home.

And another thing that is noticeable is that quite a number of folks who have signed the petition are students of some of the teachers who have signed the letter. (Yeah I looked them all up too) As well there are far more “establishment” teachers on the Burma letter and far more “independents” if you look at lineages, on the petition side.  Another strange dichotomy to be sure. Maybe someone should do a sociological study on risk aversion (or self-examination) among the establishment.

One might consider it to be a matter for the Rinzai sector (a very convenient categorical dodge) or something that doesn’t concern the Zen community as a whole or one that, if kept under wraps, won’t tarnish the convert Buddhist community. Hmm that sounds an awful lot like denial.

I suppose in such instances it is necessary to become gardeners in everyone else’s back yard because of all the Astroturf in the local gardens.

And with the continuation of the cult of Shimano there are more questions to be asked. Of course it is unlikely they will now be asked on ZFI since some heavy hitters have arrived to quash this kind of dissent. So it’s up to bloggers I suppose to keep the bellows pumping. Feet to the fire and all that.

It just strikes me as an exercise in extreme cognitive dissonance to fete someone (see below) with so much baggage as one is simultaneously trying to oust him. The ZSS hired a group to assist with their process of reconciliation and redress, yet completely ignored the group’s recommendation to fire Shimano immediately. And then they have gone on to celebrate this man!?! That is the most ethically vacant situation I can possibly think of.

No coincidence that I am posting this today. From the Zen Studies Society website:

Harvest Jukai Sesshin, Oct. 30–Nov. 7  To commemorate his 50th anniversary living in the United States, Eido Roshi is going to conduct a Jukai Ceremony at Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji on the closing day of Harvest Sesshin, Saturday, November 6.

Congratulations to all those who have vowed to undertake the journey to the cessation of anger, greed and delusion. I can’t think of a better place to learn about that in depth. Don’t forget to check your ethics at the gate.

Musical Accompaniment:

The Who-Won’t Get Fooled Again

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Links:

Here’s a little something extra along the same lines for those in the mood-

Beyond Spiritual Activism: Creating a Just and Sustainable Movement for Change by Be Scofield

And a further discussion-

Off the Mat Vs. the Old New Left: Subverting the Dominant Paradigm, With Love by Carol Horton

A big thanks to Sweeping Zen website for providing so many of the biographical details as well as interviews. It’s a hugely useful resource.