Finals have arrived.
I am taking my final finals beginning tomorrow. By Wednesday, it will all be over but the crying. I have suckled at the academic teat of UW for long enough - I am to be weaned.
I am not walking in the ceremony, but still I feel the urge to mark the occasion somehow...
Drunken debacle? Not an option - too broke for that much booze.
Long hike in the Snowies? Bad knee.
Four state killing spree? Too cliche.
Kite flying with friends? Unlikely, given the weather forecast.
A weekend of internet pr0n? Too much like every other weekend.
Hours of headphoned guitar playing? Probably, but that's hardly celebratory.
So what can I do to mark this milestone in my life? I think part of the problem here is that it doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment. It wasn't all that hard... I know, you're not supposed to say that, but it wasn't. Getting through the Patrol Academy was much worse, with all the running and the push-ups and the shouting sergeants. This experience had its difficult moments, but in retrospect I have had much worse times in my life, and I fear that bad times are ahead as well. Perhaps it is the uncertainty of the future that undermines my attempts at carousal...
Because I am on the waiting list for Baylor, I find myself facing life for a time as a non-student. Being a non-student also means losing my cushy student job, so I must find work to fill my wallet and time until I can be admitted. I recall the soul-deep sickness that accompanies life in the cubicles, and I dread contracting that disease again. I am not suited to the life of a wageslave, and my already considerable ire grows exponentially when I am in the presence of "company men." I must seek out employment that has the proper mix of reasonable remuneration and liberal hippy values. No easy task; there is little market for outrage as a profession these days.
I am not alone in this; three other denizens of Flock Hall are graduates as well, and I have heard no concrete plans for any of them either. We are all in a limbo realm, and there seems to be no guarantee that it will end soon - some of the Flocksters who graduated last year are still walking the ether...
This isn't so much a sermon as it is a prayer request. Pray for those who are neither student nor master, for theirs is a prickly passage.
I suppose I could use the time between jobs to meditate more, work on my anger issues, get some exercise, spend more time with Ajax, expand my creative writing portfolio...
Nah, I'll probably just play guitar.
Go in Peace.
Finals have arrived.
UPDATE: This discussion is continued here.
I humbly submit that the written English language is underpunctuated. We have an exclamation point. We have the question mark. Beyond that, however, we are unable to give the "stage directions" that are needed to really convey our meaning in a written form. Some years ago, I lamented this lack to a friend with whom my primary form of communication was written (he was studying in the UK at the time). We agreed that the hardest thing to convey in writing is sarcasm. To keep our conversations clear, we agreed to use a "sarcasm mark" - since we couldn't spare the time to design a unique mark of our own, we elected to use the %; it is the least used symbol on the keyboard, unless you are an accountant.
Thus any sarcastic remark could be put in sarcasm marks, just like one would represent a quote. Some examples follow...
%I really like President Bush.%
%I'm so glad he got reelected.%
Over time, we began to use it to just surround the most sarcastic words in a statement.
The job the president is doing with the war in Iraq is %really great.%
Brittany Spears is so %talented%.
In some extreme cases, we just put a sarcasm mark in the middle of a word. This was understood to mean "dripping with sarcasm."
I absolutely lo%ve her work!
Episode 2 was the be%st fuc%king mov%ie ever!
So, the Flock is a %very intelligent% group of people - I'd be rea%lly interested in hearing what you all think on this... Discuss.
I am jonesin' for guitars again. It's kind of like a golf bag... you shouldn't drive with a putter, and you shouldn't hammer power chords on a dobro. If you don't know what a dobro is, read on.
The wish list that I posted here still stands, but the Les Paul on that page is a bit pricey. I've found an alternative...
Epiphone Les Paul Goth Studio
The folks at Epiphone come through again with a Gibson Les Paul clone for less than half the price of the original. No frills, just a simple LP in satin black. The reviews say that with a little tweaking it sounds pretty much like the Gibson.
It's also available in a Floyd Rose Tremelo model.
I really like the lack of inlay dots on the fretboard - it would look very nice next to my dotless Dot Studio, and it would fill the "solid body" niche. At $299 (a little more for the tremelo version) it's regarded as a very good value.
In a completely different category, we have...
The Babicz Spider
Yes, it's black, but that is not the reason I am interested in it (well, not the only reason). The fan arrangement of the string pins creates what the designer calls a "lateral compression soundboard." String tension is dispersed throughout the whole top rather than concentrated just below the sound hole. This allows the top to built much more lightly, which results in greater resonance and bass response. It also gives the strings a lighter feel to the player.
On the back you'll notice that there is an allen wrench stored up between the tuners. By using it to turn the fitting at the base of the neck you can adjust the height of the action on the fly with no detuning. The review in Guitar World says that you can move from a high setting for slide right down to an ultra-low "electric" feel in a few seconds.
All of this neato-ness does not come cheap. The Spider as shown above is $956. It would fit the "electric accoustic" slot in my bag, but not right away...
I promised you a dobro.
The Regal CRD-05
The term "dobro" is actually a trade name, but it has come to mean any resonator guitar. It is basically a guitar with a mechanical (as opposed to electric) amplifier in the center of the body. The metal resonator gives the dobro a very twangy sound that is distinctly, um, metallic. This one is a custom bass model, but I used this montage because most of the other pics of it don't do it justice. The Regal 6-string is about $400. This would fill the, um.. "dobro" niche in my bag. It is also, quite coincidentally, shiny and black.
As my weblackeys were surfing pr0n for me the other day they found a couple pics that made me think, "It's been a while since we did anything nice for the BCPs." For those of you who are new to the Flock, the Bisexual Cyber-Priestesses are an integral cog in the vast machine that is the Black Vatican. Their history can be found here and here.
It's difficult to enhance the already stunning BCP Uniform, but I put my personal shoppers to work, and they came up with the perfect accessory for the classy BCP who has everything...
Perfect for storing rosaries, sacred relics, or tips from clients... um, I mean, tithings from the faithful...
The Flock is a powerful information gathering machine. Today, Brendon (aka "G-Log") brings us a religious news flash from south of the border.
You see what I did there? "Flash?" Get it? I crack myself up...
The rest of you non-posting sinners could learn a thing or two from G-Log. Take a look to the right - you will notice that "The Redeemed, Who Post Regularly" no longer outnumber the "Sinners." How can I face the other religious leaders of the world when my two highest Inquisitors, are listed among the fallen?! The Dalai Lama actually laughed at me when we had lunch the other day!
(This is the Black Pope being laughed at...)
Oh Rachel, how we miss your "kittens and rainbows" view of the world...
And Locutus of Blog! How could you leave us hanging like this?
(A snapshot of the special hell for non-posting bloggers and people who talk at the theatre.)
All of you NEED to post again. I don't want to hear any of your whining either... "I'm busy, it's finals, I've got a real job..." Weak. Brendon has a real job, Levi has finals, and do you have any idea how fucking busy I am? We all manage to post, so no more excuses!
And this goes double for you lurkers. I know you're out there. You sneak in here, enjoy the content and then don't contribute. No blog of your own, no comments, nothing!! I don't want to name names, but you know who you are... NAVEAD.
So blow the dust off those keys and get something down. It doesn't have to be funny. It doesn't have to be epic. It doesn't have to even be grammatically correct (although that would be nice, Corley). Make a blog post, or at least leave a comment to mark your passing.
(If this were an official Black Vatican audience instead of a blog post, this would be the point at which I huff off in a swirl of dark vestments and incense smoke...)
For me, the last month or so has been filled with anger. Which is nothing new for me as you all know, but this has been a more focused anger than my usual. Traditionally, I am angry about a couple dozen things simultaneously and I'm prepared to rant on any of them if prodded, but lately, I've been tightly focused on a few things, and ranting on them unprovoked. It's exhausting.
To alleviate this I've been trying to meditate on letting go of the things I'm pissed about but I easily get lost in the anger - then I'm not meditating so much as spending time in quiet contemplation of possible revenges. Not particularly helpful, but it certainly can be a satisfying way to kill a half hour...
I decided to re-read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh in search of new approaches. This fine little book was given to me by my closest friend at a time when we were at each other's throats almost constantly. Although it didn't save that friendship, it is filled with helpful ways to address anger and move past it. In the back it has a "Peace Treaty" that folks can sign with family and friends, to set guidelines and boundaries for dealing with anger. I thought it might be good to reproduce it here - not so much because I think the Flock is in need of it, but rather because typing it out might be good for me...
In Order That We May Live Long and Happily Together, In Order That We May Continually Develop and Deepen Our Love and Understanding, We, the Undersigned, Vow to Observe and Practice the Following:
I, the one who is angry, agree to:
1. Refrain from saying or doing anything that might cause further damage or escalate the anger.
2. Not suppress my anger.
3. Practice mindful breathing and go back to myself to take care of my anger.
4. Calmly, within 24 hours, tell the one who I am angry at about my anger and suffering, either verbally or by delivering a Peace Note.
5. Ask for an appointment later in the week, either verbally or by note, to discuss this matter more thoroughly.
6. Not say: "I am not angry, it's ok, I am not suffering. There is nothing to be angry about."
7. Look deeply into my daily life, while sitting, walking, lying down, working, and driving in order to see:
The ways that I myself have been unskilled at times.
How I have hurt the other pserson because of my own habit.
How the strong seed of anger in me is the primary cause.
How the other person is only a secondary cause.
How the other person is only seeking relief from their own suffering.
That as long as the other person suffers, I cannot be truly happy.
8. Apologize immediately, without waiting for the appointment, as soon as I recognize my unskillfumness and lack of mindfulness.
9. Postpone the appointment if I do not feel calm enough to meet with the other person.
I, the one who has made the other angry, agree to:
1. Respect the other's feelings, not ridicule, and allow enough time for him/her to calm down.
2. Not press for an immediate discussion.
3. Confirm the other's request for a meeting, either verbally or in a note, and assure him/her that I will be there.
4. If I can apologize, do so right away, not waiting for the meeting.
5. Practice mindful breathing and deep looking to see how:
I have seeds of anger and unkindness as weall as habit energy, which make the other person unhappy.
I have mistakenly thought that making the other person suffer would relieve my own suffering.
By making him/her suffer, I make myself suffer.
6. Apologize as soon as I realize my unskillfulness and lack of mindfulness, without making any attempt to justify myself.
We Vow with the Presence of the Buddha as Witness and the Mindful Presence of Our Sangha, to Abide by These Articles and Practice Them Wholeheartedly. We Invoke the Three Gems for Protection and to Grant Us Clarity and Confidence.
I should have signed a treaty like this with the world, a long time ago.
So, in light of today's topic, it is more meaningful than usual when I say...
Go in Peace.
Don't think too deeply. Just give your gut reaction. The boys down in Marketing tell me that this is a crucial survey - the results of this will guide Black Vatican ad campaigns for the next year.
Which is scarier?
Gas mask ninja with gun vs. ex-nazi inquisitor lich-in-the-making... tough call.
How exactly a Hacidic martial art is related to a disembodied testicle in an egg cozy is a mystery to me, but they said it was important to determine our "target demographic."
Both are clearly terrifying and likely to dry hump you, but at least the 40 pound rabbit won't try to slip roofies in your drink.
Obviously the answer here is "both".
Dead rat or emo kid...ick. You could easily catch something from either.
Thank you for participating; please post your choices in the comments window. The best/wittiest commentors will receive an official limited beatification* from the Black Vatican!
* Some restrictions apply. No purchase necessary. Offer void where prohibited. Data and information gathered for informational purposes only; please, no wagering. The Black Pope, his employees, lackeys, minions, yes men, and subjugates are not responsible for any injury or loss of life that may occur while reading this post. In fact, we're not responsible for anything. Ever. The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.
(as requested by NerdyGirl...)
As many of you know, I have an animal companion, Ajax.
Ajax is a handsome male African Grey of the Cameroon subspecies. He is a very hard chewer, and plays quite rambunctiously if he thinks no one is watching. He gets pretty rowdy with his toys, banging the bells against the side of his cage and reducing the wooden parts to matchsticks in short order. He love peanuts and almonds, and is developing a taste for people food slowly (yesterday he ate a whole tater tot!). He's a sagittarius who is looking for a special someone to share candle-lit dinners and long walks by the beach... but I digress.
To keep him in top shape he needs as much time out of his cage as possible. I used to just leave his door open when I was home so he could climb on top of his cage and hang out. This worked for a while but there was really nothing fun to do on the top of his cage so he began to sneak off of it and go exploring in my room. This was ok until he discovered that the shelves of my ghetto-fabulous wall unit are made of the same soft pine as most of his toys. When he started chewing on the shelf that holds my shrine to Speed Racer (Blessed Be His Shiny Helmet) I had to put a stop to it. I decided to build him a play stand.
Four sticks of PVC pipe and about 36 elbow and tee joints later we have this:
The tray is the spare from his cage, so the basic footprint of the thing is about the same as that of his cage minus the seed guards. It stands a bit over 6 feet tall, but it still fits through doorways comfortably. I use zip ties to attach toys to it, and that way I can put them anywhere I want - I'm not tied to specific toy locations. I plan to add casters to it at some point, but for now it just rests on the floor. The perches are wrapped for grip - some with jute, some with sisal (we had both lying around). The jute is softer, but it is less durable when he starts chewing on it.
Click to enlage - this is the one he uses for his Tickle profile...
I think he really likes it. It is by the window and I put a suction cup feeder on the outside to attract wild birds. He spends much of his time on the top perches, talking to them - he even imitates some of their calls. He is also placed strategically near the full length mirror on the closet door because he loves to see himself. He stops occassionally to check himself out and do a bit of territorial dancing - maybe he thinks his reflection is a rival bird?
Plenty of sunshine
There is food and water on the lower perches so he can spend hours there without needing to go back to his cage. When he is ready for bed he will complain until I put him back in his cage (that high-pitched whistle that sounds like a smoke alarm is his way of saying he is sleepy) but the rest of the day he is happy to stay out and play.
Conveniently located by the sock drawer...
If you want to build a play stand for your bird, here are a few things I learned.
- Buy a PVC pipe cutter.
If I had tried to build this with just a hand saw, it never would have gotten done. My cutter cost me about $11.00, and it probably saved me several hours and a case of tendonitis. Each cut is completed in about three squeezes of the handles, and each cut is clean - no piles of PVC shavings on the floor.
- No need for glue.
Although I bought both primer and the glue for this project, I used neither. PVC pipe and fittings press together very well, and unless your bird is an ostrich there is little chance of it popping apart under its weight. When it is time to move (very soon actually) I will just take a sharpie and label each part with its location as I put it into a box for shipping. It should pack down pretty small.
- Build around the tray.
In other words, start with the hardest part to acquire. I had an extra tray for his cage so it was easy, but finding a good tray can be an issue. The best substitues are found in the Rubbermaid section of your local godless megastore - the underbed storage bins looked promising. These are usually unnecessarily deep, but that also kind of helps keep the mess contained. You could also just purchase a lid (they are sometimes priced independently) and that would make a nice tray - unless your bird is a serious chewer. Whatever you choose to use, start with the dimensions of that as the footprint of the finished product.
- Think of portability.
This kind of stand is best when you can move it around the house easily. Birds love to watch the rest of their flock doing stuff, so being able to move the playstand to the kitchen, living room, or laundry room can give your birds a great way to interact with you. I really wish I had though of putting casters on mine initially. It would have been very handy to do that at an early point in the buiilding process, but now it's a bit more difficult.
Naturally, the highest perch is the best perch.
I don't know exactly how much I spent on materials, but I know for certain that this was cheaper than the commercially available stands. I have seen similarly sized manzanita stands going for over $200, and PVC stands going for $150-$180. I probably have about $45 in this one.
If anyone in the Flock actually has an ostrich as a pet, I want pictures...
Get yours here. Or buy one for me; I'm graduating soon, and it's just the sort of thing that fits perfectly with the whole Black Pope oeuvre.
If you have no idea what it is I pity you, because that means you do not know the cruchy golden goodness that is Dr. Who.
If you count the beat up acoustic bass that lives in the living room, there are now 5 guitars in Flock Hall. Over the last week I let my room go to hell - laundry everywhere, trashcan full, dishes unwashed, bird cage overdue for fresh papers - because I spent all of my free time playing guitar. By "free time" I mean time when I should have been sleeping, doing homework, etc. I have come to my senses somewhat, and everything got a thorough cleaning yesterday evening (actually, the fingertips on my left hand could take no more practice, so I HAD to stop...).
At work, I have been sifting through the jillions of pages on the internet that pertain to guitars. By now, those of you who know me well are quite familar with this routine; when I discover a new interest I learn as much as I possibly can about it in the first 3-6 months of involvement. During this time, I am insufferable - I am focused, and can talk or think of not much else. If the guitar post of about a week ago already used up your patience for the topic, you might want to surf on through... because I am going to bore everyone with my wish list o' black guitars!
The Rickenbacker 360-12
There is no particular reason for me to have a 12 string electric... but it's just like George Harrison used to play, only in black. Roughly $1700 on sale...
The Fender Telecaster
This particular one has a non-stock head on it, but it's pretty much the same as it was when Fender introduced it back in 1952. Originally popularized by Merle Haggard, it quickly became a standard of rock 'n' roll players as well, championed by Pete Towsend. The thinking man's Fender, about $600.
The Fender Stratocaster
I know Levi will stop talking to me but screw him, I still want one someday. Jimmi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn can't all be wrong. Roughly $700.
The Gibson Les Paul
Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck know a little bit about guitars, and they both choose the Les Paul as their favorite for stage and studio. This one is going for $3795.
That's enough for now, as just these four would cost me about $7000. Since I feel most strongly about the Rick and the Tele, I could get by with just $2300...
This just in from the AsiaNews.it
(Thanks to Mr. Corley for bringing this story to my attention...)
1 April, 2006
Religious Affairs Bureau heaps endless praise on Buddhism on the eve of the World Buddhist Forum organised under the patronage of the Chinese government. The Vatican and Tibetan Buddhism raise different problems.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Buddhism can contribute better than Christianity and Islam to healing community divisions and help believers deal with major changes in Chinese society, this according to State Administration for Religious Affairs director Ye Xiaowen, who was quoted in the Xinhua news agency as he commented on the upcoming World Buddhist Forum scheduled to take place in Zhejiang on April 13-16.
The forum is being organised by the Buddhist Association of China and the Religious Culture Communication Association of China which Mr Ye chairs.
Other religions such as Christianity and Islam can also contribute to the building of a harmonious society (a pet project of Chinese President Hu Jintao), but Buddhism can make a “distinctive contribution” because its pursuit of harmony is closer to the Chinese outlook.
“As a responsible country, China has a distinctive thinking and forward-looking policy in promoting world harmony. Religious power is one of the social forces China can draw support from,” he said.
Mr Ye said Buddhism can help believers cope with a fast-changing society, now plagued by a huge wealth gap and increasing social unrest.
Buddhism is China’s most important religion in numerical terms, and has been persecuted by the Communist regime like other religions.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Tam Wai-lun, associate professor at the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the reason for Mr Ye’s great enthusiasm about Buddhism is related to the forum itself of which his organisation is a sponsor.
What is more, the central government is at ease with Buddhism because the latter has less contact with outside forces, which the authorities often see as meddling in China's internal affairs.
Ties between the faithful and the Holy See are one of the reasons relations between China and the Vatican are difficult since Beijing considers the latter a foreign power.
Even the Dalai Lama, who heads Tibetan Buddhism, is seen by the Chinese government as a foreign power that wants “to divide” China.
Professor Tam noted that there was nothing new in Mr Ye’s praise of Buddhism. The central government has always tried to use religion to strengthen its rule, forcing religious groups into a United Front, as an added tool to prop up the power of the Chinese Communist Party.
More on pride...
Last Sunday's sermon generated a lot of comments and I must confess, I liked that. Probably too much, in fact. If I was thrilled that people were discussing the content of it in the name of spiritual awareness it would be a relatively pure thing, but instead, I was just happy for the the hits. In short, I'm a blog traffic whore, which segues flawlessly into our topic for today...
Those comments tell me that people are reading the sermon, and that I struck a chord with a few of them. I'd wish I could say that I am happy to simply be drawing the attention of my readers to Buddhism, to the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or even just to their own spiritual side but alas, there is more to it than that. Seeing double digits in the comments window tickles a certain intellectual and spiritual vanity in me that I find troubling.
I am reminded of Baptist sunday school when I was a kid. From my very earliest recollections, I disliked every aspect of the Baptist experience, but I had a special kind of hate-on for sunday school. "What do you want from me? I already sat through church - now I have to listen to bible stories as well?!"
One teacher in particular gave me hives because she always reminded us that when we got to heaven we would each have a gold crown, and every person that we helped become Christians would be represented by a jewel set in it. We even did a construction paper project where we cut out crowns for ourselves and then glued glitter to them to represent our converts. "You want to have a lot of jewels in your crown, don't you?" she would say, and then admonish us to witness to our schoolmates. She also made it clear that those who had very few or - god forbid - NO jewels in their crowns would be embarrassed when standing around the water cooler in heaven. "How many did you bring to Jesus? Oh, I see..."
Bear in mind that this class was filled with 5 to 7 year-olds, and some of them took this to heart in a big way. You can imagine how popular a first-grader who aggressively proselytyizes on the playground at recess would be. It was pretty rough for some of them - especially the preacher's kids.
Aside from instilling a horrible sense of spiritual materialism in us, it also taught us to value our ability to persuade, over the truth of the message. Instead of teaching us to present the message in an even-handed way to help others investigate for themselves and achieve a spiritual transformation, we were encouraged to drag others to the faith and help ourselves to a double serving of spiritual vanity. I always balked at this - in fact, I recall cutting out a crown, decorating it with glitter, then putting in on my dog when we got home. I guess the family beagle seemed to me to have a better chance of winning souls for the lord than I did.
It's not about wining or losing. I don't want any of you to be jewels in my crown. I'd like to think that our discussions lead to spiritual investigations, rather than conversions, and that my excitement at seeing comments is rooted in Right Speech, and not based on my vanity being stroked. I'm still working on it...
Go in Peace.
I recently went to the music store where I got my acoustic guitar, and saw this...
It is an Epiphone Dot, semi-hollow body, which lists for $399. It was the display model, thus it was on sale as used - for $175!
Why should I be deterred by the fact that I only know about nine chords? Should I care that buying an electric guitar looks like a completely pathetic attemp to recapture my lost youth? (I was in a band once, long ago...) Did I mention that it's BLACK?
I don't have an amp either, so that would be another chunk of money. A little practice amp like this one is about $45...
It's just hanging there in the store, mocking me. I can hear it from here...
No, it's not a joke. Although reviewers say it's not a standard musical, it does have musical numbers in it. At three and three-quarter hours long critics claim that it is at once, not long enough, and too long. Not long enough to tell the story (Peter Jackson barely got it done in nine hours) and far too long to sit through unless you are a diehard Tolkein fan. The London-based production is so large that only a select few theatres can handle it - in fact only one venue in London (the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road) is large enough and technologically advanced enough to handle it, but it was already booked with the Queen musical, We Will Rock You. Instead, the producers took it to Toronto's Princess of Wales theatre, originally designed to stage Miss Saigon in which a helicopter lands on stage. Even that space had to be adapted to accommodate the 40-ton computer-controlled floor that is the base of the show.
Merry and Pippin meet the Ents
The price tag for the show is ridiculous - reports vary between 23 and 25 million, making it the most expensive stage show in history - and reviewers are hammering it. The harshest I found called it, "expensively, lengthily, and unspectacularly dull, dull and dull" (Tony Brown, Cleveland Plain Dealer). Ben Brantley of the New York Times called it "largely incomprehensible" and "an arcane religious pageant that can be fully appreciated only by the initiated."
Despite this, there is little doubt that it will sell tickets - fans of the trilogy aren't being given much credit for taste. One report listed 16 million in pre-sale tickets several weeks ago. If you are truly one of the faithful, you can order yours from the box office link on the show's offical website.
Isn't Coke already black for the most part?
On the surface, it sounds like it was made for me. My favorite soda with a bigger hit of caffeine? Sign me up!
It is supposed to be a mixture of "coke effervescence with coffee essence." The media hype is glossy - but what does it taste like? Cold fizzy coffee sounds odd at best... anyone remember Pepsi AM? The first person to taste it and report back gets an offical dispensation from the Sable Pontiff! (Look closely at the animated page - I love the fact that they spent a gajillion dollars on slick images and then spelled "effervescence" wrong...)
So first thing this morning when I sat down at my computer, I found this in my email:
"If one assumes a humble attitude, one's own good qualities will increase. Whereas if one is proud, one will become jealous of others, one will look down on others, and due to that there will be unhappiness in society."
It's a quote from the Dalai Lama. Sometimes I want to kick that old man...
I suffer from an inordinate amount of personal pride. It is very hard for me to be humble - I am frankly far too convinced of my own grandeur to be retiring. I acknowledged long ago that this is one of the main things I need to work on. To put it in Buddhist terms, it is one of the main impediments to my enlightenment. This quote however, reminds me that it's not just my enlightenment that I'm holding up.
I think His Holiness wants us to realize that pride is not just a personal problem. This is one of those places where Western thought and Buddhism collide most uncomfortably - in the West, especially in America, we have put serious effort into convincing the last two generations that they should be proud of themselves. We are unique, different, separate, and that is good. We may pay lip service to team work, but it is simply not the American way to think of ourselves as part of a greater effort. The American dream is not a vision of world prosperity, it is one of personal wealth, and those in our way be damned. In our attempt to give our children self-esteem we have created one of the most selfish societies in history. We make gods of ourselves in our own minds.
Setting aside for the moment the larger ramifications of this policy of Me-theism, let's just look at its effects on the ground. Are we happier? Are we more content? I look around this campus at the average student, completely self-absorbed, cut off from everyone else by hardened consumerism, and usually physically cut off from the world by an iPod - is that person doing well? Is he or she healthier, more capable of relationships, more in tune with humanity? Is the world a better place for it?
After I got over the feeling that the Dalai Lama was picking on me personally, I wondered how one could possibly get out of this mental cycle. It is so much a part of who we are as a people that it's very difficult to escape. Like so many other Buddhist teachings, it calls for tiny incremental steps. It's not a twelve step program - it's more like a twelve thousand step program. Sure, the Buddha taught it as the Noble Eight-Fold Path, but each of the eight aspects contains an infinity of tiny changes that together may amount to an enlightened being and a better world for all.
Begin with a tiny thing. Let someone go in front of you in line, take out the trash when it's not your turn, or just smile at a stranger. Self-esteem need not be built on pride; it could be built on unity instead. I know that makes me an un-American bleeding heart hippy communist liberal, but I'm ok with that.
Go in Peace.
It's a never ending debate amongst fanboys (and fangirls, which I am pleased to say is a rapidly growing population) - Roddenberry or Lucas? Federation or Rebel Alliance? Light Sabers or Phasers? For me, the answer wasn't clear until just recently, but now I know - when someone says "Star Trek or Star Wars?", I just smile and say, "Firefly."
Despite my personal epiphany, the debate rages on. The Black Vatican recently received the following images from an operative of the militant wing of the BCPs which may help shed light on this issue. It may not be enough to simply ask which is better - which has the crazier fans may be an interesting line of inquiry as well. Today we draw your attention to fan art...
Led Jedi? The Darth Vader Experience?
You be the judge. (If this is just too geeky for you, you can get both Firefly and Serenity for $43 at Amazon...)