Friday Fives – 2014 year in review

What is your best memory of the year?

Spending 12 hours in the Incheon Airport in Seoul, South Korea. It is officially one of the coolest places on earth. I am not saying its one of the greatest airports. It’s more than that… it is its own destination. On our itinerary home from Thailand, I saw we had a 12 hour lay over. We were DREADING it. I just wanna go home, you know?

This airport changed the game. It’s like a super mall, but with culture. There were two plays happening while we were there, three separate concerts, and two fully costumed historic parades… in the airport. Plus, they had lounging chairs, beds, and massage chairs… all free to use. It had 5g wifi, free of course. The security staff were nice. They weren’t dicks and bullies like the TSA. They don’t give a shit about your shoes or belts or liquids, either.

On top of all this, we heard about a free tour around Seoul. Well, we have 12 hours to kill… so why not? Well, they picked us up at the airport in these brand new beautiful Greyhound type buses and took us around to a bunch of monuments and shrines and stuff. All free, and all taken care of for us. Our brains were moosh after 14 hours in one chair. Our guide took care of us. He entertained us, told us what we were seeing. Made sure we all got on and off the bus, and that no one got left behind. On top of that, he gave us all his cell number in case we did get left behind.

I can only imagine it was subsidized by the govt as a commercial for tourists to show them how wonderful South Korea was. Well, it worked. We totally want to go to a full vacation to Seoul now.

What is your worst memory of the year?

Hour 12 of the 14 hour flight. I did plenty of stretching and walking around and all that… but I started getting stir crazy. Or, cabin fever. I dunno, but I started getting ouchie and angry. I really, really, really wanted off that plane. I remember thinking “well, I am sure Thailand and Cambodia will be swell. However, I don’t EVER want to do this again.” Of course, once I got to Bangkok we were instantly smitten and forgot all about the plane ride.

I understand this is a first world problem to have.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Landing a great job with a great company and also managing to still travel across the earth to Asia for two weeks while gainfully unemployed. Oh, and I got laid off from my job and company of 17 years. It’s all good, though. It turned out to be a blessing. Nay… a blissing. ®

What happened this year that you didn’t see coming?

Getting laid off after 17 years. Absolutely blindsided me. It ended up working out wonderfully, though. The company was very generous to me in our break up, so there is zero hard feelings. Plus, I got summer off to work around the ranch. I got a ton of crap done around the ranch, and lost 25 pounds in the process. Also, I scored a new job, which is super cool. That was weird. I haven’t interviewed properly since I was in my 20s.

What’s next?

Well… this is. Maybe get paid to do this. That would be cool. Not even quit my job type of money, but an unnecessary addition to my guitar collection type money.

in closing, do you see that mandala up there?  Those are Buddhist monks creating a prayer mandala thingy.  It is a beautiful and sacred thing, as you can see.  If you remember the rules of Buddhism, though, it is not to get attached to ANYTHING.  Know what that means?  The second these guys are done… they destroy it. To me, on every level, this is what Buddhism is about.  These mandala creations are the perfect microcosm of the whole deal. Thoughtfulness, mindfulness… all that yummy eight fold path stuff.  Much better than the Thai royalty and their very un-Buddha like Buddha collections.  This stuff means a lot to me, and it’s why every single week for ten years I have topped these stories and entries with a mandala.  For further study, head for Jung.  He did some FUCKING AMAZING work with mandalas and the  ‘collective unconscious’

Here, let’s let them describe it themselves.  Pretty sure they don’t use the term ‘thingy’.


The Sand Mandala
Mandalas constructed from sand are unique to Tibetan Buddhism and are believed to effect purification and healing. Typically, a great teacher chooses the specific mandala to be created. Monks then begin construction of the sand mandala by consecrating the site with sacred chants and music. Next, they make a detailed drawing from memory. Over a number of days, they fill in the design with millions of grains of colored sand. At its completion, the mandala is consecrated. The monks then enact the impermanent nature of existence by sweeping up the colored grains and dispersing them in flowing water.


The Book of Mormon – A Buddist love letter?

There is an old Buddhist saying –  if you meet the Buddha  in the road kill him.  Here is what they mean.  Well, here is my interpretation of what that means:  if you see the Buddha in the road, you are looking outside yourself for the answer.  The Buddha, and his teachings, are not meant to be an external thing.  They are meant to be moral guidance for you.  Like the bracelets that say ‘what would Jesus do?’, they are meant to be a guide for you to internalize.

Again, that is my take, which is definitively a Mahayanist type of interpretation.  Buddhists are like Democrats.  The more the merrier.

I went to see ‘Book of Mormon’ the other night.  Possible spoilers to come in our discussion here.  I heard it was great, and I love South Park, so it was a no brainer.  Being a pretty militant atheist, I have zero interest in celebrating religious dogma of any kind (even Buddhist).  So, I figured we were going to make fun of Mormon’s for two hours.  I am on board with that. 

So, the play had plenty of making fun of Mormons, which was sweet.  The best part about the silliness is that it wasn’t malicious.  Mormon’s aren’t bad people at all.  They don’t kill people who disagree with them, like radical Islamists do.  They are nice and quiet and hard-working people who just believe some silly shit.  Nothing wrong with that, my brother.  I think just about all of us fall under that umbrella.

What I didn’t expect was how thoughtful the play was.  In the end, it was a very spiritual tale of self-reliance and self-determination.  Also, the play got something right that no one has EVER managed to about religion, besides Joseph Campbell.  These stories are allegories and metaphors.  If I told you of Jesus’ story without all the magic, it wouldn’t be that interesting.  His life, to me, is certainly not more remarkable or heroic than Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King.  So, to get the story to stick, we had to punch it up a bit.  How do we get teenagers to understand the impact of Jesus’ teachings?  Tell them he walked on water and had lasers for eyes.  Tell them he could turn water in to wine, had charisma +8, and an invisibility cloak.

That was a complicated way to express a point that the play did beautifully.  At one point towards the end, our protagonists find out the version of Mormonism told to them was complete nonsense.  This is great because most reasonable people (even Mormons, I suspect) believe the origin myths of Mormonism to be complete nonsense.  The lead female explains to a peer – “no one actually fucked a frog.  It’s a metaphor, dummy”.  What that meant was take the parts that are meaningful to you and apply them in a manner that helps you.  That is the Buddhist nature of the play.  Take what you can out of these teachings and apply them how you can.  The missionaries had customized the mythos of Mormonism to be something an African villager could wrap their head around.

There is a great history of this.  How do we get non-European people to dig our god?  We are white, and our god is white, and our Jesus is white – so how do we sell that to all these brown people?  Easy, make a brown one for them!  The virgin of Guadalupe!  It was brilliant, and it was marketing 101.  How do we get the brown people to dig our white god?  Simple, make a brown one for them.  Did you know at Wendy’s in New Mexico they sell Hatch Green Chili burgers?  Did you know in China they make Kit Kat that is green tea flavored?  This is the EXACT same thing.

It isn’t a bad thing at all.  John Stewart explained the same premise in his brilliant stand up act from years ago called ‘Unleavened’.  This show is tragically lost to the ages, and was done long before he was a big TV star.  He explained the reason why orthodox jews were forbidden from eating Pork.  See, before refrigerators, eating spoiled pork can kill you.  Raw fish or beef?  Fine, a delicacy, even.  But eating mis-handled or mis-prepared pork can kill you.  They told people this and no one listened.  So, instead, it became “because God said so”.  Simple, and problem solved.  You had to lie to people for their own good. Yes, pork, like any meat, can be cured and stored with salt.  If you do it wrong, though, you die.  Your government does this to you, and for you, every day.

So, the characters in the play customized the dogma of a very Western religion to make it pertinent to African villagers (where the play takes place).

This is right thought, right action, right effort, and right mindfulness.  These are all pillars of the Buddhist ‘eight-fold path’.

So, how do you explain the utter white nonsense that is Mormons origin myth?  You tell the story in terms that your audience can understand.  So, it became a tale of aids, diarrhea, and frog fucking.  Remember this is the guys who wrote South Park, so it was also wildly offensive.

On the surface, the story of the Book of Mormon could seem dismissive of organized religion.  To me, though, it is exactly the opposite.  The take away is to follow your own eightfold path, or golden rule, to better yourself and your community.  The Book of Mormon is a love story of empowerment, and how religion can play a positive role in that.

Even the great war lord ‘General Butt-Fucking Naked’ agrees.*

*yup, that is a real character’s name in the play.  Again, we are dealing with Trey and Matt.

Friday Fives – righteous indignation edition

1) What religion, spirituality, or belief system were you raised in?


2) Do you subscribe to the same belief system now? If not, what do you believe/identify with now?

athiest, with strong buddhist leanings

3) Is belonging to an organized religious community important to you? Why nor why not?

very much the opposite.  While spirituality is great, organized religion is like government.  powerful, merciless, and unforgiving.  In every sense, religion is the problem.  Do you know what the pope told Africa?  and I mean JP2, the good Pope everyone liked?  He told them condoms won’t stop AIDS.  Why did he do that?  He did that because the Catholic church doesn’t believe in contraception.  That is fine, but he didn ‘t say that.  He told an continent riddled by AIDS that the one thing they could all do to solve the problem would not work.  That is the most fucked up thing I can possibly think of.  After that statement, I was simply rooting for him to die, because of the millions of deaths he caused with that kind of selfish irresponsibility.

I have been to the Vatican.  Make NO mistake, it is a business first.

4) Have you read any holy texts? (Of your faith or another). Have they had/do they have any impact on your worldview? In what way?

Yes.  read the bible, read the koran, read the mahabharata.  It’s all bullshit.  All you need to know comes from George Carlin as ‘Rufus’ in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  “Be Excellent to Each Other”.  It’s that simple.  Doesn’t make a difference if you tithe, or forgo pork, go to church twice a week.  Doesn’t mean shit if you don’t live every day as a good person.  Instead of spending your Sundays in confession… why not just live a simple and virtuous life?  Then, you can sit and watch football with me on Sundays, instead.

I have learned more about the human condition from Buddhism and Joseph Campbell than anything else.

5) Do you participate in any spiritual rituals? (Eg: prayer, religious services, nonsecular holidays, etc).

nope.  Well, “be excellent to each other’, but that is about it.  Everything else is oppressive horseshit.  Take care of yourself, your family, your friends, and your community.  Instead of sitting at church for 3 hours on Sunday, why not really do something?  Why not go pick up litter on the side of the road with your kids?  Why not go bully some old people?  Instead of camping outside the iPhone store, how about camping outside of city hall to let your legislators know that backing the banks instead of their constituency also bullshit? 

Let’s not ever forget the struggle of the proletariat.  They are you.  Stand up for yourself.  Stop re-electing these ass clowns.