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.

Travel Thai-aries – Buddhism > you’re doing it wrong

First, as always dear reader, start here – please.

Thailand is a country of very many people. (ed Note: 66 million). Approximately 85% of these folks are Buddhist. These people fucking love the Buddha. They have approx a metric shit-ton of temples. (ed note: 47,000 to be specific). They have been Buddhists for thousands of years. Btw, you are saying it wrong. You pronounce it ‘boo-dah’. I did, too. No one in Thailand pronounces it like that, though. Even the wonderful folks who speak English in Thailand have no idea what you are saying when you pronounce it like that. You want the ‘u’ in Buddha to be like it is in pudding.

Here, listen to how Joseph Campbell says it. You need more Joseph Campbell. We all do, really… but you especially. Ever heard ‘follow your bliss’?

No? Man, you really need more Joseph Campbell.

So, you have approx. 60 million people who have been Buddhists as far back as their family tree goes. Now, how about if I tell you, and them, they are doing it wrong… and have been all along? Who am I to throw this wrench into world history? Well, a recovering Catholic who took a couple years of comparative religion and who owns the entire ‘Power of Myth’ series on VHS. So… yeah… I’m kinda a big deal.

Let’s look at the very basic tenets of Buddhism; All life is sorrow. Sorrow comes from attachment to things. The worst, and most avoidable, attachment is in the physical realm. Your favorite baseball cap, or parent. In time, you will lose ALL of these things… especially if you keep having to do life over and over again. All this is going to do is make you sad. You are a selfish greedy materialistic pig. So I am. Buddhism is about letting those things go.

In Buddhism, the primary purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness. We desperately try to hold on to things – friends, health, material things – that do not last, and this causes sorrow.

The Buddha did not deny that there are things in life that give joy, but pointed out that none of them last and our attachment to them only causes more suffering. His teachings were focused entirely on this problem and its solution.

This is done by recognizing the impermanence of all things and freeing oneself from attachment to these things.

There is a saying that Joseph Campbell loves to tell to quickly explain Buddhist philosophy. “if you see the Buddha in the road, kill him.” This is what it means to me, and (I think) to him; if you see the Buddha in the road, it means you are looking externally for knowledge and enlightenment and understanding and bla bla bla. These things are all inside you at all times. If you are looking for them outside of yourself, you are kinda missing the whole point. God isn’t in heaven, or church. God is in you.  It is why I allow myself to stay home on Sundays and watch football instead of going to mass.

There is much I love and respect about what I know of the Buddha. He was a very real man, who never wanted to be a religion. He certainly never regarded himself as immortal. He never believed you should take his word over all. Buddhism is NOT a religion. It is a philosophy. There are no rules. To be a Buddhist monk, for sure, there are rules.  To be a Buddhist… well – don’t be a dick ****

Knowing these things, why are there these amazing monuments and elegies to ‘Lord Buddha’? That is what they call him in Thailand… lord Buddha. Well, were he here today he would have stopped that nonsense first and foremost. To build the greatest and grandest temple to Buddha is to miss the entire fucking point.

It seemed every Wat we were in (Wat is what they call the temples) there was a contest for the most Buddha statues and likenesses. In one beautiful temple, we counted 124 different Buddha statues. Our guide taught us about how each temple had its own ‘most valuable Buddha’. We saw one made entirely of gold. One made entirely of jade. We saw one the size, literally, of a football field. This statue was so big they built it first, and then put the building around it. (ed note:  this is Wat Pho) Ah yes, the longest Buddha, the most expensive Buddha, the shiniest Buddha. Buddhism is entirely about NOT being attached to material things… like golden idols.

Thankfully, we spent a few extra bahts to have a guide with us. He kinda unwittingly explained the whole thing to me. It won’t be too surprising. As we were in one Wat that had about 80 full life sized Buddha statues; I noticed the faces were all a bit different. I asked my guide why that was. He said “well, since it was so long ago… no one really knows what the Buddha looked like. So, each King kinda molded the Buddha statues during his reign to match his own likeness. This is how they are able to date the various statues.” BINGO.

Did you catch that? These statues, really, have NOTHING to do with Buddha. These are kings dressing themselves up as Buddhas so that history knows what a great and religious and pious and super rich each king was. In my eyes, none of this was built for Buddha. He not only didn’t want it, it misses the point entirely.

Next week, I’ll throw this little wrench in to history. You will read that Angkor Wat is the greatest and oldest and most significant Buddhist temple ever. It isn’t. Angkor Wat has almost nothing to do with Buddhism at all. It is 99% a Hindu temple. Again, we’ll hit that later.

**** we are talking Mayahaya Buddhism, here.  The more hardcore and disciplined wing of Buddhism is called ‘Theravada.  Pretty sure those guys would cane me if they read this.  Seriously.  I am of the Mahayana side, very much so.  That is the happy hippy dippy ‘we are all Buddhas inside.  I accept you all… let’s hug’.  Think of it like reformed Jews, or unitarian Christians.  Theravada is like first testament Christianity.  There is only god, and man is he ANGRY.

In closing, you know that awesome scene from Talledega Nights at the dinner table?  They are all gathered in prayer, and talking about how they specifically imagine what baby Jesus looks like?  Well, Buddhism is kinda like that.  There are about 54 specific recognized Budda poses and postures.  This is my favorite.

Note what the hands are doing, it is very important.  The left hand is resting, and opened up.  This is to accept knowledge and change.  In my eyes, with this hand he accepts and embraces life’s’ changes, and eagerly requests more knowledge.  His right hand, however, is also saying ‘BUT… you best back the fuck off.  Do not mistake my kindness for weakness.”

the Friday Fives seem to enjoy every sandwhich

 

1. What would you write in a fortune cookie?

All jests are half truths

2. What would you write in your yearbook today if the had the chance – back then?

that is worded poorly, and I am not sure I understand it.  I am going to shoot for the spirit of the question… at least what I think it is.  I would use Warren Zevon’s last words… “enjoy every sandwich”.  Are there any better last words than that?  The answer is no.  Except for, of course – Mayonnaise

3. What’s a word you think everyone should know and what do they mean?

if you have been reading this blog for a bit, you should know my answer already – schadenfreude

4.  In five words less what would be your best advice?

well, wouldn’t either 1 or 2 above answer that?  You are doing terrible at asking questions.  However, again – in the spirit in which I think the question was meant – I gotta go with Joseph Campbell – Follow your Bliss

5.  Using only 3 words, how would you describe your week?

crazy super productive



Friday Fives – righteous indignation edition

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

catholicism

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.