Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

Word Blood

Posted by Glenn Wallis on November 14, 2011

This post has some information and a request for your input.

New page. I have added a page called “Articles” on the top bar. Many of the pieces on this blog are really more like essays or articles than blog posts. So, I will package them nicely and create pdf files that you can download and print out. Now, light your pipe, and read at leisure.

New Tagline. I’ve changed the blog tagline to “creative criticism” to better capture what I am up to here. The basic  idea of creative criticism is summed up by Camelia Elias* at EyeCorner Press, who speaks of “promoting … writing with an edge,” and  encouraging “works that engage with rigorous thinking, but which are yet informed by a creative style, and irreverent approaches to literature, culture, and philosophy.” (And, need I add, buddhism?)

e-journal. Speaking of creative criticism, I am creating a new e-journal with the aim of fostering and disseminating  creative writing that uses buddhist materials. I need your support and input. Here’s the idea. Then, what you can do.

Idea. When people hear the term “creative writing,” they typically think of poems and short stories and novels. That’s not what I mean. I mean word blood. I mean injecting vitalizing language into anemic buddhistic discourse. The main concern of the e-journal is to explore the subject in fresh terms. And that can be done—indeed, is often best done—without (necessarily) following the conventions of “good” writing. Unlike its well-behaved brethren—academic books and journals and informed blogs—the e-journal will host writing that is not afraid to hiss and spit.

Creative writing—word blood—plunges deeply into the well of human being.  Bile of enmity rouses it no less than ecstasy of love.  It says, along with Terence (the second-century Roman playwright): “I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.” Another goal of the e-journal: broaden the spectrum of permissible emotion in buddhistic discourse.

What you can do. During this phase of conception, you can give me your feedback and ideas. What should the e-journal be called? Is it something you’d like to get involved with? In what capacity? Most importantly, you can begin to submit your writing. Remember, there are no rules. Forget about “genre.” Length is immaterial. A paragraph can be as rich as a book.  Better yet, how about a fragment? Something broken? Or a stammer? Make up a critiku (critical haiku) or critiverse. Rewrite a sutta/sutra/tantra. Make one up. Be shamelessly autobiographical. Have the Buddha do stand-up. Let loose the howl of an unshackled x-buddhist/non-buddhist/unbuddhist/anti-buddhist. Unbind, goddamit.

Oh, better yet! Err. Be a fool. Make a spectacle of yourself. Dance. Sing. Gurgle. Yowl.

Wondering about topics? Imagine the Great Feast of Knowledge. Escort Buddhism there, if you like. Sit down and allow tradition to converse with whomever you fancy—poetry, culinary arts, philosophy, biology; schizoanalysis, anarchism, punk, death. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re lost in the conversation. Write it up in whatever form you see fit. It really doesn’t matter, as long as it lives, breathes, shits—and bleeds.

Anyone who would like to contribute, please either respond directly as a comment (=preferred, since it’s shared) or by email: gw@glennwallis.com

* For inspiration and some guidance, I can think of no better words than Camelia Elias’s interview on Biblioklept.

Painting: Mark Rothko (1903-1970), “Red-Orange,” 1968. Source.

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6 Responses to “Word Blood”

  1. Sounds great. With Terence and whomever. This will be very unbuddhistic fun, not the gaged aseptical shrunken, dehydrated thousend year old mumbojumbo. This sounds like something real. … the drop of bliss, the real one – not the castrated shadow of fucked up esoteric buddhism. Let it Bleed.

  2. Tom Pepper said

    I think the idea sounds like great fun. I’m not really sure what exactly the difference is between a blog and an ejournal. I guess I’m getting old and out of touch. I only discovered the blogosphere in the past year or two. Is an ejournal more edited or refereed? Less open to comment by all? Or is it just a matter of putting up a bunch of stuff at once? I’m still puzzled by that “tag cloud” thing to the right.

    Anyway, despite my pitiful lack of technological savvy, I do think a little non-academic, against-the-grain writing is always a good thing, and the internet may be the most convenient way to do it. In my profession, it is almost impossible to say anything new, because those who are long established in any field have a virtual stranglehold on the journals, by serving as the reviewers. In many topics, I can actually name the one older professor and the six or eight of his or her former students who will read any article submitted. They squash anything that disagrees with their own interpretation, and won’t even consider an essay that is on a question they find uninteresting. I am fascinated by Dickens, but would absolutely never even try writing an article about his novels–the control of the Dickens industry is just too strong. As a result, the only interesting book I’ve read on Dickens in the last twenty years was written by a Korean scholar and published by an international press, and is all but impossible to get hold of. I would assume the same thing is true in Buddhist studies. I do read the journals, and there seems to be an awful lot of time given to the same debates on the same tired topics, with a startling lack of awareness of the world of contemporary philosophy. If someone suggests a new reading, they get lambasted for not being “philologically rigorous,” and interesting new ideas get ignored. But, I’m ranting.

    I would love to help out in any way I can. I’m already what kind of thing to write, maybe an totally unacceptably cross-disciplinary meditation on the possibilities of Buddhist aesthetics? I’d also love to read more of this kind of stuff–that’s what attracted me to this blog in the first place.

    In American Academics, “rigor” almost always means agreeing with the readers for a journal, knowing who they are and being sure to cite their work favorably in your argument. As long as you do that, you can make patently absurd claims and still be considered a “rigorous” scholar. I think the reason we always wind up turning to the French for new philosophical ideas, at least for the last sixty or seventy years, is that in France philosophy is much less concerned with polite formal rules of citation, and much more willing to be assertive, argumentative, and creative.

    If you want my ranting, left-wing, strident, curt (mean-spirited, arrogant, hostile) help, I’m happy to work on this.

    By the way, does my name appear in large letters over there on the right only when I’m signed in?

  3. Brad said

    A title? How about “The Journal of De-Zombified Quasi-Buddhism”?

    Buddhism in North America — and I assume elsewhere too — desperately needs more rabble-rousers. You hit the nail on the head, Glenn, when you talk about broadening “the spectrum of permissible emotion in buddhistic discourse.” I would also like to see an expansion of the *style* of Buddhist (quasi-, secular-, X-, or otherwise) discourse (and art, organization, methods, etc.). Actually, I feel as if we must have a “revaluation of all [Buddhist] values” as Nietzsche might say. Don’t get me wrong: I think Buddhism is onto something. Certainly meditation is Buddhism’s greatest impact on the west: I feel, as I think you do, that it is basically essential to human flourishing (or even decency). We just need a bigger, more relevant, more flexible container(s) for that sort of practice.

    I also love the idea of not being so damn safe and being willing to make a fool of yourself. Buddhism has a lot to learn from improv comedy in this respect. So, I’ll see what I can do to make a fool of myself, eh?

    Brad

  4. Thanks for your comments Tom and Brad. Both of them suggest to me dangerous, reckless, and maybe even–if we’re so lucky–sinister plottings in the future. Brad, get to work on “Contribution to an Non-existent Journal of De-Zombified Quasi-Buddhism.” Or on “Towards a De-Zombified Quasi-Buddhism.” How about: “Teachings of His Holiness the Deli Lama, aka. Woody Alan.” Mess with style. Shock with emotion. Have the readers thinking, “Oh, Buddhists shouldn’t talk like that…”). I’d really like to read that one!

    Blood transfusion is a useful metaphor for this e-journal-to-be. Contamination is a possibility…if we’re a second time lucky.

    Tom, you are mentioning many of the reason that I left mainstream academia. It was beginning to dawn on me–no, weigh on me–that I was receiving my creative inspiration and intellectual stimulation from far aside of my field of Buddhist studies. “Constraining” does not begin to describe the feeling I had of being an “academic.” After five years in Germany studying Sanskrit philology, I coined a motto: First come rigor; then comes rigor mortis.

    I now know why academia refers to its “disciplines” and a “fields” (think barbed-wire, gun towers, and German Shepherds).

    And now, alas, it turns out that x-buddhism-as-institution is no different: myopic, claustrophobic, incestuous, and narcissistic. (Now, I am ranting; pardon.)

    So, yes, gents, let’s have it. A” totally unacceptably cross-disciplinary meditation on the possibilities of Buddhist aesthetics” sounds perfect. Let’s publish the unpublishable. I will start by posting my article on the blog soon. Thanks again!

  5. I still lament that we can not comment on your Poetry blog. Making request that all replies take poetical form may be fun!

    An irreverent Buddhothematic artistic romping ground sounds fun.

  6. jonckher said

    Ok, late comment here but hopefully you or someone will read it.

    I agree!

    All this seriousness needs a livening up.

    Actually, I freely identify as an x-buddhist (now that I’ve read your most excellent page on it!) but I refuse to quote x-buddhist masters or academia type people like this Larouche person you keep mentioning – they have nothing to add to the “discourse”. Only imagined sentient beings should qualify given the true nature of our beloved source. Plus, real people tend to write books with not a lot of pictures or car chases in them. Plus I have yet to find a blockbuster movie adaptation (but not 3D please).

    This is not merely a throwaway quip. After many hours of meditation, I have fully realised that little else needs to be learnt outside of the sayings of Yoda, Miyagi and Master Kahn. Avatar Aang has needless to say been a sore disappointment to me in terms of quotes (but everything else he does is pure awesome).

    I remain uncertain if the Hulk follows the Way or not.

    I am however convinced the the Borg are all Buddhist. Probably a Vajrayana-Pure Land mix.

    Excelsior!

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