After more than a year of activity on this site, we’re going to make some changes. As our project of creating tools for a critique of Buddhism develops, the structure and form of its presentation alters. We are giving thought to how we might effectively push this whole thing forward.
One of our more delightful and intelligent commentators, Jonckher, recently raised a good question: Who is “we”? In the process of interaction over the last year certain relationships have emerged between different people here and around the blog. These relationships will continually change and new ones will be formed. Tom “pepper spray” Pepper, Glenn “kick out the jams” Wallis and Matthias “I am just a kraut” Steingass are not something of a triumvirate of non-buddhism. Pepper-Wallis-Steingass is just a structure that arose wholly by accident. It has no inherent meaning or even stability. Each of us has a different reason for our involvement in this project and a unique approach to the work.
Other people here are intently engaged in discussion, critique, translation and reading. “We” hopes for more structural accidents to happen. You are invited to get involved in this project to whatever extent you like. We hope you’ll consider writing for us.
Given the somewhat anarchic nature of the blog up to this point, some of you may wonder just what “the project” is about. Briefly put, it is about critique. What we are critiquing is, of course, Buddhist material. By “material,” we mean the forms that make up Buddhist thought and practice: practice groups, retreat centers, rituals, protocols, websites, blogs, forums, popular and academic books and magazines, concepts, canonical literature, and beyond. In a recent conference on art criticism, Lydia Goehr said this about the practice of critique:
To Adorno critique is not the promise of happiness, nor the promise of freedom. It is always immanent critique, the turning of thought back upon itself… This is the way that some of the so-called “social truth content” comes out of critique: It exposes the authority that concepts have over us. My suggestion is that one way to think about critique is in terms of looking for ways in our thinking to break the authority our thinking has over us. In that sense, there is nowhere to go outside of our own capacity to think.
That’s a rough idea about what we’re up to in relation to Buddhist materials. Another way of putting it is that we want to produce work and craft tools that allow us to see and then think through (in the several senses of that term) the contradictions inherent in Buddhist materials. We believe that critical work is in this regard powerfully creative and may, in fact (contra Adorno), even entail a degree of freedom after all.
To be more specific, we are building something like a magazine to serve as a reservoir for older articles and for material to come. (The German word Magazin better captures this double sense of journal and warehouse.)
Our intention is to provide a space that is withdrawn from the heated and often spontaneous debate on this site. The magazine site will be slower paced. It will be more like a quite reading room. Contributions will be more considered, less blog-posty. At the same time, however, we hope for a good deal of experimentation and creativity (see Word Blood). Again: everybody is invited to contribute.
The blog will remain the place for debate. It will continue to be the platform to exchange and test ideas in direct interaction with others, and with no holds barred and no restrictions. It will hopefully be, as throughout the last year, something of a hothouse for new ideas to germinate.
With these two sites we want to support the developmental process of thinking. The blog is a “site of struggle.” Ideas are tried out here, exposed to the heat of ego and personal need; it is strewn with views and opinions. Many ideas will, for sure, fade out like embers. Some, though, will explode into unexpected, sudden insights. The thinking-through of an insight will, we hope, be fashioned into material for the new magazine site. We hope in this way to support the force of your thought.
A huge amount of material has amassed here. We do not want to let it decay unused. So, we invite everybody to rummage through it and see what might be of further use to you. Maybe you’ll rediscover a topic that you’d like to expand on. Maybe you’ll find some comment material that you can mash together or edit, like a collage or dada poetry, or cut-up schizoid-fiction-critique. Write a critique of a critique you discover here. Maybe you remember a discussion you were involved in. Why not go through the comments and condense it down to the essentials? Alternatively, you could develop the discussion further and make it available on the new site. Again, have a look at the page Word Blood.
We hope you will give us feedback about these ideas. Let us know what is unclear. Tell us what you’d like us to include. Even better, suggest a way that you will contribute.
—Matthias Steingass, Tom Pepper, Glenn Wallis
Image: Gerhard Richter, “Studie für ‘4 Glasscheiben,'” 1966.