Works of the Spirit and the Hardness of Fate

Tree of Life4What does speculative non-buddhism have to say about practice? I feel compelled to raise this thorny issue because of a comment on this blog by Craig and, just a day later, an email by Rod Abbott. Craig wrote:

I’d like to say that I suffer in this life and as a result I came to buddhism. Seeing the non-buddhist critique has kind of left me feeling a little hopeless and ungrounded. Of course there needs to be a major system change…but is there anything that can help in the mean time. I have to say that I feel guilty about just wanting to do my little meditation/chanting practice and not read this or any other blog and mindfully live out my days…but that seems to be dangerous. I still have to deal with basic day to day suffering…i.e: getting out of bed :-). (Craig, comment #294 on “X-buddhist Provocateurs?”)

Then came this email by Rod Abbott:

I love ritual and “aesthetic beauty and complexity,” but I’ve have been struggling with how to manifest it meaningfully without transcendence, without anthropocentrism. I would very much like for us to explore this “form” side more. It would be nice to once again explore the Tridentine Mass without the transcendence, and I’d love to talk more about witchcraft and tarot.

“Aesthetic beauty and complexity” was a phrase I used to describe my own practice life. Since I also value conceptual austerity, that richness seems contradictory to people who don’t know me. Both of these modes follow from my involvement with speculative non-buddhism. So, let’s talk about it.

What is a non-buddhist response to Craig and Rod? One quick answer is: practice is your own business. That answer assumes that by “practice” you mean something like meditation or devotion. Another quick answer is: speculative non-buddhism is the practice. That answer assumes that that previous sense of “practice” prejudices you to dismiss theoretical thinking as a viable and valuable practice in and of itself.

The second quick answer would, I imagine, leave Craig cold. And I think Rod would find the first answer a bit disingenuous. Continue reading “Works of the Spirit and the Hardness of Fate”

Anicca as the Truth of Extinction

Never mind that, in the end, all of human life will have amounted to an infinitesimal flash of dull, vaporous light, wholly inconsequential to the cosmic whole. Never mind that all evidence—biological, geological, cosmological, even historical—betrays processes that are as blind and indiscriminate as they are relentless and ruthless.

Once upon a time, in some remote corner of that universe which is effused into numberless glimmering solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. It was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history;” but, of course, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled, and the clever beasts had to die.—One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how pathetic, how shadowy and evanescent, how purposeless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.(1)

Two claims.

  • X-buddhist meditation dilettantes can be recognized by their desire to connect everything. Their rhetoric of practice hooks chaotic modes of human being together with logical connectives even though the logical relationship asserted by those connectives does not hold. To the person who cannot truly conceive anything as a unit, anything that suggests disintegration or discontinuity is unbearable; only a person who can grasp totality can understand caesuras.

Raw Remarks on Meditation, Ideology and Nihilism

[I will be high in the Alps (high up, that is) and largely internet-free, until early August. I would like to leave you with a few stray, suggestive, unprocessed, and probably irresponsible remarks about meditation practice. These remarks stem from a chapter of a book that I am working on. Although I won’t be able to respond now to your comments, I hope you will nonetheless “talk amongst yourselves.”]

As I was about to post my raw remarks on meditation, a comment by Tom Pepper arrived on the “What is non-Buddhism” page. I encourage you to read his comment. Tom’s questions, insights, suggestions, and general attitude exemplify the kind of thinking needed for the work that I am hoping to stoke, or indeed incite, on this blog. After reading his comment, I went back and selected different raw fragments, ones that might better speak to his remarks. Continue reading “Raw Remarks on Meditation, Ideology and Nihilism”