Thursday, June 26, 2008

Project for the next week

Things to do in the coming week:

1) Buy a handsfree cellphone adapter, since the law in California requires me to use one if I wish to drive while on my phone, in spite of the fact that there is no difference in accident-risk no matter how you are talking on your cellphone.

2) Buy a gun, since my man Antonin has my back and won't let anyone take away my AK.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two questions regarding religion (and another)

1. Why do so many otherwise rational people, generally people who reject "traditional" religion because they just cannot bring themselves to believe such ridiculous claims or because they think it's all a control mechanism or they reject authoritarian structures, quickly buy into mass-marketed, slick re-presentations of Eastern thought, divorced of course from the ethical and historical content of that thought? Why is there a market—and, have no doubt, it's about the market—for The Secret and A New Earth, the first a repackaging of New Thought and the second an evisceration of Buddhism and Hinduism (and all their associated texts)? Why does anyone trust a German with a bad beardzlike Eckhart Tolle who changed his name to that of a late-medieval Christian mystic (Meister Eckhart) to bring them enlightenment? Is it because of his slick marketing, or his endorsement by Oprah? She's a not a good guide of literature; why would she be a good guide to things metaphysical?
If you want to read a lot of Eastern texts, I think you should. But you should read the real things and realize that people who have thought about spiritual matters for millennia—and weren't just in it for the money—whether Eastern or Western, didn't think it turned out that you necessarily end up wealthy and healthy and happy, even if you saw the truth or were a very good person. Remember, the Buddha's "reward" was to cease existing. And he achieved that by ceasing to care about anything in the world that he said was made up wholly of suffering. Religion and spirituality were not about making ourselves masters of the universe; that's called magic.
2. Why do so many contemporary evangelical Christians in their megachurches think that Jesus promised them wealth and happiness? Did they miss where he told them they would suffer for him and that their reward was only in heaven? Why do they, too, believe that if they only speak a "word of power" God will be required to make them happy? That, too is magic. Why do they apparently think that the Bible is really an endorsement of capitalism and consumption?
3. And why do these two phenomena come together in society as this time?
Rant mode:off

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of fantasies and missionaries

For many gay men, there is a typical fantasy associated with young Mormon men on their mission. Driving back from the grocery store today with soup for the recently wisdom toothless, I saw the new "elders" for our neighborhood—the last pair were rude when I said "hello" to them while walking Mateo, the bastards—and they are fodder for no one's fantasy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How I know I live in a city, an American city

There's no doubt I live in a modern American city when I have to pass through a cart sale being held by the homeless on my block to "exercise" the dog in the morning. 
It took me a while to figure out that it wasn't a normal garage or yard or alley sale, because in Southern California—or at least in my neighborhood—people have such sales by spreading a tarp on the sidewalk or yard, the driveway or the hedges and then cover the tarp with their wares. It was only when I realized that the goods were being taken out of a sharping cart to be placed on the hedge that I figured out that this was a new phenomenon for me and not the standard collection of old baby clothes and VHS tapes that I couldn't play even if I wanted to. 
I thought about stopping by to see if there was anything that I had put out that was not for sale. After all, since there is a pretty sizable homeless population around here (the result of the gentrification of downtown and the police effort to move them away from where tourist and ballgame-goers might see them), when we have clothes that are beyond donation we put them by the trash, so our trash-pickers can take what they might want. So, I might just have found my winter coat, but then Mateo gets a little nervous around some homeless people—they can be hard for him to predict—so I thought better of it.