Love Pictures Meditation Buddhism…

img_1935Falling in love is probably the closest we’ll ever get to magic in this life, that unexplainable attraction, the eyes the mouth the hair the touch the smell, irreducible to rationality, or math, or the silly logic of syllogisms, so this is reason enough to be suspicious already, correct? BUT—this is the goldfield that Christianity tries to mine—the swoon and the swearing and the general lack of sobriety, and stopping just short of climax, over and over, the better to forestall final payment, in order to accrue interest…

We Westerners are love junkies, but almost any emotion will do, the crazier the better, any reason or rationality thoroughly rejected from the outset as antithetical to the mood. But I don’t think it’s any accident that it’s mostly the West that is in love with love, as this is the air we breathe, the pheromones and the physicality, the sexiness and the six-packs, whether abs or IPA, any drug will do. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want, as long as you consider all your options, as long as you are free to make an informed decision, BUT…

Emotion is not a suitable basis for religion…

No, it is not religion, not IMHO, not as long as there are are other options available. Okay, so maybe it’s a step up from shamanism—maybe—in which we emulate the behaviors of animals as a guide to spirituality, or simple devotion, however whatever whenever, but it isn’t Buddhism, in which the concepts of mind, body and God are scrutinized with the fine-toothed comb of consciousness…

Probably the most concise and insightful (and always a crowd-pleasing favorite) thing to be said about Western ways in the last decade or century or so is to “dance like nobody is watching,” as if that pretty much sums it up, and it does, while largely defining its opposition to Buddhism, which is pretty much the opposite of that, more like “meditate like no one is watching,” especially your misguided ‘self’, and any efforts to make Buddhism more like that western paradigm are misguided IMHO…

But that’s the deal for us Westerners, enshrined in the arts and letters, every photography class teaching you first thing to “go for peak emotion,” as if that is what defines us, i.e. us at our weakest, our most vulnerable, so somehow our most beautiful moment, whether laughing or crying, by some obscure logic, simply the worship of emotion itself, so go wild, young man, because soon you’ll be old and merely in the way…

Buddhism’s concession to emotion is largely compassion, wide and free, and in league with empathy, no big gaping open-mouthed smiles required, and certainly no compromising moments of rapture or capture. Only later did devotion become a regular feature of certain sects, most notably Pure Land, and only then under the influence of Zen, so something of a compromise…

Falling in Love means having a picture stuck in your head..

And being in love is maybe the only time you’d want a picture stuck in your head, at least long enough to reproduce the species, narratives themselves being the greater problem, and sometimes music, too, especially pop music, the very definition of a ‘hit song’ being its ability to get stuck in your head. But is it healthy? Not in my humble opinion…

Far from it, in fact, in psychological terms, it the very epitome of all the striving and craving attachments that we Buddhists hold to be reprehensible, that we try to dissociate ourselves from, the sooner the better, the faster the greater. Buddhism is all about reason, and logic, closest thing we had to science way back when, and a much better way to live your life I’d say, free from the vicissitudes of emotion…

But there is at least one good result of having that picture stuck in your mind, though. It proves the power of visuals in thinking, and that is possibly the upshot of all meditation, and Buddhism’s other psychological benefits. After all, is ‘Buddho’ any better than a pop song to be stuck in your mind; is it really any different? Yes, repeating the Buddha’s name is certainly not a bad mantra, but for my money the best result is to reduce all narratives to a minimum, that being the major problem, not thought itself…

So is the goal a more visual form of thought? Yes, I think it is. So let’s call it ‘paleo-thought’ for marketing purposes, and in acknowledgment of the fact that thought is not dependent on language, and certainly not necessarily verbal language. Our forebears certainly did not make it out of Africa by random migration. Cause and effect—post hoc ergo propter hoc, after this so because of this—is probably the most primal thought, enshrined in the basic logic of cause-and-effect, even if ultimately a logical fallacy. That comes later…

Unfortunately racism is probably a primordial thought, too, to mistrust the other, the unknown. And that’s where religion comes in, to remind us of what we knew before we got so world-wise. But passionate love is not much better, not the day after, and most marriages now are simply a game of musical chairs: we go to our deaths with our last dance partner, leaving a trail of scorched earth and broken relationships behind. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a better way, the Middle Way, madhyamagga…