Religion, Philosophy, and Motivational Mishmash…

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Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka

Do you want the truth, or do you want to just feel good? For the most part motivational speakers have largely replaced preachers and rabbis, or priests and mullahs, in advising people on spiritual matters, especially in Western countries. Which is not a bad move, as it gives at least some semblance of metaphysical sustenance to battered souls, or non-souls, if you’re Buddhist…

…just when they need it most, in times of stress and mayhem, which seems to characterize the modern age, and which gives the lie to lame theories of consumption and consumerism which imply that all we need is—love? No, sex; and alcohol, and cigarettes, the Big Three in any street-corner kiosk in Havana…

And Soviet-style communism might have succeeded if they could have taken care of the metaphysical need for inclusion, inclusion in the Big Questions of life, the Five W’s of Existence: who what when where and especially why are we, when such would not seem to be indicated by a brief glance at the universe, which may or may not even exist without the presence of an observer (but that is another subject)…

Psychological motivation seems to be a human need, a reason to get up in the morning, and a reason to not only go to work, but to work hard, towards a goal. This is closely tied in to the notion of ‘belief’, which may or may not be a bad word, depending on your inclinations. Atheists tend to eschew it, while religious zealots tend to overdo it, elevating it into ‘faith’, which implies irrationality and superstitions, the traditional hallmarks of traditional religion…

But the New Agers and latter-day prophets do it, too, though usually in modern terminology and sweet talk, that spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. There is no more scientific proof of Echkart Tolle’s ‘energy centers’ than there is of Christian heaven, but the more modern terminology resonates with people, and it complements his other notions of ‘presence’ and the ‘now’…

Which is fine, if that’s what floats yer boat, but it shouldn’t be confused with truth, of any kind, whether provisional or absolute, which is mostly a pipe dream, of course. That’s the nice thing about scientific method, is that it doesn’t even pretend to be absolute truth, but always provisional, i.e. until something better comes along…

So that those who make a belief system out of science make as grave an error as the Christians or any other—false knowledge and shortcuts to salvation. They and the Buddhists and all the others do best when they leave the questions of this ‘physical’ world to science and concentrate on the affairs of man, which is their proper concern, same as Tolle, Ram Dass, Tony Robbins, Chopra or any of the others. Their job is to make you feel good, hopefully without the need for druggery to mitigate the drudgery…

There are two choices: Believe in something, or…

…destroy the planet, it’s all about satisfaction, as it is not in our natures to sit still and ponder existence without taking a side or taking a stand or otherwise getting involved with that which is other than ourselves, with an eye towards involvement. And belief is the easiest, least destructive and most likely fulfilling way to do that, mindless consumption typically reductionist in method and diminishing in spirit…

And that is rarely ‘truth’, of course, of any kind, provisional or absolute. But it can be. I consider the Christian truth of love and the Buddhist truth of suffering to be pretty much spot-on, the one spreading outward, the other focusing inward. Christianity teaches how to change the world; Buddhism teaches how to change yourself. Christianity teaches how to control the world. Buddhism teaches how to control yourself…

Good religion should always teach humility and limits and order and decorum, but Christianity went off the rails in its embrace of capitalism, so now we’re left with few choices: make big changes, quickly, or get ready for species extinction, perhaps mass extinction(s), plural. So no, you can’t do whatever you want in this life, and the sky is not the limit, so sorry about that, but there are words for that: global warming, over-population, poverty, hunger and trash islands in the sea…

So you can obey the sign above your local barista that says: “Calm down, find a seat, order your coffee, everything is going to be okay,” even though the Permian Extinction once obliterated 96% of the world’s species some 250 Million years ago, then ditto the Cretaceous, which 86’d 76% only 66M years ago, or we can get busy with some functional paradigms that will allow human self-fulfillment within a framework of environmental sustainability…

It is not arrogance to assume that we are the only advanced species in the universe, it is arrogance to assume that we are not. To assume that we are the only ones, until we know of another, is humility, and sustainability, living within our prescribed limits, to the best of our abilities…

For years, centuries, and millennia, the minority groups headed for the hills, wherever there were hills available, leaving the fertile plains to the a$$holes and impresarios, ceding ground to the seedy, and the cities, and the source of much dissatisfaction, dreams that can never be fulfilled…

Now there is nowhere to hide, and no hills to hide in. Everything is under surveillance, and there is no fortress of solitude, no frontier into which to escape. So what is the solution to personal and tribal frustration with their lot in life and no longer a lot of empty lots to which to escape?

Somehow we have to learn how to live together, in a state of peace, if not necessarily harmony. That will take some self-control. So once again I ask: do you want the truth, or do you want to just feel good? I want both, and I think we all do, deep down inside. That’s why I’m Buddhist…