As I’ve researched the many roads humanity has taken trying to find the truth, one of the most attractive has always been Buddhism. Its balanced approach has a lot going for it. I agree with its premise that reality is an illusion. But after that, we diverge on most critical issues. (I’m aware that there are many types of Buddhism, and most of my study has been in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, but I believe most of this will apply to most schools, and generally to Hinduism as well.)

Buddhism says that reality is an illusion. No debates there. But what should we do about that fact? The Buddhist answer in large is that reality is something to rise above and escape. The material world is flawed and is necessarily suffering. It is Life’s goal to stop the cycle.

A agree reality is an illusion, just as art is an illusion, literature, games, and every other creation of the mind are illusions. When I sit with my family and play Monopoly, I do not demonstrate enlightenment by declaring it “illusion” and walking away. I do not need to be “freed” of the game’s constant cycle around the board. Of course it’s an illusion; that’s the point. That’s what makes it so enjoyable, even when I’m losing. I agree with the Buddhist that failure to see the game for what it is leads to suffering. But we disagree on whether one should stop playing.
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Ray Hollenbach has an interesting blog at Students of Jesus. He asks an important question with Trapped Eternally In Heaven:

Popular images of heaven include the idea that we will inhabit celestial mansions, waft upon fluffy light clouds and worship eternally. These images are certainly better than eternal torment and suffering, but do they really represent the stuff we would choose to do forever, especially given the activities and tastes we choose right now? Even as a Christian, if I spend my entire life indulging my personal tastes, why would I want to focus on Someone Else for eternity? I would be trapped in heaven eternally.

He concludes that the answer to this is that heaven is the experience of coming ever-closer to God. But I think this just comes full-circle to his original question: “why would I want to focus on Someone Else for eternity?”
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John Podhoretz’s review of Avatar in the Weekly Standard is an interesting starting point for some thoughts on American religion. While Podhoretz and I are certainly from different camps, there’s very little in his article I’d disagree with (except his vague suggestion that the film encourages support for Iraqi insurgents, which I think goes too far and so does he).

I’m not a big Avatar fan. It’s fun enough, but I think it stretches “suspension of disbelief” to the breaking point. Look, you want a mineral and you don’t care one whit about the indigenous and hostile life? Sigourney said it best herself: “Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” For a 3D movie, the characters, plot and premise are completely 2D.
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Athensboy made an interesting comment. After discussing the common complaint of Old Testament “mean God” vs. New Testament “nice God,” he concludes:

I suggest looking into the practice of Zen. Clear mind, no fault, yin/yang balance, be here now, stay in the moment, fetch the wood and carry the water, keep a heart full of peace and grace, keep gratitude in front of any attitude, cause harm to nothing and no one and live today as if you will surely die tonight. No readings or interpretations necessary.

But of course Zen has interpretations. Does the dog have the Buddha Nature? When will the oak tree become a Buddha? From interpreting Chou-Chou to self-participating in the controversy, it is certainly not always obvious to the Practitioner what the true Way is. I don’t believe anyone who has truly tried to walk the Way would think it so easy.
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Ben Simpson has an interesting question under “Gospel Tracts a Thing of the Past?”

Is the tract still a viable means by which to communicate the gospel?  Or, has it ever been?  What are your thoughts on tracts?

He also suggests that the Blog may be the modern replacement for the tract. For anyone unfamiliar with tracts, they are generally short cartoon books that evangelize Christianity in the most propagandist terms you can imagine. They’re often focused on raising strong emotions and fear of damnation and Hell. Associating homosexuality, other religions and drug use with demonic influence is a common theme. Chick Publications is a leading producer. Read the rest of this entry »

I sat around yesterday with a coworker/friend of mine on the phone whining a bit about workloads and schedules and unreasonable expectations and poor management and all the things that work-a-days have whined about since somebody first suckered other people into calling him boss. We’d gotten on a bit of roll when I had to stop. Now everything we’d said was true, and there are a lot of things that are pretty broken. But I asked, ok, so what other team would you rather be working for? What other company? What other career? Here we are, work on cutting-edge stuff in a field we love. We get pressure to work more after working nights and weekends, and we get fussed at for this and that, but it’s all just “fussing.” There’s no real danger of losing our jobs. We get a team full of really exciting people to work with. We get to work out of our homes if we want. What exactly would “good” look like if not this?

And then I figured out some of it. It’s the fear of losing it. The fear of our team being broken up and forced to work on stupid things. It’s the fear that they’re going to make us come into the office. it’s the fear that “senior management” may not look on us with favor in the future. It’s not that it’s happened; it’s the fear that it might. I think this is why some rich people can be pretty miserable. You’ve got everything you want, but now you’re afraid you won’t be allowed to keep it. You’re afraid that others don’t think you deserve it enough and that they’ll take it away. My whole life has been like this. I live in a city I love. But it’s growing very rapidly, and my wife and I know that we won’t be able to stay here for long. Maybe only another 15 years or so before it’s just too crowded, but it’s fun while it lasts.

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Gather round, at let me tell you the power of prayer. Do not ask the Universe for things you do not want. She will give them to you in abundance.

Goddess Bless, bring balance into my life. Clearly what I needed was another job. And in the mysterious ways of Life, I really did, and so the right job came in the right way. The way I couldn’t dodge.

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Life out of balance. Unbalanced life.

It is time for a change. Five months since I’ve come here. At first it was because I was ready to change what drums I beat upon. For a time I had little to say on these things. Then it became habit to stay away. And then came unbalance.

We have so many roles in life. Worker, philosopher, lover, volunteer, parent. And I had all these balls flying in the air, and I was pretty happy with it all. We’ve built most of the huge treehouse, I’ve convinced dozens of people to fly to Ireland to rent a castle with me, I’ve had a great time camping with my oldest son, I finally replaced the kitchen door. But for a while now, I’ve let The Job take over. Out of balance.

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Three months of silence. I won’t even try to explain it away, only begin anew.

A friend pointed me to the online “Civic Literacy Quiz.” It’s a good quiz. Go take it before reading the rest. It’s short. I’ll wait.

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It’s been a little while since I’ve had time to write. Other concerns have demanded some attention, and between traveling and working all hours, the universe has reminded me again to slow down. Which is to say I have a cold. And when I have a cold, I generally go to bed for a couple of days, read and otherwise catch up on this and that.

I was several chapters into What’s So Great about Christianity, a book which I recommend others read but which I often wish to throw at a wall, when I began to hear those quiet little questions I only hear when I stop the incessant chatter. Why are you reading this? Are you really learning or just fencing? D’Souza makes some interesting points, but his often reverse causalities are unlikely to sway my thinking very far. When he descended to the defending Anselm’s Ontological argument, I knew there was little left here to be mined.

We have such a little time, and we given one great gift in the universe: our choice of how to use that time. With the thousand thousand limitations we put on ourselves, we still have so many choices we can make. And so I decided to step back and look again at those things that build, and for a time let go of fighting those things that destroy. We must defend the castle walls, but what is the point if we never sing?

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