Saturday, August 22, 2009

But we've always done it this way

Anyone that has worked in the world of business computing or other back room operations has run into this classic line of resistance to change:

"But we've always done it this way."

The Buddhist Though for the Day addresses this and similar manifestations of clinging.

While the Tathagata, in his teaching, constantly makes use of conceptions and ideas about them, disciples should keep in mind the unreality of all such conceptions and ideas. They should recall that the Tathagata, in making use of them in explaining the Dharma always uses them in the semblance of a raft that is of use only to cross a river. As the raft is of no further use after the river is crossed, it should be discarded. So these arbitrary conceptions of things and about things should be wholly given up as one attains enlightenment. -Buddha

All things are impermanent. What we have "always done" has not always been done nor will it always be done. It is simply the raft we have used for awhile to get from there to here. An interim measure that has served its purpose.

This clinging to the way we've always done things is the essence of conservatism. A blind need for permanence that fails to recognize that things are always changing all around us and in us at all times and in all places. Things that have served us well in the past become obstacles to moving forward.

"As the raft is of no further use after the river is crossed, it should be discarded."

As the European enlightenment-renaissance-scientific-industrial revolution went on the old ways of feudalism and mercantilism were abandoned to be replaced by nation-states, nationalism and capitalism. As Europeans crossed the ocean to settle the Americas they eventually discovered that the old ties that bound them to their former Kings and Lords no longer served a positive and useful purpose. Consequently, we broke those ties and moved on.

What drives us as individuals and communities to this clinging? We do it in our personal lives as well. We take photographs in order to hold on to precious moments in our lives. We attach to family, friends and relationships and all the while as we attempt to perfect them to our preconceived notions of how they should perfectly be we also resist the idea of change and potential... eventual... inevitable... loss occuring in them. We cling to our notions and idealized perceptions of the reality we create for ourselves.

Certainly fear and ignorance drive this. We fear loss. We fear not getting what we want. We tend to be ignorant of the inevitable impermanence of all things. Yet we see change happening and we cling in an attempt to resist that which cannot be resisted. We suffer as a result. Individually and collectively.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There's Something Happenin' Here...

What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a thermometer over there
Tellin' Congress they got to beware

Goal Thermometer

I think it's time we
contribute children
what's that sound
Take a look at that rising amount!

There's battle lines being drawn
Ain't no reform if no public option
Progressives holding their ground
Getting so much resistance from Blue Dogs

I think it's time we contribute, funds, to the Ones
Everybody look at who's standing UP!

What a field-day for the town halls
A thousand people in the street
Teabagging and carrying signs
Mostly say, crazy is on our side

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into the right it has creeped
It starts when their feed bullshit lies
You listen to Limbaugh or Beck and they lie to your face
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

With apologies to Stephen Stills and Buffalo Springfield.

48 hours ago Blue American, FireDogLake and others started a fund raising effort to reward those members of Congress that are standing up strong for the American people. The battle in Congress over health care reform is a hard one. The insurance industry is pulling out all the stops (and all their cash) in an effort to turn reform into a give-away to the industry that will result in worse and more expensive health care coverage instead of actual reform.

Over 60 members of the House of Representatives are standing their ground and making it clear that any health care bill that does not contain a Public Option will not pass the House. And they have the votes to ensure that.

The response from the blogosphere has been nothing short of amazing. The original goal was $100,000. That was blown away in less than 24 hours. It was raised to $150k. That is in the past. It was raised to $250k and that was put in the distance as I typed this post. The current goal is $350,000 and we are well on our way to seeing that bid passed and raised even further.

If you have some change in your change jar now is the time to dig deep and contribute to the effort. This is about real health care reform for America. 47 Million Americans don't have health insurance. Almost all of the rest of us have health insurance that is insufficient. All of us pay more for our health coverage and get less in return then the rest of the industrialized world. We need real reform that brings America into the modern world.

But this effort is becoming one of such staggering magnitude that it is about more than just this one battle. The people of America are speaking up and making it clear that when we said we wanted health reform we meant it. We are sending a strong message to the teabagging minority, to what is left of the Republican Party, to the obstructionist Blue Dogs, to the corporate owned New Dems (DLC), to the White House, to the progressive caucus, and to the rest of the world.

We will not be stopped. We will be heard. Our hired hands in Congress will do our bidding. The lobbyists will not be allowed to win.

The American People are speaking.

For your listening enjoyment:

10th Best Buddhist Blog: Ann Coulter

Hilariously, coming in at #10 Ann Coulter. This is perhaps the best take-down of her I've ever seen.

10. Ann Coulter: One of the key teachings of Buddhism is to develop enough space in your own mind that you can recognize, and choose how to deal with, the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance. As root causes of suffering, we dedicate our practice to shining a light on the poisons in ourselves and others, in order to alleviate dissatisfaction. I can think of no better opportunity to practice compassion or deal with our own internal reactions than being faced with a living, breathing example of the three poisons run amok. Ann Coulter is a shining example of what happens when you (consciously or not) embrace the poisons and then package and sell them back to other people to increase their dissatisfaction without offering any hope or path to a more easeful way of being. This may be the best site site of all the best sites for Buddhists, as it offers an opportunity to practice how we deal with unskillful emotions in ourselves, and in others. It's easier being Buddhist in the familiar environments of Elephant Journal, Tricycle, or Buddhist Geeks - but what happens when we are confronted with button-pushing unskillful dogma?

That is where practice is, isn't it? If you've ever sat in perfect blissful Nirvana only to yell at the dog or the child or mentally cuss out the neighbor and their car alarm for disturbing your wonderfully harmonious and loving state of mind then you know that right living is something we need to practice in the real world of contentious behavior and not something we do sitting quietly on a cushion.

It is easy to laugh at the image of Ann Coulter as the personification of the three poisons... "a living, breathing example of the three poisons run amok..." but how sad and difficult a life it must be to live. It is difficult to deal with them in our own lives and minds when we aware of them and are trying to share peace with our worlds but to live in that state of ignorance where it seems right to spread self-centered hatred, discord and greed.

How sad indeed.

Here's a challenge... what skilful means does one practice when trying to be of service to an Ann Coulter?