Saturday, July 21, 2012

If you meet the Buddha ...

I dusted the Buddha late yesterday and took him outside for a breath of air after experiencing existential angst while composing an egg salad sandwich. Although bronze, this is a budget Buddha dating from Zen Lutheran days --- not great art, but adequate.

The angst was related to the weather and insanity --- of that delusional young man in Colorado unhitched from reason and detached from createdness who thought it appropriate to assume the persona of a cartoon character and kill a dozen, wounding dozens more, in a crowded theater. And the fact he was able to arm his insanity with little effort in Colorado gun shops and online with an assault rifle, two Glock pistols, a sawed-off shotgun and some 6,000 rounds of ammunition. Some days it's better not to tune in the news.

But crazy has always been with us and always will be, clothed as cartoon --- or religion --- or unvarnished evil, so there's nothing to do but beware and guard against it in ourselves. And perhaps work on reasonable gun control laws. If you have an assault rifle and a Glock pistol or two in your gun cabinet --- you're approaching crazy. So watch out.

The Buddha was related to serendipity, however. Those of us who find comfort in community and meaning in form and tradition but experience the center of our cultural Christianity as hollow, scooped away by too many years of aversion therapy and problematic metaphysics, sometimes try to sneak up on the essence by using some form of the Buddha's path. He, after all, did not set out to create a new religion; merely to explore practices and principles applicable within them all.

I was thinking about that Friday morning before the routine visit to Richard Beck's "Experimental Theology" blog where I found this post, entitled "The Buddhist Phase," describing how Buddhism has informed his Christian practice in four areas --- mindfulness, non-attachment, recognition of moral failure as ignorance and Christian practice bound to faith: overcoming what he describes as the "lunacy" of mandatory belief paired with optional discipleship.

These threads are present in Christianity, too --- obscured in the recesses of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Quaker, anabaptist and other traditions --- and sometimes, I think, the Buddha can be helpful in enlightening them. I'm going to do a better job of keeping him dusted.

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