finding meaning in a modern world

My problem with Buddhism: What about me?

As I understand it, the goal of Buddhism is to transcend suffering and ignorance so that a state of enlightenment called Nirvana may be reached.  Good Buddhists work tirelessly at shedding themselves of desire by renouncing material goods, pleasure and the wish to be immortal.  They shed themselves of ignorance through concentration, insight and a commitment to no longer using vices like greed, envy, hatred and anger.

That sounds like a solid plan, but… uh… what about me?

I kind of like me.  I like feeling all different kinds of things and having a family and talking about Real Housewives and eating ice cream.  As much as I dislike having to use Weight Watchers (which is an awesome program, by the way, I’ve lost 15 lbs), I like experiencing bodily pleasures.  It makes me feel like I’m one of those wine, women and song gals and I’m only here for a little while, right?  I don’t enjoy wanting to kill other drivers, but it’s okay because having an ego means I get to think of creative ways to do it.  There will be no anger fueled creativity in Eternal Bliss and you can kiss goodbye that feeling of ecstasy when the anger finally subsides… or actually you can just live in it.  I have a love affair going with Marc Jacobs handbags.  Call me materialistic, but have you seen the black one with the gold metal doves?  It’s so fun and goes with everything.

It reminds me of Bob Dylan’s line in Visions of Johanna, “Inside the museums Infinity goes up on trial.  Voices echo ‘this is what salvation must be like after a while’.  Mona Lisa has the highway blues, you can tell by the way she smiles…”

What all that means to me, is that it hurts to get Mona Lisa’s smile… that mixture of fascination, pleasure, sadness, and anything else you can project into it… but it’s the most interesting one, isn’t it?  It’s the one we catch ourselves staring at.  It’s the one with a special divine spark AND an individual in it.

I try to think of that every time I stub my toe on the dresser of life: this is the price I pay for having a me.  Existing hurts at times.  I don’t live in Nirvana.  I live in smoggy, crowded, shallow L.A…. and isn’t it great?!?

What do you think?

If you want to read more about Buddhism, go to http://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm

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