Friday, May 1, 2009

A Post from the Archives.

The Buddhist Conservative Blog was born with the post below. I have been so busy helping one of my sons with a new venture, I have not had much time to dedicate to updating the blog. If you were wondering how it all began, this is the story.

I want to thank each of you for the support and encouragement you have given me.

Are We Really That Different? The Blissful Drifting of a Conservative in Dangerous Waters

I had not given much thought to politics when I signed up for a week long Buddhist retreat set to begin the day after the election. I had voted early allowing me to spend Election Day preparing and watching exit polls. The results came in and our side lost, time to move on and wish the new president elect Godspeed.

Pulling onto the road leading to the retreat center I began feeling the quiet set in when the first sign of danger appeared in my windshield as I hummed along with the sound of the wind rustling the brightly colored leaves of autumn, harmonizing with the gentle rumbling of the diesel engine in my pickup. Standing between me and the gatehouse were a Prius, a Mini, and a small car labeled “clean air vehicle.” Easing forward, my senses alert, I was greeted with a look as to say, “Are you running biodiesel?”

Discretely parked at last, I grabbed my bags and chose a path that would make it appear that I arrived in the Smart Car parked next to my front tire. Failing to consider the horn sounding when I locked the doors, my plan was nearly blown; luckily no one seemed to notice.

Settled in and already feeling hints of inner peace fill my being, I walked with a slow pace to the dining hall for the opening meal. I had done a little research a few days prior to make sure I could live without meat for the next week. Savoring a delicious meal of vegetables, salad greens and tofu, my worldly cares began to vanish… and then it happened! Terror gripped my insides as the retreat manager strode into the room and raised her apron revealing a shirt emblazoned with a huge picture of our next president.

The room erupted in a cheer worthy of a Superbowl victory as I made a quick scan of the crowd, hoping to see a kindred spirit in the fast closing space around me. There were none. As a small bead of sweat appeared on my forehead, I made an attempt to stay invisible for fear that if the joyous mob might chase me off the property if they knew I voted for the other guy.

The meal over, I kept my eyes low so the crowd would not sense my fear. I quickened my pace a little to retrace my steps to the dormitory making sure a stray bag of salted right wing nuts had not fallen out of my pocket exposing the possibility of an outsider. I quickly made sure that a stray McCain button had not been left on a shirt and carefully hid the one red t-shirt I had packed under the bed. Safe at last!

That same night in a Dharma talk, (Buddhist teachings, for my conservative friends), one of the instructors referenced a conversation where she caught herself and her friends contemplating how any thinking person could possibly be a conservative. I blushed a little as I reflected on how many times I wondered the same things about liberals. Earlier, before the silence of the retreat began, I had spoken to several seemingly intelligent people, the same ones who cheered for their victory! My mind was spinning with the idea that intelligence and party preference might after all be separate!

As a society, we are inundated with the image that there is a vast gap between liberals and conservatives. The reality is that mathematically, there are more people closer to the center than the combined fringe but it is the fringe gets all the good coverage. We middle folk are simply too boring to cover. Headline: “Man picks up groceries on way home from work”, details at 11! Our lives are just too real for “Reality” television.

The greatest single blessing we have in America is the chance to think as individuals. As surprising as it might sound, most of us desire many of the same things. We often, however, disagree on the best way to accomplish them. Ninety eight percent of Americans do not believe that is right to burn someone’s house down to protest the cutting of a tree. That same ninety eight percent is against putting a pillow case over your head and burning a cross in front of a black church.

Sadly, these are the images that are projected by each side. All conservatives are just war loving, gun toting racists! All liberals are just tree hugging, big government socialists! It makes good press, whatever that means, but it is simply not the case. We have the right to fight for what we believe but also the responsibility to respect the views of others. The world is an unhappy place and our own anger simply feeds suffering. We should try to seek the middle ground by accepting that we can disagree without fighting.

The next time you talk to some babbling idiot, deemed so because they do not agree with your views, try to lighten up a bit. It does not mean you have to agree with them. Of course if you really want to show how smart you are, always agree with me!


dcrelief said...

Excellent Roger; well worth the repost.
I agree that the opinions in my community are not reflected by the media's hype.
Thank you for sharing this, and best wishes for your project.

morrow said...

It is true I think and you write about it so well here. Most are in the middle, but us middle people are not interesting and sensational enough for the media.

For a long time I called myself a liberal without having a clear idea of what they meant. I still think of myself as a liberal but I do have some conservative ideas and can appreciate a conservative viewpoint different from my own liberal viewpoint.

LLnL said...

What a lovely and fun read. I really feel at home here. I want to learn more about Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness. I coming from a christian background I get scared that most of the philosophies will go over my head, but I love your down to earth post. They speak to me and put difficult concepts in easy to understand terms and metaphors.

I really love the conclusion you came to. This is close to the creed of my blog. LL&L is a little self-centered right now, but I want to get more people think of ourselves as connected instead of belonging to separate groups.

The Buddhist Conservative said...

It is events like this that I believe give us the best insight into human nature. I was so lucky to experience it. We can get so wrapped around single issues and ideas that we fail to see the bigger picture.

We see this nearly all the time in the political arena. Each side thinks they must destroy the other rather than seeking a middle ground which is in a way similar to what the Buddha taught over 2500 years ago.

I also come from a Christian background and do not believe that there needs to be a conflict between the two. While Buddhism is considered a religion in many parts of the world,the Buddha is considered "The Enlightened One" rather than deity.

His teachings did not go into the afterlife but rather taught how to live in this world with less suffering. I have been working on a project to explain this more clearly in a context that will hopefully make sense in the modern world.

Thanks for the great comments.

Liara Covert said...

Thanks for the insight. When you are on the path, you are less disturbed by what goes on outside the self. You grow more concerned with the inner path. Mind empties.

Paul said...

I'm glad to have discovered your blog and am looking forward to more of your thoughts.

I'm told that in many Buddhist traditions politics is not discussed within the Dharma hall. It's good policy. The Triple Gem is a refuge. So too is the Dharma hall. If there is no safety in the Dharma, there is no safety anywhere.

My political views would be classified liberal, certainly, but as a Buddhist I strive (but sometimes fail) not to make such distinctions.

Political affiliations aside, what's more important is that our leaders govern skillfully with wisdom and compassion.

These are not relative qualities. But they are essential to individuals and nations alike. Without them, suffering is certain.

SandyCarlson said...

This is a practice that requires discipline--and practice. I find it helps to remember to smile.

Jim Ryan said...

This morning after a two-hour sit at the local zendo, the elders decided to basque self-righteously in their embrace of illegal immigration. Anyone who was against illegal immigration, they opined, was either stupid or white-supremacist. They admitted they were unaware of any arguments against illegal immigration. Ignorance, right in front of them, but they could not see it.

There are loads of thoughtful conservative arguments against illegal immigration. But these enlightened folk couldn't be bothered to read them before stroking their egos. Disgusting. So, that's what satori does for you, eh? Doesn't do that for me.

I think I will not go back to the zendo. Sitting alone is fine. I'm getting to a point in my life where I'd rather be alone than surrounded by smug ignorance. Ya gotta wanna. If you don't wanna, I can't help.