post-AAR; the way ahead

I wrote a post on a plane from San Antonio, post AAR, to San Francisco. I had every intention to publish it, once I landed, but never did. And then the usual distractions of familia obligations over the holidays ensued. I’m back at the office. Digging myself out of a post-AAR-Thanksgiving email hole. But I don’t want to loose sight of the importance of writing.

Two things are clear. First is this piece from Sarah Kendzior. Second is this piece from Matthew Pratt Guterl. (Really. Read them both.)

Actually, three or four things are clear. In addition to the above two issues — (1) the importance of writing down what you believe, what you value, and (2) the importance of making specific lists of actions you can take given your unique and specific location as an academic or an activist or a whatever — I believe it is important to remember context, to remember audience. In the months and years ahead, we need to be aware of our audiences and our contexts. Some fights are fights I need to take on, others are better fought by others better equipped. And that’s the thing, really. We need to resist the urge to look for that one thing that will define our age, that will dominate our actions moving forward. Each of us needs to figure out how we will create allegiances while working in our own particular ways to resist the coming administration.

Which leads, naturally, to the second point. We need to be forgiving. We have failed — let’s be honest — as the liberal elite. We have failed for any number of reasons, but one way we have failed has been in expecting perfection at all times from all persons. We have been quick to denounce and critique (and believe me I am a fan of critique — it’s necessary — but still) and seemingly reject any and all allies because of a small imperfection — one thing that that made them just not right for the perfect revolution we had in our heads, some random slight on Facebook, some seemingly insignificant comment, some disagreement about policy. We need to be better at choosing our battles and letting go the petty in deference to the substantive.

I am sure that parts of this very post will piss you off. Don’t let its imperfection turn you off. Engage it. Correct it. But don’t count me out as an ally because the intention is just that — to forge allegiances with others who are working toward the common cause of justice and respect for all members of our society. Full stop.

We can no longer wait for everyone to be perfect before we work together in the resistance.

We no longer have the luxury of time. We no longer have the privilege of being able to sit back on our laurels and wax philosophically about how to proceed, about how to create community, to forget alliances. We’re in the thick of it. The time is now or it will be too late. Let go small grievances and decide what’s most important to the cause of resistance and move forward. Grab others by the hand, pull them along with you; they’ll figure it out along the way or they won’t. No time to argue. Let’s get to work.

And I want to be clear here about the following points: (1) there’s no point arguing with crazy or being reasonable with the unreasonable; and (2) each of us has our own audiences we need to reach. Of the first point, they’re white nationalists. Their agenda is to create a white-only nation. There’s no engaging that discourse; there’s no trying to argue against it or pursued people to see some other other side. Either you want a “white-only nation” or you don’t. If you do, this blog ain’t for you (let me show you door). If you don’t, welcome. Let’s talk about about how to counter the white nationalist ideology and agenda.

Of the second point, some activists in the audience need to reach out and bring in moderate voices; others need to focus on just their immediate families; others are the targets of this hate and looming legislative nightmare and thus have more important issues to contend with. Some of us, like myself (and MPG) are, let’s face it, stuffy academics. I know who my audience is, who I want it to be, and how to reach out to them.

That’s the value of his “listicle.” It’s not perfect. It’s not for everyone. But it is for me and for folks in my profession, folks who are concerned about these issues and are desperate for specific actions and strategies for countering what’s on the horizon.

So this is a “pre-manifesto” post of my thinking, at this moment, about the direction of things to come. Again, hold me accountable. In the next week, my own “listicle” of things I hope to keep true to in the months and years ahead.

Let’s get to work, y’all.


In years past, I’ve posted a list of Buddhist-studies-related panels and other events at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Not this year.

If you’re interested in Buddhism-related stuff, it’s fairly easy to find — the meeting program book is available online here.

But the real reason I’m not making my annual list is because of the following. Folks are uneasy. There’s a concern that folks — Especially folks of color, women, and other minorities — traveling to AAR could be the subject of assault or antagonism by those emboldened by the results of last week’s election.

My home institution is suggesting that folks travel in groups to avoid confrontation. And I’d like to offer myself as traveling companion. I’ll be in San Antonio for nearly the duration of the event — I arrive Thursday evening and fly out Tuesday morning. If you feel unsafe, if you need someone to accompany you back to your hotel, reach out to me. (Twitter‘s probably the easiest if we don’t know each other personally.)

The work we do as scholars is important, doubly so in the current climate. And I hope that this work continues both despite and in spite of the current climate. We’re in this together.

here we go

From 2003 to 2012, this site was host to a fairly regularly updated blog, by me, “the buddha is my dj.” By around 2010 I had stopped posting as regularly, and did a long slow fade out trying to figure out what I was up to, what the point of the whole project was. Then I gave up. Then I archived everything on WordPress.

The long slow fade out was the result of a lot of factors (too much of the wrong kind of attention, my decision to focus on my “career” rather than my “hobby,” having a kid, you name it). A couple of years ago, I decided to resurrect the blog. I thought it would be good to have a space where I could wrestle with some thoughts and ideas or research projects I was working on. I tried to post regularly, but nothing came of it beyond the random thought separated by months.

This past August, I was invited to give a “book talk” during which a very kind woman came up to me and said that she was a long-time reader of the old blog and wondered if I was going to write again. I said I’d been thinking about it but nothing had gelled. I’ve got a lot of things going on, work, family, whatever.

I’m done making excuses.

When I tried to resurrect the blog, I randomly chose the tag-line “here we go.” That seems prescient today. We’re living in a new reality. Our president-elect (whom I will only ever refer to as “Horror-Clown”) has dozens of outstanding law suits against him. His vitriolic rhetoric this past year has emboldened the fearful-hate-filled-xeno-homo-phobic-sexist-racists to come out into the light of day. We have dark days ahead and a helluva lot of work to do. Here we go, indeed.

I can no longer be silent. Coincidentally, I’m in a position of authority and security where I can speak my voice, where I can stand with those of less privilege than me and, in some small way, make a goddamn difference.

The blog is back.

If we’re gonna survive the coming doom, we must remember our shared humanity. We need to embrace our differences. We need to have empathy for and with each other. It’s not going to be easy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignoring our problems, I’m not belittling our mutual animosity, our deeply entrenched racism, or the reality of increased racial and ethnic and religious and sexual violence we’re soon to bare witness to (we are already seeing). I’m not unaware of that. But I still firmly believe that the only way to overcome that is through love. And you can’t love people if you don’t connect with them.

So expect more of me. I’ve been self-censoring for years out of fear of having uncomfortable conversations with friends and relatives and strangers on the internet. Time to let that shit go.

As Maggie Kuhn said, “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”

So, dear reader, hold me accountable. If I don’t say anything here a week from now, hold me accountable.

(And as something of a post-script, it bares repeating that while I might feel comfortable in my position at the moment, the views and opinions expressed on this blog are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily represent those of my employers, my community, my colleagues, my family, my grocer, my barber (if I needed one), my dentist, or anyone I’ve ever even shared a knwoing glance with on a BART train.)

the morning after

I am sitting at my desk in my office the morning after. I do not know what to say or do or feel. I know how I feel. Desperate. Sad. Angry. Uncertain.

That word isn’t strong enough, uncertain. Uncertain in the way that Edvard Munch’s subject in The Scream is uncertain. Uncertain because the world is changed, and I cannot even begin to comprehend what the next three months — let alone two to four years — will look like. I know there will be violence. There will be seemingly irreparable broken bonds between us. I cannot see the other side. I am uncertain.

Continue reading “the morning after”

The book

coverI sent off the final page proofs of my forthcoming book to the publisher earlier this month. I assume that means it’s all said and done, that’s all she wrote, whatever mistakes were made and not caught will just go to press, and I’ll have to live to this thing for the rest of my life (or, buddha willing, I get the chance to write a second edition). In honor of that, here are some reflections on the book. Continue reading “The book”

On tattoos and whiteness

Seeing my name in (digital) print, I can’t help but to comment a bit further on this piece published by Tricycle on Buddhist tattoos. I’m not going to comment too much on the meat of the issue, but I did want to comment a bit on what I was trying to do when I spoke with Mr. Hay a couple months back.

Fundamentally, I wanted to complicate the idea of “Western.” This has increasingly become the name of choice among people who practice or study Buddhism in Western cultural contexts, and I’m concerned about the lack of sustained critical reflection that has been given to this term. (If I’m wrong about that — I try, but can’t possibly, read everything — if someone has written a recent scholarly or popular article examining taxonomy, examining what to call this thing we’re all so invested in, please let me know in the comments. And I’ll get to RKP’s piece in a minute.) To my mind, the term “Western” is simply too broad to have much value. What are its limits? Where are its boundaries? Who is included in this category and who isn’t? On what criteria?

Continue reading “On tattoos and whiteness”

On oxymorons, briefly

The author of a review over at Trike of the Steve Jobs movie used the following phrase:

These days, Buddha branding of all sorts of things has created the oxymoron of a Buddhist consumerism.

I have nothing to say about this review nor the movie since, I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the whole review and I haven’t seen the movie. I do have something to say, briefly, about the “oxymoron” of Buddhist consumerism and what it reveals about unexamined and unquestioned biases and implicit theologies.

Somewhere along the way, folks began to advance and then uncritically accept the notion that because there are strains of Buddhism that teach the value of non-attachment that it logically follows that Buddhists should not be attached to wealth, that they should not engage in the endless buying of things. To say that “Buddhist consumerism” is an oxymoron is to imply that Buddhists cannot or should not be consumers. There is a not-too-subtle value judgment there that if you’re a Buddhist (or perhaps just a “good Buddhist”) you are not also a consumer. And, if you are consumer, then, at best, you shouldn’t be attached to your stuff or, at worst, you should feel bad about it.

Continue reading “On oxymorons, briefly”

The stories we tell

From America’s most trusted news network: Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults.

Our daughter turned four last year. Hands down, the past four years have been some of the most joyous, profound, fun, exhausting, and frustrating years of my life. I feel like I must look like those before and after pictures of the President: oh, look how youthful and bright-eyed I am in this picture from 2010. Look how much grey in my beard now. And my knees. My god how my knees ache. When did I get this old?

And whereas the exhausting frustration of parenting comes surly from arguing with the irrational mode swings of this tiny human my wife and I created, exhausting frustration also comes from a genre of literate I like to call “You’re Doing It Wrong.”

Continue reading “The stories we tell”