Dispatch from Hawai’i (Oahu actually)

Honpa Hongwanji Mission and Betsuin Honolulu Hawai'i photo by Scott Mitchell

Some brief reflections on my time so far in Hawai’i as the 48th annual Buddhist Studies Center Summer Session speaker:

  1. I am learning so much. Being in another part of the world, talking to real live three-dimensional people, engaging in conversation — this is all good stuff. The most important thing I am learning — or, really, re-learning — is that the history of Buddhism in Hawai’i is rich and beautiful and fascinating and deserving of much more attention than it gets. Lumping it into a generic “history of American Buddhism” overlooks the unique experiences of Japanese immigrants and settler colonialism in the islands that is only in limited ways comparable to experiences on the mainland. Would that I could go back in time and do my graduate work all over again!

  2. I say “um” a lot when I’m speaking extemporaneously. I am also much more aware of my “nervous laugh” habit and worry that I should work on that, or at least check in with why that habit persists. (And, as always, I am worrying that I worry too much.)

  3. I have not been able to get much work done despite my promises to others that I’d respond to outstanding issues. (Sorry Ann! I’ll try harder!)

  4. I will definitely need to start thinking about how to discuss my work for a more “general audience.” The Book I wrote is academic; I’m speaking to scholars about questions scholars ask. As is always the case, these questions have import for non-specialists, can and should be discussed among “practitioners.” But we (I) need the language to actually do that. The conversations my work is generating here in Hawai’i are rich and interesting. But I can also tell I’m loosing people when I drone on too much about abstract academic or theoretical constructs that I pick apart in The Book. I need to start teaching myself (or at least practicing more) how to be smart in public.

To that end, I know I keep saying I’m going to write an official announcement or provide a summary of The Book here in the blog. So I should get on that. That’s one the reasons this blog exists, as a space where I can practice being smart in public.

On another topic, in a couple of hours I am leaving Oahu and then doing a marathon (or a sprint?) of talks in Maui (Wailuku), Hawai’i (Kona, Naalehu, Puna) and then back in Oahu (Pearl City) before heading home on Wednesday. Wish me luck!

1 Comment

  1. Glad you’re having a good time. You’re getting a crash course in why the difference in Jodo Shinshu between BCA and Hawai’i was one of the first things that caused me to start thinking much harder about regional diversity within so-called “American Buddhism” all those years ago. Have a great time on the neighbor islands!

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