It’s been a minute, as the kids say , since I posted an update. And I have a few updates.
First up: the book
Random people who stop by my office have told me that they’ve enjoyed the book. And there’s this exceedingly kind review on Buddhistdoor. And since the last time I updated my tens of readers, podcast interviews have been published on the New Books Network and Lion’s Roar. As always, I’m collecting all of these little bits of free publicity on the book’s official page over here.
I haven’t seen any other “official” reviews (unless you count this stellar and definitely not a “I didn’t actually read the book” review). But if writing reviews is your thing, I suggest reaching out to the Reading Religion folks.
Also a few additional events are coming up in the not-too-distant future. Confirmed are a panel at the AAR in San Antonio (November 18) and the IBS symposium at the BCA National Council Meeting in Sacramento (February 24). There’s a non-zero chance I’ll be in San Diego in January as well, speaking at the Dharma Bum Temple.
Next up: the times they are a-changin’
This year marks my fiftieth successful trip around the sun. Simultaneously, almost all of the long-standing IBS faculty are retiring — including Rev. Dr. Daijaku Kinst who, over the years, I’ve come to rely on to keep me honest, a woman of formidable conviction and power; and, of course, my mentor Dr. Richard Payne to whom I owe virtually everything as I would not be the scholar I am today without his guidance and support and encouragement.
Meanwhile, as these brilliant and wonderful persons “cycle off” the faculty, new folks will be joining at me at IBS including Natalie Quli with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working on numerous projects over the years and damn she’s a force to be reckoned with; not not mention Drs. Miyaji, Lin, and Arai, all of whom will ensure that IBS’s programs continue, rooted in the values that have sustained us for seven decades now. So I’m encouraged. I’m hopeful. Grateful and even joyful. But transitions are challenging. A reminder of one of the first and most essential truths. The cliche of everything changing.
But just because because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it’s not true true; nor does it make it any easier. And I gotta be honest — I’m feeling increasingly weird about hitting the half-century mark in a way that I had not expected. I remember feeling very “grown up” at various points in my life — mid-to-late 20s, when my kid was born, and so on — and, looking back, I realize now just how young I was, how much I had yet to learn. This birthday feels different in a way that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the feeling that I probably have fewer years ahead of me than behind me. Or maybe it’s just the confluence of all these transitions happening simultaneously. Or perhaps it’s that third thing.
That third thing: you may have heard
In addition to the above retirements, there is one more retirement on the horizon: the Rev. Dr. David Matsumoto, president of the IBS. In response to his impending departure, the IBS Board of Trustees opened a search for the next president. And I applied. And the Board offered me the position. And I accepted.
Now, I’m not president yet. I’ve got several months to rest on my laurels and keep on Dean-ing. But these several months are going to be filled with transitional projects, figuring out what, exactly, I’ll be doing as president and what, exactly, the next dean will be doing (in addition to figuring out who that person will be). I have no doubt that this will be a smooth transition, and for the sake of institutional memory and consistency, I think it’s a good thing that I’ll be moving into my new role.
However, I also have no doubt that this will impact other areas of my life, both professional projects and various hobbies. Of those professional projects, I doubt I’ll be doing much research or writing in the short run but will continue to promote the hell out of the book. And the Oxford Handbook of American Buddhism I co-edited with Ann Gleig has a cover, so that’s actually happening and will be out in print soon (fingers crossed). Of those hobbies, the only one that seems relevant to my tens of readers is this here blog. I’m going to guess that I’ll have even less time than I already do to provide the random update.
Moreover, soon I will be the “public face” of the IBS — so I’d better behave myself! But, let’s be honest, the place I get into the most trouble is the internet. And ever since that cartoon super villain took over the former bird site, my engagement with all forms of social media has dropped precipitously. Fun fact: I haven’t missed it.
So, now on to the real work. As I wrote way back when my brother passed, it’s one thing to think about that most fundamental of truths — old age, sickness, and death — in the abstract; it’s another thing entirely to confront it directly. And what we do here at the Institute of Buddhist Studies is prepare our students to go out into the world do just that — confront suffering and support sentient beings along the way. What we do then is important. And I’m humbled that I get to be a part of it.
Thank you and gassho.