Because it is lingering in my mind like the scent of incense long since burned out, I return to Stephen Batchelor's small essay, "Buddhism and Sex: The Bigger Picture." I read it first yesterday.
On the one hand, the entire sex/power/religion topic is like being around the nagging child in the "use condoms" ad ... whining, complaining, beseeching and ultimately infuriating.
On the other hand, I have cared about spiritual endeavor for a long time. Its usefulness is, to me, as undeniable as its capacity for bullshit. I may wish as much as I like that this caring would "shut the fuck up," but like some maiden aunt who is hard of hearing, it refuses and hovers and insists. OK, I give up: I like it, however insufferably boring and off-topic it can be.
Once, when I was in the publicity department at a New York book publisher, I wrote a press release for some book and headlined it with a single, bold-faced, large-type word: SEX. I was in the business of trying to bring attention to the publisher's products and, well, "sex" was a good word for those purposes. And when you put sex together with religion (especially here in the good ol' U.S. of prurient A.) ... well, how about that for a cheap-date attention-getter?! We have, I would say, a winnah!
I don't doubt for a minute that everyone interested in Buddhism has an appreciation of the sex/power dynamic that has grievously wounded so many and sent others running for the psychobabble 'healing' hills. There is sorrow, there is fury, there is righteousness, there is ersatz compassion and there is a lot more ... and I have been-there-and-done-that and may yet again. I don't fault any of it since it seems to me to be true.
But what Batchelor's essay did for me was to underscore what I have strongly felt for a long time: If you can't burn it to the ground, spiritual endeavor will always remain about as useful as tits on a bull. There is no burning it down until it actually burns down, but knowing that it is not yet burned down is a good indicator that a much-valued spiritual endeavor has not yet achieved its most useful function. Burn it down: The institutions, the ritual, the support mechanisms, the tears, the bliss, the enlightenment, the compassion, the emptiness, the robes and beads and bells ... all gone. The fire-bombing of Dresden was as nothing compared to this inferno ... an inferno that invites one and all to warm themselves and perhaps toast marshmallows.
Laying claim to a scorched earth is not the same as scorching this earth.
For me, Batchelor's essay lit a bright match.