Friday, March 20, 2015

idolaters and iconoclasts

Posted this elsewhere but thought I'd put it here as well:
With an associative nudge from @zenguitar, it crossed my mind that both idolaters and iconoclasts make the same cheap-date mistake by imagining there is either something to build up/preserve or destroy/tear down. Each is forced to posit the mirror image of its stated desire in order to give meaning to that desire. The same is true of belief and disbelief.
And so, for example, the intellectual (as distinct from experiential) understanding of the encouragement to "kill the Buddha" falls on its face because in order to destroy the "Buddha," the "Buddha" must first be created. This sort of activity, whether for idolaters or iconoclasts, believers or unbelievers, has a long and ornate history. But just as there is no getting around how much fun it is (and what could be fun-er than my own importance?), there is also no getting around the fact that neither idolatry nor iconoclasm, belief or disbelief, works very well when it comes to creating a sustainable peace.
Intellectually and emotionally, idolatry and iconoclasm may sound good. But where the rubber hits the road and the loneliness of the bedroom ceiling at 3 a.m. comes calling, the ineffectiveness is apparent. Buddhists sometimes call it suffering.
My own view is that it is through practice that idolatry and iconoclasm, belief and disbelief, lose their footing. They're not bad exactly. They simply don't fill the sustainable-peace bill.
It is in the experience of practice that building up and tearing down lose their savor. Instead, what is useful is used. What is useless is discarded.... for the moment. Need a religion? Go ahead -- talk it up, preserve and protect. Need to get out from under the strictures of a religion? Go ahead -- set it aside. Need others to agree with your point of view? Go ahead -- ask them or lecture them or whatever floats your boat. Need to live life without an applause meter? Go ahead....
But practice and a little at a time the experience is likely to supplant the virtues that once demanded attention. With experience, there is no option other than to kill the Buddha, but it's no longer such a big deal. In fact, experience may put quite a jolly smile on your face and that's hardly the mark of a so-called nihilist.
Obviously, all this is just my take.
What do you think?

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