Sunday, June 10, 2007

Buddhism Part II

There was some reaction to my previous post that Buddhism would be a hard religion for a working man to follow. You can read the post and the comments here. Dario and Ben had a pretty interesting idea of taking only the parts of eliminating worldly desire that you can, and keeping the desires that you have to have in order to maintain a business and social life.

The natural progression of this idea is to segregate worldly desires into "things that you can't control" and "things that you can control," and only care about the things you can control. This would be a great idea except that a) it's impossible and b) well, (a) pretty much sums it up.

Why? Because first of all, it's very easy to argue and truly believe that nearly everything which matters is in your life is conceivably either in your control, or not in your control. Most things that you care about you probably could have had more control over, if you could go back and change something you did, even if you didn't think you were didn't anything bad at the time.1 On the flip side, you could also say that you can't control much stuff, because your bosses may have previous experiences that predispose them to dislike people like you, or you may be really weak and skinny not because of a lack of power cleans and protein shakes, but because of bad genes. It's hard to say.

People's experiences and genes collide at a million miles each day, and most of the time that it happens I'm left reeling. I'm just trying to remember what the person's name was, much less what what we talked about, what type of person he is, or whether his influence made me do something, because perhaps I would have done it anyway.

It is much too confusing and time consuming to try to accurately determine which things you can control and should worry about and which things you can't and shouldn't. In fact, the successful completion of the task itself could be easily construed as a desire, meaning that by actually becoming a Buddhist, you are probably living a less Buddhist lifestyle.

Which leads me to the only way to make Buddhism really work. To make everything simpler, you define which parts of your life you think are most important to you, the things that you need to maintain your healthy professional and social life, and you invest all your desire in only those things. This idea works in theory, and is actually a very appealing notion, until you realize that you are now actually considering what is essentially a virtue ethics philosophy and are nearly as far away from Buddhism as you can possibly be.

So here I am, at the crossroads of deciding whether or not it is both possible and reasonable for me to be Buddhist in our society. I've come to the conclusion that my whole life I'm going to have this conundrum looming in the back of my mind and thriving in the periods of my stress. My whole life I'm going to struggle with this. And then the moment that I'm about to die, whenever it is, I'm going to be absolutely positively sure that I've have reached a state where I lack desire, what many would consider enlightenment. Maybe I'll even say something profound, or write a death poem. But then, I think I'm going to have to laugh, because I'll know it's all just bullocks anyways.

1: This phenomenon is known as regret. If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask--I am the unofficial king of regret.