“I’ll tell you what I can’t get out of my head… It’s watching my hands come off that railing and thinking to myself, My God, what have I just done? Because I know that almost everyone else who’s gone off that bridge, they had that exact same thought at that moment. All of a sudden, they didn’t want to die, but it was too late. Somehow I made it; they didn’t; and now I feel it’s my responsibility to speak for them.”—Ken Hines, who in 2000 attempted suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and who is one of 29 known individuals to survive the fall. He was a 19-year old college student with bipolar depression. Hines now lectures for a suicide-prevention network and advocates for the construction of a suicide barrier on the bridge. This quotation is from a conversation with journalist Scott Anderson for the New York Times Magazine in 2008. Source: Anderson, Scott. “The Urge to End It: Understanding Suicide.” The New York Times 6 July 2008.
“I never knew who he [Chögyam Trungpa] was; he’ll always be a mystery for me. The trap some of his students fell into was to believe they had a personal relationship with him. No one was ever at ease with him. His relationship with us was more intimate than that. He completely saw through all of us, but at the same time the whole situation was so light. He was so passionate about who you were, while at the same time it didn’t matter.”—Walter Fordham, who lived and worked closely with Trungpa for many years, in an interview. Source: Fabrice Midal, Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision (Boston: Shambhala, 2004), p. xxiv.
“When there should no longer be any Charles Swann, there would still be a Mlle. Swann, or a Mme. something-else, née Swann, who would continue to love the vanished father. Indeed, to love him too well, perhaps, Swann may have been thinking, for he acknowledged Gilberte’s caress with a ‘Good girl!’ in that tone, made tender by our apprehension, to which, when we think of the future, we are prompted by the too passionate affection of a creature who is destined to survive us.”—Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove
Pete Seeger turned 90 on Sunday, May 3, 2009, and a huge birthday celebration was held at Madison Square Garden. Bruce Springsteen was one of the headliners. He had this to say about Pete Seeger’s legacy.
As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama’s inaugural celebration, he told…
“The scholarly approach is less violent … but at the same time it is extremely contagious in the sense of bringing you down. Continual bondage is put on yourself, all the time. You become heavier and heavier and heavier. You don’t accept anything unless it is logically proven, up to the point that the logic brings you pleasure, the discovery brings you pleasure. In certain neurotic intellectual states of mind, everything is based on pain and pleasure. If your discovery brings you pleasure, you accept it as a masterpiece. If that discovery or logical conclusion doesn’t bring you pleasure, or victory, then you feel you’ve been defeated. You find this with certain college professors: if you discuss their sore point in their particular subject, if there’s the slightest usage of certain words, since their whole world is based on words, the structure of words, they become extremely upset or offended. The whole thing is based on pleasure and pain, from the point of view of getting logical conclusions. But the scholar doesn’t claim that he or she has spiritual experiences, as any other person would claim. In fact, the scholar would be afraid of any actual experience of what he’s teaching; he wouldn’t actually commit himself at all. He may be a professor of meditation, but he wouldn’t dare to take part in sitting meditation because that doesn’t bring pleasure or any logical conclusions for his work or research.”—Chögyam Trungpa, Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos (Boston: Shambhala, 1992), p. 12.
“Research has found that many street offenders anticipate an early death, making them less prone to delay gratification, more likely to discount the future costs of crime, and thus more likely to offend. Ironically, many such offenders also hold strong religious convictions, including those related to the punitive afterlife consequences of offending. To reconcile these findings, we interviewed 48 active street offenders to determine their expectation of an early demise, belief in the afterlife, and notions of redemption and punishment. Despite the deterrent effects of religion that have been highlighted in prior research, our results indicate that religion may have a counterintuitive criminogenic effect in certain contexts. Through purposeful distortion or genuine ignorance, the hardcore offenders we interviewed are able to exploit the absolvitory tenets of religious doctrine, neutralizing their fear of death to not only allow but encourage offending. This suggests a number of intriguing consequences for deterrence theory and policy.”—Article abstract of Volkan Topalli, Timothy Brezina, and Mindy Bernhardt, “With God on My Side: The Paradoxical Relationship Between Religious Belief and Criminality Among Hardcore Street Offenders,” Theoretical Criminology 17, no. 1 (February 1, 2013): 49–69.
“Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.”—Leipzig University statute (1495). Source: “How to Treat the Freshmen,” from Ask the Past, April 26, 2013.
“[W]e have a pervasive self-degradation among low-earning academics — a sweeping sense of shame that strikes adjunct workers before adjunct workers can strike… Self-degradation sustains the adjunct economy, and we see echoes of it in journalism, policy and other fields in which unpaid or underpaid labour is increasingly the norm. It is easy to make people work for less than they are worth when they are conditioned to feel worthless.”—Sarah Kendzior, “Academia’s Indentured Servants.” Al-Jazeera, April 11, 2013.
What about going beyond specific emotions to whole identities, such as being a loser? Ordinarily, this self-image leads you to shrink from the world. The world becomes a world of hopelessness, devoid of promise or fulfillment. Every defeat becomes a painful but reassuring confirmation of your identity and status. You fear challenges because you know you will fail and also because success would be as problematic as failure. You are full of grandiose schemes and you tell everyone what you are going to do. But you never start, because to do so would reveal who you really are. When you are forced to, you approach situations unwillingly or with such a defeatist attitude that you undermine any support you might have had. Things turn out badly, once again.
As the awake loser, however, you know you are going to lose. It’s a done deal! You have nothing to lose, nothing to risk. You accept losing as a given and engage your life, your practice, your interactions with absolutely no expectations of what you may get or how you may benefit. Victory and defeat or success and failure become meaningless considerations. You pour your energy into new situations because you are not concerned with status or outcomes. You engage whatever you are doing without personal expectations or projections. Instead of talking about grandiose schemes, you end up doing just what needs to be done.
"Everything I know about postmodernism I learned from the Phillies" (excerpt)
With the waning tide of bicenteniallism behind them, 1978 would see the birth of the most famous postmodern non sequitur of all time:
Look at him waving just like he knows it. When people forget about how awesome, specially, and charmingly messed up the late 70s and 80s were, it’s because they forget the cultural crucibles that conjured things like this. What is he? Who knows? Who cares? How does he intrinsically relate to baseball or to the Phillies? He doesn’t, and it’s delightful! Of course he does now. Of course he was a bigger draw at the Vet than those mediocre teams I followed and believed in all those years. When the action on the field crushed, again, our hopes and confirmed our native fears, the Phanatic cut the tension. He exacted justice for us with his liberating nonsense and his belly bounces. Every jiggle, every move, every elbow dropped on a Met in effigy said “Our team really sucks. What are any of us doing here? And yet here we are, and where we want to be.”
“Just imagine it: … Paula Deen standing in front of a big Sunday spread of buttermilk fried chicken, barbecue brisket, collard greens, corn bread, fried okra, pigs’ feet, and sweet potato pie. Let her stand there and explain where all that good food came from and how her mama’s housekeeper used to make the best green bean casserole and see if she can learn how to do it without putting her racist foot in her mouth. Then, when she screws up, make her go back and do it again. That would be a punishment that fits the crime…. It would make our National Conversation About Race a conversation worth having. And it would also make fantastic television.”—Tanner Colby, “Paula Deen: She’s America’s racist grandma,” Slate Magazine (June 25, 2013).
“Crebrius lege et disce quam plurima. Tenenti codicem somnus obrepat et cadentem faciem pagina sancta suscipiat.”—St Jerome, letter to Eustochium (Ep. 22), section 17 (384 CE). Translation: “Read often, learn all that you can. Let sleep overcome you, the roll still in your hands; when your head falls, let it be on the sacred page.”
“Practicing yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil… People think [Harry Potter] is an innocuous book for children but it’s about magic and that leads to evil. In Harry Potter the Devil is at work in a cunning and crafty way, he is using his extraordinary powers of magic and evil.”—Father Gabriele Amorth, speaking with The Sunday Times, quoted in the Christian Post. Source: Leonardo Blair, “Catholic Church’s Top Exorcist Claims He Rid World of 160,000 Demons,” christianpost.com (May 28, 2013).
“I see it all raving before me the endless yakking kitchen mouthings of life, the long dark grave of tomby talks under midnight kitchen bulbs.”—Jack Kerouac, Big Sur (New York, 1962, rpt. Penguin, 1962), p. 152.
Hopelessness means that we no longer have the spirit for holding our trip together. We may still want to hold our trip together. We long to have some reliable, comfortable ground under our feet, but we’ve tried a thousand ways to hide and a thousand ways to tie up all the loose ends, and the ground just keeps moving under us. Trying to get lasting security reaches us a lot, because if we never try to do it, we never notice that it can’t be done. Turning our minds toward the dharma speeds up the process of discovery. At every turn we realize once again that it’s completely hopeless — we can’t get any ground under our feet.
The difference between theism and nontheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. We sometimes think that dharma is something outside of ourselves — something to believe in, something to measure up to. However, dharma isn’t a belief; it isn’t dogma. It is total appreciation of impermanence and change. The teachings disintegrate when we try to grasp them. We have to experience them without hope. Many brave and compassionate people have experienced them and taught them. The message is fearless; dharma was never meant to be a belief that we blindly follow. Dharma gives us nothing to hold on to at all.
Nontheism is finally realizing that there’s no babysitter that you can count on. You just get a good one and then he or she is gone. Nontheism is realizing that it’s not just babysitters that come and go. The whole of life is like that. This is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.
— Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala, 1997), pp. 39f.
“Survivors [of domestic and sexual violence] don’t tend to go to faith communities for help… Clergy have not been their allies. There’s not a history of support. Where else do they go?”—Victoria Ferguson, founder of Kindred Moxie, a faith-based domestic violence advocacy network in Atlanta. Source: Catherine Woodiwiss, “'I Believe You:' The Silence and the Shame of Sexual Violence in Church,” God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners (May 3, 2013).
“My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest; Every year the green ivy grows longer. No news of the affairs of men, Only the occasional song of a woodcutter. The sun shines and I mend my robe; When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems. I have nothing to report, my friends. If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.”—Ryokan. From John Stevens (tr.), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (Boston: Weatherhill, 2006, c1977), p. 43.
“We’ve noticed, number one, that these individuals develop what we call “self-mistrust.” It’s a view of yourself that you can’t always rely on yourself, that you’re not always there in the ways you need to be, and others, of course, tell you all the time, you’re not responsible, you’re not coming through when you need to. The anxiety comes up especially in performance situations, so these individuals have tremendous social anxiety, because they’re afraid they’re going to blow it in social situations, and they have tremendous anxiety around performance, either work or school. The depression eventually comes in after repeated failure and repeated loss without compensatory successes. If you’re not succeeding, most of the time, at whatever you’re doing, eventually you become depressed.”—Tony Rostain, Medical Director of the University of Pennsylvania Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program and professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, responding to a question about the connections between adult ADHD, anxiety, and depression. “ADHD in adults,” Voices in the Family, WHYY (June 20, 2011). Quoted portion begins at 11’21”.
“And Y deme, that the passiouns of this tyme ben not worthi to the glorie to comynge, that schal be schewid in vs. For the abidyng of creature abidith the schewyng of the sones of God. But the creature is suget to vanyte, not willynge, but for hym that made it suget in hope; for the ilke creature schal be delyuered fro seruage of corrupcioun in to liberte of the glorie of the sones of God. And we witen, that ech creature sorewith, and trauelith with peyne til yit. And not oneli it, but also we vs silf, that han the first fruytis of the spirit, and we vs silf sorewen with ynne vs for the adopcioun of Goddis sonys, abidynge the ayenbiyng of oure bodi. But bi hope we ben maad saaf. For hope that is seyn, is not hope; for who hopith that thing, that he seeth?”—Romans 8.18-24, Wycliffe translation.
“Khaled tried to read the names on the Marines’ uniforms when they entered the house, “but they were covered with blood,” he said. “Their hands and vests were soaked in blood. They only wanted revenge. When they came, I could see tears in their eyes. When they left, they were laughing.”
"They are barbarians," added Yusuf, Khaled’s uncle, the only surviving brother of the victims. "We wish they never had come… The injustice is a bigger crime than the crime itself, and now we know for sure justice will never be done." ”—Khaled and Yusuf Anizi, family members of four of the civilians killed by U.S. Marines at Haditha (November 19, 2005), remembering the events of that day. Source: Liz Sly, “Civilian deaths at root of U.S.-Iraqi disconnect,” The Washington Post (Dec. 10, 2011).
“Johnny Cash: Would you sing a song with me? June Carter: I would be very pleased to sing a song with you. Johnny Cash: You sure do look nice.”—Dialogue from Johnny Cash, At San Quentin/At Folsom Prison.
Angela Davis speaking at the Peace Ball, Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013
Let me say that this time around we cannot subordinate our aspirations and our hopes to presidential agendas. Our passionate support for President Barack Obama… should also be expressed in our determination to raise issues that have been largely ignored or not appropriately addressed by the administration.
And let me say that we are aware that we should be celebrating, critically celebrating, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. There should be massive celebrations this year. What has happened other than the film Lincoln? And, of course, with two-and-a-half million people behind bars today, the prison system, the immigrant detention system are terrible remainders and reminders of slavery. Mass incarceration has devastated our communities. It is a false solution to problems that have persisted since the era of slavery.
We should be addressing the state of our schools, the continuing crisis of overincarceration, over-punishment. We should be addressing the part played by private prison corporations in pushing for repressive legislation designed to incarcerate ever-increasing numbers of immigrants. Last year, some 500,000, a half a million, immigrants were detained. And that, of course, is the largest number ever.
The past still haunts us. Its ghosts ride the echoes of our lives. To overcome poverty, to overcome racism, we must also overcome xenophobia, homophobia. Justice for African Americans is organically linked to justice for Palestinians. The struggle goes on. A luta continua. And as June Jordan said, we are the ones we have been waiting for. Thank you.
“Man’s life is a cheat and a disappointment;
All things are unreal,
Unreal or disappointing,
The Catherine wheel, the pantomime cat,
The prizes given at at the children’s party,
The prize awarded for the English Essay,
The scholar’s degree, the statesman’s decoration.
All things become less real, man passes
From unreality to unreality.
This man is obstinate, blind, intent
Passing from deception to deception,
From grandeur to grandeur to final illusion,
Lost in the wonder of his own greatness,
The enemy of society, enemy of himself.”—T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral (via bonjour-tristesse)
“We pack the physical outline of the creature we see with all the ideas we have already formed about him, and in the complete picture of him which we compose in our minds those ideas have certainly the principal place. In the end they come to fill out so completely the curve of his cheeks, to follow so exactly the line of his nose, they blend so harmoniously in the sound of his voice that these seem to be no more than a transparent envelope, so that each time we see the face or hear the voice it is our own ideas of him which we recognise and to which we listen.”—Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
“A number of students have expressed distress that there is no “happy ending.” The course emphasizes problems and criticisms of previous work without providing a constructive alternative. A number of colleagues at the regional meetings expressed similar reservations. I can only say that if the course has this effect, it has been successful. I conceive of the role of the college teacher to be precisely that of insuring that his students have “wrinkles on their brows,” that they become adept in the “hermeneutics of suspicion.” I believe for those students that take no further courses in religious studies, they have learned how to be cold-blooded about humanistic materials; for those students who continue to take other courses in religious studies, the effect of this course will be relativized by other offerings.”—J.Z. Smith, “Basic Problems in the Study of Religion,” pp. 20-27 in On Teaching Religion, ed. by Christopher I. Lehrich (NY: Oxford UP, 2013), p. 27.
“With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their ABCs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for “meaningful action” is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.”—New York mayor Mike R. Bloomberg, Dec. 14, 2012. Source: “Statements of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chairs on Newtown, Connecticut Shooting" (MikeBloomberg.com).
“During the age of slavery, then the era of Jim Crow segregation, when whites separated themselves from blacks, they needed a black individual to tell them what black people thought, desired, needed, etc. (How else were they going to find out?) Often that person was the black community’s minister; later writers served that purpose, from Richard Wright to Ralph Ellison to James Baldwin. I personally think in the post-Civil Rights period a black person is wasting his (or her) time, the preciously few years of their lives, by devoting their energy—-as a “spokesman”—- to explaining so-called “black” things to white people. Whites can—-and should—-do their own homework. Read from the vast library of books on black American history and culture. Take a course, for God’s sake, on some aspect of black history. Then black individuals can be free to pursue the whole, vast universe that awaits their discovery (as it does for any white person), leaving behind emotionally draining racial discussions to investigate astrophysics, DNA sequencing, cosmology, Sanskrit, the Buddhadharma, mathematics, nano-technology, everything in this universe that remains such a mystery to us.”—Charles R. Johnson, in an interview with Monsters & Critics. “The M&C Interview 1: Charles Johnson" (May 28, 2007, 10:00 GMT), Monsters & Critics.