On being an awake loser

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.

— Ken McLeod, “Imagine You’re Enlightened,” Buddhadharma (Sept. 1, 2007).

"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.” 

— Christopher Cocca, “Everything I know about postmodernism I learned from the Phillies,” Hobart (June 21, 201). 

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).