Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A candid conversation with the Buddha, or at least some guy claiming to be ...

I recently ran into the "Buddha" in a downtown subway station, proving once again, I suppose, that anything can happen anywhere and at anytime, which probably makes a strong case for never leaving the house. The following are excerpts from our conversation, a good deal of which unfortunately was incomprehensible, owing to the "Buddha's" apparently tenuous mental state.

* I'm not quite sure how to address you. Mister Buddha, just Buddha, Your Holiness ..?
* My friends usually call me Bud.
* Uh, okay.  So Bud, are you sure about this, you being the Buddha, I mean, because you look like a homeless person and you are pushing a shopping cart, although, admittedly, it is empty.
* A fairly succinct statement on the illusory desire for material possessions, don't you think? Also I'm out of work and pretty much broke.
* Though I can't help noticing that you do have a smartphone.
* My one material concession. To tell the truth, I'm addicted to twitter. Do you tweet?
* I can't bring myself to engage in an activity that is described by such an inanely ridiculous word.
* Hung up on language, are we?
* Isn't language important? How else can we employ new metaphors to creatively reinvent the world?
* Does the phrase 'sounding like a pretentious dickhead' do anything for you?
* Uh ...
* 'Language is a virus from outer space.' Bill Burroughs said that.
* Well he would have known, I suppose.
* No doubt you're familiar with the all too often quoted empty cliche ...
* Life begins at sixty?  All you need is love?  It takes one to know one?
* All good, but I was referring to the one that says, 'If while on the path, or in this case within a dingy underground tunnel, you happen to meet the Buddha, kill him.'
* Implying the fallacy of an external deity, God is within us, we are all the God we need, blah blah, blah.
* So what are you waiting for?
* You know, I would, except I'm not sure how readily the cops who discover me standing over your lifeless body are going to buy into the whole 'I symbolically killed the Buddha' thing. Besides, if I kill you I'll be standing here talking to myself.
* I do it all the time.
* Why am I not surprised?
* Fine. So what do you want to talk about?
* How about politics?
* (The Buddha yawns, possibly farts)
* What's your take on the Republicans?
* (The Buddha's expression suggests disgust) It's like watching TV between seasons. Nothing but reruns. You've seen it all before but you're so bored you sit there and watch it anyway. You recall Einstein's definition of an insane person?
* Anyone who believes that E could possibly equal MC squared? I mean, come on!
* No. Doing the same old thing over and over, each time expecting a different result. Hey, did you hear the one about the Zen hen?
* Sorry, what?
* Zen hen.
* Uh, it crossed the road in order not to get to the other side?
* Nice try. Actually, it did and it didn't, cross the road, that is. A bit like Schrodinger's cat.
* Could we possibly stay on track?
* Your mind is deplorably linear.
* Mitt Romney.
* Stunningly vacuous. So lacking in substance it's a miracle he just doesn't float away. But there's always hope, I guess.
* Paul Ryan.
* Never trust a man with a concave face and no lips.  He recently told a fairly rabid crowd in Ohio that he was proud to be a deer hunting Catholic. Why, I wonder, do these politicians feel they have to pander to the morons who continue to feel justified in murdering animals for sport? Of course the Catholics have always had a weird fascination with blood, haven't they?
* Mitt Romney claims to be a Mormon.
* I always get the Mormons confused with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
* The Jehovah's just show up at your front door, the Mormons generally call first.
* Not that having several wives would necessarily be a bad thing.
* Obviously you've never been married.
* (The Buddha grunts) What really bothers me is the constant God drivel spewing from the mouths of these politicos. Any politician who claims to believe in God is either lying or just plain stupid.
* So basically Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.
* Right, but Newt, being married to an aging Barbie Doll, has the edge.
* Clearly you'll be voting for Obama in November.
* Assuming I'm not disenfranchised by some devious last minute election law manipulation. At the very least, with the Affordable Health Care law I'm able to buy my medication.
* Anti-psychotics?
* High blood pressure and an enlarged prostate, if you must know.
* Well, I should probably be going, not to mention that it smells really bad down here.
* Yeah, that's most likely me.
* Any final thoughts, Bud?
* How about a joke? How would you describe a schizophrenic Zen Buddhist?  Someone who is at two with the universe.
* Not funny.
* Okay, how about this one?  Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?  Because they have no attachments.
* That's it, I'm out of here.
* Hey, don't hold your breath waiting for enlightenment............ 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The mentally ill respond ... well, sort of

According to statistical evidence meticulously accumulated by serious, professional people, presumably in their right minds, upwards of 70% of the world's population suffers from some form of mental illness. If so - and I for one would have guessed a higher number on this - doesn't it suggest that 'sanity' should now be considered a type of psychopathology requiring the immediate attention of the mental health community?

 "Bring to me a man who is sane and I will attempt to cure him." (C Jung)

  "Some people never go crazy, What truly horrible lives they must live." (C Bukowski)

Of course, the distinction must be made between crazy and crazy.  A guy who quits his fabulously corrupt and high-paying job on Wall Street, moves to Rome and spends all his time creating pornographic graffiti on the walls of the Vatican is probably crazy; the woman in Texas (for some reason this sort of thing always seems to happen in Texas) who drowns her three kids in the bathtub because God told her to do it is the other kind of crazy; i.e. psychotic, dangerously deranged and a lot more than just a little stupid. These, by the way, are the people who generally vote.
The first type generally develops a huge following on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, followed by a lucrative book deal.
The second type is acquitted by a jury of her peers because, well, if God said so, He must have had his God almighty and who are we to question them reasons.

No doubt you're thinking this would be the ideal time to raise the - to my mind at least - obvious point that religious belief (any genre) is a clear cut form of mental illness, the greatest threat, in fact, to continued human evolution since the Biblical flood. But I'll resist the temptation, at least temporarily.

"That Noah's Ark must have been one big motherfucking boat, pardon my French, to be able to hold two of each kind of Dinosaur."  (Tour guide at the Creationist Museum somewhere in rural Kentucky)

I can recall a time when mental illness still had a sort of exotic, mysterious appeal. Like being crazy was not only cool, but it could also get you out of having to go to school.  Growing up there was a gigantic mental hospital right in our neighborhood. Creedmore State, it was called. Even the name sent chills.  I remember my mother saying to me, "Go ahead, keep acting crazy to get out of school and we'll be forced to send you over to Creedmore."  I almost wanted to go.

Back then a person could claim to suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder and be proud of it, be proud of it, be proud of it. Now the most we can hope for is a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Syndrome. Whose identity isn't dissociated? Trying to get through life without occasionally dissociating will definitely drive you nuts.
Likewise, there used to be Manic/Depressives. Not only were these people really interesting about 50% of the time, they were great fun to date. Manics tended to be wild in bed; Depressives didn't really care if you never called.
Nowadays we're saddled with the dubious distinction of being Bipolar (yawn!), which, let's face it, sounds more like a global weather situation than a legitimate mental problem.

"Of all the things I've lost in my life, I miss my mind the most."  (Anonymous)

What's really scary - I mean aside from people believing in a God who would sanction the murder of children - is that recent advances in medical science and technology now make it possible to pinpoint aberrant areas of the brain which, it is claimed, cause people to do the sick, disgusting, psychopathic things they all too frequently do. In essence this is the "My brain made me do it" legal defense, and lawyers are salivating over it like a pack of famished coyotes honing in on a cattle carcass.
My brain made me do it.  Uh ..?

"If only there was something in your head to control the things you say and do."  (Chandler Bing)

The implication here is that pedophiles, rapists, serial killers, animal abusers, litterbugs, Republicans 
 (sorry, that just slipped out, possibly through a dissociated crack) etc. can no longer be held entirely responsible for their actions because, you know, their crazy brains made them do it.

'Their crazy brains, right?'
'How about the sheer stupidity you're displaying in buying into this pile of crap?'
'Hey, here's a printout of my latest functional MRI. Read it and weep, pal.'
'If this isn't a blatant and disturbing example of the current cultural paradigm of personal non-responsibility in all things, I don't know what is.'
'Okay, that's just your brain talking now.'

"People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does."  (M Foucault)

"Once structuralism went the way of the giant sea turtle we decided to deconstruct what was left, ended up turning the world into a vast debris field of meaning-less signs and symbols, about which we tried to wax self-reflexive and mostly ironic, asserting that once language was allowed to fully reinvent itself the tyrannical era of objective reality would come crashing down, except no one was paying attention and who the fuck were we kidding anyway? Strictly speaking we had all gone insane, but we insisted on continuing to refer to it as philosophy."  (Anonymous)  

 "Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink."   (C Bukowski)