OK, let’s jump right in. Get out your ten pound test and biggest sinker because this is going to be deep.
Every culture has pondered the nature of human existence and sought answers to the great questions. Seekers looked both within and at the world around. The examination of the world around gave birth to science. The search within gave birth to spirituality.
Now, you cannot just equate religion with the search within. Religion has often been bastardized from these noble beginnings. Take, for example, my buddy Junior, the nine-fingered wonder. You might say that Junior is spiritual since he regularly prays. He prays to the spirit of Dale Earnhardt hoping that he can fix his car. Junior has two reasons for such prayer. First, he hardly ever has any money to fix up his old beater. Second, the only mechanic in Junebug Holler is the aforementioned Jimmy (who is wont to punch Junior in the nose).
You see, Junior’s spirituality is focused on the external – getting his car fixed. When it comes to Junior’s problems, this is just the teeny tiny tip of the iceberg, but it helps to illustrate the point. Junior has no interest in his life’s purpose or even seeking a happiness beyond whatever he can find in a twelve-pack of whatever is on sale.
Look to the Buddhist monks who forgo all material items in their spiritual search. Look to those who find happiness in the most desperate of living conditions (even worse than your typical NASCAR infield campground). I watched one of those reality shows that they show on the public television now and then. These shows are sort of like the big network shows where they throw a bunch of different folks together to see what happens except that instead of living in a Malibu beach house they live on the open prairie. In the 1880s.
Inevitably, after a couple of days, the folks on these shows are crying, pitching a fit, and trying to figure out how they can get out of it (by this point, they have figured out that there is no million dollar prize waiting for whoever can last the longest – maybe just a coffee mug and tote bag). Then, they settle down a bit and get to work. Of course, if they don’t work, they won’t have anything to eat. So, that provides some motivation. You should see Junior go when he runs out of pork rinds!
After months of backbreaking labor, with no widescreen television, no microwave ovens, no Cheetos, no celebrity gossip, and absolutely no Vicodin, they find that they don’t want to leave! It’s true. They’ve found a happiness that they never expected once they stripped away the clutter of their lives.
So, the question that confronts us is whether Zen Buddhism can help the Cubs win a World Series. No, that’s not it. Oh, I know. The question is whether all the material wealth that we are programmed to acquire is nothing but a distraction from what is really important. Come to think of it, Junior should one happy cowboy because he hardly owns anything! The lucky bastard!
Anyway, I’d like to write some more, but I have to go watch 24 and see if Jack Bauer cuts anybody’s head off.
Stevie Joe Parker