Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dust Hides a Mirror -- Or Not, as the Case May Be

"We are what we think," the Buddha said, or something very similar, as those monosyllables are not only attributed to him, but are the opening words of the most basic text of Theravada Buddhism, The Dhammapada.

"All that we are arises with our thoughts," he continues, and then, "With our thoughts we make the world."

The Buddha was capable of great subtlety, but he never hid anything, and the Dhammapada's most important words come first, at the very beginning. How like him.

Is the Buddha saying that there is no such thing as objective reality, and that reality, to the extent that it exists at all, is purely subjective, and only found in our minds? Not at all. Any child knows there is an objective reality outside his own head, even if he or she doesn't realize that it can only be experienced "from the inside," as it were.

"Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you..." Siddhartha said next. There is a subtle implication here, (overtly stated in the second stanza*): look at the world with a purified mind and your senses will apprehend the world as it actually is, just as a spotless and true mirror reflects what is held in front of it.

Which brings us to why the U.S. is in so very much serious, serious trouble these days.

"Last week," Truthout.org columnist Dean Baker wrote yesterday, "I was struck to see a well-respected centrist foreign policy analyst discuss President Bush's 'surge' as a serious policy for bringing stability to Iraq. This sight was striking, because at this point it is very difficult to imagine the surge as a serious policy. It seems evident that the surge is a desperate gambit by a president who does not want to acknowledge the failure of his invasion, and instead is willing to see the deaths of thousands more US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians."

Baker is of course, pointing out the obvious, and at the same time laying bare one of the more frustrating and maddening tenets of mainstream American punditry: the tendency of "serious" political commentators to give solemn consideration to shit that every idiot knows is patently untrue. They do this only because the idiots in charge, who are more often than not so pathetic that they believe their own bullshit, are putting this utter nonsense forward as serious policy which has a chance of success.

We've learned nothing from the Iraq War. But nothing.

Dean Baker's whole essay is worth reading, and as you read keep in mind: "Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart."

*We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

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