Friday, January 25, 2008


Caught a glimse of Amy Winehouse on the teley yesterday in the now infamous 'crack-smoking video.' Her new hair is disturbing. (Also heard an interview with Paris Hilton on 10 News--she was boring and ugly, though I had never heard her speak before. It was a celebr-ific day!)

I will admit I am an Amy Winehouse fan. I think she's talented and unique and has a vuluptuous amount of soul for a white girl. I also admire her in a way because unlike a lot of celebrities, she knows her demons well, enough to name songs after them ('Rehab' and 'You Know I'm Know Good' come to mind). But like those in academia who study urban sociology and have never been to a city in their life, the knowledge that one is a drug addict (in NA tongue, 'powerless over drugs') only takes one to the foot of the monster; armed with wooden sword, one can only quake in its shadows.

Knowledge is not enough to save one from drowning. It does, however, make the pain and shame of addiction more acute. It will sound silly to anyone but myself, but I am presently in the clutches of a fierce bikes.

For the past year or so I have been doing R&D on an electric bicycle design that will solve a lot of the problems that plague the LEV industry today and make bicycle commuting a more viable and attractive solution for the working world. Low cost, inconspicuousness, simplicity, efficiency, and adaptability drive this vision. The thing is, it has gotten away from me and has become an obsession. I could use that word instead of addiction and maybe it would be more fitting. But addiction qualifies too, and drives a shaper nail into the coffin:

"the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma."

I have really tried to turn my inventor's brain off and focus on the things I have neglected: school, work, prayer, diet, sleep, leisure, friends. But I can't...not without serious trauma at least. This brings in the 'submission to a Higher Power' step. This actually spurred my conversion to theism generally and Christianity specifically--the idea that we need a Savior to save us from those things we are powerless to save ourselves from.

My friend Tim and I have had discussions about this over many a 24oz lager. Tim, a Dharma practitioner and non-theist, does not agree with Christianity's fundamental assumption that there is something (sin) that we need to be saved from. As a result, 'practice' becomes just that--a honing of skill in order to escape the mess we're in (samsara). If you don't do it, no one will.

Christians, by comparison, look like people desperately praying for a kind of 'Divine Helicopter' in the midst of a crumbling Saigon. Though there is room for everyone, the mentality is the same: the way out comes from outside the self. Salvation is not here yet; we need to wait for it to come. We are dependent. We are 'creatures.' For Buddhism, I believe, reality is left a little more room to be flexed, and allows for a little more experiential ingenuity.

Such a criticism of Christianity is warranted when coming from this vantage point, and is hard to refute. In fact, it can't, since it is the theological cornerstone of Christian faith: Jesus Christ is the Messiah, 'Emmanuel,' "since he will save his people from their sins." It is historical fulfillment. Though the presentation of history is always biased, it is not exactly subjective. But it does require a faith in its objective reality (another point of contention for Buddhists).

I wrote a paper last year attempting to prove that even the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth--a seemingly 'objective' reality according to historical and archaeological indicators--is a matter of faith and belief, not fact. I used my grandfather and Martin Luther King Jr. as comparative examples that differed slightly: I cannot confirm, from my own experience, that Dr. King actually existed: all I have is stories, pictures, news footage--second hand sources. I never knew my grandfather (though I have seen pictures and my dad tells me stories about him), but I can use the foundation of my own reality (I used Cartesian etiology--possibly a bad choice--to argue this point) to confirm his existence more solidly: 1) My father exists (1st hand experience); 2) I am a confirmed, biologically unique product of my father and mother (i.e., if my father did not exist, I would not exist); 3) Because my father exists, he must be the product of a father and mother (i.e., my grandfather and grandmother). Therefore, even though I cannot confirm what he may look like or the stories told about him with certainty, I do know for certain that he existed based on the fact that I exist (another possible point of contention among Buddhists).

What were we talking about? Oh yes, rehab. Actually, I took a turn off when I started writing about salvation, and how Christians rely on a savior. Ironically, this is a marked characteristic of a Type 4 also. Many 4's will look for this salvific figure in personal relationships. Because this feeling of needing to be 'saved' was so strong in me, I identified with Christianity. Maybe other people are not drawn to it in the same way, people who do not have this same panting for a savior? I don't know.

Gerald May's book Addiction and Grace is about this idea of being powerless over our addictions and being in need of Divine Assistance in overcoming them. AA asserts the same (I read a great article that Jeannie gave me about AA being the model of what a true Christian church should look like, written by Sam Shoemaker, one of the founders of AA). I feel like my stupid bikes and my stupid projects have taken over my life and my mind and I don't know how to keep out of the basement on my own. Like the Reese's Peanut Butter cups in my basement, it is a source of constant temptation. I want to get all my projects wrapped up before Lent because I am closing up shop until Easter. It is my way of saying 'yes' to rehab (which I understand Amy Winehouse is resistant to--good for her) and doing my part in recovering from an otherwise good (or neutral) thing that seems to have taken over my life. To add my own trite quip to the heap of 'Christian Inspiration': "God supplies the boat and oars; we must supply the muscle."

No comments: