Considering a Momentous Year
Owing to the contagiousness inherent in all that is sacred, a profane being cannot violate an interdict without having the religious force, to which he has unduly approached, extend itself over him and establish its empire over him. But as there is an antagonism between them, he becomes dependent upon a hostile power, whose hostility cannot fail to manifest itself in the form of violent reactions which tend to destroy him. —Emile Durkheim (my introductory quote from the first blog post of last year)
Well, by golly, 2021 was truly a momentous year for me, and probably for most people. But especially for me, at least within the context of this post. Exactly one year ago, at the beginning of January 2021, I was a senior Buddhist monk—a mahāthera or great elder—living at a Burmese monastery in central California, and I had been the abbot of my own monastery in Burma for years before that. Even then, one year ago, my monkhood had run its course for various reasons. I had stopped making progress in formal meditative practice, living the lifestyle of a bhikkhu as described and encouraged in the texts was very problematic in the extremely foreign culture of the USA, and I was deeply in love with a woman with whom I wanted to be much closer. So although I was still a more or less reputable monk one year ago, more or less, I was already on my way out. As I say, monasticism for me had run its course.
So last year, 2021, was a momentous one not only on the large, national and global, scale, but also on a smaller, personal one. But I should probably start with the large scale.
Exactly one year ago, Donald Trump was still President. The rigged election was already over. (And anyone who doubts or denies that the election was rigged is blind and/or delusional: setting aside the multitude of election irregularities, just consider the mainstream media’s 24/7 attacks on the man throughout his presidency, and their strenuous favoring of Biden on election night, even including Fox News, calling states for him with only a few percent of the votes counted and not calling them for Trump even with over 90% of the vote tallies already reported…in order to get people reconciled to the inevitable Biden “victory,” or rather his installment by cooperating globalist elites and their lackeys.) If America was not prospering one year ago, it was mainly because of the constant hysteria ginned up by globalist Powers That Be, including of course worldwide shutdowns and fearmongering over a disease with a mortality rate of a fraction of 1%. It seemed to me at the time that the leaked virus was being exploited to sow chaos and make the Trump administration look as bad as possible…in order to be rid of him more easily, so that the Brave New World Order could proceed unhindered.
2021 was the scene of a corrupt, senile potted plant becoming the installed figurehead president of what is still arguably the most powerful nation on earth, at least for a little while longer. Our senile potted plant has demonstrated his inability to manage the US economy, or to bring some semblance of unity to a divided country, or even to read a goddamn teleprompter. And many relatively intelligent people were persuaded to vote for the man (in addition to all the dead people and fake ballots) due to whipped-up hysteria against a reasonably competent president. I still think Trump, regardless of personality issues, was possibly the best president of my lifetime, and I will certainly vote for him again if he runs in 2024.
Despite the electoral upheavals, the leaked virus with the mortality rate of a fraction of 1% (and even lower for the new and not scary “omicron” variant)—or rather the worldwide fear, paranoia, and totalitarianism associated with it—is easily the predominant, overarching theme of 2021. It’s much bigger than, say, the upcoming “end of the world” due to climate change. Pretty much everything else pales before the artificial pandemic, at least on the large scale. As for myself, I have trusted my own immune system and my own karma more than I have trusted hastily-developed vaccines that are apparently more dangerous to healthy people than the virus is. Also I experience some satisfaction from the thought that I never applied for or received any freshly printed “stimulus” money. I am not a socialist, and I refuse to start supporting socialism as soon as I perceive that I can derive some monetary profit or convenience from it. The idea that anti-socialists should exploit socialism in order to sap socialism of its strength, or some such, is not persuasive to me. So I am happy to say that I made the big transition from monk to layman entirely by the help I received from generous supporters. Actual generosity is far superior to socialism as a means of helping others, largely because generosity “gathers up treasures in heaven” for the givers and does not turn the recipients of that generosity into economic parasites simply having taxes siphoned off in their direction. But I’m veering into the small, personal scale already, so let’s move on to that.
The changes in my life over the past year, externally that is, have been huge. At the time that I arrived in South Carolina (to be with my sweetheart) and disrobed, I had not even owned a pair of pants for thirty years. I arrived in South Carolina still wearing monk robes. I also had no bank account and absolutely zero credit rating, good or bad. In short, I started with relatively very little and pretty much started my material life over from scratch. Nevertheless, like Siddhartha in Hermann Hesse’s novel, my years as a renunciant had prepared me in certain ways to do well at a return to non-renunciation.
For example, decades of ascetic practice prepared me for having to get up early in the morning and work at a rough, challenging, yet enjoyable job. Also my cultivation of equanimity smoothed the waters of the transition, as I had placed myself at the mercy of the Universe as a way of life. Flexibility, and the ability to accept whatever comes, are monkly virtues that transfer well into lay life. In fact, it seems to me that, with the exception of sharing my life with a warm, snuggly, affectionate, unpredictable, and fascinating woman, my inner life hasn’t changed all that much. I am still the same internally.
It may be that my clarity of mind, and my mindfulness, are not quite what they were before; but the amount of mental energy I have access to remains essentially the same. And if anything, I feel that I am making faster spiritual progress as a layman than I was as a monk during my last several years in robes. I am facing challenges, and facing those challenges and mastering them is resulting in more spiritual exercise than simply living at leisure at a sheltered monastery. In short, my decades as a monk prepared me to be a better, or at least a more skillful, layperson.
The freedoms of not being a monk, it seems to me, are very much unappreciated by laypeople who avail themselves of them daily. For example for weeks I was blown away by my new ability to walk to a refrigerator, open the door, survey the contents, and consume whatever I pleased. Being able to go to a store (or order something online) whenever I need something is also a great blessing. (As a monk I did not use money and had to rely on others to do this stuff for me, and very often I would receive something different from what I asked for and would just have to accept that with some equanimity.) I can have a cold beer after work without breaking any rules or having to make confession, because even five precepts are pretty much optional. (As some Zen master once said, adhering to rules and observances is a case of binding oneself without a rope. Nevertheless I do still retain a sense of moral responsibility. Karma exists regardless of rules.) I have to work, and pay taxes, and obey the laws of the land, and I often come home tired, but I am a free man.
As I have mentioned before, the most radical change for me, and still occasionally a challenge, is sharing my life intimately with a woman. We love each other dearly, and of course the whole deal is well worth any downside, but still I am very unused to wide-open intimacy with another human being, especially a female one; and those of you who are in relationships (I suspect most of you) are well aware that there can be occasional difficulties even for a seasoned veteran relationship-haver. Mainly for me it is the fact that, as a monk, I was supposed to make an island of myself and be very detached, and also to see others as little more than stimuli: in the seeing only the seeing, in the hearing only the hearing, etc. So all of a sudden sharing my life with another conscious being is taking some getting used to…though as I say it is very much well worth the challenge. And successfully met challenges do make us stronger. In fact I intend to increase the challenge somewhat in the near future by cohabiting with her full time. The lease on my apartment expires in February and I will be moving into a house with her. As I have mentioned elsewhere, communism CAN work if it is voluntary, especially if it is in a small community; and a community of two is about as small as it gets, and we both volunteer. And as I have also said before, true love is really the only thing that makes life worth living (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic love). Trying to love another person as well as I possibly can, and to be good for her, is now a major part of my spiritual practice.
What to look forward to in the future? Well, Buddhism teaches to live in the present moment, which is good advice; but still it is natural to look forwards into the future as well as we can. I do hope that our demented potted plant “leader” won’t totally wreck the economy, or let Communist China take over the world (despite the probable damning evidence against him that they probably have, at least in connection with his worthless crackhead son). Assuming that the elections in America aren’t totally fraudulent now, I look forward to the hysterical leftists ruining America to be humiliated in the midterm election this year. I look forward to becoming a homesteader with my sweetheart. I look forward to making more friends now that I am no longer a recluse. I look forward to buying a firearm, as is still my right as an American citizen. And I very much look forward to observing the strange spectacle that American and global current events have become, and commenting on them occasionally on this blog.
May all of you have an auspicious new year, and may the challenges you meet be successfully met so that they strengthen your mind and your wisdom.
|where I work nowadays (and I am finally certified to operate the forklifts)|