Building Pyramids With Buddha

Today I went to a job interview from a Craigslist listing that was a little bit misleading. The post was written as if the position was a conventional job, but once I got there I quickly realized it was in the multi-level marketing format. Better known as a pyramid scheme. Basically, a commissions only sales gig with a push to recruit others so that you became a “manager.” It’s the third MLM scheme I’ve been exposed to. I don’t mind MLM companies so much, but I did mind being lied to. I have also been involved with a couple of educational companies that use a similar model. I’ve learned valuable and powerful distinctions from them, but I have never cared for the push to bring others into the fold.

As I left the interview I realized there is a similarity between MLM companies and how spirituality and religion is sometimes propagated. Especially in online social media. I have often gone into a Facebook group for the first time and been assaulted with comments, and direct messages about what I should be reading, who I should be studying, and what practices I should be doing. Often, the first thing that strikes me as funny is that nearly 90% of the time these well-meaning strangers come at me with books I’ve already read, teachers I’ve already investigated, or practices I’ve already done (or am currently doing.) The second thing that becomes apparent is how convinced they are that they’ve found the best book, teacher, or practice, and how all others are inferior. They don’t usually come out and say that no other method actually works, but it’s fairly obvious between the lines that they believe that to be the case. Many of them also want to occupy the role of, if not a teacher, at least senior student. They offer to take you under their wing, and direct you in the correct way towards “enlightenment”, “liberation”, “realization”, or whatever. The idea that something else might work better for someone else often seems like a foreign concept.

Luckily for me, one of my favorite teachers is Robert Anton Wilson. He has schooled me well in the wisdom of model agnosticism. Of not cleaving blindly to one single model (of spirituality, of religion, of finance planning, or of whatever). There have been occasions where I have forgotten the lesson, and been that ass hat who insists there is a “one true way”, but Uncle Bob is always whispering in my ear and I get back on track eventually.

The best any of us can do is what works best for us. Assuming what works for us will necessarily work for someone else is not only foolhardy, it’s kind of insulting.

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Who Keeps Asking Those Questions?

Bit of a rant here. Apologies in advance.

Yesterday, I was watching a movie with the love of my life. That’s not what this rant is about. The movie was hokey and sweet. That’s not what this rant is about. At one point in the movie, one of the characters was attending a men’s counseling group and there was some dialog which this rant is about.

The guy leading the men’s group was posing some questions to the group. “Who do you identify as?”, and “Who do you want to show up as?”, and so on. The thing that got my hackles raised was who is the “you” doing the identifying? Who is the “you” showing up? Why are these questions so rarely raised in mainstream entertainment? The very question of who is the one who identifies was burned into my brain since when was five years old. It’s the one thing I chased after for most of my life. Once I found a way to get at that question, the relief was profound. Life has challenges. Every damn day. However, knowing who the challenges are actually showing up for changes the entire relationship with life. Things may be frustrating. Life may be sad. Challenges may hurt. Once you know who you actually are, the feeling of being at risk fades away. It’s only when we think of ourselves as our identity, or as how we show up, that life can really hurt. What I don’t understand is why such a notion is not part of the normal education of human beings.

This sort of inquiry is relegated to the fringes of society, in nearly all cases. I just don’t get it. Of course part of my having that feeling is due to the simple fact that such inquiry is important to me, and it’s human nature to be confused when other people don’t share our concerns. I get that. But, still … Gah! Why bother spending time with questions about who you want to identify as when you don’t even bother to look into who is the you doing that? Double-Gah!

Okay, rant over (for now.) Happy Valentine’s Day!

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On Asking For It



This picture has made the rounds in social media for a while now. Recently it has surfaced pretty strongly in my circle of Facebook friends, and has produced something of a contention among them. The argument seems to be over the degree to which someone should take responsibility for their own safety and not engage in risky acts. One guy even went so far as to edit the image so that instead it read, “Still nutso. Asking for it.” Not only does this diversion miss what I think is the central point, I don’t see how the notion is defensible when we reward people like extreme sports athletes for taking big risks with their safety.

The first time I ever heard the phrase, “She was asking for it”, in connection with sexual assault against women, I balked. I still do. Not for any really noble reason. What boggles me about such a statement is that it is literally impossible. This is one of those things that people say that make me wonder where they learned their language, and if they actually know the meaning of the terms they are working with.

Let’s be clear: we are talking about rape. One of the most explicit definitions of the word that gives is this, “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent.”

I take issue with that definition, as I don’t see rape as a sexual act, but rather as a violent act. However let’s leave that point aside and deal with the definition as given. (I also don’t like the words, “usually female” in there because I think making this an issue about women is a case of extremely muddled thinking and victim shaming.) Note the phrase, “against the will.” For me this is where the boggle comes in. If something is against someone’s will, they cannot possibly ask for it. The two statements are contradictory. They cancel each other out. The sentence, “She got raped, but she was asking for it”, is nonsense.

There may, or may not, be a valid conversation to have about being aware of ones environments and acting in a way that is more likely to keep one safe. I am a martial artist with two and a half decades of training in self-defense. There are certain situations and settings I avoid because I don’t relish the idea of having a violent encounter. That being said, if I did go into those situations and I did get victimized I would not be at fault. I would not be to blame. It is never possible to ask for a violation of one’s person or property. Period. In my book, anyone who thinks that such a thing is possible is operating under the weight of insanity.

Now, I am a man, and am not enough of a fool to think I am completely free of the influence of rape culture in the modern world. I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. I invite anyone who wants to offer a refinement, or refutation of what I have said to engage me in conversation. I want to learn. I think we have a real problem with this subject in the modern world and I would like to be further educated on it. I know I have blind spots.

That being said, it is simply not possible to “ask for it” when it comes to rape. The definition of the term does not support such a view. Any conversation about safety and awareness needs to be free of the phrase “asking for it” to avoid confusion and to have a chance of being at all helpful. That’s my opinion, and I don’t see how the matter can be seen any other way.