• Grant Staley

A Buddhist-Lite Epiphany

As I awoke this morning, a thought crept into my wobbly consciousness and began to coalesce as my brain kicked into function. At the heart of my thoughts was the dilemna of perceptions versus reality.

Buddhism teaches that all is illusionary, that nothing has intrinsic meaning or substance but only temporal existance and values that we place upon the object or concept. It also teaches that reality, not wishfulness, is the truth. What has he been smoking? you might ask. Think about it; mountains, possible the most enduring objects we can imagine, rose from the surface due to tectonic plate movement or vulcanism. Eons from now, they will erode to plains and new ones will appear. We see them as they are now and call them majestic, but one day they will exist no more. Do they, therefore, have an intrinsic staae or being? Or are they merely a temporal illusion? Is the unsatisfying job we toil at year after year, hoping that one day we will find it rewarding, about to change? After some point, we are only kidding ourselves and not accepting reality.

This, however, was not the epiphany. The nacent thought was that my belief system about the country of my birth is wrong. I grew up in the heyday of US expansion and have lived through its golden age of prosperity. I was not always happy with the county's policies but felt it was generally a force for good. This morning, I realized that my vision of what the country should be is far removed from reality. In other words, I'm being a bad Buddhist by hoping that the US is something when in fact it is quite different.

Let me explain. Development of a strong, sound society is of paramount importance in my mind. A society that subjugates segments of its population based on class, gender, race, religion, etc. is a strife-filled one. Great gobs of energy are used to keep people subserviant. A famous quote says, "To keep a black man in the gutter a white man must stay in the gutter to hold him there." Today we can extrapolate that out far beyond just black men.

A society of equality, however, is not how the US operates; and, not only people of color are now held in the gutter. Some societies value social good; the US values business, generally pushing the environment, privacy rights, social programmes, voting rights and a host of others out of the way of business. Companies routinely posion the environment and hand the bill for the clean up to the taxpayer. Waging wars nearly continuously since WWII has enriched the military suppliers. Companies envolved in rebuilding the physical assets of a bombed out region have profited, with the taxpayer shelling out for that, too. All that was asked of the country's people was blind patriotism whilst this transfer of wealth took place.

The epihany was that my expectations were out of line with reality. The US is not in the business of creating social good for its citizens; it's in the business of business. Banging on about social injustice in the US, therefore, is like yelling at the zebra for having stripes - it changes little to nothing.

With that realisation, what's a boy to do? Clearly, I have voted with my feet and moved to a different country where I am now a citizen. I still care deeply, however, about the country for its influence over the globe but more so for my friends and family living there. Those connections are powerful magnets pulling me back. I wish the culture could change, but that is not the reality.

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