Head scratchers

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

From wikimedia.org

This is the world I live in:

• Port of Vancouver workers recently went on strike, fearing that AI would take their jobs.

• In Niger, soldiers seized power, forging the last link in the chain of Sahelian countries where democracy and civil society are dead.

Barbenheimer is the buzz of discussion in popular media.

• A 21-year-old from small-town Ontario has become TikTok's most successful influencer, with 40 million followers. He is so wealthy that the rent for his house in Los Angeles is over US$21 a month. I can't even imagine. It's a puzzle.

• Greta Thunberg was again arrested; the ocean surface temperature off Florida recently reached over 37,8°C; and tourists flee as the Greek island of Rhodes burns.

Insert the sound of a record needle coming out of the groove with a scream.

Tourists? WTF. Why anyone travels anywhere on a cruise, plane or ocean liner is beyond me. It's a real headache. Ditto for my friends who own vacation homes and boats, or who travel to other continents “to see that art exhibition in Amsterdam”, etc. When I talk to colleagues and see in person photos of acquaintances in faraway enclaves of interesting and dedicated individuals, I wonder why they couldn't have created the same vibe online and been deeply grounded in their own local communities? This one either, I haven't figured it out yet.

In the meantime:

• US citizens are flocking to southern cities with high climate emergency risks – places where big insurance companies no longer insure their homes. Eh? It's quite counter-intuitive. What do they plan to do when the water runs out in Phoenix or Houston? etc., or when the floods become faster and more violent each year?

• Governments? I often feel appalled but less and less surprised each time I listen to the news. Add all the other national governments and many regional governments to mine in terms of ineptitude or cover-up. The systemic failure to meet the challenges of our time, and even to muster anything other than the energy to kick-start the future, has been staggeringly large.

• Reports point to thousands of communications satellites across the planet providing Internet services, all under the control of not one company, but one person: Elon Musk, an idiosyncratic but hugely successful individual, the less in commercial terms. The geopolitical implications are staggering. I won't be around very long to see how it all goes.

• I remember being taught in kindergarten to leave a better place than where we found it. I think about a million Buddhist books I've read say the same thing. It's amazing how many people don't understand this, until I realize they don't even care about my opinion.

• I live in a different type of enclave. The walls are my own disinterest in samsara. I can do without the stories of how the stadium shook when Taylor Swift sang "Shake It Off" in front of her assembled tribesmen and supporters. Ditto for sports stories. Am I just some crazy old man wandering around in his basement? Do I really want to know baseball stats, pro league finances, or how so-and-so did such-and-such a thing and then have the opportunity to give his in-depth opinion on some aspect of the game or the event. But I'm subjected to it – and the car ads – endlessly.

All this craziness is making me tired. It is a phase of life with a degree of indecipherability that I have never encountered before. It wasn't part of my lived experience growing up and into adulthood, and while I was able to cognitively juggle the concepts, I didn't viscerally feel it. We used to worry about people affected by climate change. . . now, these people are us. We had three tornadoes and one right here in our little community for the past few years. I walk slowly and live by simply trying to keep the plants in my garden alive. Now it's visceral and I'm constantly aware of the need for a new civilizational narrative.

Every day I started reading a little manual on the generation stage of the particular Tibetan Tantra that speaks to me. It is a 742 page book. I read a page or two aloud while my computer warms up each morning. I'm getting to page 328. By the time you read this, I might have hit 350. There's no rush. Guess I'll go to completion stage on my deathbed whether I like it or not. Meanwhile, I'm interested in osteoporosis and the beginnings of a dodgy heart, in addition to all the other little indignities in life. New territory without map. A puzzle.

In the meantime:

• Major ocean currents are set to collapse by 2025, we are told. The oceans will likely be depleted soon after, or even dead from collapsing ecosystems as reefs die around the world, or from the radioactive water released by Fukushima's corpse. The Gulfstream collapse will follow. The sidewalk is so hot you can get a second degree burn.

• Drought leaves millions of people in Uruguay without drinking water.

• Alberta premier pledges to pump more oil and gas, converting methane to hydrogen and burying CO2and betting big on LNG, saying it's what we need to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

If that doesn't give you a boost of cognitive dissonance, you're not like me. I guess it's helpful to keep Bernie Glassman Roshi's principles in mind: don't know, witness, act.

I suppose there is no certainty that the mountains will become mountains again. I'll be scratching my head for the rest of the trip. God only knows what bard is holding. Most of my dreams are to go somewhere and encounter obstacles. I invariably wake up before reaching my destination. There are so many signs in dreams that should let me know I'm dreaming, but I never come to lucidity.

The bodhisattva vow inspires us to save all sentient beings. But it seems that not only are people suffering, but most are not at all interested in what these bodhisattvas offer. It's like the parable of the burning house in the Lotus Sutra.

It is rare to encounter Dharma, even rarer to encounter a qualified teacher, and even rarer to engage in serious practice, I am told. Publishing Buddhist books is like scattering spa to discover in the years to come. The difference is that these treasures are open secrets, lying around. About as valuable as Nansen's dead cat in the TikTok era.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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