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The Quest for Zen

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Week 6 -- February 27th - March 4th


Hack, hack, choke. gggggggggggrrrRROFF-aughwwwerm.

A nasty chest cold and ooey, gooey, phlegm remind me that I am still chained to the physical plane. Nothing else confirms to me more the Buddhist teaching of Dukkha - that life is SUFFERING.

Got my Yoga points in - on Tuesday collected two handouts with all the nifty little moves and exercises comprising a full, 90 minute work out. Next half of semester I will be doubling the load with a second yoga class - Shazam!

In Christian Ethics, I was asked to interview my Buddhist scholar Dad about the Buddhist conceptions of Evil and Sin - Kamma (not be confused with Karma). Gave the class a little lecture on Kusala and Akusala (good and bad Kamma), on its impersonal, no-hard-feelings system of cosmic payback. The only thing that seemed to get the unintelligent majority's interest was that we have no conception of sin - they weren't listening to the bits about cosmic payback, so they thought this was a neat way out.

On a more fruitful note, I am happy to announce that as soon as this damn cough is gone, I will take up fasting! My Yoga instructor said that fasting from 9pm to 9am was good stuff to get involved in, and it seems to me the karmic A-Bomb I need at this point to convince more people to start voting for me over Jason.

On that topic, I'm getting the creeping suspicion that people are voting more than once - grrrrr. If you are a guilty culprit, know now that in my grace I Forgive you - but if you do it again I'll send you straight to HELL.


Very good week for me. I completely destroyed religious existentialism. If Kierkegaard were alive today, he'd be following me around with a notepad, asking me to explain this or that point again.

Religious existentialism? Sounds like an oxymoron, but it predates Sartre's atheist existentialism, though they didn't have the exact word, existentialism, per se. Kierkegaard broke life down into three phases, or ways of living. The first, the aesthetic, is concerned with surfaces: pleasure, pain, fun, the pursuit of happiness. What breaks you out of that phase is a sort of boredom-you can never have enough, pursuing pleasure leaves you hollow, etc. The next stage is the ethical, where you try to apply rules to your life and decisions. Do your civic duty, get a job to feed your children, do unto others, thou shalt not kill. What breaks you out of this stage (and this is where religious and atheist existentialism agree) are the disturbing facts that no ethical system can apply to every situation and that you'll never know enough to make the right decision, and the general sinking suspicion that you're responsible for your choices anyway.

So where do you go from here? Kierkegaard suggests a third stage, the religious stage, where you make a leap of faith and suspend the ethical. This stage is concerned, like the other existentialists, with the subjective rather than the objective, but it also has religious aspect. So in the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, Abraham is told by God to kill his son. Ethically, that's wrong, and of course it's not pleasurable for him. But certain things, like God, overrule the ethical for Kierkegaard, and that's the way to go, if you can. Kierkegaard says, of course, that people move in and out of each of the stages all the time and it's not set in stone. But there's still a problem.

Let's say God tells me tomorrow: "Jason, You must walk the earth and speak the gospel." I make the existential choice to go ahead with it-I am now Kierkegaard's knight of faith, right up there in the religious stage. But even though I'm still making little decisions, I've effectively stopped questioning some major aspects of my life. How is that different from just going to work everyday and getting stuck in a boring routine that no existentialist would call authentic?

Plus, what if God tells me to kill everyone I see? I still can decide how to kill them, etc., but I've now completely objectified all these people-and, I'm no longer questioning a very important decision-should I kill? How can that be existentialism?

Oh, and I drank Fire, three Lightnings, Energy, and Sun, and ate an absolutely terrible Power Bar Essentials with ginseng, green tea, gingko biloba, and guarana seed.

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