Buddhist Epiphany: the Homeless Will Inherit the Earth…

img_1382

The golden age of cities may be over and done, gone to the dogs, hard to believe that as recently as the 1980’s American teenagers could still get excited cruising down Hollywood Boulevards and Sunset Strips in gas-guzzling sedans and VW vans, gazing longingly upward at IHOP’s and Waffle Houses, Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC…

…pale imitations of the City of Lights, Paris at the turn of the previous century, outshining dingy London stuck with gas lamps and starchy pies, dry humor and sticky dreams, pea soup and foggy skies, and so it is with Los Angeles and New York, different as black and white, day and night, New York city of unrepentant vampires and LA city of love-lost angels…

Cities, big ugly ones especially, are the bane of my existence, and they don’t seem to be getting any better any time soon. This was my earliest epiphany—uh, reverse epiphany—and though I’ve found a few that I like, nothing much has changed. Cities, on the whole, suck. But they do allow for social interaction and random intercourse, so perform an important function, even if ever getting bigger and uglier all the while. So now that Internet provides that same social function, can we ditch the big bad burgs?

It might just save us. Man is a social animal, to be sure, but that doesn’t necessarily imply cities, especially mega-cities, which were largely a Western invention, at least as places to live, not just congregate for markets and ceremonies. But it seems that not only is the Golden Age of America over, but the Golden Age of the West in general is in drastic decline, and cities in their wake. Cities in Europe disappeared once before, during the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, and that may happen again, there and elsewhere…

One of my favorite conspiracy theories is that cities are a plot to round people up for subjugation and subsequent control. Of course one reason it’s my favorite is that I created it, but there’s also a grain of truth to it. By submitting ourselves to the inter-dependency of a city, we give up a piece of our own independence, of course, to the point that many city people might be hard-pressed to revert to a pre-urban lifestyle. Life is not a cabaret in the countryside, thank God. Cities are the killing fields, we merely ducks in a pond…

But the only ‘Western value’ that I truly cherish crave adore and would truly miss if absent is: Freedom, capital ‘F, enshrined into law and protected by canons, surrounding the perimeter and pointing toward the interior. Of course most people don’t want true freedom, dreadful by definition and dangerous by custom. They merely trade one form of slavery for another and pretend that it is good. And the best forms of slavery, indeed, ARE good: house and home, friends and family…

But American culture took a dive when freedoms became ego expressions. This is the difference between positive freedom and negative freedom, freedom to as opposed to freedom from. It seems a particularly American trait to want to flaunt our freedoms to the extent that it infringes on that of others and even endangers our own lives. The minute that cannabis is fully legal, someone will be blowing smoke in a cop’s face, to be sure…

People risk their lives every day for the pure adrenaline rush of extreme sports and even more extreme pharmaceutical adventures. Ditto sexual identity. We not only demand the freedom from harassment, and the freedom to express our sexual identities, but we want to celebrate it, too, even if others are offended. But is that freedom?

By my estimation, the truest freedom-lovers even leave the familiar comforts and convenient slaveries behind, too, and become monks and hermits and even—wait for it—homeless, rishis, roshis and rusis. But many of the most revered maharishis of Asia would be reviled in the dog-eat-dog Amerika…

Yes, it’s true: the most reviled persons in our country could be the most revered in another, but for a few changes of habit, and the addition of intent, a critical distinction in the individuals’ game plans. You can’t fake enlightenment, you can’t fake freedom, and you can’t fake the need for no need. What can you do without? Maybe it’s time to find out…

Advertisements