Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shantideva's awesome writing

Over the past week or so, I've been getting into 'The Way of the Bodhisattva', by the sage Shantideva. A mind-expanding book to say the least. I have been a devotee of Buddism since my University days when I was taking Religious Studies courses. This book goes far beyond any of my previous investigations into Buddhist materials. Nothing I could say would do this book justice, only to say that it answered some questions I had about the Bodhisattva path and left me with so much more to ask.
A Bodhisattva is one who has the chance to attain Nirvana but defers it in order to help a certain number of people attain Nirvana ahead of him. It's usually in the 100,000's, and is called a 'Bodhisattva vow'. I have tossed and turned the idea over in my head and realized that I am nowhere near Bodhisattva status. Too many attachments and defilements still. Perhaps in another couple of lives - maybe. However, it was a great book to read and be inspired by. To truly be a Bodhisattva, one has to do whatever it takes to help others. I just do not have that level of compassion yet.
More than any other book I've read, this one provides a sort of road map to help the aspirant dissolve the 'I' and the 'Other' by interchanging them to show they are one and the same. Perhaps when I have more courage to be compassionate, I will be able to apply what I have learned from this awesome book. Without a doubt, this will be a book I will return to in a years' time. I have still very much to learn from 'The Way of the Bodhisattva', and perhaps the student will be ready next year for the teacher to appear. One can only hope.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Born by Bourne

First of all, HAPPY EASTER!
Now for the real reason I'm posting. "The Bourne Identity", while not the most incredible book I've ever read, did get my mental juices flowing. Amnesiacs like Bourne (sorry to be spoiling) try their very hardest to get their memories back - in Bourne's case, getting his memories back was a matter of life and death - and the course is not always easy. However, amnesia is sometimes more than losing your memory - sometimes you lose your complete identity. In my opinion, ID is connected to one's memories. For Bourne, who changes appearences and identities all the time, losing the core identity had to be very frustrating.
Anyway, I started looking at this concept with semi-Buddhist eyes and it got me thinking about the ID being connected to EGO, which is something devout Buddhists want very much to lose. If you do not have a sense of identity, you're in danger of losing yourself. Amnesiacs usually want their memories - ergo their identities - back no matter how bad the ID is. Some people want to forget their pasts and their lives, while amnesiacs want to remember. Perhaps it would be better to not want to regain one's memory - their EGO - should it be lost due to amnesia. Of course, there's a chance the memories would come back, so the EGO wouldn't really be dissolved, just hidden under more ignorance. (I am not a Buddhist; anyone who is - if you want to correct me, be my guest.)
Say I lost my memory and therefore my identity. I would have my journals at hand so I could at least gain a sense of what kind of person I am or was. I wonder what I would think of myself. This is all armchair speculation, but it might be worthwhile to be able to sort of stand outside and look in. I already do that when I read through past diaries I've filled. I guess it all depends on how serious I was to lose the EGO. Amazing what thoughts books can dredge up. At least I'm going to stay away from Ludlum for a while.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Impressed by Ludlum

Like everyone else who has cable, I've heard of the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. Unlike most people, I have yet to watch Matt Damon in action. I'm of the school that believes one should read the book before watching the movie, so I went looking for 'The Bourne Identity' at the library. All copies are in use, but I came across a trio of Ludlum's books and decided to give it a go. The first book in this massive set is 'The Holcroft Covenant', and concerns a very terrifying premise - terrifying and yet fascinating. I enjoyed reading it, as I also enjoyed 'The Matarese Circle'. Being something of a writer myself, I try to not just read the story, but look at what other writers have done.
Let me repeat what others have probably said a thousand times before; Robert Ludlum is a remarkable writer. He digs deep into the psyche and dredges up images of perversion and resigned determination like not many others can. I've never really been into political thrillers before, but I think Ludlum has turned me around. I use the term 'impressed' in more ways than one, for this guy has opened my eyes at how easily a person's ideals can be warped and perverted to serve ulterior motives. Sad and frightening, but there are living and breathing people out there who have such skills as the ones Ludlum writes about in these two books, and these people do exactly what he portrays them as doing.
The third book in this trio is none other than 'The Bourne Identity', and I am greatly anticipating reading this one. I need nobody sending me info to spoil the anticipation. Once I've read 'The Bourne Identity', I can go out and rent Matt Damon's take on Jason Bourne. Without a doubt, I do intend to read more of Ludlum's works.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Learning how was the easy part

I graduated from my Library tech. course almost a year ago. I work in a school library right now and I received my performance review the other day. What a thumping! I knew that there were things I need to work on, but I read my review feeling nothing but resentment and disillusionment.
Things I was not trained on and had no previous experience with; it was expected that I should know everything about these things. It seems there is no room for error there. I am not by nature an extrovert, and being out there is not in my makeup. Nevertheless, I was penalized for not taking the initative and establishing a rapport with the students. My immediate boss seems to expect perfection from me. Doing the best I can with what I have does not seem to be enough.
The tech. I replaced has been one for close to 20 years. It seems that my boss expects me to have the same skills and finesse as my predecessor does.
I could go into specifics, but I think I've said all that needs saying. Anyway, I have to book a meeting with the principal tomorrow to discuss my review and the comments I plan to write, and believe me, I do have some comments to write. It is not right for them to expect me to be a carbon copy of my predecessor. All I can do is, and if that does not suffice with them, then they will have to let me go so I can find a job with another school or in another library setting.
I had a feeling that the school system might not be the best place for me. Perhaps I was more right than I knew.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The court of popular opinion

Just a few more chapters to go and I'm done reading 'Phineas Redux' by Anthony Trollope. The main character, Phineas Finn, was accused of killing a man and was tried and convicted by the court of popular opinion long before his case went to trial for real. I won't spoil the story for anyone interested in reading it, for my topic of choice today is the court of popular opinion. I don't know what Trollope thought about the tabloids of his day, but given the way they treated Phineas Finn before he was even brought to trial, the tabloids were even worse than they are now.
I've been trying to take Finn's situation and adapt it to the here and now, and it's gotten me thinking. One politician allegedly kills a fellow politician after seen arguing with him. The tabloid in question had an axe to grind with Finn before the murder happened, and the editor was more than pleased to spread his own verdict around, while gossip ran wild in the streets and clubs. I'm surprised they were able to find an impartial jury. Even now, with sequestered juries and closed courtrooms, the tabloids still run wild, as does gossip. Today, the editors are expected to keep their axes in the closet, ungrinded. That's when talk radio and the shock-jocks come in and get their messages out.
Also, reading this book reminded me of what usually motivates the verdict handed down by popular opinion. Motives are rarely pure, especially when driven by interested parties. Lobbyists come to mind. They motivate people to think a certain way. In this case, high-placed nobles and politicians got the ball rolling to motivate the court of popular opinion. If Duke So-and-so says it's true, it must certainly be true. We have that problem even now, and it's probably not going to go away for a while yet.
I won't say how the book ends, for I have not reached the end myself, but it is a story worth looking into.