Buddha Didn’t Have This to Meditate About

MarchersFirst of all I want to thank Colin. I don’t really know Colin. I don’t even know his last name. But Colin, whoever you are, you made it possible for me to meet one of my long-time idols.

On Saturday night I was at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival at the Bell House in Brooklyn to see Robyn Hitchcock. I was by myself leaning up against a wall and this guy comes up to me and says, “Are you Brad Warner?”

So I say, “Yes, I am.” And he tells me how he likes my books and how he went and saw the documentary about me when it played in Brooklyn. I thanked him, asked him his name (it was Colin), and asked a few other things about him, the answers to which I’d probably remember except for what happened next. Then he went back to his seat. Which is not the thing that happened next that made me forget what he’d told me.

The next thing that happened was that the attractive lady leaning against the wall next to me started asking me about some of the things Colin and I had been talking about. I said I came here to see Robyn Hitchcock and to participate in the Climate Change March. She said, “My boyfriend produced Robyn’s new album.”

I say, “Who is your boyfriend?” As if I didn’t know the only possible answer.

She says, “Joe Boyd.”

And I’m like, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

RobynBrooklynJoe Boyd is only the guy who produced the first Pink Floyd single, See Emily Play as well as My White Bicycle by Tomorrow.

So after the first show is over, she gets me in to see the second show and she introduces me to Robyn after it’s all over. I’d brought along a copy of There Is No God And He Is Always With You to pass to him if I got a chance to meet him because there’s a long quotation from him in the book. We had a nice short conversation, he seemed amused by the book. It was fun. So thank you Colin and thank you Candace for that!

The following day I attended the big People’s Climate Change March in New York City along with a whole bunch of other Buddhists. The march was supposed to start at 1pm. I got there at around 11am and the block between 8th and 9th Ave on 58th street, where all the “spiritual” groups were supposed to meet, was already packed with people. I shoved my way through to the Buddhist section and stood near the Brooklyn Zen Center contingent since that’s where some of the people I know were.

I’m probably way too cynical and anti-hippie for an event like that. I have a love/hate relationship with the Sixties. I love a lot of the music, art and film from that era, but I sorta hate how it all went so terribly wrong. Whenever I encounter people who lived through the Sixties who appear not to understand that all of that over-abundant idealism was actually not a good thing in the end because clinging to ideals instead of getting in touch with what was actually happening was why everything went polyester and Nixon within two years of Woodstock (which sucked, by the way, the Monterey Pop Festival was the only truly great rock festival of the Sixties), well, I just get annoyed.

So the spectacle of Peter Yarrow from Peter Paul and Mary singing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore or whatever it was he sang and being all like, “The people must stand up to the governments and demand change!” or whatever he said that had the crowd roaring with approval just had me rolling my eyes. And then some guy got up and said that we should all join his Facebook group which would unite all the other Facebook groups to create positive, social, blah-blah-blah… God. I was already feeling nauseous just from standing there in that sweaty crowd for two hours.

Yet there I was. Participating. Raising my voice or whatever it was I was supposedly doing. I was also thinking about what it all really meant and what possible impact this could have. I really don’t know.

Someone had a sign that said, “Halt Climate Change.” And I thought, “Good luck with that one!” Look. I’m all for what most of the people in that march want. They want to lower carbon emissions, find alternative fuel sources, reduce human impact on the Earth’s resources and atmosphere. I totally support that.

I also feel like people who want to deny climate change are living in a dream world. Just because it’s chilly where you are doesn’t mean the Earth as a whole isn’t warming up. And those who want to deny that human action is impacting the climate are just as foolish.

That being said, I’m a paleontology nut. I love reading books about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. One thing you learn from books like that is that the Earth’s climate is always changing, sometimes drastically and rapidly. Man, I just learned that there were once eight foot (2.6 meter) long millipedes. A creature with an exoskeleton cannot grow that large anymore. The fact that these things existed proves that at one time the air pressure on the Earth was far greater than it is now. Then there’s the time Earth was a giant snowball. And there was a time when climate change may have reduced the human population to as few as 40 people. Forty people!

The fact is that climate change will happen even if we manage to slow down or even completely halt our own impact on it. We’d better be prepared.

I think it’s appropriate that we, as Buddhists, get involved in this kind of stuff. But there really is no historical precedent for Buddhist involvement in something like this. Buddha did not have this to meditate about.

In Buddha’s time there were roughly 100,000,ooo people in the whole world. That’s actually a lot of people when you think about it. Maybe not by today’s standards of population. But one hundred million is a big number of anything. Anyway, even though this was quite a number of people, we had very limited technology. There were no factories. There was no electricity. Nobody worried about human impact on the world climate because whatever impact we had was negligible.

Now there are seven billion of us. We have vast technologies the people of Buddha’s time could not even have imagined. The stuff we have today would look like magic to someone from Buddha’s era. Our population is increasing at an enormous rate – a dangerous rate.

Several of the Buddhists I spoke to at that march are very pessimistic about mankind’s future. One person told me he feels that it’s inevitable that there will be a massive and catastrophic reduction in human population within the next fifty years. We’ll survive as a species, he said. But a disaster of unprecedented proportions is on its way.

I’m more optimistic than that. I think it’s possible that we can find a way to get through this part of our history. Maybe that’s just stupid hope. But I believe it. However, we won’t survive unless we make some major changes. That’s for sure.

I’ve been watching loads of science documentaries lately. One thing those have impressed upon me is just how amazing it is that human life, or indeed life of any kind, exists on this planet at all. Had any one of about a million seemingly random things gone differently and we would not be here to march about the climate at all.

The universe as a whole is hostile to life. Our planet is a fragile bubble in a scary and inhospitable patch of space. We have the power to fuck things up for ourselves in a major way. If we continue to be short-sighted, selfish and stupid, we will destroy ourselves.

TrashBuddha never marched to raise climate change awareness. But Buddha spoke of the so-called “Three Poisons” of greed, hate and delusion and the importance of working to contain them. In his day these three poisons had the power to make human life miserable. In our day they have the power to end human life completely, not just on an individual level but on a massive scale.

I don’t know if marching down Sixth Avenue with picket signs is going to fix that. I doubt it will. But it’s vital that we raise awareness of the situation.

I think marching down Sixth Avenue might just go a little way towards doing at least that much.

*   *   *

Marching in New York this weekend cost some cash, but your kind donations help me do stuff like that and bring you a somewhat cynical but ultimately hopeful report. Thank you!

*   *   *

Here’s my upcoming events schedule:

Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland– Movie screening

Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland — Lecture Event

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany

Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany

Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab

Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands

Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands  at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00  (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)

Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1,  Utrecht)

Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU

Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 9: Noon — 5pm  Manchester, UK


34 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. A beginner in Texas
    A beginner in Texas September 22, 2014 at 11:06 am |

    I’m glad you had a good time on your visit!

  2. Mumbles
    Mumbles September 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm |

    I agree that the universe is hostile to life. Natural conditions will shred you. No one here gets out alive. Walter Benjamin wrote somewhere that the Mosaic laws were an attempt to bring meaning to this mess, however, the inevitable result of laws and boundaries that try to contain the powerful prehistoric forces that govern chaos is absurdity. Might as well just sit. And watch the show.

  3. Khru 2.0
    Khru 2.0 September 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm |

    “But we don’t have a cow.”


    1. The Idiot
      The Idiot September 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
  4. Fred
    Fred September 22, 2014 at 5:56 pm |

    “. Whenever I encounter people who lived through the Sixties who appear not to understand that all of that over-abundant idealism was actually not a good thing in the end because clinging to ideals instead of getting in touch with what was actually happening was why everything went polyester and Nixon within two years of Woodstock (which sucked, by the way, the Monterey Pop Festival was the only truly great rock festival of the Sixties), well, I just get annoyed.”

    Say it isn’t so, brother.

  5. The Idiot
    The Idiot September 22, 2014 at 7:16 pm |

    It’s kind of amazing that blogs exist. Even more so that comments on blogs exist. Thanks evolution! I was a teenage millipede. They called me Baloon Man. It’s kind of funny that punk rolls it’s eyes at folk.

  6. The Idiot
    The Idiot September 22, 2014 at 7:17 pm |

    And top quark lives for 5×10^-25 seconds. Did you witness it’s birth yet?

  7. Harlan
    Harlan September 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm |

    Well Brad, I get annoyed with you too sometimes. And you get annoyed with hippies. And hippies get annoyed with punks. So we all get annoyed with each other. That is the way it goes I suppose. I read that all you concerned environmentalists marching together left behind a shitload of trash. You might have taken some time to help clean that shit up. Maybe you did. Or maybe you were too busy looking for celebrities to be bothered. One thing about hippies, even though they were annoying they would have cleaned up after themselves. Punks hated cleaning up after themselves.. as long as we’re generalizing.


    Gee, I wonder if this song is really about rowing a boat?

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles September 23, 2014 at 4:53 am |

      I don’t know, Harlan. Is this one about Nietzsche?

      &That one folkie dude looks alot like punk rock Brad with a beard! Funny how styles change/stay the same.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 22, 2014 at 10:11 pm |

    Through a glass, darkly:


    the bent over, never-was-a hippie is me!

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 22, 2014 at 10:14 pm |
    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles September 24, 2014 at 4:39 am |

      Very nice Mark! What’s the name of the band?

      Is that Malcolm playing bass?

      1. Mark Foote
        Mark Foote September 24, 2014 at 8:33 pm |

        Thanks, John. The band is Wineoceros, Zack Carroll providing the fun in the first one. His tunes have been in my head all week.

        If I said it was Malcolm, would Malcolm show up to deny it? Yeah, it’s Malcolm (sorry, Bret)!

        1. anon 108
          anon 108 September 25, 2014 at 2:11 am |

          Yup…channeled. Thanks, Bret!

  10. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon September 23, 2014 at 4:45 am |

    Only Operating Thetans have the ability to save the planet because the root cause of global warming, and all of the problems of mankind, is Body Thetans. Get on the bridge. Get clear.


  11. shade
    shade September 23, 2014 at 7:19 am |

    “One thing about hippies, even though they were annoying they would have cleaned up after themselves.”

    I beg to differ. Did the hippies at Woodstock (the original Woodstock) clean up after themselves? In my experience most hippies are total slobs. In this much, they and the punks stand toe to toe. (though – yes, my experience does predate the entirety of the sixties by almost a decade)

    But the thing that occurs to me – how much fossil fuel and other “non-renewable resources” were expended transporting all these people to this event? Personally, I question any form of activism that turns self-righteousness into a form of spectacle and entertainment. Oh yeah, and commerce.

  12. Julian the Apostate
    Julian the Apostate September 23, 2014 at 7:22 am |

    “The people must stand up to the governments and demand change!”

    Sounds like the ‘South Park’ hippy jam festival episode come to life. You should have blasted out some Slayer to thin the herd.

  13. Zen Wombat
    Zen Wombat September 23, 2014 at 8:02 am |

    I’m happy to hear you got the opportunity to meet RH. Talking to him is often very much like listening to his music. Is it just me or have his albums become more progressively Zennish?

  14. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon September 24, 2014 at 6:37 am |

    “Drinking a cup of tea, I stop the war.” – Paul Reps

  15. Derek Sikes
    Derek Sikes September 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm |

    Nice post. Agree. Small correction needed – giant millipedes (and other arthropods like giant dragonflies) were most likely a result of increased oxygen concentrations (not air pressure) combined with a lack of similarly sized predatory vertebrates. Mostly the Oxygen though – the tracheal systems these animals use to breath wouldn’t work for such large bodies with today’s lower concentrations. (I’m an entomologist).

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 24, 2014 at 8:35 pm |

    Derek, thank you for that. That’s fascinating. Hope we don’t end up like Mars.

  17. Andy
    Andy September 25, 2014 at 12:36 am |




    Low Budget Sci-fi – Sci-fi = (Reality^3 x Action) + Genesis of The Daleks

    1. Andy
      Andy September 25, 2014 at 12:40 am |

      … and if you don’t believe me, just ask Malcolm:


      1. anon 108
        anon 108 September 25, 2014 at 2:49 am |
  18. anon 108
    anon 108 September 25, 2014 at 2:58 am |
    1. Fred
      Fred September 25, 2014 at 4:24 am |

      “. Whenever I encounter people who lived through the Sixties who appear not to understand that all of that over-abundant idealism was actually not a good thing in the end because clinging to ideals instead of getting in touch with what was actually happening was why everything went polyester and Nixon within two years of Woodstock (which sucked, by the way, the Monterey Pop Festival was the only truly great rock festival of the Sixties), well, I just get annoyed.”

      Brad the Hippy agenda is taught as the curriculum in elementary school in
      Ontario, Canada. So yes, the hippy revolution was successful; it was absorbed
      into the main culture, and the previous values were altered.

      Now, little girls and boys, absorb this conditioning as their selves take shape.

      Punk can be seen as an echo bounce of the pendulum in the opposite way.

      Perhaps the totality of it should be examined through Gudo’s 4 point theory.

  19. Fred
    Fred September 25, 2014 at 4:35 am |

    The marriage of punk-utopian idealism-existentialism:


  20. Andy
    Andy September 25, 2014 at 7:10 am |

    1) Pour 1 fluid oz of Baby Boomer into a vial and add 1lb economic growth (or 3rd world debt, for an earthier flavour).

    2) Add a few gallons of crude oil, shake it up, and then leave overnight in your pre-fermented geopolitics culture.

    3) Once set, scrape the pretty colours off the surface and drink, for a libido-enhancing Hippy Ghee.

    4) Strain the remaining residue and soak into your younger siblings and leave them to stew, for a tart Punk Punch.

    5) Add the remaining pulp to another ounce of Baby Boomer fluid and repeat steps 1 and 2, and then add random guess-work amounts of the Punch and the Ghee – preferably from someone else’s stash – to the mixture.

    6) Heat gently over copious amounts of your favourite fossil fuel, with a pinch of I’m Alright Jack. (For the best results leave it unattended at around the 80s).

    7) Leave it to stand for the best part of a decade, until the pathogens have ‘blue-cheesed it’. Pour the remaining smelly goo through the interwebs.

    Hey presto!


  21. Fred
    Fred September 25, 2014 at 9:51 am |

    Andy your dickheads are all in their 20’s. Are you mocking gay culture?

    1. Andy
      Andy September 26, 2014 at 3:54 am |

      I didn’t realise that ones 20s was supposed to be a homosexual decade. Shit, another thing I’ve missed out on!

      Although, if you want to induce some critique of how certain aspects of gay culture can appropriate forms of postmodernism (fruitfully or misguidedly) get me started on Mark Gatiss’s writing for Doctor Who. Though I wouldn’t encourage you to do so, as I can bore myself slack with that.

  22. Fred
    Fred September 25, 2014 at 9:59 am |

Comments are closed.