First off, tomorrow, Saturday August 4, 2012, at 9:50 AM I will be hosting zazen at Hill Street Center 237 Hill St., Santa Monica, CA 90405. Beginners are welcome. I’ve been making this announcement here every week for the past month and not one single person has shown up because of it. The same six people come every time. Of course, it’s fine to have such a small group. There are a lot of benefits to it actually. It’s just that I don’t think I’ll ever understand why so few people come to these things. Is zazen that scary? Or maybe Santa Monica is scary.
Also, a couple of nice reviews have appeared on the Internets. First up is one for my new book Hardcore Zen Strikes Again. It’s from Punk Globe. And here, my friends, is a new review of my book Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate, a book that was published way back in the year of our lord twenty-ought-eight!
And if you buy the audiobook version of Hardcore Zen before midnight tonight (Aug. 3, 2012) the folks at CDBaby will give me the full purchase price you pay instead of taking their usual cut. Which doesn’t save you anything, but it earns me more. It’s kind of a weird promotion strategy they’re doing over there. But whatever. It’s good for me.
Over here in the land of America, everybody seems to be talking about Chick-Fil-A. For those of you in other parts of the world, Chick-Fil-A is an awful fast food place that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches. I have been horrified by the implications of their advertising campaigns for years. These ads always depict cows encouraging people to “eat mor chikin.” Because, you see, cows can’t spell very well. And these cows figure they might not get slaughtered if people ate chicken more often. Here is the company’s official explanation. So these cows are encouraging people to kill chickens instead of killing them. But if cows could spell even as poorly as the ones in these ads do, wouldn’t it be a crime to kill them? And if cows can spell in the Chick-Fil-A universe (even if their spelling is bad), what about chickens? Maybe they’re self-aware as well. So should we even eat animals at all? It’s a very twisted ad campaign. Anyone who finds it funny or cute can’t possibly have thought it through. Which makes it all the more horrifying. The very fact that these advertisements even exist and are apparently highly successful kind of makes me scared for the human race.
But the reason people are talking so much about Chick-Fil-A is because its CEO, Dan Cathy, says he is against gay marriage. He said, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
This statement has lead to a storm of protests all across the USA as well as tons of commentary. Church groups are banding together to support Chick-Fil-A while gay rights groups are picketing their restaurants — the photo on top is of some friends of mine protesting outside a Chick-Fil-A in Akron. The city of Boston has banned them. Now there are even gay activists supporting Mr. Cathy’s right to speak his mind.
And all I can do is sit here and think, “Really? This is what we get worked up about in America these days? This is what’s important to us?” I have never eaten at a Chick-Fil-A in my life and I doubt I ever will. This has nothing to do with their stance on gay rights. I became a vegetarian before they opened any in Northeast Ohio, where I lived way back then. I am not a fan of fast food chains. I eat at them only when there is no other choice. And since most fast food chains don’t offer anything to people like me who don’t eat dead animals, it’s very rare that I go to one. When I’m traveling across the US I end up at Subway fairly often because they have a vegetarian sandwich that actually has recognizable vegetables on it. Late one night last week I ate at In-N-Out Burger because it was the only thing open and they too actually have something I can eat (grilled cheese animal style, it’s on their “secret menu”).
On the other hand, I can see the protesters’ point. Moving back to Akron, Ohio for a year made me very aware just how pervasive chain restaurants and chain stores in general are throughout most of the country. For years I’ve lived in big cities where independent stores and restaurants still exist. In smaller cities like Akron and in the suburbs, it’s hard to find any place to eat or even to buy anything that isn’t part of some gigantic corporate chain. Thus, the opinions expressed by the owner of a fast food chain have political relevance in these here United States.
Also, these corporate chains are able to buy their raw materials in such bulk that they can afford to sell their wares at prices lower than any independent can possibly match. This makes them very attractive, especially to poor people. The downside, of course, is that everything these corporations produce is awful. It’s all pitched at the lowest possible common denominator. Fast food is just a bunch of salt and sugar and fat. It ain’t good for you!
When people talk about Buddhism and meditation in general they don’t usually say that much about nutrition. I think this is because most people assume that Buddhism is a mental thing whereas nutrition is physical. But good nutrition is important to our practice. I’m far from the best when it comes to feeding myself, although I am getting better. My friend Patrick in Yokohama is the real deal when it comes to being serious about food. He’s one of those guys who does almost all of his own cooking, eats a sensible amount of carbohydrates and fats, uses pretty much exclusively fresh vegetables, you know the drill. This is what we’re supposed to eat and our bodies function best on the fuel that nature intended. No matter how much we’d rather be eating the garbage they serve at places like Chick-Fil-A.
If you are doing zen practice it’s important to maintain your body. You need to eat good food, exercise frequently, get enough sleep and all the rest of that. This is crucial to the practice itself. It’s not enough to work on your mind without involving your body too. Body and mind are one and the same. As much as American Buddhists worry about what movies we watch or music we listen to, we ought to pay at least as much attention to the things we eat.
So, as a Buddhist, I would urge you to eat les fast fud, even if it iz chikin.
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