What, me, angry?

Here’s someone at UCLA asking why I don’t scream and rant and froth at the mouth in person like I do in my writing:


To those of you who asked about hosting the whole talk, I’m just not up to it technologically. The only way I know of to do something like that would take me a week and crash my hard drive a dozen times. If someone out there is really slick with computers and wants to try it themselves, just write and let me know.

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16 Responses

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  1. Andrew
    Andrew April 7, 2007 at 5:00 am |

    This reflects on an issue that’s been on my mind since I’ve been working on a book about the Lotus Sutra, and looking into avenues for publication. Thanks for sharing it.

    The thing is, I’m not sure the questioner is aware how much of the writer-reader interaction comes at the reader’s end. I don’t see your writing as angry; it occasionally has bad-ass touches, but the content is not particularly more controversial than anything those serenely smiling Buddhist writers like Pema Chodron put in their books. For some reason, when people read Hardcore Zen they project a certain sense of hostility into it.

    I’m sure part of this is marketing. By calling the book Hardcore Zen and including the word “punk” in your bio, you invite people to read your work that way. A sentence that seems abrasive when you’re reading it and thinking “this guy is hardcore” may seem pleasantly straightforward if you were reading it in a book called Buddhism Plain and Simple and thinking, “This is really plain and simple.”

    But I think people can take more responsibility for–and think more critically about–their own projections. Because they mentally picture Brad Warner biting heads off puppies while writing, they project hostility into the words, even when it isn’t there. On the other hand, because they mentally picture the Dalai Lama smiling benevolently and laughing, they project a feel-good easy-going nature onto his words, and don’t read them critically. It happens at the reader’s end, not the writer’s, so when she asked, in effect, “Why did you choose to make those words so angry?” she overlooked who was bringing (at least some of) the anger.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 7, 2007 at 6:06 am |

    I agree with Andrew completely. You’ve NEVER come across (to me anyway) as angry in your articles or book unless you get into BM or Zig Zag Zen.

  3. aumeye
    aumeye April 7, 2007 at 7:17 am |

    I, too, agree with andrew. Brad’s writing in Hardcore Zen did not “seem” angry to me, either. His book was recommended to me by a very good friend, and perhaps her positive and enthusiastic attitude about it, in advance of my reading it, helped me to receive it the way I did.

    The vitriolic responses to some of his writing here, often surprise me. I will read a post and feel a certain way about it, only to then read what others are saying about it, and wonder what I missed in his tone or his words.

    The first time I heard Brad speak (an NPR interview), he sounded as I expected him to (an expectation formed solely from my reading his book and his website): smart, funny, self-deprecating, humble, compassionate, and clever.

    I have not always agreed with, or loved, everything Brad writes — though I do far more often than I don’t — but this does not preclude me from appreciating what he has to say and his willingness to say it publicly. My appreciation would certainly diminish if I perceived as much anger in his writing as some do; but I don’t. Edgy? Yes. Cautious? Not always. Angry? No.

    I’ve often revised something as simple and innocuous as an email to a friend, many times before sending it, because I’m afraid the words or my message will be misinterpreted. And this does happen even between people who know each other well, so the possibility of it happening in a forum such as this one, increases dramatically.

    Nonverbal cues are a powerful communication tool in aiding understanding, and we do not have access to most of those tools when writing our message, so we are even more vulnerable to misunderstanding.

    Also, as andrew pointed out, communication of any kind is as much the responsibility of the person receiving the message as it is of the person sending the message. One does not exist without the other.

  4. BDC
    BDC April 7, 2007 at 7:46 am |

    Yes, this is one of the most interesting questions in literary theory–in brief, slipshod summary:

    Where is meaning located in a text? Is it in the author? For example, does it matter what the original authors of the US Constitution actually intended, or is it more important how we apply it to a current, dynamic situation? Is it only in the text itself? Is it only in the reader?–and as the reader changes (many times per day) so the text changes with him/her–so there is no one (or one thousand) absolute meaning(s) to, really, any text?

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 7, 2007 at 2:15 pm |

    I enjoy reading Brad’s words. I don’t see them as obnoxious or offensive—they’re funny, and they appeal to my Brooklynite sense of humor. Brad is a realist. He is human. He cuts to the chase. And he’s intelligent enough to realize that selling instant-grat “enlightenment” at some costly seminar is (to put it nicely) reprehensible.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 7, 2007 at 3:20 pm |

    But what about that other guy who talked about Genpo Roshi’s third eye’s anus? Doesn’t a guy’s third eye’s anus and it’s enlightenment ability count for anything? (Shoop Da Woop?!)

  7. Lone Wolf
    Lone Wolf April 7, 2007 at 6:27 pm |

    I experience a similar phenom when I write. I’m the most laidback boring non-violent person on the planet (a little hyperbole). But when I write, I tend to get all crazy, violent, and sleezy. And I also feel it’s just funny. I love black comedy and satire. It must have been all those horror/slasher B-movies that I use to watch as a kid in the early 80’s.

    Go see GRINDHOUSE, it was just like those sleezy gory B-movies from the 80’s. I loved it!

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 7, 2007 at 8:57 pm |

    haha lonewolf i agree–I think that’s why we see such delightful, wacked-out, dorkfaced nut-job freakshow craziness in the responses here…they write and then return to their laidback nonviolent boring selfesses. 🙂

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 8, 2007 at 3:12 am |

    Funny isn’t it? Offer truth and it is perceived as anger. Maybe they feel their concepts threatened? Guy

  10. ZenManDan
    ZenManDan April 8, 2007 at 9:27 am |

    I have lots of trouble writing many times becasue sarcasm plays such a big part in what I have to say. In writing, especially on these forums, it just comes across wrong. People don’t get it. On another forum, someone went so far as to start a “tongue in cheek meter”. At the bottom of your sarcastic post, you put a “TIC=100%”. It comes in handy many times. That way if you’re being somewhat rude, but don’t want to be taken completely seriously, put TIC=50%. Works like a charm.

  11. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 8, 2007 at 10:50 am |

    brad your a genious…

    i disagree completley with the idea of skillful means as well..

    hmmm… it’s rather funny that ken wilbur seems to think that it’s not such a bad idea… well all i know is that he supports andrew cohens methods of skillful means, who is pretty much is the hitler of “spirituality”…

    just do what you gotta doo.. if you ahve experienced the truth that we’re already enlightened then i jsut think it shoudl be natural to point it out to others “spontaneiously” liek you say

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 8, 2007 at 11:19 am |

    Much of the art of poetry lies in just that, communicating the ineffable. If one is consistently being misunderstood, or if, consistently, people just don’t ‘get it,’ it may well be an invitation to examine one’s diction, one’s style and so forth. If the purpose of language is to communicate, and one’s language is not doing that, this is worth looking into. Historically, this is one major aspect of the editorial process–making sure that authors are really communicating what they intended to communicate. In theory, the better one’s editor, the better questions are posed to the author for the rewrite process. Best–

  13. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 8, 2007 at 7:32 pm |

    how about posting just the audio?

  14. Jinzang
    Jinzang April 9, 2007 at 5:33 am |

    Here’s the parable from the Lotus Sutra.

    The house is burning, is blazing by a mass of fire. It is to be feared that myself as well as my children will come to grief and disaster. Let me therefore by some skilful means get the boys out of the house. The man knows the disposition of the boys, and has a clear perception of their inclinations. Now these boys happen to have many and manifold toys to play with, pretty, nice, pleasant, dear, amusing, and precious. The man, knowing the disposition of the boys, says to them: My children, your toys, which are so pretty, precious, and admirable, which you are so loth to miss, which are so various and multifarious, (such as) bullock-carts, goat-carts, deer-carts, which are so pretty, nice, dear, and precious to you, have all been put by me outside the house-door for you to play with. Come, run out, leave the house; to each of you I shall give what he wants. Come soon; come out for the sake of these toys. And the boys, on hearing the names mentioned of such playthings as they like and desire, so agreeable to their taste, so pretty, dear, and delightful, quickly rush out from the burning house, with eager effort and great alacrity, one having no time to wait for the other, and pushing each other on with the cry of ‘Who shall arrive first, the very first?’

  15. katie
    katie April 12, 2007 at 10:17 pm |

    do people SERIOUSLY think you’re angry? like, really? Because I think you’re fing hilarious and i absolutely love your style. I feel bad for the people who misread it

  16. Anonymous
    Anonymous June 14, 2007 at 2:16 am |

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