Two weekends ago I led a retreat in Belfast, Northern Ireland and this past weekend I led one about two hours’ drive up the road from Dublin in a retreat center called Jampa Ling. Tomorrow night I’ve been invited to attend the opening celebrations to kick off International World Peace Day in Dublin.
Peace is good.
Back in the days of the first incarnation of Zero Defex, the hardcore punk band in which I play bass, some of the folks at a local ‘zine called Oops! made fun of Zero Defex by publishing a picture of a group of nice looking hippie type people, labeling it as a photo of Zero Defex, and putting a little word balloon coming out of one of their mouths that said, “War is bad!”
We were one of those punk bands. We were political. We were annoyingly left-wing. We probably still are both of those things.
Somehow these days, certain segments of the Interwebs have decided I’m a war-mongering, rape-apologizing neo-fascist. Which is what happens when you deviate from the approved script, I suppose. Given my specific history, I always find that a little funny.
Peace is a big concern in these troubled times, what with New York getting pipe bombed and everything else. Everyone’s worried about Islamic terrorism which, they say, is on the rise. Lots of Americans warned me not to even go to Europe this year, it’s so terrifying.
But you know what? There are actually significantly fewer deaths and injuries by terrorism in Europe now than there were in the 1970s. And it wasn’t Islamic Fundamentalists blowing everyone up over religion in those days not so long ago. It was mainly good old God fearing Christians blowing up other good old God fearing Christians for being the wrong kind of Christians.
It’s more complicated than just that, of course. It always is. Just like it is with our current crop of terrorists. Read this if you want to know the gruesome details about how much terrorism there was in Europe in the recent past as compared to today.
Belfast, where I just was last week, was at the heart of this conflict. Dublin also saw coordinated bombings of the kind today’s extremists often favor. So, while this sort of thing is unfamiliar to my fellow Americans, it’s nothing new over here.
War is bad.
So why do we keep on doing it? The reasons we give are always complicated. It took me three visits to Belfast before I got any sense of what The Troubles, as they call them, might have been about. I still don’t think I’ll ever fully comprehend all of it.
But often I wonder if maybe it’s a lot simpler than we want to admit. I wonder if all the reasons we come up with to justify violence and war aren’t just window-dressing.
Maybe none of us really knows why we want to blow each other up and make mothers lose their sons, wives lose their husbands, dismember children, fuck up nice buildings that took ages to build and all the rest of it. Maybe when we state our reasons for doing these things we’re really just making it all up. Maybe we don’t know because we can’t know. Maybe it’s unknowable.
Maybe none of those reasons, not even the best thought-out ones, not even the ones with the most history, not even the ones with hard evidence, maybe they’re all just bullshit. Maybe it’s all just unthinking, unreasoning, unknowable hate.
Maybe hate doesn’t care who it hurts just as long as it hurts somebody. Maybe our justifications for hate are only ways of holding on to hate by not acknowledging it, by pretending that terrible thing we just did had good reasons — when we know damned well it didn’t.
Maybe it’s too hard to admit we just wanted to hurt somebody. Not us! We’re the nice ones! Maybe we must deny what we know is true in order to preserve our view of ourselves as “good people.” Maybe our justifications for violence are just ways of holding on to our sense of self.
But what if self is an illusion? What if the thing we’ve been trying so hard to justify doesn’t exist? What if it doesn’t need to be preserved or justified because it’s not even real? What would happen if we started looking at it that way?
What if we could acknowledge that we all hate?
Even us good people. Even us people who stand up for the right things. What if we saw our justifications for hate — and I mean all of them, even the ones that are “right” and “true” — what if we saw all those justifications for hate for what they really were? What if we saw them all as lies we tell ourselves just so that we can keep on pretending we are the good guys while we hurt and hate and hurt some more?
September 22-25, 2016 Hebden Bridge, England, 4-Day Retreat
September 27, 2016 – Wimbledon, London, England – Talk and Q&A
September 29-October 2, 2016 Helsinki, Finland, 4-Day Retreat
October 3, 2016 Turku, Finland, Talk about spirituality and popular culture
October 4-5, Stockholm, Sweden, Talk and 1-Day-Retreat
October 7, 2016 Berlin, Germany Zenlab
October 8-9, 2016 Berlin, Germany 2-Day Retreat
October 11, 2016 Wageningen, Netherlands 12:30pm Workshop at KenKon
October 11, 2016 Wageningen, Netherlands 7:00pm talk Wageningen University, Impulse Building, Ncounter room
October 12, 2016 Brussels, Belgium Talk
October 14, 2016 Munich, Germany, Lecture
October 15-16, 2016 Munich, Germany, 2-Day Retreat
October 18, 2016 Salzburg, Austria
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
November 11-13, 2016 Mt. Baldy, California (near Los Angeles) Three Day Retreat
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THERE IS NO GOD AND HE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU is now available as an audiobook from Audible.com as are Hardcore Zen and Sit Down and Shut Up!
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Check out my podcast with Pirooz Kalayeh, ONCE AGAIN ZEN!
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I’ve got a new book out now! Stay up to date on my live appearances and more by signing up for our mailing list on the contact page!
Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
These on-going events happen every week even if I am away from Los Angeles. Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info
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