October 25, 2007
Even the serious
Pakistan headline above, mixed into this gruel,
Yet there is a sense too in which the Pakistan headline fits right along with the others – that is, in the human insanity being described. The tabloids all-too-accurately report on our obsessive attachments and delusions, on the human condition, just as our newspapers factually report the news.
All of it dispels calm:
point to how the mass media transforms calm to agitation, because according
to the Buddhist tradition, developing inner calm is the royal road to
wisdom, which is the royal road to peace.
Therefore, if the mass media -- and journalism as the conscience of the mass media -- is going to contribute to world peace, it will have to help develop calm states of mind among its consumers worldwide.
The Buddhist term for calm is “samatha,” or tranquility.
“Monks!” the Buddha once addressed his orange-robed followers. “There is the case where a monk has developed insight preceded by tranquility. As he develops insight preceded by tranquility, the path is born. He follows that path, develops it and pursues it. As he follows the path, his fetters are abandoned, his obsessions destroyed.”
Those would be the fetters of ignorance and mental restlessness, and the obsession with forming opinions, theories, identities and careers.
Developing calm mind states, the Buddha said, begins the path to peace.
Is the mass media
following this path? A rhetorical question, I know.
When you think of it, is there any resource on the planet more precious than a calm mind? The human race needs calm minds like it needs oxygen. When calm minds disappear, anxiety appears and violence lurks close by.
Without a calm collective mind the human species surely will perish as quickly as if the ozone layer disappeared, or the polar ice caps melted tomorrow. And the mass media – when consumed or produced in huge amounts by anxious and scattered minds – is surely one of the greatest manmade threats to the vital planetary resource of calm minds.
Buddhist psychology precisely names the three basic toxins – the Buddha called them “visiting forces” – that attack the naturally calm human mind.
They are the “kilesas,”
or defilements, and they come in three main varieties: greed, which is
wanting to grasp what is pleasant; aversion, which is wanting to avoid or
annihilate what is unpleasant; and delusion, which is ignorance of reality
and an infatuation with unreal things.
Mixing these three ingredients in different proportions yields the full menu of poisons that human beings fall heir to – anger, jealousy, lust, fear, anxious planning, tearful reminiscing, giddy blisses, judging, perfectionism, hypochondria, self-pity, martyrdom, horror, depression, and on and on.
As a journalist, my concern is that I know very little about the role that words and images play as a host or vector of the kilesas; or how language might be used to host, transmit, or support calm and wise states of mind.
The idea that as a journalist, not to mention as a person, I unconsciously host or transmit language toxins – kilesas, if you will, destroyers of the precious natural resource of calm – is slightly haunting. So is the idea that my culture offers no training in the public use of language in wholesome, ethical ways.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am 100% in favor of blended orgasms, whatever they are.
I just want to be
able to get one, to give one, and as a journalist to tell the world about
them – along with the distracting yet important daily news -- while also
staying wise, caring and calm.