The Buddha taught that all living beings ultimately want to be happy and to avoid suffering. He took this to be a fundamental truth, and had the psychological savvy to notice that many of us choose a road to happiness that wends through a perversely seductive landscape of suffering and victimization. For quite a few […]Read More Worshipping at the martyr’s cross: The temptation and trap of chronic masochism
“What do you think of this?” I ask hopefully, as I place my perfume-scented wrist near my friend’s face. When her nose wrinkles and she pulls away, I hear a scale descending into a minor chord. I am disappointed. “What IS that?” she asks, and, as all hope that she will share my pleasure is […]Read More Respecting the tastes and opinions of others: Is tolerance really the best we can do?
The most arresting moment for me in the video game What Remains of Edith Finch is not the scene when I am a shark, matter-of-factly stalking, and devouring, sea lions, but when I am a little boy on a swing. With one foot in a cast and another in a shoe from the early 1900’s, […]Read More The queerness of being Super Mario: On simultaneously being and not being oneself
You know someone, don’t you, who can be counted on to go “blech!” when they try to eat anything new to them. Whether it’s kohlrabi or Brazil nuts or hummus, the “ick!” is out of their mouth almost before the food has gone in. It’s the sort of reaction we might expect from children, but […]Read More When perfume becomes a doorway into mindfulness
Even though we humans are accustomed to celebrating sincerity, honesty, authenticity, genuineness, and the like, we also know that, in reality, we have little tolerance for these qualities in large or consistent doses. Functioning as the kind of social animals we are seems to require softening, calibrating, sweetening, and filing down. Unbridled intensity and unblunted […]Read More Dishonest dogs and the human pretense of authenticity
My connection to my former selves is sometimes so tenuous that I feel compelled to reach across the years. I inspect old photos and journals, and even conduct tests, eager to discover if the me that I seem to be now can still do what previous versions of me learned to do. As a youngster, […]Read More The queerness of rediscovering the trumpet in middle-age
As philosophers have long noted, human beings are remarkable, in part, for being the sort of beings for whom the very fact of being matters. It’s an existentialist observation that sounds very lofty and celebratory until you consider that we are, simultaneously, driven to cover up and deny knowledge about existence, including suffering, destruction, and […]Read More The know-nothing animal: Our costly addiction to willful ignorance