[Buddha-l] I confess

jkirk jkirk at spro.net
Mon Feb 19 16:21:49 MST 2007

Dear denizens,

All right, I will have to begin by admitting that when Tom Head posted an
announcement that About.com was seeking a "guide" in Buddhism, I looked into
it. Not for any of the usual honorable reasons, but because I live in a
decadent empire in which the government cares more about expanding its
influence in foreign lands than in looking after the health and educational
needs of citizens at home, as a result of which I have dental and medical
bills not covered by my outrageously expensive health insurance. What better
way to make a bit of quick money, I thought, than to be a Dharma Whore. So I
applied to be a guide. (I figured selling off a bunch of old lecture notes
was about the aesthetic equivalent of a composer burning his manuscripts to
provide heat through a winter evening. In other words, it was from listening
to La Bohème that I got the idea of selling my lectures on Buddhism to pay
off the dentist.)

Much to my horror, the good folks at about.com pretended to be delighted to
accept my application and sent me all sorts of material on how to build a
website to their specifications. It was only after looking at several 
existing pages on about,com that the enormity of my folly (and my greed)
struck me. What about.com is really about is advertising. Lots of it. (I
should have known from the name that the website is all About 

Mind you, it's all "smart" advertising, of the sort that Google and 
do. Go to Google and type in the word "armadillo" and several advertisements
discretely appear on your page. Perhaps you're interested in buying a 
from Armadillo Software company, or perhaps you need a reliable armadillo
exterminator, or perhaps a good used book on the mating habits of 
Or perhaps you'd like to buy a bootleg CD at eBay of music by the famous
country hip-hop fusion band, Armadillo Roadkill. Or did you mean to
type "Amarillo"? You get the idea.

Above.com works in the same way. Let's say you're interested in Buddhism. So
you go to buddhism.about.com. And there you will find, sandwiched in between
blaring obtrusions advertising such obviously Buddhist products as Vonage
plans (see Joanna Kirkpatrick's message on yogis and cell phones) and
hand-knit meditation sweaters and His and Her meditation cushions with
matching designer cocktail glasses for that post-meditation pre-seduction
glass of Wild Turkey, a few lines about Buddhist ethics and mindfulness of
breathing. Bah! In an instant, all my greed and delusion was transformed 
ill will.

I fired off a testy letter to the good folks at about.com, explaining that
Buddhism is all about reducing one's desires, not about getting whipped up
into a fever pitch of debt-producing consumerism by a bunch of garish
database-induced advertisements screaming at people innocently seeking a
little bit of information about how to improve the quality of their lives.

In short, the job of Buddhist guide at about.com is still open. May it 
unfilled for as many years as there are grains of sand on the banks of the
Ganges, or as there are pennies in Bill Gates's piggy bank.

Richard P. Hayes
One of your best, Richard. I specially enjoyed the His and Her meditation 
cushions, twin cocktail glasses, etc.
Thing about cell phones, yogis, and monks in situ: Prof. Lehman's comment 
about land lines infrastructure and lack thereof also applies to India and 
Bangladesh, to the point today that villagers borrow money in order to have 
these phones. Neither India nor Bangladesh have effectively solved the 
electricity/telephones conundrum. Now poor farmers can get local market info 
instead of relying on middlemen for falsified info; or rent them to others 
so they can call home in distant villages.  I take Lehman's point about the 
varied work Burma monks are responsible for.
As for that Indian yogi, maybe he was phoning a sarpanch to set up a begging 
and teaching gig in some village.
I wonder if the cell phones in S and SE Asia are beginning to suffer from 
the audio-spam I heard about recently. Hope not.

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