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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 76 Americans may hold Buddhist ideals in our hearts and minds, but they’re not yet in our genes. That takes time. Meanwhile, Asians are becoming increasingly Ameri- canized. Who knows where this exchange will lead? In your first novel, Another Roadside At- traction, your character Marx Marvelous contemplates what religion would take Christianity’s place if Christianity were suddenly to disappear. Can you describe the faith that you think might develop in such a situation? Suppose that from the environmentalist movement there should spring a revival of mystical nature worship, and suppose that this new nature religion should receive an infusion of crazy wisdom sufficient to keep it honest and amusing, free from any trace of dogma. Wouldn’t that be the wildcat’s meow? In real life, the religious right has gained a lot of power in the U.S. over the past num- ber of years. What are your predictions re- garding how this situation will develop in the years to come? There may seem to be a whiff of paranoid fantasy about it, but it’s really not unrea- sonable to suggest that the Christian right presents by far the greatest threat to hu- man existence in all of history. I have a friend, a high-ranking officer in Naval Intelligence, who assures me that the U.S. intelligence services, military and civilian, are becoming packed with evan- gelical Christians. Congress and the White House are known to be heavily influenced by evangelicals, their doctrine, their votes, and their money. The danger they present is that they desperately want widespread war in the Middle East, they hunger for the fire and blood of Armageddon, think- ing that it will force Jesus to come back and remove the “righteous” from this earthly existence that confuses and dis- gusts them. U.S. foreign policy is now based on the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, which is to say, based on the ravings of a long-dead misogynistic madman. When he lived in Ephesus, the first thing the Apostle John saw every morning upon awakening was the gigantic statue of Artemis, with her multitude of naked breasts, and she made him crazy (though hardly wise). The Book of Revelation is the result. What sort of hallucinations do you think ol’ John might have suffered had he run into Brit- ney Spears? As sentient beings, as a part of the One, the fundamentalist spawn of John de- serve our compassion, but because they increasingly imperil all life on the planet, they must also be vigorously opposed. Your book Still Life with Woodpecker ex- plores how to make love stay. How would you define love? Love is a carrot. No, no, it’s a radish. Lis- ten, better brains than mine have skidded off the road in pursuit of that elusive sub- ject. I can say this much with confidence: genuine love, while it lasts, is a transfor- mative emotional state that makes of the loved one an irreplaceable being. There’s something magical, magnificent, and very sweet about that. Still Life with Woodpecker was published almost thirty years ago. Since writing it, have you learned anything new about how to make love stay? Well, I’ve learned that in asking how we can make love stay, I posed the wrong question. Romantic love moves around. That’s what it does. Indifferent to mis- guided human cravings for permanence and certainty, it stages its glorious show, then folds its tent and leaves town. Or, at least, it stops buttering the popcorn. Per- haps it’s both insulting and injurious to romance to try to hold on to it. Ah, but there’s another kind of love that does stay—and most Buddhists are familiar with it. When you “fall” into uni- versal love, you’re “in” love all the time, ex- ternal events notwithstanding; you live and breathe in love. Even then, should your ro- mantic partner decamp, you might feel sad or even angry for a while, but you won’t sit up night after night swilling tequila and listening to heartbreak music. It should be noted that there are relation- ships between mature, grounded, personally $16.95 • paperback JULY 72-77.indd 76 JULY 72-77.indd 76 4/25/08 11:44:02 AM 4/25/08 11:44:02 AM