I’m not referring to “authentic Zen” whatever that may be, nor the religion, but the temporary fascination that Americans had-have with “calming down, becoming spiritual, opening the ‘heart’ and in general ‘letting go’ of nasty responses to life’s frustrations, bad luck and obstacles. “Don’t worry, be happy” may be the final condensation of Zen, as an Eastern philosophy and way of life, into a Western neotenic fad: however, mass aggression came roaring back into fashion, both literally and psychologically, as the infantile American response to complex reality.
I’m not “putting down” Zen or it’s practitioners; many Americans devote their spiritual desires to its fundamentals, nor do I observe that Buddhism has made humans less violent, less prejudiced or less abusive in societies that have adopted the religion. Unlike contemporary American Christianity, which requires no “work” at all for salvation, just a declaration that “Jesus will take care of my sins for me, so what the F–k? I can do whatever I want” (a declaration compatible with aggression, violence and narcissism in U.S. culture) Zen requires monumental restructuring of perception of “Self” and recognition of personal distortion of “how the universe works”.
At any rate, I woke up this a.m., to the question “Whatever happened to Zen?” This was directed to my personal frustration; I lose perspective at times, overwhelmed by the horrific negativity that seeps like poison gas into every home in America from “out there” – an Apocalyptic belief has taken over – that there is nothing we can agree to as human beings; that diversity means “separate and irreconcilable social species at war” – an ultimatum for destruction.
Zen ideas have often reminded me of “Aspergerness”- both in principle and in predicament: how to follow one’s intuition and ‘nature” when that direction stands in opposition to what the “social majority” believe and demand from the individual?