Thursday, June 15, 2017

Freedom, Religion

A couple of days ago I read a discussion between some friends regarding religion, worship, freedom, and slavery. In Farsi and Arabic, the terms for worship and slavery have the same root, so that worship means giving up one's freedom in the service of God. Today, I came across the following paragraph in another John Burdett novel (Bangkok Tattoo) I am reading (Hudson is a CIA agent in the novel, the narrator is a Thai detective whose mother, formerly a prostitute, owns a bar/brothel, and Hudson is in love with the mother):
One night, after the two a.m. curfew, the bar is empty save for Hudson and me. He is drunker than I've seen before, though still more or less in control. Sitting on a stool, he starts to talk, as if continuing a conversation, probably with himself:
``Freedom? What kind of dumb all-purpose Band-Aid is that?'' With pleading eyes: ``I mean, what are we selling exactly? Money is the state religion of the West. We pray to it every waking minute---and we're gonna make damned sure every last human on earth gets down on their knees with us. All our wars are wars of religion.'' ...   ---p. 202, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 
The modern/Western man is proud of his freedom, even though he worships (i.e., is in the service of, slave to) money!

PS 1. [2017-06-21]. A bit more on American life from the same book (spoken by the same character, Hudson):

``Most people won't stay in the Agency very long. It's like any other job in the states---American's get restless, bored, enraged that their talents are not properly appreciated. We move on. We move on---change the view every ten minutes, and you can convince yourself for a while that you've escaped the treadmill. But not forever. After a certain specific moment in life, you start to look back. You discern a pattern. Something ugly, manic, cramped, tortured, and repetitive. That pattern is what you are, what your culture has made of you. But that's not a reason for giving up. ... It's not a reason for changing sides. You got to soldier on, right or wrong. How you ever gonna know how wrong you are, how you ever gonna learn your life's lesson, if you're just a feather in the wind? You gotta suck it all up---there's no other way.''  ---p. 232, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett 

PS 2. [2017-7-17] . I am finishing the book and here are parts of the last chapter that appeared very interesting to me:

In the cab on the way back, in a jam on the outskirts of Krung Thep, I ask the driver to tune in to RodTitFM. Visit is interviewing a famous abbot from one of our forest monasteries:

Pisit to abbot: The more I think about Thailand, the more it drives me insane---I mean, totally crazy, insane, mad.
Abbot: Because of our overwhelming problems?
Pisit: Yes, our overwhelming problems, exactly.
Abbot: Which problems are you most overwhelmed by?
Pisit: All of them.
Abbot: Excuse me, but are you really expressing yourself accurately? Is it not more precise to say that it is not the problems that are overwhelming---after all, they are just problems out there somewhere---but the difficulty in solving those problems?
Pisit, resignedly: If you like, yes, the difficulty in solving them.
Abbot (with satisfaction): Ah, then Buddhism can indeed help you. At first I though it could not, but now I am pleased to say that it can.
Pisit: Yes?
Abbot: Well, it's very simple. It is not the country's problems that overwhelm you but your egoistic belief that you can be instrumental in solving them.

A scream from Pisit, then silence. ---p. 301, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett

Nirvana: We look out on the world and we see only a dust-laden collection of homemade symbols. Those that fit our prejudice of the moment we keep, the rest we dump. We are distracted by distraction by distraction. Nothing is happening. Nothing has happened. Nothing will happen. Emptiness is the ultimate challenge; identity is for suckers. Says the Buddha: All meaning is realized, the universe is nirvanic. ---p. 302, Bangkok Tattoo, John Burdett

PS 3. [2017-7-25] . I started another John Burdett novel, ``Bangkok Haunts,'' and here is a quote from the beginning:

``Death,'' the pathologist says, ``the way a culture views death defines its attitude to life. Forgive me, but sometimes the West gives the impression of being in denial. The Thai attitude is a little different.'' ---p. 12, Bangkok Haunts, John Burdett  

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