[A series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here The Dalai Lama) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]
Mark Vernon has provided some reflections on the Dalai Lama after his recent talk in the Royal Albert Hall and I have just come from the five days of teachings in Nottingham completed yesterday so I thought I would add some of my own.
It was amusing listening to the area announcers, accustomed as they are to making announcing the Boyzone and ice dancing, tripping over ‘His Holiness’ (but by the end they had it). While the Dalai Lama is famous for the formalities on going into exile he has contrived that a deference-averse secular people use this title. Any publicity agent would likely have wet dreams at the prospect of being able to pull this off, and bear in mind that this Buddhist monk has nothing other than his own personal qualities and his Buddhist tradition to reccomend him—no navy, not even a country). This is quite a neat trick and I really do have to laugh at the likes of Nicholas Kristof dispensing advice to the inept representative of the Tibetan people and his fight against one of the most populous and powerful nations on earth, known for habitually throwing its weight around on the issue.
Last night the meditation group we had our last session with our visiting monk, Venerable Sangpo, before we go up to Nottingham and he opened up by asking us what the meaning of life was. ‘So you are starting with the easy questions’ chuckled a visitor to the group.
I remember reading Thomas Nagle’s The View from Nowhere with astonishment as he demonstrated that life is meaningless. I listened equally atonished last night as Sangpo showed how to make it meaningful.
In this series of articles I link the Jane Austen and political threads on the blog, discussing the similarities between our modern response to Jane Bennett and Barack Obama’s New Politics.
- Jane Bennet and Barack Obama
- The Candour of Jane Bennet
- Jane Bennet and Barack Obama
- Original Sin (postscript)
He’s never come up with an explanation about how he would actually transform politics, and his conventional substance is beginning to overshadow his unconventional style.
— David Brooks, Combat and Composure, New York Times, 6th May
I’m on record as saying that Hillary Clinton’s advocacy of a gas-tax holiday, while it wasn’t good policy, didn’t rise to the level of a crime.
Judging from last night’s results, however, it was worse than a crime: it was a mistake.
— Paul Krugman, Talleyrand and the gas tax holiday, New York Times, 7th May
I could have picked dozens of quotes insisting that Obama hasn’t explained how his New Politics works, yet from nowhere he has turned the political scene upside down, eschewed PAC funding, signed up 1.5 million donors, crushed one the most formidable (if incompetent) political machines of recent times and quite conceivably will thrash the Republicans in a landslide in the autumn (it is of course impossible to predict, but as far as any of these things are predictable, this looks on the cards). The junior senator from Illinois, not even on the national political scene when the Iraq war was launched, has got himself into a position where Washington could soon be his feet. Could some people be failing to see the wood for the trees? I think it is interesting that the old media, with some honourable exceptions, is having such difficulty understanding Obama’s core message.
A recent posting to the Austen-L mailing list, titled the ‘desperation of candour’, illustrates the thoroughly bad press that old-style candour generally receives. In it we were told that Austen began as a satirist, and retained her critical stance throughout (I couldn’t agree more—it is difficult to disagree with this), that while endeavouring to read and understand the novel with the candour of Jane Bennet would do justice to one’s heart, Jane Bennet sees the world the way she does because it would be too painful to see it as Elizabeth sees it, and Jane finally agrees to Elizabeth’s observations of the hypocrisy and duplicity of the Bingley sisters. Jane’s candour comes out of desperation, desiring peace, not through any conviction about the truth but driven by a psychological vulnerability. Austen was too much of a realist we are told: Jane Bennet was only one voice, and certainly not the definitive perspective from which to make sense of Pride and Prejudice.
(or The New Politics)
After apologising for combining Jane Austen with more contemporary, worldly topics in the blog, it would be as well to make an explicit connection. This I will try to do with Barack Obama and his New Politics.
As with practically every philosophical article on this blog it is about how we are losing our minds because we are losing sight of our minds—the modern tendency to fixate on and overemphasise the external play of phenomenon, to the extent that we lose sight of inner, psychological factors, in this case, losing site of the distinction between cynicism and candour.
[This article consists of the first two sections of the Conclusion of In Search of Sense and Sensibility, shorn of the footnotes.]