He's been hanging around for a couple of days now. Not saying anything, just sort of there every so often. Occasionally, a toenail spanged off somewhere. Finally, I decided if he was going to hang around, I'd get something useful out of him.
"I have a question," I announced.
"I know," the buddha said.
"Of course you do. Cosmic one-ness and time being an illusion and all that. So if I didn't ask, would you get a headache?"
"I'd wait. Like you said, time is an illusion, whenever you ask, that would be when you ask."
I pointed at him. "That," I said, "Is complete and utter Mystic Bullshit. Of course whenever I ask will be when I ask. That's not metaphysical wisdom, that's a tautology. But that aside, the question. There's a whole bunch of various vaguely new-agey CDs out there called things like 'Buddha Lounge' or 'Buddha bar' or 'Buddha Laundromat' or so on. Are those all approved and do you guys get any royalties from them?"
"Unfortunately, there wasn't anything like the Trademark Office around back then. And by the time things like that were invented, there were already so many competing claims, there would have been no point. Besides, a buddha's not interested in money or the things of the world."
"I dunno," I said, "that kind of cash could buy a lot of saffron robes. And what if somebody does something stupid and slaps your name on it?"
He shrugged. "What of it? Their stupidity would be of their making, not ours. And it would hardly be the first, nor the last, stupid thing done with or for the name of religion."
"Speaking of things done in the name of religion. There's something I started wondering lately. Why does it seem like so many religions, especially conservative ones, have such small and petty and fragile visions of God?"
He perched across the room, on my awesomely ugly retro bedside table. "I'm not sure if asking you to explain would make anybody any less mad at you, but you'll probably go on anyway."
"Yes, I will. Okay, obviously, this doesn't apply to a lot of religions, mostly some of the stripes of Christianity that get on display here in the US, but. Okay. So God is omniscient and omnipotent, and yet, we humans can meddle in God's plans. It just seems like, y'know, if God's all of those things, wouldn't any Plans have a capital P, and be flexible enough to deal with a little meddling? I mean, hell, half the time more interesting things come out of actual interactions than what you planned, you know what I mean? So saying God's Plans can be wrecked by us meddling kids seems kinda weak. Not very Ineffable."
"You might want to investigate philosophers besides Terry Pratchett some time."
"Hush, I'm pontificating. Except I don't have a funky hat like a pontiff. Hang on." I dug around a little and found the Robin Hood hat I'd gotten at the renfaire last year. "There we go. Hat. Now, as I was saying. Yeah, a lot of the stuff I'm thinking is covered in Good Omens, but some of it, actually, I got from C.S. Lewis. Which is why I don't understand the God of the fundies. Any God worthy the name, I'd figure, would care more about what kind of person you are and what you did, rather than if you said the secret words to get out scott free. Of course, that leads to all sorts of fun theological arguments I really don't care about, like if God is infinitely just and infinitely merciful, which wins? Rock, meet object."
"Do I even need to be here? There's things I could be doing."
"Yes. Mad ranting always needs an audience. See, the thing in particular that set me off was sex, which lots of religions seem to hate. But in particular about sex, birth control. The Catholic Church doesn't like birth control, for reasons I've never quite gotten. The Internets tell me it's because Catholics should "always be open to the possibility of pregnancy" and suchlike, and that just sorta baffles me. Okay, so you're telling me, if God wants somebody to get pregnant, God's going to lose to a piece of latex? I don't think making something that thin rip would take any kind of miracleing, you know? It's part of the whole thing I was talking about before. If God made humans, God knows what humans are like, and God would know how people are going to react. And if God knows all that, there doesn't seem to be much room for free will, but that's a whole extra ball of stuff I don't feel like getting into, this was just inspired by the ridiculous idea that an omnipotent God is going to be defeated by a condom."
He perched there quietly for several seconds. "What? Oh, you finished. Part of the problem is you're you. You're not these other people, so you see things through what you've seen and done and think. And a lot of religion ends up being a giant ink-blot, since it's almost by definition about things that the human mind isn't capable of understanding, yes, objection noted, people project themselves onto it, their hopes, their fears, their values, through all sorts of different things. How many different ways do people read any holy book? And you value cleverness, so you figure well, of COURSE, God's going to be clever, if there is a God. Other people look for other things, so those are what they see the most."
"Like the cliched anecdote about blind men and elephants," I said.
"Cliche, but yes. And the other thing you forget is not everyone thinks like you. People don't think all of their values out all the way, to see where they conflict. Not even you, for all that you sit around typing to yourself. Cognitive dissonance isn't a fun feeling."
"Meh," I said, "It's not like I have anything else to be doing."
He tipped gently over onto the bed, without moving otherwise. "So you say, but is there any real excuse for being bored in this world, now?"
I shrugged. "Probably not," I admitted, "But that still doesn't answer my original question."
"Perhaps you should ask the Pope. That might be interesting to see. On the other hand, you made up a world where the plans of the gods can be knocked willy-nilly pretty easily, would you really find the world interesting if things couldn't be hacked?"
He had a point. Which is of course when he got up and left.
Prior:Stories from the Rabbit HoleStories from the Rabbit Hole, Part 2There's a Buddha on My BedA Discussion of Procrastination and BuddhismBuddhablogHaven't Seen Him in a WhileThe Illusion of PainStuff that BindsThe Joy of ScrubdomMore About FailureBook Reviews with a BuddhaWho's Afraid of a Little Enlightenment?Special Guest Star Daily DrabbleConversation