Kathy Shaidle explains why using a movie’s worldview (even something as funny as A Fish Called Wanda) is not the best way to develop your own philosophy of the world:
From William James and Herman Hesse to the Beats and the Beastie Boys, Buddhism has long appealed to a certain type of post-Enlightenment Westerner — the one who yearns to fill his “God-shaped hole” with anything but God, that uptight, bossy old guy with all the boring rules and hang-ups (man.)
Buddhism — which looks from the outside like agnosticism but with cooler tchotchkes — is the obvious choice.
Now, Americans in particular take a lot of guff (see: “I forgot my mantra…”) for seeming to prefer trompe l’oeil religion — what Flannery O’Connor had her Hazel Motes concoct: a “Holy Church of Christ Without Christ.” That’s probably not surprising considering you’re a country cofounded by deists.
But while it’s funny to witness lily-white lapsed Catholics, still supposedly stinging from Sister’s ruler, sitting in Zen meditation classes where they’re sure to be slapped with an even bigger stick, let’s remember that Buddhism was an Eastern religion first. It’s like Pearl Harbor: They started it.
And “they” aren’t all the unadulterated egalitarian Klaatus of our Big Sur wind-chime fantasies. Buddhist scandals — both sexual and fiduciary — receive only a slender sliver of the media attention and resulting popular scorn that, say, Catholic ones do. (Oddly enough!) Stand-up comics don’t crack jokes about perverted Theravada monks.
Yet lists of Buddhist big-shot malfeasance include such karma-killers as spreading AIDS and drinking oneself to death. And that’s just in America.
Over in Thailand, the “top Buddhist authority bars women from becoming monks,” but some are now insisting (stop me if you’ve heard this one) that female ordination is just the enema the nation’s corrupt and constipated religious authority needs most.