I found this painfully self-absorbed article on my FB page this morning. The author clearly lives in southern California among what may be called the “pretty people,” [my term not his] which is perhaps giving him a bit of a guilt complex, thus stimulating a need for self-justification and moral superiority.
Is spirituality is only for the poor? Gods I hope not! That presupposition suggests that the expression of spirit is somehow limited, an idea that is theologically absurd. And is it not appropriate to express gratitude for the blessings we have received? The author seems to think that gratitude expressed for some blessings is more genuine than for others. And how would he know genuine from real in the land of glam and plastic? Let alone knowing which of the yoga moms he is critiquing actually has the level of wealth to which he objects. Nor does he have any idea which of those yoga moms might have been poor a few years ago. If one of his actor friends did well and made a lot of money, would he think more of them if they took their blessings for granted? Would that be more moral than gratitude? And would that rich friend then be forced to join the Republican party as so many actors have? (oh wait…)
And then there is the matter of belief. Like any good fundamentalist, Mr. Van Valkenburgh assumes his own belief to be the moral high ground. American optimism is stupid and base. He feels it is foolish and wrong-headed to think “that underserved groups can get ahead not by standing up to power, but by focusing on love and positivity.”
Love and positivity. How very dreadful. Putting aside for a moment the fact that positive attitudes are not only correlated, but proven to be causative for both mental and physical well being, exactly how is focusing on anger at those in power, rather than love, an improvement on culture? The adage “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” is a moral stance designed to make you search for things to be angry about. It won’t necessarily lead one to a happy life. You’re boss may be a jerk, but getting angry is – at best – useful as energy to get out and find some place better to work.
The author accuses rich capitalists of hijacking Buddhism and then proceeds to do the same thing.
“It’s true, for example, that the Buddha taught that money was a blessing, and that one effect of an ethical way of life would be material prosperity. But it is hard for me to believe the Buddha would say that wealth inequality is solely the result of karmic patterns, and that we should ignore its hidden histories of slavery, colonialism and patriarchy.”
Hmmm. Buddha said the first part, but he must have forgotten to say that other part. I’m no Buddhist and wouldn’t presume to attempt to figure out the meaning of their sacred literature, but just because you find something hard to believe doesn’t mean you get to just assume the master would have agreed with your viewpoint. It is also possible that Buddha, if he approved of money, might just also have approved of charitable giving. (Perhaps someone knowledgeable on Buddhism could enlighten me)
The author writes:
“When we cultivate gratitude for our material wealth and ignore compassion for those less fortunate, comments like those of Nadella are a natural consequence.”
Clearly Van Valkenburgh has no knowledge of who is actually giving charitably in the US. The households with the total wealth of on million dollars in the US are responsible for half of all charitable giving, and conservative households give 30 percent more than liberal households. Instead of advocating “cultivating compassion,” ( of which he appears to have very little) the author might have advisded more concrete actions to help the poor and downtrodden, such as giving money and volunteering. I suspect the Buddha might just approve.