Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

The Buddha & Bode–Worlds Apart

posted by kris rasmussen

As the Olympics drew to a close last night, I found that the most disappointing–and annoying–aspect of NBC’s Olympic coverage was the huge amount of airtime given to U.S. skier and 2002 silver medalist Bode Miller. With a daredevil, nonconformist image only further enhanced by a recent “60 Minutes” interview, in which he admitted to, among other things, skiing in competitions while hung over from the previous night’s partying, Miller was featured prominently in numerous Olympic segments.

But then, in between those segments, we were treated to even more of Miller, with Nike commercials featuring Miller and asking us this important question: Are you a “Bodeist”? The message of the commercial seems to be that, somehow, Miller’s carefree spirit, disdain of the media (unless it involves a lucative commercial endorsement deal), and refusal to worship material things such as Olympic gold medals have something to do with Buddhism, and are qualities to be applauded and emulated by the rest of us as well. The only problem is that behind the clever word play and marketing spin, there is little substance to support the notion that Bode and Buddhism have anything in common.

From what I have read about Buddhism’s “Eight Steps To Happiness” or the “Four Noble Truths,” I am comfortable saying that Miller’s egotistical yet lackluster performance in Italy had little to do with inner peace, enlightenment, or compassion for all living things. Miller’s failure to medal in all five events he competed in had more to do with reckless mistakes, lack of focus, and, oh, yeah, a desire to party all the time. When Miller was interviewed by the Associated Press last weekend, he was far more intent on talking about nightclubs than skiing. Miller told the reporter, “I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” Miller also justified his Olympic performances and his behavior by adding,”People want athletes to cater to their image of what an athlete should be, but they also want them to fail, so they can feel like their screw-ups are all right. If I make a priority shift, I’ll make it, because it’s best for me.”

Comments like that make me wish that perhaps Miller would take a hint from that Nike ad and look into Buddhism for real. Miller’s attitude could benefit from some of the principles of Buddhism, such as Right Speech, Right Action Right Effort, and Right Mindfulness. However, my prediction is that by the time Miller decides to shift his priorities from blaming others for his problems and selfishly indulging in his own entertainment while being heftily paid to represent his country, no one, including his commercial sponsors, will still care.

Law & Order in the Journey

posted by doug howe

Whether its prime time or not, weekday or weekend, holidays, sweeps period, or any other time of the year, it doesn’t take long to see that cop shows and court shows are very popular these days. “CSI,” “Cold Case,” “Law & Order,” “In Justice,” even “Boston Legal” are examples of shows that offer the “payoff” in which the bad guy is caught, convicted, sentenced, disgraced or killed.

Charles Colson has reflected on this fact and said yesterday on his radio show that there may be a spiritual reason for it. “I’m convinced that the popularity of cop shows reflects our God-given desire for justice and moral clarity,” Colson said. “Our love of these dramas—and before them, Westerns—reflect our acute awareness of the difference between good and evil, guilt and innocence.”

It’s an interesting perspective, because, when you get down to it, how many people really long for more stabbings, killings, rapes, blood, gore, or violence of any kind in their day? Why endure it by choice? What is it that drives us to these shows?

“Police dramas presuppose a moral universe,” Colson says. “In fact, moral absolutes are essential to police dramas. Take them away, and the story falls apart. Why? Because if there is no such thing as real evil, there’s no such thing as a guilty party.”

Whatever your favorite is, the questions of morality and the nature of right and wrong—and the issue of who decides—cannot be separated from the authentic spiritual journey, if the journey is to have any relevance outside of our own feelings and moods. The search for inner help and spiritual strength must bring a sort of spiritual “law and order” to be ultimately fulfilling.

Bracelet: Conviction or Convenience

posted by doug howe

Ellen Leventry’s blog entry regarding Sasha Cohen’s Kabbalah bracelet was an interesting piece that brings up an interesting issue that should be seriously debated—or at least reflected on—in our culture: the difference between religion, spirituality, superstition, karma, luck, faith, and hope. I was particularly struck by Sasha Cohen’s comment on her wrist-piece, “I’m not deeply into Kabbalah.”

When she puts a Kabbalah bracelet on her wrist before she skates, what is really going on there? Is it a sign of faithfulness towards a God, hoping for blessing in return? Is it an act of superstition, hoping not to jinx herself? Is it a bet, sort of like, “Hey, just in case there’s a chance it could help, I’ll do it”? Is it considered a risk-free investment, along the lines of, “Hey, doesn’t cost me anything to wear it, and if helps, well, that’s all the more wonderful”? Is it a fearful act of not wanting to forego anything that may bring success? Is it a combination of all of the above?

NFL Players gather each week after the game, take a knee at midfield, and pray. A growing percentage of the league’s players will point to the heavens, take a knee, or cross themselves after a touchdown. Many players come to team chapel meetings before games. Does this mean they’re spiritual? Or does it mean they’re willing to work all of the angles, just in case?

These questions are relevant because, as spiritual seekers, we should ask these questions of “role models”–and then, more importantly, ask them of ourselves. Do I really have a faith system that believes that a bracelet will improve my score? Am I convinced that dropping to one knee on TV will get me God’s blessings? Or am I simply acting out of purity and faith, whether it gets me results or not?

As it turns out, Sasha Cohen fell twice yesterday and didn’t win the gold medal, even though she was wearing her bracelet. Does that mean it “didn’t work”? Or, given the fact that she fell twice and still won a silver medal, does it mean that she was rewarded for her “faith”?

Answering questions like these are important as we each consider our own spiritually driven actions, which we hope are more than acts of blind faith. And, at that point, if we’re truly willing to look within, then we find ourselves living out the true privilege of spiritual seeking. Short of that, we might as well admit that we’re going with the flow, going with the tide, going with the current, more out of convenience than conviction.

Kabbalists on Ice

posted by ellen leventry

That red string around U.S. figure skater Sasha Cohen’s left wrist wasn’t part of her colorful costume–it was a Kabbalah bracelet. Ubiquitous among celebrities, including Madonna, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and even Paris Hilton, the trendy talisman of Jewish mystical tradition has made its way to center ice.

Cohen, who skated her way to first place after the women’s short program last night, was introduced to the bracelet–thought to ward off evil and negative thoughts–by ice skating teammate Johnny Weir.

”I’m not deeply into Kabbalah,” Cohen said on NBCOlympics.com when asked if she was wearing a Kabbalah bracelet at Nationals, “but I appreciate the principles of it…. I had a Kabbalah string before this one and it fell off–which is good luck. Johnny Weir tied that one on me the year before.” Another teammate, U.S. men’s figure skater Evan Lysacek, tied on this most recent bracelet.

While Cohen may not be a devotee of Kabbalah, the flamboyant Weir is. “A friend introduced me to Kabbalah actually before Esther (Madonna) started doing it,” Weir told Salon. “For a while I was getting a big head about how good I was becoming and what was going on with me, and it just sort of helped me stay centered and that sort of thing.”

Weir says he wears a Kabbalah star charm on his necklace, as well as the red string that “kind of saves you from other people dissing you.”

Unfortunately for the three-time national champion, his bracelet may need to work harder, since many in sports media have been savaging him for his comments blaming his poor performance and fifth-place finish on missing the bus and bad auras. Cohen’s bracelet, for the moment, can rest easy, as her graceful short program impressed the judges and is keeping the press more than pleasant.

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