Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Post-Buddhism needs some new sutras to illuminate the experience of the dharma in the 21st century. When I want to awaken with a start to the truths of my sensory experience, deconstruct my mental environment, feel the sharp political edges of my everyday life, I read Adbusters. I sometimes wish all the brilliant X-Post-Non-Un Buddhists would get together and produce a Buddhist version of Adbusters, but that would be redundant. Adbusters IS the dharma of the 21st century. A recent edition, Aesthetic Terrorism, deconstructs our audio-visual world, the aesthetics that wrap our minds and perceptions in a wad of dull, narcotic, predictable escapism. Aesthetic Terrorism presents an assault on the senses that shatters our safe and narcissistic shell, that mocks the vapid consumerism that makes up most of our aesthetic lives, an assault that leaves one in a state of aesthetic “homelessness.”
Instead of the usual Buddhist graphic clichés—open-ended black circles, lotuses, pink buddhas sitting in perfect repose—we need a dose of slap-in-the-face Adbusters aesthetics that challenge our mental environment.
What is aesthetic terror? It’s that moment when all is forgotten, when your bearings are lost and you fall willingly towards your fate, that moment of confusion, of angst of existential crisis. In that brief instant your entirely and everything you ever knew comes to rest in a space of unknowable nothingness, of dread. You’re repulsed, yet excited, disbelieving yet fully embodied in the real. This is the moment of potential, prior to actualization. It’s a time when anything can happen.
Unequivocal freedom has a price. The experience of it can result in fear, in anger, in a wanting to lash out and return to what is safe and what is known—our despondent zones of comfort. They lead us back to boredom, to regularity and to every thing that is not true to life. We must fracture the shackles and chains making up our psychological prison. Aesthetic terror rips through those restraints, creating destruction within our minds.
Enter into a new space, one that defies reason, logic and realize all too quickly the kernel of human creativity. It is everything, nothing and in infinite potential until the moment of actualization. In this space all laws are neutralized, language vaporized from the contents of the mind. Our spirit seems to speak to our intellect as the righteous insurrection of being. Upon this sublime encounter we’re sacrificed to a world of unlimited possibility.
Since the inception of automation the arts have been driven like a spike towards the primordial chaos of entropy. The cosmic soup of stardust from where we originate is the universal recipe of our creation It is random chance, luck, the will of a universe that we cannot understand but in the least may touch and let go of, to know this radical potential. To expect fear and become accustomed to its eulogies is our goal.
We must discover an alternative to the logic of militarism. We need a new interstices, a fissure in the well worn regularity of everyday life, a new aesthetic terror that might compel us beyond our complacency. Intellectualism has replaced impulse, logic replaced agonism. Today we feel as though we’ve been left to bleed in the sun, drying our misery atop the shoulders of the dead. Standing on the shoulders of these departed giants we face the extinction crisis of our future. We rely on their ideas to guide us yet nothing has come to save us.