Buddhism, in part, is about asking questions to determine how things really are. But to truly see the truth, you have to ask the right questions. And the question on my mind at the moment is whether Honey Boo Boo is foreshadowing the decline of civilization.
Homo say what? Honey Boo Boo?
A friend and former colleague examined this question in a recent column he wrote for The Morning Sun, a newspaper in Mount Pleasant, Mich., and one I worked for in the past. Please take the time to read it, as it is excellent. And don't feign ignorance with me; I know all you moes out there know about Honey Boo Boo, because she is exactly the archetype and stereotype of breeder culture that we love to throw so much shade over that it becomes a black hole. And I bet many of you watched this train wreck of humanity more than once.
Come to the light, children, there is still hope for you.
While I may sound a bit holier-than-though when I say this, it is true: I have not, nor will I, watch Honey Boo Boo. I did watch an online trailer for the show prior to its indecorous debut and that was enough. I wanted to cleanse my eyes with Comet after that. I saw enough, however, to know instantly that civilization was perched upon a perilous precipice, over which it could tumble into oblivion at any moment.
My friend clearly points out in his column that we, in a collective sense, have only ourselves to blame for this type of programming dreck. He writes:
"You can blame the network all you want, but the people who run the network have a very simple mission: Make money. They do that by reducing costs and maximizing viewers. Quality costs money and doesn’t bring the right number of viewers to make it the most profitable way to do business. So, we get Honey Boo Boo.”
And to add insult to injury, the folks in TV land have created elaborate methods to convince you that the programming available is, in fact, high quality backed by tons of creative minds. It's done through the annual awards show that lavishes praise on the most popular programs with idols of pseudo-excellence, which is why programs like "Glee" churn out episode after episode creating new nadirs for every conceivable sexual, racial, and ethnic stereotype out there and cleverly confuses you into thinking that it's really a ground-breaking and inclusive show portraying gays and others in a positive, albeit humorous, light.
It's all a diversion designed to lull you into a false sense of happiness so that you will more readily accept the commercial content that batters your psyche with often better production quality than the programs it sponsors. Its intent is to stupify you in a manner Bob Dylan eloquently described in his song, "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)".
Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you
This is precisely why the Buddha advised a young fellow named Sigala to avoid theatrical shows.
Patience my pretties. I think that a reason why many practitioners do not read Dhamma is quite similar why other folk do not read the Bible or whatever holy book guides their religion, and this is the language in these texts is archaic and not easily understood. For that reason, it can be easily viewed as irrelevant to today's culture.
For example, in the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha includes "watching theatrical shows" as an item in a list of activities that lead to the loss of wealth. And then he enumerates the reasons why and how watching theatrical shows result in this:
"There are, young householder, these six evil consequences in frequenting theatrical shows. He is ever thinking:
(i) where is there dancing?
(ii) where is there singing?
(iii) where is there music?
(iv) where is there recitation?
(v) where is there playing with cymbals?
(vi) where is there pot-blowing?
Pot-blowing? What the hell is that? And what's wrong with singing and dancing?
This is what I'm talking about. People look at this and think that Buddhism has no relevance for them. The problem, however, is not that Buddhism lacks relevance; the problem is the question - we aren't asking the right questions.
No, there is nothing wrong with singing, or dancing, or even pot-blowing, provided we don't get too carried away. Remember that the Buddha described his path as the middle way. He tried the extremes and found them lacking. The path to spiritual bliss is neither followed by extreme pleasure or by extreme deprivation. And while we follow the way in the middle, we must be honest in evaluating our emotions.
Remember what the First Noble Truth is? For many people, life is more than just unsatisfactory, it can really suck, and too many of us queer folk know this all too well. But for most people life is how Henry David Thoreau described it when he said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Believe it or not, shows like Honey Boo Boo are tapping into a collective sense of dismay and dissatisfaction that permeates our lives. It presents an opportunity, albeit a false one, for us to watch someone else's life self-destruct and gives us a sense that things can't be all that bad, "thank god I'm not in Honey Boo Boo's family!"
But like the theatrical shows the Buddha warned Sigala about, this is a distraction that keeps us in our self-dug hole of dissatisfaction. Shows like Honey Boo Boo aren't designed to uplift us, to inspire us; they're designed to keep us in a rut of meaningless existence, to set us up for the next string of commercials that will entice us to spend money on goods and services we don't need and which, if we took just a few seconds to think about it, we don't want.
There are a lot of unhappy people in the world. We can't help them all. But are you at least trying to help a few of them?
I know that I am not. And that needs to change.