Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jesus and Buddha walk into a bar...

I was thinking this morning on my walk from the MAX station to work about a conversation I had with one of my coworkers about two weeks ago. I happened to mention in passing friendly conversation that I was a Religious Studies minor in college. Typically I’m reluctant to mention this fact to people, especially coworkers, considering it is a touchy subject for many and I don’t think it is very appropriate to discuss religion at work. In fact, it just may be against the law. Actually, I don’t really remember what brought it up but what I do remember is the conversation that ensued.

A little background on me: I was raised in a Christian family, and was quite active in the church up until I went to college. My beliefs went through an adjustment period as I grew and changed and came into myself as an individual. Hubby’s family is, for the most part, Jewish with the exception of Hubby’s Mom who practices Bon. When asked, I typically respond that I am a Buddhist because the majority of what I believe is encompassed in Buddhism. I’m not going to get in to the deep recesses of why I believe what I believe, suffice to say that it is my choice and I have put A LOT of thought in to it.

Let’s get back to where this all started - that conversation. What it came down to was me trying to explain to her as how I viewed the Buddha in terms similar to Christianity. Somehow, I managed to end up comparing the Buddha to Jesus. This may seem to be a strange bridge but allow me to explain. Christians generally believe that Jesus came to earth as a means by which God could save the sinners from Hell. Similarly, Buddha found a way to escape Hell – in Buddhist terms this would be continual reincarnation and the suffering that is life – and shared. That is not where the similarities end. Both taught to love, be kind, be spiritually faithful, and one can escape from Hell. Now, to clarify, I’m not saying that the Buddha is “the savior” in the same respect that Christians consider Jesus to be their savior. Buddha (which means the enlightened one in Sanskrit) would be more of a prophet or a teacher, the one that figured out the key to enlightenment for the everyday practitioner (or Average Joe Buddhist). Buddha came in to the world as a Hindu and didn’t necessarily intend to start his own religion. Similarly, Jesus was raised as a Jew and probably had little intention of starting his own religion either – he was sent to put people on the right path.

I realize that comparing Christianity to Buddhism may seem like comparing apples to a prickly pear, but my personal understanding is that most religions when you take away the dogma all come down to two things: answering the question of powers larger than us as humans, and being a good person.

As ShoeDiva would say: “I’m just sayin’…”

Monday, July 13, 2009

What's in a Genre?

As I have mentioned before, I love books. I love to read and do so quite a bit more frequency than I used to. With that in mind, also knowing that I used to work at a small used book store, and being the daughter of an English teacher has made me a bit of a genre snob.

After yet another foray with my book club and a bottle of wine mostly between me and ShoeDiva we took a stroll around Powell’s to sober up. Giggling at the counter culture nick-nacks with ShoeDiva and FishSticks I started to think about my lack of experience with genres outside of “Literature” and “General Fiction” (This could have been a result of a conversation they had been having but the alcohol has wiped that memory from my mind). When the giggles died down I turn to FishSticks and ask if she could recommend a good bodice ripper to me. She looked at me and a smile spread across her face as she began to ask questions and lead me over to the Romance section of the store. I sighed to myself wondering slightly what I had gotten in to and sheepishly answering her questions.

Up until recently I looked down my nose at the Romance and Sci Fi genres, I could see why people might enjoy them, but it wasn’t something I could get in to. In fact, while I worked at the used book store I had women who came in regularly to trade the romance novels they’d blown through for a new set. I couldn’t help but wonder at the time what the draw was. I turned to the back cover to read the description on a Nora Robert’s book and had to keep myself from laughing too hard at the novel’s synopsis. Maybe I took myself too seriously, maybe I took my reading habits too seriously, but I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to read anything in that genre. Now though, the notion strikes me that as in all genres there are different levels of quality, and what better way to find out than to ask some who I know and trust?

Having fettered down her options down to a manageable queue of likely possibilities, FishSticks starts to hand me books from the shelf when I have two in my hands and she’s going for a third and I can’t help but say: “Wait!” I didn’t even know if I could finish one of these let alone three and the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my friends after a tentative step into the Romance novel wading pool.

It was three days ago that I walked out of Powell’s having purchased my first Romance novel. I’m sure this book is training wheels for the likes of me – a story of a woman who wakes up a vampire and some innuendo thrown in. So far it has been a quick and overly simple read. I believe I shall now refer to the bodice rippers as the “Brain Candy Genre”.