You know, I told my eldest son some fatherly advice. We were joking around and were a little serious. I told him to find a nice Buddhist girl. This is supposed to be funny because I am the son of Deacon—who is the son of a prominent matriarch in the Baptist church (these highs highest along Central Ave. in the 1970s).
This history of mine, by the way, is the reason why films like Devil in a Blue Dress and Killer of Sheep are so meaningful to me. But other films like Boyz N the Hood mark the time of crack cocaine taking over the streets of Los Angeles like a Hollywood Hills wildfire—this era, the era of crack, marks the time of nuclear-scale holocaust for the bodies and souls of hundreds of thousands of Black boys and girls. I consider my son a first-generation descendant of this mega-morally-bankrupt era—and this is why I am kind-of, sort-of serious when I tell him to find a nice Buddhist girl.
So fast-forward to my research for this month’s kinté space presentation, “Robert Thurman: Buddhism and the Just Society.” This streaming audio interview of Uma Thurman’s dad revealed what I consider a cute little beef between Robert and this cat named Stephen Batchelor. This name came up in a YouTube.com search of mine and this led to a three-part series, starting with “Stephen Batchelor: Buddhism Without Beliefs—part 1 of 3.” This video reveals that Stephen left his ordination as a Korean Zen monk to marry Martine Batchelor (she, leaving the nunnery)—and this little event goes right back to my little joke for my son.
My “argument” is that Robert Thurman has a public-facing, mass-movement, mystical approach to his disciplined lifestyle—while Stephen Batchelor is relatively retiring and privatizing his world. Batchelor has successfully executed a move about which I have only theorized: he has taken many parts of the monastic lifestyle and, with the help of his wife, made them coed. He is living some form of monastic order but it’s with a woman. I am sure that Thurman can suggest this move is both a bit selfish and a viable interim solution for those of us not willing to set ourselves on fire while sitting in the lotus position in front of news cameras.
So, without proper statistics I am only guessing, but my impression is that women who are (true) disciples are fierce—more devoted than males. This devotion starts in the secular world with the business and the professional career (Oprah)—and goes straight up to the nunnery. My guess is that it is very rare to get a nun to stop being a nun—in order to be a wife. American extremism strongly suggests that you either have debauchery and corruption (starting with the relatively innocent devotion to being a couch potato with a standard American poisonous, acidic diet) or you have Pema Chödrön. Stephen Batchelor, it appears, married someone somewhere in the middle.
Now the ancient African part: African wisdom-based society predates the need for monastic order. The content of the previous sentence is certainly unbelievable and even strangely funny to most Buddhist girls. Few people on Earth can imagine this ancient world—which is why the word “utopia” is still necessary. So, since the return of wisdom-based African matriarchy is bit delayed at the moment, I joke around with my son and I tell him: go find a nice Buddhist girl. And, my fellow Americans, do not racialize my statement: people like Robert Thurman and bell hooks—and Jan Willis—show us that Buddhist does not necessarily mean Asian.