The glaring tragedy Justice Berger was talking about when he called the new interpretation of the 2nd Amendment “fraud” is about Standard English. I wouldn’t necessarily know this were I not focused on English as a language instructorーbut only illiterate and intellectually shallow interpretations of the 2nd Amendment result in its being seen as language specifically about private gun ownership.
Are You A Member of A Sub-species?
We all share different cultures. Look at Eminem. If you say his “race” is “white”, what do you mean? You must be referring to his his biology, right? – because of conventions in your language and your culture – and their interpretations of his apparent simplified color (He’s not really “white”, correct?; I mean, you don’t have to go to art school, as I have, to be able to tell white from an off-white or pale pink, do you?).
What If You Only Heard Eminem’s Music Before You first Saw Him?
Imagine you had never seen Eminem’s face: If you were to attribute one homogenized cultural perspective or set of behaviors and attributes to Eminem’s sound, what would you be called?
What if You Saw Eminem’s Face, But Didn’t Hear His Speech or Music?
If you saw Eminem for the first time and did not hear him – you saw only his “whiteness”, omitting his character, demeanor, style of clothing, speech and music – would you be likely to think he was more than “white”, culturally? Would you be likely to feel he was multi-cultural? Then, were someone to tell you he was a musical performer, what kind of music would you guess his being involved in?
Automatic attributions and knee-jerk determinations about a person or group, especially before seeing and learning of the person or group, or in judging his or her “race” by other-than-certain means (though completely cognitively natural for most people, whether they admit the tendency or not) causes us to be vilified in much of today’s American and otherwise western neo-liberal culture. Were you to do this in regard to Eminem, as suggested in the scenarios above, you quickly would be labeled a “racist” by many politically “correct” people, wouldn’t you? “His culture is hip hop, inner city – more “black” than “white,” we could expect to hear, no? Or we would hear that he is an exception or that he is multi-cultural.
The On-The-Street Meaning of “Race”
“Race” includes biology, which makes no sense – because this suggests biologically distinct* differences in people- beyond superficiality- while in actuality, scientifically (really) – all noticeable differences between us are superficial, such as those in hair-, eye- and skin- color differences; you’re not a different race from your family-members for these reasons, are you? So why would you think you are a different “race” from others who possesses only this level of difference between you – general height, cheek bone and eye shape, ear-lobe attachment, or complexion? In fact, we judge by color when all else seems the same or similar! haven’t you seen two people of two different “races” who have virtually all the same or similar styles of physical features except for color and thought, ‘these persons seem to be from the same “race” except for color’? Why would the color variation between people be more a determining factor in “race” than their actual physical structural differences – which appear to be the same?! It’s like saying a tabby and a calico are not simply felis domesticus, just because they have different colors of fur!
These shallow differences do not stop the “races” (ethnicities with similar hereditary DNA strains, really) from mating across “racial lines” (ethnicities with similar hereditary DNA strains, really) – which is a major defining point in the argument between sub-species or species “races”. These differences don’t affect our behavior – unless there are strains for physical and mental ability being passed among a population that insists on only mating with those who look the same.
There are “white” Muslims, “white” Buddhists, “black” Republicans. Do you see? I am a multicultural Caucasian: I am a “white” man highly acculturated in the ways of the East – and this process is only going to increase when I move to Japan. What good is calling me a “white man”? It’s fucking nonsense.
These arbitrary broad-brushed categories are so porous that they are not categories once you take a closer lookㅡespecially if you do a genome sequencing: we share DNA from so many other “groups”!
Ever see a “brown” “black” personㅡa “black” “black” person? I lived in South Korea fifteen years. There are very dark South Koreans. Are they “black”? Why should eye and cheek-bone shape trump color – as I asked above? If two people of a species look similar but differ by color, you would think we should group them by color, like a red Tesla and Blue one, so why aren’t dark Philippine, Korean and African or West Indies people just “black”? Well, to some ignorant people, they are.
The Coup de Grace: We Blame And Claim
What is Obama? With a “white” father and “black” mother, is he an “Oreo”? (Well – what else should I call him?) Is that a “race”? Why is he called “black”?, because he looks “black”? Isn’t he heavy cream or light-brown?” “He’s the first black president.” That’s “racist” – from both the pride AND prejudice perspectives! Do we not see the stupidity in this word and the Devil’s Food richness of the thick-as-molasses use of it? (No pun intended “racially” – I mean ‘thick’ as in “stupid”.) One group blames him and the other claims him. He is neither “black” nor “white”. He is a Homo Sapiens Sapien. There are dark ones and light ones but they are all the same “race” (species and sub-species).
If you had a baby with a “black” woman or man – or a “white” woman or man -what “race” would it be? By “racial” reasoning, s/he would be a half-breed. In some countries in Asia, they still talk this way. However, there are no half-breeds of human at this time on the planet. There is no more than one sub-species and one species of human on the planet at this time (in this geological epoch) and we are all members of that group – period. It is an unequivocal scientific and anthropological fact. No one can claim differently without being incorrect. It is not a matter of “belief”, either (that stupid, meaningless and misleading word). There have not been two subspecies of human since the time of Cromagnon and Neanderthal Man. If you insist you are a different “race”, than you insist you are a scientific anomaly: a sub-species.
One Race Skull © Carl Atteniese, All rights Reserved
*This word has a special meaning in biology
beyond differences in appearance
A Reader on Facebook (to me): “Your notion of correct English doesn’t line up with what we all consider natural English. Something all native speakers of the language are capable of.
I, in Reaponse:
I speak standard English to preserve it, because I taught English as a Second Language for 18 years and know that because there are more non-native speakers of the language than native speakers, the accuracy — and thus the beauty and nuance of it — is being destroyed, or is at least devolving.
In addition, I realized that I would have fewer incidences of confusion in the classroom, if I modeled correct English first — before speaking the dialectical incorrect versions of the language so common to many today.
I knew I would also have less of a hard time re-explaining structure if my students learned English correctly the first time.
I speak Standard English properly to the best of my ability, also because I am a burgeoning essayist, poet, comic and activist to the best of my abilities, and I feel that accuracy in language often — if not always — conveys meaning more precisely in those endeavors — and less ambiguously, if one utilizes it.
I have suffered occupationally and socially due to ignorance of the language on the part of others (a huge problem in the PC world of today).
I am interested in aviation and aerospace. There are hyper-important reasons illustrating why English is the international language of those endeavors and they aren’t in the realm of hegemony; its about accuracy.
English is a low-context, highly democratic and accurate language for “level-the-playing field” communication, which prevents plane crashes.
Finally, I seek an audience with the righteous, academic and political — as well as with common people such as myself, for the current era and for posterity, such that I can help improve the world. Saying things correctly makes that easier on all fronts — in my opinion.
I do step outside proper English to convey points, too, however — especially when I want to be humorous!
These are wonderfully good reasons to speak the language according to its best devised rules and conventions, in my opinion.
⇐ These characters spell my Dharma name.
I’m a Buddhist – a philosophical Buddhist, a secular non-devotional Buddhist, or a Zennist; I don’t pray to any one or any thing. It is a way of looking at things and a practice. In the Buddhist practice there is the concept called the Dharma, or “Dhamma”, in Pali. Think of it, for now, as The Way, but other translations could mean the law(s) of the universe or the teaching of the Buddha.
A Dharma is another name a Buddhist is called which represents his or her identity in the Dharma and among his or her Dharma brothers and sisters in the Sangha, or the Buddhist community.
My Dharma name is pronounced “Mahn-doe,” in Korean, with the ‘a’ sounding as it does in “father,” and with relatively equal stress applied to each syllable. If a little more stress could be applied, it would be given to the first syllable, “Mahn.”
“What kind of name is Mando?” That’s what my mother said that my father asked her — about my new name. To be clear, I love my family name and my given name. My family name means “Athenian” and as much as I admire the Buddha, I admire the ancient Greeks, for their great philosophers and what their mental rigor and virtue gave to Western society. As much I admire the Roman philosopher statesmen who took after them in reason and justice, so being an Italian- (and Irish-) American of ancient Greek descent makes me feel fortunate for my lineage. Of course this is just aesthetic, for I had nothing to do with the greatness of those civilizations but I can enjoy, in a way, the illusion that says I came from those origins more than from the human family tree. I also enjoy, in the same way, the writing and human celebratory side of being descended from the Celts on my mother’s side.
Of course – in a Buddhist sense, the significance of all this is an illusion, and realizing that and its significance is part of why I accept and appreciate, also, the practice that earns me the name ‘Mando”. Being Buddhist is to celebrate the oneness of all life, not the separations we artificially create in it to make ourselves feel important. And this mindfulness helps make us behave better and fosters compassion and togetherness – instead of prejudice and division. That is why I support the Buddhist path and trhe taking of a name that centers us in reality.
I know that to some people it may seem pretentious to change one’s name. People like Prince and The Edge did it, and actors do it, ‘so who does Carl think he is?’ My good friend Tony Watkins (named after the actor Tony Curtis) said about my Dharma name, ‘it’s all right, but to a Chinese person (Tony speaks fluent Mandarin), it sound a little like your name is Philosopher, or something,’
In the West, women do change their last name when they marry. Did you know that Japanese woodblock masters often changed their names? It was done to protect one’s family name, among other reasons, such as taking on the name of one’s master – which was an honor and indicated that a protege reached some admirable level of accomplishment in the craft. Hokusai, I think, had something like thirty names!
Long before I received this Dharma name, I had thought it appropriate for a thoughtful person to change his or her name–to better suit how he or she sees him or herself. After all, my father changed his name, too!
The Words And Their Spelling
In Korean ‘Man-do’ literally means Ten-thousand Ways, with ‘Man’ (pronounced “mahn”) meaning ‘ten-thousand,’ or ‘many,’ and ‘Do’ (pronounced ‘doe’) meaning ‘way’ (which can also be written and pronounced “Gil”) – but as Mahn-doe (the way it should be transliterated from Korean if Koreans would like all English speakers to get the pronunciation right) was transmitted to me by my teacher, it was conveyed to mean ‘Many Paths of Change.’
In Korean, Man-do looks like this:
The name in Chinese is “Wan Tao,” meaning basically the same thing — Ten Thousand Ways.
Please look at the red pictographs again:
⇐ The Swastika (on top), is Sanskrit, and in that language means luck (or fortune) and well-being.
⇐ The second character–on the bottom–is “Doe.” In Chinese, it is “Tao,” as in the Tao Te Ching’, or “Way of Virtue” (the name of the collection of philosophical poems attributed to Lao Tzu).
Two of my Dharma Brothers – who took their precepts the same day as I–have this word, “way,” in their Dharma names; there is Cheon Do (Way of Heaven) and Gil Do (道吉) Way of Luck (or Fortune). My other Dharma Brother’s name is Seog Chon, meaning Upright Stone.
In Japanese, this name is “Manji Michi” (まんじみち), and the meaning is the same as described above.
You Can See The Swastika All Around Asia
This first character, ‘Mahn’, in Korean and Mahnji in Japanese, (or Wahn in Chinese) is under the eaves on all Buddhist temples in Korea. It also denotes temples on maps of Japan. In this case it may be said to mean “Buddhism” or “Dharma.” That is because it was adopted to represent the turning Dharma Wheel, which is what it essentially is.
Imagine a cross, say of the two perpendicularly arranged bars that make up a compass, or of a window frame. Now, imagine it spinning round a center axis – where the two bars meet at the intersection point. Also imagine a blur that might be perceived at the ends of those bars as they spin. Perhaps you can see in your mind the apparent tails that develop at the ends of each bar, circumscribing a circle in the air. Now you have what the Jane and Buddhist Swastika is. It is a Spinning Dharma Wheel, or at least that is how I see it. And it is what I have read it to be – somewhere; I don’t remember where….
The Swastika is a symbol that dates back to pre-history. It is a symbol used by the people of the Jane religion–arguably a more compassionate religion than Buddhism, but perhaps less practical? Janes are said to drink through a sack cloth, so as not to inadvertently swallow any micro-organisms. They will also clear any path of life so as not to travel or build over it, harming any life in their path.
A Little About What Buddhism is…
A. The assumption should not be made that a Buddhist practitioner believes this or that, though there are some basic notions accepted by many adherents and observers of Buddhism. Buddhism, to some, is a religion. To me and to my teachers in Korea, it is a practice (to some that’s the same thing, but for the purposes of this article, please accept accept my meaning that a religion – these days – generally, means a belief-system requiring faith in unproven things). Some would say Buddhism is my religion, but it is not – not in the traditional, modern-day meaning of “religion,” because I do not depend on something outside myself. And I do not “believe” anything. I feel I do not have the moral authority to “believe.” I instead know or don’t know, suspect or do not suspect, trust or do not trust, or I put credence in theories until they can be proven by evidence.
I don’t assume, much, so I depend on my perception of what I am a part of, attempting to be as good a part of everything as I can – so it is responsible, inclusive, singular, and thus affords my part of the universal Mind quite a beautiful point of view, I feel. It is almost like saying I am part of what is “divine,” rather than separate from it. If there were a god, I would think this pays it more homage than thinking I am something separate from its creation – but, alas, I have no moral authority to validate the idea of a god. In that way, I insult not the universe or any individuals showing the evidence of how the universe really works.
B. Buddhism involves a moral path of inflicting as little harm as possible. It also says that we must accept reality for what it is (to the best of our intellectually honest ability to tell the difference), not what we or some doctrine or our fears want. To me that’s selfish and produces greater illusions than our minds already create and it it fosters delusion. For me this is perfect, because I feel a religion or philosophy is only as good as far as it abides by reality and does not attempt to recast reality in some self-serving image. A good religion or philosophy also must not preach punishment or pain – only benevolence. Because malice is born of selfishness and no spiritual path should foster that, or it is not spiritual; rather it is maligned and necessarily prejudiced. These features make a religion or philosophy a bulwark against well-being. If you subscribe to practices against well-being, what is the point of having a spiritual practice. that would just be politics or aggression. And this is why some other religions wind up at odds with one another; instead of fostering well-being for all, they are self-serving. They make for the politics of retribution and dualism – what Buddhism seeks to eliminate.
C. At left is my Certificate of Precepts. It signifies that I and my Dharma Brothers took vows and were witnessed in doing so, promising…
- consume alcohol irresponsibly
- lie or use harmful speech
- partake in immoral intimate contact
D. To me, the most important aspect beyond these promises is to use meditation and our own conscience to determine what is in ourselves and around us – understanding that the five senses, or Skandas, are the source of our perception.
E. I also see Buddhism–and specifically Zen Buddhism–is a humble, honest, moral practice and a way of looking at the universe that says “all is one,” and suffering is in the mind and caused by the mind; it is caused by the ego, or “selfness.”
F. Buddhism is a non-dogmatic way of looking at the universe–focusing on what is honestly and plainly perceived–or, on reality as it is. This is emphasized in One Mind Zen, or Han Maum – the sect of the Chogye Order of Korean Buddhism founded by the teacher Dae Heng Kun Sunim, the former teacher of my direct teacher, Chong go Sunim.
G. The Buddhist attempts to perfect Right Mind, Right Action, Right Thought, and Right Speech.
Some reasons I chose this practice are:
- I was enamored with the peaceful, revalatory, and epiphanal ways of meditation.
- The more I read about it, the more I felt and learned that this way of being was more honest and pacifying–spiritually, scientifically, and socially–than anything I had heard of or witnessed. For theists who feel this is “bad,” I suggest they look into it, and if they cannot part with their religions but still like Buddhist philosophy and practice, they can become Zen Christians, because:
- The practice of Zen conflicts with nothing–most importantly, with science.*
- There is no worship in true Buddhism – though there are those Buddhists who are devotional. And although in Japan you can see translations of signage showing people who visit Shinto shrines saying ‘how to worship’, this is Shinto, not Buddhism (the practices of the two religions (or of the religion and the philosophy, respectively) are sometimes confused, even by Japanese. And more to the point, in Buddhism, people do pay homage to Kannon (Gwanyin in Chinese), or the Buddha of Compassion – but this does not really constitute “worship”, in my mind.
- Buddhism can bring one peace like nothing else – in my opinion, because it is about being (and being peaceful, eliminating suffering) and it is about not doing as opposed to doing this or that–or not doing this or that.
- There are pronouncements as to how to live morally, but what is interesting is that the Buddha said to look at ideas–including his ideas–and test them, seeing whether they are right for us. In this way–and most importantly in my opinion–Buddhism does not interfere with sentient conscience, a most superlatively necessary way of ensuring the primacy of freedom.
- It is true the Buddha suggested his followers not to depend on a god or gods, but rather on themselves. However, until one can reach a transcendental path, it is possible for theists to benefit from the Buddhist ways of Zen meditation and mindfulness. I have met several Zen Christians, and have heard of formal Zen Christian sects.
- If one attempts to practice Zen Buddhism, specifically living a meditative life, she or he will be relieved of most – if not all – illusions and delusions, or at least be in the practice of recognizing them, so that following religions based on faith in stories that have no proof likely become impossible. But remember, The Buddha told his followers not to follow what he said outright – and rather to investigate things for themselves.Each of us creates his or own moral universe, so one could take the meditation of Zen and leave the Buddhist elements of wisdom out of it if one wishes. In fact, I think if more theists were at the same time Zennists, too–if they were Zen Christians, Zen Muslims, and Zen Jews–they might find much more peace, because…
- Meditation and the Buddhist way–which are crucial to the practice–are about presence, awareness, listening and seeing clearly, and conducting oneself in such a way as to not contribute to violence in oneself–as we are considered all one–aiming to diminish ‘I’ and ego and not causing violence to anyone else.
Thank you for reading. I wish you and yours peace, love, joy, and enlightenment.
(Carl Atteniese Jr.)