Bible, Pioneer Valley, Social Issues, Violence

On Being an Angry White Dude

I was in the fifth grade when the Twin Towers fell. Living in California, I had never been to New York, nor had I even heard of the World Trade Center prior to that Tuesday morning. Before the start of school that day, I walked around the blacktop with my two best friends. A kid ran up to us and blurted out, “Did you guys hear what happened?” I think it was Jack who replied, “Shut the fuck up.” National tragedy would not occasion reprieve from our manly forbearance. Perhaps, as young kids with a penchant for cruelty as well as compassion, we did not have the combination of empathetic rationale required for processing such an event. Despite how cognitively, relationally, and socially removed we were from across the country, it may still sound blasphemous against the cause of humanity to admit that I don’t remember feeling emotionally upset. I deferred to Jack, keeping the pact of nihilistic silence–there’s nothing we can do, so who gives a fuck?–but internally my response was a single thought. What the fuck did you expect?

As a 10-year-old boy, I was not particularly versed in world politics, but nonetheless I believed that our imperialistic nation had bought this fate a long time ago. I remember being surprised that this had not happened earlier, and more frequently. At the time, my direct reasoning was something like this: if your nation does enough fucked up shit–from slavery at home to unnecessary invasions abroad–you’re gonna get attacked sometimes. I still see a truth in this cynical response, but looking back on my young perspective now, I am puzzled. At such a young age, I wonder, where did I come up with this political perspective? And, perhaps more importantly, how and why did I lack basic empathy for the people killed? Continue reading

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce, Pioneer Valley

Big Foot, Loch Ness, and Finnegans Wake: In Defense of the Arcane, Pt. 1

by Derek Pyle

The crown of Hipster Creation, I guess: nonsensical, witty, I-don’t-give-a-fuck cool. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce is the ultimate “shit on canvas and call it art.” An honest admission of admiration for the book seems too arrogant–because after all, I really don’t know what’s going on–and yet I can’t simply write off the work as gibberish. Mirroring this internal conflict, when discussing the book with others I unwittingly slip into a pretentious yet self-effacing brogue. As if arcane is equated with cool, I say stupid shit like, “It’s the most difficult book in the English language.” From Wikipedia:

The entire book is written in a largely idiosyncratic language, consisting of a mixture of standard English lexical items and neologistic multilingual puns and portmanteau words… Despite these obstacles, readers and commentators have reached a broad consensus about the book’s central cast of characters and, to a lesser degree, its plot. Continue reading

Buddhism, Mindfulness, Pioneer Valley, Social Issues

Buddha, Commodified: A Critique of Modern Day Mindfulness

AKA Why Mindfulness Sucks by Derek Pyle

Those who promote mindfulness meditation as a mainstream cure all of life’s problems are doing us a disservice. The commodification of mindfulness, and the secularization of Buddhism, is actually just another form of socially colonizing and capitalizing on the exotic “East.” Contained within this trend appears a new age of spiritual charlatanism, perhaps akin to the Middle Ages corruption of the Church, when salvation was something you could buy, an accessory sold alongside yoga mats and tofu. But faced with critiquing an entire cultural movement in one short article, for now I focus my discussion on a recent talk that exemplifies some of the social issues inherent in the current obsession with mindfulness and meditation. I ask forgiveness for relying too heavily on generalities, because homogenized thinking is part of the problem, and yet an unavoidable fact of communication. Continue reading

Bible, Pioneer Valley, Social Issues

Westborough Baptism Church protests Biblical filth

by Derek Pyle

This is a great day for everyone who has ever been disturbed by the graphic imagery contained in the Bible–which ranges from the ominous New Testament threat, “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” to the Old Testament time God flooded the whole earth, leaving only a single incestuous family to re-populate. Finally, the Westborough Baptism Church is working to rid the earth of this filth. Continue reading

Kick Ass Classical, Music, Pioneer Valley

Smith’s “Requiem” conjures visions of sin and death

by Derek Pyle

I was in the 5th grade when “28 Days Later” premiered, a hot minute before zombie takeovers became just more hackneyed commercial cheese. Back then, when cinema could still capture this kind of apocalypse in serious form, one scene stuck in my eleven-year-old mind. The film’s protagonist awakens in a hospital bed to find London an abandoned city; he does not know what has happened, and the empty streets leave no indication. It is only when walking into a church that he discovers a lone human message, in black graffiti on the wall: “Repent; the end is extremely fucking nigh.” Continue reading