The Eightfold Path of Academia

     Yesterday I was thrown into a conversation about my heritage. It’s an interesting conversation, because I spend so much time in classes (both my own and those I assist) discussing the identity of others, and yet I have barely thought about my own or how I identify. I don’t identify with any specific heritage – perhaps because I grew up “a mutt” notwithstanding the strong links to various cultures. I grew up in a town with a large Buddhist community – one of the largest (probably the largest per capita) in the nation. Consequently, I was exposed to the teachings from an early age despite half my family calling the local practitioners “freaky” – they assumed that these people were leftovers from the 70’s age of cults and communal living. There were certainly leftover hippies. People always fear what they don’t understand.

One of my favorite hometown experiences happened when I was very young, though I don’t remember my age. It must have been past the age of ten because I was already performing in the local community band. After a Sunday evening concert one summer, I was sitting on the common eating an ice cream cone, and I met my first Buddhist nun. She had finished a walking meditation and was walking around the center of town softening clay beads in her hand to make a mala. I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but I know that’s what cemented my relationship to the dharma.  I walked away with the mala she had created and kept it until Hurricane Katrina destroyed it in 2005 (ironically, after I returned to New Orleans I found it in the mud where it had settled inside a singing bowl as the water levels dropped).

My relationship with Buddhism has always been love-hate. The teachings are there, but I haven’t always followed them, even when they bubble up from the subconscious to play the angel on my shoulder. I’ve had wavering months of devout practice, and months lost in the land of capitalist-driven hedonism where my inner child considered the world to be its sandbox. All I can do is smile because of course the entire premise behind Buddhist teachings is an espousal of ‘the Middle Way”, commonly known as moderation. I’m a horrible example of this. Now, in the land of academics, the corners of my mouth turn into a smile once more because once again the teachings, this moderation, should be paramount to my existence… and once again it’s not. An example? I work exceedingly hard 6 days a week to the point where I feel like I’ll collapse and on the 7th day, I’ll sleep late and do nothing but watch ridiculous TV and play with my dogs. Wouldn’t my life be better served if for those 6 days, I practiced moderation, so that by the 7th, I won’t feel the need to laze around? Sure it would. Knowing and doing are two different things. If my life becomes an example for anything, it’s that.

The noble 8-fold path should be recodified for academics, and applied to our interactions with research, colleagues, and students: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.  I think I’ll post the list on my office wall. Meanwhile… identity – I’m still working on that.



Wrapping Up This Week Like It’s Christmas.. With Newspaper and Duct Tape.


...but only sometimes.

I’ve decided I need to have more fun.  I realize I no longer live in New Orleans, but it doesn’t mean I can’t live like I still do. Now what this means  is that in general my life should include more  spontaneity and nonsensical silliness. I’ve gotten into this rut of reading, sleeping, eating convenience foods, grading, prepping for classes, and letting my dogs pee. If I’m feeling rebellious, I’ll watch some Netflix. With that said, I do enjoy weekends here with friends. Usually by Friday afternoon at four you can see a gaggle of musicologists sniffing out the nearest bar to escape the secretive black velvet bag full of buzz words:  hegemony, hermeneutics, all-things-cultural-theory, reflexivity, semiotics, etc. We do all manage to find our way home before Monday morning rolls around.  I think though, that I’d like to begin interspersing a few pixels of fun into the still-shots of my Monday-Friday. It may help me feel less like a preacher’s-daughter-turned-loose by the time Friday comes around (okay that’s really kind of an exaggeration).

Excuse me for getting all dharma on you for a second here, but in Buddhist terms I’m aching to grasp onto the middle way.  It was the first post-enlightenment sermon that the Buddha chose to give after stretching his legs out and having a few sips of water, no doubt.  Based on a life of balancing the extremes, it seems appropriate here. I have the discipline to be rigid and academic all the time, but quite frankly I don’t want to.  There’s always the possibility of losing yourself in it as the path is so clearly laid out.  So, how do I laugh more between chapters? I’m not sure. Perhaps the acknowledgment of the necessity for it is a strong enough propulsion.

Now that I’ve vented a bit, I can discuss my past week. This semester has gone incredibly odd so far – picture letting the air out of a balloon and watching it zip around the air in all directions.   I’m ready to take a deep breath and let the semester really begin.  Last week, my productivity was extremely low on Wednesday and Friday. My partner travels for work quite frequently and she was out of town on a recruitment trip all week. I feel like this always impacts my world negatively (yes okay, I miss her when she’s gone and my anxiety tends to flair), and I’m not sure how to put a damper on that. Again, perhaps just the acknowledgment of it will stop it in its tracks.

I’m finally doing some deep breathing with regards to my schedule. I think I’ve got a handle on it. It just took some finagling to ensure I could plan and organize everything. Luckily, thanks to the ever-visible organizational OCD, I’m pretty good at that.

My last gripe of the day: Who decided to plan SEM-SEC’s (Society for Ethnomusicology – Southeast & Caribbean Chapter) Nashville meeting during our annual Rainbow (world music) Concert weekend (or vice versa)?

Film: Political History of Tibet

Free Tibet

Image via Wikipedia

Below is a 55 minute documentary on the political history of Tibet. Although this video is sympathetic to Tibetans (made in France), I have also been trying to understand from the Han point of view.

Admittedly, I’ve been disturbed by the Chinese propaganda that can be found on YouTube and in other similar venues. Some of these videos look so forced and fake that it makes it difficult not to side with the Tibetans.  Certainly, I’ve been walking around with a “Free Tibet” sticker plastered on my laptops/instrument cases/cars for years (I grew up next door to a Buddhist retreat center), however I feel like I should spend more time taking a gander at “the other side”. I’ve been searching for a video or commentary by a Chinese scholar on the matter, or something objective. If anyone knows of anything like this, let me know.  Instead, I’m finding government-created short films.

Anyway, here’s the film. It’s quite well done: