Friday, August 9, 2013

The Horse is Dead

 Day is Done

Every day I peruse the social media in order to take the pulse of what is going on in the culture. 

Yesterday I came across a social media post from a bishop who was quoting the lyrics of the rather outdated (2008) Beyonce Knowles song, "Single Ladies".  Unfortunately the bishop was misinterpreting the song as an endorsement for traditional marriage. His conclusion was that maybe now we are finally returning back to embracing marriage as it used to be (the way things ought to be -  like it was in the good old days).  His ultimate conclusion: maybe the return to traditional marriage is a sign that people are turning back to religion once again.

Apart from the fact that this song doesn't endorse traditional marriage, the marriage rate in the United States is at a historic all time low. There is no trend back to the good old days. Also, there is no trend back to embracing traditional religion- actually the opposite appears to be true. More and more people are leaving the institutions of religion and embarking on different spiritual paths.

I found the bishop's social media post to be quite intriguing because in times of profound change, people often want to cling to what they perceive as a stable and solid past.

We live in an era of profound change. Most of the tried and true institutions of the past are crumbling before our very eyes  - the traditional institution of marriage and family life (mom, dad, the three kids and a dog),  the traditional institutions of education, government, medicine, and most definitely established religion- all falling apart and fading away- all becoming something else.

It's no wonder that those at the center of the institutions would want to go back to the way things used to be- but there is no going back. 

There is a well-known and often-quoted wisdom saying from the Native American culture: "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best thing you can do is get off the horse."

Those old venerable institutions of days gone by are dead.  And yet, institutions (like the established church) are trying to revive that which is already dead- like trying to revive a dead horse,  instead of dismounting and finding a new way.

There is some rather humorous literature that pokes fun at institutions (like religion) engaged in a pointless effort to revive an old dead model. Here are some examples of "How to Ride a Dead Horse:" (Remember the horse is lying dead on the road).

(1) Buy a stronger whip and change riders; (2) Appoint a committee to study the dead horse and make statements like "this horse really isn't dead; (3) Develop training sessions to improve horse-riding ability; (4) Pour lots of money into a project that will increase the horse's performance; (5) wait for the horse's condition to improve from this temporary downturn.

The Buddha teaches that all human suffering comes from clinging. Everything is impermanent- always in a state of constant change. When we try to cling to the impermanence of life we will indeed suffer. You can never box in or control that which is impermanent; and all of life is impermanent. 

I actually think that Buddhism has much to say to the traditional Western mindset that is so prone to preserving the establishment and so uncomfortable with going with the flow of change. Buddhists are guided by core principles and practices for following a spiritual path, but the path is always fluid and changing and organic because life's like that.

We live in such exciting times. The old horse is dead -  time to dismount.

 Long live the exciting possibilities of what yet may be.


  1. Thanks Trey. I appreciate your comment

  2. I think it would be more accurate to say the horse is lame, but far from dead.

  3. You may be right. But what if it is dead? I think we live in a post-Chrostian society and we act as if Christendom is going strong. When 1/3 of Americans in their 20s and 30s are religiously unaffiliated, and when the trend is for that to increase, something new needs to emerge.

    Thanks for the comment.