“May you live in interesting times.”
Chinese Curse

It took me many years of struggle, failure, lust, and envy to finally fully understand the wisdom in the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.” Now I realize that those who inhabit the East are—for the most part and when they are not trying to be Western—far wiser than those of us in the West. I suspected as much after September 11th 2001, when America was rocked to its very core by a small group of radicals with plastic knives and fake passports. But, I did not fully grasp the horror of the Chinese curse until America’s—and the world’s—economy fully collapsed less than one year ago.

Its true that this New Depression has spread throughout the world, but we Americans seem to be taking it much harder than most, at least psychologically. Just take a look at all the examples of suicides, mass murderous gun sprees, and general insanity that pervade the daily news headlines. All of this terrible craziness makes a sort of sense when one considers the path this country has been on at least since January, 1980, when that cracked actor Ronald Reagan hoodwinked the American population on his way to two terms full of horrible lies, treachery, and demented failure. Perhaps the path began even earlier, when the known sociopath and chronic liar Richard Nixon rose to power. Yet, the strange insanity of Reagan and the downright immorality of the Bush II years served to make Nixon look like a liberal blow-hard from the East Village.

Anyway, I digress. The rampant free market conservatism of Reagan and the blatant corruption of all that is pure perpetuated by W. have led Americans precipitously close to the edge. And Americans themselves are to blame. Long fattened on a steady diet of television, technology, religious fundamentalism, greedy convenience, and egotism, Americans came to eventually believe the hype about them being the “chosen people,” inhabitants of Reagan’s “city on the hill.” While becoming less and less involved in political decision making while at the same time becoming more and more reliant on mood altering drugs, religious pandering, and the newest version of electronic nipple, Americans have become little more than obese, gaping maws of consumption. So, when the bubble finally burst, their very collective identity was shattered. As anyone who has experienced true ego-loss will tell you, the destruction of one’s sense of self can be devastating. And, when the person who goes through such a shattering experience is geeked out on Prozac, blinded by religious zeal, and/or completely unable to think about the concept of living without the newest SUV parked in their McMansion driveway, things can get very ugly very quickly. Such people can even tend to reach under their pillow and pull out their fancy and fully-licensed semi-automatic handgun, walk into the nearest Starbucks, and proceed to gun down as many people as possible before putting the muzzle in their own mouth and ending their pathetically shallow and insecure existence.

Yet, ego-loss does not have to end in violence, death, and destruction, nor does it need to end in a madhouse. Many practitioners of Eastern religions, as well as serious experimenters with psychedelic substances, know that the loss of ego can in fact lead to enlightenment. Destroying and reforming the notion of oneself, especially when the original notion is false and unsustainable, can lead to valuable life-lessons and a better person. Losing one’s job and one’s McMansion—not to mention one’s retirement fantasy to live in a stucco house built by illegal immigrants on drained swampland in Florida—does not have to be the end of all sanity. In fact, things like losing all of your savings, job, place in life, and identity can be liberating if only for the fact that they prove that Americans and Westerners in general spend far too much time dwelling on past events and worrying about future occurrences. Shit happens, move on. Or, as the fat little Easterner named Buddha said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Westerners can learn many valuable lessons from Buddha, though none is more practical than the idea that we create our own happiness. As Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.” So, Americans, when bad things happen, forgo the urge to pull out your gun and kill everything around you. Remember, you create your own reality. And so on…