Something Is Squeezing My Skull

Despite this blog’s title my skull is intact but it’s a little frustrated due to not making as much progress in a few things as I’d like to. I don’t know why my mind went here but it did: Earlier this week I found myself thinking about Thích Quảng Đức. Don’t know who he is? Even if you don’t know him, you probably “know” him. He was the Burning Monk.

The Burning Monk - self-immolation

On June 11, 1963 Thích Quảng Đức sat himself down in the middle of a Saigon street and performed the most disturbing act of martyrdom that the civilized world may have ever seen at the time: self-immolation. A can of gasoline, a match, prayer beads, the will of a million condensed into one soul, and the plight of Buddhists being persecuted by South Vietnam was elevated to such a height that the world outside of Southeast Asia simply couldn’t ignore it anymore. Thích Quảng Đức inflicted this upon himself, probably seeing the loss his physical life a non-factor compared to the spiritual suffering that his people had to endure. Almost a contradiction: the inherent precept of non-violence and gentle protest in the form of an extreme act of violence- burning oneself alive. And he never moved, never made a sound, just sat there in a lotus position…where does a body get that kind of strength?

And with that act, Thích Quảng Đức was lifted to and regarded as a bodhisattva.

Like I said, I’m not sure why my mind wandered to him this week but it did. Off the cuff, I’m thinking that it has something to do sacrifice, the nature of it and the need for it. We’re existing in an economically fucked up time and many people have had to make various forms of sacrifices and will surely have to make more before our collective heads are above water again. As a country, as a people, as a race of humans, as an individual we are in a moment where we really have to let go of some things- usually the frivolous or unnecessary (even if they give us pleasure), the destructive, the just not worth your time. Attachment. Attachment to things, ideas, ways of thought, self indulgences, bad relationships, habits, histories, expectations, etc. These things in order get out of our own way and move on. So that’s what’s been squeezing my skull.

Thanks, Morrissey.

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