Index of Similarity (IS): A Tool for Breaking Down Stereotypes

The social science literature is full of claims about the differences between men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and so on. But how can we also examine similarities? This post offers a method.

Men vs. women. Blacks vs. whites. Rich vs. poor. Muslim vs. Christian. We hear a lot, in the social sciences and in the popular media, about how different various groups of people are in their preferences, traits, or behaviors. The finding of a “difference” based on empirical research is considered interesting and publishable! But it also, alas, often leads to much misunderstanding, and even invidious stereotyping.

This is because differences get a lot more attention than similarities. Because similarities are rarely reported on, we have a tendency to slide into thinking that differences are much larger than they actually are. It’s an easy slide from categorizing people under some labels—for example, drawing on people’s self-identification as “a woman,” “a man,” “white,” or “a person of color”—to thinking that traits and behaviors divide easily into the same categories. Continue reading “Index of Similarity (IS): A Tool for Breaking Down Stereotypes”

Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?

Conversations with David Loy, Clair Brown and others…

It’s been an interesting couple weeks. Buddhist scholar David Loy and I, along with Jeff Seul, engaged in an online conversation on the One Earth Sangha website about Buddhism and economics. UC Berkeley economist Clair Brown and I, meanwhile, engaged in an email conversation about her new book on the topic.

In the same couple weeks, I also find that I’ve been called a “rubbish”-writing, rent-seeking “neoliberal economist” by a Buddhist blogger.* But, lest you think I only get criticism from the left side of the political spectrum, I’ve also just recently been labeled as an impractical, hopelessly idealistic “windbag” by a well-known actual neoliberal economist.**

What is my crime, in their eyes? Continue reading “Is There a “Buddhist Economics”?”

Yappy Chihuahua Mind

Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind.” I’ve found I have (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind.

chihuahua

To seek Great Heart with thinking
mind is certainly a grave mistake.

Zen meditation practitioners encounter what is commonly called “monkey mind”—our small, thinking minds that continually swing from thought to thought and from desire to desire. At a recent retreat, though, my small mind appeared with a slightly different personality. Instead of a monkey mind, I found I had (with apologies to nice Chihuahuas) a yappy Chihuahua mind. It was small, loud, persistent, and aggressive. And like many small dogs, it seemed to think it was big and tough…in utter ignorance of its actual tininess. Continue reading “Yappy Chihuahua Mind”

Hard Times

Is the world the problem? Or something else?

Vases/face

How do we meet hard times? Like perhaps many others, I woke up on November 9th, the morning after the United States presidential election, thinking “I’m not living in the kind of country I thought I was.” The world suddenly appeared to me as far more harsh, more dangerous, and less reasonable than I ever would have thought.

I have been struggling with how to respond to this. While I’m still groping and muddling about, at least one thing has been clear: I’m pretty sure that responding to manifestations of greed, anger, ignorance, and fear with more greed, anger, ignorance, and fear is not going to be helpful. Continue reading “Hard Times”

Another Head

About eating chocolate…and wanting the piece that is still in my hand.

20160813_203519In Zen, as in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there is talk of characters who have two heads. In Adams’ book, it’s  a character named Zaphod Beeblebrox. In Zen, it comes from a talk by the 9th century Chinese Master Linji:

 …There are indeed so far none who have presented themselves before me all alone, all free, all unique… They are all ghostly existences, ignominious gnomes haunting the woods, elf-spirits of the wilderness….Do you think you deserve the name of ‘monk’ when you are still entertaining mistaken ideas of Zen? You are putting another head over your own! What do you lack in yourselves?

Zen teachings tell us continually that “this is it,” that there is no need to keep seeking for something beyond, for something outside of ourselves.  I’ve made a practice for myself of asking  “Which head am I in?” Am I in this head that rests on top of my neck, connected to my spine, my heart, and the feelings and sensations that are going on right now? Or am I feeling, thinking, and acting from the additional head I’ve constructed on top of that one? Continue reading “Another Head”