Over at Religion Dispatches, writer Ryan Croken offers a really interesting piece about “gendered imaginings of ‘courage’ and ‘compassion’” and the seeming “incompatibility of spiritual intelligence with political viability.” There are also some interesting observations in there about the role of monasticism–represented pictorially by the two spiritual titans above (Thomas Merton and His Holiness the Dalai Lama). The author begins his exploration with an interesting hypothetical: a presidential race between the former U.S. President George W. Bush and the Very Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. He writes:
To probe the root causes behind the separation of enlightenment and state, imagine (for a moment) an impossible yet illuminating hypothetical: Thich Nhat Hanh is running for president against, say, George W. Bush. This historic campaign would undoubtedly give rise to many important, superficial issues, but perhaps one question above all others would seize the electoral imagination: is Hanh “tough” enough for the job?
The standard metrics would be employed. Does he eat the flesh of dead animals? Has he recently threatened or condemned a Third World nation? Does he enjoy sports in which strong, sweaty men frequently smash into one another? As soon as the American public learns that Thich Nhat Hanh’s favorite pastimes include sitting quietly, smiling, breathing, and drinking tea, Hanh ’09, “The Right Man for the Present Moment,” would be done for. The gentle monk would be branded a sissy and sent back to his commune in France.
The fearless Zen master may have the courage to set himself on fire to put an end to war; but for this very reason he would be considered weaker than George W. Bush, a man who has earned his masculine credentials through his resolute yearning to send other people to war.
Read the rest here.