Why I want to write for Elephant Journal.

Via on Oct 4, 2010

Preaching to the Choir is like pissing in the wind.

The following is an email I submitted requesting to be a featured columnist for Elephant Journal.

It is a well-known fact that George W. Bush did not win reelection in 2004, because he had outlined a sustainable and beneficial model for America. He won reelection because a great number of people- the majority- did not relate to John Kerry, and furthermore felt insulted as the democrats painted George Bush as an idiot by ridiculing his “simple manner.” People all across the middle of the country, especially in the south didn’t necessarily agree with the Bush doctrine, but felt compelled to vote for him, because when liberals made fun of Bush they were in point of fact making fun of them.

Now this e-mail has nothing to do with politics. I just use the above story to illustrate a point- that the majority of people do not live in New York, Boulder, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland. I know very little about the people at Elephant Journal personally, but I know enough to know that they are committed to spreading “Non-New Agey Spirituality” and participating in the awakening of a mindful citizenry. I assume that you would like to see the Buddha’s teachings take hold in the U.S., and/or would like to provide an alternative source of media that provides an avenue for the more contemplative dimension of the worlds religions to be expressed. If I am right in assuming this, then this is one thing you and I have in common. Above everything, I would love to see in America a shift in consciousness, a nationwide spiritual awakening. Not necessarily a shift from one ideological or doctrinal point of view to another, but shift the focus from exterior conditions, to the interior causes. I would love to see Americans looking within themselves for the causes that give rise to pain and suffering instead of blaming & killing brown people all over the planet, or buying another huge gas guzzling vehicle to fix the sense of dis-ease, which obviously has its roots within.

So in keeping with the theme of this email- the lesson we can learn from the 2004 presidential campaign- in the future I would like to see Elephant Journal express its position via a more diverse spectrum. I like the topics or the subject matter, but it is all written by people from the East & West Coast (or at least seems to be). Lets face it, there is an entirely different culture down South- in the Bible Belt- than there is in Boulder! If we are truly committed to a shift in consciousness, an Awakening here in the United States, or the emergence of a truly “Enlightened Society” then we must be able to relate to the majority of the people- Middle America. We have to quit wasting our time preaching to the choir, turn around, and engage the masses. These are the people we should be trying to reach; not convert necessarily, but open up and relate to- have genuine dialouge. Austin, Boulder, and Portland are already, to some degree, sympathetic toward the issues that EJ writers tend to address. It is in the south that such topics are met with rebuttals like, “Sounds like some crazy liberal with his tongue possessed by the devil!” But I assure you; this is fertile soil for an awakening….

This is why I want to be a columnist on Elephant Journal. I am from the south. I was raised in the south. I know how to talk to people from the south, because I am people from the south. I am not another hippie from Austin or New Orleans- those two cities are islands in the south. I am from Shreveport. We have more Baptist churches than libraries and schools put together! That is what I mean by the south! I teach Buddhist Meditation down here, and I know there are plenty of people down here interested in your message, but you need an interpreter. That is the position I am applying for- Elephant Journal’s Interpreter to the South! Furthermore, it helps get the word out about the local meditation group I teach at, which is the most important thing of all. Getting people involved in the process, meditation & yoga (contemplative spirituality) is what will create long-term positive change in our society. I am not interested in convincing others that eating vegan is healthier because of the difference between first hand and second hand photons! I am interested in awakening within my readers an interest or genuine curiosity, which invites them to look within themselves, beyond the fixed conceptual mind, for a far greater potential. A truly enlightened society is born within us. I hope you will consider my application- Have a great day!

Ben Riggs

About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist & Christian spirituality and politics for The Good Men Project, Elephant Journal, The Web of Enlightenment, and is the editor & chief for Henry Harbor--an online magazine concerned with art, culture, spirituality, & politics in the deep South. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Looking for a real bio? Click here to read my story....

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7 Responses to “Why I want to write for Elephant Journal.”

  1. Beth Slusher says:

    Looking within ourselves to find the source of suffering (or peace) is indeed a foreign concept to many people, and particularly people here in the South. Slowly though, an awareness is breaking through that perhaps the world and our place in it isn't exactly what we've always thought it to be or seen it portrayed. Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion….

  2. Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

    Yeah Beth, our tendency to blame others for our troubles and subsequently look for others to solve them is a problem… It is true all over the world. The whole idea of "right" or "left" seem to play off of this problem, that is one side blaming the other while suggesting that they have the solution, and as you say David when the media decides to play this game it becomes down right obnoxious! Thank you very much Bob.

  3. Blake Wilson Blake says:

    Lawrence, Kansas representin'!

  4. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Great piece of writing, and absolutely true – we need to engage the people out there who are ripe to be engaged but may not yet have realized it themselves: and there are many of them today I believe.
    Welcome to EJ and I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.
    ps – I’m not from E or W coast, I’m from Slovenia (via England)!
    With love, Ben

  5. Ramesh says:

    Ben,
    after gently choking on everything spiritually and politically correct living in Ashland, Oregon (another Boulder-like place) for many years, I am now happy to live in the South. From Ashes to Ashes, I now live in the mountains outside Asheville, NC and am happy to have many Baptist and redneck friends that also have many great values, such as growing your own food, for example, or having plenty of time to talk. It's real down here, for sure, so I commend you for not wanting to piss in the wind, Ben, and for bringing a Southern Buddhist spirit into this forum. Welcome!

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