April 16th, 2010



So, I'm putting together a little packet for my publisher about Fairyland, and I'm to include comments I've gotten about it. Well, really, there've been quite a lot over the past year, and I am disorganized. So I'm asking for a little help.

If you're a reader and Fairyland has meant something to you, drop me an email or comment on this post. My first name at gmail. If you happen to be a pro writer, so much the better, but I'm looking for fan comments, too. Thanks, guys.
urban anchorite

Skinny Buddha vs. Fat Buddha

Several commenters asked me to expand on the Skinny Buddha/Fat Buddha analogy I referenced yesterday, and thus I am going to do so. However, a few words to the wise: the following is very bad Buddhism. I am not a Buddhist, but I am into that whole knowledge thing and I know it's bad Buddhism and that a. the Buddhas in question are not called that and b. the whole point of the two Buddhas is to indicate parts of his life and point out that the middle road is best. This is a metaphor, it is not a religious koan. Also, this has nothing to do with literal skinniness or fatness. In our house, we run the gamut of body types.

The point is, I'm about to repeat a conversation that occurred while we'd all had quite a bit of vodka and roast meat and pie, and therefore it is not a logically thought out philosophy, it's a fireside housemate talk.

It began because justbeast  was talking about the high-end programmers he knew, the people who were geniuses and at the top of their game, were ascetic about programming. They didn't read much fiction or dick around with knitting and netflix instant, they read programming books and had empty apartments and concentrated solely on programming, and that's why they were so awesome at it. That he didn't know any high level programmers who did not basically come home from work and program more, who did not devote everything to it. I objected to his use of the word ascetic, because it's a positive word to me, indicating that the other kind of life is not as good--medievalist girl here, I view asceticism as a good thing, but also an intentional thing--you're not ascetic if you don't live the way you do intentionally, so as to be more holy/awesome. If you just forget to eat, you're not fasting, you know?

I don't remember who said "Skinny Buddhas" first, but I think it was mishamish . Which reshaped it a bit for me--we all have Buddha nature, these are people who care so much about their one devotion that the rest sort of falls away, whether they mean it to or not. At which point I said: I AM A GIGANTIC FAT BUDDHA THEN. And we all jumped on it.

See, justbeast  feels a certain amount of guilt for not being a Skinny Buddha--he feels he'll never be at the top of his field if he doesn't sacrifice everything else, and yet he can't bring himself to sacrifice everything else. Because he can't decide which to be, he always feels guilt for not being the other. I started talking about Fat Buddhas as people who just want everything, who have lots of hobbies and obsessions and interests, even if that means they don't concentrate enough to be perfection at one of them. People who have jobs but find as much or more fulfillment in being foodies and knitters and gamers and social hubs and bloggers and beermakers and glassblowers and decorators and travelers. One is not superior to the other. They're just different ways of interacting with the world. Devoting everything to the pursuit of a goal until you are glowing with ability and achievement, but possibly you live in a grey apartment with nothing on the walls and eat mac and cheese every night, but that's ok because of how amazing you are at your profession.

Or you see your friends most nights and make your own jam/wine/clothes/pastry and watch a lot of stupid movies and play Rock Band all the time and maybe you're not as far along as you'd like to be, maybe you're not at the top of your game or making the kind of money you want to but it's ok because of all the other stuff you do. Stuff that might seem trivial and silly to a lot of people, but that make you happy, make you feel like you're being fed. Maybe you collect books and games and even if you never get to play them all or read them all, it's still a dragon hoard and you sit on it and feel ful and fat and sly.

It's really pretty hard to do both, because time is finite. Once you're past a certain age you have to make choices about how you spend your hours, and rewatching the X Files is maybe not as important as learning Ruby. Or maybe it is. Maybe stories and shows and ceramics and D & D are important to you, like they are to me. It's pretty hard--though not impossible--to have a healthy personal life and lots of hobbies and be extraordinary at your job. Something often gives. I did point out that many Skinny Buddhas have children, who take up much more time than any hobby, and fill a lot of those empty spaces in life. And of course, people can get totally Skinny Buddha about their kids, and practice the yoga of raising them with hardcore focus and sacrifice.

Being a Fat Buddha is important to me. But it's not easy, it's not a default. I have to work at it. I want to experience as much as I can while I'm here. I watch a lot of movies and I knit constantly and I read--even books that aren't any good--and I cook and I still want to do more. But it's pretty easy to slip into total focus on my job, because my job happens to be manufacturing entertainment, and it encompasses a lot of what I talk about. People are interested in it, and want to hear about publishing, when what I do for a living comes up. And obviously I've spent a lot of time on it, more than anything else. A few years ago I felt way too Skinny Buddha about it and knew I needed hobbies that didn't involve staring at a computer screen. It took effort to find some, to get good at them, and I'm a happier person now.

Though I said this was not about actual weight, I did muse that I had come to the realization lately that I could never be trusted not to eat delicious food, and so clearly needed to just exercise a lot, so that I could keep eating homemade fabulousness. Because I like all the little bits of the world that are connected to the body, to physical experience, to all the things that are not work--though I love my work, and it is good work and there's nothing else I really want to do. But if I do nothing else I go crazy, and it's a bit different for writers anyway, because if all you do is write, then your writing sucks because it has nothing else to draw on but itself, and all your protagonists are suddenly writers and the meta, it folds in on itself and that's how black holes are created.

But in some sense, justbeast  still feels the Skinny Buddha is the right path. The nobler path. Certainly the path to greater pride and status and salary. (Though he's been Skinny by default lately, with so much work to do, and it makes him unhappy.) And maybe it is, though I think there's no better or worse, just different. I think that life is more than a job--and maybe that means I'll never be the very best at my job. I like being a Fat Buddha. Though I have to remind myself sometimes, to stretch out on the porch and enjoy the world, the body, and not kill myself with work until my soul is living on one grain of rice a day. My work takes up a lot of psychic room, but if I get too Skinny, I'm miserable. But people's souls vary, and some are very fed by the practice of their work. Wherever you find fulfillment, there you are.

So that was the long talk. And then I got us more drinks and was all "Team Fat Buddha" while I drank vodka full of cherries and we say this a lot now. I totally didn't have TFB t-shirts made for us with Buddha drinking coffee and working on a laptop with knitting in his lap, I don't know why you would suggest that. It's way too postmodern life to make t-shirts out of household jokes. That's just silly.
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