Date: Monday, November 03, 2003 11:48 AM
You may have noticed the item I posted on my website a few weeks ago about the solar powered prayer wheel.
Last week I stopped into the neighborhood Chinese place on my way home and one of the guys in there asked me if I had put the solar panels up on my roof yet. On an earlier visit we had been talking about these solar panels I got cheap from the guy down the road. So I told him, "No, not really, I don't actually have a plan for those yet." But then I mentioned that I had in fact put up a smaller one to run my solar prayer wheel. Since I thought maybe, being Chinese, he might be Buddhist (stereotyping again, shame on me) and know something about the prayer wheels, I asked if he knew about them. He didn't, so I launched into a brief explanation of what the Tibetan Buddhists believe about them (to the extent that I understand those beliefs). See the website for details. So I happened to notice as I was talking, that this other customer who was standing there was beginning to stare intently at me. As I got to the part of the explanation about how the Tibetans believe that these prayer wheels have beneficial effects even for those who don' t believe in them or have any conscious participation in making or using them, this guy spoke up and told me that God would punish me for attempting to corrupt others into my idolatrous ways. I explained as politely as possible that I was not offering this as my own belief, or trying to convince anyone that it was true or not, only discussing it as a sort of curiosity. (If a Tibetan Buddhist had been present he probably could rightfully have taken the other side and accused me of mocking his religion for saying the very same things without representing them as undeniable truths.) I also pointed out that I didn't worship the little spinning wheel any more than I worship a television, a little carving of a man on a cross, or a statue of the virgin Mary. (Even the Episcopalians believe that you are not worshipping the image, you are worshipping the deity that the image represents.) At that point, he called me a blasphemer and told me that I would "surely Burn In Hell Fire." (No shit, those were his actual words.) That was too much for me, and though I knew that it was only throwing gasoline on the fire, I said, reaching into my wallet, "Oh no, I don't think so. You see, I have a Get Out Of Hell Free card !" Which I offered to him. He recoiled as if he was in the presence of Old Nick himself, muttered "Balasphemer" one more time, quickly grabbed up his food and beat feet out of there. I hope I didn't cost my Chinese friends, who were all very amused by the whole thing a customer. I also hope he had a chance to catch sight of my 'speed on brother' bumpersticker on his way out.
I kind of suspect that this guy came from the church a little way up the road. Big fancy place, must have $100,000 worth of standing seam copper roof on it. The ex county prosecutor, a bunch of other bigwigs, and a bunch of cops who wanted to suck up to these powerful political types all went to church there. He's only ex because he committed suicide in the face of a scandal about him using his office computer and time to gamble. They have recently been embroiled in a big ugly and well publicized (by various members of one faction or another) internal squabble having to do with the main minister and his wife getting a divorce. It seems that she considers the church a 'marital asset' and had charged him in court with trying to suck out the finds and move them offshore to keep her from getting anything in the divorce. This minister was also the official chaplain for the sheriff's department and got to carry an honorary badge and stuff like that. Things really came to a head a while back when it was discovered that this minister was sending out his cop buddies to harass members of the other faction who sided with his wife (also a lesser minister in the same church), and had for several years used his honorary badge to avoid a long string of speeding and even a few drunk driving violations.
I think I'll stick to the prayer wheel. It sits there quietly spinning out it's benevolent emanations over the surroundings, not harming or causing trouble for anyone. You can believe in it or not as you choose, and it doesn't care, it offers the same benevolence to all, believers and nonbelievers alike.
At least it does if you believe in that sort of thing.