Emotional Emptiness and Hype
I’ve always wrestled somewhat with OCD tendencies. It has always been easy for me to go off on tangents, both intellectually and emotionally. That’s how I’ve always done so well in school: I wanted to know everything about a subject and, whatever the findings, I found exceptions. “What about this over here? That over there? How did things get like that?” My mind has always been like a bulldog with a meaty bone.
Buddhism has helped me to stop valuing trains of thought that do not add value to my life. It is relatively easy to let go of something that you’ve experienced to its logical conclusion and still found wanting. Stop chasing the damn thought, like a dog chasing a car. What if it catches it? Then what? Is the dog’s life appreciably better?
As I have learned to let go of thoughts and emotions more easily, I am left with a low-grade emotional pain/emptiness. I am unsure what to do with it, but spending my entire life trying to avoid it is an unworthy expenditure of time and energy. Refusing to invest emotional energy into things has been incredibly freeing, but I see why people seek endless distractions. I totally understand why no one would want to feel this way. This is what my OCD was protecting me from.
The challenge at this point is how not to get caught in various emotional distractions. I now see some of my Christian history as my attempts to avoid this feeling. That made me vulnerable to manipulation of the basest sort. So much of American Christianity is emotionally manipulative. How can it not be? Few people jump at the chance to join a religion that opens you up to suffering, which is basically the definition of Mahayana Buddhism.
How do you avoid being manipulated in a culture where you are marketed to 24/7? All I can think of is to turn off the glowing screen. And refuse to participate in meetings where the leader is trying to hype up the audience. This could be a religious service or a corporate meeting. If you have to get emotionally charged to do something, it may not be worthy of doing at all. If facts and logic alone don’t get you to do something, maybe passing on participation is the only reasonable action.