Meanwhile, back at the charnel ground…

Half a year ago, I put this site on the back burner. I’ll explain why, and what I may do here next, at the end of this page.

First, I’d like to advertise writing I’m doing on two other sites. If you are following only this one, you might find those interesting as well.

Buddhism for Vampires

“Meanwhile, back at the charnel ground” refers to Buddhism for Vampires. One of my most popular posts here was “Charnel ground,” about the Buddhist practice of viewing all reality as a horror movie. Buddhism for Vampires is a humorous (and sometimes horrifying) take on charnel ground practice.

I’ve recently published there:


Meaningness is a book about different ways we can approach core questions of meaning, such as purpose, meaninglessness, self, value, and ethics. I’m writing it bit by bit on the web, making the book an interactive, community experience.

Currently I’m writing about monism, the idea that All is One—which often is supposed to imply also that you are God. Monism is common in modern Buddhism. I think it’s mostly factually wrong, and also harmful, both to individuals and social groups. It is not entirely wrong, though, and its opposite (dualism) is equally wrong. Still, I am deeply concerned about its influence on Buddhism, which was mostly anti-monist for most of its history.

I recently published “Unity and diversity,” an introduction to monism, dualism, and the third alternative I advocate (“participation”). There is a schematic overview that outlines the whole discussion. And then I’ve published “Boundaries, objects, and connections,” which begins to explain the fundamental, mistaken intuitions that underlie monism and dualism.

This site

On this site, I was working on “Reinventing Buddhist Tantra.” After a year’s work, I had not quite yet finished the introductory overview to the series. At that rate, according to my outline, the project would take five years.

“Reinventing Buddhist Tantra” was a part of the “Consensus Buddhism” topic—about which I have much more to say.

And that was meant to be a preliminary to explaining ideas about where Buddhism may need to head in the future. That is what I care about most. Everything I have written on this site was preliminaries intended to help diagnose American Buddhism’s current difficulties, and as background for new possibilities. I find all those preliminaries interesting for their own sakes as well, and it’s painful to abandon them. Life is short, however, and I fear I will never have time to write them up.

So, tentatively, I expect to scrap everything I had planed to write here—the elaborate outline and drafts of many posts in various stages of completion—in order to cut to the chase and talk about the future.

To force myself to be concise, I recently summarized parts of that as a series of tweets. Here they are:

The distinctive spiritual feature of our era is the atomization of culture, society, and our selves into tiny fragments of meaning.

Twitter is the perfect example and metaphor for contemporary meaningness. So what is living inside twitter like? Where are our problems?

Central problem of our time: overwhelmingly too much meaning, delivered in tasty 140-character bites. How do we make sense of all that?

Those stuck in the 20th century might say that twitter is devoid of meaning, because it has no ULTIMATE meaning; but that is nonsense.

The key spiritual problem of the 20th century was fear of nihilism: that maybe life has no meaning AT ALL. That now seems silly.

Still, the -isms, great glass cathedrals of meanings, DID implode, shattering in the black flood of nihilism, materialism, and skepticism.

We risk drowning in a sea of meaning, or at minimum drifting without direction. We must assemble meaningness-crafts to navigate this ocean.

Our lives are so full of so many tiny tasty things that they may fail to add up to much. New -isms are hopeless, yet we need organization.

GTD attempts to organize the fragments of our selves and world, but it is more part of the problem than a solution.

GTD’s axes of organization mainly fail to capture what we find most important, and so enables efficient pursuit of lesser-value goals.

Twitter, like GTD, fails to provides tools for fitting meaning-morsels together into creative assemblages of higher value.

Atomization of meaning does not imply that every tweet is of equal worth, nor that larger meaning-structures are obsolete.

Finding or creating a consistent, coherent, universal culture, society, or self is NOT our task; that is the doomed dream of modernism.

Our new spiritual task is to devise diverse watercraft for sailing the turbulent seas of meaning. Not great -isms, but elegant windjammers.

Ships that sail the seas of meaning must be: collaborative; creative; improvised; intimate; disposable; beautiful; and spiritual.

Less poetically, meaningness-crafts are fluid, shared structures that organize meanings in ways that foreground whatever matters most.

The keel of a meaning-sailing ship might be a web tool; the planks, a social group; the sails, collaborative artistic creations.

We are already doing this! A deliberately silly example: I Can Haz Cheezburger has all the required features (listed in n–3 tweet).

Many quite different types of meaning-ocean-going vessels are imaginable; experimentation will find the most capable forms. summarizes my understanding of the changes in the way we’ve related to meaningness over the past few decades. is the outline for an upcoming series of a dozen blog posts detailing these changes in culture, society, and the self. includes: how Buddhism has evolved in reaction to changes in meaningness, and brief speculation about its future.

This barrage of tweets has been an experiment in abusing the twitter form. Comments on style as well as substance are welcome!