Friday, September 03, 2010

Dharma Punx

I read Dharma Punx by Noah Levine on my kindle. I've listened to a few talks on his website, and thought I'd read the book, which came out in 2003. One friend has gone on retreat with him and to his sangha night in NYC.

The first third of the book is a disturbing teenage angst rebellion drug binge, and the development of the punk aesthetic, love of tattoos and hatred of "hippies". Made me think of Sangharakshita's comment that if he hadn't found the Dharma, he would probably gone crazy.

I'm older than Levine, but punk was an alluring movement to me when I was in high school. I certainly didn't get as far into it as he did, and have moved on since then to find my musical true love in jazz, though I have to say I love most genera of music. I'm working on a cross post for a friend who has a music blog.

The pain he was inflicting on himself and others comes to a head about a third into the book, and he turns a kind of corner. In some ways I think he would have written a lot more in some place, I was curious for more details, and I wanted to ask him questions. How did he get into sweat lodges? I wanted more flavor of his friendships. I thought of the old adage about writing, show don't tell, though I can see how this book would be a manifesto for some people. It's a triumph of survival.

I like it when he referenced harm reduction, and the 12 step movements, in his efforts to lead a sober kind existence. I liked it when he explained his transition and changes, and what led up to and his journeys to the east.

His father is a spirituality writer, so he had some inside help and hooked up with Kornfield and the Thai Forest Tradition. But when he gets to the monastery in Thailand, he freaks out and leaves quickly. He tried a couple more times to go on retreat, but he ended up realized he just wanted to be with a woman. He was torn by his urge to be a monastic and his inability to be a monastic. He goes back east on another trip.

I liked his use of slang, I didn't know what shoulder tap was before I read this book. I liked the way he discussed his struggles with women. I had a friend who used to sigh and say, "ah, Buddhist men...." I like Noah's drive. I don't so much identify with his anti-authoritarian rationalizations, the tattoos and bands, but it's interesting. I don't really identify with his anger.

He writes best about his struggles with himself. I don't think he's such a good travel writer. In a way the book was about friendships and his grief over the loss of so many friends.

Certainly made me interested in his next book that came out in paperback in 2007. His punk and Buddhism synthesis is interesting:

I also want to see the documentary about him called Meditate and Destroy.

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