Questions, questions, questions...

Submitted: Oct 15, 2013
Badlands Journal editorial board

 “Nothingness” has become a big topic again.  Nihil is back, but only after 35 years of nimium (too much). Much, much too much.

Suddenly, there is news of revolution. But what revolution? What kind of revolution is it going to be? Which direction will it take us? Will it be Right or will it be a wrong revolution? In America?

A revolution. Destroying things. Turning what was into nothing. Possibly in the name of Nothing. Or perhaps Something. Nothing is clear. Yet.

In this moment of uncertainty, certain members of the Badlands editorial board thought that Brecht might enlighten us. -- blj



"The Buddha’s Parable of the Burning House" (1932-3)

By Bertold Brecht

Gautama the Buddha taught

The doctrine of greed's wheel to which we are bound, and advised

That we should shed all craving and thus

Undesiring enter the nothingness that he called Nirvana.

Then one day his pupils asked him:

What is it like, this nothingness, Master? Every one of us would

Shed all craving, as you advise, but tell us

Whether this nothingness which then we shall enter

Is perhaps like being at one with all creation

When you lie in water, your body weightless, at noon

Unthinking almost, lazily lie in the water, or drowse

Hardly knowing now that you straighten the blanket

Going down fast -- whether this nothingness, then

Is a happy one of this kind, a pleasant nothingness, or

Whether this nothing of yours is mere nothing, cold, senseless and void

Long the Buddha was silent, then said nonchalantly:

There is no answer to your question.

But in the evening, when they had gone

The Buddha still sat under the bread-fruit tree, and to the others

To those who had not asked, addressed this parable:


Lately I saw a house. It was burning. The flame

Licked at its roof. I went up close and observed

That there were people still inside. I opened the door and called

Out to them that the roof was ablaze, so exhorting them

To leave at once. But those people

Seemed in no hurry. One of them

When the heat was already scorching his eyebrows

Asked me what it was like outside, whether it wasn't raining


Whether the wind wasn't blowing perhaps, whether there was

Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering

I went out again. These people here, I thought

Need to burn to death before they stop asking questions.

Truly friends,

Unless a man feels the ground so hot underfoot that he'd

Exchange it for any other, sooner than stay, to him

I have nothing to say. Thus Gautama the Buddha.


But we too, no longer concerned with the art of submission

Rather with that of not submitting, and putting forward

Various proposals of an earthly nature, and beseeching men to shake off

Their human tormentors, we too believe that to those

Who in face of the approaching bomber squadrons of Capital go on asking too long

How we propose to do this, and how we envisage that

And what will become of their savings and Sunday trousers after a revolution

We have nothing much to say.



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