Scene from the Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts (Late-12th Century). Kyoto Museum.


Unskillful human nature can be like a hungry ghost, a being always looking to what is next or lamenting what was. A being not present enough to say, enough.

The hungry ghost is a metaphor in Buddhism often depicted as a gnarled sickly creature with a very thin throat and full belly. It’s a metaphor about when we foolishly attempt to satisfy our desires without realizing that it’s an endless task. How may illusions does it take to feel satisfied once and for all? Like any addict, the answer is at least: one more, that next great illusion.

In today’s context we must also think about our information diets, which Clay Johnson has written much about (check out his book.) Social media and other digital networks, as extensions of humanity’s social nature, amplifies almost all human trappings and inspirations. This media saturation was initially embraced like a new toy at your 5 year old birthday, and then discarded. Many of us now need to detox or drop out on sabbaticals or entirely, until… We often swing between these extremes. Neither offering much solace if the focus is on stuff, or lack of stuff.

Can we learn to say enough with this focus on our objects, goals, feelings, all the stuff? Can we make tech that helps tame human nature instead of playing to its base hungry ghost modes as if that is the only “real” nature we have?

The way around this to me is about shifting focus to our collective reality, to our inter-relationships with each other and our world. Let this happen in whatever way that feels right as long as it’s authentic, as long as you can really show up in the relationship. Not in your head. We are far too addicted to our self. To ideas. So much so that we can’t even see what is going on right in front of us. So many are feeling what you are feeling in any given moment, you are never alone. Let’s learn to feed on this sense of solidarity. Self-satisfactions, and self-lacerations, are like trolls. Don’t feed them.


30 days of blogging note: after my last post, written while sick, I finished my work in Moscow and traveled home to Brooklyn and promptly allowed myself to be fully sick. Personal resilience is an issue especially in socially engaged work. I’m actually working on app that touches on this. So I took the time to just be as I was, a healing and sleep needing person. I’ll now resume this challenge, with an added focus on personal resilience topics. You must work from where you are. Where else are you?

(Image: Scene from the Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts (Late-12th Century). Kyoto Museum.)