and, lo, a bodhisattva savant rose in the west

I SPEND SO MUCH TIME re­search­ing the var­i­ous top­ics that I write about, I re­ally don't have much time left to read oth­ers' blogs — which is a shame, be­cause we are liv­ing through some kind of golden age of free­dom of ex­pres­sion of what­ever the hell you wanna say and have the ac­tual pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing mil­lions of peo­ple pay at­ten­tion!

But I do sub­scribe to two blogs, which I read re­li­giously: one is Please Cut The Crap, Milt Shook's blog on pol­i­tics. Shook is cur­rently lam­bast­ing so-called "pro­gres­sives" for their hipper-than-thou at­ti­tude to­wards the 90% of peo­ple who vote for De­moc­rats.

The other blog is The Round Place In The Mid­dle, where John Ross cov­ers rock & roll, movies (old and new and with a soft spot for clas­sic west­erns), who­dun­nit nov­els, and, oc­ca­sion­ally, cur­rent events. In a re­cent post­ing ti­tled "And The Sun Rose In The East," I posted a com­ment where I brought up the movie For­rest Gump, of whom I said,

"I think For­rest Gump a de­light­ful, funny, thought-provoking "movie, one worth many view­ings. I have heard and read peo­ple try­ing to de­cide if For­est is a lib­eral or a con­ser­v­a­tive or a mind-free force of na­ture or even a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Di­vine. I tend to see him as a bod­hisattva sa­vant."

Af­ter think­ing about my com­ment, I re­turned to the post and added this: "If you use the term bod­hisattva sa­vant in print, gimme credit ’cause I think I just coined it." And I was most pleased with my­self for hav­ing spon­ta­neously coined that term.


I have heard peo­ple ar­gu­ing that For­est was a lib­eral, a con­ser­v­a­tive, a mind-free force of na­ture, or even a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Di­vine, but upon read­ing this es­say the reader can now ar­gue that Gump was some­thing else en­tirely — some­thing their friends never con­sid­ered be­cause, of course, they'd never heard of it!

Being a savant

The term bod­hisattva sa­vant com­bines two words that seem to have lit­tle in com­mon:

"A sa­vant is a per­son af­fected with a de­vel­op­men­tal dis­or­der (such as autism or men­tal re­tar­da­tion) who ex­hibits ex­cep­tional skill or bril­liance in some lim­ited field such as math­e­mat­ics or mu­sic" (Merriam-Webster).

It's rather easy to see the char­ac­ter of For­rest Gump in con­tem­po­rary West­ern terms as an autis­tic sa­vant type — or, as I re­ferred to him, as a "mind-free force of na­ture," al­though per­haps "mind­less" would have been more po­et­i­cally (and iron­i­cally) apt.

In East­ern philoso­phies (in­clud­ing Bud­dhism), mind­less­ness is a height­ened state of be­ing. Of course, West­ern­ers tend to use mind­less as be­ing syn­ony­mous with stu­pid, the op­po­site of an el­e­vated be­ing. 1


Like many peo­ple my age, I had my in­tro­duc­tion to the idea of a liv­ing, breath­ing bod­hisattva in Amer­i­can cul­ture through read­ing Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel The Dharma Bums. It re­mains rec­om­mended read­ing sixty years on.

Being a bodhisattva

Wikipedia de­fines bod­hisattva as "the San­skrit term for any­one who has gen­er­ated Bod­hicitta (mean­ing enlightenment-mind, is the mind that strives to­ward awak­en­ing, em­pa­thy, and com­pas­sion for the ben­e­fit of all sen­tient be­ings), a spon­ta­neous wish and com­pas­sion­ate mind to at­tain Bud­dha­hood (be­ing awak­ened) for the ben­e­fit of all sen­tient be­ings."

Tri­cy­cle, a mag­a­zine de­voted to "Bud­dhism for Be­gin­ners," has a length­ier ex­pla­na­tion in "What Is a Bod­hisattva?" by Kosho Uchiyama. Their an­swer (sim­ply: an or­di­nary per­son who acts like a true adult) dif­fers some­what from the way the term is de­fined — and prob­a­bly more com­monly used by non-Buddhists — that the Wiki de­f­i­n­i­tion above.

And I will go no fur­ther here: it's not my area of ex­per­tise. But the con­cept of the sa­vant and that of the bod­hisattva can eas­ily be read into the cipher-like, void-like char­ac­ter that Tom Hanks por­trays in the movie For­rest Gump.


And what does Lew Shiner's 2011 novel Dark Tan­gos have to do with any­thing? I don't know — I haven't read it yet! One of the neg­a­tive as­pects of all the time I spend re­search­ing the var­i­ous top­ics that I write about is that I don't have as much time for read­ing. But that's chang­ing: I just got my copy of this book to­day and will start read­ing forth­with (and if there's a bod­hisattva or sa­vant in the story, I'll have grist for a piece on co­in­ci­dence).

And I got me hence

So, I bumped into Redmond's man-about-town An­thony Wig­gins (whose Math Man Chron­i­cles is still in the works and has the whole town abuzz) a few hours af­ter I had posted the bod­hisattva sa­vant com­ment and fig­ured he'd ap­pre­ci­ate the coinage and so told him what I'd done and he told me "Get thee hence and put those words into print so that, should they find their way into us­age, you can al­ways point to this post­ing and say, There — see: bod­hisattva sa­vant. I said it first!" and so I got me hence and here I am and here is this post­ing and hence­forth should the term pop up on the world wide web my read­ers will see it and know it as my cre­ation. 2

And so, at 4:05 on the af­ter­noon of Au­gust 8, 2018, the term bod­hisattva sa­vant was born in the east on the com­ments sec­tions of the pages on the site known as The Round Place In The Mid­dle.

And so, five days later, at 5:15 in the af­ter­noon on Au­gust 13, 2018, bod­hisattva sa­vant was con­se­crated and rose in the west on this very site, where your eyes gaze now.

And so, I will sleep soundly tonight be­cause I can say,

"There — see: I said it first!"


FEATURED IMAGE: While search­ing the world wide web for a suit­able im­age of For­rest Gump to fill up the top of this page, I came across this "hon­est trailer" for the movie. The trailer is a satire that's right on the money: it ac­cu­rately and fun­nily de­picts al­most every hokey as­pect of the movie (it's not kind to Jenny). If you have seen the movie, see this trailer; if you haven't seen this movie, avoid this trailer. 3



1   Uh oh, I must be in some el­e­vated state, if un­con­sciously: while two-fingeredly typ­ing "height­ened," I ac­ci­den­tally typed "haight­ened"! In do­ing so, I may have coined yet an­other new word! Damn, now I have to write an­other es­say giv­ing the word a mean­ing — and you know where I'm go­ing to take it! — for this ol' blog of mine. (And, yes, those last five words have me hear­ing the Four Tops' tune, too.)

2   I wrote the text first and for some rea­son the ar­chaic hence­forth came forth and I stuck with it and in so do­ing it al­lowed me to use the equally ar­chaic forth­with in one of the cap­tions.

3   As can be seen, in­stead of a scene from For­rest Gump, I se­lected this lovely and im­pos­ing photo of a wall-sculpture of a many-limbed Bod­hisattva found along a path to the Gi­ant Bud­dha shrine in Le­shan, Sichuan, China.



2 Replies to “and, lo, a bodhisattva savant rose in the west”

  1. Just so you know you're ef­forts at en­light­en­ment are ap­pre­ci­ated, I have For­rest Gump on or­der....

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