13. The Desire to Be

Does the land-bound man dream a fantasy of freedom or is his the genuine aspiration of liberation from samsara?

I am two weeks into my first online course: a course called “Entering the Path” from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. It includes many videos by well-known and respected dharma teachers, sections of texts to study, mostly from the Pali Canon, one of the earliest written forms of the Buddha’s teachings, which were only transmitted in oral form until some 200 years after his death. Once a week, we video-conference with a group of 10-12 other students moderated by Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, who oversees the course and who is the first dharma teacher I met some twenty years ago.

The focus of the second week was the Buddha’s first teaching, sometimes called “Setting the Wheel of Dharma in Motion,” in which he discusses the Four Noble Truths. These are: 1) life has dissatisfaction; 2) dissatisfaction is caused by craving; 3) craving has an end; 4) the Eight-fold Path can bring about the end of craving.

The teachings of the Buddha are resplendent with lists. This has a lot to do with it being an oral tradition. Lists aided memorization. For instance, there are three kinds of craving: 1) craving for sense pleasure; 2) the desire to be; 3) the desire not-to-be.

To want to gain some recognition as a cartoonist definitely falls into the second category –the desire to be. It’s entirely understandable that I would want some recognition for this comic book, as silly and unimportant in the larger scheme of things as it is. There is nothing wrong of course, in such an ambition. But unless it is held lightly it can be a source of great anguish.

I’ve mentioned how under the agreement with comiXology, I retain all rights and am free to hunt for a publisher to publish the book on paper. I have submitted to 4 different publishers –four of the best known publishers of comics besides DC and Marvel, who between them have the most famous of the superhero titles. I’ve only heard from one and that was a rejection. But it’s also the only human response I’ve received to my comic, from someone who actually read the comic and said they enjoyed it even though he had decided it was not something they would publish.

The other publishers have submission guidelines that are anything but welcoming. They really make it sound like they are deluged with submissions and they make no promises about looking at your work or ever responding. They clearly state that one should not contact them to ask about a submission and that if you do, you will only irritate them. They are being honest, I’m sure. They don’t want to offer any false hope.

So, upon reflection, I feel good that a knowledgeable person read my comic, responded quickly and with candor, even if the response was rejection.

And I’m grateful that my online course reminded me of the danger of craving the “desire to be” a recognized cartoonist among many worthy artists. I will try to hold that ambition lightly and keep my heart open to any possibility.

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