Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 25, 2014

New Age for Old West – Sedona, AZ

Meet Big Buddha and Butte Bobby.

Meet Big Buddha and Butte Bobby.

.

New Age for Old West  (Postscript for a Southwest Trip) ,

a 7-25-14 poem by Mark Nielsen, Chicago, IL

 

There is something of God in all things, of course,

but is there also sometimes something else?

.

Outside some shops in Sedona, Arizona —

a Vortex-ville, a New Age mecca —

I saw two statues side by side.

.

One was an expensive six-foot seated Buddha

made of bright white stone.

He was in front of a gallery with many similar, skillfully-created

representations of the Buddha and

(one may presume) other figures,

like the Hindu god Ganesha,

or Egyptian sun god Ra.

Maybe Jesus even makes an appearance in there,

perhaps in a Grateful Dead t-shirt.

I will never know. I didn’t go in.

.

The gallery next door had Cowboy art.

Out front: an equally large bronze sculpture

of a lanky, sleepy boy,

son of a cowpoke,

with a lariat in his right hand,

and his trusty (and much-more-wide-awake)

mutt of a dog on his left.

Our cowboy, let’s call him Bobby,

was seemingly resting

after a hard day’s ropin’ and wranglin’.

.

I was out West for just such a rest.

But these two mythic figures

vexed me instead of relaxing me.

I wondered where my country, my world,

had got to,

in elevating these men —

Big Buddha and Butte Bobby–

to such a height as to sell their images

for thousands of dollars each

to bored tourists with money to burn

and little concern for what actually mattered

to Buddha or Bobby.

.

Surely Siddhartha Gautama

would have advocated compassionate charity,

not conspicuous consumption,

with the cash it takes to buy that statue.

.

Surely Woody Guthrie, or a Chisolm Trail rider,

(or some other real honest cowboy or Okie)

would have preferred a dusty, un-polished tribute

to a way of life mostly gone now —

not a mini-John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, or Clint Eastwood look-alike

all done up in bronze and settin’ on a bench,

a’waitin’  fer some luckless monied sucker

to buy the lie

of a squeaky clean, cutesy, romanticized Old West.

.

Good guys, smart guys, real guys —

they never wear white,

and never look this clean and romantic.

It never takes them long

to get dirt under their fingernails,

to rescue a dumb steer snagged in the fence,

to kiss a leper like Dusty Frank of Assisi,

or to wake up and smell

some New Age used car or snake oil salesman,

hawking marble, bronze or alabaster,

masquerading as concern

for God or Man.

(Plus the real good guys–

more often than not–

are girls, not guys at all.)

.

“Buddha” means “awakened one”,

or so they say.

May we all be as awake

as Bobby’s perfect little “good guy” dog —

let’s call him New Yeller–

attentively sitting next to his Master,

warning us off,

sniffing for the snakes,

just about to bark

and suggesting we hide our wallets.

.

Everything old is new again, ...but not necessarily better.

Everything old is new again, …but not necessarily better.


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