Jack White: Still a favorite

“If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” – Master Lin Chi

“I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me.” – Jack White

Buddhism, at its root, is all about love. Love yourself, love everyone, love everything. Do no harm. Help others. But there is, ultimately, a point where that love transmogrifies into a sort of annihilation. If you truly love everything and everyone with all your heart, you wind up in or near a blissful state called nibbana (or nirvana, if you will), which is the place where you stop existing … at least in this realm.

In order to get there, though, you’ve got to drop all your distractions. You can’t let people pull you away from your quest for ultimate realization. You can’t have hobbies. You can’t have a house full of electronics and nice clothes. And perhaps most critically, you can’t let your own ego get in the way. This is why Lin Chi, once upon a time, told a student who excitedly reported that he’d seen Buddha in his meditations, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Your own imagining that you’re “almost there” is a trap that will only waylay you on the way to nibbana. The point isn’t to go hang with Buddhas: It’s to get to the point where even the appearance of an 80-foot-tall Buddha wouldn’t faze you.

This is, of course, a simplification of the whole thing, but I couldn’t help but think of Lin Chi’s words when listening to Jack White’s first solo single, “Love Interruption.” In it, White sweetly sings about what he’d like love to do to him: Namely, kill his mother, stab him in the side, slam his hands in a door and push his face into the ground, among other unpleasantness. The chorus repeats, as though it were a mantra: I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt or interrupt me.

White is married. He’s married to a beautiful model, as a matter of fact. (EDITOR’S NOTE: White divorced Karen Elson in 2011 after six years of marriage, though evidently they still get along well and Elson actually sang backup on this album) I get the feeling he’s at least somewhat romantic, based on some of his past lyrics, though I admit freely that I don’t know him. At all. So while this song could be construed as something of a break-up anthem, a tantrum thrown at the end of a love gone wrong (I don’t want love anymore!), I can’t help but feel like the lyrics go deeper.

Maybe they don’t for Jack White. Maybe that’s all he wanted the song to represent. He’s playing a character who’s been so burned by love that he truly wants nothing but abuse from anyone he could potentially fall for. For me, though, this is a man ready to be challenged. He wants a love who will help him trim the fat in his life. He wants love who won’t be afraid to hurt him if it’ll ultimately help him be free. He wants love, but not one that will disrupt, corrupt or interrupt him on his path.

And that’s where I start to think about the Buddhist ideal. Buddhists ARE about love, but not the romantic love we’re used to thinking about. Buddhists practice a love that doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t CHOOSE who to love and who not to love. A Buddhist practitioner at the highest levels WOULD love even someone who would stab them, push their faces in the ground, etc. Perhaps ESPECIALLY someone who would do that to them. That love doesn’t corrupt them, it helps them on their path toward enlightenment.

It’s not that often that songs make me think like this. It’s just a pop song. But it’s a damn fine one, and perhaps one of the best of this year.

Jack White’s solo debut album “Blunderbuss” is out and available for you to purchase. I recommend it.

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