This is a story about surviving...
Written by Noah Levine and published in 2003, Dharma Punx is, in the author's own words "about those of us who, motivated by the same dissatisfaction with life that brought us to the punk rock scene, now have turned toward spirtitual pratice as a nonviolent form of the revolution." A biographical journey, the book chronicles the many pitfalls and tragedies of Levine's life, from his childhood, his adoption of the punk aesthetic, his confessions as a teenage junkie, his suicide attempt at only 17, to the spiritual changes that have shaped his life since.
This passage from the preface might give you an understanding of how dramatic this shift was in his life:
We turned to drugs and booze to escape from the feelings of hopelessness and despair, many of us going directly to narcotics as teenagers. Eating acid like it was candy and chasing speed with cheap vodka, smoking our parents weed, consuming gallons of cheep beer all in a vain attempt to stay numb. Turning toward a nihilistic outlook on life. Having set ourselves apart, we were a constant target of violence and ridicule. Fighting to survive, fighting for our views and right to be different, we often found ourselves involved in some battle or another, if it wasn't the cops it was the jocks or hicks or each other.
All the violence and drugs led to many early deaths; overdoses, murders, car accidents and countless suicides. Death and grief has been a central part of the lives of all the kids who were associated with the early punk rock scene. Following the great examples set by Sid Vicious and Darby Crash, live fast, do lots of drugs, fuck the system by dying young. Half of the kids that I hung out with in the eighties are dead and that is just from my crew in a small town punk rock scene.
This book woke me up to the shitty decisions I was making in my life last year. Drinking to achieve apathy, to numb myself from any real feelings and abandon the small amount of responsibility granted to a first year college student. Last year, I was walking down a path towards alcoholism, fueled by my own angst and the culture of binge drinking that has become epidemic on American university campuses. While I would not consider myself a full-fledged Buddhist, I consider myself a student of the philosophy. Learning from experience is the best way to learn, learning from another's experience is the next best thing. This book struck a chord with me, and I think it could do the same for some of you.
This a passage from the epilogue, a reflection on our individual struggles, our own quests for the reclamation of our lives:
My search for happiness, which first led me to drugs and punk rock, is the same search that eventually brought me to spiritual practice. The truth is, going against the internal stream of ignorance is way more rebellious than trying to start some sort of cultural revolution. It's easy to hate and point out everything that is wrong with the world; it is the hardest and most important work in one's life to free oneself from the bonds of fear and attachment. Compassion is our only hope, wisdom our weapon. The inner revolution will not be televised or sold on the Internet. It must take place within one's own mind and heart.
The overall style of the writing in Dharma Punx is quite conversational. It is a personal memoir, and as I was reading, I felt like Levine was sitting in the room with me telling me the story of his life over a few cups of coffee and a pack of cigarettes. While the examples I have included thus far are not representitive of this casual nature, I believe they capture the purpose of the book well.
Here is a sample of Levine's prose stylings:
Toby was talking to some girls behind us but I was way too high to attempt to speak, especially to these cute punk rockers. I recognized one of them from school, we went to the same junior high and I think we were even in the same grade, but I hadn't ever talked to her. She wore a blue sweater with some pins on her chest and tight black jeans that were pegged at the bottim, stopping about two inches above her yellow and pink argyle socks and white Frankenstein creepers.
If you need any further motivation to read Dharma Punx
, having made it this far into the writeup, I read this book in two sittings, that is to say, it held my interest.
Additionally, here are some web resources on Buddhism and meditation that Levine shares at the end of the book:
And lastly, the official site for the book (which includes mp3's of some of Levine's lectures on Buddhism):
Noah Levine. Dharma Punx
. San Francisco: Harper, 2003.