Embracing Boboism

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Embracing Boboism

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

Embracing Boboism
An email conversation about the news of the day.
June 6 2000 1:47 PM

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

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My Darling Bobo man:

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I know you were secretly hoping that I'd pull up the rear and discuss real news events in this missive (as we plotted on the phone), but I'm afraid there's simply nothing to write about. Tell you about Denver? The sky is nice here, and huge. But aside from a miserable story about a parking feud between a couple of neighbors in Aurora which resulted in the shooting death of a high-school teacher and his 14-year-old daughter, there is little to report, news-wise. What a sad string of violent crimes has plagued this place. Boy, for all the New Agers and old hippies and mountaineers who flock to this region--not to mention the transcendent natural beauty of the Rockies--you'd think it would be a little more peaceful. Tonight I'm heading for Boulder to give a book reading. Boulder is a hotbed of American Buddhists but also, lest we forget, the old pageant grounds of the JonBenet Ramsey family.

As for our own social situation--that is, our resplendent Boboism--I'm afraid I'm not even close to turning away and becoming anti- or un-Bobo yet. Perhaps this hasn't occurred to you yet, but my father was a diehard Bobo and my mother is a Bobo too--an opera singer in the suburbs--making me a second-generation participant in this now amusing subgroup. My parents were devoted to Adele Davis and liver-and-whey-shakes. My father was grinding his own coffee beans in the 1950s. I am devoted to Bronson vitamins, royal jelly capsules, and organic vegetables. And since we've been back from Kamakura, I make trips to a little Japanese market in Bethesda, Md., to buy the freshest green tea possible. Meanwhile, you and I alternately dream about a family-room addition out back and moving to Spain.

In fact, now that I've written a bizarre book about an esoteric subject--complete with descriptions of past lives, channeling, auspicious cloud formations, and the magical properties of Tibetan Buddhist stupas--I feel myself more Bobo than ever. And I embrace that. But isn't there some tension inherent in all this? Which side of the Bobo paradox will win in the end--the Bourgeois or the Bohemian? It's nice to believe one is drifting toward the latter, but who wants to give up having solid glass shower doors and drinking expensive wine?

You are reading this and wincing. I can tell. You hate that I've brought your wine cache into this public conversation. (What do you think about while you're down in the basement rearranging your bottles?) Anyway, I need to sign off and regroup for a string of interviews and appearances. Talking about Buddhism is like trying to describe the color of water. To prepare, I'm going to try out a 10-minute guided meditation that I noticed on Beliefnet.com.

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Namaste, my love.

William Powers writes a weekly column on the media for National Journal magazine. Martha Sherrill is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, a contributing editor at Esquire, and the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn (click here to buy it).