I know a reporter at the Journal Times who invited me to last nights dharma talk. As it was described to me, it seemed the best opportunity to find out a bit about Buddhism.
Now, at the risk of offending the JT reporter, I felt as though I was among people who were "playing" religion, like children might play doctor. This says nothing about my attitude towards Buddhism and everything about my attitude towards the Journal Times. Roughly 25% of the group had a JT connection.
The evening started with the dozen or so people putting on gray robes with a red sash/apron. Thankfully I was not required to wear it. The purpose of this exercise, as it was described to me, was to not be distracting with our clothing choices. I honored their request to remove my shoes. By the way, everyone there was quite nice and welcoming.
My afformentioned attitude can mostly be attributed to the fact that JT city editor Dustin Block led a discussion of sorts. I like Dustin and I think he is a kind and gentle well meaning person, but lets just say it is unlikely he will ever be my spiritual guru. He talked about the peace that he felt when working on a collaborative painting, and about a strianed relationship at work that has improved of late, seemingly a result of Dustin's improved inner peace.
During a question and answer period with the Abbot Linda Somlia, I asked about the likelyhood that inner peace will be of much use when confronted by external hostility. There doesn't seem to me a very satisfactory answer to that problem.
My tentative conclusion here is that seeking inner peace and quiet is can be a wonderful exercise. And inner peace can be helpful in dealing with lifes difficulties. However, in the face of real external dangers, it seems of limitted usefullness.