September 28, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Wolverines, Starbucks, and a Buddhist Statue from Outer Space

Emma Varvaloucas

For someone whose job consists of (among other things, I swear) writing about the news every week, I don't like reading the news all that much. It's just too depressing. So forgive me while I indulge myself in something much more fun.
Hugh Jackman
Hey there, Hugh Jackman.

The promotional posters for the next Wolverine movie have been released, with Jackman standing in front of what looks like a Buddhist temple (see, this had relevance after all). The movie is set in Japan, so now I'm wondering: is it going to have a Buddhist theme? We'll have to wait until next July to find out.

Ah, onto more serious matters, like this very-awesome-super-cool Buddhist statue that was chiseled from a meteorite. Known as the "Iron Man" and taken out of Tibet by a team of Nazis traveling there in 1938, it's the only known human figure carved from a meteorite. Not only that, the tMeteorite Statueype of meteorite that it's carved from, known as an ataxite, is extremely rare—less than .1 percent of all meteorites are ataxites. It's estimated that it landed somewhere between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago.

We're not sure why the Nazis were interested in it—perhaps due to the swastika in the center of the sculpture. Or maybe it was just a fun souvenir. But we do know why they were in Tibet in the first place. You can read about their 1938 mission in Tricycle here; apparently, they were searching for the last of the original Aryan tribes, whose leaders they thought might possess supernatural powers that the Nazis could use to conquer the world. Can you get any more Indiana Jones than that? I think not, my friends, I think not.

Over in China, the world's largest coffee chain (Starbucks, of course), has fired up some controversy after opening up shop nearby a Chan temple called Lingyin on Monday. Lingyin, ironically, is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China. Despite this, the Chinese are not happy about the most well-known symbol of American capitalism moving onto their Buddhist turf. This isn't the first time that Starbucks has drawn ire from the nation. In 2009, they shut down a branch in Beijing's Forbidden City amid protests that Starbucks was against traditional Chinese culture.

To celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi's visit to the U.S., last week Time magazine published a slideshow of photographer James Mackay's series "Even Though I'm Free I Am Not." The project features Burmese dissidents and democracy activists lifting their hands in the abhaya mudra. Written on their hands are the names of friends who were imprisoned at the time that the photo was taken. Last year, Mackay's work was published in a book called Abhaya: Burma's Fearlessness. Check out some of his portraits in the slideshow below.

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Dominic Gomez's picture

The headline implies the Buddhist statue is extraterrestrial in origin when in reality it's only the material from which it was carved that comes "from Outer Space". Other than that Iron Man is no more fantastic than many other images with Buddhist or other religious themes created by Earthlings.

fightclubbuddha's picture

Michelangelo described sculpture as involving the removal of that material which is necessary to locate the artwork hidden inside a block of marble. Accepting that definition, the statue was always there. Everything changes. Even with the best preservation techniques, the material from which the meteorite is composed will one day break down into a pile of rubble. And the statue will still be there.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Are you saying that if Michaelangelo had carved the meteorite he would have ended up with the same exact figure?

fightclubbuddha's picture

Not at all. I'm saying that by his definition, he would have known that there was "a" sculpture in the meteorite and known how to find it. Since everything we see is illusion anyway, the sculpture he might have seen might be very different.

Dominic Gomez's picture

I see. He likely would have pulled a David out of that rock. Any art is an illusion until it gets made. Then it's rock-solid real...as a rock.