THE NUN IN ORANGE robes seemed unimpressed by my question, but I was not trying to be a smart-ass. I’d left after her talk for a solitary cigarette, the only dharma student that night who cared to take a few minutes in the bitter English air for a nicotine hit. Her talk on samsara had struck a chord deep inside me when she suggested that pop music replays the circuit of birth and pain, selling us stories about falling in love and songs about when I woke up this morning and my baby left me. Yes, she did have a point. Pop songs tell us—with hectoring insistence since hip-hop’s unfortunate love affair with gross materialism—about the things we need to buy; and pop songs complain that I can’t get no satisfaction. Pop tells us that we won’t get fooled again; and it tells us that we should make a better world.

The different stories go round and round, and you can get stuck in the grooves.

“This pop as samsara idea is really quite interesting,” I had said, “but aren’t there some artists who explore and expose the cycles of suffering?” And that was the end of the conversation.

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