Advertisement

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

death, not taxes ~

I am working on my death. Well, actually, it’s more like I’m working on my life up to my death. But I’m trying to hold that singularly discomforting goal in mind — the one event no one avoids.

My friends are dropping around me. Like petals from a perfect white Iceberg rose, they drift into fatal diseases, into disability, into such thick depression that medication becomes impossible. While I work hard to remain some kind of calm centre for them. Somewhere they can park, for a moment, and know they’re loved and safe.

When I think about it that way, it seems like it shouldn’t be so difficult. Shouldn’t take all I can muster, at a moment, to hug a dear friend diagnosed with absence epilepsy and crack the dumb jokes she needs to distract her. To let her know my love for hasn’t changed, even though so much of her life has.

But if I call it like it feels, then I’m preparing for my death — learning how to live so that when death arrives black milk  of morning we drink you at dusktime we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night  — I can greet it. Not back up, not hide.

When I read poetry like Celan’s, above, I wonder how the Jews & Romanys and gays and disabled and the college professors and the intellectuals and artists — all rounded up by Hitler’s gangs — lived from day to day. I wonder how the men and women (and the children… the rare and precious children who survived) faced nightfall. What they dreamed, if they did, given the physical deprivation, the exhaustion. The desperation. And I wonder how they lived. Within the minutes of each hour. How they managed to draw breath, in the face of such relentless pain and sorrow.

Buddhism isn’t clear about the after life. Although some Buddhists believe in reincarnation — many, in fact — another large number of us don’t know. I have no idea what (if anything) comes after death. I don’t believe that I’ll see my mother, my father, my old ladies whom I miss more each year. Or my beloved father-in-law, whom I wish I could tell about his two amazing grandsons. His amazing granddaughter-in-law. Nothing really helps with missing the dead. At least not for me. I just have to breathe through it. Turn my quiet grief to good use through tonglen.

Since I don’t believe I’m going to heaven — or hell, for that matter :) — there’s neither a carrot nor a stick to shape my living behaviour. I could do just what I wanted, if I weren’t a Buddhist. If I weren’t a Unitarian, as well.  Neither of  these belief systems offers carte blanche just because they don’t proffer dogma. Buddhism offer lists — the Four Noble Truths, the EightFold Path, the Three States of Existence, the Three Refuges, the Five Precepts… There are more! Unitarian Universalists eschew dogma, also turning to a list — the Seven Principles.

Both Buddhists & Unitarians like guidelines, but not moral dictates. Even when there are strong suggestions — the Buddhist Precept that says don’t kill any living creature, for instance, is seen as a call for vegetarianism, by most Buddhists — not all Buddhists follow them. A lot of Buddhists  eat meat, up to & including the Dalai Lama, I once read. So neither of my spiritual belief systems is much on absolutes. :)

But death? They’re both pretty clear on the biology of that one. So here I am: trying hard to figure out how to live a good life, as I clear the hill that’s middle age. May Sarton wrote Plant Dreaming Deep  before she was 60, talking about her ‘middle years.’ Mine are upon me.

Buddhism is all about the here & now. So that’s where I’m trying to live. Here. Now. In this middle space. Hoping like hell the pale horse takes his time ~

 

 

Previous Posts

inside/outside: it's that ageing thing, again
  When I was about the age of the picture, I asked my grandmother (who was probably 10 years older than I am now) how it felt to get old.  She laughed ruefully & shook her head. I look in the mirr

posted 5:36:36pm Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

the Zen of whatever
I love to cook. At least most of the time. And when I'm happiest doing it -- making something I like to eat, w/out a deadline or people I worry won't like it -- cooking feels much like meditation. So does garde

posted 7:09:03pm Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »

spring, and the promise of a fresh start
Today when I filled bird feeders, I looked out over the yard. Everywhere there's the flush of rose & pink, and the backdrop of pale green that only comes in spring. Once I had the sunflower tr

posted 12:33:52pm Mar. 29, 2015 | read full post »

the Beatitudes, Buddhism, and living a good life
A discussion on my FB page began w/ my heartfelt anger at recent attempts (many successful) to discriminate against gay & trangender men & women. An old friend & former colleague pointed out that mo

posted 2:02:19pm Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

pets vs kids, and what we spend our money on...
My dogs are pretty indulged. Even (dare I confess?) spoiled. They have soft little beds in their kennels, fleecy things I wash regularly, and replace when the dogs chew holes in them. There is an American-made br

posted 3:56:31pm Mar. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.