One City

Recently the New York Times “Happy Days” blog ran a piece by Tim Kreider, who was stabbed in the throat fourteen years ago. He writes:

After my unsuccessful murder I wasn’t unhappy for an entire year. . . . I’m not claiming I was continuously euphoric the whole time; it’s just that, during that grace period, nothing much could bother me or get me down. . . . It’s one of the maddening perversities of human psychology that we only notice we’re alive when we’re reminded we’re going to die.

It didn’t last, of course. You can’t feel grateful to be alive your whole life any more than you can stay passionately in love forever–or grieve forever, for that matter. . . Before a year had gone by the same dumb everyday anxieties and frustrations began creeping back. . . Once a year on my stabbiversary I remind myself that this is still my bonus life, a free round. But now that I’m back down in the messy, tedious slog of everyday emotional life, I have to struggle to keep things in what I still insist is their true perspective. I know intellectually that all the urgent, pressing items on our mental lists–taxes, car repairs, our careers, the headlines–are so much idiot noise, and that what matters is spending time with people you love. It’s just hard to bear in mind when the hard drive crashes.

This called to mind for me the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Towards Dharma, by which one reflects on various realities of life: our fortunate circumstances, impermanence and our impending deaths, the workings of cause and effect, and the futility of seeking the sort of  happiness that can’t accommodate these realities. I certainly find these exercises useful. And yet . . . .as Kreider observed, it is interesting how hard it can be to move it beyond the intellectual level.
Maybe that’s where the Bodies Exhibition or the contemporary charnel ground comes in handy. Or the Michael Jackson memorial, for that matter.
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