The Brightness Itself: A Brief Zen Reflection on the Cycles of Life and of Death

HeartSpiral

 

 

 

Lew Welch just turned up one day,
live as you and me. “Damn, Lew” I said,
“you didn’t shoot yourself after all.”
“Yes I did” he said,
and even then I felt the tingling down my back.
“Yes you did, too” I said – “I can feel it now.”
“Yeah” he said,
“There’s a basic fear between your world and
mine. I don’t know why.
What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles. All the other cycles.
That’s what its all about, and it’s all forgot.”

Gary Snyder

The other day I posted on Facebook a query about major dental work. My big question was whether at the age of sixty-nine it really was worth getting my teeth straightened. My dentist was recommending this. But, I felt vaguely uncomfortable he was possibly up-selling me.

Among my so-called friends several offered links to various data bases that predict how much time I have left on this planet. So, for instance, Social Security has one. They project my likely living on to 85.2, a number disconcertingly precise. If it is correct I currently have 15.8 years to go.

Of course it is based on two factors, gender and current age. Well, implicit, also American. But everything else that might be put into the pot to allow a cooked up projection is missing. So, a number. But, maybe not so real a number. And, even a real number is, well, just a number. Not the person.

Who knows how long I’ve got before shedding this mortal coil? The only thing I can be quite sure of is that I’ve now lived longer than I will continue to live.

Death has always been on my mind. I’m not afraid of dying. Thank you, Zen! Although I would like to avoid several of the ways one can die, given the option. But, death. Still think about life and death.

And the other night in the wake of those calculators, I found myself dreaming about life and death. It was as if I were able to pierce the veil and look both ways. There was life. Which mainly featured awareness. But on the other side of birth there was only nothingness. And, then traveling forward and crossing that veil there was the same nothingness.

What is interesting in this dream was that the nothingness was bright. Maybe indicating I had not in fact crossed the veil, but was in some sort of vestibule. But, I have another take on it.

Within the great mystery that is our passinginess and our interrelatedness, the moment that is our personal existence is marked by that sense of an “I.” The awareness thing. The being aware of being aware thing. The house of mirrors of awareness. Like standing in the doorway of our condo and seeing my image reflected in a Mexican mirror that reflects an image in another Mexican mirror into infinity. Like those famous turtles, all the way down. It is the brightness with my awareness of the brightness.

The cycles of life all are themselves bright. And, with a noticing, as well…

But, on either side of this moment, there is only brightness. My “I” is the thing that is gone. The centering thing. The holding thing. But the brightness. That continues.

And for some reason that was comforting.

And it reminded me of Gary Snyder. Old Zen hand, Gary. And his poem about Lew Welch.

Lew Welch just turned up one day,
live as you and me. “Damn, Lew” I said,
“you didn’t shoot yourself after all.”
“Yes I did” he said,
and even then I felt the tingling down my back.
“Yes you did, too” I said – “I can feel it now.”
“Yeah” he said,
“There’s a basic fear between your world and
mine. I don’t know why.
What I came to say was,
teach the children about the cycles.
The life cycles. All the other cycles.
That’s what its all about, and it’s all forgot.”

And those cycles.

Something beautiful.

Those cycles. Those bright cycles.

Containing sadness. And joy. And everything in between the brightness itself.

The universe at play.

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