The Future’s Uncertain and the End is Always Near

“The future’s uncertain and the end is always near,” a line from the Door’s “Roadhouse Blues,” has been on my mind these past days.

My little brother, you see, went into the hospital last week having trouble breathing and a couple days later found out that he has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

Driving to work the morning after I found out, I played the Doors – really loud – working through the anger stage, I suppose.

“The end is always near.”

We all know it’s true. Of course. Of course.

And yet when someone near and dear – or our little old self – gets sick (or I suspect, dies) that’s a different kind of knowing.

For me, unable to sleep one night, “the end is always near” cracked open grief, and fear, and then while washing my hands, cold water bursting from the spout, the deep, ineffable beauty of this simple life of vast and vivid sense fields made it all okay … for a while.

Reading Dogen’s “Birth and Death” in the wee hours, I found some similar solace. “In life there is nothing but life. In death there is nothing but death. Accordingly, when life comes, face and actualize life. When death comes, face and actualize death. Do not avoid or desire them.”

In this dream life (see dream calligraphy on the guys t-shirt by Zen ancestor Gesshu Soko), that’s easy to say and understand.

Hard to actualize with continuity.

So let it roll, baby, roll, all night long.

Zenshin Tim Buckley Dies: One Heartbeat, Ten Thousand Buddhas
The Way of Tenderness: the Form and Emptiness of Race, Sexuality, and Gender
Practicing Through Snow and Cold (or Whatever Afflictions May Visit)
Dogen Did Not Practice Shikantaza and Even Had a Gaining Idea
  • Robert Schenck

    My mother, 96, died May 25. The family has been sifting through her possessions for months. It’s been a concrete way to manifest memory, love, and mourning. My daughter’s father-in-law just had triple bypass surgery. She and her husband Sam are working out the details of caring for Bill, 77, and his wife, who is disabled by multiple sclerosis, during Bill’s recovery. My friend Jules’s father died suddenly last week after emergency surgery for a strangulated bowel triggered an acceleration of his Alzheimer’s. My friend Sjon’s wife just had surgery yesterday to remove the fetus whose heart had mysteriously stopped beating, cause unknown. Then this morning my granddaughter Katy, 12, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She’ll be in the hospital till Monday for tests, treatment, and education. All so sad, so cruel, so mysterious, so inspiring, so twisted beautiful. On the deck out back by myself this evening, the cicadas and crickets buzzed and chirped in musical waves. My knee hurts. The pain started two months ago, just after the family reunion in Colorado following my mother’s funeral. I can’t see the specialist for two weeks. No big deal. Sending love and sadness in these words to you and your little brother—

  • togeika

    I decided to become a potter while helping Yvonne Rand take care of Katagiri Roshi’s body after he died, as a doan during the 3 days of meditation with the body. I wanted to make urns for people.
    I provided one for my little sister last year. Last week, I went to a friend’s funeral, who bought an urn from me last year saying to me, “It isn’t a job I want to leave up to someone else.” He bought matching urns for his wife and himself.
    Years ago, I made a combination biscuit jar/urn for my late dog Taiko. I kept her ‘walk” biscuits in it, she’d get after each morning and evening walk. I’d get the biscuit out of the jar before we walked. On days that I was ill or the weather was bad, I’d say to myself, “When she is gone, and in this urn, do I want to have to say to myself, “You didn’t take a walk with her you could have.” I would buck up and put her leash on her.. I walked with her every every morning and every evening for 11 years, rain or shine, in health or sickness Glad I did. Life is precious. It is brief. We need to pay attention….

  • Phil Martin

    Sometimes words fail, and all that will work is a good, wild song.

    Reading this sad and lovely entry brought to mind the teaching of Ajahn Chah and the broken cup…

    Ajahn Chah held up a cup and said: “Someone gave me this cup, and I really
    like this cup. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight.
    One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the
    table. I know this cup is already broken, so I enjoy it incredibly.”

    Years ago when I first heard this in a dharma talk during a retreat, I rushed at my first opportunity to tell all the people who were precious to me how much I loved them.

    Thinking of it today, I’m struck how this profound and simple teaching only penetrates so far. I’m struck by how I hear it, and how quickly I can make it about all the cups that are “out there,” all those people and possessions in my life that are fragile and impermanent. All the while keeping intact that fence around my own little self…always wanting to be the drinker, and not the cup. Knowing that everything around me will break and die, and somehow forgetting I too am the cup. I will break, too. I am already broken.

    Bows to you and your brother.

    And to all of us.

  • Jisen Coghlan

    During the past few weeks, I was wondering how the WWZ (World Wide Zendo) team might connect amongst ourselves and beyond. Then I remember the Transfer of Merit Board at Shasta Abbey; it was located at the back of the zendo, the entrance and exit for monks. Since I often had positions there, I would turn on the light above the names and read them nearly every morning before meditation. Also, it was part of my work assignment to care for the Board. There were many, many names all on 4×4 pieces of white paper aligned side by side, row after row after row. At the Abbey, we were encouraged to offer the merit of meditation to “those in need”. There were certain monks who came early every morning just to read the names. Perhaps a new one had been added. I can still see their faces as they read in silence. Here is an offering to your brother, your family and you.

    Transfer of Merit for Dosho’s ‘Little Brother” who was hospitalized last week with difficulty breathing. Subsequently, he has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. And for Dosho, our dharma friend and teacher, and his family. Requested by Jisen September 20th, 2013.