The Brightness Between: A Small Zen Meditation

The Brightness Between: A Small Zen Meditation November 7, 2021



Recently I read of a Mexican approach to death with its three stages. I looked it up. It goes:

1) we die.

2) we’re buried,

and 3) we’re forgotten.

However, the version I read added in a wrinkle,

1) we realize we will die,

2) we die,

3) we are forgotten.

I suspect the second version is a cultural variation. Or, perhaps its simply a misremembering. Whatever, I like them both. Although I really like the second one..

It sparked a number of comments from friends. For instance the old dharma bum Richard Kollmar offered complementary variations:

1) We forget,

2) we die,

3) we are buried.


1) Other people forget,

2) they die,

3) they are buried.

And then the old Zen hand Mark Strathern, who has a classical turn of mind noted how this has echoes of the Epicurian gravestone inscription ‘Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo’ (I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care)

I find myself considering the brightness between the darks. This messy life.

Once the Reverend Fritz Wendt observed, “It is my experience that real life begins when we are running out of maps, scripts, doctrines, rules, guidelines, dummy books and old wives’ tales. Real life begins when we have to start from scratch, completely present, completely aware, completely vulnerable.”

So. And. Right now I’m sitting on the balcony of our condo in Long Beach. Our local parrots have flown up from the neighborhood down the street and are frolicking on the rooftop across the way. I’m sipping my morning coffee. I know there are those terrible, terrible things going on in the world. And the world calls to use my hands. My hands. The hands that are at this moment placed above the keyboard of my computer.

But in this moment. Just in this moment. I feel joy and sadness woven fine.

We’re dying. You. Me. The world is dying.

Actually death cuts right through it all.


And there is so much love. Hands reaching out.

Life cuts right through it.

All of it. All of it.

And taking it all together, I’m just feeling waves of gratitude…

Image of the woman with a cat is by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

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