seeing through to what is true…

DSC_0581“On a beautiful sunny day, you look up into the sky and see a nice, puffy cloud floating through. You admire its shape, the way the light falls upon its many folds and the shadow it casts on the green field. You fall in love with this cloud. You want it to stay with you and keep you happy. But then the shape and color change. More clouds join with it, the sky becomes dark, and it begins to rain. The cloud is no longer apparent to you. It has become rain. You begin to cry for the return of your beloved cloud.
You would not cry if you knew that by looking deeply into the rain you would still see the cloud.”

Excerpt From: Thich Nhat Hanh. “No Death, No Fear.” Penguin, 2002.

I have these moments, too, do you?  These moments when you see through what you ordinarily see into some space or time or place that is there all along, and mostly unseen.   “You fall in love with this cloud.”

Yesterday evening, I fell in love with the little bit of western sky I can see through the late spring leaves on the tree I love, and live with, on my front lawn.  For a few moments, I was completely grateful for  the bright red streak of sky that lingered behind the branches of the tree, across the street, across the Bay… I didn’t want to take my eyes off the scene, because I knew it would be gone in a breath.  My husband had his back to the splendor, and so I had him sit on the couch next to the window, to see what I was seeing.  Ahhh…

These moments, these precious, precious moments of life as a sentient being are so fleeting, each moment here and gone, here and gone.  And it is possible – although I forget about it, although I am so often preoccupied with the thoughts going around inside of my head, although I am often bothered by a feeling that seems to linger – to be here, now, to witness each moment, each fleeting moment of a cloud that has formed and is forming and will be, forever forming, and to fall in love.

Thich Nhat Hanh goes further in his thoughts, though.  He invites us to know, to honor, to remember those moments when we establish a relationship with another part of this vast and wonderful creation, and we honor its life, its life force, its reality, its ever-ness.  What we know in our hearts will never be taken from us.  What we love is and will always be part of us, with us, in us.  The cloud is us, I am sure Thich Nhat Hanh would say.  What is beloved is never lost.  In our human-ness, we love when and how we can, but the connection continues, forever.

The “cloud-ness” of the cloud will never end, even as what we see evaporates before our eyes.

And isn’t that true of each moment?  Isn’t each moment, that brief moment in time, holy and whole, and isn’t it with us, even as it passes?  Isn’t it true that some moments you will see and feel and hear and know forever, although they have passed?  And they are in you, with you, they are you, and you are those moments…

How completely alive we would be if we were awake enough to fall completely, hopelessly, effortlessly in love with each moment!

As for the tears when the moment passes, when our beloved passes from our lives, when the little ones grow too soon, when a friend leaves or goes away, they are part of us, too.  Tears in a way, honor the one we love.  And then, the tears pass, too.

***

Some thoughts about death.

 

Azrael__Angel_of_Death_by_gaux_gauxAzrael, Angel of death in Jewish mysticism.

“Death is something we shouldn’t fear because, while we are, death isn’t, and when death is, we aren’t.”
― Antonio Machado

Oh, but yes, Antonio, we do fear death. We live our lives in fear of death, that great unknown. And each day is a death, the death of one moment to the next moment, this moment is dead, now, and this next, and now, and this, too…

Think about it:  our culture does everything in its power to avoid death.

Celebrities are forever young.  “50 is the new 40.”  We say someone has “passed away,” instead of saying:  “he has died.”  Our voices lower to a murmur when death is mentioned, as if it is something shameful.  Doctors rail us with promises that we need never age.  If only we eat right, if only we exercise enough, if only we learn how to handle our emotions enough, as long as we are happy enough… we will not – die?

But the wrinkles come, and with the wrinkles, wisdom.

As far as I know, there is no fear of death in faith.  And as far as I know, that there is no fear of death has nothing to do with what happens after we die.  As far as I can understand, there is no fear of death in faith because faith brings us into this present moment, this one moment given to live, to breath, to serve, to give thanks.  This is all there is.

And yet we are simply human, are we not?  We are simply human, given to fear and anxiety and anger and rage.  We are simply human, and so we do fear death.  The fear of death seems to be a part of life.

Still, some cultures seem more able to allow death to have a seat at the table.  In Mexico, The Day of the Dead brings all ages to graveyards, to eat and to dance and to walk and to be together, among the dead, for remembering, for honoring, as part of life.

No one wants a young person to die, and so we all grieve with the grieving mother.  It is true, a child should not die before the parent, this does seem unnatural to us, and it is a wound that no human being should be made to suffer.  And yet it is a wound that many suffer.  Death claims the young.

We have no freedom from death, as much as we want to run from it, to avoid it, to challenge it, to shake our fists at death.  We have no freedom from death.  Death is always with us, in this perfect, fleeting, precious moment.  Death is always with us.

Death is like the partner who walks with us, wherever we go.  “There she is, always following me around,” we might say.  And if we turn to look, to nod, to speak to her, she may have something for us, some wisdom, some honesty, some truth to add to our life. Can we embrace her?  Can we learn about her, walk with her a bit, learn from her, learn what it is that a final ending to what we know can mean for us now, those of us who walk among the living?

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle, Dylan, but take a look, get to know that good night.

I think that part of wisdom is to begin to acknowledge death, that one who walks with us, wherever we go.  I see my friends growing older, some refusing to acknowledge that yes, “50 is not the new 40,”  that, “50 is 50,” and that is good.  And I see some of my friends growing older, knowing that as their health changes and as families grow older and move away, there is yet a beauty, a richness, an honor in accepting that “50 is 50,” and it is good.

You are going to die.  Now – how will you live?  – meb, 4/2015/Good Friday