The people across the street have gone to work; not a soul in sight, except a couple of crows cleaning up a McDonald’s wrapper and a flock of starlings stripping a front-yard shrub of its red berries. With the luxury of working at home — which, for this pensioner, means sleeping in and waking up to tea and toast pretty much whenever he wants to — I sit down at my computer, check the news from Europe, read a few emails and nathan’s blog, and look out the window. An early fall morning brings fog and, just behind it, the sun dissolving obstructions. Another damn day in paradise.
So why, at a moment like this, would I be thinking about dying? Why such morose preoccupation, why not enjoy the moment and be done with it? Because both are present: the immanence of my last breath and the unfolding of a sunny day. Not either or, but both. At any given time someone is dying, not just somewhere far away but right here, in my neighbourhood. Just now the siren’s shreek as a police cruiser rushes past a couple of blocks away, followed by an ambulance. An accident, perhaps fatal? Five minutes from here, in hospice, 17 beds for breathing last breaths. Perhaps tomorrow, or the day after, a call from the doctor’s office, asking me to come in to “discuss the test results.” Two friends are right now on the ferry en route for chemo therapy at Lionsgate Hospital. Fog, sunshine, life, death — always something.
Learn to die and thou shalt learn how to live. There shall none learn how to live that hath not learned to die. ~ From the medieval book The Craft of Dying (De arte moriendi).
I find it impossible to imagine my own death. Can you? The ego, this “I” and “me,” is incapable of picturing its own demise. It believes that “it” is our identity. But what if such identity is not our true nature, but merely a self-grasping aspect of our mind? What then is our true nature — beyond the fog of delusion?
image: famous bridge