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“for death”

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A friend writes that “I too am completely overwhelmed by the devastation in Japan. My middle son lives there and thankfully he and his girlfriend are safe. My heart aches for all those poor unfortunates.” Several zen-related blogs report on Japanese friends and teachers, all well amid the horror.

News from Japan numbs my comprehension of Nature’s relentless power and man’s loss of control over atomic powers. Opening my heart to all who suffer, I copy these words by the late John O’Donohue:

From the moment you were born,
Your death has walked beside you.
Though it seldom shows its face,
You still feel its empty touch
When fear invades your life,
Or what you love is lost
Or inner damage is incurred.

That you would gather yourself
And decide carefully
How you now can live
The live you would love
To look back on
From your deathbed.

How can we, from a place of relative safety, express gratitude and love to others. How might I reach out to someone in need and share the abundance of my being? May the horror of others’ loss be a reminder to live each moment in full awareness and appreciation. May I turn to others with kindness. May I give thanks for all that is given and taken. May all beings be free from fear.

image: REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won. text: Excerpt from “for death” in: O’Donohue, J. (2008). To bless the space between us. New York: Doubleday, p. 72.


2 responses »

  1. I have just come from the VVS Sunday night sit and we ended, at someone’s request, with a loving-kindness sit for people in Japan. Afterwards I was reminded that this a typically compassionate response towards other humans as a result of an “act of god” reflected in the awesome power of nature. But we do literally nothing, for example, for the ordinary people of Libya trapped in a civil war. Are they not equally deserving of our prayer “May all beings be free of fear. May all beings be free of suffering”?

  2. I lived for three months in Chiba, in close view of one of the oil refineries that was ablaze yesterday. We felt earthquakes often, even in that short while. The first few times were quite exciting, I must admit. But once they became routine, a resigned dread arose in me with each tremor.

    I tend to reflect on the countless daily brushes with mortality that we fail to recognize as such — such as cars rushing inches from my body as I walk along a street, or the hum of electricity in devices pressed close to my skin. But those reflections require effort, a whimsical indulgence, to drag them from banality. Our fantasies of control are strong.

    But those Chiba quakes were always nakedly significant.

    Strength and comfort to my friends and all the people of Japan at this horrific time.

    An aside: the words quoted from O’Donohue reminded me immediately of a similar personification of death in Vic Chesnutt’s lovely song “Flirted with you all my life”

    “I am a man
    I am self-aware
    And everywhere I go
    You’re always right there with me

    I’ve flirted with you all my life
    Even kissed you once or twice
    And to this day I swear it was nice
    But clearly I was not ready …”


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