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On death and impermanence
I have come across the news about this celebrity chef who killed himself yesterday. He was a year younger than I am. He said “I want to kill myself”, as many of us have said at time of despair in a haste and he followed through. Though I did not know anything about him, have not heard of him before, it affected me deeply. I recently read that 650,000 hours is a long human life, and he got to perhaps about a half of it… and the serendipitous collection of atoms and energy that he was ceased to exist in the state that represented Him. His creativity, his gifts, his love, his joy, all was ended because he did not want it any more. I wondered if I could help him, if he had reached out to me before he made his final decision? Or if anyone could help him, any person near him, anyone with an ear to listen and a mouth to speak?
Though I do not know his circumstances, I can only imagine how desperate, how spent, how alone he must have felt. And the truth is, we are alone. On the deepest level, we have solely ourselves to be with, to listen to, to console and to love. But we also are human, we are social animals, increasingly so electronically social, capable of connecting in different ways today than ever before. And we have access to so much help, so much information, so much knowledge, if we choose to seek it, without getting up from our chair, our bed, our room, and without even talking to anyone. And the other truth is that we are impermanent, all is impermanent, and that is the nature of things. “We seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we are part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process”, writes Pema Chodrin.
Death is a natural part of life, it takes us when it is time, and it is okay, because it is part of being human. Whatever you believe in, the soul, the energy, the unphysical and the physical, come back into the cycle of life and continue their existence in other forms until their time comes as well, and so on, the process in which our human existence is neither the beginning not the end. I watched the ocean waves these past few days, coming to and fro the shore, coming alive and dying and then being birthed again by the horizon:
An ocean of a million breaths
Each one as ancient as the world
Heavy with all it carries
Light as air that moves it forward
Ancient, yet dead and born all over
Every instant, living to the fullest
Then restarting there by the horizon
This man, the one that chose to take his life, perhaps like many others on that day, he was suffering greatly, I am sure of it. And suffering, as we are taught, isn’t right, isn’t what we should be, isn’t in accordance with our idea of having a good life. It contradicts what we believe should be happening to us, and therefore is so so harmful. This thought process of something that we experience as human beings to be wrong and abnormal is what causes the greatest pain and sadness. The teachings of Buddhism tell us that suffering is okay, just like joy and happiness, suffering and pain is part of human condition and is natural to occur to all of us. No one has a life free of suffering. And it also ends. The cause of our suffering, according to Chodron, is “our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of out efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it is called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness”.
Daily practice of meditation, learning, expression and creativity of some sort, could perhaps have helped him be at peace of what was happening in his life. I don’t believe to have all the answers, but this is something that is continually helping me accept life as it is, making me stronger and aware, allowing me to observe from a place of loving kindness to myself and others. The 3 Buddhist vows to peaceful humanity consist of causing no harm with our words or actions, living with compassion to self and others, and embracing our world, simply as is, without judgement or bias. Loving oneself is such an easy notion, yet we forget how to, and even that we need to do it. Our culture teaches us otherwise. It tells us we need to work more, drink more, sleep more, mutilate ourselves and abuse our bodies and minds, the result being hectic and stressed out human beings in constant state of samsara, or the pursuit of fleeting and impossible state of so-called “happiness”. Kamal Ravikant talks about loving oneself and living one’s truth and that is the key to finding joy and being at peace:“This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply – in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF.” Perhaps, if we can attempt to embrace these vows and to love ourselves wholeheartedly, we could live our 650,000 or whatever hours we are allotted to the fullest without leaving early…