Monday, June 18, 2007

thoughts about death

Im tellin ya I am such a sucker for reflections in water. Gimme a flock of birds, a mounntain, or a sky of clouds reflected upsidedown in water and I’m a very happy camper. And check it: right now, all over my town, the ricefields are filled with water and a grid of tiny, bright green rice sprouts. Its like im sruouned by a quilt of mirrors. Here are some pictures of my town.

I’ve been watching season 2 of “24” and in it one of the main characters comes into contact with radioactive material and finds out from the doctor he will die within the day. This character is usually moody, cold, and mean, but he immediately warms up and kind of melts upon hearing the news. His voice softens and his posture relaxes. His entire character changes from what we knew of him from the entire first season. It’s good acting.

Can you imagine the profound transformation that must go on within an individual when they find out they will die soon. One of my favorite books, “Grace and Grit,” is about a woman dying of cancer. It dives deeply into the subjective experince of preparing for, facing, and finally accepting death. “Tuesdays with Morrie” is another classic that deals with this issue.

The eyes of death.

Mystical Floating Eyes have appeared in art for ages. They can represent basic awareness, the ability to See clearly, wisdom, a trancendental observer, Spirit, God, etc. They can also represent the absolute reality that death is coming and its coming quickly. They can represent the eyes of death.

Death omens, Death Reminders, Memento Mories, are the greatest gifts the universe can ever deliver, being that they intensify our appreciation for the preciousness of human life, and also help prepare us for the unimaginable trumoil our minds will undoubtably go through as they disolve into confusion and die.

The eye of death stares us down, and we have no choice but to submit and subdue our selves to its glare.

When the time comes, will you be ready?

I will make more art about death. Memento Moris. True, any painting about life is also a painting about the fleetingness of life (death belongs to life as much as birth does) but clear reminders, unavoidable interpretations, can usher the mind into a less comfortable, more benificale path of ponderation for transformation. Thought trains about death usually take the individual to profound states of being and deeper modes of understanding, as well as blissful waves of profound apprectiation for life. After a nice conversation about death, the self is literally transformed forever. And,in the heart of death, a deeper connection to others is discovered, and this in turn tranforms into compassion and love. As Peter Patrelli from the tv show Heroes says, “Death is what connects us all together.”

I was walking to dinner the other night and I saw two overweight men, maybe in their late 50s, walking and smoking together. I immediately thought of their suffeirng—that they will die relatively soon; that they will have to leave behind their families, friends, and bodies. They will have to go through so much suffering. And I looked at them, these total strangers, and almost cried I was so sad for them.

We have so much in common. Anyone dying is not a total stanger. And we are all dying.

I ask you: What does it feel like to be dying?
We are all dying. We can all talk about dying. We are all qualified experts. We all experince loss, we are all racing twoard our death like a arrow towards its target. We all experience the delicate dissolveing of our lives. For those of you ready to imagine, confront, explore, fear, and prepare for your own death, you might like Elizibeth Kublar-Ross’s classic “On Death and Dying.” It's a good preview, I think. In the book she talks to people dying and finds a pattern of emotions she calls the “five stages of greif.” I think it’s important to be familiar with these emotional stages that will occure as we die. It’s important to prepare for them, like how it’s important to prepare for a big storm that's coming. You can’t escape the storm. So now that you accept that, what are you going to do to prepare for it?

The Dalai Lama suggest we think about and practice dying at least 8 times a day. His “Advice on Dying” is another great book.

I have written extensively about death and spiritual practices centering around it. I have painted many paintings dedicated to death’s mystery as well as the fleeing beauty of life. I offer these to anyone interested.

Here is a poem I wrote about confronting death and how that moves me deeper into Life, as well as paradoxically opens up a deeper freedom and release from Life and Life’s death.


Dark cold sorrow and fear fills the pit of my well,
And I reach my eye-hands into that space,
touch it, feel it,
Splash it on my face.

The deeper I go, the freer i feel,
free to embrace it all without fear,
And the deeper I feel, the more I connect
with all dying life,
We all share this fate.

I fold my hands,
Presence, forhead touching floor, breathing, presence.
Thank you, karma,
Thank you, condition.
Thank you, evolution,
for giving me this human body,
and letting me see.
This is such a life. It is fleeing. It is preciouse.
It is here. May I use it well!
May I benefit others.

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May all beings be Free and in Love.

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