Banzan was a famous Zen monk from way back. One day his son died and he was weeping inconsolably by the graveside. One of his pupils asked him,
”Master do you not teach the oneness of Being and Non-being, of remaining unattached from samsara … and wordly illusion. Why then are you crying?”
Banzan replied, ‘he was a very personal illusion.’
My ex died. Cancer. I cried like a baby. Was it the suddenness? Or the horrible randomness of finding out on Facebook? Why didn’t anyone tell me?
We did, on Facebook.
But while she was still alive, so that I..
Listen buster, this is not about you. The dying are not in the habit of thumbing through their address book to gratify yesteryear’s voyeur. Its the living that want to mend fences so that they can continue to do so with good conscience.
And now all those things you left unsaid, your regrets at the part you played, the unexpressed tendernesses…
…remain. The opportunity is passed. You feel sorry for yourself and your tears are for yourself… How absurd that you should feel so upset for someone who faced their end with dignity and courage, that you should cry for her when she did not cry for herself.
Oh, but she was so young!
So, never mind the quality feel the width…?
No, no, its that she did not deserve it!
No-one does. All deserving is about being fairly recompensed for deeds well done, but Death cares nothing for fairness or whether you’ve been good.
But she was so healthy..
We all are at one time or another. It passes. In any case what laughable irony that you, the literary scourge of Consumer Culture’s compulsive living-in-the future and wanting more than it has, should now bewail the span of her alloted years with all this crying about unfairness and wanting… more.
You are too hard. No feeling person can share a bed with another for years without greiving their loss even if you’ve parted company. What would it say if I felt no pang at her passing?
Does her death detract from her contribution to your life?
Then your tears are for yourself.
I loved her!
And always will, which is why love trumps death. What the shock of the unexpected does, which is mostly what life is made of, is to remind you that your own alloted four score years and ten are only an outside bet, and that who’s turn it is next – a roll of the dice.
Not only are we temporary, we are indefinately temporary. It’s only a statistical probability that you’ll make it through the day. The horror of it all is such that you keep it entirely in the wings of Consciousness, busying yourself with a myriad soul-numbing distractions whilst reserving your pity for those who can’t be comforted by it untill it bursts on-stage like a drunk at a kiddies Panto.
Then there is no comfort to be had! If my sorrow for others is impotent and compassion for myself is self indulgent…
I didn’t say that. Its that we are all alone, together. Within the extinguishing blaze of Death is a coal of something that is entirely improbable….
..which is why its a good thing you know so little.
The most difficult part of pain and loss is not enduring it or even searching for meaning in it, but by defending against the loss of each miraculous day should we wish it further from our shoulder and a little less like being kicked by a mule.
‘He who is near to me is near to the fire.’ Thomas logia 82
By coincidence I have been reading Voltaire’s ‘Candide’, about a man to whom befalls every sudden ill you can imagine. He soon discovers that everyone with whom he is associated has an even worse tale to tell. He and his companions hear of a man who has had an easy life. Curious and intrigued they go to find him, anxious to prove that the human condition is not one of inevitable suffering…
..and its true. The pompous ‘Cococurante’ has indeed not suffered in life. But then neither does he love or feel gratitude. Sex bores him. Art and literature no longer divert or amuse. Eveything is drab and tasteless. The troupe cannot wait to escape him.
And so what Voltaire vanages to convey in an afternoon more bloodthirsty than any videogame is that life is not just a vale of tears, it is a vale of Our tears, without which we cannot become fully human or find the compassion it takes to look forward to the Adventure.