The front of winter slowly seeps up from the sidewalk into the street unveiling the last falling of autumn’s leaves. A gentle fog rises shrouding the fact that winter, or the most of it lurks just over the distant hills, which mark the margin of our vision. Even the birds sing in our confusion they without calendars not caring this day is set aside to mark the birth of a new year and we, ignoring hours so we need not admit we sit in the heart of winter.
If I receive warm under robes to ease my winter meditation I will refuse them. If you ask me why, I will say I was born with such robes as I need. If you ask what I wore before birth I shall remain silent.
In the deepest winter there is no chill that can reach the empty mind for it is full of a warmth that cannot be replaced and one needs no shelter, for ashes know no temperature.
Before you wish for immortality carefully consider all the consequences. It’s true you will avoid the fires of hell and the lawyers and politicians who make up a surprising portion of the populace, but you’ll also never pass through the pearly gates, to languish in the esteemed company of poets and musicians who will, at the drop of a request, regale you. And those wars you so often decried, you’ll have those of generations without end, for the one skill mankind has mastered is war. But worst of all, you must realize that you will be subjected to an infinite number of wait staffs gathered around your table doing off-key but well intended renditions of Happy Birthday to You as other diners wish you had never been born.
Somewhere in the world at this very moment, something remarkable is being laid to ruin. It is our nature to tear down what we cannot understand, what we hold different, what does not comport with our present view of how things ought to be. Somewhere in the world at this very moment something remarkable is being born, is being created, is arising out of an idea, a thought, an emotion. We are all somewhere in the world at this very moment.
Birth, he said, is the first and only real terminal disease. You only realize that, of course, when it is far too late and there is nothing at all you can do about it. Cancer and all manner of diseases merely shift the timeline, but once you’re on the path, there is only one way off, and that is a step few are willing to take. For some, this is a source of terror, for others it is no more than a slow walk around the block, with the promise you’ll eventually arrive back at the place you began, although it is no longer the place you began but one from which you begin, not again but anew. Again. This is what the Buddha said 3000 years ago, more or less. He confirmed that the just the other day, outside the soup kitchen. “Hey,” Buddha said, “even the once or twice enlightened need to eat from time to time. Join me?”