He awoke this morning, and was surprised to be there, he said, because when you are ninety, and can’t get around at all, you don’t look forward to tomorrow, for it will simply be a repeat of today when nothing will happen. And it is harder still, he says, because he can’t remember much anymore, so it’s hard to say if today is any different than a week ago or a month ago, though they say he was in the hospital then, but he don’t know why he was there. When I stop for a visit the next day his is surprised to be there, he says as though it was a new thought that just came to him in the moment.
It has a certain heft that says something substantial lies within, waiting to be freed. It glides easily, suggesting an effortlessness you know is a tease, that labor still waits. Still, it does said comfortably, is appealing to the eye, has the deep jade green along its barrel, the knots interwoven top and bottom that say what lies within cannot be easily unraveled. As you draw it across the page you hope that somewhere in Neamh old Robbie will look down on you, smile and share a thought or two, but that you know, is for another day.
He never wants to leave this place. He never wants to leave wherever he is at that moment. Moving is the hardest thing for him, arriving is easy. She points out that you cannot arrive here without leaving there. He reminds her that something being easy is not the same thing as something being desired. He can and does arrive, but it is easy only by comparison to the greater pain of leaving. She says, I am leaving now, but you can join me. He says I cannot even bear the pain of that thought.
When it all ends, just what will you being doing the moment before. Of course you cannot know, for you have no idea just when it will end. And if it ends as a result of your actions, then you won’t know that it is your action that is ending it, so that is no winner in this game. And before you get lost in thought, ponder this simple concept deeply first. Since I haven’t told you what it is, you can’t know even when it ends. And by the way it just did.
You so very want there to be no ending but there must be, just as there had to be a beginning and you had no say about that. Endings are hard, they remind you of small deaths, all but one, but each is also a birth of sorts, and like you know, they arise and you have no say about them. These few lines will soon enough draw to an end although that may be one you don’t so much mind. But as you put them away they are the beginning of a thought you never imagined would arise.
God, it was a long night, unending needs unsated, brought to the edge man is a cruel beast, half master as pleading supplicant, half slave much the child, begging, wanting as if food or thought would give man humanity, elevated above needs, existing outside, independent a God, ruler of illusion and fantasy.
First Appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1996.
The river that I imagined, a torrent of words and images is little more than a dry trickle, construction cranes along one shore hauling away half- and ill-formed thoughts, leaving only desire and frustration as a marker of what might have been. I looked at each bend, hidden from sight as harboring that epiphany that I promised myself, and not further evidence of my own delusion. We will make port this afternoon Where I can, at last, offload my frustration and these shards of a fantasy now gone to dust.
Before life there is death, before death there is life. In life there is death, in death there is life, a worm cut in two, each half moves, in each a new worm or is there one worm. This I ask you, but answer or no answer both are full of Buddha nature.
A reflection on Case 20 of the Shobogenzo (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)