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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Marriage, Dating, and Babies

Making babies, what more can the Govt do?

It will be more effective if we start showing videos of lonely old people dying on their own, on their death beds.

(Willin Low, from Channel NewsAsia's "Maybe Baby?")

I mentioned to Priscilla and Riza that I would blog about this. Actually, I wrote a whole lot about it — lots of rage, outrage, and spit at the herd mentality propagated and outrageous fear tactics employed. But, at the end of the day, what's the use of anger against something that I have no wish to change? I know what path I walk. The paths others choose, wisely or unwisely, is their prerogative — and their freedom.

This much I will say (and some of you may not like to hear it, so go drink yourselves senseless, gorge on food, or lurk in Prada or Louis Vuitton shops now):

You will die alone, and alone you will die.

Even if you are surrounded by family and friends, you have to do the dying alone. Ever been at the bedside of someone in his / her final moments? Ever heard a death rattle? Even when trembling, praying and pleading hands are clasping a hand, frail and clammy with the inevitable approach of death, the dying die alone. Tears will fall, but the individual dies alone.

Why fight it? Why fear it? It is inevitable. Make your peace with it, and live your life free from fear; stop the futile, headlong plunge into distraction after distraction; and, do what you truly wish.

About 13 months ago, a little old lady expressed these sentiments to me. She was a widow with two daughters. She died a few months ago.

Want to know how she died?

Alone, in her house. When phone calls were not answered, she was discovered dead.

Enjoy the article.


The way to be happy, according to Buddha, is simple: just let go. If you let go a lot, you have a lot of happiness; if you let go a little, you have a little happiness; and if you can’t let go at all, you will have a lot of misery. The practice of letting go is recommended not because it is a good idea or is morally superior somehow, but because it is practical, and, furthermore, it is really the only way. Because whether we let go or not, things will slide away and we won’t be able to prevent it. Better to let go and cooperate with the way things are, than to try fruitlessly to resist the irresistible shape of reality.

But letting go is hard to do because our human mind persistently wants to hold on; it has an enormous and ancient habit of holding on. In fact, holding on is all we know; holding on is literally us, and we do not want to give ourself up. Letting go feels like death and we are frightened of death because it means the end of us. And actually letting go is a kind of death — it may be literally sometimes death: we have to let go of our life sometime. But actually whether it is what we call death or just everyday letting go it really is death anyway. Every moment we have to die — every moment anyway we do die to this moment of our lives. It is gone and it will never return. If it is a wonderful moment it will go away and if it is a terrible moment it will go away in exactly the same way. Every moment dies to itself and this is how every moment of our lives takes care of itself completely; every moment contains within itself its own perfect resolution. To practice letting go is to participate with this actual moment by moment dying which is life: to let go is to join our life.

This sounds drastic in a way and I know a lot of people don’t like to hear about this kind of thing. Letting go really is dying but dying isn’t just dying: dying is freedom, release, peacefulness. Dying means laying down the burden of our life and going off into the mountains for a big hike, just wandering around, like a cloud. Dying means that we don’t hold onto anything of the six senses — whatever we see hear smell taste touch or think we just appreciate it for what it actually is — we don’t “me” it and try to hold it fixed — we just let it come and go — we allow it to be born and die as it really is being born and dying moment by moment. This is really the kindest way to live and it is the only way to love: to let each thing really be what it is and then to let it go — to let it be free. To try to hold ourselves or our world or another person in place is impossible. Nothing can be held in place. Life is very pressured, very stressful, very burdensome — and this is why — because we are trying mightily to hold in place what cannot be held in place, we are trying to preserve the unpreservable and fix the unfixable. Actually everything has integrity as it is; everything is surrounded by immense space: each of our thoughts, even our miseries, certainly trees and grasses, the sun and moon and clouds, our human body — everything passes and reappears as it is, all of it operating together in a marvelous harmony of freely passing by, if we will only let it, if we will only let go and allow it to be that way in the course of our living.

The life of letting go is the life of freedom, the life of non-attachment. Non-attachment doesn’t mean we are distant from things or have no warmth or no care for things; the word non-attachment is good because it suggests some distance and in love there always has to be some distance — some spaciousness or openness. In ordinary everyday human life there is always some desire — if there weren't any desire there couldn't be any life. But if desire is held onto too strongly it becomes very confining. If there’s too much strongly held desire in our loving, then our loving becomes confining too; and soon it is no longer love, it turns into dependency, or even antipathy; real love has to have some distance in it, some non-attachment. With the eye of non-attachment we can see that the object of our love can never be possessed, can never be held onto. When I say this maybe it seems tragic to you. In a way it is tragic, tragic if you don’t like it and you don’t want to accept it. But if you accept it you see that it is a good thing that we cannot possess or hold onto the object of our love: because if we could it would not really be a living being; it would only be our invention, and inventions are not lovable. Any living being needs its own integrity and its own freedom and spaciousness — so there has to be always some distance and non-attachment in loving.

And desire, if you study it carefully and very closely, has this aspect to it: desire has spaciousness around it if you will allow it, if you don’t insist on crowding your desire too much. We do crowd our desire as a rule, and then it becomes usually painful because it can never be fulfilled. This is what hungry ghosts are — beings who crowd their desires into a very tight corners and so experience the tremendous suffering of endless unsatisfiable desiring. All addictions are like this — this is the mind of addiction, the hungry ghost crowded desire mind. But if we practice letting go and open up space for our desire and for the object of our desire — allow our desire to be itself and then to go away and allow the object of our desire to be itself and then to go away then we really don't have to suffer and we can enjoy our desire and its object whether we satisfy our desire or not. Actually everything is already letting go — you and I are already let go. So there is no need to satisfy our desire. Sometimes when it is right for us to do so we do — but even then we don’t possess anything. We just enjoy something for a moment and then let it go. So desire can come up and it need not be a big problem.

It’s the same with aversion. Aversion is unpleasant inherently but desire which seems on the surface to be pleasant is also actually unpleasant when it is crowded. You would think that since aversion is inherently unpleasant we would automatically want to let it go. But actually we don’t; we want to get rid of it or we want to feel badly about it; in other words we recoil against our aversion — we have aversion for it, which means that we just want it to go away right now because we don’t want to feel its unpleasantness. We don’t know how to give it room, let it be, and let go of it. So, in a way we actually encourage our aversion by being aggressive toward it. Instead of this, we need to allow it, let ourself completely feel the unpleasantness of it, just be peaceful with it, and let it go away. Then aversion is not so big a problem either.

We don’t have to defeat our humanness in order to be happy. Defeating our humanness will not work. It’s like a general sending squadron after squadron of troops on suicide missions against a huge and impregnable wall, trying to breach the wall head on. Instead of this, we have to just send a peaceful scout or two to ride slowly along the wall — until the way around it is discovered. It’s necessary to accept the real facts and real consequences of being human. That’s the way to be happy and to help others to be happy.

(Norman Zoketsu Fischer)


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