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#1632 - Sunday, November 30, 2003 - Guest Editor: Mazie Lane
WARNING. This issue features explicit photographs of human death.
Some readers may find it disturbing while others will embrace its reality. --Jerry Katz
teehee, Mazie Lane is a generous contributer to many lists, along with her own: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AdyashantiSatsang/
The day I've died, my pall is
moving on -
But do not think my heart is still on earth!
Don't weep and pity me: "Oh woe, how awful!"
You fall in devil's snare - woe, that is awful!
Don't cry "Woe, parted!" at my burial -
For me this is the time of joyful meeting!
Don't say "Farewell!" when I'm put in the grave -
A curtin is it for eternal bliss.
You saw "descending" - now look at the rising!
Is setting dangerous for sun and moon?
To you it looks like setting, but it's rising;
The coffin seems a jail, yet it means freedom.
Which seed fell in the earth that did not grow there?
Why do you doubt the fate of human seed?
What bucket came not filled from out the cistern?
Why should the Yusaf "Soul" then fear this well?
Close here your mouth and open it on that side.
So that your hymns may sound in Where-no-place!
~ Annemarie Schimmel "Look!
This is Love - Poems of Rumi"
I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And From vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;
After that, soaring higher than angels -
What you cannot imagine,
I shall be that.
Gone to the Unseen
At last you
have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvelous route did you take from this world?
wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer's call
and flew beyond space and time.
As a lovesick
nightingale, you flew among the owls.
Then came the scent of the rosegarden
and you flew off to meet the Rose.
The wine of
this fleeting world
caused your head to ache.
Finally you joined the tavern of Eternity.
Like an arrow, you sped from the bow
and went straight for the bull's eye of bliss.
world gave you false signs
But you turned from the illusion
and journeyed to the land of truth.
You are now
the Sun -
what need have you for a crown?
You have vanished from this world -
what need have you to tie your robe?
that you can barely see your soul.
But why look at all? -
yours is now the Soul of Souls!
O heart, what
a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.
flee from Autumn, but not you -
You are the fearless rose
that grows amidst the freezing wind.
like the rain of heaven
you fell upon the rooftop of this world.
Then you ran in every direction
and escaped through the drain spout . . .
Now the words
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.
~"Rumi - In the Arms of the Beloved", Jonathan Star
New York 1997
"A famous monk, who was a great teacher, died. He was best known, however, because of his chief disciple. Thousands of people came to pay homage to the monk when he died and to their amazement they found the chief disciple weeping. They were at a loss to understand
him -- an unattached person should not weep, especially one who has always said that the spirit never dies! Someone came and asked, "Why do you weep?"
The monk replied, "I cannot always live with 'whys.' There are moments when there is no why. I am weeping, that's all."
Still they insisted, "You have always said that the soul is immortal. Why do you weep then?"
He replied, "I still maintain that the soul is immortal. But that does not stop me from weeping."
~ Zen Bones, Zen Flesh
Today was an exact-fitting glove, perfect
In the nowness of this moment
fitting into itself
Except there was no hand attached and
You were not here beside me.
The sobhet softened, just so,
and the world
Spun in on them
calling up cosmic storms,
Storms of loved ones left behind,
and poignantly reminiscent of a familiar
Autumn has a Voice that I have never, ever
Failed to follow
"I will follow you into the depths of Hell."
"Wheresoever I shall be, there Thou Art."
O God. O Beloved!
And as You once followed God into the sea,
Rip-tides of karmic conversation
I begin to realize that we
are going to feed the Heart of Mystery.
Shakti entertains the idea, the very idea!
Of serving us up to Shiva!
Allah is Merciful in meting out
the Quantum Curiosity
"It is as
natural to die as it is to be born; and to a little infant,
perhaps, the one is as painful as the other."
"Death is psychologically as important as birth...Shrinking away from it is something unhealthy and abnormal which robs the second half of life of its purpose."
~Carl Gustav Jung
quoted in Time, obituary, June 16, 1961
"The wise man looks at death with honesty, dignity and calm, recognizing that the tragedy it brings is inherent in the great gift of life."
Journal of Philosophy, January, 1965
I don't believe in anything.
Tonight at the Marina on Suisun Bay as we feed the seagulls
Swallowing food for Shiva Who's swallowing us
Who's swallowing Nothing. . . O Gawd!
Nothing but Light these days,
These d a y s . . .
I think tonight, I'll inquire into this
That's if God spares us.
Lovers think they're looking for each
but there's only one search: wandering
this world is wandering that,
both inside one
transparent sky. In here
there is no dogma and no heresy.
The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said
or did about the future. Forget the future.
I'd worship someone who could do that.
On the way you may want to look back, or not.
But if you can say, There's nothing ahead,
there will be nothing there.
Stretch your arms
and take hold of the cloth of your clothes
with both hands. The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don't have both,
you don't belong with us.
When one of us gets lost,
is not here, he must be inside us. There's no
place like that anywhere in the world.
"The people asked, "Do you weep for the body?"
The monk said, "Yes, it must be for the body that I am weeping. The body, too, was beautiful and it will never be seen again. I weep for the body."
"But you are a spiritual man," they said. And the argument went on. They accused him of confusing them.
"I myself am confused," he said. "Life is such! The soul is important, but so are my tears. Such is life -- so contradictory. It exists in contradictions. I myself am confused; but I am at ease with my confusions, I am at ease with my contradictions, so I am not tense. You see my tears, you see me weeping, but I am at ease. I am
relaxed. I am blissful."
~ Zen Bones, Zen Flesh
"When a person is born, we rejoice, and when they're married, we jubilate, but when they die, we try to pretend that nothing happened."
"Odd as it sounds, there can be little question that some deaths are better than others. People cross-culturally have always made invidious distinctions between good deaths and bad. Compare, for instance, crooner Bing Crosby's sudden death following eighteen rounds of his beloved golf with the slow motion, painful expiration of an eighty-year-old diabetic. Bedridden following the amputation of his leg, the old man eventually began slipping in and out of consciousness. This continues over a period of years, exhausting the emotional, physical. and financial resources of his family. The essence of a "good death" thus involves the needs of the dying (such as coming at the end of full and completed lives, and when death is preferred to continued existence) as well as those of their survivors and the broader society.
Whereas the prevalence of unanticipated and premature deaths led to preindustrial cultures to focus death fears on individuals' postmortem fates, the death fears of modern cultures are more likely to focus on the processes of dying. Thus contemporary fears of dying involve the anxieties of dying within institutional settings, where often life is structured for the convenience of staff and where residents suffer both physical and psychological pain in their depersonalization. They also involve fears of being victims of advanced Alzheimer's Disease: being socially dead and yet biologically alive. In sum, the dreaded liminality between the worlds of the living and the dead have historically shifted from the period after death to the period preceding it.
Cultural coping mechanisms have not kept pace with the dramatic changes in when and how we die. With a generation or two (rates varying by social class, religion, etc.) having died within institutionalized isolation, Americans are forgetting about how to learn to focus on dying as a human process, how to include the dying in their dialogues, and how to learn the lessons of their existence. Instead, the dying process now too often features silence or diversion.
However, not surprisingly in our service-oriented economy, there are challenges to this medicalized, depersonalizing cultural route toward life's conclusion. For instance, there is the rise of hospice and such programs as Paradigm."
"Like those at the dawn of human species, young children understand neither the inevitability of their own mortality nor its finality. Death fears must be learned. Paralleling the attempts of anthropologists and historians to map the death ethos of Western culture over time, there is a sizable research tradition in psychology and psychiatry on exactly how children's concepts of death unfold developmentally. As social scientists have studied the long-term social and cultural consequences of mass epidemics or total war, psychiatrists attempt to gauge how early firsthand death encounters later affect the motivations, psychoses, and fears of adulthood.
And what lessons are learned in childhood about death? Consider the Saturday morning catechism. The lessons begin with the selection of breakfast cereals. Consider the products to the right, featuring flawed but immortal creatures (Frankenstein, a creature created from body parts, and Dracula, who subsists on the blood of the living). While eating their immortality flakes, children may watch their favorite cartoon: "The Roadrunner." The story line never varies: a coyote employs a number of strategies to kill (we assume to eat) the bird, only to have each attempt lethally backfire before he is once again resurrected to resume the hunt. This cartoon is followed by others bearing similar messages of violence, death, and indestructibility."
"Since 1985, I have surveyed my students (n=512) about their death socializations and beliefs. The following is the breakdown of their responses to the question "When you were a child, how was death talked about in your family?"
|With some sense
|Only when necessary
and then with an attempt
to exclude the children
|As though it were a taboo
|Never recall any discussion||27%|
one-half of these students the first personal involvement with
death was the loss of a grandparent; for one out of five, it was
the death of a pet. Consider how different these lessons received
by children of America's upper-middle class vary from those from
the lower rungs of society's stratification order. For the
former, death typically comes to the old--to those who have lived
full and completed lives. For the latter, death too often comes
prematurely due to violence or accident. Consider, for
instance, the following table derived from the 1988-90 NORC
General Social Surveys (n=4194), summarizing Americans' responses
to the question "Within the past 12 months, how many people
have you known personally who were victims of homicide?"
PERCENT OF AMERICANS KNOWING ONE OR MORE HOMICIDE VICTIMS
|AGE||WHITE AMERICANS||AFRICAN AMERICANS|
In addition to individuals' social class, death socializations also vary across the lifespan. Late adolescence and early adulthood are periods when individuals are drunk with future time. Senses of immortality are lost during the middle years, when those of one's parents' generation routinely die (and one realizes that one is next up to bat with the Grim Reaper) and when the first of one's friendship circle dies of "natural causes." In old age, individuals' futurity dissolves as their time runs out.
Is there a life-cycle pattern of death fears? To find out, consider the responses to the statement "Thinking about dying doesn't bother me much," which was asked to 1,201 randomly-selected Americans in the 1994 AARP "Images of Aging in America" survey. In total, 31 percent of Americans disagreed somewhat or strongly, females (33%) more than males (27%). Those 18-34 were most likely to disagree (38%) while those 65- 74 disagreed the least (23%). Click here to see how death fears vary by age and sex.
Some resources for explaining death: secular lessons:
Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself.
In his posthumous Autobiography of Dying, Archie Hanlan wrote "Death seems easy, but dying sometimes seems impossible. Death is oblivion and dying is an intense, unrelenting awareness. You are about to leave everything you love, to interrupt whatever you are doing, to give up all you hoped for."
All too frequently death has come to affect members of my death and dying class. The following was submitted over a decade ago by a first-year student shortly after she received her death sentence."
It was a regular Monday evening. I was feeling a bit weak. I blamed it on being out in the sun for too long a period of time. It was about seven o'clock when the phone rang. It was my doctor and life-time confidante, Rick. Rick just didn't seem himself that night; he was groggy and seemed troubled. I asked him jokingly why he called and then stated several jokes about dying of some rare disease. It was at this point that I knew that something was wrong. Rick then proceeded to tell me my brief and boring medical history. By this point I was eager to hear what he had to say. Finally, he laid it on me. I had cancer and it was terminal. Talk about a mouthful!
The days that immediately followed were difficult ones. The reactions varied from person to person. Dad told me to be strong and reassured me that he was there for me. Mom decided not to believe the doctors, and still doesn't believe the cause of my "little weakness" spells. Joe, by boyfriend, was shocked. He didn't know what to say, which hurt me even more. I felt ostracized from my family and friends. Everyone said that they were concerned, but didn't have the slightest clue what to do. I didn't, and still don't, know what to do. I know I need some answers, fast!
I began to rationalize. I thought things like, "oh it can't be so bad," or, "God, I'm glad that at least I was informed." Can it really be "not that bad" or can I be happy to know my approximate, if you will pardon the expression, "deadline"? Through my long walks and periods of silence, I came to the point where it was necessary to acknowledge the realistic nature of the cancer, and the final outcome it presented, I was to die. In my mind I knew that dealing with death was a very necessary factor, but my "gut" feeling was, "Heather, you still have faith and hope to hold on to." I knew through my Death and Dying course what I could to help myself, I had to deal with it. In helping myself, I was, to a point, admitting defeat. I don't lose easily, ask anyone that I have had the chance to compete with. I'm a sore loser in both a game in basketball and the unending game of life.
Physical changes started to occur in my life as a result of that phone call. I began to take large doses of medicine three times daily, just to keep me going. My favorite hobbies, basketball and racquetball, were "put out to pasture." For the first time in my independent life, I was not calling the shots. I lived according to regulations, I ate according to regulations, and I cried and cursed against regulations. The phone became my number one escape. I called old boyfriends, renewed old friendships, and talked about anything under the sun with one very large exception, death and any aspects it involved. I can remember my old girl friend Lisa joking about her boyfriend and saying, in so many words, that he deserved to be shot. I flew off the handle, rattled off a quick good-bye, and got right off that phone. If she knew about me would she feel the same way about life, anybody's life? Life seems so precious to me now. In a way I am thankful that I finally got my priorities straightened out. Designer jeans, fast cars, and cute guys are nice to have and to look at but fulfillment, for me, doesn't come by reaching perfect measurements, a 4.0, or lots of friends. Fulfillment, for me, is making the best of the situation, accepting it, and loving every precious moment that I am given. All that glitters can never make me truly happy. To me, money provides a comfortable way of living, but I minimize my spending. Sure, Mom and Dad can send me to Hawaii, but until they realize all I want is love, none of us will be happy. As the song goes, "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love."
"When Americans do think about their dying, what do they worry most about? What kind of comforts do they hope they will have as the end draws near? In 1997, the George H. Gallup International Institute posed such questions to a random sample of 1,212 adults in a study commissioned by the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Fetzer Institute.
limits of death:
between philosophy and psychoanalysis
"The quality of death, for instance, affects the quality of grief. Here let us focus on the experiences of the survivors and survivors-to-be. Three key concepts thanatologists employ to understand those affected by the death of others are: bereavement, grief, and mourning. Bereavement is the social status allocated to those experiencing legitimate grief--a status of diminished expectations toward one's role performances much like the "sick role." Grief entails the emotions triggered by the death of other. In American culture there is the expectation that these emotions feature extreme sadness and even depression as other's death is understood to be a personal "loss" (as opposed to, say, a "gain," as in cultures where parental death might mean one's entry into full adulthood). Mourning refers to the "grief work" that one must do to emancipate himself enough from bonds with the deceased to return to one's normal social responsibilities.
Society does not grant the bereavement status to all experiencing the loss of a significant social bond, even though these may be every bit as profound and grief-inducing for the survivor. Examples include the surviving member of a homosexual couple or a close friend of the deceased, neither of whom would be given the time off from work that would be given to those losing a parent or spouse. Though a son- or daughter-in-law may have a closer relationship with their mother-in-law than with their own mother, at funerals their loss is often not acknowledged as all condolences are given to spouses and offspring. Such absence of social recognition of one's loss can compound the void of grief, hence the rise of support groups even for those having lost a pet.
The grief associated with bereavement is one of the most profound of all human emotions--and one of the most lethal. According to the General Social Surveys, more than 14 percent of Americans 18 and older--or about 36 million-- have experience the death of either a parent, spouse, sibling or child each year. Studies show that such losses disrupt life patterns for up to three years. According to the National Academy of Science, of the approximately 800,000 Americans widowed each year, up to 160,000 are thought to suffer a pathological grief.
Certainly contributing to the challenges of individuals' "grief work" is the privatization of grief, the underinstitutionalization of the bereavement role, the fading of the consoling role, and the dramatic shrinkage of the acceptable duration for mourning over the past century. In Time Wars, Jeremy Rifkin notes how Emily Post in 1927 reported that a widow's formal mourning period was three years. Twenty-three years later, this period had declined to six months. And by 1972, Amy Vanderbilt advised the bereaved to "pursue, or try to pursue, a usual social course within a week or so after a funeral." While over 90 percent of American companies grant official time off for bereavement, most have established three days as the formal bereavement period."
Also contributing to the challenges of "grief work" are its unique facets. Note the increasingly specialized nature of support groups here on the Web: they are determined not only on attributes of the griever--such as on the basis of their age (groups exist for teenagers, the middle- aged, and older persons) and sex--but also on the nature of their relationship with the deceased (whether spouse, lover, grandparent, parent, or sibling) and the cause of death, such as death by suicide or cancer or in the line of military service. Some of these are even further refined, such as the parent grief groups. These include support systems for those parents experiencing the neonatal, SIDS, or homicide deaths of their children, or, in the case of In Loving Memory, for those parents coping with death of their only or last surviving child. Click here for further thoughts on the deaths of family members.
Finally, and not surprisingly given the commodification of so many aspects of life, we note the commodification of bereavement.
~ Yahoo'd through Yahoo Images and their added links
CRADLE MY HEART
~Hush Don't Say Anything to God:
The Chemo Room
The chemo room was, as usual, filled with extraordinary people. I spoke with a woman who has metastasized breast cancer and goes to The Wellness Community as we do. We spoke of walls and hearts and true friends....schedules dominated by cancer treatments and all that they entail. I told her that I was ready to take down my wall. You can," she said, "for I have taken down mine." Her eyes were washed with tears of empathy and I hugged her gently, for she is such a treasure.
There was a woman who had just had a port installed earlier that morning and her husband sat down in the chair across from me. These two were life-partners, no doubt about it. She spoke of her azalea garden even as she fished a book on Braves baseball from her purse. Tamara, the chemo nurse, was showing us pictures of her daughter who had just graduated. You see, we are family to each other. No appointment needed to get a hug or wipe a tear. We are there anyway -we might as well be there for each other.
Yesterday I saw a therapist to get some help in dealing with all of this stress and sorrow. He helped me by confirming my path. He is a writer, too, and we talked of the windhorse way and courage and webpages. He stuck an acupuncture needle in my ear and I wore it proudly into the barbecue joint where we ate after my appointment.
But this was the
best thing of all. Someone sent me this e-mail:
That letter makes it all worthwhile. To write about the hardest journey of my life and have it received by even one person is a form of healing for me.
There is a silence that falls upon the soul when it has said too much. All of the anger and bitterness has been expressed. Remorse has now reared its ugly head. God, I didnt know that I had so much anger in me. Cancer is a curse. It can bring forth blessings, but it is a curse for me right now. My husband is weak and sick and I am sick and tired. All of my best hopes and resolves have vanished like smoke and I am in need of renewal. But from where will it come when no one can take my place in my soul? I must live in my own being and somehow find rest and renewal there.
I have trod the halls of too many hospitals to be well-disposed towards them. I have cried too many tears to believe they will lead to burdens being lifted. I am a psalmist for the insanely grief-stricken mind. Writing flows from deep within like the tears that I have been shedding for days. But anger is a mask for grief and I am grieving like hell. For normalcy, for hope, for optimism and an end to serving the suffering body.
It is a good thing that paragraphs like these are written in water and wind like all other transitory emotions. These words, too, shall pass. Things get better and things get worse. The nondual soul who witnesses the personal suffering is always silent. It is the bird that never sang a note.
This morning I had a physical therapy session for my neck. The therapist, Kent, was taking me through my range of motions and we were getting to know each other. Like Bernie Siegel, he has a shaven head. I told him what Bernie said about why he shaved his head...to bare his emotions, spirituality and love.
He commented that when he told me to let go, I wasnt able to do so. A lot of times, he said, people will be telling me one thing and their body will be telling me something else. And thats where the rubber meets the road.
I have known for a long time that I am unable to let go. But knowing and doing are far removed. It is good to know where you need to do more work...at not working. I say that tongue-in-cheek and also in truth. Without descent into the depths, we will never ascend to the inner heights. Thats just how it is.
Bernie had asked me what my pain in the neck was about. I honestly cannot put it into words, so I am putting it into my body. But I am good at words, if nothing else, so I will try. I need to be embraced--not braced. Bracing myself against emotional pain hurts my body. I write a lot about letting go. Bernie says that you teach what you need to learn.
Those of you who resonate to what I write know that we are all in the same boat. We are each other. We mirror each other. Thank God that this is true. Sometimes we can all be a pain in the neck and what we really need is to embrace and be embraced. It seems the logical thing to do, but how hard it is to stay open, to contain the pain. The body can be an alchemical vessel if we allow it to be. We can let the pain remain, embracing it with our own higher consciousness. I know this--but not all of the time.
I would like to say a word to my body, I am sorry that I have allowed you to get so tense and in such pain. Forgive me. I am getting you some help. Thank you for all that you do. My body doesnt speak in words but I saw the tears in its eyes. We will be okay.
~ Vicki Woodyard, http://www.bobwoodyard.com
"As the limelighted boomers enter middle age we'll be hearing much more about the meaning of parental death (i.e., Jane Brooks' Midlife Orphan). Every year eleven million American adults lose a parent; by age 62, roughly three-quarters have lost both. Unlike earlier generations, however, their "orphan" status typically occurs much later in life; Boomers will have had their parents longer than any other generation.
Mary Gordon, in
her recently published The Shadow Man: A
Daughter's Search for Her Father, writes that her father's
death (when she was seven years of age) was the defining
event of her life. George Pollock, director of the
Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, has identified
hundreds of writers, artists, philosophers, for whom
mourning over a parent's death was an adaptation that
tapped creative energy. For Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, Darwin, and Tolstoy, the death of
a parent seemed to spur them on to greatness. Certainly
the quality and form of one's death experiences reacts
with the quality and form of one's moral, emotional, and
intellectual development. Death can spawn depression and
social withdrawal, or it can invigorate, stimulating
individuals to pursue new heights to their social
Widowhood is not only a label assigned to surviving spouses, but is a social status as well--and female status at that, given that 85% of wives outlive their husbands. Unlike other bereavement-based statuses, this one is permanent. And as is the case with all social statuses, there are normative patterns to its timing and behavioral expectations. For instance, in American society, widows are frowned upon if they begin dating a week after the funeral or remarry a few months thereafter.
In our death-denying and couple-based culture, there is a certain stigma to being widowed, which is amplified by the fact that it is a status typically occupied by females. Few married women escape the status. One facet of sexism is the general pattern of older males marrying younger females. Not only does this often imply greater male power in the relationship but, because of the females' eight or more years of life expectancy advantage, it often guarantees that it is the woman who must cope with the dying and death of a spouse, with the spectrum of emotions associated with grief, and with singleness in a world of couples. In fact, widows often find themselves neither in the world of singles or of marrieds.
LOSS OF CHILD
LOSS OF SIBLING
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