Monday, May 02, 2005

The Issue of Rebirth

From the very aftermath of the fire, friends, well meaning and loving, were talking rebirth to me. They hastened on to something other than the loss and devastation I was living with. No one, other than those who were living it, wanted to stay with what was. But we had no choice. Ash and loss. There was no way to skip over what had happened. That is still true. When I got back to my place after the retreat, and people asked me hopefully how things looked in the spring, I kept saying, "It looks ok as long as you don't look up" Bringing the wood in in the wheel barrow, planting some broccoli, feeding the dog and cats--how many times during these mundane chores do I look up at the mountain or gaze around me. So normal, so reassuring and now so bleak--all sepia--tones of brown and black.

After a huge loss one can't return to normal. People want reassurance that they can go back to being whoever they usually are with you, to stop looking for signs of sadness, but I can't give it to them. My life has changed. I have what Tibetans call "The View", and although the deep despair has subsided, the truth stays with me. What I had relied on, is gone.

During the retreat, I touched a part of me that thought the fire was a betrayal of my taoist beliefs--that you leave the land alone, let it do it's own thing, learn from its changes. Another part believed it was punishment for whatever misdeeds past or present--it's fairly easy to scare up guilt in this culture. When I talked with a teacher about this, he said, "It's not about you, Marilyn. A Buddhist would say it's about the unreliability of this world." When I walked out of the interview room, I walked out into a changing, transient wind blown world and it's unreliable nature was showing everywhere. I stood stunned at what I was seeing and more stunned that I never had seen it before. It was so obvious. And yet all my life I had told myself stories about what was happening. I never once confronted the whole fact that the world is fragile, that everything dies, that I die, that the biosphere is this trembling and transient miracle, that the universe itself will collapse or expand into nothingness. This insight itself kept coming and fading and recurring so strongly that I had to stop whatever I was doing while it resonated throughout my body.

As I wrote the last entry, I realized that my stalled and balky spring here in Boston mirrored the grieving process and that for the first time I had touched on the idea of new growth.

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