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Monday, July 19, 2010

One way to enter your life fully and to practice the art of death awareness poems at the same time is to write a poem each day for a year. This need not be as forbidding as it sounds. You only have to write this one today. Just create the wholehearted intention, and give yourself permission to write the worst death awareness poem in the world.

dying to
this slant of
morning light

Don't know. Don't know is the most honest thing one can say about death; don't know is an existential fact, a sacred truth. Those with strong religious beliefs may counter that they, in fact, know that there is a God and one shall go to heaven, unless he or she has committed unforgivable sins. Such faith exists within the field of the known. Death lies outside the field of the known. No one has died and gone to heaven, returned and reported this. Even those who have had near-death experiences have not actually died.

Uncertainty, then, is what characterizes death. As a species that is wired for survival, we are deeply averse to uncertainty and shrink from it. Our brains have evolved to search out, and cling to, explanations. In such explanations we take refuge, convincing ourselves that they accord us security. But death shatters all illusions of security. Do we have the courage to face our fundamental groundlessness?

long winter break
will I too get to pick a sunny park bench
to take my last breath

Intuition is an alternative to knowledge. With intuition, we discern connections that knowledge can't reveal. The offspring of the marriage between perception and intuition is poetry. At such moments, poetry becomes revelation. I love this haiku by Basho, which is as poignant as any death poem I have ever read:

the temple bell stops
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers

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