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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lest anyone still be confused about why I am writing about death and death awareness poems, Norman Fischer makes a clear and forceful statement which answers the question for me. Norman Fischer is a longtime Zen Buddhist, writer and poet. His most recent book, SAILING HOME, is about Homer's classic, THE ODYSSEY. The following passage is from this book: "Abandoning our pretty fantasies about death and facing our fear of death's inconceivable strangeness is a necessity: for life."

I write about death to explicate life. Don't be deceived: We no more understand life than we do death. Fischer's phrase-- inconceivable strangeness--rings so true! Insofar as we are alive and living in the moment for the first time, of course everything is new and strange to us... meaning unfamiliar. This strangeness is inconceivable because each moment is utterly original; no two moments are alike; hence, we can't predict anything at all based on what has come before. To be fully in touch with this newness and strangeness is what Suzuki Roshi (Norman's first teacher) referred to as "beginner's mind." I am more in love than ever with beginner's mind!

What is the relation, then, between life and death? Again, Fischer leans into a compelling truth when referring to death's inconceivable strangeness. Both life and death are inconceivably and equally strange! To awaken to this actuality is to free oneself, spiritually speaking, from the wheel of birth-and-death.

that fly
lifeless on the window sill
who made it

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