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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Irvin Yalom is a renowned existential psychiatrist, and has written a book about facing one's anxiety about death; it's called STARING AT THE SUN. He was recently interviewed and asked directly if death anxiety ever grabs hold of him any more (he's in his later 70s). Yalom responded: "Every once in a while, your barriers break down. You get back to this certain gasp, because there's no way to reverse time."

I was taken aback by Yalom's use of the word gasp. That is exactly what happens when the mind comes face-to-face every so often with one's own finiteness. There's the shock of truth and a gasp--a sudden, momentary loss of breath. The mind seizes for an instant.

There's nothing to be done about this. The truth of mortality or impermanence is inescapable despite the mind's determined efforts to escape. Well, if we can't escape, perhaps we can at least build a poem around the inescapable fact of life... turning a gasp into...

suddenly there's a window
in the sky

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