Friday, June 18, 2004

Death and Gratitude

I went to sleep thinking about death, and woke up early with a dream about death, leaving me unable to return to sleep. Here in Portland, I am outraged that two people died for being guilty of driving while black. In Upside Down, Galeano makes me aware that in Latin America, thousands of people die in one city, for being poor. Here, the homeless are made illegal for existing through camping ordinances and drug free zones, there, they are hunted and killed. Little differences that make me somewhat grateful. But that wasn't what I was thinking about.

I was thinking about someone close to me dying and the devastating grief I would feel. My husband calls that a negative fantasy. I was slow to get to sleep. I woke up early aware of a dream of my own death, the details quickly chased away, disintegrating into shreds and dissolving. Here is where I was trying to get to regarding gratitude, something that eluded me in the light of day, but raised its Freddy Krueger-esque head during those vulnerable dream states of mind.

We are all going to die. Getting real (or unreal) with that fact is the primary purpose of religions. It is the fundamental question of this life. Rich or poor, oppressor or oppressed, comfortable or not, we all will die. The question becomes then, how do we live, to be ready for our death? This notion hovers around the Buddhist meal verse. For whatever karmic reason, we are placed in the lives we are placed. If we have the luxury of comfortable sustenance, that is an opportunity to experience enlightenment. Do we deserve that offering? Who does? The wisdom of the Bodhisattva is always to turn it over, turn it over, turn it over to the weal of the world. There's nothing that says the Bodhisattva can't or shouldn't play, enjoy, and turn that over too.

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