Smoke, smoke, smoke, that cigarette. Puff, puff, puff and if you smoke yourself to death. Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate, that you hate to make him wait, but you just gotta have another cigarette.
According to Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death, unlike the average person standing in a foggy field, horses think about nothing all day long. For example he writes this about the lower animals:
“They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being.”
Tom Dorrance, who has been referred to as the horse’s lawyer wrote a book called True Unity: Willing Communication Between Horse & Human. In it he says: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse or cow being stupid; I figure it’s a sure sign that the animal has somehow outfoxed them.”
So you have to ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. How much does a lawyer charge a horse or a cow, and if they go to trial together can they get a group rate? From my experience with horses and cows, that’s gonna be one messy courtroom.
As I get older I find myself thinking a lot about buying the farm. There are two ways to do it: one is to quit your job (if you have one) and literally buy a farm in the middle of nowhere, the other way is to stop breathing.
I know that everyone will buy the farm sooner or later and to deny it is futile, but I have to wonder what it will be like. Will it be an endless succession of meaningless working days like Sisyphus rolling a rock uphill for eternity, or will it be more like Green Acres?
I like to imagine that being on the farm with my wife Lisa will be frustrating but there will still be good times. Mr. Haney will finally sell me a washing machine that works. Sam Drucker will eventually get those seeds I ordered, and the girls from Petticoat Junction will move into the guest house (Lisa is fine with it).
And one stormy day while sitting around the general store, Eb will ask me if I think the rain will hurt the rhubarb. And I’ll smile because I learned the answer to that question long ago working with a Polish house painter. Not if it’s in the can Eb, not if it’s in the can.
“The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings. He knows that he is going to die, and he has nothing left to hold on to; no illusions in his mind, no resistance in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions; they flow from the core of his being. He holds nothing back from life; therefore he is ready for death, as a man is ready for sleep after a good day’s work.” Tao Te Ching
Note: the Master may be ready but I’m not.
“Nirvana is this moment seen directly. There is no where else than here. The only gate is now. The only doorway is your own body and mind.
There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing else to be. There’s no destination. It’s not something to aim for in the afterlife. It’s simply the quality of this moment.” Buddha
“When you practice looking deeply, you see your true nature of no birth, no death; no being, no non-being; no coming, no going; no same, no different.
When you see this, you are free from fear. You are free from craving and free from jealousy. No fear is the ultimate joy.
When you have the insight of no fear, you are free. And like the great beings, you ride serenely on the waves of birth and death.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.
I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.
Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.
W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.
One of the mind training slogans called Lojong, brought to Tibet by Buddhist teacher Atisha is: “Regard all dharma as dreams.” Well that’s nice isn’t it, it’s like rowing your boat gently down the stream, but what exactly does this mean?
Pema Chodron explains it like this: “Simply, regard everything as a dream. Life is a dream. Death is also a dream, for that matter; waking is a dream and sleeping is a dream.” As simply as she put it, we just went from the little man in the boat to the old man in the box.
Eckhart Tolle said: “Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die-and find that there is no death.” This is the type of thing that every junkie will understand clearly, but what about those rare people that aren’t leading lives of quiet desperation?
The way I see it, at the end of our life we will realize that we could have done things differently, we could have done more with the time that we had. We don’t have to wait for that day.
Sh-boom, sh-boom, ya-da-da-da-da-da. Sh-boom, sh-boom, ya-da-da-da-da-da. Sh-boom, sh-boom, ya-da-da-da-da-da, Sh-boom.
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” Lauren Oliver-Before I Fall
Sometimes you find yourself in a strange place, and then try to figure out if there’s a deeper meaning to be found in the experience. So it was when I found myself in the motorcycle charnel grounds on the second floor of The Cycle Den in Columbia.
It was a depressing place, as I imagine the charnel grounds in Tibet are with the giant vultures, but depressing in a different way. I looked at those old machines and saw the people that once owned and loved them.
These now decaying bikes represented freedom, adventure and escape. I remembered the quote by Hafiz: “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.”
It is said that the Buddha encouraged his students to meditate in the charnel grounds as a way of releasing the ultimate attachment: the attachment to one’s body and to this life itself. So despite the overwhelming sadness, I stayed to reflect on the impermanence of all things, and how the pursuit of pleasure is a paradox.
Dan Aykroyd once said: “You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle, any kind of motorcycle.” This may or may not be true, but having sold mine last fall I am now back in therapy.
I drive there in my SUV with the radio on and the feeling of safety that comes with four wheels and airbags. It’s as close to feeling alive as playing virtual golf, with a virtual caddie and drinking a virtual martini.