Category: Impermanence

Observing Change

Fall leaves
Fall leaves

“A fresh attitude starts to happen when we look to see that yesterday was yesterday, and now it is gone; today is today and now it is new. It is like that – every hour, every minute is changing. If we stop observing change, then we stop seeing everything as new.” Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

From the Withered Tree

The Withered Tree
The Withered Tree

The Buddha (allegedly) said: “From a withered tree, a flower blooms.” But what exactly does that mean? The best explanation I could find is on a site called Zen Dirt. This is from a post called From the Withered Tree:

“In Zen quotes and sayings, we have many reminders of the impermanence of everything. Life, as all things in the universe, exists in cycles and nothing is permanent. Being mindful of non-duality however, means that all things never cease to exist either. From a withered, old, lifeless tree, a new flower blooms, a new life grows. This reminds us of the cycle of life, of how we are all related, elder and young, old and new, and how we are all of the same being.

This quote also speaks of how beauty, new life, and new thoughts can blossom from an otherwise old, lifeless, withered tree. Just because a tree is shrunken and has been around a long time, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the capacity to flower new life from it.

We can interpret this several ways. We can see this as a message that no matter what stage we are at in life, we can always start fresh. It’s never too late to let our lives blossom into a beautiful new flower. There is no such thing as “it’s too late now.”

As we all exist in cycles, we should not underestimate the profound effect of changing our lives and relationships with others. Even at a late stage in life we can positively affect our attitudes and the perspectives of those around us. This can ripple out and create positive energy around the world, or at the very least, the lives of the ones around us.

Another way to see it is simple. We were all young flowers, growing from the fruits of our parents, and we will all grow old, into a withered tree. Flowers may bloom from us, or they may not. This is not just children, the flowers are also seeds of happiness we plant in the hearts and minds of others.”

Zen Dirt-Fill your mind with emptiness

Carp Diem

Dead Carp Abstract
Dead Carp Abstract

I’m walking around the park this morning and noticed a dead Carp floating next to a small dock. I thought it would make an interesting abstract with the clouds reflecting in the pond so I started taking some photos.

I felt a little stupid photographing a dead fish but waited for the sun to go behind the clouds and tried different angles and compositions. I wasn’t really finished but when a mother, two kids and a tiny dog came over I walked away.

Not only did they notice the Carp but the mother took a photo with her phone. They seemed genuinely upset and the four of them stood for a moment of silence, probably pondering the meaning of birth, old age and death.

A moment of silence
A moment of silence

Then the boy asked; “Why did he die mom?” And the mother said; “Because he was old,” which was probably true. But then I thought to myself, I’m old too now! So after they left I stood there for a moment of silence and pondered birth, old age and death.

William Shakespeare wrote: “Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.” I have no idea what that means but I’ll say that the next time I’m photographing a dead carp if anyone asks why. Yes.

We Croak

R.I.P.
R.I.P.

Sunday I read an article in The New York Times called Outing Death. It’s about an app called WeCroak that sends you reminders that we are only immortal for a limited time.

From the WeCroak website: “Find happiness by contemplating your mortality with the WeCroak app. Each day, we’ll send you five invitations at randomized times to stop and think about death. It’s based on a Bhutanese folk saying that to be a happy person one must contemplate death five times daily.

The WeCroak invitations come at random times and at any moment just like death. When they come, you can open the app for a quote about death from a poet, philosopher, or notable thinker.” Yes all this and more for only 99 cents.

I’m also rereading Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death, a happy little book that won the Pulitzer Prize two months after the author’s own death. As Becker says: “The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else.”

I hope the WeCroak invitations are a little less depressing. The example in the Times article is by W. H. Auden: “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.”

Tip: if you hear the sound of distant thunder at your next picnic, ditch the potato salad and run for cover. Avoid plumbing including sinks, baths and faucets, stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Or just hope for the best, if the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.