April 12, 2017

If death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what is important, If death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what is important, If death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what is important. 

This is a quote from Pema Chödron that was going through my head today on some kind of tape loop. A friend of mind got some pretty bad news, the kind of news that’s hard to diffuse with a sarcastic joke or a quick, witty comment. She’s dealing pretty well with it - but when a doctor tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you might not have as long to live as you thought, that death is not vague and amorphous but instead something lurking on the horizon, possibly sooner than the renewal of your driver’s license - I think you'd be entitled to a meltdown.  

If death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what is important.  

I knew that what was important was to pick up the phone when she called.  

What else, is it important to finish the song I was working on this morning, the other one I had just started. This is what moves me, what calls me, where I find meaning and purpose, what most of the time I think is the most valuable use of my time.  

Is it?  

I don’t know how to love well, I should have shared more, why didn’t I tell that person, why didn’t I try harder, why wasn’t I more vulnerable, why didn’t I let myself trust more, why didn’t I let myself believe that I was worthy of love and not spend my waking hours coming up with arguments to the contrary.

Why was I so hard on myself, why did I spend endless hours cataloguing my flaws, could I have changed that or avoided it, was it innate or did I nurture it into some terrible, ever-present observer, did I 

If death is certain, and the time of death is uncertain, what is important.  

Did I think too much, did I over-analyze, clearly yes, was I too selfish, did I miss opportunities, should I have been more giving, it seems like so many people are always thinking of others, why wasn’t I, why did I think so much of myself, why 

Is this earthly life more precious and rare than I realized, did I blow it, did I miss my chance to be God experiencing God, was I so wrapped up in the things that don’t matter that I didn’t appreciate 

The smell of hay, the almost-full moon on freshly tilled fields, the call of a distant and unrecognized bird in the woods, the almost indescribable loveliness of a breeze coming through my window when I’m just waking, the smell of woodsmoke on the last cool night in spring, the smells of timber, mown grass, the uncountable stars in the summer-darkened sky, the 

If death is certain, and 

I did, I did appreciate this world, I can't deny that but was it enough, was it, was it

Tonight at a concert, early Renaissance music, Josquin de Prez, Missa Pange Lingua, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, the loveliness of pure vowels, the aching beauty of this music that still survives, and that 500 years later somehow manages to disrupt my obsessive train of

Should I have written my music down? Fuck. I blew it, it’s all going to disappear.  

But the undulating voices, gentle and relentless, Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, I await the resurrection of the dead, et vitam venturi saeculi, and the life of the world to come  

The toxic melisma of my own thoughts, this world lives on after me, who am I, why am I, I wasted untold hours, days, weeks on facebook, for God's sake, would I have acted differently had I known how much time I had, didn't have, would I have

It doesn’t matter, is what I heard - somewhere in the swirling cloud of polyphony and Catholic platitudes, a truth pierced my fervent, stubborn mind: it doesn’t matter.  

In kinder language: it’s OK.  

But what if I could have, didn’t, missed out on, might have, didn’t see, couldn’t grasp, wanted to, what if potentially I, what if done differently I would have been, could have been, what if I fell short, failed, didn’t manage to 

It’s OK.  

What is this kindness, what wondrous love is this.  

You were here, you gave, you experienced, you loved, you gained understanding, you held ground in a complex world and you offered up what beauty you could, you took in the beauty that reached you. You smelled, you saw, you heard, you tasted and through your unique ears and skin and mouth and eyes you added to the ethereal list of What Is Possible.  

But was it enough, did I, was it 

It was, and is.  

Sometimes with spirituality there’s this pressure to become our ultimate selves, the idea that we are all potentially fully enlightened and if death is certain but the time of death is uncertain, then what’s the best use of our time. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m pretty sure that the best use of our time isn’t wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth wondering if we made the best use of our time. Maybe the best use of our time is to try to learn and absorb the lesson that we don’t have to do anything, that our worth is inherent, that even before we start praying, singing, meditating, chanting, keening, wailing, dancing, genuflecting, that we are already enough.  

Don’t forget to enjoy your life, seems to be the message, it’s a holy thing we do here. And that maybe holy doesn’t mean what we think, maybe holy is lazy, selfish, imperfect, critical, angry, bitter and all the good things too, maybe holy is just human, maybe holy is aware and maybe there’s holiness in the lack of awareness too. Maybe the point of it all is just to Lighten the Fuck Up and to cut ourselves some slack.  

But if death is certain, and 

OK, but 

the time of death  

It’s OK, don't 

But what is important, what is important. 

Maybe what’s important is to bless yourself with kindness, to shower yourself with forgiveness. And if you can’t do that, to forgive your inability to forgive, to pile mercy on top of mercy on top of mercy until you relent under the weight of it all and finally begin feel your own worth. 

And grant yourself peace.