Dancing with Death I had to go to a funeral the other day. I didn’t know the guy very well but I had to go. He was 59 and died in a bad car wreck. I was an open coffin event, his body looked flat like it was run over by a steam roller, and his face looked like they pieced it together with clay. As I approached the coffin the two guys kneeling got and shook the coffin hard, so hard that the corpses head went back and forth like a bobble head. I am guessing his head was not connected to rest of him, when I saw this I turned around and B-lined for the back to room.
Next was the service with a catholic priest whose whole shtick was “only through Christ can we enter the kingdom of heaven”. My reaction was like WTF, that is a mean thing to say especially to non-Christians. Then the real kicker was when his daughters spoke they were completely devastated their pain was powerful that the whole room shook with their anguish. It was really heart breaking to see people in so much pain I had to hold back crying myself because their feelings had so much power.
There are two reasons I am telling this story one, I don’t like dogma and two I thought about the story of Siddhartha and how he saw suffering and wanted to alleviate it. That story of Siddhartha doesn’t capture the feeling of pain that was being felt at this funeral. It is more cerebral or logical, like Spocks version of shallow emotion. I am not saying he didn’t feel what I felt, I think what I was feeling is exactly the same that the Buddha felt and that drove him seek the dharma. I have to say reading about it and actually feeling are not the same, and can become intellectualized rather than a heartfelt experience.
His answer to suffering is the eightfold path. I have a funny feeling that if had I walked up to his daughters and gave them a sermon on the eightfold path and impermanence wouldn’t have been helpful at all. Just like the priest saying that Christ is the way probably was not helpful either. I think the only thing can that help someone in that kind of pain is to have an open heart, share the pain, and to be genuine, empathetic, open and present. I am not saying that Buddhism or Christianity is bad, but using the dogma can be a way to shelter ourselves from having a genuine experience and expressing kindness. It can be a way of separating ourselves from the interconnectivity of life, and those we share it with.
At the end of the funeral they played Monty Pythons Always look on the bright side of life. Life is nothing to lose your head about that is for sure.
For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it's your last chance anyhow
Thanks for reading