Dreaming of Dying: Reaching the Ocean

These days, when I dream, I dream of dying. Falling, drowning, breaking, ending. I think life is telling me something. Maybe there is only so much room in the human heart and mine is full now. Of grace, truth, suffering, pain, beauty. But then what?

I can put this little thing called life and death into perspective for you very simply. You are dying a million times a day in a thousand ways, only you don’t know it. Your cells come and go, your memories fade, your thoughts stop and cease and start again, the little thought called you is experienced in flashes and in between there is nothing at all, and when you learn to find that emptiness then you come face to face with eternity. Because connecting all those states, spaces, moments, instants, of sleeping, waking, loving, knowing, is the slender thread of something truer, deeper, wholer. We can call it awareness, or spirit, or the witness. If it were not there, you would not have any continuity of experience at all. And yet you do, therefore something you is not bound by time, space, self, knowing, because it precedes all those. What can all that possibly say, mean, hold?

I was born all wrong, out of place, out of time. A little bent and broken boy into a tribe of brave and noble warriors. What use did they have for me? What good was a little boy whom even the sun could kill to warriors that wanted to rule the world? No use at all. I was never made to be a weapon. Maybe in some tiny way you are like me. You don’t belong and you never did. Not to anything, anywhere, any place, any time, any idea. Nothing. You are an orphan and only the stars seem to know you. And for those who never belonged, who are estranged from all that comes so effortlessly to those who do belong, death is never really an adversary. It is a friend, a brother, an ally, because we ourselves are death to those who belong. We become the archetypes, monsters, demons they fear and cross themselves against. The little broken boy whom the sun can kill becomes the undead vampire. And so on.

That too is life and death. They aren’t in any way “natural processes”. They are really just little mental ideas, artificial distinctions that human beings make. But human beings are the most foolish creatures of all. A little dog has more love in him, and a little cat more wisdom. The human tribe alone has cruelty, hate, anger, vengeance, and that is why they alone kill, war, maim, punish, condemn, judge, sentence. Why this need to separate being into life and death? How else is the endless hubris of human folly to come to be? If we are the only species that makes wars, kills for sport, divides one another into races and creeds and all the rest, then of course, first, we must believe in these foolish superstitions of life and death.

But the moment that we give ourselves this illusion of power we have exiled ourselves to hell. Hell is just a place where human beings pretend themselves to be gods, which is precisely what we are doing when we say we are “alive”, everything else is “dead”, and we (how convenient) are at the top of this natural hierarchy called “life”. It’s another way to please the ego, nothing more. What have we really done? By dividing being up into life and death we have given up on the truest truth that there is. Beneath all that, inside every being, every person, animal, river, star, blade of grass, season, instant, moment, there is something holding them, connecting them, bridging them. You don’t have to do anything more than just sit there underneath the stars in pure silence to instantly know that deep in your bones.

I often say that the witness in me is the witness in you. It is the same witness in the stars, in the grass, in the storm, in the spring. And yet here we are, you and I, so irreconcilably different. I am the little broken boy the sun can kill in hours and you are something else, strong, brave, whole. Can we have anything in common, really, ever, at all? How can we be part of one…anything? When we suppose that there is just life and death, what we are really presuming is that there is nothing in common at all that any being has with any other. Every life is utterly unique, distinct, separate. That too is another kind of damnation, isn’t it? Who can ever know you, hold you, touch you, if every life is unknowable to every other? Then we are an impossibility. There is just me and you both sentenced to die yet even while we live nothing can ever exist between us. That is hell.

And yet you yourself know deep down that theory of being just doesn’t feel true. You know, beyond any doubt, that in some part of you, in some indescribable way, somehow, is every life that has ever lived, every person that has every laughed, suffered, loved, hungered, wanted, needed, every heart that has ever been. You feel it in little moments when the world falls away, and everything is true. And those are the happiest moments of all, aren’t they? How can that be? How can that sense of really fully being here coexist with the strange little idea, alienated from your very own experience, that you will “die” after you “live”?

Maybe just like this. I dream of dying these days. There is only so much a human heart can hold. And mine is bursting with all the things I’ve known. Love, grace, beauty, truth, suffering, pain. Too much. And yet maybe that’s precisely as it should be. We are dying a million times a day in a thousand ways. That is as natural as the river becoming the ocean, because it is just another way of saying that we are always being born, coming into being, discovering our true selves, too. That long after the name you were given is gone, the river that flows through you will still just be right where it has always been. Reaching the ocean.

August 2017


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