A Matter of Life and Death (Part three)

HCH-2-BAUDELAIRE-PARIS-EYAL-STREETT HCH 4 / May 2015

A Matter of Life and Death (Part three), by Brian Streett

A Matter

of Life

and Death

Copyright © 2015 by the author. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Although some characterizations may be based in part on real people, details are the product of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

This is dedicated to the memory of Tova and Clara.

It is much easier to love after you have seen it done.

Contents

Part one:        There are many tales (Published in HCH 2, January 2015)

Part two:        Though only one at a time (Published in HCH 3, March 2015)

Part three:     Yet all together (Published in HCH 4, May 2015)

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Part Three

Yet all together

1

Actually, I can’t figure out why all that stuff came up for me now. It was all so long ago, and as far as I’m concerned it was finished, and no longer had any interest for me. Maybe that’s the stuff that always comes up for people at times like this, but I expected something different. After all, it’s said that when you are about to die your entire life flashes in front of you, and this was but the smallest part of it.

So here I am, lying on the kitchen floor, my head exploding, my breath labored, and all I can think of is this nonsense from all those years ago. Not my wife, kids, grandchildren, or the volunteer work I so loved in my last years – just this episode. It wasn’t fair.

All right, why don’t I just slow things down and force myself to think about what I consider to be important in my life, and stop thinking about this nonsense. Well, if I can think of anything with all the pain in my head. This is not one of those memories I want to cherish, but, hey, chances are it will all be over soon enough, so I’m just going to stay with what’s important. I don’t mean to say that if you keel over, have incredible pain in your head, can hardly breathe and can’t move at all that it’s not important – just that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it, so rather than get caught up in the pain, I might as well just take a look at my life before I pass out and/or pass on.

Got to concentrate. I’ll start with my wife. She’s been on my mind so much lately. Ever since she died last year. Mornings, afternoons, evenings, there’s always some reason for her to show up in my heart. Especially evenings. Nobody to sit and go over my day with. Though it usually feels like she’s there. I carry on conversations with her and can convince myself that she’s really answering me and contributing her share. It is so lonely to be without her after more than 40 years. And such a horrible thing to have your death dragged out over months. I’m really in a lot of pain now, but even so, it won’t last much longer. That’s so much better than having life drain slowly until you’re nothing but a lab experiment for the doctors. True, my wife was able to maintain humanity right up until the very end, something which most people aren’t fortunate enough to do. And she got to say good bye to our children and grandchildren and all her friends, which is a wonderful thing. But how painful and degrading for her to go through all that. I’m glad that this isn’t what’s going to happen to me. And I’ve learned not to hold back what needs saying, waiting for a better time to say it which might never come. I hope and believe my kids and grandkids know how much I love them. The kids might not be sure they believe me totally, though I bet some day they’ll understand things differently. I did with my parents. And grandkids don’t have the same kind of need to wean themselves from their grandparents’ worldview, so they’ll be able to help their parents get it. But there’s no time to deal with that now. Sure there were things I could have, should have done differently, that I cry over not having done differently, but they’re done, and they’re not going to be undone. Got to just get it, apologize, and move on. But I do love them and always will.

The phone just rang. Right on cue. Must have been one of my kids. Now I could tell you again how much of me you are. If I could only move to where the phone is and answer it. I love you!!!

It was lovely feeling that love there for a moment or two, but now the pain is coming through again, and it’s even harder to breathe. Better get back to whatever needs to make its way through to my consciousness before there isn’t any left. Wonder how I would describe all this to my wife at our evening talks. Not too easy to see the humor in it, unfortunately. I think I’d rather chuckle my life away than be so damn serious. But I guess serious is a part of it too. Volunteering in the hospital together with my wife, we saw a lot of people have to face death. They usually avoided it until they no longer could do so, but even so, there’s a point where you can’t do that any more. Since then I’ve been afraid to be like this and then suddenly discover that there was something that I needed to do, when I no longer was able to do anything. Like making a will. That’s something else. Besides the indignity of being alive but not quite human, there’s the indignity of what happens after you die. All the scavengers out to gobble up their share, and to fight the others for a share if they don’t think they got enough. I don’t think that would happen in my family. After my mother died, my brother divided the estate between the two of us, and I knew I could trust him. Though I think in the end he gave me too much; he spent his own money to cover some expenses and he shouldn’t have. But it’s not that way in every family, and sometimes it comes as a shock. I mean sometimes when death is imminent, the family, maybe especially the in-laws, or maybe that’s just who it’s blamed on, sometimes already start haggling over what they’re going to get. Even when they’re in the same room as the soon-to-be-deceased. It’s horrible to see such a thing. I think that even if the person is unconscious, and has been for a while, somehow, at some level they know that this is happening. So sad, so sad. So much better not to have this be an issue, even though I believe that my kids and their wives wouldn’t have such thoughts and wouldn’t act in this way. Still, I’m glad we made wills years ago.

I do love them. I wonder if I’ll be able to look in on them after I die. Can my wife look in on me? Are you there now? Say something to me that lets me not feel this pain for a moment. Yes, I know that I won’t be feeling it or anything else much longer, but it’s your sense of humor that I want to experience now. All right, I’ll settle for your optimism. Hooray, it will all be over soon! No more suffering. At least not from the body. I guess the family and friends will suffer from this, knowing what I went through, and maybe even from my not being here. Will I suffer when I see their suffering? Do you suffer when you see mine and theirs? I saw what they went through when you were sick and after you died. It certainly wasn’t easy for them, but you were amazing at getting them to accept the situation. You are so wonderful, and I’m so lucky to have you here even after you’ve died.

It wasn’t easy for me either. I still don’t know if it makes it easier for me to feel your presence all the time, or if it makes it more difficult. I love having you with me, but then I remember that it’s only a part of you, and I so much want all of you to be sitting across from me as we drink a cup of tea. I guess there isn’t an answer, really. Is it easier for the kids now because you weren’t part of their lives for so many hours every day, or is it harder because they know how much they missed? I don’t know; I think it’s just hard no matter what.

All right, enough with this bullshit. Stop this boring bullshit that you think about every day, and get to something hiding underneath, please. I mean, isn’t dying a special occasion and not just another opportunity to spout the same old stuff? If you’re not going to go any deeper inside, just die already.

Well, now that you remind me, it seems I’m doing just that. The pain’s the same, but the breathing has definitely gotten weaker, and I am having trouble concentrating here. Pretty soon I’ll start feeling sorry for myself if there’s anything left of me to feel sorry. Oh, all right, I’ll see if I can find anything that I really need to deal with before I die. Shit. This is not fun at all. I’d rather just feel the pain. Ouch! Maybe not, but it’s close.

My head is starting to spin around. I know there’s something important for me to concentrate on, but I’m not sure what. Or maybe it’s better if I just stop all this thinking and let whatever is sitting inside come out of its cage. Am I willing for that to happen? Well, even if not, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have a say in the matter, so I might as well just accept things as they are. And anyway it will all be over in minutes, I’m certain. But even so, I’m not sure I’m able to just let it come out. Even now I’m resisting, trying to hang on to my right to be master of my consciousness. What a joke! Wish I could laugh, but no way that’s going to happen. Yo! I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. Or maybe I’ve been on one all my life, and only now I’m getting off it. How can you tell which is which? Oh, the pain!

Dummy, don’t get distracted now. What – do – you – still – need – to – say? I don’t know, can’t we just put it up on the screen and watch it; too much trouble to form words. Sure, why not?

Multiscreen, actually. As if I wasn’t already dizzy enough. There goes another level of holding on; I’m getting much closer to free fall.

2

The screens were all working. I don’t know how many were there, but what I really didn’t understand was how I could tune in to all of them at the same time and follow everything that was happening. And still have a place in my awareness to ask how. Very strange. Maybe that was what the other 90 whatever percent of our brain was for. We waited until the last moments of our life to use it. Wouldn’t it be something if we could have this kind of concentration and multi-awareness throughout our lives? Maybe it would make life even harder, who knows?

On the screens were, it appeared to me, randomly, though it probably wasn’t, events covering my entire lifetime. They would play; I would acknowledge; then they would play again or move on to some other event. Events from childhood and adulthood; happy, sad or neither; where I was the hero or the villain. Or maybe both the hero and the villain. Or maybe when they happened I thought I was the hero and when I watched now I thought I was the villain, or vice versa. Just stuff that kept forcing its way into my consciousness, and stayed there for a while, and then disappeared.

After a while I think I discerned a pattern. I couldn’t explain why they arrived in the order that they did, but they seemed to keep showing instant replays as long as I reacted to what I saw. When I started seeing the event as though it happened to somebody else and not to me, or when I was clear that I didn’t want to observe it anymore, the time came for this particular event to disappear and the next one to show up.

Some of this was surprising. There were things which I thought were already meaningless to me, which I discovered were far from it. There were others for which I felt strong emotions when I saw them appear, but one showing was enough for them no longer to be of interest. There were events which I watched with a wide variety of emotions, and with each replay the emotions kept changing – love, hate, indifference, or whatever – with no particular progression which I could understand.

This all would certainly have amazed me if I had had the leisure to be amazed, but there seemed to be just enough going on to keep me totally occupied. In fact, when my emotions grew stronger and conflicted, or at any other instance when I asked myself why I acted as I had or when I saw a different way of acting which would have produced a better result, some of the screens shut down, I suppose because it would have been more than I could handle had they not.

So I looked at the happy moments, the sad moments, the times when I was an absolute asshole or idiot, the times when I insulted somebody needlessly (with or without intention), the times I was hurt by someone, the times I complimented someone who did not expect it or was complimented unexpectedly. The times when I expressed love or someone expressed love for me. The times when I had great physical pleasure or pain. And any and everything else that was potentially non-neutral. And I tried to put some order into all this.

But it made no sense. The best I could hope for was accepting that all this had been and that there was nothing left to say about it. Understanding seemed way beyond the scope of my abilities at this time. Still, I caught a glimpse here or there of something which might grow into being an explanation of what all this meant and what I was supposed to do with it. But it would have to wait for some other time for me to deal with it. Other time? What other time? Did I forget that I was just about out of time? Actually, I had forgotten that I was on the verge of dying until then, so I checked in with my body to see what was developing.

Not much was, in fact. I had almost no body sensations at all, except for maybe a little chilly feeling, which I suppose was a good deal more comfortable than the pain I had been having previously. I suppose my time had run out.

3

There I was in a large hall, filled with people. I had no idea how I had gotten there, but it seemed that many others there, maybe most, didn’t seem to realize they were in a hall at all. Some yelled and screamed at some imaginary disaster, others acted as though they were enjoying a swim or a picnic, others seemed quite calm and comfortable even though their faces were bashed in and blood was dripping all over them. And then to each individual or small group, somebody would come over and start talking. I couldn’t hear what was said, but the reactions indicated that it must have been important.

After a while, somebody came over to talk to me, a nice looking young fellow. He smiled and asked if I knew where I was.

Something clicked. I sat as though stunned for a long moment, then I began to laugh. Hysterically, I’m afraid. The young fellow was very patient and waited for me to return to my senses. I apologized and then said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before, are you new?” He was somewhat taken aback, but recovered quickly. “Actually,” he replied, “I am rather new, but I’ve been trained well, and you can trust me.”

I smiled. “I’m sure of that,” I said. “And I don’t mean to imply otherwise, but I would like to see your trainer. Could you ask him to come over here for a moment, please?”

He looked at me somewhat askance, I felt, but replied pleasantly enough that he would bring over his supervisor.

When his supervisor approached I could see that he was, as I expected, my erstwhile trainer. And as he got close, he clearly recognized me also, breaking into a big smile. “Well, look who’s back,” he said. “Did you miss us?”

“I guess I did,” I replied. “And it looks like you missed me, too, taking on a new trainee.”

“You didn’t only make changes on your planet, but here as well. Some of the other interviewers also decided to take a vacation and live lives, feeling that it would support them in their work to get some of the insights that you had. We had to take on two new trainees and wait until they could act on their own before allowing the vacations. Actually, it has been fun training them, though very different from training you. They had totally different backgrounds. But enough chit chat. What will you be doing next? Would you like to rejoin us?”

I thought about that for a while before replying. “You still ask the right questions. Actually, I haven’t really thought too far in advance, but I certainly need my ‘bubble bath’. There are still several more things I need to unravel. After I do that, if I can, I’ll be able to look at what’s next, but not before then.”

The new interviewer who had originally greeted me looked quite lost, and the trainer filled him in on my past as an interviewer. Then he turned back to me. “Okay, go with him now, and when you consider yourself sufficiently debriefed, come find me.”

I began debriefing. I could still remember the events from my previous life that I had seen in those last minutes before dying, and particularly the ones which were just stuck. I still needed to learn to accept them somehow. I played them again, expecting from this new vantage point that acceptance would be quick and easy. But it wasn’t. I continued to replay the incidents over and over, making little or no progress. But here time was not a factor, and failure was not a possibility, so I stayed with each event, or group of events, until I started to get some sort of understanding as to where my ego had interposed itself into the situation, disguising itself as me. Then I could more clearly differentiate between myself and my ego, and slowly and painfully begin to disassociate myself from what I had considered to be me. There were times that I thought I would give up, and go back and live another lifetime to get a better understanding. But then I reminded myself that I had had enough lifetimes and did not need more, I could do this – time to get back to work.

When the first group of events disappeared, I thought I was almost finished. But that was not the case. Apparently there were several areas I needed to get unstuck. If I could manage to do so in one area, then I believed I could do so in all areas, and that helped me continue with the work, but it went very slowly.

Finally, it seemed to me that everything was unstuck. I reran the events from this past lifetime and found a few places where replays were necessary, but usually only one or two. Where I had the most difficulty was in generalizing the love I had for those close to me, so that it could expand to reach all beings. For instance, I wanted to see my relationships with my wife, my children and grandchildren as special and different; not something there for the taking in relationships between me and anyone else, or between any individuals, for that matter. It was difficult for me to see that once ego was taken out of the equation, the kind of relationship I had with them would be universal, not special at all. I felt a sadness even entertaining the possibility. Yet I was eventually able to embrace the possibility for this kind of relationship to exist between all beings, and how wonderful it would be if this were so.

I felt like I had completed the task I had set for myself, and I left the debriefing chamber and went to look for my trainer. Along the way I came across some of the interviewers I had previously worked with, and we chatted. I could tell, even before they mentioned it to me, that there was something different about me, something I liked, but could not name or quantify in any way.

I found my trainer, who was busy with something, but freed himself and invited me in. He told me that I had been in the debrief for quite a long time, and asked if I had made progress. I told him that I felt that I had achieved my goal and was now quite happy. He then asked if I had thought about what was next for me. I hadn’t, but instantly I knew what was right for me now.

“There isn’t anything that jumps out at me to do, not on earth or any other planet, not here. I’d just like to go into retirement, and if anything comes up afterwards, I’ll let you know.”

He smiled. “I thought you might feel like that. I can’t authorize such a thing. I’ll set up an appointment with the boss, if you like.” I had never met the boss and like everybody else I was in awe of her. But that was irrelevant. I told him I would appreciate his arranging the appointment.

He said that he would do so, but it would take some time. In the meantime, if I wanted, I could take a shift as an interviewer. I told him that a shift as an interviewer was okay; for that matter, if he wanted to send me back for another lifetime that would also be okay. For my part, though, I could just relax anywhere until called for the appointment.

My trainer decided to send me out as an interviewer. The work was easy, much easier than I remembered it. At some point I was told to finish up, I had an appointment with the boss.

4

My trainer and I sat in the boss’s waiting room for a while. My trainer may have been a touch nervous, it was hard to tell. I don’t think I was. Yes, the boss was intimidating, but I was there at my request. First my trainer went in and spent several minutes alone with the boss, then I was asked to join them.

My trainer introduced us. The boss seemed pleasant enough, but her eyes seemed as though they were penetrating into the very depths. If there had been anything I was trying to hide, I’m sure it would have been found out. Fortunately, I wasn’t hiding anything.

After a moment, the boss began. “We’ve never met, but I have read your file. And, of course, your trainer has talked about you before. I understand that you want to go into ‘retirement’, and I want to be clear about what that means to you.”

I thought for a moment before replying, “Like when waiting for this appointment, I was willing to take a shift as an interviewer, I was willing to return for another lifetime, but all I wanted to do was just be in the flow and not get caught up in anything.”

She stared even deeper into me, it seemed. “All right, I need to know that you do not and will not have any interest in experiencing further lifetimes or in returning to work as an interviewer. Think about this carefully before you answer me.”

“There’s nothing to think about. I feel that I’ve had all the lifetimes I need, and that my work as an interviewer is in the past. I can still do these things, I suppose, but I don’t see the point.”

The boss looked somewhat pensive. “Complete retirement is not an option. It is possible for you to ‘just be in the flow’ as long as you are not needed, but if you are called on for assistance I would expect you to give it.”

“What kind of assistance?” I wanted to know.

“You could be called upon for assistance by anyone who feels that they need your special knowledge to get on with their work. What you would have to do is let them have a glimpse of how you would be in their situation. They’ll need to take that glimpse and figure out what to do in their lives. You will have no further say in what they should do beyond that. Is this acceptable to you?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s what I want, but suppose I discover that this isn’t for me?”

More penetrating looks. “You need to be pretty certain that you like the arrangement before agreeing to it, but if you discover at some point that it is no longer working for you, you need to come to me. I’ll examine the situation and change your status accordingly.”

This was actually pretty much what I expected, and I had no way of knowing if after I got such a position I would be happy with it or not. I felt that I should accept it and deal with anything unexpected that arose later. “I don’t know how I could be absolutely certain, but I suppose I’m as close to it as I can get. How will this work?”

She exhaled. “It will work very well, I hope. Structurally, this is what will happen. You will be transported to an estate, which you will control, but it will be tended to by your apprentice and other assistants. When you are called upon, you will allow those who call upon you to ‘be in the flow’ with you, which will allow them new possibilities in dealing with their problems. Simple, no?”

Maybe to her, but not to me. “I don’t understand what an apprentice is supposed to learn from me, nor do I understand why anybody would want to call upon me and why doing so would help them deal with their problems.”

She took another look through me. “You are sitting here today because you have freed yourself of all ego constraints, including that of ego-compassion. Don’t you feel that the compassion you had for the people you interviewed now differed from what you had in the past? This is something which everybody must learn to do before they can even request ‘retiring’. Your apprentice has had a similar set of experiences to what you have had and has developed well, but there is still more work for him to do. The more he gets to know you, the more he will be able to see what that work is. The same is true for all the others who will call on you, directly or through your apprentice. What you have accomplished and who you are today will inspire them to make advances for themselves.”

I supposed that made some sense, but were there not already enough entities which could be called on? What did I add to the mix? “Thank you for saying that, but I still do not understand what is so special about me. In what way will having apprentices work with me instead of with some other role model, or craftsman or whatever, make a difference to them? Wouldn’t they be better off working with somebody who has experience working with an apprentice? What do I have to cause anybody to call on me rather than somebody else who has already been out there doing this sort of thing?

Her reply was simple, “The job is for you to be you. You must agree that you are more experienced than anyone else at that. And you have developed a special talent which is important for some which is at least somewhat different from the talents of others. You have learned how to bring about the dissolution of obstacles merely by being yourself. Others do this, of course, but no one else has specialized in this to the extent that you have.

All right. I was convinced. I couldn’t come up with any additional questions or objections. Was the boss right about me? I hadn’t thought of myself in these terms before, but I doubted that she would make an error about this. I told her I was ready. She and my supervisor said goodbye, and I was transported to my new home.

And whatever happened after that is no longer my story to tell.

5

Or so I thought at the time. And I guess that was true for a while. How long a while I don’t suppose I’ll ever know. But at some point a kind of foggy awareness began to filter through. More like watching a movie than living through something, but an awareness nonetheless. I was able at some level to observe myself appearing at various events, sometimes even speaking, and to see that some individuals who were there were able to benefit from my presence.

This felt weird. I had no sense of continuity between events, and no sense of who I was at the events. And yet I functioned, and it seemed that I functioned acceptably. And what in me was it that knew that this seemed weird? I can’t answer that. Did the weirdness bother me? Hardly at all, though at some level I could feel some question or questions percolating through.

Have I explained this well? Let me try again: It felt like at the same time both there I was and there I wasn’t. If this makes no sense to you, well, it makes no sense to me either. And yet it was so. And the very fact that it was so bothered me. But not enough for me to want to make any changes. I was still able to continue functioning in the same way, and presumably to continue being of benefit in the same way, and simultaneously I was also aware of an incompleteness in my understanding. I guess that captures the situation.

Then on one occasion I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the boss. I had no idea how I had arrived there, but that was not unusual these days. I also had no idea why I was there, which was also not unusual, but my presence there seemed strange to me, and I began wondering what the purpose of my being there was, and I again began to question the limitations of my understanding.

The boss greeted me and invited me into her office. I sat down and waited for her to let me know what this was about. “I think it’s time we had a chat,” she said. “Something about you seems a little different of late, wouldn’t you agree.”

Should I have been surprised? I don’t know, but I wasn’t. It had never occurred to me that the boss would be following up on my consciousness so closely, but nor was it surprising to find out that she had been. “I’d say that. Let’s start with: there seems to be more of me to be different. I’m a lot more aware of myself and my surroundings than I was before. Why is that?”

“That’s natural. At first just being in those surroundings took all your attention. Then as you became more used to things, you had attention to spare, some of which you directed toward yourself. What is more to the point is the result of your awareness. What are you going through?”

As you know, I’d been thinking about this for a while, but now I had to express my thoughts to the boss, so I thought a little more. Then: “Sometimes I just do, go, talk, be exactly like before I started to go through this. Then my actions are in the flow, and there isn’t really any ‘I’ at all. Sometimes I wonder about what I’m doing. My actions are still in the flow, but something may be holding back a little.”

“So you are saying that you have throughout been able to act appropriately to your job, and to be able to do what you have agreed with no problems?” she asked.

That seemed correct to me. “That’s the way I see it. But, surely you must be better able to answer that than I.”

She smiled. “Yes, you have performed impeccably, but I wanted your interpretation of things. I also need to know that you can be counted on to act in the same way in the future. What do you have to say about that?”

“I don’t know where all of this is leading me. I still feel that there is something there that needs working through, and I won’t be able to answer about the future until I’ve worked through it.”

Again she smiled. “Another good answer. Indeed, the reason we’re here now is to discuss what you need to work through, and to see if I can help you move it along. Would you like to start?”

“I’d love to, but I have no idea where to start. It seems to me that I’ve just told you all I know about what’s going on.”

“In that case,” she said, “let me take a crack at it.” She went on matter-of-factly, “Your self-awareness feels to you like there’s something else besides flow, an individuality which is just as basic as that which you considered to be uniquely basic to the way things are. This has caused you some confusion, and you are beginning to question if the nature of things is what you thought it to be. And you are beginning to wonder if it is appropriate for you to be fulfilling the function which you are fulfilling if you don’t really understand the true nature of things.”

Wow! That really floored me. Was she right? I called up all the feelings that had been percolating inside, all the questions. I sat there again examining everything from all angles, while she sat there smiling at me. It seemed to me that what she said made sense, though I doubt that I would have reached such an understanding at any time soon without her saying so.

“Thanks for your insights,” I told her. “I was nowhere near getting a handle on what was going on, and now it’s quite clear.”

“You’re welcome. You would have come to see this eventually, and my seeing it now is not all that special – many before you have gone through the same process.”

But where did that leave me? “And then what happened to them? Is it appropriate for me to continue doing the same job if I’m wondering if I should be doing it?”

“There is no single formula that fits all cases. If you get caught up in the desire to understand you may not be able to continue functioning the same as you are now, and you will delve more deeply into understanding. You will leave your job and seek a greater understanding. Having done so, you will then be assigned a new job, and you will certainly function admirably, at least until you begin to question your new understanding and find it incomplete. At this point you could again get caught up in the desire to go beyond the understanding you had and repeat the process. This could carry on forever – literally.

“Or, at any point along the way – including right now – you could become clear that understanding is limited, accept that, and continue functioning knowing that to be so.”

That was hard to listen to. What did it mean that the true nature of things was beyond my understanding? What did it mean that my ability to know myself was beyond my understanding? Whatever confusion I had felt to that point was multiplied many times.

Eventually I was somehow able to accept the confusion and realize that I was again at a crossroads and would need to make a choice which would determine everything about me and my future. I realized that the choice needed to be made soon, but I wasn’t quite ready to make it yet.

I said as much to the boss, who, of course, understood better than I did. We said our goodbyes. In the following instant I saw myself at an event with many individuals present. My presence there was of importance to them. I could sense that many wanted me to speak, and I did so.

6

I continued to think about the choice I needed to make. It bothered me to see it as about my understanding and its limitations. It was more comfortable for me to see it in terms of my ability to benefit others. I was then able to redefine the question before me, which took on a new shape: Should I continue to act in a way which seems to benefit others in reaching their destiny, even though I couldn’t be certain that this really is benefitting them?

I was more comfortable with this question, but still could not come up with an answer which totally satisfied me. It certainly seemed like I was beneficial to others, but maybe I was leading them down the wrong path; how could I know? But any attempt to know would be doomed to failure – I might be able to learn something, but never enough, and while concentrating on attempting to learn more I would not be of benefit in the same way.

I was stuck. It had been a long time since I had been stuck like this, and I must say it wasn’t a good feeling. And then I saw how silly I was being, and I laughed. And I started to sing an old song about a bear going over a mountain to see what was on the other side. When he got there he saw another mountain. And he’s still climbing, and he’s still seeing other mountains.

Aren’t we all? What else is there?

BRIAN-HCH-B&W Brian Streett, Jerusalem, 2014

TO READ IN PDF (pp. 45–63): HCH-4-MAYO-2015

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