Insights on Life and Death –Wonder Haiku Project
I began this year with the goal of writing 365 haikus about death. So far, I’ve written 225 but in the writing, I often found the topic was life. Then this haiku came to me and I realized the ultimate purpose of the wonder haiku project. Life and death cannot be separated, not in reality, not in our minds, not in my haikus.
We must acknowledge that every day we fill with the bounties and glories of this physical life is another day bringing us closer to its transformation. We can try and protect ourselves from the ultimate change in the many ways we do. Some Indigenous cultures and other traditions forbid mention of death. Positive thinkers instruct us not to think about death or accidents. Some of us just pursue our material interests and pleasures with abandoned passion. While others, usually of a more radical religious bent, concern themselves more with the promised pleasures of the afterlife rather than indulge in the temporary pleasures of this life.
But, if as the physicists (Hindus and Buddhists have taught this for centuries) if the elemental make up of all that exists is an invisible energy comprised more of empty space than measurable atoms, isn’t this all – life, death, eternity, reincarnation – a grand and fantastic dream?
The question to ponder.
Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
― Zhuangzi, Butterfly as Companion: Meditations on the First Three Chapters of the Chuang-Tzu
Let’s accept that all of this is a dream. We then have the power to make this life a meaningful, purposeful adventure in compassion, generosity, creativity, and expansive invention. Or we can continue, as we have much of recorded history, to revolve in our selfish pursuits for greed and power, creating negative karma that results in violence and destruction.
Looking at the state of most governments in the world today, it is difficult to believe that we are actually living in the 21st century. Every day new technologies are developed to advance humanity, from nano-technology to cure diseases to space settlement. Yet, we remain unable to resolve disputes over land, resources, and religion without resorting to weapons and violence.
Of course, we all know that at the base of most of this violence, and all weapons, is a vast and evil international cartel of capital interests that will only continue to grow until more of us are willing and able to put flowers in the barrels of guns, to kiss the mouth of our enemy, and to boot the corrupt politicians – with their corporate lobbyists and billionaire funders – out of governments.
To have the courage to take actions needed to end corruption and violence we must hear and practice the teachings given through the ages from Buddha, to Jesus, to Gandhi, to M.L.King, Jr., to Malala Yousafzai. First we free ourselves of our own internal poisons of jealousy, hatred, greed, pride, and ignorance. Next we practice compassion, kindness, and generosity as our guiding daily principles. Then and only then will we be able to hear the music of space and dance through life and death’s endless dream.