School Of love And Death

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Painting by Gustave Klimt

Laurie Anderson’s words on the death of Lou Reed: “As meditators, we had prepared for this — how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life — so beautiful, painful and dazzling — does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.”


“Don’t judge yourself. Don’t beat yourself up. Be your own best friend. It’s all about having fun and relaxing into life. No matter what you’re going through, whatever your issues are, the idea really is about increasing your frequency, your energy. You do that by developing a sense of humor, by doing things that bring you joy.”

— Anita Moorjani


All work is empty save when there is love.

Khalil Gibran

Our response to the fear of death is to put love on the back burner and focus on survival. That is the built-in challenge to living in a vulnerable physical body. It’s a spiritual discipline to live close to death yet still love and revel in the joys of this temporal existence. It’s impossible to grasp onto mere survival and live fully and joyeously at the same time. Letting go of defenses is necessary to relax the heart and let life’s beauties flow in.

We want to be sure of things. We want certainty. The last thing we want is to invite the unexpected. Avoiding surprises in an attempt to circumvent bad experiences somehow manages to close the door to really living.

Bringing up our children to make the safe choices in love and work is a disaster for a life well lived. I think we do better to try things and expect to make mistakes. There is too much to learn, too much we don’t know. It’s better to approach that situation with a beginner’s mind and admit it when we’ve done something stupid. We become stupid by trying to be safe and smart.

Make your mistakes, accept your scars as marks of instruction and keep going, is how I have lived and continue to live. I know I have blind spots. I know that I have been incorrigibly stupid when I didn’t have to be. I know I learn very slowly. But there’s another side to the story.

Like everyone else, the flip side of my stupid blindness is my own eccentric talent and intelligence that gives my life direction and meaning. Somehow, I think those negatives couldn’t exist without the positives and vice versa. I needed to create impossible situations for myself and then devise a way out of them. That was my school of life, probably different from yours but that’s what worked for me.

Spending time lamenting my stumbles is, it seems to me, a waste. I regret hurting other people but I don’t regret my hard won lessons. I don’t regret my scars. We do have to live, after all.

We are nearsighted little animals that need to develop better vision, especially vision of the heart. We find ourselves in a fragile physical form that requires courage to face our fear of impermanence and enjoy the love and beauty available to us. Accumulating possessions, status and defenses against death makes us less alive.

It seems to me, the more alive we are the more successful humans we are.

We are educated to predictability instead of aliveness. An old person who is still vibrantly alive is rare in our world. We’re fascinated by isolated cultures where the people commonly live a hundred years or more. We want to know what they eat, how much they exercise.

We think they’re joyful because they live so long when it’s just the reverse, they live so long because they’re joyful. Our mechanical vision of life lacks enough depth of meaning to sustain us.

We need beauty in the details of our life, and we need love in the present moment, day by day.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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