The Great Teacher,
The Grand Mystery

When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.

  Charles Beard

Learn the Joy of the Moment

Freud said a lost of really nice things, and one thing that he said was so many of our problems and our inability to live stem from the belief and we will never die. We think we have forever. If you thing about it in the back of your mind, you always think it's the other person who dies, not you. Well I have news for you, We are all going to die! The is the most democratic thing that has ever happened. No matter who you are, how wealthy you are, how illustrious you are, how many degrees you have, how fouled up you've made your life, how beautiful you've made your life, you're going to die.

But why fear it? You only fear death when you're not living. If you're involved in the process of life, you won't wail and scream. If you've treated people in your life beautifully while they were alive, you will not throw yourself over thief caskets screaming, "Don't go, Don't Go!" For goodness sakes! We don't even let people die in dignity. We let them die guilty by screaming, "Oh, please don't die."

What a weird concept we have of death. We don't want to take children to funerals. Some of you had it explained that everything dies as flowers die in winter and then grow again. Death is a continuous beautiful process of life. Then when you've seen it, you don't fear it, Death is a good friend, an awfully good friend, because it tells us we don't have forever and that to live is now; therefore, you see how precious every minute is. We read it and say, "oh yes, that's so true." But do we live that way? How wonderful it is to be with the moment when you see a flower. When somebody is talking to you, for goodness sake, listen and don't look over a shoulder at wheat else is going on. Cocktail time. There's no greater insult. If you don't want to be with me, don't be with me! That's all right, I can adjust to that. But if you are going to be with me, will you be with me? You say, I am going to look at the ocean." Do you look at the ocean? "Oh, isn't that a beautiful sunset." Do you mean it, do you see it, do you recognize it will never come again?

Death teaches us - if we want to hear - that the time is now. The time is now to pick up a telephone and call the person that you love. Death teaches us the joy of the moment. It teaches us we don't have forever. If teaches us that nothing is permanent, It teaches us to let go, there's nothing you can hang on to. And it tells us to give up on expectations and let tomorrow tell its own story, because nobody knows if they'll get home tonight. To me that's a tremendous challenge. Death says, "Live now."

~Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.

About the Author

Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D., was a Professor of Education at the University of Southern California. After spending several years as a special education teacher and administrator, Mr. Buscaglia applied for a university position. During an interview, the dean of the college asked Mr. Buscaglia what he wanted to be doing in five years. "I'd like to be teaching a class on Love," he immediately replied. The dean paused, cleared his throat, and asked, "And what else?" As it turns out, Mr. Buscaglia realized his dream, going on to teach the first college class on Love. He also wrote several widely-received books on human relationships.

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

  Thomas Campbell

"Please don't go," we whisper to the loved one, dying, leaving us behind. "Stay a while longer. We will miss you so!"

We perceive death, each of us, in individual ways. But each of those ways share the common bond of something to be feared, to be put off as long as possible. We view it as cold, stern, inexorable and irresistible, something that all the might and power in the world cannot stay or ward off.

Breath, parting from the lips of the beggar or the king, scarcely stirs the air, yet it cannot be bought, or brought back for even a moment, with the wealth of empires. This is the lesson of the Great Teacher. It brings home our feebleness and frailty, and demonstrates the Infinite Power beyond us. It is a fearful lesson that never becomes familiar. Death makes its daily rounds, and lays its hand upon all, teaching this universal lesson which is understood everywhere and by everyone.

Many systems of religion and philosophy teach that existence is a state separate from the Infinite, an unavoidable accompaniment and condition of limited or individual existence. Eastern philosophy teaches that the Soul, a fragment of the Universal Mind, is considered to have lapsed from its pre-eminence when parted from its source. The theory of its reunion was correspondent to the assumed cause of its degradation. That, in order for the Soul to reach its prior condition, individuality must cease and it must be emancipated by re-absorption into the Infinite, the consummation of all things in God.

It is not that we don't get a choice in the matter... just that we don't really need one. Did we have a choice to be born? Well, that doesn't seem to make a difference just now, does it? Here we are. Nor do we remember a fear of being born. Just as well, eh? What we can be certain of, by evidence that is subject to individual interpretation, is that death is not an ending, but a necessary step.

So, year after year, we attend to the ritual of the funeral and pay homage to the dead, we celebrate the life they lived and shared with us. We speak of them, their accomplishments and sometimes their frailties. We mourn the loss of their companionship, but scarcely utter a word about the evil of death. Why? Because there is no evil in death but that which life makes. And after one is dead, the question inevitably arises: Have they lived well?

This week I attended the memorial service for my good friend whom I visited last July, and wrote about in Disappearing Act. It is difficult for me to let him go. It is a loss that has taken since July to be realized, and the depth of my grief is only matched by fond remembrance of the pleasure of his company while he lived and worked. I urge you to re-read that article (just click the link), and to feel, with me once again, the majesty of this man and his "life well-lived."

In another story about my departed friend, once he had found someone stealing gas from one of his machines because the man's car had run out of fuel. My friend didn't call the police, but instead procured a 5-Gallon can full of gas, drove the fellow to his vehicle, helped put the gas in and got the car started. Then, he offered the fellow a job. 45 years later, the individual is still in touch with the family.

What lesson can I learn from death, The Great Teacher? That there is no reason to fear the Grand Mystery. It comes to all. It is just a step in the Great Process, a consummation of the duties that physical life requires of us. And the greatest of these duties is not to die, but to fully live, and to love our fellow travelers upon the Great Path.

Paraphrasing Thomas Campbell, immortality lies not in living forever, but is remembrance in the hearts and lives of those who live on after you have passed. In other words, live respected and die regretted. You are immortal - live like it now!

The Author
Peace and Light, Michael

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