Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of Ebola, Life and Death

The day started off with conversations that flowed from trains, to places around the globe, how people discovered that the earth is not flat, about day and night, to the sun not really rising and setting, to gravity in all things and attraction, to the movie Interstellar (we haven't watched it yet, but we Googled and watched the trailer), about living in the beginning of another ice age now and into the ebola virus and death. It was quite an odyssey!

We have spoken about death in many ways before, from when Raghav was quite young. It has often been the topic of many a conversation we have had over the years. Some months ago, when I was stalked by the fear of dying yet again, strangely, it came up with him too, even though I didn't share my fear then with him. I was having these sudden aches and pains over a week, and quite a shooting pain on one side of my abdomen on one day. It made me curl up and sit in the womb position. My husband got worried and started imagining all kinds of things and shared his concerns and fears with me. Although I knew that it was a passing thing, for the time that it stayed with me, this pain raked up that old fear of death and disease again.

Raghav then saw my husband googling something about appendicitis, and was in tears. I held him close and asked him what was up and he shared with me how he had watched a video on BrainPop on appendicitis and how it could be fatal if it was not diagnosed early enough. I asked him if he was worried that my pain could have anything to do with appendicitis, and he nodded, tears streaming down his face. We then sat and talked a little more. I asked if he was scared of my dying, and he broke down. We sat for a long time, holding each other in silence, just listening to our hearts beat. Just speaking our hearts was enough. Sharing our fears was enough. It was freeing and refreshing. And brought us back to the present moment quite effortlessly. I am glad that we speak of death with this ease.

Yet, I can also see how some people would probably question watching such videos, out of concern. Why would anyone want to rake all these things up unnecessarily? That is a valid point. But how long can we run away from what is real and alive? How much can we push things up under the carpet, waiting for an opportune moment to face it? I feel we are always ready for everything. We don't have to be readied in anyway. That readiness is all in the mind and in the way we interact with life.

So today, when he started off speaking about the ebola virus, there was a kind of detachment and matter-of-fact-ness in the way he spoke. Atleast that is what I sensed. I didn't know much about the ebola....I haven't been keeping up with the news and knew nothing of it really. So it was interesting for me to hear him lecture to me about the symptoms, causes, prognosis, treatment etc. His learning was solely based on BrainPop, but it was thorough. And with that learning came further questions.

"Why are people kept in isolation when they think someone has Ebola?
Why are they so scared?", he asked.
And then, as if to answer himself, he said:"Well, everyone is scared of dying. That is our biggest fear."
I was quite shocked! But prodded on....
"So are you scared of dying? Why?", I asked quietly.
"Yeah, I am scared...because it is painful...", he added.
"But why should death be painful? Do you think it is always painful?", I asked.
"It is painful because people suffer when they die," he retorted.
"What is suffering? Why do you feel people suffer when they die? What is pain? Do you feel death is painful?", I repeated.
"Suffering is when you want something to happen in a certain way and it doesn't happen that one wants to die and so they suffer...and people usually die from some it must be painful for them no?.....but I am not only talking of that is also painful for people who love when some family member who you love dies, you feel sad and don't want them to die....that is the pain that I mean," he explained.

There was so much thought and heart that had gone into those words he shared. I was deeply moved by his own efforts and ways of understanding and making sense of intangible things. And then we went on to talk about the different ways in which people die, how it need not be painful all the time, and how death was important for life.
We spoke about flowers and leaves withering and dying and becoming dust, which in turn becomes the soil in which seeds sprout....
.... about animals and birds and insects dying and becoming one with the earth.
....about people dying and what happens when we bury them, or burn them or leave them exposed to the elements.
.... about how death restores balance, and how things cannot exist forever in the same way.
....about the peels and rotten vegetables and fruits, or leftover food that I put into my kambha and how that is turned into compost which is used in the garden for plants to grow.
....about the cells in our body dying and rejuvenating everyday.
....about how life moves to death and how death moves to life and how our fear of death is because we want to live forever.

And we came back to talking about how we are currently living in the throes of the early years of another ice age, and how the earth was going to be destroyed slowly, to perhaps give birth to new life. Strange how we had come full circle! Strange how everything that initially seemed disconnected, was actually connected so intricately! I guess that's what happens when you speak of life and death. Both are interwoven in the seamless fabric of our everyday lives, and yet we do not stop to think about them so much....or look deeply into the threads that bind us in a magical interconnectedness.

But conversations have a way of bringing these nuances out....they have a way of making us face our deepest fears time and again, and help us move effortlessly to a place of love and connection for all things. I love our conversations....because that is the way we connect and learn the most.


Here is a lovely poem by David Whyte that speaks about our own ultimate disappearance....and about being present to everything....

No Path

There is no path that goes all the way. Not that it stops as looking for the full continuation. The fixed belief we can hold, facing a stranger that faces the trouble of a real conversation.

But one day, you’re not imagining an empty chair where your loved one sat. You’re not just telling a story where the bridge is down and there’s no where to cross. You’re not just trying to pray to a God you imagined would always keep you safe.

No. you’ve come to the place where nothing you’ve done will impress and nothing you can promise will avert the silent confrontation; the place where your body already seems to know the way, having kept to the last its own secret reconnaissance.

But still, there’s no path that goes all the way. One conversation leads to another. One breath to the next until there’s no breath at all, just the inevitable final release of the burden. And then, wouldn’t your life have to start all over again for you to know even a little of who you had been?

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