When it comes to birth and death

How exactly would you like things to be?

I find myself after all these years gradually coming to terms with death, and all that is revealed through its agency…


From inevitable separation from loved ones, and all we hold dear, to the uncertainty of the time of our, and their leaving this form, and this world, the other aspects of this reality need to be brought forward, to assuage the suffering that attends thoughts of loss and dying itself.

If we were the authors of this creation – I wonder, how would we want it to be? I know that most of us would not choose that we were never born. This life has value, even with all its trials, and all that is difficult about it.

What a miracle that we are here! We were not born in another time, or another place, but in this time, and this place, where there are things such as the warm night sky, daffodils, and Mozart; kinship, and heroic actions uplifting all of us, even when they are not seen, and not talked about.

Another choice we may wander upon is – keeping things one way for all time. I remember my mother once saying she would have liked to have stayed 30 years old- that was a great time for her – not too young, not too old, with a family, and some means. But then, I had just been born, and if not for time and aging, I and my brother and sister would not have grown up, and we would not have known each other and had adventures through the years.

Thich Nhat Hanh said that, rather than deploring time and change, we should be saying ‘Long live impermanence!’ – as it allows the young girl to grow into a fine young woman, educated, creative, and loving; it allows each season’s harvest to ripen, and to feed and sustain us; it allows for change into new ways of being. Keeping things the same always goes agains all this learning, and growing, new experiences, and maturation.

We may think then that the option of living here, in these forms, for a very very long time is an ideal we could hold. But think about that too – at what point would these bodies become only a hindrance, rather than the basis for any enjoyment at all? At 110 years? at 150? No one that I know of reaches that age, but for the sake of reaching some conclusion about what we can embrace as ideal, I offer this for reflection. At some point, I think we’d agree, the usefulness of these forms has a limit.

What would I want for myself, and for my loved ones then?

Given that none of the above options, not being born, living at one age for all time, and living longer and longer in these forms – none of these matches what we’d want for ourselves or others, then what other choices do we have?

We can live here with an awareness of the preciousness of this life, appreciating each day, each hour, our unique experiences, and the richness we are all heirs to;

We can hold the thought of others tenderly, knowing that we are just here together like this for a short, and uncertain length of time; forgiving, generous, gentle, celebratory, supportive, and devoted to one another;

There are some things that matter more to me now, so much so that everything else recedes: Following clear teachings, we can come to life here, freed of depression, freed of small views, and we can help each other on the way. By comparison to what is pursued and exalted by soulless, commercial interest, by petty egos and arrogant folk, stepping into the world of saints and sages and workers brings the most satisfaction, and quiet joy.

Once we know what we are here for, living and even death and dying is much easier.

We are born into a mystery, live surrounded by sacred wonders and brilliant, beautiful lives; for this time, for however long it lasts, we are woven, part of one another’s lives. If we are awake to this much, life is a joy. Each day, there are treasures to be known, and shared with all our family, and with all the world.    

From The Wisdom of Impermanence