One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.
Beauty In Death
After twenty years, I rewatched the film American Beauty and it triggered a rather strange reaction in me. How to see beauty in death. In my own death to be more direct. Two years ago I experienced a second heart attack. It was not as bad as the first one two and a half years ago, but as they say, “It got my attention.” I felt it approaching and was able to take the necessary actions to halt its advance. I was however in a state of fear while taking those actions. Even though I know in my deepest being there is nothing to be afraid of from death. So why?
Death is a big part of our psychological makeup. We equate it with sadness, depression, pain and loss. It is all these and more. Our western culture does not view death as the celebration of a life lived or necessary for life to continue. There is a maximum amount of life the planet can support. For me death is the ultimate letting go of this existence as I experience it to be. It is going into the unknown without a guide or map and there is no coming back. It is a similar experience to being born and… birth is beautiful. I do not know if there can be beauty in pain and death, but I do know dualities coexist and each contains a portion of the other. Life and Death are partners.
But, back to the film. During the closing moments there is a monologue by the lead actor, Kevin Spacey, who has just been killed. He says,
I have always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… I guess I could be pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel I’m seeing it all at once and it is too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst, and then I remember to relax… and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude… for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday.”
So, the next time I’m lying on the floor in a pool of my own perspiration, pulling off my clothes, trying to cool down my rapidly overheating body, wreathing in another experience of this unbearable pain as my chest pounds like a sledgehammer against an anvil, desperately trying to get to the nitro-glycerine tablets before I pass out, I will “remember to relax.. and stop trying to hold on to this life. And let the beauty of that moment flow through me.” My fear during these times is the result of my fighting and resisting the inevitable, Death. I know beauty is there somewhere but finding it could be the ending of this dream as my heart bursts with beauty into the next.
Random thoughts and experiences while I walk and live to The Roll of the Rio Tomebamba.
Photo Credit: Beauty In Death by Tao Writer