It’s not long before the subject of death comes around again. Again! Well I guess death is a constant if one thinks of life and death flowing together, moment to moment. Anyway my good walking companion told me about an interview, presumably Radio 4, with John Humphreys talking about a recently published book contemplating death. He is well known on the Today programme, a week-day bonanza of debate and news, and not without it’s heated moments.
JH always says it like it is, how he sees it anyway. Now on death he is his own self on this one too. (I blush to think what he would make of my writing ‘style’. He’s red hot on the English language, and how it’s currently being abused.)
Here is a slice of the Telegraph review of the book:
Humphrys’s narrative is compelling. He is determined to tell it like it is: “My father’s last years cast a shadow over what had been a good life and those of us who knew and loved him feel a mixture of resentment and guilt to this day.” There is none of the self-indulgence of Julian Barnes’s Nothing to Be Frightened of, or even Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, because Humphrys is more interested in others than in himself.
He writes about how his own thinking has evolved as a result of these experiences, for example on the advantages of a sudden death over prolonged illness. “It might be perfect for the person who does not wake up in the morning, but it is a savage blow to the loved one left behind,” he says. And he is pleasingly ruthless on the absurdities of a system where “it is possible that [a doctor] may kill a patient, but if you have done so in the process of trying to relieve suffering you cannot be held to account”. The worry for the doctor, he points out, is that relatives will not believe this to be the case.
Exchange of gifts after the Wesak Ceremony on Saturday.
We were over fifty gathered in Leeds to celebrate the Buddha’s Birth and Enlightenment, Wesak. Traditionally this falls around May 8th and marks the Buddhist New Year. We’ll be celebrating all over again next Sunday at Throssel.
Preparing for our Leeds event was much like preparing for a climbing expedition, although I’ve never been on a serious climb. Before the climb details rise up and spread out and can become overwhelming. (Thankfully I was not directly involved in dealing with all of the details.) Then there is the climb, or in our case the ceremony and the day of events. And then the the decent, the packing up and returning home.
We didn’t get to the top of anything and nor did the group spoken about in the previous posting. Perhaps the merit, and the wisdom, that flows from cooperative effort is less about outcomes and achieving ends and much more about the step by step walking together with others. The walking, talking, driving, emailing, organising, thinking, planning, packing, unpacking, eating and laughing is what I will remember about our Leeds Wesak. And I remember it with gratitude. Next year perhaps we can make it a 24 hour retreat.
Yes, my attention has been very much directed otherwise and I’m sorry to bring a sigh for regulars who check-in only to find no new posts. This is a new post and my intention is to continue to write. My best wishes to all.
How I love maps! And how interested I am to follow the progress of a handful of climbers in Colarado. One of those hardy persons is the brain behind keeping Jade Mountains healthy and functioning. Call it enlightened self interest, I’d just like to see them all up the mountains they intend to climb this week end, and then safely back down again.
Observation tells us that suicide runs in families, though whether the cause is nature or nurture is harder to know. For myself, I can say that my mother’s suicide has given me knowledge – unwelcome knowledge, but knowledge nonetheless. One element of that knowledge is the possibility of suicide. Like drink to an alcoholic, it is always there in the background, always an option. But another part of that knowledge is an understanding of the actuality of suicide and its consequences for those left behind.
Thanks to Do They Hurt, and my walking companion, for pointing out this article. It’s thought provoking, for those who have a suicide in their family or no.
A couple of years ago I did a funeral for somebody who hung himself. Ones heart goes out to all who have to embrace the chilling fact of suicide. And live with the chill for the rest of their lives. Yes, suicide brings a chill, and raises Great Compassion too.