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Death, Suffering, Old Age, Youth

A doubtful statement:  death is a part of life.  A second doubtful statement:  old age is the opposite of youth.  A truthful statement:  there is suffering.

I have what many Americans have:  no health insurance.  I don't have what many people have:  sickness.  I am thirty two, and for the last, I don't know, seven years or so, I haven't gone to a doctor.  A dentist, a couple of times, yes, but not a doctor.  I haven't had to.  I am very lucky (and I eat a lot of peanut butter).   On the other hand, I am human, so I must face the fact that eventually my luck (and peanut butter) will run out.

While reflecting upon my this, I am reminded that suffering is part of life.  I am also reminded that suffering is not due to the fact, necessarily, that my back hurts, that I am old, that I am unwell, or that a family member has died.  For the past few weeks, I have been reading and contemplating Andy Karr's book Contemplating Reality, and if I can say anything from that experience, it is that my suffering is probably sitting on the bench next to my fear of understanding what he is asking me to contemplate. 

But, heck, when everyday life gets difficult, it becomes even more difficult to do philosophical contemplation.  There are days on the train when I am so tired or weary that I cannot get through a paragraph--I just fall asleep.  I can only imagine what it would be like if a child of mine were terminally ill, or I were struggling with the loss of my house after a natural disaster, or I found myself fighting cancer.  Would I be able to find the time, energy, and focus to contemplate Karr's book?

This week, I gave up a seat for an older woman on the subway.  I am normally a heartless seat grabber--in New York it is every person for him or herself in my opinion--but I had a momentary understanding that as a human it is hard enough to get through old age, knee pain, cancer, relationship trouble, etc, that adding Buddhism to the mix can be trying.  But if those painful things could just be cushioned slightly, then contemplation and meditation might be easier.  I am thinking a lot about adding the question, "Can I help you?" to my list of things I say to strangers.  In some ways, the benefit of having other human beings around is that we can take care of each other:  those who are capable can help those who are not.  This, in many ways, leaves space for us all to meditate, contemplate, and listen.

It is because there are other people there for us, that we may not need health insurance, or doctors, or the federal government, or our homes, our bodies, or our egos.  But without others, it is very hard to deepen our understanding. 

I hope that you are there for me when my luck runs out.  I'll be there for you.

Yikes.  That is so hard to say.  Why? 

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