Thursday, June 1, 2017

If I'm Sixty-Four

Fifty years sounds like a long time – a whole half-century. But it was only fifty years ago that I had my fourteenth birthday party at my maternal grandparents’ house and my family and relatives presented me with the brand-new Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

We posed for a photo of me happily displaying the album cover with my maternal relatives around me – if I saw it now I’d see all the people no longer alive: my sister, my mother, my oldest aunt and my grandparents. And now as the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of this groundbreaking album, I can’t help thinking, “It’s not when I’m sixty-four but if I’ll see my sixty-fourth birthday.”

[photo courtesy of Ron Lee]
When I think of all the songs on that album – I loved every one of them – I find that “She’s Leaving Home” appeals to me more poignantly now than it did then. How I long to run away from all the dietary restrictions and “beat cancer” regimens that I’m tied to now. I just want to pack my suitcase and take off for anywhere – Berkeley, Kyoto, Sao Paulo – where I can meet up with my Dharma friends to have fun, drink and eat what I want, and of course, listen to and discuss the Buddhist teachings together (I’m missing out on this year’s International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies conference at Musashino University near Tokyo).

Instead I’m forced to deal with reality where I am – what all the Buddhist teachers tell us to do. I have no anxieties about my “afterlife” – I’ve been assured (by Mike Conway quoting Soga referring to Shinran) of perfect nirvana at the moment of death. It’s the days now and upcoming that are full of struggle – within and around myself – trying to sort through all the information from sources I’m skeptical of on different levels and making my decisions against the advice of others who want healing for me but don’t make a convincing case for the “alternative” methods.

At the temple I’m trying to hand off responsibilities to various volunteers, but it’s hard to think of things I was routinely doing until they come up – such as publicity for the upcoming summer festival. If things fall through the cracks when I’m incapacitated or expired, they can blame me for my poor planning.

Namu Amida Butsu – for my article in the next temple bulletin, I’m simply quoting Rumi’s poem “The Guest House.” (This link is to the Coleman Barks translation, but I plan to investigate newer translations.)

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