Thoughts on the death of a friend


“I scarcely know where to begin, but love is always a safe place.” Dickinson—that poet the world still considers a bit crazy—said that. Her thought was never careless. Truth was hard won for her, as anything worthwhile is on this earth. So I say, with her, that love is the one safe place.

With love I place kindness, mercy, gentleness, and everything tender in human life. And when in this moment we face death, for of course it will be this moment when it comes, nothing else will matter. That is the truth, simple yet difficult of attainment, that must burn like a coal within. Not the pretty little slogans aiming to inspire us, either—but a real possession in the face of all that may threaten, even that which may call us to give everything. Genuine courage springs only from love, I tell you.

And if you have a religion, or a god, or a teacher, or a belief system, or an ideology, or a creed, that requires you to be unloving and unkind, or justifies cruelty and harm, then know that your religion or teacher or creed is absolutely false. So much is certain.

And if your love consists of a fellow-feeling for people like you, the ones who look like you, live near you, and agree with you, but your heart is closed to the stranger on the other side of the world, then it is nothing but tribal custom, even if you dignify it with the name of religion. Every tribe believes that it is the greatest tribe on earth, and all the other tribes are enemies and inferior—so what? There’s nothing virtuous or intelligent in that.

The angry god of power, the volcano god, is a lie. And everyone secretly knows this. The public voice of the accusing moral god is the voice of fear and limitation, a pathetic human voice. His real names are Power and Money. When in this moment we face death, there will be no Power or Money.

Blake saw it. The angels have switched sides, and their platform now calls for war and executions. A rich man asked Jesus what else he could do and was told to sell what he had and give to the poor. And the man “went away sorrowful.” Yeah, I’ll bet he did.

Okay, Mr. Jesus. That’s enough. Go back up on Jehovah’s throne. Here’s a nice crown for you, and a scepter. That’s good. Now stay there, and we’ll get back to business.

And love means saying No, too. Joel Osteen can grin the whole day through and talk about love, but I’d like to know what he thinks of the war. And torture. And racism. And if he won’t say, then his grin is emptier than the Cheshire cat’s.

No amount of money, or power, or oil, or political advantage, or anything else I hear from the media megaphone, is worth one single life, one innocent life, one Iraqi child, one homeless person who can’t afford food or a doctor, one inmate in a prison—or for that matter, one stray cat. Not all the flags and the uniforms and the guns, all the military and their endless salutes, all the big phrases like freedom and honor and glory, are worth a single life. I know that now, and I am not afraid.

When we die, what will we leave behind? Everything. Regret will bring nothing back. The one thing needed: wake up now and begin. Start from the safe place that crazy poet talked about, and fear will leave you.

All this I learned from you, my dear friend. One simple look taught me everything I needed to know. Shantih.


~ by cdash on July 2, 2008.

13 Responses to “Thoughts on the death of a friend”

  1. ‘Love is the one safe place’

    Milarepa said, ‘If you sincerely wish to avoid all suffering, avoid all evil intent toward other beings.’

    It’s a very tall order but a philospohy well worth pursuing. I’m sorry you have lost a friend.

  2. Beautifully written. My condolences.

  3. Sorry about the death of your friend. Take care of yourself.

  4. cdash – Thanks for this post. It’s inspiring. I’m sorry for your loss.

  5. Loved friends never leave. They are with you always….it is becomes a matter of learning to hang out with them in different ways. Peace.&Love.

  6. sorry for your loss. your words are heartfelt and tender and a moving tribute to your friend. peace.

  7. Beautiful, supreme tribute.

  8. dash

    so sorry for your loss – and what better way to make him live on is through a wonderful tribute that stays in cyberspace for ever.

    now if we can listen to your words and just stop causing death and destruction on such a grand level.

  9. sorry….. looked up “Shantih”….. it’s a nice word

  10. Chris … this poem. It is what has gotten me through my life so far.

    On Joy and Sorrow
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
    Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

  11. ab-solutly – FALSE

  12. Incredibly beautiful writing, sensitive and touching. Thanks for sharing it.

  13. Ditto Suzi Riot.

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