Autumn and impermanence

From the Upajjhatthana Sutta:

Birth will end in death.
Youth will end in old age.

Wealth will end in loss.

Meetings will end in separation.

All things in cyclic existence are transient, are impermanent.

The late fall is a very difficult time for me, for evidence of our cyclic existence is everywhere. As the leaves fall, we attempt to laugh at the specter of death by hanging plastic skeletons from trees and sticking gag gravestones in the dirt. I eat tiny Milky Ways by the bagful to keep my anxieties from taking me over.

Today is the 8th anniversary of the death of Paul Wellstone, and an essay I wrote for the occasion is up at Minnesota Public Radio News, called Paul Wellstone, a teacher in life and also in death. Wellstone is only the most famous person I mourn in October. On the 29th I remember the last time I spoke to another Carleton friend, Liz, who called from her hospital bed in 2007 to wish me a happy birthday. My grief for her feels so fresh that I remain shocked that three years have passed since she died.

I like Buddhist philosophy for its insistence that all things are connected. Death exists because life exists, and life is a good thing. Fear exists because hope exists. Chocolate exists! My children anticipate Halloween so intensely they quiver, just like I did in the days when I could disconnect skulls from the heads they used to live in.

The Uphajjhatthana Sutta also includes this reminder: [The Buddhas] cannot remove our suffering with their hands….I am my own protector.

That’s the way my essay on Paul Wellstone ends. I just wish that mourning Liz were as easy as joining a campaign.

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