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Mint Juleps
 
Tuesday, November 22, 2005  
One of the artists who congregate on weekends in front of my apartment house entrance died last week. He was 53 and died of colon cancer that was diagnoised a month earlier. When I had first seen him after I moved here about a year and a half ago, he seemed ill to me. Later when I started talking to him and found him very agreeable, I stopped noticing. His death has caused me sadness; I am sad for him. And I think about other people I have known who have died. I tell myself it is something everyone has in common that they will die and their friends will as well. Some young in an avoidable plane accident like JFK, Jr. or an unavoidable one like a high school sweetheart, Serena Wudunn. Some come close to death because of bad health and make it through OK. Other's, like my old apartment-mate's mom, don't.

There was my beloved junior high school ancient history teacher whose affection for his young male students caused him to do something with one he soon very much regreted; he ended his life with a gun. Stanley Kops would walk around the class and sometimes massage the boys' shoulders while lecturing. It never bothered me, but I did not realize its deeper meaning.

Of course my dear grandparents which is a whole and long story in itself.

And there was Tim McGinty -- a very nice guy in my law school class. Law Review, too. After graduation, if I understand it right, he travelled around the world, picking up some rare parasite or disease; after a year in the hospital, he died. Another classmate killed himself, perhaps because he could not be admitted to the CA bar because of being arrested for protesting war while on the university campus: I'm not really sure why and I much regreted having been out of contact at the time.

I am fortunate really in not knowing too many people who have died. It seems rather odd to me -- there is my high school classmate Daniel Barr who recently died of cancer and my friend Donny McComiskey whose lungs gave out a few years after rescuing people at the world trade center and then staying on for the clean-up. I guess I know that the more I think of it the more people -- some of them very dear I will remember. There's the girl on my block who I first showed me mine for her showing me hers. She died at sixteen as a passenger in a car accident. And the guy who punched me all the time in eighth grade. He was a driver.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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Friday, November 18, 2005  
I've been reading Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums about his search for meaning in life in hiking and contemplation. So ah-ha -- I jotted down a few words about Douglas's secret true Buddha nature. But I'd hardly finished a sentence when I realized I'd never be able to convince anyone that Douglas has a true Buddha nature.

The following day I've thought back on how it has happened that he lacks a secret true Buddha nature. I wondered if he used to have one and has lost it over time.

I tried to bring back my early memories of him; one that comes to mind is that he would never say "uncle", even though someone bigger might be sitting on top of him. Was that evidence of a Buddha nature perhaps not. Would a bodhisattva say "uncle" ? It is hard to tell for sure. But let's say a bodhisattva would not say uncle and that it was evidence of a Buddha nature.

As the decades have whizzed by, has Douglas followed that early impulse down the Dharmic path to its logical conclusion? Has he given up the hedonistic pleasures of food and drink? Or has he transferred from a love of chocolate milk to one of chardonnay? Has he taken to asceticism in all things? Or only those that polite society require. Has he eliminated his self or expanded it so as to be completely detached or in complete harmony with the rest of the world?

While, yes he has maintained a discipline and determination suggested by his early unwillingness to say "uncle", he has not in other ways sought to remove himself from the world at large in order to find inner quiet required for Buddha nature. And though we may debate tonight the benefits or drawbacks endlessly, we will not find that secret nature. Douglas is destined alas for many future lives.

However, it is to many future birthdays in THIS LIFE that I give my toast.

Friday, November 18, 2005

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