The art of dying


I’m a little bummed tonight.  I got glaucoma and my left out just blinked out and went completely blind.  I’ve been legally blind in that eye for the last 5 years — 20-200 vision.   But I could still make out blurry images.  But now the thing has pretty much went completely dark.

Fortunately, my right eye is still hanging in there.  But it’s one of those “writing-on-the-wall” kind of things that we all deal with as we get older.  When you realize your body is slowly-but-surely falling apart, and you’re getting closer and closer to the scrapheap of death.  And that’s a scary thing as you age.  I was thinking:  “Well, I’m down to my last eye.”  You get this unsettling feeling:  “I’m getting weaker, and the world is getting harder.”

Before I got glaucoma I mostly thought of death in abstract, intellectual terms.  But getting glaucoma was sort of a “brush with mortality.”  For the first time, I could actually feel the clammy hand of Death Itself on my shoulder.  Facing the actual possibility of falling apart and dying.

It’s a little ironic.  When I was younger I felt that normal consciousness was boring.  So I took a lot of drugs like LSD so I could hallucinate and sort of derange my senses.  But now that I’m older, with an eyeball blinking off and on, and a permanent ringing in one ear, and my body generally going a little haywire, it makes me wish I could just experience bland, normal consciousness.

I’m not so much scared of death as I’m scared of the process of dying.  Of slowly falling apart and losing control, becoming unable to take care of myself.  Generally, I believe in reincarnation, that we all eventually merge back into the Godhead and attain eternal heaven.  So death doesn’t bother me.  But for some reason the idea of losing all my stuff — all my artwork and writing — that really freaks me out.  Which is stupid, I guess.  Because I’ll be dead.  So why should I care if my stuff lives on?  And everything turns to dust eventually.  Ultimately this world is about as permanent and lasting as a mirage.  But I guess I just want something to cling to amidst the impermanence.

I don’t know if it’s morbid, but I think more and more about death these days.  In a way, I’ve experienced just about everything there is to experience in this life, except death.  So it’s like the one last great adventure awaiting me.

When I was younger I used to have this premonition that I’d die a quick and explosive death. For some reason I always had this image of my head getting run over by a steam-roller.  Ya know?  Like they used to do in the animated cartoons.  Where my head ends up as flat as a pancake, but my body is still relatively intact.  They could take my flat head  and frame it like a painting and hang it on a wall . . .   I don’t think I’ll literally die like that.  The steam-roller and all that.  But I always suspected it would be something like that.  I guess because I’ve had such an explosive life, with so many close calls and near-death experiences.  “As ye live so ye shall die.” And all that.

But now I’m wondering if I just want to believe that.  To compensate for my fear of having a long and drawn-out death.

One of the strangest deaths I ever heard about involved this guy named Zipruanna.  Zippruana was sort of a wandering Indian holy man.  He lived by the garbage dump in the seedy part of town and generally wore nothing but a loin cloth, if that.  Hung out with packs of wild dogs.  But he was revered by the people of the town as an enlightened being and great sage.  He was well known for his spiritual powers.  Anyways, one day he paid a visit to the home of this woman he knew and asked to take a bath.  The woman was surprised because Zipruanna rarely bathed.  But she was honored to have such a great being in her home.  After bathing, Zipruanna asked for some food and ate a little rice and vegetables.  Then he said:  “Zipruanna will be going now.  You can cry if you want.”  And he closed his eyes.  And he was gone.

That’s the way to go out.





2 thoughts on “The art of dying

  1. Those Himalayan masters have a technique of “dropping the body” like an old set of clothes whenever they choose. The actual process is layer out in the Bhagavat Gita, but the actual practice requires years of meditation. Some of the higher states of meditation actually make the practitioner seem dead: they appear to stop breathing & the pulse slows way down. Your right, that is the way to go out.

  2. “Remembering me at the time of death, close down the doors of the senses & place the mind in the heart. Then, when absorbed in meditation, focus all energy upwards to the head…” Instructions on how to drop the body at will.
    -the bhagavad gita

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