“It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. ‘They all eat one another!’ he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed with the verb, said, ‘They all feed one another,’ and called it good. Death? Why this fuss about death? Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death. The first form of life would be here yet, miles deep by this time, and nothing else; a static world. If birth is allowed, without death, the resulting mass would leave death as a blessed alternative. Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil. ”
– from page 40 of The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the posthumously published 1935 autobiography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author and lecturer. She was a novelist and lecturer for social reform, although I believe she was often so heavily misrepresented, that her accomplishments as a woman writer of her day are now considered to be that of a utopian feminists'. This indeed, is a label that should now serve to only pigeon-hole her forever as an early feminist for future generations to come, instead of recalling her as a great novelist of her era.
I was doing a lot of thinking about patterns and cycles today after talking with a girlfriend of mine this morning. We were kind of contemplating: How the hell did we end up here, holding the shitty end of the stick? After looking back and basically seeing that we have each in our own ways been strong and steadfast in trying to help, encourage or heal others we meet along our path in life, it does seem rather unfair. "Who can you believe and why keep giving? Good question. We are both in many ways gifted and are now feeling drained, or I suppose tired after dispensing so freely with the gifts all this time. Perhaps on the verge of jaded. Interestingly enough, about a week prior I had been having similar thoughts myself when examining my own station in life at the present moment. Ironically, we had both come to ask the same (perhaps unanswerable) question in this time of our faltering strength - "What did I do wrong?" My friend had in recent months comforted me greatly at a time when I found myself saying "My horns are hanging heavy on my shoulders." and I really wished I could offer my fellow ram more comfort in return.
So I felt a bit useless today in offering up that the only thing I had come to realize when feeling this way myself recently, was that this is merely some sort of test in life for me. (and now maybe for her too.) The sadness is almost a period of mourning. And urged her not to resort to the easy path of complacency for ourselves, or even fall to jaded bitterness and mistrust toward others. A renewing cycle is about to begin. And a change is on the horizon. Recognizing the signs and symbols along the way without ignoring them, and staying good or remaining strong is required. And having a great deal of faith in ourselves would indeed allow us to have restored faith in others too. This is merely part of the preparation. And that whatever our place in the universe at the present, that soon enough something better is surely manifesting itself for us both. As much I can be wary of people and remaining trusting, I said that I'm hopeful and welcoming of change enough to pass such a test, because I am not afraid..and I'll keep on being a strong person for myself and others. Maybe it's just the surroundings that need changing, but somethings gotta die off first. It shouldn't be our good nature that has to succumb.
During my contemplation, I had come across the Charlotte Perkins Gilman excerpt, copied down in an old sketchbook of mine. I found it helpful at the time.
This excerpt so perfectly illustrates man's fears. Not only a fear of death in the sense of the physical, but also the fear of change - or death of the old ways in which we have or had been living. When unfulfilled we want happiness but fear the change necessary to get there. I've oft time felt that for one reason or another and either by my own hand, some other greedy individual's, or else the hand of fate itself, that my cycles have been abruptly interrupted throughout my lifetime. And I wonder now why I was so disappointed that nothing good was born of that. Anytime I have resisted a change for the sake of someone else's feelings or wishes, I have always regretted it later and had to play catch up. My Mother always says: "You cannot skip any one cycle of your life - or you will be forced to repeat it." and she's right as rain.
There is no beginning of a cycle without the ending of another, and if avoided, maybe because of our own fear of an ending to that routine we've become so accustomed to, then the cycle is resisted. And thus, we preserve nothing. All is left to stagnate and everything else that is left to remain by unnatural means, is merely preserved existence. It no longer naturally flows or exists and lives but is only suspended in a constant state. One we might still wander through - none for the better, or worse without first facing our fears, and accepting/allowing change to occur. If we don't, then that's not enlightened living, or happiness even. That's just existing.
If you really want to live fully, you just need to be strong, accept change and keep going with the flow of the cycles until there is a harmonious rhythm you can follow. Like the progression of song. Then the next cycling change will just seem natural.
Image: Enich Torres. Cover art for HM - Vol.7 - No. 6 September 1983 issue