This got me thinking. Life can be a major let down. If you live long enough, and most do, everything disappoints. Even for those like my brother Justin, whose life was a catalogue of catastrophe, a dot-to-dot of disaster. Born with a congenital heart defect and broke his head as a teen, and barely had he reached the age of 22 when cancer came calling, and death proved his inevitable end. Like us all. But perhaps he was lucky to escape a place that Aldous Huxley once referred to as "another planet's hell." Maybe he was fortunate to ditch a place where the highest form of happiness, if you believe one Greek tragedian, was "never to have been born."
I speak from experience fashioned from over four decades on this tiny planet - that's more than the combined age of the Jonas Brothers until relatively recently - when I say that in your brief sojourn on Earth you will be berated, betrayed, disappointed and utterly dismayed, if not totally defeated. Perhaps it's already occurred.
Your career will fail you. Others will surpass you and finally take your place. You will become a dinosaur. Obsolete. And that is if you're lucky. Because before that happens you may just completely lose interest in whatever it is you're doing long before you have the wherewithal to quit, or the courage to try something new. And so you're stuck.
Romantic relationships will prove unsatisfactory. You will be misunderstood by those you care about, if not completely ignored. Those you cherish will leave you too soon, the ones you can hardly stand will hang around much longer than you'd like. And to you, and you know who you are: We coulda done the twirl had you acted your age, momma, and not you shoe size! Which goes for pretty much every gal I've hung around. I don't know why I hold out hope. Speaking of hope, I hear Hillary Duff is single and on Tinder. Now I'd hang 'em up for you, babe. I usually don't go for divorcees, but in your case I'd make an exception. But only because we are so astrologically compatible. And not at all because you're a superstar - of my heart. Anyway, Hillary, if you wanna make babies hit me up. You know where to find me. I'm here all the time.
Friends will show you by example that you should only care about yourself. You'll be lucky to count your near and dear on the fingers of one hand. God help you if you're from a big family!
Your health will falter. Your body will betray you. Aches and pains will appear as if out of thin air. Sometimes they will just as quickly disappear. But not as often as you'd like. Bones will break. Sometimes when you're far from home and have to hop to safety. Wrinkles will line your once-pristine face. White spots and black spots will appear side by side on your skin. WTF! Your balls will sag. Or your boobs.
Your talents will fade. I used to be a great singer. Now I can't seem to carry a tune. Instead on occasion I am visited by the persistent need to clear my throat. Some trade-off.
And then your mind will go. And long before its time. How often have you made a bad decision, you bone-head! We are all numb skulls and nincompoops, and all too early. Brain fart much? I have I missed answers on tests I knew I should have gotten, forgotten names and place that were once all too familiar, more times than I can remember. Get it? Or count. But not because I've forgotten how to count. Not yet. I've misplaced my keys. I've let myself down, had nobody to blame but me.
And as Still Alice proves, in the end diseases like Alzheimers and dementia loom, diseases whose cause science has been unable to discover. And without an identifiable cause, there is no cure. A man no less great than the philosopher Kant, around whose speculations the thought of the nineteenth century revolved, whom Goethe studied and Beethoven quoted, after a life spent in the gilded halls of pure reason, "withered slowly into a childlike senility that came at last to be a harmless insanity, one by one his sensibilities and powers failing him, until at last at 79 he died."
Such is the truth of the popular saying, "Life is a bitch, and then you die."
But who is this YOU?
When I was a kid my dad liked to tell me the story of how he met his guru, the holy man Sai Baba. My dad pledged his undying affection to Sai Baba, who with teachings like "Love all, serve all" and "Help ever, hurt never" and carefully deconstructing all that my old man held dear, turned him around from being a staunch atheist to an even stauncher seeker of truth. The holy man with rock star hair and a flowing robe had dad at hello. He wooed my father with the words, "Follow me and I will take everything from you. Your riches, your reputation, your family. And finally, I will take myself."
Huh? What seems like it could only be reverse psychology is actually unvarnished truth. Because we all must die, and sure enough Sai Baba left his body in April, 2011, many years earlier than he had predicted (unless you go by the lunar calendar, as many Hindus do) - and after my dad had lost a son, gone through a divorce, and run into crippling problems with the IRS. Nice.
But after death, what remains? Before birth, what? What exists before the guru, before Christ, before language, before your earliest memory, before even you were man or woman, with such a job and family and station in life? That's the question of all questions, is it not? How do you know who you are when even the day of your birth you take on hearsay? What exists? I'll tell you, my friend. Existence exits. It's as simple as that. This consciousness that I AM. Stick closely to that. Let that be your guru and your god. The consciousness you use to read these words can never be taken from you. It is with you wherever you go, even and oh so subtly, when you sleep. It will never disappoint, even though one day you will not remember having read this.
You are the one constant. You are the canvass on which everything, this world with its victors and vanquished, appears. And what is your true nature? Underlying the existence, the consciousness, what? In quiet, and stillness, when you withdraw into yourself, and sink deep down inside, what do you feel? Beyond thought and feeling and sensation, beyond personal location, and time and space, what remains as the base?
All names for the same thing, which is
That's what my man J.C. (how I love saying that!) meant when he said "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." (Matthew 8:22)
Because compared to the Absolute Reality which is your true nature, everything else, your life and possessions and friends and desires and accomplishments, are mere appearances in consciousness, unreal, or only relatively real, appearing one day only to vanish the next. They are without any permanence. So can they really be said to exist, or aren't they merely many forms of the dead?
As the philosopher Schopenhauer once put it, "The nature of life (awakens) the conviction that nothing at all is worth our striving, our efforts and struggles; that all good things are vanity, the world in all its ends bankrupt, and life a business which does not cover expenses."
In other words, the purpose of this counterfeit realm is to point you in the direction of what's real, and that is YOU.
So live on my friend, weather life's many thrills and chills and spills, rooted in the knowledge that what is born will die, but who you truly are is beyond both birth and death. Who you are is I.
Remember, "Whenever I wish to bless anyone, everything he calls his I snatch away from him."
Now if I can only find my f(*(&^ing keys!