A River in the Wilderness
There was a recent NPR program featuring interviews with various people about what they believed would happen to them after they died.
Some people said that when they die they would simply no longer "be." - nothing after death. Others believed that after they died they would be swooped up into a blissful heaven of rolling green meadows where they would reunite with dead relatives.
Personally, I couldn't relate to any of the responses- they were either far to bleak or way too syrupy.
I am celebrating a birthday, and so I guess it's not all that surprising that I might have a few thoughts about what death might mean (the older you get the more real are the prospects of dying). In fact, last night, I even had a rather vivid dream about dying. My dream was so vivid that when I awoke this morning, I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it. My dream was not macabre nor was it bleak, but neither did I dream about going up among angels in billowy clouds.
In my dream I was standing in a flowing river and I was dying. Like an ice sculpture in the blazing sun, I was melting into the flowing river in which I stood. It wasn't frightening. There was no sense of loss. I was becoming part of the flow, and there was a great peace in it all.
A passage comes to mind from Hermann Hesse's celebrated book, "Siddhartha," sitting at the bank of a river, Siddhartha listens to the water as it flows toward the sea. As he listens, he hears hundreds of voices- the whole of humanity, the whole of creation is flowing in the river as it rushes by:
Siddhartha listened…He could not tell the many voices apart from one another, not the happy ones from the weeping ones, the ones of children not distinct from those of men, they all belonged together…everything was one, intertwined and connected, entangled a thousand times. And everything together, all voices, all goals, all yearning, all suffering, all pleasure, all that was good and evil, all of this together was the music of the world. The great song of a thousand voices consisted of a single word, which was,
OM: the perfection.
When I reflected on my "birthday" dream about dying, I realized that this is what my dream was telling me about death; that when I do die, I would melt into the flow of life - life that is so intertwined and so entangled and interconnected as to be OM, the perfection - GOD.
So another year begins for me and my life flows on until I melt back into that perfect flow of the "River of One."
There is an old Quaker hymn that I am very fond of singing - a fitting response to my vivid dream of last night. It will be my theme song for this day:
My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations...
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear it's music ringing
It sounds and echoes in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?….
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
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