Before the universe was born
Because it is Great means it is everywhere.
Tao is great.
Humanity follows the earth.
J. H. McDonald
Something mysteriously formed,
Therefore, “Tao is great;
Man follows Earth.
Jane English and Gia-fu Feng
And so the sage again returns us to remembering the great Tao. He beholds its sweep, its inexpressible perfection, its eternity and endlessness, and in the last four lines he forms the narrative path which leads beyond all words and forms of separation and conducts us to the essence and source of being.
Release, and thus peace. It’s the message of the sage of the Tao Te Ching, the guidance of the Buddha, the last message of Christ. It comes to us over and over in its simple, profound clarity and is obscured in the fog of our existential, personal perspective; lost in the complex and inchoate wanderings of mind and ego as we seek to put our understanding in the boxes of words and so construct a linear narrative which we can follow to the essence of our being. What a life this is!
I’ve been carrying on a wonderful correspondence with my uncle’s family. He passed on recently, and in the wake of his passing wonderful things have surfaced. This week my commentary reflects the fullness of these moments.
The only thing I can think of to share here in this moment is a letter sent from my heart to the hearts of the loved ones I share this loss with. It’s all I have to say here.
Dear J and B and G,
Some sharing of my own thoughts and feelings about “Darf’s” life – and by the way, how did that come to be his nickname? From what I’ve been able to come up with it seems to be a very affectionate one, used by the people who knew him best. Let me in on the secret, I’d like to join Darf’s inner circle if I could, even if only as an honorary member.
I now have G’s account of her time with him in his last days, and I have seen the great photo on B’s web site of the two of them together, smiling. J, I have felt your poignant pains and the depth of your love, and I honor you for the suffering and victory of your life which you have shared in your courageous and honest and true letters to me, and which is held within the poem formed in you, speaking your heart’s truth.
I can’t express how good it has been to reconnect with each of you. I am caught up in what Rumi characterized as the only thing we really want and often forget – love’s confusing joy.
Love is indeed a confusing thing, painful and a great joy, as it is in this time we are sharing and in the greater life we share. B’s latest letter is once again full of the wisdom you all have so obviously gained in abundant measure. Particularly relevant here is her observation that words, while quite useful, are inadequate to speak the heart’s truth, that “the boxes words offer are not always the right size or shape for what you want to put in them.” So very true, B, and yet we are devoted to do our best there, just as we are in our lives.
If I were present there now I would not speak any words. I would wrap my arms around each of you, and hug you close, and speak my heart that way. And with my eyes closed I would hug the two small children who were for a time – and still are – my little sisters, and the strong young woman who gave a mother’s love to me, and the young, wondrous strange man, my uncle, brother of my dead father, present in each of you, who took me in when no-one else would and did the best he could to care for me… and the tears that well in my eyes at this moment would be there, flowing toward the healing we all seek here and now.
The correspondence we are sharing reveals our deep feelings and confusions and common desire to reconcile ourselves with an understanding of who Darf was, really. When my brother died a year and a half ago I yearned for there to be a “Speaker for the Dead,” a person envisioned in the Orson Scott Card novel of that name. The Speaker was a person who would gather an unflinchingly full picture of a person’s life and then speak the truth of the mind and heart there. The Speaker’s perspective brought understanding and healing and acceptance and recognition of the unique and intrinsic goodness of the person’s life.
I attempted to be such a speaker for my brother, but in the end I realized his life spoke its own truth. I spoke for him from within the perspective of love’s confusing joy swirling in me, beholding him from where I stood, putting the essence I beheld into the boxes of words. I did find in that process a partial understanding of who he was. It was enough of an understanding to lead me to acceptance of things as they are, and a release of my desire to know things about him which, with his passing, I could never know.
In the end, after the confusions of love are arranged in the boxes of words and we have a linear narrative extracted from the complexity of mind, the mystery of God takes over. The narrative joins with the singular, whole, One gestalt which we are simultaneously joined with and separated from, and the seeming paradox and conflict there resolves into peace and acceptance and understanding. We are able to let life be what it is, and accept the pains and joys therein with equanimity. We are here, forming the narrative of that process, together. I speak here from the perspective of my own love and the confusing joy in me. It’s all I can do. It’s all I have.
Here’s what I have seen as I have looked at what we are all looking at. Darf was good, kind, gentle, sweet, thoughtful, industrious, dedicated, devoted and loving. There are too many instances of each present in the record of his life to deny the presence of any of them.
I’ve looked at loving the closest because of the mixed messages I often perceived coming from him. I’ve realized that the attenuated emotional expressions and the seeming distance and reserve present in his communication about feelings were not his message. His message was always, “I care about you. I love you.” The mix-up was partially on my end, where I waited for what I wanted to hear, in the way I wanted to hear it, and so I often missed the true message he spoke.
I have looked at the things he did and how he did them, and the things he spoke of and how he spoke them, and of the things he couldn’t speak easily of which, if he could have, he would have spoken over and over again to each of us in the way we wanted him to speak – because he did, truly, love us. I suspect he sensed what we desired in the way of affection, expressed, and it hurts me to think that he may have taken his awkwardness in that as an insufficiency in himself rather than simply a characteristic of his particular humanity.
When I look at him again, from his perspective, leaving myself out of it, I am certain he was a loving person, a man with deep attachments, and a good man. He was formed into the gem he was by his nature, his nurture, and formative existential waypoints, and if the light which refracted to us from some of his facets was puzzling, it was only puzzling to our own personal perspective. God saw him in perfect clarity. God, which is in us, and around us, and throughout all things, saw him with perfect clarity as the unique, wonderful being he was and is and will always be. And because that seeing is in us, we can see him in the same way.
I think that in Darf’s final moments a light shone out of the essence which we all behold from our different perspectives, a beacon for us all from the very heart of God. G was there and it refracted through her and Darf and between them, and it was about each of them, but it was so much more than that. It was an ineffable infusion of grace in those moments which delivered an answer for us all, here and now. Gwen wrote:
I sang ‘Hawaii Aloha’ to him – and felt more sense of a response, his mouth moving, swallowing. I took him on a guided meditation about being back in Hawaii, feeling the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the breeze on his face, the intense blues of the skies and the seas, and the shades of green…but also the sense of coming home, going back to where you belong, meeting with aloha and love, finding a deep peace (obvious metaphor…)… da kine. I also spoke of all of you, the love we all had for him, and all the things you would want to say to him..what a good father and grandfather he’d been, how much he’s done for so many people and the love and gratitude they had for him, and that they were all with him now. All through this I could hear his breathing relax more and more. In some indefinable way I felt his being ease, like something was relaxing, letting go, and finding a deep peace and calm.
That’s the shortcut across the narrative of our own grieving processes. If we follow that light home, we’re saved. In that light I have closed my eyes and found myself standing at the Pali lookout holding the urn of his ashes in my hands, tears streaming out of me, soaking my shirt. I hold the urn high above my head and let the winds take him to the sea and sky and sand and rocks and the verdant, charcoal, azure essence of life there. I commend him to the gods, the spirits, the old ones there. And then my knees break, and I bow my head, and I pray, saying, “He was a good man. Take care of him.” And they say they will.
My love to all of you. I will pursue the narrative with you as you wish, I am myself inconsistent and bounce back and forth between knowing the truth and seeking it. I am engaged in both. There is a narrative record in Darf’s life which explains much and can be put to good use in the healing process. When that comes round again in me I’ll share what I locate there. For now I just want to say,
Aloha oukou. Malama pono. My love to you all. Keep doing what you do so well, and which you are clearly meant to do, and be well,