Friday, May 13, 2011
Art of Dying
There'll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing sister Mary can do
Will keep me here with you
As nothing in this life that I've been trying
Could equal or surpass the art of dying
Do you believe me?
-George Harrison "Art of Dying"
Sometimes blogging must take a back seat to real life. That's what happened this April. My father passed away a month ago, on April 12. He fought a valiant three year battle against colon cancer, but recently it spread to his liver. As horrific and tragic as the grieving process has been, I do take comfort in the fact that my three sisters and I got to say goodbye to him. We were able to take him home from the hospital so that, in accordance with his wishes, he was able to spend his last days in the home that he loved surrounded by all his children and his beloved Abyssinian cat, Sophinka.
In the past eight years, Dad and I built a deep friendship together. While we didn't seem to agree over anything politically (I described him to friends as "My Right-Wing Dad"), we bonded over a shared love of many other interests. Both of us loved the Los Angeles Lakers, and I will always treasure the memory of sharing with him the earth-shattering thrill of watching Derek Fisher's buzzer-beating playoff shot against the Spurs with 0.4 seconds on the clock, as well as the final game we watched together, Game 7 beating the Celtics for the NBA Championship in 2010. With his inspiration, I acquired an abiding love for Belgian beer, culminating in a 2004 trip to Bruges where we shared a Leffe Bruin and a Delirium Nocturnum at the Herberg Vlissinghe. (A cafe I plan on visiting again in 2015 when they celebrate their 500th anniversary)
We also enjoyed wine tasting and spent many Sideways trips in the Santa Ynez Valley. During those trips, we would drive from winery to winery, usually with the accompaniment of another shared love: 60's music. Regardless of whether we preferred the syrah or the pinot, we were constantly flying high to the sounds of the Beatles, Chambers Brothers, Charlatans, or the Doors. For those who knew my father as the reverent, conservative, Orthodox Christian deacon, this might be a strange image to process. But one of my funniest memories is watching Dad laugh while listening to Jim Morrison toy with his fans. After waxing rhapsodic about his particular astrological sign, he bellows, "Well I don't believe any of that. I think it's a bunch of bullshit. But I tell you this: I'm gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames".
Perhaps that was my Dad's secret philosophy during retirement. Despite our political differences, there was one issue in which we were in complete agreement: Peak Oil. We both agreed that because of the way our economy is structured, there is an expiration date to the Happy-Motoring-Continental-Jet-Set-Society we are currently consuming and consumed by. We may have reached our conclusions through different people, Dad through Matthew Simmons and David Goodstein, me through Michael Ruppert and Richard Heinberg, but we both understood the ultimate destination. But I think my father knew intuitively that he would not experience the ultimate destination. So he got his kicks before the whole shithouse went up in flames. How did he accomplish this? During the final weekend we shared together, my older sister asked him, "How many countries did you visit in your life? Fifty three?!" He corrected her gently, "Fifty five".
While the experience of the preparation, immediacy and aftermath of my father's death has pushed politics to the background of my life and brought philosophical and spiritual matters to the forefront, finding out about the death of Osama bin Laden was still a jarring event. Of course, people I work with wanted to know the day after if I thought there was some sort of conspiracy involved with the event. Honestly, I had not given it much thought. I'm sure once the "fog of war" lifts, it will be easier to separate fact from fiction. At this point, from what I know, I sincerely doubt this was the way he wanted to go. As I indicated in a previous blog entry, I don't pretend to know enough about the spiritual realm to define it in any tangible sense. But I find it hard to believe that my Dad and Osama bin Laden are sharing the same spiritual mansion. That's not a moral judgment on my part, it's a consideration from the perspective of the life you live determining the spiritual space you inhabit. I don't see them having enough in common to share that space.
Then again, that sort of assumption undermines one of my most basic spiritual credos: Anyone who claims they comprehend the metaphysical realm is wrong, including myself! It's quite possible my father has some very valuable life lessons to teach Osama bin Laden about the art of dying before he can transition from one mansion to the next.
Perhaps Jim Morrison and George Harrison are teaching in the same room!