مرگ و بیداری

کتاب: سلامتی در 100 سالگی / فصل 18

مرگ و بیداری

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18 - Death and Awakening

I know everybody has to die sooner or later. But I thought an exception would be made in my case.

—William Saroyan

Afew years ago, I received a letter from a woman in Southern California. She wrote that she and her husband had for many years avidly followed a path of health. Their lifestyle, she believed, had been exemplary. They had practiced yoga and meditated, and neither of them had let a single bite of anything containing refined sugar pass their lips. They exercised regularly and never took any drugs, not even so much as an aspirin. They had been very happy together, she said, and had believed that by eating healthful foods and undertaking other sound health practices they would never fall ill.

But now she felt bitter, angry, and cheated. In his fifties, her husband had developed cancer and died. What was the point, she lamented, of all their health diligence, when this could still happen? Despondent and feeling betrayed, she had given up any semblance of health discipline and was stuffing herself with hamburgers, candy, and the other unwholesome foods she had forgone for years. She no longer exercised, and had gained more than 70 pounds in the three years since her husband’s death. She had developed diabetes and was overwhelmingly depressed.

Reading this woman’s letter, I felt sorrow. I felt sad for her loss of her husband, and sad for how depressed, despondent, and bitter she had become. And I felt sad, too, that she and her husband had held the misguided belief that their diet and lifestyle could guarantee them everlasting health.

There is something innocent and childlike about believing that if you eat only healthful foods and exercise enough, you will never become ill. There is a part of all of us that would like to be able to follow some magic rule or obey some infallible authority and thereby be guaranteed freedom from all suffering. But life just doesn’t work that way. Life is far more unpredictable, and far more mysterious.

I’ve known raw food aficionados who believe that all cooked food is unhealthful and who, when they become ill, blame it on the one piece of cooked food they’ve recently eaten. I’ve known zealous Atkins adherents who demonize carbs and then agonize because in a lapse of willpower they ate a baked potato. I’ve known people who believe that if they eat only pure food and take thousands of dollars’ worth of supplements, they will live indefinitely.

A good diet and exercise regimen is important, and living healthfully can make a tremendous difference. But there are many other factors in our lives that also have great influence over our health. Someone may die of a skin cancer at age fifty that began as the result of a teenage sunburn. Some cancers—particularly breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers—start in the womb, engendered in part by the food our mothers ate and the chemicals in their environments. We live in a world that is becoming increasingly toxic and polluted. There are many environmental exposures over which we have no control. Some diseases occur whose origins are complete mysteries, descending on people seemingly out of the blue no matter what their lifestyle. Others develop that are intimately linked to social factors such as poverty and dangerous working conditions. There are powerful forces in our world that are undermining relationships, forcing people to work insane hours, and poisoning our air and water.

Because the food we eat is one factor that we can often control, we sometimes attribute to it a degree of importance that is inconsistent with reality. Doing so can give us the illusion that we are completely in charge. We may feel that nothing bad can happen to us as long as we adhere with sufficient stringency to the dietary regimen in which we have invested such magical powers. The trouble is that even people with perfect diets sometimes get cancer. Horrible things can, and often do, happen to people who do not deserve them.

The woman who wrote to me had believed that her and her husband’s lifestyle would guarantee them long lives without illness. When this belief was so painfully punctured, she was left bereft and unable to cope. Hers is a very sad story, and I tell it here not to embarrass her or find fault with her in any way, but in the hope that others might learn something from her experience.

I wrote back to her that I was sorry to learn of her loss and how much suffering she had experienced. I spoke to her of the pain and disillusionment I’ve known in my own life, when ideals and dreams I had believed in came crashing down around me, and of the life I had found on the other side of disillusionment and despair.

Later in the letter, I said I hoped that in time she would be able to see that it is possible to make healthy choices, not in the belief that by doing so she would never be ill or die, but because she knows that suffering occurs in every human life, and she wants to prevent as much illness as she can and alleviate as much suffering as she is able. It is possible to take responsibility for your health and life, I wrote, not to avoid everything painful in the human experience, but to lessen suffering and to enrich and illumine who you are with wisdom and love.

I wrote that her letter reminded me of something I once heard from a wise man: “If you go forward, you will die. If you go backward, you will die. It is better to go forward.”

GOING FORWARD

The point of going forward—of working to make your life a positive expression of your highest vision—is not to avoid all suffering and death, for that is not within the realm of human possibility. The point, rather, is to meet all of your life experiences, including the most difficult ones, with the greatest powers of love and healing within you. The gift of going forward is not that you will never physically decline or fall ill, but that you will be less likely to do so prematurely, and better able to enter wholly into your life and meet whatever the world brings you with grace and wisdom.

If you eat natural foods, jog, or meditate because you feel better when you do, because you feel closer to yourself and more alive, then even if you should die younger than you might wish, you will not regret having cared for yourself. If you experience a particular diet or lifestyle as a point of entry into greater presence and well-being, then whatever happens, you’ll be grateful for your choices. If lifting weights or doing yoga or aerobic exercise provides you with more access to yourself, if it brings you balance and strength, if it helps you listen to your body, then even if serious illness occurs, you’ll be glad you’ve done everything you could on behalf of your wellness, and thankful for the life you’ve lived.

A healthful diet and lifestyle almost always lead to a longer and healthier life. They provide increased vitality, improved resistance to disease, and a greater sense of wholeness and freedom. But even the finest exercise and diet plan cannot forever overcome the inevitability of aging. Eventually, even the best-cared-for bodies begin to weaken and no longer function as once they did.

In our appearance-oriented society, aging can seem like a misfortune. But in the process of aging, people often come to understandings that are crucial to the completion and fulfillment of their lives. They learn something about loss and acceptance. They may have to cope with enormous difficulties—a husband dying, a wife getting cancer, even the death of a child. They come to know how vulnerable everyone is. They understand there are no easy answers, and that life is hard at times for everyone.

We have so much to learn from the old. There was a cartoon in The New Yorker entitled “Yuppie Angst.” A man is saying, “Oh no, I spilled cappuccino on my down jacket.” Elders, who have seen their families and friends die, who have seen generations of children being born, can have a deeper understanding of tragedy. Closer to death, they are much more in touch with the cycles of life. They understand what makes a life worth living. They know there is little point in having low cholesterol and rock hard abs if you don’t love your life.

FINDING BEAUTY EVERYWHERE

There is a story about a mother who asked a little girl to offer grace at breakfast. Agreeing to do so, the little girl began, “We thank you, dear God, for this beautiful day.”

“Bless you, my dear,” said her mother, “for offering the prayer, but apparently you didn’t look outdoors before you prayed. It’s raining and it’s a dismal day.”

“Mother,” responded the little girl. “Never judge a day by its weather.”

The little girl understood how important it is to bring our love to all our moods and experiences. This means finding the beauty and giving thanks for the opportunities in every phase of our lives. This is not always easy, but it is of immense significance.

We are all vulnerable and naked before the mysteries of life. Sometimes when we look deeply and honestly at our woundedness, we discover our power, our joy, and our will to live. We realize that we can accept imperfections, and that our lives don’t have to be perfect to be precious.

A human life has its seasons, much as the earth has seasons, and each one has its own particular beauty and possibilities. When we ask life to remain perpetually spring, we turn the natural process of life into a process of loss rather than a process of celebration and ap-preciation.

THINGS BECOME BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU LOVE THEM

There are those who, when they look in the mirror and see signs of aging—a new gray hair, a new wrinkle or blemish—rush to cover it up with some cream, ointment, or dye. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to “look your best,” but if you are at war with the aging process, you are going to lose. Those who try to pretend that they aren’t aging will find themselves in an impossible race with death. As Morrie Schwartz said, “If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it will happen anyway.” Some years ago, an advertising executive working for a large beauty products company had a bright idea. In its ads, the company began asking people to send in photographs along with brief letters about the most beautiful women they knew. Within a short time, the company had received more than a thousand photos and letters.

One particular letter caught the attention of the employee whose job it was to open and sort them, and eventually the letter made its way to the company president. It was filled with spelling and punctuation errors, and was written by a young boy living in a very rough neighborhood. He wrote of a beautiful woman who lived down the street. “I visit her every day,” he wrote. “And she makes me feel like the most important kid in the world. We play checkers and she listens to my problems and gives me apples. She understands me. When I leave, she always yells out the door, for the whole world to hear, that she’s proud of me.” The boy ended his letter by saying, “I don’t know if you can tell by this picture, but she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I hope I someday have a wife as pretty as her.”

Curious, the company president asked to see the photograph that had accompanied the letter. His secretary handed it to him. It showed a smiling woman whose sparse gray hair was pulled back in a bun. She was well along in years, her face bore many wrinkles, and she was sitting in a wheelchair. Yet her eyes were luminous with kindness and joy.

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

What really matters isn’t whether you color your hair or get Botox injections. What matters is that you greet the experiences of your life, including the signs of your aging, with love and acceptance rather than disdain. Every life stage has its unique gifts and powers. What’s most important is that your inner beauty shine through your life.

It is no indictment of healthful paths that they lead, as all paths eventually do, to the moment that you pass from this world. Life choices that can help your days be full of accomplishment, peace, and satisfaction are no small achievement. A way of life that lengthens your years, helps mobilize your inner resources, adds to your feelings of well-being and comfort, and enables the power of your spirit to illumine your days is a great blessing.

In the world’s healthiest cultures, old age is not seen as a curse, and death is not seen as an enemy. Rather, the entire arc of the human condition is seen as an ever-changing series of opportunities for growth, fulfillment, and love. When people die, their whole community comes together in celebration of the continually changing nature of life.

These cultures understand and accept the entire life cycle. Death is real and close, and people have continual opportunities to remember the transiency of life. Rituals honoring those who have previously passed on are woven into the daily life of the community.

In the modern West, on the other hand, we are conditioned not only to deny death but to view it as a failure. Even though most of us want to die at home, not in a hospital, and want to die naturally, not hooked up to life support, in the end very few of us get what we want.

What one 78-year-old man experienced in a Western hospital is all too common. After he witnessed the intubation and unsuccessful attempted resuscitation of a fellow patient, he begged to be left alone. “Listen, doctor,” he implored his physician, “I don’t want to die with tubes sticking out all over me. I don’t want that my children should remember their father that way. All my life I tried to be a mensch, you understand?…Rich I wasn’t, but I managed to put my sons through college. I wanted to be able to hold my head up, to have dignity, even though I didn’t have much money and didn’t speak good English. Now I’m dying. Okay. I’m not complaining, I’m old and tired and have seen enough of life, believe me. But I still want to be a man, not a vegetable that someone comes and waters every day—not like him.” Although this man was a competent adult and made his wishes clear, they were not honored. He was “coded,” tagged by hospital personnel to be resuscitated at all costs. Eventually, he managed to disconnect himself from the machinery, leaving a handwritten note to his physician: “Death is not the enemy, Doctor. Inhumanity is.” It’s now been forty years since the birth of the hospice movement, with its emphasis on helping people die with dignity and peace, often in the comfort of their homes. But in Western medicine, the end of life remains hypermedicalized. When someone approaches death, we still typically fight it every step of the way.

LEARNING TO HONOR DEATH

Some of us have a particularly hard time accepting death. Immediately after U.S. baseball star and national icon Ted Williams died in 2002, his spinal cord was severed and his head was separated from his body. Then both his head and body were coated in a glycerin-based solution, placed in a pool of liquid nitrogen, brought to a temperature of minus 206.5 degrees Centigrade, and stored in this cryogenically frozen state. This procedure, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, was done at the behest of Williams’s son, who wanted to believe that his father might someday, when medical science had become far more advanced, be brought back to life.

Most of us find that our difficulties with accepting death take less dramatic forms, but for all of us, facing death can be very hard. “Even the wise fear death,” said the Buddha. “Life clings to life.” There may be some of us who have overcome this fear, but most of us are afraid of dying. There is no shame in this, for it is part of our nature. We all experience the desire to push death away, to pretend life will go on forever. But still, every day on earth, hundreds of thousands of people die.

This rhythm is as steady as a heartbeat, continuing unabated day and night, winter and summer, everywhere that human beings live. Stephen Levine, who has spent decades counseling the terminally ill, reminds us that some people die from starvation while others die from overeating. Some die of thirst, others by drowning. Some die while still children. Others die of old age. Some people die in confusion, suffering from a life that remains to some degree unlived, from a death they cannot accept. Others die in surrender with their minds open and their hearts at peace. We often make an artificial distinction between “the dying,” by which we mean those who have some idea of the limit that has been placed on their lives, and the rest of us, who have no idea how much time we have left. Thinking this way enables us to avoid thinking about our own dying. If we think about dying people as a separate group, we can imagine that we are not dying. We can pretend that it isn’t happening to us. But every day that passes brings us steadily closer to our death. It is happening to each of us, and it is happening to everyone we know and everyone we love.

There is a story in the Buddhist tradition of a woman whose only son dies. Consumed with grief, she carries the body of her dead child from house to house, asking for medicine to cure him. Some people react with pity, others shun her, but all sense that the pain of losing her son has been too much for her and has driven her insane. Eventually, the woman goes to the Buddha and cries out, “Lord, give me the medicine that will bring back my son!” Buddha answers, “I will help you. But first please bring me a handful of mustard seeds.” The mother is overjoyed, and says she will do so immediately, when the Buddha adds, “But each mustard seed must come from a home which has not known death, from a house where no one has lost a child, a husband, a parent, or a friend.” The mother again goes from house to house in the village, asking for mustard seeds. Everyone is eager to provide the seeds, but when she asks, “Did a son or daughter, a father or mother, die in your family?” they answer her, “Alas, yes,” and tell her of the loved ones they have lost. She searches for days, but can find no house in which some beloved person has not died.

Finally, the woman finds herself on a roadside, feeling weary and hopeless. She watches the lights of the town as they flicker and then are extinguished at the end of the day. At last the darkness of the night reigns everywhere, and she sits contemplating the immutable fate of humanity.

When she returns to the Buddha, he says to her: “The life of mortals in this world is troubled and brief and combined with pain. For there is not any means by which those who have been born can avoid dying.” Allowing her pain now to be what it is, the mother buries her son in the forest. No longer denying the truth, she vows to devote the remainder of her life to the nurturance of compassion and wisdom in the world.

GOING HOME

When Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., was director of the pediatric inpatient division at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco, she heard angry voices coming from inside her office as she arrived for work one day. Several of the staff nurses and resident doctors had gathered there and were very upset. Apparently, someone had told a five-year-old boy who was in the end stages of leukemia that he was going home that day. He had told a nurse to pack his things, pointing with excitement to his tiny suitcase in the closet. “I’m going home today,” he had told her. Remen describes the scene: The nurse was horrified. Who could have promised this terribly sick little boy that he could go home when he had no platelets or white cells? When everyone knew he was so fragile he could bleed to death from the slightest injury? She asked the other nurses on her shift and the previous shift if they had told the child he might go home. No one had said a word to him.

The outraged nurses then accused the young doctors. The doctors were incensed at the suggestion that it was one of them who had callously promised such an impossible thing. The discussion had grown more heated and was moved to the privacy of my office. “Could he go home by ambulance, just for an hour?” they asked me, unwilling to disappoint him and destroy his hopes. It seemed too dangerous. “Did anybody ask him who told him he could go home?” I said. Of course, no one had wanted to talk to him about that.… A few hours later the child said he was tired. He lay down, pulling his sheet over his head, and quietly slipped away. The staff took his death hard. He was a love of a little boy and they had cared for him for a long time. Yet many told me privately how relieved they were that he had died before he had discovered that someone had lied to him and he couldn’t go home. Conditioned to think of death as the enemy, members of the hospital staff did not consider that the child might actually have been profoundly attuned, sensing that he was, indeed, “going home” that day.

Our society has taught us to fear death, but there are other possible ways to look at it. “Death is not extinguishing the light,” wrote the Indian poet and visionary Rabindranath Tagore. “It is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.” Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and philosopher, was long known and beloved for his work by millions of Arabic-speaking people. In the last twenty years of his life, Gibran lived in the United States and began to write in English. In his book The Prophet, he wrote, For what is it to die,

but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing,

but to free the breath from its restless tides,

that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed

  sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then shall you begin

  to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly

  dance.

AWAKENING

Our culture’s attitude, in which death is seen as a failure, either of the doctor or the patient, is at odds with that of almost every traditional culture. But it has insinuated itself deeply into all of us. Could it be the denial of death in our culture that underlies our fear of aging and our lack of respect for the elderly?

How would our lives be different if we could realize that tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone? How would our lives change if we understood that time is only lent to us, that our days are but a trust handed into our temporary keeping?

If we were to grasp fully that someday we too shall die, would it help us to answer the poet Mary Oliver’s question, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It has been said that there are two very important days in each human life. One is the day we are born. The other is the day we know why we were born. I have known many people who have never experienced that second day, who have never understood the purpose of their lives, and so have come to their deaths not knowing whether they have really lived. The Methodist bishop Gerald Kennedy once described the most tragic kind of funeral service a minister is called upon to conduct: It is not the kind that would seem obviously to be tragic. It is not the service for a youth whose life has been snuffed out before he has even reached maturity, nor is it for the infant who never gets a chance at living. Rather, it is for those who have never learned to live, who come to their final hours with no friends and have contributed nothing with the time and talents entrusted to them. Similarly, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until I am 75 and yet not ever truly have lived.” Though Dr. King was assassinated at the age of only thirty-nine, he knew one of the great secrets of the human experience: It doesn’t really matter much at what age you pass from this world. The quality of a human life cannot be measured in years. What really matters is how much love, wisdom, and courage you have brought to the life you were given.

Finding the fountain of youth is not about living forever. It’s about allowing your life to be guided by the beauty of your soul. It’s about finding the fountain of joy and the fountain of life. It’s about living so fully that you know you have really lived. It’s about loving so fully that you know you have really loved.

May you find the fountain of youth, not as an exotic place somewhere hidden and remote, but within yourself, as the very way you walk through life. May your sorrow as well as your joy be a doorway into your greater heart. May you find your way through the fathomless mystery of your life to the source of all that is good and true.

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. May you live so that when you die, the world will cry and you will rejoice.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

Talk about what matters to you. Even if your voice trembles, speak the truth as you see it.

Laugh often. Cry when needed. Be humbled by the vastness of the universe.

Celebrate transitions. Create rituals to affirm how you want to experience and enjoy each new stage of your life. Celebrate the summer and winter solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes. Notice the special gifts and beauties each season brings. Take pleasure in small things. Defy the myth that more is always better. Rejoice in the power of humility. Remember that small is beautiful.

Know how much is enough. Honor the yearning for a slower pace of life with more time for joyful relationships, fulfilling work, and living your dreams. Live simply so that others may simply live. Give away everything that is cluttering your life. Have nothing in your house that is not useful or beautiful.

Always remember that it is the small, simple things you do every day that bring light to this world.

Consider what you would want to do if you knew you had only six months to live. See how many of these things you can do in the next two years.

Whatever your stage of life, create an affirmation or visualization that reflects your goals for yourself. Twice a day, as you wake up in the morning and as you fall asleep at night, mentally repeat your affirmation or visualization, and engage your imagination on behalf of making your goals your reality.

Never let the fact that you cannot be what you would like to be prevent you from being and appreciating what you can be. Stand for your vision of what is possible, and never underestimate your power to make a difference. Sing, even if you think you can’t.

Never be ashamed of the privileges that have come into your life. Never be ashamed of the gifts that have been given to you. Use them for the good of us all.

Get enough sleep. Remember your dreams and share them. Keep a dream journal. Over time, watch for recurring images or themes. See what you can learn from them.

Take time to meditate, write poetry, or keep a journal.

Share a story with family or friends, or write in your journal, about a time when you were humbled, soothed, or awed by something in the natural world.

Give thanks for your life, for your health, and for this beautiful earth.

Sit quietly in nature and listen. Respect all life.

Pet cats, dogs, and other animals. And hug people—lots. You are never too old to ask for a hug, and never too old to offer one.

Sit with someone who is dying. Meditate, pray, sing, or read to them.

Become a hospice volunteer.

Support the family or partner of someone in your community who is nearing death. Bring food, run errands, clean his/her house, massage his/her shoulders.

Speak to those who are close to you about the major illnesses of your life. Honor the insights into yourself and your way of life that you have gleaned from being sick.

If you are faced with a serious health challenge, get the best medical care you can, and make sure you take time to honor and care for your mind, heart, and spirit as well as your body. Rather than seeing the crisis as merely an obstacle to be overcome, use it as an opportunity to discover what is most important in your life. Hold what is frightened, painful, and neglected in yourself with the tenderness and compassion with which you would hold a newborn baby. Remember that you do not have to do anything or be anything in order to be happy and worthy of love. If you have suffered a major loss, keep a grief journal. Write down whatever you are feeling, as a daily exercise in self-exploration and expression. Write about whatever you are experiencing, including anger or despair if those feelings arise.

Identify an ancestor or some historical figure in whose lineage you feel yourself to be, and do something to pay tribute to his or her spirit.

Celebrate death days as well as birthdays. On the anniversary of a loved one’s death, create a way to remember her and to honor how her spirit lives on in you. Set up an altar of remembrance, using photos, letters, and objects that carry memories.

Write in your journal or talk to friends or family about your death. Describe your vision of how you want to die.

Remember that at the end of your days on this earth, the question will not be how much you have, but how much you have given; not how much you have won, but how much you have loved. 

Celebrate your uniqueness, realizing that there is no one in this entire world with your talents, your eyes or your heart, your fingerprints or your dreams.

Give yourself unlimited permission to be healthy, happy, and at peace.

Remember that one who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.

Acknowledgments

The older I get, the more I realize how dependent I am on the love and support of others. At one time in my life, I thought it was a weakness to be dependent on other people. But I have come to see it very differently.

A nineteenth-century rabbi, Menachem Mendel, said, “Human beings are God’s language.” By this I think he meant that in answer to our needs and prayers, God sends us people. Friends, lovers, family members, neighbors, even those who appear to be our opponents or enemies, each of them helps to make us who we are.

Words cannot convey my immense gratitude to the people whose steadfast love and presence made it possible for me to write this book during a very challenging period of my life. This book would not have been even remotely possible without their help.

I thank Deo Robbins, my wife of forty years, for the vastness of her caring. I thank our son, Ocean Robbins, for being there for me when I needed him, time and again. I thank our daughter-in-love, Michele Robbins, for holding the space so deeply for all to prosper and be well. These three people continually inspire me with their commitment to life and to love. I am profoundly privileged to share my life with them.

I thank Doug Abrams for his belief in me, and for his deep willingness to learn and grow and share his passion. He is my friend as well as my literary agent, and I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have his help in the creation of this book.

I thank Caroline Sutton, the book’s editor at Random House. Her keen perception and deep understanding have contributed mar-velously to its fruition. And I thank her and the team at Random House for the strength of their belief in me and in this book.

I thank my team of “ruthless readers,” the friends and colleagues who read the manuscript at various stages and made so many fine suggestions. In particular I thank Kimberly Carter, John Borders, and John Astin, who gave deep attention to the manuscript and whose reflections have been invaluable. I also thank Bob Stahl, Michael Klaper, Tom Burt, Patti Breitman, and Jeff and Sabrina Nelson for the quality of their attention, insights, and feedback. We all need friends who will tell us not only what we want to hear, but what we need to hear in order to grow. This book would not be what it is without their honesty and clarity.

I thank Don Weaver for his intrepid help in sharing with me many hard-to-find and out-of-print publications.

There are many other people whose love and attention have made it possible for me to write this book and to thrive. I thank Craig Schindler, Katchie Egger, Ann Mortifee, and Jessica Simkovic, each of whose love has meant and means the world to me. And so many others. You know who you are. I am blessed to have you in my heart and life.

I thank you, dear reader, for joining me in the search for a way of life that finds health in honoring the human spirit and our interdependence with one another and the whole earth community.

In a brightly lit room, a lighted candle is a lovely decoration and symbol. In a completely dark room, a lighted candle is far more than that—it enables us to see. Similarly, in these dark times when there is so much suffering and violence in our world, each person who keeps the flame of spirit lit with the search for truth and compassion is a blessing to us all.

Thank you for all your efforts, including those that may have seemed wasted, to bring love and wisdom to your life and to our troubled world. I appreciate every step you have taken, and every step you will yet take, toward a wiser, healthier, and more just world.

May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved.

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