Now You See It, Now You Don't

Can you image having a picture perfect Christmas holiday with your husband, two boys ages five and seven, and elderly parents, when a massive tidal wave wipes away everything called "your life" except you, the sole survivor? Within a matter of minutes, with no forewarning?

Despite the Hollywood movie about a family of similar makeup who miraculously survived the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 200,000 less fortunate souls, the above scenario is quite the opposite. An autobiography by this soul survivor, who went from a state of walking dead to a life with coherence, tells it like it is. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala.

All of us will die one day - the only thing we know for sure about life. But when our reality changes so radically with no psychological preparation, the shock can be almost too much to bear. People do become mad with grief, unable to relocate the center of themselves which was severely dislocated by the unexpected - the shock of seeing others suddenly removed from the physical; assumptions about life and destiny rewritten instantaneously.

It is these assumptions that are the root of instability, because the sun will rise tomorrow but we may not. The unprepared mind that refuses to contemplate mortality will be ill-prepared for change, traumatic or otherwise. The wise ones, while not dwelling negatively or morbidly, will remain aware and grateful for the moment - while simultaneously understanding that it is already finished...gone...caput...in another time-space reality.

Actually understanding and integrating these facts are a different matter, however. A great Buddhist teacher who lived in the 11th century talked often to his students about the nature of impermanence and attachment. But one day, his son was dragged to death by his horse and this wise man sobbed uncontrollably for days. His students were aghast, and asked him, "Why are you crying if you say everything is an illusion?" And the teacher replied, "Because my son was super-illusion." 

And herein lies the rub.

 

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