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The Two Worlds

Our culture is so focused on consumerism and youth that we don’t have a good model for what aging and dying could be like. All we feel is the lack of things: we’re not as youthful as we were, we’re not as limber as we were, we’re not as this, we’re not as that. Almost everything that we hear and see in the media is about how to maintain your youth as long as possible. All this focus on stopping aging implies somebody made a big mistake in the universe. It’s as if we should be getting younger instead of older.

But we’re missing a very important point. There’s something beautiful about quiet and peace. There’s something beautiful about not trying to do anything, but simply, in some way, your heart joining the whole world. There’s a time in life when we should be running around doing things. We should go out dancing; there’s a time in life for that. There’s a time in life for building something up in the world, a family , an institution, a business, a creative life; there’s a time for that. There’s also a time for becoming quiet, a time for slow conversations with people that we love, and a time for reflecting on all the things that we’ve seen in many years of living. When the time for those things comes, it’s beautiful. It’s not a terrible thing, it’s sweet. There’s also a time for letting go of our life, not “Damn, somebody’s snatching this away from me,” but “Yes, it’s beautiful to exhale after you inhale.” At the right time, when the chest is full, breathe out and let go.

Norman Fischer
from When You Greet Me I Bow; Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen

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