I’m out of steam. But I’m not supposed to admit that am I?
I’ve been thinking about the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, the pathos of loneliness, the reminders of our inevitable end. But I do not want to focus on these. Besides US writer and humanist Andrew Solomon has written Suicide, A Crime of Loneliness in today’s The New Yorker, prompting us to think differently and reminding us that we are all alone. We are all island universes. And yet we aren’t.
Someone commits suicide every 40 minutes, Solomon starts the article. It is the 10th most common cause of death for people over the age of 10 in the US. And suicide rates are going up, he says. I do not walk to talk about suicide. It’s a subject I know far too much about and yet understand so little.
I want to write something positive. Searching, I pull out some cards from American buddhist nun Pema Chodron. The first card says ”Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence”. On the back it explains: ”There is a resting place, a starting place that you can always return to. You can always bring your mind back home and rest right here, right now, in present, unbiased awareness.”
I do not know what alaya is. I’m not buddhist. But I want to become a better person and Chodron has ways of helping me do that. I will rest and find that centered place.
Still I’m not completely satisfied with resting my mind so I pull out another card: ”All activities should be done with one intention.” I flip it over: ”Whatever you are doing, take the attitude of wanting it directly or indirectly to benefit others, Take the attitude of wanting it to increase your experience of kinship with your fellow beings.”
Surely that’s what belonging is all about? Building kinship and trying to benefit others. It feels a bit pompous, to my self-conscious self, to think that my writing helps people. But I am passionate about understanding what real belonging feels like and looks like and I want that to help all of us.
Truth is one of the cornerstones of belonging. To find true belonging, we must be honest with ourselves and honest with others. We need to search out the honesty inside us, especially when we are unsure.
So when someone asks me how I’m doing, I will be honest. My heart is with my uncle and aunt and my family in Canada. The spiritual me is searching out new ways to understand belonging. The physical me is resting. With my feet up.
”No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.” John Donne Meditation XVII