Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade: Suicide and Renunciation


On Wednesday I had a quiet moment of reflection before the lights went down and "The Remains" started. I guess I was thinking about Kate Spade. I turned to my college friend and asked if he knew how special we were. He didn't understand. I explained that we have known each other for 20 yrs and we're still here. We have problems, but nothing crippling, no trauma, finances are fine, love life is ok, professional life is moving along, parents aren't crazy, we have siblings and relatives who aren't leeches or trying to create drama, we went to a great school, had opportunities, and managed not to make the wrong decisions in a million different ways. A million different decisions we made as teenagers, mostly in ignorance or by guessing or just remembering what our parents said. But we didn't really know.

My friend said he thought that was most people: that they had their stuff together, a circle of friends, and stability. I scoffed at that idea. Maybe even if I did believe that the vast majority of humanity is all right (which I do NOT) the window of good fortune in this life is so short. The time in adulthood when our shit is together and we still have a relatively young body and mind is really short in comparison to the rest of life, when things are either on the upside of the hill or the long downside. I wanted to acknowledge that because circumstances could change at any moment. Or the next decision I make in regard to finances, professions, love, or friendships could result in catastrophe. 

Yesterday was a Buddhist holiday. I was on an early morning train from DC to NYC when the news popped up about Anthony Bourdain's suicide. I arrived back in NYC, changed, and went to the gym. My trainer seemed morose. As it turns out, he was Bourdain's sparring partner in jujitsu. They had just spoken a week ago. He shows me some pictures of him and Anthony in their martial arts uniforms. I am reminded once again of renunciation. Master Dharma Rakshita's "Wheel of Knives" comes into my head. I search my phone for the opening verse of renunciation. I find a text I sent to a friend a few weeks ago during the last Buddhist holiday:

"Peacocks wander in the midst
of a forest of poison trees;
a garden of healing herbs and plants
may be something lovely,
but peacocks have no love for them-
They live off poison itself.

Bodhisattva warriors are the same:
a garden of comfort and pleasure
may be something lovely
But the warriors have no attachment for them-
They live off a forest of pain.

The kings of cowardice who pursue
comfort and pleasures find themselves
transported instead to pain.
Those mighty warriors who pursue
pain for others find themselves,
forever surrounded by bliss
by the power of their courage."

- opening excerpts of "The Wheel of Knives"
by Master Dharma Rakshita and passed on to Lord Atisha (982-1052)

Every day we are balancing on a razor's edge of good fortune and love. And I guess it makes me want to be more kind to other people because we are all there. On the edge.

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