Why are we here anyway?

I have a Buddha on a window sill of my loft. He looks upon me all day.

In my early twenties I had no understanding of Buddhism, but I did read over and over a collection of Zen stories, “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones,” compiled by an American, Paul Reps (he died in 1990). The stories are forms of parables – the meanings are held by the anecdotes.

Some are well known and inscrutable to me (“The Sound of One Hand Clapping” – I have no idea) and others less well known but understood by me (“Not far from Buddhahood”).

The story that stays with me, whose meaning evolves with me, is, “Announcement.” Here is the story in its entirety:

“Tanzan wrote sixty post cards on the last day of his life and asked an attendant to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world. This is my last announcement. Tanzan. July 27, 1892.”

The humility.

A poet whose name and whose poem I cannot recall wrote about finding a dead beetle on its back with its six legs tucked in order. The beetle died. It’s time had come. Nothing more.

Last year a friend of mine died quietly. She had several rounds of fights with cancer until the cancer was stronger and took her. She knew what was coming and carried herself with dignity.

Why are we here?

I know it’s very easy to waste the short time we have. And then one day will be the day of our last announcements and we will rest with our hands placed in order. I know what is coming for me eventually, inevitably. May I carry myself with dignity.

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