In two hours I will leave to New York.
The back seat of my car is full of Bernie: a red beret, cigars, suspenders, a Greyston Bakery jacket, his bag for street retreats, photos, a colorful drawing of him cooking (referring to his book Instructions to the Cook) ,even an old notebook from 1973 containing his notes on the ango (Zen intensive) at Zen Center of Los Angeles and the various attendees and their roles.
What I did was, I went all around the house and my left hand reached for this and the right for that, anything that had his flavor, that conveyed a piece of the man.
On Saturday I will go into the Founders’ Room at Greyston and, together with friends, set it all out.
On Thursday and Friday we will have two day-long meetings with other teachers regarding the Zen Peacemaker Order.
On Sunday will be his big memorial.
On Monday I will go home.
On Tuesday I will start moving things around to make room for someone who is coming here to share this house.
A few people have emailed me saying, in essence, not to live in the past, not to let grief have so much sway, and to welcome the life I have now. My answer to that is: You grieve in your way, and I will grieve in mine.
What will probably come up over the next days is the contrast between the public and the personal. This relationship between the public and the private has accompanied me for a long time. There are things you keep to yourself, there are things spoken of publicly. I’m not talking of bad things you keep private, it’s just an entire sphere that belongs to you, to you and him alone. But the line between the two isn’t always clear.
As a good Zen practitioner, I was trained to ask myself only one question: What serves? Before you open your mouth, what is of benefit to those around you, and what is not? Those were my guidelines over many years. But there is magic in transparency, there is vulnerability in unveiling.
In the end Bernie seemed so indifferent to others’ impressions of him. I think he dwelt in the verse from Shakespeare’s Tempest that a friend sent me yesterday:
“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
I think Bernie badly wanted to sleep, and that’s a comfort to me now.
So where is our private sphere now that he’s sleeping? In a quiet, deep, internal space. In looking out at the snow, in shutting the door behind me when the public sphere is over and being alone.
This blog will be silent till next week.
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