Extreme realities

Frank Cotolo

Two people may sleep in the same bed, under covers, sharing pillows and space, yet their individual dreams don’t just differ, they differ greatly, so greatly that one of them may yawn and the other may throw up a little in the mouth. There is an ancient saying that may even be older than ancient, that goes, “We share reality, but who’s counting?”

A single sense of reality is only real to those who absorb the truth of life and death, both of which cause great concern to those of us who like taking walks in the morning air. We are bound by life and death, though leather straps hold us more tightly while conscious. It is our reality we share more than our sleeping spaces, more than our appreciation of a good kiss with tongue.

You and I see birth and death as one extreme and not two extremes, even though one extreme plus one extreme equals two extremes. Certainly the absence of death extends life, but only until one dies. Then it ends, as all deaths promise.

I studied many years with Zen monks to understand that in order to be transcendental, you must understand it has nothing to do with your teeth. I talked for days and nights about ridding myself of birth and death but then a Zen monk made me realize had I not been born I would not be able to talk about it and that I would die simply because I was born. This not only ruined by next birthday party, it made me listen to a story the Zen Master told me as I struggled to blow out all of the candles on my cake.

“I went to the Sixth Proprietor of Zen,” he said, “and asked him about life and death. He said, ‘Why do you ask when you do not understand, as if an answer would help you realize that linear thought is born of death and death ends all questions?’

“So I left him and went directly to K-Mart, understanding in full that the K in K-Mart stands for karma and if I died there, my life would not be the only end experienced. The store itself would end having me as an experience. Am I right? Of course, the customer is always right.”

There are those who deny birth and death but they have been born to deny them. There are those who embrace birth and deaths in all things but only when their arms are long enough to perform embracing. Most of all there is you and there is me and we both know we will die. So don’t, whatever you do, take up more than your own side of the bed.


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