A Self-reflective Life Writings of Deane H Shapiro, Jr
Finding My Piece of the Cosmic Puzzle Seeking to gain and maintain a positive sense of control
Across the lifecycle
In my early 20’s, after traveling over a year with my beloved wife Johanna in Asia, including spending time at a Zen Monastery in Kyoto, a Ch’an monastery in Taiwan, I wrote a vita for returning to graduate school, the first line of which was a quote from Gandhi “Life is a series of experiments, whose goal is self-perfection.” Ah, the vision and optimism of youth!
In my mid 30’s, living in the jungle in Bali, I spent the night of Buddha’s birthday, meditating on his enlightenment at 35 and Jesus’ enlightenment and wisdom during his 33 years on earth. I titled the poem, “Missed again.”
In my late 40’s I was living near the Sea of Galilee in Safed, Israel, a place where the main problem is purported to be the difficulty getting sleep because of the loud flapping of angel wings. I spent time meditating at the grave of Rabbi Luria, a beloved mystical Kabbalist, trying to come to terms with and even succeeding to some extent with my death.
I then went to Egypt, where I climbed the Mt. purported to be Sinai. The night before I visited Saint Catherine’s Monastery, where, in the hall of skulls, I read about one priest who said his mission was to serve water. I had an aha moment. What a beautiful piece of the cosmic puzzle. To serve water to those in the desert.
In my 60’s I created a wall of Elder Wisdom. Yes, there is still the Gandhi life as experiment; yes, there is still some seeking to increase “skillful habits.” Toward the end of life, though, that effort at self-improvement is really more connected toward service and sharing, motivated by Gandhi’s words “be the change you want to see in the world.” Or as Rumi wrote, “Wherever you are, be the soul of the place.” As my garden grows smaller, I still wish to tend it in a way that “serves water.”And to that end, now I am creating this website as a final sharing. This is what will be left when I’m gone. Hopefully, as Basho’s haiku says, “The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.”
In my 70’s
Swiftly Go the Years
majestic mirror, endings….
bow of gratefulness
Interestingly, one day while working on this, I walked into my office, to find the afternoon sun coming through my window, and casting a shadow of the Rodin thinker sculpture that sits on my desk. The shadow landed on my desk chair. Really!?! At the base of the statue I’d taped Buddha’s last words: “all sentient beings are of a nature to pass away. Practice Diligently.”
One day there will be no me, and all that is left will be the shadow of a thinker who sat here.
Ah, a perfect reminder!
* * *
I shared this picture with Johanna, who over the course of these past nearly fifty years, has read, edited, and been involved with almost every word of these writings (and my life!) including the joyful journey of raising three children, and being participants in the life of six grandchildren. Her response was
Oh this is extraordinary! What an amazing occurrence. It is wonderful and poignant. This picture conveys what you say in the writing – this was your chair, one day you will no longer be in it, and only the shadow of the thinker will remain. Wow. Powerful. It is a remarkable event. I love you so much, you’re such an amazing guy. Love, J