Einmal Ist Keinmal
“What happens but once might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.” Ever the devout Buddhist he was able to comfort himself with the thought that this was not the only life to be lived, and yet this book had resonated with him, its words had resonated with him.
It was a gray day near the end of spring and he had found himself waiting for his lovers return from counseling. She had recommended this book to him but he had not found the time to read it until now, in her absence. It was an interesting read and he could see why she had come to appreciate it so much as she did, but his mind wandered to loosely for its word to sink in. He put it down to think, to ponder the boundary between that which could be considered life and that which was living.
For a Buddhist like him, to die meant not to cease existing but to be born into another life in some other form. He knew he would not retain his memory, nor could he comprehend what such a transition would entail, but he could rest comforted by the prospect of continuing life, no matter how cyclic the suffering within those lives could be. Still, there was always something within him that was uneasy even with this.
If he could not remember this life, and would become a totally different being altogether, than what was there to hold him in the next life? If the only commonality he would share with his future self was the plain nature of existence than what really separated rebirth of this kind from death? How could he live on if his ego could not?
The Buddhist stopped this chain of thought quickly, reminding himself of the ego’s deception. He stopped for a moment to find his center, to identify with it as his inner nature rather than his personality, his thoughts and his memories. All of these things seemed so transient and empty that they could not hold his weight now as he clung to them, and yet his mind was always reaching out for their reassurance.
How tragic to develop this illusion, so comforting, only to have it destroyed in death. How than was the Buddhist death different, truly different, from that of the atheist? He stopped. When last he had questioned his faith he had come to the conclusion that he did not believe in God, a realization which rocked him to the core. Now was not the time for doubt. The wisdom he had discovered within Buddhism had not filled God’s void but it had begun, at least, to patch it up. For now it was worth believing.
Of course Buddhism had presented itself to him with a comfortable clause. As he understood it, the Buddha did not claim supreme rule or knowledge of the universes mechanics. The Dharma seemed to leave room for science, and questioning. Questions like those he was asking himself right there and then. Maybe there could be nothing after death, and maybe the idea that there could be something spoiled the life he lived now. He had yet to mature to believing in death as something for which to be grateful. He had yet to understand that all of the eyes of the world were his in some way. He had yet to realize the significance of the present and steady mind and so he struggled. Always he would struggle, between a desire for peace and an acceptance of reality as impermanent and unstable. For now he would cling to what was comforting and what seemed important.
He picked up the book again and began to read. The Unbearable Lightness of Being here seemed, in fact, rather bearable.