06 November 1999

Your Grave

Birth — Death

Dear Friend,

You rocket along the trajectory of your life, a dash between your birth and death, a path through space and time with predictable turns and unexpected twists that converge upon your final resting place. Someday you must surrender all things of this world, from the most terrible to the most wonderful. Whether all at once, or through the series of catastrophes we call aging, you must surrender even the constellation of memories and abilities you have come to know as yourself. In tender and respectful tribute to your unknown struggles, your unsung triumphs and nameless defeats, we maintain this memorial for you to remember yourself.

Remember how people and your surroundings have influenced your life, and how you have influenced theirs, however slightly or indirectly. The grand total of all these influences is Culture, and its path through time is History. And yet, despite the influences of family and history, nature and nurture, your personality is your greatest creation, built by your intellect and character on the foundation of your temperament, in response to your particular and changing circumstances. As a child, you built your personality as your interface to the people around you, and in time you came to use it as your interface to the world around you as well. You even came to use your personality to have an absurdity: your relationship with yourself. Your self-relationship is so constantly present to you that you may even believe that you are your personality. As long as you are relating to yourself through your personality, you are acting rather than being, performing rather than experiencing. In states of agony, ecstasy, or meditation, you can experience directly — without the intermediary of your personality — and discover the feeling of being you, rather than the feeling of observing yourself acting as you. The real you, rather than your personality, is what Buddhists call the face you had before your parents were born. And while the memory of your personality lives in the minds of those who know you, the real you survives your passing from this world. The real you is changed by your making and bearing your personality throughout your life history. You — the real you — are the gift you embellish and return to the Giver.

Requiescat in Pace.

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