circa 1985, h.p. india.

circa 1985, h.p. india.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Apple.

     During my dad’s last days, languishing in a hospital room in Toronto, he became even more cranky than usual.  In fact, he became so agitated that my brother scurried out into the hall to look for a doctor, a nurse, a drug-dealer, pretty much anyone who might offer some assistance. 
     At the height of the episode, there were two nurses, a doctor, a social worker, a chaplain, a shifty-eyed fellow with his baseball cap on backward, my brother and I all gathered around his bed.  Ok, I’m kidding about the dealer.  But, in the course of the discussion around my dad, the chaplain said; ‘What can we do, Mr. Vanek? What would you like? Tell us what you want right now and we’ll do our best to get it for you.’  My dad seemed to consider that generous offer for a moment or two and then responded; ‘I want an apple.’ 
     There it was.  It all came down to one apple.  He was ninety-four years old, had three kids, a sixty-three year, somewhat less than blissful marriage, (you get out sooner for murder,) had been a renowned Judge, served in a world war, had enough money to buy just about anything he might want, and his dying wish was for an apple. 
     About a half an hour later, by the way, one of the nurses came back in with a bowl of apple sauce.  Dad took one look at it and said; ‘What’s that?’  ‘This is apple sauce,’ answered the well-meaning nurse.  ‘I may be dying,’ the old guy barked, ‘but I’m not stupid! I asked for an apple!’  ‘But, but, you can’t eat an apple, Mr. Vanek,’ she pleaded.  ‘Did I say anything about eating it?,’ he continued, true to form, never one to lose an argument. ‘Maybe I just want to hold it, smell it or lick it. Did that ever occur to you?’ 
     Anyway, following along the same line of thought, here I sit tonight in my old mountain house, right back where I started, so to speak.  I first came here in 1975 and I left for twelve years in ‘98.  During those years, I worked as a gas jockey, a diamond merchant, a house painter, I bought and sold houses, vehicles, antiques, relationships came and went, (mostly went, actually.)  And here I sit tonight just wondering if I’ll have enough hot water for my bucket-bath in the morning, just like I used to.
     So, what was all that(?)  We’re born naked and we die naked, or so ‘they’ say.  I’m not entirely sure why ‘they’ say one must be naked in the end.  Presumably, if one is hit by a train or a bus, come down with a withering disease or one simply shoots oneself in the head on a particularly bad day, one would almost certainly still be fully clothed, unless one is really unlucky or decides to get kinky about it.  However, that’s another matter altogether and I’m probably taking the naked thing too literally.  You get the point, I’m sure.  We’re born naked and we die naked.  And we’re also assured that we can’t take anything with us.  So what was/is all that; the struggle to achieve something in this life, the hopes and aspirations, the acquisitions, the relationships, all of it(?) 
     That, my friends, is called Maya, in Sanskrit, a magical illusory show.  The ancient sages have likened this life to a dream, a magical illusory show.  It can’t be said to be true due to its very transitory nature.  And we are encouraged; in fact it behooves all intelligent human beings, to awaken from this dream to the true, essential ‘I’ which is pure, which is free and which is forever, the very life itself that animates these bodies. 
     Meanwhile, and in the end, having said all that, I really want to tell you what happened just the other day.  A lady I once knew arrived here.  And she looked really good, as lovely as ever.  She looked so lovely, in fact, that I had to clamp down on my sleeve to keep from swallowing my tongue.  And right after seeing her, what do you think I did?  I'll tell you.  I walked right on over… to the restaurant across from the ashram and I ate a really big piece of their apple pie, with ice cream. 

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