"Listen with an open mind, but don't try to remember this stuff. There's no quiz at the end." Jack Kornfield

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sorry, we didn't clean up before we left.

******************************Where we come from******************************

**************************************************************************** The cause of death is birth.... Tokyo crime reporter Jake Adelstein wrote a short story in The Shambhala Sun magazine this month and I'd like to print a few paragraphs of that story. In a recent post on Women Who Dance With Frogs there was discussion about the way many of us deal with despair and/or the heavy emotional load so many carry today. Mr. Adelsteins story demonstrates the way one Japanese couple handled their lives............................................................................ On a weekend in July, the bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Akutagawa were found in their apartment, He was sixty-two and she was fifty-nine. It looked like what the Japanese call a murishinju. In medieval times, shinju meant the suicide pact between lovers. Muri means unreasonable. They had drunk poison. The husband had boiled a pack of cigarettes, either Peace or Hope brand, in some alcohol and water. There is enough nicotine in a pack of smokes to kill you if you distill and drink it. She'd died first and he died shortly afterward.

The Assistant police chief told me, "He was a faithful salary man that had gone through a company restructuring............... It happens like that, a guy gets put into a situation where, even when living a relatively simple life, he can't save enough to repay bills and loans". I tried to flesh out a story by finding people that knew Mr. Akutagawa, but no one did................ he was practically invisible. The apartment manager... "I didn't have a personal relationship"............... Another resident... "We were living in the same apartment building, but I never got to know him".................. The pub owner next door... "I'm not familiar with the man"..................... It's amazing to me that people can live in an apartment complex right next to each other for years and not know each other at all, not even in passing. This was the case with the Akutagawa family. They had no friends; they had no social life or interaction with the neighbors. Mr. Akutagawa lost his job, they ran out of money, and they made a suicide pact. A lot of Japanese people hate to ask others for help--- even close friends. That was the whole story. I went back to the police station......the Akutagawas had left a note. The note said simply, "Don't worry about us. We've been dead a long time. Sorry, we didn't clean up before we left. We didn't have the energy". Very Japanese, very apologetic. I asked when and where the funeral would be held, but the police said no one had claimed the bodies. They were muenbotoke, literally "Buddhas without connections." There was no one to mourn for them. There was no one that would miss them, pine for them. At least not in Tokyo. There would be an ad put in the paper, and if no one came forward, the cremated ashes would be taken to a temple on the outskirts of the megalopolis. Two weeks later............ A priest took me to where the ashes of Mr. and Mrs. Akutagawa were stored. I lit a stick of incense, put my hands together, mumbled the only Buddhist prayer I could remember and left.

By now, the ashes of the Akutagawas have probably been evicted or displaced by the ashes of other muenbotoke. This happens. When family members don't pay the upkeep fees on gravestones and burial plots in Japan, the remains are moved and new tenants are sought. Even the dead can only rent in Tokyo. I think I'll still visit the temple this summer anyway and pay my respects to the Akutagawas before even the memory of their memory is gone. It seems like the least I can do. Everyone needs someone to mourn them. I hope when my time comes there's someone who will do the same for me. I can't tell you why that's even important to me, but it is.

************************************************************************** I guess I know why those last lines mean so much to me personally..... Sometimes the price one pays for the way a life is lived isn't obvious until near the end. And so it goes Today I do love you all, brinda Namaste नमस्ते

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