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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Creative Spot by Zita Perera Subasinghe

Dalliance with Death

You puzzle me! You fascinate me!
You terrify me! You infuriate me!
You took my gran my dad my mother
Then you took uncle, aunt and brother

You never did come back to tell me
Did they send a message to give me?
Did they suffer at your cold hands?
Or rejoice of going to their new lands?

Were they sad to give up life?
Was it like cutting with a knife?
Did they think of years past?
About the end were they aghast?

They planned a lot, for The Future
So many projects they would nurture
Right through their worldly sojourn
The End! For that they didn’t yearn

So! Tell me Death, tell me please
This is not the time to tease
A person who you’ll soon befriend
To take her to that unknown end

What is that last moment like?
When final hour the clock does strike?
Tell me cos I’m not afraid!
Final plans I’ve long since laid

Your job is to keep me calm
Against all pain, you are my balm
With Family, you’ve got to be clever
They expect I’ll live forever

You make things, seem oh so final
It’s a shame to have fear primal
It’s only if we Live, we Die
So, in fact why should one cry?


  1. Simply brilliant. The ability to Create such thought provoking poems that rhyme is a special gift. You have posed those same questions that sporadically float in our minds. The mystery that surrounds the end of life is intriguing. What lies beyond is baffling, if at all there is no end. The Christian belief that we all meet again on judgment day seem a lovely concept.
    This is a reminder to us all to enjoy life while we can and do the things we have always wanted to do and not to dwell too much on how and when we depart. As Doris Day sang so beautifully in the 1956 film with that poignant title "The man who knew too much" - Que sera sera.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks, Nihal for your encouraging words. Yes, you are right. We baffle about, conjecture, imagine and rationalise about that final end 'Death'. It's a mystery isn't it? I do like your quote of Doris Day. Unfortunately I didn't see the film but that song-- well it was one of those I call, 'part of the soundtrack to our childhood'.
      Thanks again, Nihal! from Zita

  2. Congratulations Zita on that wonderful poem. I felt a bit "eerie" reading it, but as Christians we have nothing to fear, and can look forward to being re-united with our loved ones who have gone before.
    Sriani Basnayake

    1. Yes that's the consolation I have too, Sriani, but as a human being there has always been this mystery that is 'death'. Here we are a thinking, active, capable human being and then suddenly-- Nothing!

  3. Death is fatal, but is it the end? The debate goes on and those who ponder sway from Religion, to Philosophy and Science and most of us choose to believe what is comforting and ignore the nagging doubt which Science brings to us. For me personally, Science wins as I like to treat these matters with the same rigor I would treat a report claiming that some sort of herb has been found to cure cancer, in other words , on verifiable evidence. At the dawn of most religions,we did not know that the Earth goes round the Sun, we knew nothing about Evolution, bugs causing disease and nothing about Genetics,nothing about causation of thunderstorms,lightening, nothing about cerebral function and localisation, just to state a few things, for some of which a supernatural explanation was given before we understood them. Gradually, the mystery is unfolding and although we do not know everything and Science will be the first to admit it, the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding of this World and of our existence will go on, moving more and more phenomena from the supernatural to a scientific explanation.

    But nobody can deny that as you set on a long journey through the long road called life, a belief that there is a guardian angel who will jump to your rescue if needed, will make you more relaxed and less anxious, especially if you also believe that if by some chance you happen to lose your life on the way, "you" will not only arrive there but will join your loved ones who departed before you! Whether the Guardian Angel exists or not and why he chooses to respond to some but not to others who ask for help, does not seem to matter. Such is the power of Faith.

    As for death,we all know it is inevitable and we have to be prepared for it. The big message for me is that we have to make optimum use of the present time, which is the ONLY tangible thing we have.

    I do believe in Karma but not in the way lots of people look at it.My Idiot's guide to concept of karma is this "we are the result of what we were and we will be the result of what we are". This operates all the time. If we smoked heavily and did not eat the right foods, we are very likely to develop cardio vascular disease. If we prepare and study assiduously, we are more likely to be successful in examinations. If we are generous and kind, even though we may not expect it, we are more likely to be treated with generosity and kindness. Karma is dynamic, it is not pre-destiny or fixed and you can always change consequences by changing your current actions. It is just simple logic and there is no need to draw in any supernatural phenomena.

    1. Mahen
      So what you say is indeed what I believe - we live and we die and thats the end of it. Karma happens on earth. Ok I can "live " with that!!

    2. Indeed Nihal! But I have no satisfactory answer to those who believe that the repercussions of our actions can be passed on to another "life" either in the form of reincarnation, rebirth or union in Heaven. That has to be a matter of Faith. The only reasonable doubt in my own mind is caused by the fact that I cannot find a scientific explanation for the verified and well substantiated instances of a few people who claim that they had a previous birth and give astonishingly accurate descriptions of that life which have been thoroughly checked for fraudulence (and declared free of such fraudulence for some and as questionable for some) and these have been published by scientific inquirers who set on this task to show that these stories are untrue and concocted. They conclude that the fact that these people have memories of a life different to theirs,sometimes in a country where they have never visited, is true, but they cannot give a scientific explanation for what they call "persistence of memory". This is the only reason why I have a nagging doubt in my own mind which in general dismisses any notion of rebirth. You may say that I am inconsistent and confused and you are probably right! But at least I am giving a rational explanation for my confusion!

    3. Mahendra, I have no problem with what you say. It's true, reasonable and believable. But what is puzzling is the concept of death, the suddenness, the finality, irreversibility and the mystery of it. It must be the very reason why people have tried to explain phenomena during existence, science and otherwise. We are constantly fascinated by all this. Finally, not one person has come back to tell us what it is like. I am leaving religion out of this argument. Zita

    4. I can understand how you feel. So much to go through, so much to endure, so much to learn, so much to savour, so much to admire, so much to suffer,so much to build and then at one poignant moment, which we call death, it is all gone! Or is it? But then little infant newborns can die minutes/seconds of being born, what memories have they got? Animals die, plants die - it is just the nature of things. We may look upon a lifetime experience as something long and filled with so many events but in the context of the Universe we live in and in the context of the duration of existence of Homo sapiens, this is just a flash in time. Even the most comlplicated man-made structure can "die" when disassembled. It is in our Nature to find a purpose, a reason for events when in reality it just happens! The football which came acroos from the neighbour's house kicked by an enthusiastic child and landing in the my window and cracking it didn't happend for a purpose!
      We may choose to think of "design" and "creators" but if so it is a very poor design with things any loving human being would never bestow on a fellow himan being, such as terrible microbes, genetic disorders, Lepprosy. malaria, TB (endless line of undesirables for which the Creator has to take responsibility),evidence of millions of unsuccessful living beings who did not survive because they couldn't adapt.
      All living things come to a cessation in time, that is just the way it is. If a supreme being decided when we snuff it, he has a lot to explain! Why did that gorgeous newborn child adored by her parents die? Why did he answer the prayers of one desperate and good mother (by any standards) and ignore that of an equally innocent and loving mother? For Heavenly happiness? Well for Heaven's sake, why put people through a lot of misery and sadness in the process? Why not create a Heaven where all are happy and be done with, after all, he is all powerful? Difficult questions, especially for us living in this period of time when Science has taught us so much and we have moved more and more from the magical to the logical.

    5. Mahendra, many thanks for bringing us al your wisdom and encouraging us to re examine the facts surrounding this world, our lives, its problems, the explainable and the unexplainable. Thinking about religious teaching received in my childhood and my father's strict upbringing of me, your discourse smacks of the very 'Almighty God' admonishing us saying- 'Hey think! I gave you free will and you may use it. It's your choice.But enjoy this day I have given you! Don't waste your it by futile reasoning. It's all there for you to enjoy!'
      Zita (I'll run away before you throw something at me!)

  4. Zita, this is brilliant poetry - Thank you.
    I am sure you are enjoying the new addition to your family.Cheers

    1. Thanks Rohini! Yes indeed I am enjoying little Riyan. He is the cutest, loveliest, most interesting thing that ever existed! But I would say that, wouldn't I? Zita

  5. Amazing work, Zita. I wish I had such talent.

    1. Thanks, Indra. Well we all take part in some sort of creation don't we? You with beautiful plants, your wife with painting and most of our batch mates each with some valuable talent. I do believe our batch mates are unique. Zita

  6. I have purposely moved on to wider dimensions hoping to provoke an informed and interesting debate/discussion but sadly, the bait has failed to attract any fish bar one!The discerning amongst you may have noticed that I have used this ploy in previous posts too. I certainly benefit from listening to other viewpoints and was hoping this would happen here. May be another day, antother time!

    1. You have indeed achieved your aim, Mahendra. Our members are ever so active now, and we are seeing a lot more showing their talents but there are those lovely talented silent ones who I know by name but will wait for them come out of the 'woodwork'. (No offence meant) Finally, as always, thanks to Lucky for presenting us this wonderful Platform for discussion. Zita

  7. "One day we will all die" , says Charlie Brown, and Snoopy says "on most days, we will all not die". Most of the days in our life, we dont't die, it is only one of these days that you die. "Always light a candle rather than complain about darkness" - Ajahn Brahm.

  8. My Personal Journey
    I reiterate the words of the Dalai Lama: This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
    With religion there are no easy answers. I am an agnostic. My belief is we live and we die and that’s the end of it.
    I must take you on my personal journey through life which has fashioned my own philosophy. I was born a Christian, was baptised and confirmed, and went to Methodist School. As a schoolboy it was a wonderful existence. I had someone to take my troubles to and had a code of ethics in the Bible. As a child it is wonderful to think, as we are taught, that God looks after and cares for us.
    As time went by in medical school I began to question all this and found it hard to accept the existence of a God. Then I looked into Buddhism and found its teaching most appealing. One doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to practice some of the teachings ignoring some aspects which are harder to accept.
    Gradually as the years passed I learnt to take on board the various teaching from different religions and philosophies and formulated a way to live my life.
    At each stage of my life different religions helped and I feel religion has played an important part in helping me to lead my life.
    It is interesting to go further back in time in human history. It was religion that provided the guidance, rules and regulations in the way of the 5 precepts or the ten commandments to maintain order when there were no Police and security. Without this they would indeed have killed each other and this may have even completely destroyed the human race. So we must look at religion in a positive light and give its due.
    It is also true that throughout history many atrocities have been committed in the name of religion and this is partly responsible for people moving away from the established religions.
    All the bad things we do in the name of religion is not God’s fault but man’s. The Bible is a fine discourse on how to lead a good life. If one can do that he/she will be a kind, gentle, generous and helpful person. I have no doubt in my mind that if a person is a good Christian living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ that person will be a virtuous.
    I have no proof that God exists neither can I disprove His existence. I personally find it hard to accept the presence of a supreme being controlling everything.
    To summarise I am glad I was a Christian then a Buddhist and finally an agnostic.

    1. Mahendra, I didn't realise you are an admirer of Rev Ajahn Brahm! He is someone who has helped me many a time when I was facing a dilemma. 'This too will pass',' 'look at the 999 good bricks on the wall you made, not the one crooked one' these are some gems but I use a lot more of his advice. One of the best things is his sense of humour. Zita

    2. Nihal, you have written a prize winner! Your journey through life, faith, doubt, rejection, reasoning, acceptance, and final eureka moment is familiar to most of us, I am sure. I have been very much like you but worse: born into a Catholic family, there was no escape as a child with a dad 'holding a stick' to send us to daily Mass (would you believe it!). As an adult I went through stages similar to you. Alongside that I read and listened to sages and there was a time when it was all a muddle in my mind. Faith in God somehow had a hold on me and it followed me relentlessly in a way I cannot explain. But it didn't stop me reading alternatives. I finally read this which I shall put in the following form:
      The truth is simply what you do not know
      The moment you know, it is not truth anymore.

    3. ND, Thanks for your honest and may I use the word humble,comment. I have expanded a bit more on my thoughts as you can see. Mahen

    4. Mahen
      Thank you. Humility is an attribute which I greatly admire and didn't realise I had it in sufficient quantity to be seen by others. It is hubris and vanity that often takes over our lives.

  9. My sincere apologies if I have hurt the feelings of devout believers of any faith. My comments were based on what I have learnt and understood to the best of my ability and not meant to hurt feelings. I hope that this "debate" just made us think a bit more and made us understand a bit more. I believe that Morality is within us innately, partly because it has a distinct evolutionary advantage for survival and the goal of survival is the most significant driving force in the Universe. I see a lot of Atheists and Agnostics of the highest moral calibre and I see a lot of Believers as I call them, of the same calibre. The man who leaps into the stream to save the life of a child is not thinking of reward from God or Karma- he just does it! I see plenty of Atheists, Agnostics, Believers who are far from any defintion of people with good moral behaviour. So long as Believers do not harm their fellow human beings through evangelical fervour or their own harmful interpretations of their holy texts, I have no problem with them. As I have said many times before, I call myself a Humanist. The British Humanist Asssociation defines Humanism thus:- Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean
    someone who: trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
    makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
    believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

  10. A very interesting discussion I have caught up with quite late! Thanks Mahen and Nihal.
    The uncertainties and doubts that Mahen has expressed are the
    same as mine! We are all fumbling in the dark, not likely in our lifetime to become smart enough to fathom it all!
    In your search for verifiable evidence it must be said that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"-Carl Sagan.
    Evidence for unexpected things could emerge much later as you have found with the earth orbiting around the sun etc.
    As for a supernatural God- Personally, I cannot accept the jealous, cruel,'blood-thirsty' God of the Old Testament,but fully embrace the teachings of Christ in the New Testament, which are much the same as that of the Lord Buddha, except the latter does not refer to a supernatural God. His advise was not to speculate on metaphysical queries,but to follow the tried path which he found to be true, provided we ourselves agree that it is of value.
    The similarities of the teachings of the Buddha and Christ are laid out in a book by Thomas Ragland-"The Noble Eightfold Path of Christ". Another-
    "The parallel sayings of Jesus,Buddha,Krishna, Laotzu" by Richard Hooper I found a much easier book to read.
    As for reincarnation- Lord Buddha himself could recall his past lives, stories of which he used as parables to teach his desciples.
    I dont think it impossible that there could be teletransportation of humans as with particles in Quantum Mechanics, though it is considered too difficult to perform in a laboratory, but could be happening naturally-equating to rebirth.
    At the end of discussion-I say-I don't know nor ever will!
    though the possibilities are endless!

  11. Sorry- got interrupted!
    The last few minutes of a 22 min video on youtube-
    "Quantum Mechanics for Dummies" shows how human teleportation can occur.

  12. Thanks Rohini for taking the trouble to read and respond. We could engage in this discussion as a one-to-one by email but how much richer it is to draw in others! As I am sure you would have observed, that I am not trying to change anyone's belief system, merely expressing my own confused thoughts!

    So long as Religion is personal and does not lead to intolerance and disruption of other human lives, I don't mind. I maintain however, that Religion, possibly not in a way that the Teachers meant them to be, in other words through misunderstanding of ancient texts caused by literal interpreted,has caused untold misery and harm in Human History. The beauty of Science is that it is not absolute. We are still learning and are free to admit that we don't know everything.But we are rational and use our powers of reasoning. if somebody says that there is a large hybrid cat-dog orbiting Pluto, although it cannot be proved to be wrong, we would say it is highly improbable, a point about "absence of evidence and evidence of absence" to which I shall further comment now.

    On the point of "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" ,may I present another point of view. It was Sir Karl Popper who said that "a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one". When prehistoric fossils were found in the 19th century, believers said that they had been placed in the rocks by God, in order test our faith. Now, I don't think we can accept that although we cannot prove it,but equally, I am sure that there are those who still believe it is true, just as they believe that Adam and Eve really existed or that the just born Buddha walked 7 steps with a lotus blooming under each step and announced loudly that he was the awakened one!

    Thanks for that Video reference to Quantum Physics.I enjoyed watching it. About Teleportation,as it stands, the chances of achieving this for a whole human being appears infinitesimally small but it is a possibility. It is quite a leap in faith to use this as a model for rebirth as the transported "group of particles- the human being" would have to be an exact replication, which means that my mythical "Sita" would be reborn as "Sita", of the same age! Still it is an interesting thought and at least points to the physical reality that some form of transportation is possible. Who knows,it may one day be shown that at death, through a process of quantum mechanics or its as yet undiscovered enhancement,can transmit coded genetic information to the genes of a receptive new conception! Imagination needs further quantum stretching to explain how this transmission can occur from a Man to a Reptile!

    Thanks again for enriching this stimulating (at least for me!) discussion.

    1. Mahen, As things stand,I agree there is a problem with the species, but the concept of backward time travel could resolve the age issue in the future-
      I know it is a huge stretch of imagination for us at this stage - but which one of us as a child could have guessed the emergence of a quantum computer expected to spring out of the lab in 2017?
      It was also Sir Karl Popper who said:
      "Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance
      must necessarily be infinite".
      In closing,I too wish to say I did not intend to criticize anyone's religious beliefs or to hurt anyone's feelings.
      I was only expressing my own confusion with the contrasting ways in which God is depicted in the old and the new testaments.I admit my understanding of these matters is incomplete.
      Whatever religion we read into,It is up to each individual to find the path that best suits them,and Iam mindful of the need to respect their choice.
      In a discussion of this nature, If we are unable to see another's point of view with tolerance, and even agree to disagree, then our long years of education have been wasted.
      My sincere apology to anyone who might have been offended by my comment.

  13. Very well said Rohini. I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by you. I for one benefited from this frank exchange of views.My position on Religious beliefs in relation to Man as a communal being remains the same, i.e., so long as Believers do not harm their fellow human beings through evangelical fervour or their own harmful interpretations of their holy texts, I have no problem with them.Thanks again for a very mature and significant contribution Rohini.

    1. Mahendra, Nihal, Rohini, the above is a truly enlightening and challenging discussion. I congratulate you on the points you have put forward. What I understand from it is 'Absence of proof is not proof of absence ( of whatever the subject under discussion is). In the world we have believers, atheists, agnostics and humanists amongst other groups. Some go through all the above stages and achieve a position not yet named, we can call them Truth Seekers. We know the world around us and what it has evolved into and progressed to, thanks to the Human Being and I would like to add, Nature. (One of my brothers during an argument about God's existence said, God and Nature are one and the same!) That adds another factor into the mix. I just say, taking the essence of what all of you say, let us live life to the full , and accept what life gives and that includes Death. Zita

    2. Thanks Zita, It is certainly that time of our lives when we ponder and wonder and wander! To what you have already summarised, I would add that it is worth reflecting on what Sir Karl Popper said., i.e.,he said that "a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one"