A few days ago, former artist, model and actress of Charlie’s Angels fame Farrah Fawcett passed away from rectal cancer. Her passing was overshadowed by the death of Michael Jackson on the same day. But her story is more likely one that we can learn from.
She ‘battled’, in so far as one can battle with an invisible and relentless assassin that is aggressive cancer, with her illness for two and half years, undergoing numerous sickening and painful treatments in the process. For her own reason’s she chose to document the period with a close friend, and the resulting documentary was released shortly before her death. It is neither morbid nor voyeuristic, but it does not pull any punches – we see her wincing from painful needles deep in her liver, throwing up with sickness, and also the happy periods of remission. It is released with the title “Farrah’s Story”.
The girl every girl wanted to be, and every boy wanted to hold
While no different from millions of unsung heroes and heroines trampled into the grave by disease and circumstance, the film makes for a good reflection on death and dying. It is a big part of Buddhism – to prepare for your death. All meditators want to die mindfully, and as such we maintain a reflection on dying to arouse energy and balance in life. This is called Maranusati.
‘Balance in life’; reflecting on your own imminent demise is a practice designed to keep you mindful of what is really important. It is not the money, family, success or failure that you take with you, but your ‘spiritual wealth’. That is to say, your karma. Petty grievances, jealousies and fleeting sense pleasures mean little to one who keeps in mind that we are all heading for the grave – many of us painfully. If such reflection robs you of the spice of life, you are not doing it right. It is supposed to rouse your energy, and straighten your priorities.
The days and the nights are endlessly passing, how well am I spending my time? This should be reflected on again and again by one who has gone forth.
One thing however, that is very clear in the Buddha’s teachings. Death is not the end. This point is somewhat controversial amongst Westerners who are at home with teachings on compassion, peace or meditation. But not so when it comes to rebirth. Like it or not, it is part of the teaching.
But going back to the original scriptures, we find this reflection on rebirth, and the teaching on kamma following through successive lifetimes a majour part of the lesson. Further, it is not something that is left as a matter of speculation. The meditation necessary to verify for yourself, directly in deep meditation, is part of the path that is endlessly outlined. The Buddha called it ‘Seeing and knowing’ and it includes past lives, heavens and hells, as well as the liberation of the mind in Enlightenment. His claim is that you can see and know for yourself, if you can meditate well enough.
For most of us, such supernatural insight remains speculation, though many meditators do reach these levels of insight. But the reflection on dying is something that we can see around us if we pay attention.
“Farrah’s Story,” a sometimes uplifting, sometimes painful and thoroughly transparent documentary that chronicles Fawcett’s fight against cancer
Farrah’s story is nothing unusual, but to see a once superstar of pinups decline and ultimately lose the battle for life, should serve as a good tool for arousing energy, and direction to work for that which is really worthy, rather than what gratifies the senses in the present minute.