April 3, 2022
I’m feeling more joyful and peaceful after a couple days of re-grounding myself in the basics of Buddhism (my core psychological practice of the past three years), amid the existential context of providing meaning within a world that has no inherent, permanent meaning of its own. Some insights:
Existentialism is the philosophical belief that we are each responsible for creating purpose or meaning in our own lives. It stresses the individual’s unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for making meaningful, authentic choices in a universe seen as purposeless or irrational. Any purpose or meaning in my life is created by me.
Buddhism agrees that life or existence in and of itself is empty (impermanent, therefore lacking any permanent forms) and meaningless, and emphasizes that it’s individuals who give their lives specific meaning.
The central aim of Buddhism is relieving suffering (caused by numerous forms of craving that define our dissatisfying efforts and projects to permanently “become” someone meaningful and annihilate identities we don’t want), our own and others; everything in our empty world is sacred, precious, and worthy of care.
Each of us feels most alive in the midst of the beautiful and the good. The Buddha’s teachings are about cultivating the beautiful and the good, the seeds of possibility that live in every human heart: generosity, kindness, and compassion. The true meaning of happiness and joy is found in compassion and kindness rather than constant craving or desire.
And it’s the intention toward and application of this aim to relieve suffering, while cultivating the beautiful and the good, that give meaning to our impermanent existence. Meaning is found in how we live our moments, abiding and observing with present, calm, concentrated, detached, nonjudgmental bare noting in each of them (rather than craving a “better moment “).
Two meditative practices empower and deepen our commitment to the relieve suffering and cultivate the beautiful and the good:
1. Observing what arises and passes away and not clinging to it, regarding:
- The breath and body
- Mind states
2. Meditating on the 4 Immeasurable Qualities of Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, & Equanimity. A life centered in these four qualities is a life made meaningful:
May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May all beings know happiness and the root of happiness.
May all beings live in sympathetic joy, rejoicing in the happiness of others.
May all beings live in equanimity, free from passion (greed), aggression (aversion) and delusion.
So I’m back to basics, as I continue to grieve and wrestle with not just my brother’s passing but the reality that everyone and everything arises and eventually passes away.
April 1, 2022
An existential silence.
A lingering, daily sadness. A sense of not fully tasting the joy of any moment. Numbness. Shock. Wondering if a tidal wave of grief is forming on an unseen horizon. At times begging for it to crest as I surrender to its frightening yet cathartic power and beauty.
I feel unknown, my life unwitnessed to the degree it was before. His eyes saw more fully into my hardwiring than anyone’s. His opinions, perceptions, and approval were so often top of mind for me.
I want to text him. I want to talk. To share an inside joke. To ask him a jazz question.
But there is only an existential silence.
February 9, 2022
I can’t believe it’s been 3 months. My bro, my mentor, my best male friend…I feel your absence so profoundly each day. I am grateful for so many things in my life, and I continue to be an insatiable learner and a joyful creator. But there’s a permanent, sticky sadness, a grief that lingers like early morning fog, that even the happiest moments can’t fully mitigate. I don’t know how I’ll ever adjust to this strange new world.
January 19, 2022
I keep forgetting he’s not going to be able to text me back.
January 9, 2022
I’m crying more often these days, as the cruel reality of your passing more fully manifests. My beloved Frank, my only brother—how dare the world continue to spin unawares, growing hotter even as life feels colder without you? There’s so much more we had to discuss and laugh about
December 11, 2021
My brother, I’m honored and humbled to eulogize you during this afternoon’s service. I could never fully capture your enduring story but I’ll give it my all.
November 28, 2021
I finally cried earlier this afternoon. Sobbed, really. In Olivia’s arms. She was saying how she had no idea how it must feel, and I said I didn’t really know either because it hadn’t fully hit me yet…and then, just like that, it did. The sadness. The rage. Rage, in my case, at a disease that’s now taken my father AND my brother. BOTH of them????Really? Rage that I’ve lost the only man who ever fully “got me.” Rage, that forbidden emotion and even less acceptable expression, demanding its hour upon my stage, full of sound and fury and signifying more than I can possibly put into words.
November 15, 2021
Trying my best to lose myself in work projects today. But Frank is always present when my mind wanders. It’s perplexing how the world can end, yet continue, at the exact same time. Our human experience is layered with juxtapositions of paradox, irony, tears, and laughter.
November 11, 2021
I’m still in deep shock. Just beginning to peel back the manifold layers of my brother Frank’s impact on my life. For as long as I can remember, most of my thoughts, plans, and actions have been infused with an element of wanting to make him proud. Even if I only saw him once or twice a year, knowing he was out there was comforting and motivating.
I feel ungrounded, disconnected; as ephemeral as a baby’s first fleeting thought. I feel lost without him as this irreversible reorientation of my life plods forward one moment at a time.
November 10, 2021
My beloved brother Frank died just before midnight last night after a brief battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He leaves behind his wonderful wife of 27 years, Christine, and their multitalented daughter Laura.
I’m still in shock. I can’t believe I’ll never talk to him again.
Frank was my mentor growing up. Much of my knowledge and love of music, books, and movies was catalyzed by his influence, by his boundless curiosity and passion. His social justice and humanitarian perspectives rubbed off on me as well. My brother had the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known.
I have no sons. Maybe one day I’ll have a grandson. But for now, even more than my late father whom I also loved dearly, Frank was the most important man in my life. And I don’t yet know how to navigate a world without him.
I do know that his face will always shine in my mind and his voice will always linger in my ears.