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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 116 too painful. John’s certainty that he would die of a heart attack, and his history of heart trouble—these too she refused to accept. Denial of death in our society has reached the point, Didion says, where we share this common belief: “Somehow you’re at fault if you die.” Following John’s death she experienced both blame and guilt. “You berate yourself. The survivors are among those who are afflicted by this belief that ‘they did it to themselves’ or ‘I could have prevented it.’ There’s still a feeling, an inchoate assumption that if you’re living right, if you’re taking care of yourself, you won’t die.” She is mystified that the denial of death has us so firmly in its clutches. “It’s very peculiar because this denial occurs most often in Christian nations, but death is at the very center of the Christian story. ‘He that believeth in me shall never die.’” Of course resurrection is at the center of the story, too, “but it’s not a literal resurrection,” she says. “After death I don’t think you’re aware of what John called ‘the eternal dark.’ I don’t think you are you.” And although we know better than to nurture them, she says, “we still have primitive beliefs.” Didion says the book’s unexpected popularity can partly be explained by demographics: baby boomers are starting to reach an age when people they know are dying, and they are finally becom- ing aware of their own mortality. She is pleasantly surprised to discover that some people are reading Magical Thinking not so much for its insights into life and death and grief and dying, but because it is up- lifting and offers something to aspire to. “What surprised me when traveling with it,” she says, “was the number of very young women who came up to speak to me in air- ports and other places. I realized at some point that they were reading it as a love sto- ry. They were reading about a marriage. “That he died was just a cautionary tale.” JUST SOUTH OF Central Park, 57th Street does not look like the site for an Joan Didion continued from page 49 Residential Zen Arts Intensive Five Weeks, Five Retreats June 26–July 29, 2007 at Zen Mountain Monastery This one-of-a-kind residential program dedicated to the “artless arts” of Zen will help participants deepen their appreciation of and develop their skills in the creative process as a mirror for self- investigation. Immersed in the monastic training schedule and guided by lectures on the Zen arts by John Daido Loori Roshi, ZMM Abbot, the intensive will also include the following: • Introduction to Zen Training retreat with the ZMM staff • A week-long Photography retreat with Daido Roshi • Choice of Calligraphy with Kaz Tanahashi or Clay with Monastic Jody Hojin Kimmel • Choice of The Way of Tea with Yushin Derrick and Hobai Pekarik or a Writing workshop with Carolyn Forche • A weeklong Sesshin (meditation intensive) Everyone will have the opportunity to pursue individual art projects each afternoon. The program is suitable for those just beginning to explore their creative process, as well as for practicing artists who wish to learn more about the Zen aesthetic and its relationship to spiritual inquiry. For more information, please call (845) 688-2228 or visit us on the web at www.mro.org Zen Mountain Monastery • Mt Tremper, NY