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Lions Roar : March 2008
69 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 LAST YEAR, I was asked to give a talk at the annual donor-appreciation din- ner for the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. I’m a great admirer of the Hospice Project’s work, so I accepted without hesitation. When they asked me to provide a title for the talk, I thought it would be easy. I’m a writer, so I would talk about writing, and, since this was for the Hospice Project, I would talk about death. I’d been thinking a lot about both writing and death, as I’d quite recently lost my mother and was using writing as a way of working with my feelings of grief and loss. So I sent the organizers an e-mail, proposing this title: “The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, and Mom.” I have to admit, I was kind of proud of my title. I thought it was subtle and literary, but not too flashy. The phrase “art of losing” is from a favorite poem of mine by Elizabeth Bishop, called “One Art.” It’s a sad, brave, beau- tiful poem about both death and writing, and I was happy because I could start my talk by reading it. Beginnings are important, and as a Buddhist woman writer, I like to pay tribute to my women ancestors. But the Zen Hospice organizers came back to me with a polite counter- proposal. They asked me to consider, instead, “The Art of Letting Go.” Losing. Letting Go. The difference in nuance is interesting, right? Actually, I thought it was kind of funny. “Losing” does sound awfully negative, and even Buddhists don’t want to be losers. And I certainly didn’t want to make anyone at that particular dinner feel like a loser. The event was a tribute, a The Art of Losing: On Writing, Dying, & Mom By Ruth L. Ozeki On the ferry from Quadra Island to Cortes Island, 2003. MAR 68-77.indd 69 MAR 68-77.indd 69 12/19/07 2:16:00 PM 12/19/07 2:16:00 PM