Steve Jobs understood the meaning behind “Soon Be Dead, ” a hand painted sign that is what a person sees as they approach the front door at Art Studio 422, my current home.
I had been to the Red Ants Pants music festival last summer in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. A magical trip indeed, as I said yes to my friend Robert when he asked if I wanted to go. The ride was long but worth the many miles of viewing the Montana country side. White Sulphur Springs sits a bit north of Bozeman which is quite a distance from the panhandle of Idaho. I had just printed up my first batch of ‘Bliss Flags’, packed them with my few possessions and mandolin, and was ready to venture into the new experience. I had very little cash but found that love and a great smile works well in acquiring the things we need. A room at the Hot Springs for five days was a wonderful gift which was only the beginning of a weekend filled with gifts and new friendships. Bliss was in the air.
The five days were magical as I moved moment to moment, always in the right place at the right time, giving and receiving, grateful for the people who supported me, gave me love and rides back and forth from town to the festival. Living in the moment and seeing our current opportunities as precious was like a glimpse of enlightenment.
Robert and I checked in and also went to the festival site to set up his tent in the camping area. We were a bit early so we did not set up the tent in the vast grassland of the celebration area. Back in town I found my way to the Red Ants Pants store and volunteered. This paid my first day in the show. Many volunteers were painting signs and one in particular caught my eye: “Soon Be Dead.” It was on the path in the campground area to the concert area. I wondered what it meant but had my own personal understanding.
When I returned home I placed it on my front porch with the plants and flowers only to find that my brother did not like it and moved it. He turned it so it couldn’t be read. I am aware that death is not most humans favorite subject and yet, it is one of the first things to meditate on in the practice of Buddhism. That death and impermanence are soon to come we may be, like Steve Jobs, able to recognize our preoccupation with worldly concerns. That all that we see in life is like our dream state in sleep and that it is transient. Shunryu Suzuki says, “Without excepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure,” and that “the cause of suffering is our non-acceptance of this truth.” To know the truth that your life is short, to enjoy it day after day, moment after moment, is to be free from duality and suffering. “Soon Be Dead” is the beginning of living.
When we understand the dream of Samsara, a creation made in our own mind, we will be free to walk outside the illusion. We all have a precious human life, soon to be dead. Let us walk outside the prisons of our own minds and delusions.