Csaba Osvath is a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida, pursuing literacy studies with a special focus on qualitative methods and arts based research. His research explores the epistemological and pedagogical roles/functions of artmaking in the context of literacy education. His current project is the creation of a mixed media collage technique and a methodological artistic process for knowledge acquisition and knowledge production in educational settings. Csaba grew up and studied theology and horticulture in Hungary, prior to his graduate studies and service as an artist and educator in the United States.
Ram Dass (Loving & Dying Episode 176)
...Received a letter. A man who worked in the assembly line in Detroit. His son 23 years old has gone to Hawaii on vacation with friends. He was snorkeling and after they have been for a while, the son was a very strong athlete, a good swimmer. They saw him staying down a long time and they found he had drowned. He was brain dead. They put him on a respirator, his father flew to Hawaii at the great expense of 50 thousand dollars flew him back to the mainland. After few weeks he had to be responsible to pull the plug in the respirator and watch his son die. He talked about what a wonderful boy he was what a wonderful job he had. He was a very devoted son he would never leave the home he would never stay out late at night without calling home so his parents wouldn’t worry and he said that they say that God is perfect but all I can say is that God has made a mistake. I cannot believe there would be any good reason for him to allow this to happen and then he said. Three lives have been destroyed. Not just one. My wife is a truly great woman and she did not deserve it. I am sixty years old and she is fifty, and our son was our future. And now everything seems futile and empty and I wake up crying every morning. And then he says. I feel it's cruel to send my son off into eternal life because he doesn’t know anyone there. Only his grandparents but he never knew them because they passed away when he was very young. To think of him as lonely there makes it unbearable for me. Give me some insight into why this has happened and where he is now. I wish people wouldn’t keep explaining this incident as an accident. I don’t think it was an accident.
I feel such pain for the loss that you and your wife had suffered. The grief that parents experience, the loss of a child is perhaps the deepest grief of all because it seems to upset the natural order of things. What I can share with you from a spiritual vantage point cannot really alleviate your grief. Perhaps however it may allow you and your son to know each other in another way. And that other way of knowing may give balance to your grief….
Because your son was attractive and because he was your son, you got to know him through his uniqueness and separateness. There is another way of knowing a person which we know through our intuitive heart. This way of knowing one another is subtle and often hidden behind the more obvious ways of knowing people through senses and thoughts. But if we know what to look for and cultivate that intuitive way of knowing we find out for ourselves that we are each indeed are more than just body and personality. While no name is entirely is satisfactory for this other dimension of ourselves, for the purpose of our discussion the word soul will do. And what is this soul? This is a unique entity which when the time is right clothes itself in a personality and body to take birth on the physical human plane. This personality and body are much like space suits for dwelling on earth. Inevitably, in all but the rarest cases within a few years, the infant becomes so strongly identified with its spacesuit that it loses its memory of its initial identity as a soul. Then we live our life engaged in our human vocations until our death when we leave behind this space suit and once again we remember our true selves as souls. Now the soul itself has an agenda in taking birth as a human being. It has certain work to do and complete while on the earth plane. And it uses the body and personality to carry out this work and when the work is finished its leaves this plane. The wisest beings all assure me that a soul leaves the physical plane neither a moment too early nor a moment too late. Now for us on earth, who so strongly identify with our own bodies and personalities, this is hard to understand. To us, because we are usually don’t listening deeply enough inside of ourselves know differently. Consider duration in life as an asset. We tend to think of the earth plane as the be-all-end-all so we want to make it last as long as possible. However once one begins to look at life from the soul's point of view the picture is quite different. Human birth is a bit like enrolling in the fourth grade. And we stay just as long as it is necessary to achieve what we need to achieve from that specific grade or form. And then we are naturally ready to go on to further evolution by leaving this plane.
I can sense from your description of your son and from the pictures you sent the purity of his heart and the beauty of his soul. And I suspect, you considered his work on earth as just the beginning. For his soul, the work was completed. Even the manner of his leaving was part of his work.
Now I realize that for you it is inconceivable, that a son who would call you when he was going to be late at night could possibly leave you in such a fashion by choice. But you see, it wasn’t his personality’s choice but his soul’s choice. His personality in fact would never be able to leave you because of the power of the bonds of human-attached love that existed between you and your wife and him. But the soul is not limited by human-attached love because it knows and joined others by what’s called love surpasses all understanding. It is conscious or spiritual love it is the love that Christ shares with his father. It is the same love that binds you and Keith together far more deeply than the human love of father and son. Now when your grief is at its strongest, it is hard to tune in to this deeper love. Especially since it makes no rational sense. However, you already have intimations that later become much clearer to you that the true love that you and your son share is untouched by these recent events.
For in the dimension where this love exists that is soul love, there is neither coming nor going. That love is not vulnerable to time or changes in form. Only when your mind will be quiet enough will your heart give you the reassurance you seek that the essence of the love is still very much with you. As I said at the outset this in no way will negate the pain coming from the loss of his form to which you were deeply attached to. But it will balance that loss with a new opportunity. Now that his captivating form is no longer present you are freer to make contact with his soul, especially as you are able to acknowledge your own.
The question of whether your life has been destroyed by this event is another point that is touched by our discussion. For your personality the pain is shattering and seemingly unbearable. I have no doubt that you wake up crying and you find life meaningless. Such suffering is what the personality would avoid at all costs if it were able. For your soul, however, it is an entirely different matter. For your soul suffering is that which forces you to grow spiritually and brings you closer to awakening to who you in truth are. I realize even as I say all these things to you that it is too much for me to ask of you that you understand the way in which the manner of your son’s death was his soul’s gift to your soul.
I suspect all that seems topsy turvy to you. But from the tone of your letter, I suspect you are riper to hear these things as even you suspect. Now as to how your son is I can only intuit, that a moment after he left his body, after leaving a thread of consciousness in his body for some weeks to give you a chance to get adjusted to the loss, giving you the opportunity to help him along the way. He was filled with an indescribable light of the most profound love. Even though there were no people familiar to him from his stay on earth to greet him, there were many beings most familiar to his soul, ready to welcome him. But probably you are suffering an attachment to him and a sense of loss is felt by his soul. Although he now understands what has happened, why it had to happen the way it did. And while you are suffering as you are, I am sure he is surrounding you with healing energy. And as you are able to quiet your mind, I suspect that you will feel it. It is of course acts to your benefit even if you don’t feel it. But you can just sit quietly and just hang out with your son, talking to him as you normally would about the many experiences you shared together. But in doing so, look to see the tread of spirit that pervaded each experience. Imagine you and he are souls who met on earth this time as father and son. How many times in your years together to the love between you nearly rendered the veil of mystery that would have allowed you to recognize the truth of soul that lay at the root of your relationship. It takes only a moment for two people to recognize their bond as souls. For souls know no time. And now even though your son is no longer embodied you and he can recognize one another. In no way do I think that it was an error on your part to remove the life support system. Your hand was guided by deeper forces of truth within yourself. Under such conditions, we do what must be done. Let your mind be at ease about this.
Grief is the realization of the loss of a dream. If you have a relationship with somebody you build an expectation and model. And when that is torn away when that person dies the breaking of that expectation takes away your security, so there is fear but also there is an incredible feeling of loss of sadness of feeling incomplete. When the dream collapses it is as if your whole identity died. It’s a mini death. We know ourselves through our relationships with other people.
A man once had to leave home for a long time. Before he left, his wife got pregnant, but he didn’t know it. When he returned, his wife had given birth to a child. He suspected that the little boy was not his, and believed that he was the son of a neighbor who used to come and work for the family. He looked at the little boy with suspicion. He hated him. He saw the neighbor’s face in the little boy’s face. Then once day the man’s brother came to visit for the first time. When he saw the little boy, he said to the father, “He looks just like you. He’s your exact duplicate.” The brother’s visit was a happy event, because it helped the father to get rid of his wrong perception. But the wrong perception had controlled this man’s life for twelve years. It made the father suffer deeply. It made his wife suffer deeply, and, of course, the little boy suffered from that kind of hatred. We act on the basis of wrong perceptions all the time.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala Pocket Classics) (p. 116). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem contains a collection of tiny ceramic cups. These were sacramental vessels. People cried into them. Your mother has just died. Someone you love has cancer. Your spouse has left you. You are struggling at work. As likely, you have simply broken down. You burst into tears. So you pick up your tear cup, put it under your eye, and weep into it. When you are finished weeping, you cap it and put it away again. It is a way to save your tears. Why save them? Because they are precious. It doesn’t matter why you cried, your tears are still precious, for they show that you care. A full cup of tears is proof that you have felt deeply, suffered, and survived.
Church, Forrest. Love & Death (p. 37). Beacon Press. Kindle Edition.
I asked him how old he was when he started getting in trouble, and he told me that he started hanging out with the drug dealers and bullies in his neighborhood when he was about fourteen. “Before that, I was a good kid. I never made trouble.” So I imagined this fourteen-year-old boy who had always been well behaved, and I wondered what led him to get involved with that crowd. I said, “Can you picture yourself as a fourteen-year-old boy? Right around the time you started hanging around those people?” He closed his eyes and nodded again. I asked him what he would say to that boy if he could. “You think this is fun and you wanna be a big man. That’s good. You have dreams. But you don’t see where this is gonna take you. You’re trying to be big, but you’re gonna get locked up in a cage for your whole life! I know! Don’t do it. You gotta see where this is taking you. It’s not where you think. Look at my life! [He’s crying now.] You need someone who can show you how to be big like you want. These people aren’t your friends and they’re all gonna end up dead or worse. You need a real grown-up who knows about life!” When he finished, we spent a couple of minutes in silence. Eventually he said, “That feels good, man, but it’s too late. It didn’t happen.” I was struck by how passionate and persuasive he’d been. It was really powerful. I asked him, “How many fourteen-year-olds are there in your neighborhood who are about to make the same mistakes you did?” He understood immediately, and his expression transformed from pained exasperation to one of focus and purpose. He said, “That’s it. I know something they don’t know. They don’t wanna hurt anyone. They’re just dumb kids. They wanna feel big, but they don’t know how. That’s it.” He was quiet for a minute and then continued, “I couldn’t hear what my pain was telling me, man, and it was gonna kill me. It was trying to tell me that I have something important to do, but I couldn’t see it. Now I know.”
Desmond, Tim. How to Stay Human in a F*cked-Up World (p. 54). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
In order to be born, you needed:
16 second great-grandparents
32 third great-grandparents
64 fourth great-grandparents
128 fifth great-grandparents
256 sixth great-grandparents
512 seventh great-grandparents
1,024 eighth great-grandparents
2,048 ninth great-grandparents
For you to be born today from 12 previous generations, you needed a total sum of 4,094 ancestors over the last 400 years.
Think for a moment – How many struggles? How many battles? How many difficulties? How much sadness? How much happiness? How many love stories? How many expressions of hope for the future? – did your ancestors have to undergo for you to exist in this present moment…
Flood, J., Heath, S. B., Lapp, D., & International Reading, A. (2005). Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy Through the Communicative and Visual Arts : Sponsored by the International Reading Association. Mahwah, NJ: Routledge.
Street, B. (1984). Literacy in Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press.
Prinsloo, M., & Baynham, M. (2009). The future of literacy studies. Basingstoke, UK ; New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Lewis-Spector, J. (2016). Building strong futures: Literacy practices for developing engaged citizenship in the 21st century. Australian Journal Of Language And Literacy, The, (1), 86.
Boehnert, J. j. (2015). Ecological Literacy in Design Education. Formakademisk, 8(1), 1-11.