Author, naturalist and Zen teacher Peter Matthiessen has gone west.
Zen is a tough nut to crack, but I think Matthiessen did a pretty fair job of it while arranging what seems to have been a graceful departure given his circumstances (more than a year spent battling leukemia). Discussing radical experimental measures that might have helped keep him around a while longer, he said, “I don’t want to hang on to life quite that hard. It’s part of my Zen training. … The Buddha says that all suffering comes from clinging. I don’t want to cling. I’ve had a good life, you know. Lots of adventures. It’s had some dark parts, too, but mainly I’ve had a pretty good run of it, and I don’t want to cling too hard. I have no complaints.”
Speaking with The Guardian newspaper in 2002, he said that Zen “is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake.”
“We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past,” he continued. “Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
In the here and now, Matthiessen’s final novel, “In Paradise,” is to be published on Tuesday.