the immortal sinead o’connor

8 December 1966 – 26 July 2023

 

Someone went to a Sufi

with a question. He said, ‘I have been

puzzling for many, many years and reading books,

and I have not been able to find a definite answer.

Tell me what happens after death?’ The Sufi

replied, ‘Please ask this question of

someone who will die. I am

going to live.’

 

Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

I came home from running errands two afternoons ago and picked my iPhone up off the counter where I’d left it, face down. As it was turning toward me, I saw among the notifications on the lock screen one from the New York Times that began with the words, “Sinead O’Connor…”. I put the phone straight back because I knew I needed to go talk to the contractor working on my lanai, and I knew that would be hard — and strange —  to do through a river of tears. Notifications that begin like that are usually just one kind.

Since her death was announced, I have read tens or hundreds of thousands of words written about this lion of a woman, and mostly I’m struck by the river of quiet condescension which runs through them. “Struggled with her mental health for years”, they all say, often in the headline. They talk about how her career was never the same after she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live. They jabber a bit about her dance with suicidal ideation and she is dismissed, by nearly every critic’s tone, to some pantheon in their minds of lesser, failed artists.

Sinead O’Connor was abused, sexually and physically and otherwise, in her early childhood by her mom. Not a little, a lot. People who’ve gone through something like that suffer things you and I don’t: borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, so on. They are colossal fragmentations of the mind and self which arise as a natural response to being savaged by a person of trust in a time of indescribable vulnerability. These have next to nothing to do with our fiercest moods, yours or mine, however full of darkness, struggle, and desperate grasping our troubles may be, however long they might go on.

Many people who’ve endured such things are permanently or regularly crippled by them at a level and in ways we cannot imagine or understand. Sinead O’Connor recorded ten albums, many of them outstanding, endured epic fame, which is no treat, collected Grammys and other awards by the wheelbarrow full, birthed and raised four children with tremendous love, fought off the hands and minds of record executives who imagined her a sexy bunny of a pop star when she understood herself to be a revolutionary and a protest singer, and carried on a lively, funny, occasionally heartbreaking, always substantive and intelligent and meaningful conversation with the world for nearly six decades. It included a very fine memoir, Rememberings (in which she refers to Prince as “Ol’ Fluffy Cuffs”, which gives you some measure of her wit). Her conversation with her creator, every bit as public as the rest of her life, was one of the most profound and wide-ranging I have ever witnessed.

Talking about how John Steinbeck was disrespected by critics after his death, the poet and novelist Jim Harrison said, “The Grapes of Wrath is a monstrously underrated novel, and Steinbeck has been neglected. But that’s okay, because he’s Steinbeck and they’re not. Where’s their Grapes of Wrath? They didn’t even write The Grapes of Goofy.”

Sinead O’Connor was as large as they come. She fenced and cleared the wilderness of her soul and her furiously difficult life, she toiled there with the dedication of an artist of the very first water, and she brought forth sweet grapes like few ever have or will. I trust that she is bringing them forth still, and I bow to this magnificent being for all eternity.

put your simple faith in this

bruno bisang

 

The

great truth of zen

is possessed by everybody.

Look into your own being and seek

it not through others. Your own mind is

above all forms; it is free and quiet and sufficient;

it eternally stamps itself in your six senses and four elements.

In its light all is absorbed. Hush the dualism of subject and object,

forget both, transcend the intellect, sever yourself from

the understanding, and directly penetrate deep

into the identity of the buddha-mind;

outside of this there are

no realities.

 

…Put your

simple faith in this,

discipline yourself accordingly;

let your body and mind be turned into

an inanimate object of nature like a stone or

a piece of wood; when a state of perfect motionlessness

and unawareness is obtained all the signs of life will depart and

also every trace of limitation will vanish. Not a single idea will disturb

your consciousness, when lo! All of a sudden you will come to realize

the light abounding in full gladness. It is like coming across the

light in thick darkness; it is like receiving treasure in poverty.

The four elements and the five aggregates are no more

felt as burdens; so light, so easy, so free you are.

Your very existence has been delivered

from all limitations; you have

become open, light, and

transparent.

 

Yuanwu

zen letters

 

work the soul with discipline

please help support blue dragon

 

Borrow the beloved’s eyes
Look through them and you’ll see the beloved’s face
everywhere. No tiredness, no jaded boredom.
“I shall be your eye and your hand and your loving.”

Let that happen, and things
you have hated will become helpers.
A certain preacher always prays long and with enthusiasm
for thieves and muggers that attack people
on the street. “Let your mercy, O Lord,
cover their insolence.”
He doesn’t pray for the good,
but only for the blatantly cruel.

Why is this? his congregation asks.
“Because they have done me such generous favors.
Every time I turn back toward the things they want.
I run into them, they beat me, and leave me nearly dead
in the road, and I understand, again, that what they want
is not what I want. They keep me on the spiritual path.
That’s why I honor them, and pray for them.”

Those that make you return, for whatever reason,
to God’s solitude, be grateful to them.
Worry about the others, who give you
delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.

Friends are enemies sometimes,
and enemies friends.

There is an animal called an ushghur, a porcupine
If you hit it with a stick, it extends its quills
and gets bigger. The soul is a porcupine,
made strong by stick-beating.
So a prophet’s soul is especially afflicted,
because it has to become so powerful.

A hide is soaked in tanning liquor and becomes leather.
If the tanner did not rub in the acid,
the hide would get foul-smelling and rotten.

The soul is a newly skinned hide, bloody and gross.
Work it with manual discipline,
and the bitter tanning acid of grief,
and you’ll become lovely, and very strong.

If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry.
You don’t even have to make a decision,
one way or another. The Friend, who knows
a lot more than you do, will bring difficulties,
and grief, and sickness,
as medicine, as happiness,
as the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,
when you hear Checkmate, and can finally say,
with Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.

 

Jalal al-Din Rumi

 

create from joy

hamid sardar-afkhami

 

The most

beautiful paintings and

sculptures, the greatest poetry,

have not always been born from torment

or bitterness. Often they have sprung from

contemplation, from joy, from an instinct or wonder

toward all things. To create from joy, to create from wonder,

demands a continual discipline, a great compassion…With time

and sincerity, you will discover a way to work and write that does

not harm you spiritually, that does not tempt you to vanity,

that is the deepest expression of your spirituality. You

will find a voice that is not your voice only, but the

voice of Reality itself. . . If you can be empty

enough, that voice can speak through you.

If you can be humble enough, that

voice can inhabit you

and use you.

 

Thuksey Rinpoche