Joan of Arc – Lyrics
It seems we’ve all begun to notice.
We’re all standing in a line.
Just a step before the precipice.
Waiting for the first to dive.
We don’t need to find a leader.
We don’t need a Joan of Arc.
Tonight, we speak from the heart.
We’ve been searching all directions
For answers we will never have.
Fighting left and right reflections.
Reaching for the flag to grab.
We don’t need to watch each other.
We don’t need a Joan of Arc.
Tonight, we live by the heart.
Let it ring out loud
in sweet harmony.
As this all falls down
let’s find within ourselves…peace
It seems in all our foolish wisdom
We’ve left a couple things behind.
But don’t you worry we will fetch them.
All good returning in all time.
We don’t need to search for answers.
We don’t need a Joan of Arc.
Tonight let’s be led by the heart.
“And then one day, you too disappear.
Your armchair is still there.
But instead of sitting in it, there is just an empty space.
You went back to where you came from just a few years ago.”
Mahāsamādhi is the word Yogis use to describe the act of meditating oneself out of one’s body. Once a yogi enters a state of full enlightenment, they can consciously make the decision to leave their body. Forever. It’s nuts, I know! Over the course of my life, I’ve had many thoughts about life and death. I’ve made decisions about the “right” ways to live and die and the “wrong” ways to live and die. I’ve also changed my mind many times along the way. Today, I choose to believe that we all “live” and “die” at different levels of consciousness and that when energy is ready to come into the body or leave the body, it will do so without any resistance whatsoever.
This version of Joan of Arc is about foolish wisdom and the silly notion that we, as humans, could ever know what is right or wrong in matters of life and death.
Last summer, I was outside on the dock doing my morning yoga routine while Quentin was on the lawn doing Qigong. Partway through my stretch, I noticed a huge fish floating on its side in the lily pads. It would intermittently wave a fin above the water and I could tell it was on its descent into the “great beyond.” After watching it for a while, I determined that this fish was suffering a long, slow death and that someone should put it out of its misery.
I yelled over to Quentin, “Are you seeing what’s happening over here?”
“Yes, I have been watching and sending love,” he responded zenfully.
“Well, don’t you think we should help this fish along?”
“That’s not my belief but, if it’s yours, then go ahead.”
After Quentin made it clear that he was not going to participate in my heroic effort to end this fish’s life in a more humane way, I decided I was going to have to be the “someone” to do the deed. So, I flew out of my yoga pose and headed into the cottage to get a fishing net and some gloves. I’d never killed a fish before, but this was the day I was going to muster up the courage to do the “right thing”!
I found a big rock and set it down on the dock before throwing my 1980s windsurfer board into the water. I set my gloves and the net onto the board and carefully hopped on. I got down onto my knees and paddled ferociously with both hands towards the lily pads. As I approached the dying fish, I put my gloves on, picked up the net, and took a deep breath. I can do this, I told myself. I can help end its suffering. I scooped the fish into the net, but when I went to lift it out of the water, it was waaaaayyy heavier than I’d expected. So, I decided to keep the fish and net in the water with one arm and paddle back to the dock with the other. As I paddled awkwardly, I noticed two strapping young lads in a fancy fishing boat floating quietly nearby. Phew, I thought, I can hand this fish over to these guys and they’ll know what to do with it. I started paddling towards them.
“Can I give you guys a fish?” I called out to the fishermen as I got closer.
“What kind of fish is it?” they asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Can you hold it up in the air?”
I raised the net up with one arm, trying to make it look like it was easy.
They took a quick look at the fish and said, “That’s a carp. Just throw it back in the lake.”
“But it’s dying,” I pleaded.
“Just leave it in the water and it will eventually die,” they suggested unsympathetically.
“I’ve been watching it die for the past hour and was hoping you guys had a quicker way of killing it.”
“Just leave it on a rock, it will die faster once it’s out of the water.”
“NEVERMIND I’LL KILL IT MYSELF!” I yelled back, not trying to hide the sheer frustration at their unwillingness to help me do the “right thing”.
“Sorry,” they both called out in sync.
“It’s fine,” I replied without looking back at them.
As I continued my uncoordinated paddle back to the dock, I was becoming more distraught. I was angry with the fisherman and judging them for not helping me end this poor fish’s suffering. What? They don’t want to get CARP blood in their fancy boat! Why do we value one fish over another?? Why are we so cruel to creatures? Why do we allow suffering? I hate humans!!!
Quentin had witnessed the exchange with the fisherman and saw how upset I was. By the time I got back to the dock, he was waiting for me and asked if I wanted him to kill the fish. “No! “I’LL DO IT MYSELF!” I growled back at him.
I picked up the large rock I’d left on the dock for fish-killing, but now that it was actually time to do the deed, I wasn’t really sure how to kill it. I called over to Quentin (who had returned to Qigong) for advice. He suggested I use a smaller rock than the one I had selected. Then he showed me the exact spot on the back of the fish’s head where I should smack it.
“Good-bye sweet fish, I’ll meet you in the great beyond,” I said as I brought the rock high above my head and then swiftly down onto the exact spot on its head. It let out a great gasp and then started thrashing around. I fully expected it to be dead on the first blow, but, terrifyingly, this was not the case! It continued to squirm and gasp for air. I could feel the lump in my throat and the tears welling up in my eyes. I delivered another blow to its head. This time, the fish seemed to look at me in astonishment as if to say: “Why are you doing this to me?!!” Again. WHACK! This time the fish’s eye met mine. If it could talk, I’m sure it would have said: “WHAT THE F@&K are you doing to me?” It just wouldn’t die. By this time, I was crying. Hard. I should’ve used the bigger rock! Why did I listen to Quentin??! WHACK! I delivered one last massive blow with all the strength I had remaining. Out splooshed fish brains all over the dock. Tears were flying out of my eyes. My face was drenched. I could barely see Quentin who was standing right next to me. I handed the rock over to him and asked him to hit the fish one more time to make sure it was dead.
“He’s dead Ang,” Quentin reassured softly.
I sat there on the dock beside the mangled fish and sobbed. Quentin sat with me until I finished crying. It took a while, but eventually the hysteria turned to calm. I dried my eyes and looked up to see the fishermen still floating nearby, facing the dock. I realized they’d just watched the whole horrific scene from their boat. They were talking and laughing. Although I’m not sure what they were laughing about, I immediately assumed that they must be making fun of my madness. But, here’s the part of the story that the fishermen didn’t know: My sister had passed away eight weeks prior to that moment. She was 46 years old. I watched her suffer intensely for more than four years.
As much as I wanted to believe that her four-year cancer journey had helped me come to terms with her death, I knew, in my heart, that my grieving process was not over. Not even close.
After killing the carp, I wondered about the symbolism of the whole ordeal. I hate to admit it, but there were times when I wished my sister had chosen an easier and faster descent into the great beyond. I didn’t want her to suffer. I didn’t want to see my parents suffer. I didn’t want to watch her husband and children suffering as they received dose after dose of grief over such a long period of time. And I didn’t want to suffer. I just wanted all of the suffering to end.
Why do we want to live so badly? Why do we fight so hard? Why is it so difficult to let go of those we love? These questions occupied my mind. If death is a natural and definite part of life, why is our reaction to death so painful and complicated? Growing up with religious ideas, it didn’t make sense to be so upset over the loss of a person or animal since they were going to Heaven. Why be sad for someone who’s going on an amazing trip to the most amazing place imaginable? For me, it felt good to believe that the people and creatures I love were going to a better place after they died. As I grow older and my ideas of the “great beyond” continue to change, I’ve started to believe that we don’t really die and while our physical bodies may grow and deplete, our spirit goes on to other dimensions of consciousness. This belief allows me to release some of my resistance to these mystical, magical things called life and death. After all, our entire human existence can be seen as fairly insignificant and, I daresay, not that important in the grand scheme of things. Living in an era where we are now removing statues of figures we once revered, I see that all things, even legends, disappear. Every single one of us comes from somewhere into this world and into what we call life, and then disappears somewhere into what we call death. But, no one really knows about the true “great beyond.” They might say they know…but I’m seriously suspicious of anyone who feels certain about this…even myself.
Even with this non-knowing, I can make peace with death. It is suffering that I still can’t comprehend. The suffering we inflict on ourselves and other creatures is something I haven’t yet reconciled. I grew up with a strong Dad. He had a reverence for all living things, but he had no tolerance for suffering. When a horse went lame or when a dog got sick, he shot it. He shot it respectfully but shot it nonetheless. I have watched my Dad kill many creatures before my eyes in the name of “putting it out of its misery.” I had never realized the courage it took to do this until the day I killed the carp. And I had never truly understood the journey of suffering until I watched my sister’s fight against cancer. After killing the carp, I realized his slow death in the lily pads might have actually been the “right” death. The natural death. And that MY way of killing him was not so right and not so natural. I realized I was just as crazy as everyone else who thought they were doing the “right thing.” With this in mind, I decided that my sister’s energy wasn’t ready to leave her human form and the suffering she experienced as part of her battle with cancer was perhaps a perspective of life and death that she needed. Perhaps a slow death full of suffering was the right way for her.
I know my sister is not suffering anymore and that gives me peace. The reason I know this is because I saw her body without its energy force. I didn’t want to see it but, after many days of visiting her in hospice in my exhausted and zombie-like state, I did what everyone else seemed to be doing…which was visiting her “resting” body. When I visited her “resting” body, I felt compelled to speak to her body as though she was still in there… like they do in the movies. But, when I arrived in the room, I knew she wasn’t in her body anymore. I could feel it in the energy of the room. She’d left her body behind…and she was free.
One of my healer friends once told me that people grieve for many reasons. Sometimes it’s about death, but it’s not necessarily about the death of a person. It can be the death of a job, of a dream, of a plan, even the loss of a stuffed animal. When we lose something that we thought we were going to have forever (or for a sufficient amount of time), we grieve that loss. I still want to tell my sister about the funky new pants I found online. I want to show her the photos I took of the rain on the tall grass. I want to talk to her about our ageing parents and get her opinion on some of my new ideas. And so, I show her these things and talk to her in my own weird way. She doesn’t care about stuff like that the way she used to. She’s much more playful and non-attached to human nonsense nowadays. If my sister really is out there in the ether watching everything from a higher perspective, I imagine we humans look like ants on an anthill. She’d see various ants carrying flags and making little ant sounds while other ants are chilling out and going surfing. Diversified ant groups would be throwing rocks at each other and creating smear campaigns against ants in leadership positions. There would be ants building tall things and other ants digging holes and throwing garbage in them while the quiet ants are meditating and trying to prevent the torture of animals. I imagine how sweetly chaotic this must look from the outside.
Here’s what I currently believe about humans: we’re not evolved yet. We’re just in the process, on a human journey…and nobody reading (or writing) this is ever going to see the end result of our evolution. We can search for answers, but in our foolish wisdom, no one can really know what is the “right thing”…about anything. I’m not saying I’m never going to try to do the “right thing” again, but I’ll definitely think twice before unleashing my heroic efforts on a carp who is “suffering” death in the lovely lily pads. Having said that, I know that, as long as I am a human, I will have more lessons to learn. I will not always know the “right thing” to do. And I will never be perfect. After all, how could I be? I’m just a partially evolved ant on anthill… and I SERIOUSLY have no idea what I’m doing.