“Winter Came Early” – First Chapter

Sacred Curiosity

In the act of being curious, what has been settled becomes unsettled. There are no rules, no certainty, and no fixed place at which to arrive. We know that we do not know. We know that our cognition is inadequate so we must continue. Could this be a way into the gaps?

—Tarthang Tulku, Caring (page 222)

The day that Jon died, the course of my life was derailed; my confidence in what I thought I knew—the knowledge that I thought would see me through to the end of my days—was forever shaken.

When something so essential has been broken, we find ourselves trying to build a bridge into the future so that we don’t feel stuck in a present that has nowhere to go. But the future seems closed to me now, and my thoughts drawn to the past like a moth to a flame.

Memories of Jon’s final moments return most days. They congregate in the meeting place of my mind, already over-crowded with thoughts of all that went before, both in Jon’s life and my own. I keep sifting through stories—some 27 years in the making and others that have only recently emerged, trying to reconcile Jon’s successes, his struggles, and his courageous attempts to construct a workable life with his quick mind. I think about how he never seemed able to relax or feel at home here on planet Earth. I keep trying to explain the inexplicable, to create some sort of comforting resolution, but all the pieces remain scattered and disconnected, like the shards of a broken mirror.

Memories of that breakdown in the flow of time keep coming back to haunt me, no matter how hard I try to push them away. And so, I feel like a blind man who keeps hitting his head on a cupboard door that keeps swinging silently open each time he closes it.

I need the help of the living future if I am ever to get over the nexus in time when Jon took his life. I need a future so much, that I resist being pulled back into the past—and a struggle ensues. It is as if these thoughts, these travelers from the past, are unwelcome in the land of the future; and so, when they begin to show up, the shopkeepers pull down their metal security doors, putting up signs saying that they are out of business.

Yet, something tells me that a bridge to the future can only be built from forgiveness for the past. And to forgive the past, I must first remember and acknowledge it.

The past is ready to deliver these lost travelers into my keeping, and I must be open to them. No matter that the past feels like a chain around my neck; no matter that I long to close up shop. I need to welcome those lost visitors if I am to ever again feel open to possibility. If I don’t honor the past, its banned memories will continue to fill my thoughts, and the doorway to the future will remain forever closed. So, it is my intention to embark on a journey into the past because I know of no other way to build a new home in the present.

We know that our cognition is inadequate, so we must continue. Could this be a way into the gaps?

The bridge between the breakdown of everything I thought I knew and the shore upon which some kind of future is waiting for me, can only be paved with a special—sacred—kind of curiosity, with a willingness to see Jon, and perhaps myself, anew.

And so, in this book, I want to remember Jon. I want to be curious about him, and about myself, about how similar or different our paths might have been, and about how we might be connected in ways I have yet to understand.

To learn to forgive myself, I must remember. But not with my head; with my heart.