Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One Foot in Front of the Other

I've just found out that Michael the author of the blog One Foot in Front of the Other has died yesterday after a long struggle with cancer. I've been following his blog off-and-on for about 4 years and was always moved by his poems, his outstanding photographs and the way in which he has dealt with the inevitability of his approaching death. It has been, for me, possibly the best Buddhist-related blog out there.

Having been absent for a while, I was a little disturbed by the tone of his latest posts which made it clear how much he had deteriorated. I became suspicious when I saw that he had not posted for 12 days, and not even approving comments to his last post. My own response to his final gruelling poem, like many others I'm sure, is lost, hanging in the ether for eternity.

Seems to be a pattern developing here.

Everyone you know (including online) will die.


  1. Everyone you know (including online) will die.

    Ain't that the truth. And the scary thing is, what if when one dies, there is no Moksha, no Heaven, no nothing, ---just nothing.

  2. Hello Kitty, :)

    Tell me, what was the nothing before you were born like?

    Nothing is no thing to be afraid of. If there is nothing there will be no you to endure it.

  3. There are more responses to Michael's passsing here:

  4. Granting that death is nothing to be afraid of, what about the deterioration that precedes it? I didn't know Michael or his blog, but i've seen plenty of people deteriorate, even just from normal aging, and i have to admit that the prospect of living for a long time in a deteriorated state disturbs me much more than the prospect of dying. How do you deal with that? The biographical stories in the Zen literature all seem to present the Zen masters as if they were immune to that kind of deterioration. Do you think it's realistic to believe that Zen practice (or any such discipline) can prevent mental deterioration from disease or normal senescence?

  5. Hi Gnox,

    What we are talking about is the problem of life and death. This is the core subject matter of Buddhism. It was encountering an old man, a sick man and a corpse, followed by a serene yogin that prompted Buddha to give up his life of luxury and become a yogin himself. I've read a little bit of evidence that meditation may reduce mental deterioration, but preventing your own deterioration is not really the point. Nobody is immune to deterioration and death. Not many people are serene when faced with these things. Some people who are young and completely healthy are preoccupied with imaginings about these things.

    I'll have to finish this response later...

  6. Sorry about that, I have a lot on at the moment.

    So granted that deterioration and physical pain are inevitable what can we do? We can take responsibility for our responses to them. Buddha describes suffering as being caused by desire and aversion - that is, a craving for reality to be other than how it is. When things are deteriorating with age, what allows one person to be serene rather than miserable or anguished is an attitude of appreciation and acceptance.

  7. Author Patry Francis has a beautiful post up about Michael at for the link to Michael's blog...and your reply to Kitty.

    Karen in Denver

  8. Hi Karen.

    Thank you so much for that - you're right it is beautiful. And thank you for sending me back to Michael's blog to see the new posts his sister has added.