Friday, June 27, 2014

A Life of Pain

I loaded the bike into the Pathfinder and drove to Penn Forest Elementary School to meet Gary Roach, Floyd Muse and Brian Marshall for a training ride. The day was cold and blustery. We headed out to Boones Mill, Virginia via route 220 then turned on route 619 to climb Mount Cahais. The pace was rather quick. Floyd and Brian are fit right now. Gary and I are catching up. The terrain here in this section of Franklin County is steep rollers. All of us definitely paid our dues before hitting the climb. The ride details are as follows: Total time in saddle: 105 minutes. Total Distance: 26.63. Average speed: 15.1 MPH. Maximum speed: 43.4 MPH. Average Heart Rate: 134 BPM.

(Photo courtesy of

      I spent most of my time on this ride thinking about the recent documentary I watched entitled “The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off.” Thirty-six year old Jonny Kennedy was the subject of the documentary, the program documented the final months of Jonny’s life as he suffered from the rare inherited condition known as dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (EB or DEB). Jonny, a UK citizen, suffered from this genetic condition which causes the skin to blister and peel whenever it is touched or experiences any pressure. The condition is very debilitating. It forces the sufferer to live in a virtual “hell-on-earth.” What sucked me in, totally, was the spirit displayed by Johnny Kennedy during the filming of this documentary. For all the pain and suffering he and his mom had gone through during the 36 years of his life, his soaring, uplifting spirit was truly an inspiration.
During this training ride I reflected on the fact that the world has individuals like Jonny, living a life of brutal hell; yet through a resilience, displays the gift of the spirit in such a way that it gives strength to all who come in contact with them. On the other hand, the world has individuals with perfect health, who display a hateful and murderous spirit bent on spreading death and destruction. Life appears, at times, unfair. But is it really? People displaying a mean spirit, instigating death and destruction, will ultimately pay the price. I truly believe that Bad Karma is coming for these individuals, such that they will be blasted to the depths of hell.
Jonny’s spirit, on the other hand, is now experiencing a joy sublime, encased in the light and love of our creator. This, a result of the good karma developed through life trails of living 36 years with the monstrous condition of DEB.
Jonny talked about the spirit during the documentary and the way he spoke about indicated a deep belief in spiritualism. He also spoke about dreams and dreaming, reminding me of a recently read passage from Takuan Soho’s “The Unfettered Mind-Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman”:
“When we see things in the middle of a dream, although we do not see and hear then with the eyes and ears given to us at birth, we distinctly meet people, say things, hear things, see colors, and even have sexual relations. We wrestle with the things that concern us daily and, just as we think we are going to resolve our desires, wake up.
“It is upon awakening that we realize it was a dream. In the dream itself we never think, ‘this is a dream’ or ‘this is not real’.
“During a dream, this body is still alive and bound and cannot go to the places it would like. But with the strength of its own thoughts, it is able to see those places by drawing them to itself.
“When one truly dies and leaves his own body, he goes where he wants to go like a cat released from a string. Although one’s thoughts are the same as the thoughts in a dream, it is now as though he can go freely wherever he likes.
“In the midst of profound darkness or when the doors and windows are shut, one enters a state of freedom.  This is because he has no form.
“In this case, although there is a form, there is no corporeality, and it is like seeing the reflection of a lamp or the moon on water. There are no hindrances.

“With this body acting as a barrier, one cannot enter the inner-most shrine, but the mind can be conversant with that which is within, just as thoughts can pass through the Mountains of Silver or the Wall of Iron.It is unlikely this mystery will be understood by the common run of men.”.– Takuan Soho, “The Unfettered Mind-Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman”, trans. by William Scott Wilson [Kodansha: Tokyo. 1982] pg. 104-105. ① -Mountainous locations within China.

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