Casey’s Letter To His Students

Casey’s Letter To His Students

John Casey wrote this last letter to the Warren Wilson College community on February 16, 2017. He died on February 24, 2017.

I’m very sad that I’ll have only a few days left to hug my sweetheart, to sit in the sun and watch the world go by. Very sad that I’ll not grow a garden again, or work on class notes, or even be in class again.

I am fully engaging this sadness and if you are sad too, I hope you are fully into it as well. Our lives are experiences to be fully lived. However, this life of experience rests on an illusion of separation. Separation is a good thing in experience. Feeling separated from friends prompts us to seek new friends, loss of a lover prompts looking for a new love, and separation from success prompts renewed effort.

Sorrow and joy are Siamese twins joined at the separation. But in reality, there is no separation, only is, existence, one stuff, Brahman, Yaweh, God, Tao, Wakan Tanka. These are just names, and as such they already imply separation. Words and thinking require distinctions, so you cannot think your way out of thinking and so out of separation. You cannot know the Tao, but you can be it.

Years ago I began running on Dog Wood in the pitch dark of a moonless predawn and got a surprise. Darkness has no edges, no limits and to be in it is to be it, not part of it, not moving through it, to be it! When you run clothed in the rain you feel the wet, but naked you are the wet, naked in the snow, you are snow, naked in the wind and you are the wind. So I ran across the forests and fields naked in the dark and experienced being.

When I fell and reentered the world of separate experience, I started over, and over the years occasionally became the Tao,

The years occasionally became the Tao, pure is, for long periods. I believe I’m prepared to be a “one timer” going straight to is. In just a few weeks you will be in the experience of separation from the experiential me and I will just be, except there will be no separate “I,” just being.

I do not suggest that you run naked on Dog Wood, although it might make for an interesting experiential independent study. But I hope you fully experience those occasions when while painting you become the painting, ride your bike in the zone, play music and become the music. These can provide glimpses of being without separation. So when it is your time, you can be.

I’m going home soon to sit a while in the sun. Come to my house and sit with me. I may not be up for talking, but just holding hands will be better anyway.