The Firm Art of Holding People and Places Gently in Mind

There will come a day when everything goes right. The weather is balmy with a cooling breeze; the cafe has perfected your favorite breakfast. Your inbox and voicemail contains messages from your favorite people. The report you write comes in on time. Your cowlick stays down. The new neighbor smiles and knows your name. It is tempting to want to hold on to that day. But it is this desire to control that comes with its own complications.  

One day you have a day like this, and six months later you discover that the new neighbor, who has become a close friend and confidant, is being relocated. The cafe owner is being forced out by the rent increase. The day is hot, or insufferably cold. The cowlick is standing at a ninety degree angle. Whenever the wind blows, it brings dust.  

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.” – Simone Weil

 

To gain perspective, let us explore the philosophy of the ages:

 

“The person whose mind is always free from attachment, who has subdued the mind and senses, and who is free from desires, attains the supreme perfection of freedom from Karma through renunciation.” – Bhagavad Gita

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are a structure for contemplating the human condition. The First Truth tells of suffering. We must face the facts of poverty, disease, old age and death. We can’t grasp only what we like and avoid the hard parts of life. The Second Truth exposits that our desires and illusions are based on misconceived notions – therefore, we suffer. Besides attachment bringing suffering, there is also the stance that if we face only those things that we find commodious, we will not grow in empathy and compassion.  

 

It is one thing to know this on an intellectual level; it is another to feel it. The paradox: loving deeply while holding on lightly. To cherish people and places, to form attachments, and to acknowledge that despite the desire to freeze something under the bell jar, life will bring changes. We ourselves will change. Change is the one constant.  

“You could not step twice into the same river.” – Heraclitus

 

Some people interpret the philosophy of non-attachment as a pessimistic take on the human condition; however, we might see it as a realistic or even stoic stance. An attachment to people, to places, to material items of beauty or sentimental value, to vistas, land, country, or creed are not to be loved any less for their impermanence, but may be cherished all the more for the beauty that they bring that remains in our hearts and minds.  

“Love is an attachment to another self. Humor is a form of self-detachment – a way of looking at one’s existence, one’s misfortune, or one’s discomfort. If you really love, if you really know how to laugh, the result is the same: you forget yourself.” -- Fran Lebowitz