Thursday, August 13, 2015

Impermanence and Attachment

When something gives me pleasure, I want it to last.  Yet the universe marches inevitably toward entropy and chaos.  Material objects fall apart, people age and die, relationships change.

I may experience something and say to myself, I wish this moment would last forever.  But moments move on and so do I.

I may cherish a five year old child, but that child grows into a teenager and then young adult.  It doesn’t mean that the child is better or worse, just developing and transforming.

I often feel a pull toward the status quo, things I’m used to.  I don’t want the hassle of adapting to something new.  This way has always worked.  Why change now?  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Yet as I age, circumstances change and I’m faced with the realization of a universe of impermanence.

How do I react?  Do I cling to the past, relish “the good old days,” pine for something that no longer exists or do I move on?

We can become prisoners of the past, and we can be so attached to objects or people that we are over-protective and fear-ridden.

There was a man who loved his valuable stamp collection.  He spent hours working with it, adding new stamps.  Then he became concerned about how valuable it was.  He considered getting a lock box at his local bank but worried that the bank might be robbed.  He thought about hiring guards to protect his stamps, but feared the guards might turn and steal from him.  He installed an elaborate security system and barricaded his home.  Then he became afraid to leave his house because someone might try to break in.  He woke up every morning in turmoil and raced down to his den to verify that his stamp collection was still in his wall safe.  Then he became fearful of even taking it out of the safe.  He was so attached to protecting his stamps that he never looked at them and never gained any pleasure from them again.

Compare this to a person who has few possessions but is free to go and enjoy whatever he wants.

Attachments tie us down and limit our freedom to move.  If we get chained to things or tied to the status quo, we lose our vitality and ability to live life.  We’re locked in the past instead of living now and enjoying the impermanence of the moment. 

So I need to remind myself to rejoice in change.  Embrace it instead of mourning the loss of something that no longer exists.  And I think I’ll continue to collect memories instead of stamps.

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