August 29 2012
It’s a fine line between connection and attachment: the former having become fashionably acceptable in a ‘spiritual’ sense; the latter having become a baby-boomer no-no, whether as a result of Buddhist belief or self-righteous anti-materialism. I do get it, but really, do we have to pretend to be so hard and fast about these things?
Isn’t attachment a natural part of being human? First there’s the umbilical cord, then the breast, and on and on and yes, it is most definitely advisable to detach from such things, but why do we have to go a step further and insist that attachment shouldn’t even exist in the first place? What, exactly, is wrong with attachment? How many times do you hear friends and gurus warn, “Don’t get attached,” but ‘connection’ is ok. We’re allowed to connect and are often judged harshly if we don’t. The dictionary defines connection as “a link between one thing and another,’’ while it defines attachment as “affection, fondness or sympathy for someone or something.”
Why is this coming up right now? Well, we’re finding it wrenching to leave here. We’ve become attached, you see. More than that, our roots have grown deeper. Of course, this would be one reason why we Westerners decry attachment…it can cause pain when letting go. And there, I think, we have the real problem: the need to avoid pain.
Don’t feel bad, someone said the other day when, in response to their inquiry as to how I was I replied that I was sad to be leaving. “Oh, don’t feel sad,” they said, “You’ll be back next year.” What the hell is wrong with feeling sad? Why wouldn’t we be sad to leave this exquisite place and these halcyon days? It’s not like I want to commit suicide. But how do I know if I’ll be back next year?
I think life, if it is to be fulfilling, is a series of connections, and attachments, followed by letting go and detaching ; some of the detachment being delivered by outside circumstances of loss and death and some being a matter of choice.
Joel and I don’t have to leave…we can pretend we have to and in so doing experience the detachment as something unfair, even cruel. We could say, well Joel has to pick up his awards and I have to have a tooth replaced, the NY apartment has to be prepared for rental next year and on and on with the list of ‘musts’. But really, we could just as well have the awards delivered, I could go toothless for another year and the apartment could be rented as is, albeit for less money. And don’t think we haven’t, in some mad moments, decided to do just that. But it turns out we are just as attached to the idea, or belief, that returning to NY and fulfilling these things will make our lives so much freer in the future. What hubris.
Whereas the real attachment to NY is family and friends…and aren’t we fortunate to have such bonds? And to have such attachments in more than one place? The sadness I’m feeling now is simple: I feel a connection here, to place and a way of life that I simply do not feel in America.
It rained on Sunday. After 4 months of scorching sun, it rained. We stood outside and watched as the storm gathered itself, coming from all directions, the sky darkening and bruising. Lightening struck in two places at once, the thunder progressing from grumble to BOOM. The first drops were hesitant, like an overdue guest wondering if the welcome mat was still out. And then, unable to restrain itself it staccato-ed and then lashed, and I ran out into it, stood there in the already flooding gravel and, like the earth itself, tilted my head back and opened my mouth. In less than a minute I was drenched and, joy of joys, cold!
But it was that brief period after the rain’s hesitation, when it committed to a downpour that made me realize how attached I had become to this land. Why? Because I cried. I cried as if I was the land. Just as, during the prior weeks, I had groaned in parched sympathy.
In moments like this, when, for want of a better phrase, we are at one with the universe, connection and attachment do not exist.