My son is reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse in Literature class. I remember reading it at 18, his age as well. It added a dimension of self-reflection and spirituality to my life that had never been there before. I lovingly handled the pages of that book and didn’t want to set it down.
To add to the class’s understanding of the story, they were assigned to watched a PBS movie called The Buddha. In it, the Buddha explains that everything we love and cherish is already gone from us. That is the nature of life: it is ephemeral and fleeting. Despite all promises to “be together forever,” we can’t control our own mortality. My beloved’s mother just passed away this week, reminding us thoroughly of that fact.
Situations change, relationships end, new ones begin. And of course, we can’t control the lifespan of our possessions. My son is learning this with his car that is on its last legs. Is it okay to let go of our material goods without being shallow? Are we betraying them, or being materialistic?
The Buddha also points out that to understand and come to peace with the inevitable nature of loss and suffering is to let go of our attachment to that person, that thing, that moment.
I’m not a Buddhist, but for me, letting go of attachment means cherishing everything as a gift while we have it. I don’t want to completely detach-I want my love and honor to go through the suffering and come out the other side. I hope that awareness can help me with this. By knowing that I won’t have something forever, I am striving to fully be in the moment with it.
If I look at curating a gallery with a Buddhist eye, I would see the inevitable end of all material. My future self sees that the objets d’art would eventually break, tear, rip, and crack. I see the mortality of matter. Of course, this is nothing I want to hasten. By being aware of its fragility, I am more respectful, more aware, more loving in every moment I am holding work. By knowing that destruction is coming, I bask and glory in the beauty of each object’s fullness and vitality in its present manifestation.
I’m attempting to hold my loved ones in the same way. I want to hold my relationships, my situations, and my possessions with loving respect. I want to hold the beautiful and virtuous entities with curator’s hands, lightly and safely. I know that some will be in my palm for a good long while. Others I will set down gently.
But the point is to be prescient in the holding.