By Christopher Renzo
Life is always changing. On one end this is amazing because it brings new people and experiences into our lives. However, change will inevitably “take” away people and experiences so that we must say goodbye. I must humbly admit to myself that there will come a day when my wife is no longer in my life. There will be a day when my parents and my family are no longer in my life. And there will be a day when all of those whom I have come to love as dear friends will no longer be in my life. I am having a hard time with this concept. The impermanence of life makes life both beautiful and tragic.
How do we then make peace with such a dichotomous reality?
Due to our social nature we allow ourselves to become vulnerable so that we may develop meaningful relationships. It is the act of opening ourselves up to others that creates both the experience of joy and love as we developed a bond with someone, however it also creates the potential for hurt and loss. Becoming vulnerable, for practically all of us, is not a choice. Many of us have close bonds with family and childhood friends all the way into adulthood. And even when it is a choice, we choose to develop close bonds with others so that we may feel and give love. It is love that is at the crux of this dichotomy. However, becoming vulnerable is a necessity to create and foster the experience of love.
Yes, Zen Buddhism, and other philosophical practices may teach us about the principle of non-attatchment, but I do not feel that these ways of being dismiss the painful reality due to the loss of love. Yes, we can be grateful that the experience of love happened, but we will still be saddened by the loss of any love. This is the bittersweet reality of love. Non-attchment may teach us to not identify with the loss and pain associated with loss, but the fact still remains that loss, pain, and tragedy are real aspects of life.
What is one to say to a parent that loses a child “prematurely”? What is one to say to someone who “loses” there wife, their husband, or their best friend to some sort of tragedy? There is nothing to say to pacify the pain except showing support to the person that is hurt. Even in the faith that we will be united with those that leave us behind we still feel the pain of separation. Faith may bring us peace in knowing that the loved ones are in peace themselves, but it still does not dissolve the pain of separation.
Maybe in these writings I am open to the idea that I have lost my way. Maybe I have lost that strong connection I once had to my faith and to God – or maybe as I get older I realize that it was easier to isolate myself in my ideals and naivety as a younger man. Either way, I am where I am and this is how I now feel.
Lately I have been questioning this feeling of discontent with life that I think most of us feel at some point or if not all the time – just beneath the surface of our experience. So then, what do these ideas of impermanence, loss, and pain, have to do with discontent? Is my feeling of discontent a feeling of bitterness I have towards life because I cannot find absolute peace? Can I not find peace because the dichotomy of love and pain is to much to fully grasp – even thought I seem to keep trying to think my way into a solution for peace? Am I, and so many of us, rushing through life and distracting ourselves so that we do not have to deal with the inherent existential dilemma that life puts in front of us? – that life is both beautiful and tragic? Because we all know, at least in the back of our minds, that we will loose what we love at some point?
Is this why many of us become addicted to something? Are we trying to distract ourselves from this reality? The addiction can come in many forms – work, drugs, our egos, food, etc.
To face life in all of reality takes great courage. Humility takes a strength that has nothing to do with toughness, but rather I think it has to do with allowing ourselves to be sensitive. It is this sensitivity that opens us up to being vulnerable – all the while being conscious that we know we will eventually lose the love that we have opened up to. To be aware of this existential dilemma yet maintaining a desire for intimate relationships and closeness to others takes great courage. It’s a strength born in sensitivity, humility, and a willingness to accept and deal with tragedy. So then, I ask the creator, why?