This life. This modern American life is based on acquisition. We are taught to acquire from early on. To get more. To go for the direction of our dreams, to strive, to not settle; and to learn ways to streamline and leverage and take that more and parlay it to even more – more. But, we are not taught how to lose. And so much of life is about coping with loss. We lose everything in the end. If we are lucky. I’m talking about grief – the cost of love. And the secret bridge between love and grief is time. A commodity to be valued above all else.
What a lovely little life we have and how little we see of it. Every once in a while, circumstance grants us a glimpse into seeing things from that brilliant perspective and we can ponder a taste of what and how God sees, and maybe, if we are lucky, feel what he/she/it must feel. Compassion. Endless compassion. And powerlessness. But then we return to the way things are and forget our excursions into the great reality. Pain can teach us that. Loss can teach us that. We need to get good at losing if we are to make a success of this life.
And then we settle back into the delusion and forget how fragile it all is. But in truth, all of us are coping with loss, all the time. It is built into the fact of being human, being here. We lose the use of an arm from a surgery, we lose a pet, or a loved one, or a career, or what we think we are, or a relationship. And with that loss comes the feelings associated with loss. The ones that rip us apart and break us open not apart. And that gap between the finger of man and the finger of god stretches. I don’t know much, but I do know that there is a seduction built into our society to distance ourselves from the very aspect that we are only here for a short while. That everything we hold dear and near is passing. Right? I don’t want to get all zen-lite here, but it is truth.
Some people hang on more than others. Tell me what you hang onto the most, and that is the very thing that you might need to let go of. For many of us is our career, or our partners, or our children. Some of us hang on to old subscriptions to National Geographic, or baseball cards, or locally sourced honey. But, we also hang on to identities. Things we let define us. And then sometimes life has a way of ripping that from us, just so we can lean in and grow closer to whatever it is that we define God as. I have always been an alchemist. I can’t help but try and forage from the shipwrecks of various periods in my life and make something beautiful out of them. Groundlessness can be very fertile ground. It is the mulch of change.
I recall a time way back… maybe fifteen years ago now, when I was just a beginner in a spiritual practice and some of the crusty old timers were saying things like… “Matt, all you got to do is hold on, man, just hold on.” And then that grey-haired silver back would limp off with his hip problems and another would come around and say, “just let go, Matt. All you have to do is let go.”
Yeah. That’s the deal in this thing beyond the Costco parking lot and the Instagram likes – we are asked to decide what to hold on to and what to let go of.
I had a wise friend who retired to North Carolina that liked to say, “life is a series of surrenders.” No wiser thing has ever been said about freedom. And independence. True independence.
I think of these things today as the Painted Ladies flap their chaos wings north from Mexico en masse weaving in and out of our suburban existence with a flight and fancy all their own. It is spring again. A time of transition. And rebirth. A morning for the whole world. But spring itself can’t make up its mind. It bounces between winter and summer and makes fools of us all. It grieves it’s own passing. No wonder all the world wants to make babies in it. After a thaw. And the green grass. We get a glimpse of the perfect timing of all things and think we can catch the trick of hand. And we pause. Or I do. It transforms us. And reminds us we are change.
Maybe that’s why the cherry blossoms are so revered. I’d like to think so. It makes making friends with the totality of life that much sweeter.