Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Life. Bittersweet. I first experienced it when my brother moved away to college. I wasn't aware of the bargain that I had made, but I soon learned what it was. In return for his daily brotherly love and companionship, I had to pay for it with its inevitable absence. I was bereft. I thought my world had ended. Our house was utterly empty without him there. But eventually, I rebounded and moved on, chastened by the experience.

I didn't know it at the time, but such life changes add bark to the soul, both sustaining it and walling it off. And that''s the trick: to accept the sustaining quality of the experience while preventing it from walling us off from new ones. That is wisdom, to learn from past experience and use it to live more fully in the present moment, the only one that matters.

Buddhism calls dwelling on or living in the past (or worrying about the future) a delusion, an unhealthy attachment to illusory things. Everything changes. Nothing is permanent. Attaching oneself to such impermanence, depending upon it for happiness and contentment, can only cause suffering. It's not a matter of "if," but of "when." We must not forget the wonderful moments (or the not-so-wonderful ones) or deny their reality. But we should let them go, or put another way, let them inform but not discolor the full wonder and majesty of the present.

Melancholy shades the moments behind us. Their increasing distance brings nostalgia for what can never be again. But it shouldn't be that way. Indeed, those moments shaped us into the sentient being that we are now; our perceptions of this moment are in many ways guided by them. They will both always be with us and will never happen again. That's life.