Life's Attachments

There is a Buddhist saying that says, "All of life's sufferings are the result of attachments, for without attachments there is no possibility of loss." Yet, it is these attachments that bring true joy to our lives. So, we are always placed in the paradoxical position of making these attachments that will inevitably bring suffering. To avoid all these wonderful attachments is to lead an empty life. To live life to its fullest, we take not the safe path of avoiding attachments, but rather, we embrace them every step of the way.

The flower picked from the garden will inevitably wither and die, yet the joy it brings is immeasurable. We know it will not last forever, but we welcome the joy it brings while it is with us, as is the case with all our attachments.

Thus, we are faced with potential pain with every step of life that brings us joy. Those who tiptoe through life might choose the safe path and avoid many of the connections that could possibly bring them more than enough joy to compensate for the inevitable pain from the loss of that connection. Theirs will not be a life well lived. In order to live well, you have to immerse yourself in all its elements, and many of those elements will inevitably bring pain.

There used to be an investment advisor in St. Louis who was featured in a book called, "Trading Wizards." The author dubbed him "Mr. Serenity" because he was emotionally detached from the outcome of stock market trades. The author marveled at this guy's equanimity throughout the trading process, taking stock market wins and losses in the same even stride. He handled these trades with an even keel because his emotional channels were blocked. He could feel neither the joy nor the pain of life. Feel blessed that your channels are open, and as such, you can feel the pain as well as the joy. There is a wonderful saying that goes, “The greatest of all risks is the unwillingness to take a risk.”
It has been said that we are exposed to lows in our life so we have a basis for measuring our highs. People like the investment advisor know nothing of the hills and valleys of life. True, he does not openly experience many lows, but he neither knows much of the highs. The roller coaster of emotions that most of us feel clearly demonstrates that we are fully alive and living life to its fullest. There is a Spanish saying that is often given in response to the query, "Cómo está usted?" (How're you doing?). The response is "Estoy pasándola" or I am just passing (through life). Many are merely passing through life. For those who are living life to its fullest – part of that fullness is experiencing the pains of life.

If life were fair, bad things would happen only to the bad guys and good things would happen only to the good guys. As Jimmy Carter once said, "Life is not fair." It is full of inequities where the equation is often transposed. We realize this and try to make the best of it. At times, during periods of extreme sadness, like the loss of a loved one, the unfairness seems overwhelming.

There is an excellent book that was on the New York Times Best Seller's list for seven years, titled, "The Road Less Traveled." In the book, the author, Scott Peck, says, "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. Anyone that told you otherwise lied to you. What makes life difficult is the process of dealing with life's difficulties, but it is in dealing with these difficulties that we learn and prepare ourselves to deal with future difficulties – which are sure to come."

As our years at McKinley become more distant, we are ever more vulnerable to loss, like the loss this year of our beloved Coach Blanke. The amount of tears shed – by men and women alike – indicates that the collective McKinley heart lost something that we've all been attached to for decades and decades. Imagine if we had not made that attachment. Imagine if we had not taken Coach into our hearts, but rather, assumed a more detached perspective and just thought of him as...a coach. We could have avoided all those tears. That would have been the safe thing to do...but we would all have been the poorer for it.