I woke up this morning with a moment of clarity about impermanence. Impermanence is a Buddhist concept that many westerner’s have difficulty grasping. But this morning I saw clearly how our refusal to accept impermanence maintains the bondage of our suffering.
We try to achieve materialist goals we set for ourselves: home ownership, a new car, steady, rewarding employment and so on. I’m not saying its wrong to strive for these achievements, but our mistaken belief that once achieved these things will last leads to our suffering when we lose them.
I suppose the recent tsunami in Japan, tornado’s in Alabama and other southeastern states, and flooding along the Mississippi has made me realize how quickly we can lose everything we’ve worked for.
Home ownership is an American dream, and once in our grasp we spend much time investing our energy to customizing our homes to meet our desires. We work under the false assumption that the home will always be standing. Even if we do not live in a flood zone, we can lose our home to fire or our valuables to burglary. Yet we labor under the false assumption that we will always have our home and its contents until we decide to sell. When disaster strikes, we are mentally unprepared to lose all that we have labored to achieve, and thus suffer from our loss.
I am suggesting that our materialist approach to life, working to accumulate things, causes our pain when we inevitably lose them: a fine china platter breaks, a new car gets hit in the parking lot. We falsely assume that our cherished ones will stay in optimal condition, and consequently suffer when they inevitably degrade. This idea also applies to the people and pets we love.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to fixed up a home, or buy a piece of artwork. What i am saying is that we should do so knowing that tomorrow the house could be lost, rather than working under the presumption that our treasured ones will be with us always, and in the same condition as they are in today.
This recession has shown that jobs are fleeting. We may even have to leave our painstakingly constructed cocoon to find employment in another city or state. It is our blindness to the impermanence of our situation that causes the pain from our loss of what we held dear.
Rather, I propose, if we operated under the premise that nothing lasts, we might live a more nomadic existence. Our priorities would shift so that we wouldn’t focus on accumulation and we be more prepared to shift with life’s winds. Consequently, change would be expected. We would be ready for it and would suffer less pain from loss.
Try it on and see what shifts for you. KB