Thursday, January 23, 2014

On Non-Attachment, part 5

Part 4.

Attachment to objects obviously leads to suffering, but is also one of the simplest joys in this world.  We take care of what we consider ours.  To own an object is to start a relationship with it.

One's relationship to an owned home is quite different from a hotel or a rented place.  One wants to beautify it, to customize it, to develop memories about it, to have it known to oneself in all its details.

In the last parable, Jimmy developed a relationship of deep affection with his bicycle.  When he lost it, he was inconsolable.  His pain is easy to understand.  But his long-term response, to ward off hurt by not getting attached to anything, was not unlike what a scripture would advise.  And by not getting attached to anything, he also couldn't make himself care for anything.  A vagabond's life, without any responsibility or attachment, was his choice.

But the heart and its memories cannot be extinguished easily.  He could not shake off the love that he had felt.  Even though this was the love of an inanimate object, its nature is not very different from the love for a human being.  His heart still contained the sweet memory of his bicycle and what it had meant to him.  The key in his pocket at the end was a symbol that as long as one is alive, one cannot forget love, given or received.

This part of our humanity causes us tears, melancholy, grief, nostalgia, but if despite all these "bad" feelings, we still treasure a memory, then it must be giving us a kind of nourishment that is supremely important.

People who do not care for things cannot be expected to care for people.  Many say that to nurture a child's heart is to make it cherish and care for its books, toys and little things.

The next parable:

He believed, with all his heart, that all men were equal.  That they must be treated fairly by those in power.

He had a friend who believed this as well.  But the friend's belief was more lukewarm.  It was as if he liked the idea, but wasn't willing to put himself at risk for it.

One evening, as they were strolling down the market street, they saw a child being beaten by many men.  It was the son of the town mayor's house-cleaner.  He was being severely beaten by the mayor's guards.  People were shouting that though he had been accused of theft, that he should be allowed to speak in his defense.

He, the believer, could not hold himself back.  He elbowed his way into the center of the fight.  He tried to hold back the guards from hitting the boy, but they didn't listen.  To save the child, he threw himself on top of his bleeding body and became its shield.  The guards warned him to move away.  But he remained resolute, as if possessed by an inner fire.

The child's father begged the guards to leave.  As the heat of the moment passed, the guards dispersed, cursing the savior who had shielded the boy.

The next day, a crowd gathered in front of the savior's home.  They wanted to overthrow the despotic mayor.  They were carrying torches and shouting that they had had enough, and wanted the savior to be their new mayor.

The savior's friend was in that crowd too.  His face was all red today, and his voice the loudest.

(to be continued)

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