Every now and then I’m struck with bouts of existential angst. We live in a meaningless universe that doesn’t care for us, and when we die we no longer exist except as an idea in the minds of those who knew us.
Slowly, but with terrible certainty we lose everything we’re attached to. Every. Single. Thing. There are those who say that our mind is the only thing that cannot be taken away from us, but that not true either. We can slowly sink into dotardly old age losing our memory, our sharpness and clarity. If I live long enough, I will also lose my wife. I plan to get a dog sometime in the near future, but I’m only setting myself up to lose him or her in around a decade and a half.
I like my current environment and my lifestyle. But at any time I can lose my clients and struggle to find new ones. My income stream will be disrupted. So that too is on unstable ground. And in death, I lose my life and the very awareness I treasure so much. We’re all going to lose everything that matters to us. That we care for. And there’s nothing we can do about it.
This is depressing to say the least. But what to do? Such is the nature of the world we live in. I think if we could inculcate the ability of “letting go” in ourselves, this will ease our pain greatly. But how do we do that? More importantly, isn’t it possible that in the process of developing this ability we will lose some of the enjoyment of the present? I don’t know.
Here’s what Lao Tzu had to say in the Tao Teh Ching:
Therefore, the Sage manages his affairs without ado,
And spreads his teaching without talking.
He denies nothing to the teeming things.
He rears them, but lays no claim to them.
He does his work, but sets no store by it.
He accomplishes his task, but does not dwell upon it.
“He rears them but lays no claim to them”. That I think is they key. Not “laying claim” to anything. As long as we have this feeling that we have a god given right to something, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster and pain. Do I have a right to my wife’s presence in my life? No. The truth of the matter is that no matter how I may feel otherwise, we are separate entities. She has her own path and her own journey in this world.
There’s more. At some point of time, our universe will become a dead dark thing – forever. No activity or movement, no stars…no light. Already 95% of all stars that will ever be born have been created. The age of the stars will end and the eternity of night will begin. I won’t be here, but it’s sad nonetheless that all the things I love are doomed. I have to let go of all of that too. At least in thought. Because it’s all passing. Only death awaits everything.
If I can just practice letting go of everything I cherish, it’ll be so much easier. It’s aligning myself with reality anyway. Nothing’s stopping me from enjoying good things when they’re there, but loss is as much a part of existence. And I have to deal with it.