Drink from the cup as if it’s already broken. — Zen Buddhist
Lately I’ve been losing a lot of things. I could write forever about losing things. I may.
A month ago I lost an application I was working on. There was a space for my social security number, which I had filled in.
I thought I’d tucked the form into a folder I’d been carrying around all day. But when I looked in the folder that evening the application was missing.
I checked everywhere. The next morning I retraced every step I’d taken the previous day. But the form was gone.
Gone to the same place that all lost things go, where will be found the Buck Rogers de-coder ring, your favorite beret, and millions of keys.
I put an alert on my credit file.
For the next 90 days no one can apply for credit in my name, including me, without my getting a call. So I’m protected for the time being should my social, as they say, fall into wrong hands. Then I have to renew the alert.
Interviewer: Do you write with a computer?
Sam Shepard: No. I don’t like things disappearing on me.
Speaking of computers, some of my files keep disappearing. The book I’m working on (nearly done) that I mentioned a few posts ago? Half the chapters disappeared one morning. Thank God and Steve Jobs for Time Machine.
I backup compulsively–how did it happen? Near as I can figure Dropbox became confused about which was the most current file. Which is to say, the backup process itself deleted the chapters.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The chapter that can be backed up is not the eternal chapter.
— Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching, amended.
Then my calendar disappeared from my computer. Not the calendar itself, just everything in it. I cannot begin to tell you the trouble I’ve had with calendars.
Nora refuses to mix calendars with computers, and Nora is right. And my friend Jerry has no calendar at all and seems to do pretty well.
Me, I can’t make a move without consulting my calendar. Pathetic, I know. My systems of self-protection get more and more elaborate.
The mark of adulthood is the ability to live with loss. — Anonymous
Nobody likes losing things. Isn’t this the starting point of Buddhism?
Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.
— Thomas Knierim, The Four Noble Truths
Philosophy is well and good until one day you come home and you’ve lost your father. Then what? My approach has been to hold on tighter. I’ve developed spells for all potential losses–compulsive backups, credit card alerts and so on. The only problem is that the main disaster they’re trying to prevent has already happened.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
This isn’t a good way to live, beating against the current. I end up needing spells to undo my spells. Here’s one such I use for writing:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
— Annie Dillard, “Write Till You Drop”
Here is the best spell for loss: It’s called “Loss Processing” by it’s inventors, Barry Michels and Phil Stutz. I’ve written about it before. But it’s so good it’s worth reminding myself. I told you I could write forever about losing things.
The little man in the bubble at the top is me, or you, holding on to something. But really, it’s already lost. What’s needed is the spell for detachment.
It works like this: Imagine holding the object of attachment, then let go of it. You fall. You fall backward through space, through grief, regret, unimaginable terror. Fall and fall and fall, right into the sun, and be vaporized. Annhilated. Pfff.
“Feel the tremendous force of the sun radiating outwardly,” says Michels, “Expanding you limitlessly.”
You’re already in the sun, annihilated but still sentient, apparently. Might as well let the sun work on you and be part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.
This multi-part post continues next time with Rites of Passage
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Write Till You Drop by Annie Dillard
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