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Losing things, Part 1: Social Security

Losing things, Part 1: Social Security

by Wolf Pascoe on January 14, 2013

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.

loss processing


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.

Then this:

“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

How I got the detachment spell



Write Till You Drop by Annie Dillard




Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela January 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Ah. I keep forgetting that its already lost. Or that it was never mine anyway. Thank you.


Wolf Pascoe January 14, 2013 at 11:32 pm



Steven January 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The timing for these thoughts is, for me, perfect. Thank you.


Wolf Pascoe January 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Thank you, Steven. You’re most welcome.


Jim Parkevich January 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Hi Wolf,
Geeeezzzz…Our ancestors never had such problems ? The daily schedule was based solely on the sun, rising in the morning and setting at night..Time to catch / grow our food, cook..eat..Weave cloth to make clothing, dip candles to have light at night. Clean and feed livestock. Carry water to exist on………..The annual calender was four seasons. Warmth of spring and summer to plant and grow food. Fall to prep for winter and winter to gather around a fireplace to keep warm..Now ? We have all this technology to mind our lives to the last second. And we make ourselves crazy trying to protect our time……..Tonight !! I will get lost in the laughter of my three year old grand daughter..My soul will be lost in gladness and I will not worry about time or responsibility


Wolf Pascoe January 17, 2013 at 1:45 am

Perhaps, if all goes well, our grandchildren may yet be back making candles, carrying water, and feeding livestock.


Sirena January 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I have a calendar on my phone, therefore I AM. I lost my iPhone once and became totally hysterical. I hope I will NEVER open my safe and find ashes.


Wolf Pascoe January 17, 2013 at 1:47 am

Here is the spell: every morning when you wake say, “I love my iPhone, but I am not my iPhone.”


Barbara January 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm

I’m with Nora – I keep an old-fashioned calendar on the kitchen table where I keep track of my life. And I still get hard copies of my bills even though I pay online. I like having that back-up option. Speaking of backing up, get a flash drive if you haven’t already! (P.S. I love that Annie Dillard quote!)
Barbara recently posted..Sea of Grass


Wolf Pascoe January 17, 2013 at 1:48 am

Love that Annie!


BigLittleWolf January 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

So much to absorb from your words… but I love this:

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.

Except it hasn’t necessarily happened. Or rather, the loss so profound and pervasive that may have occurred once now triggers fear of more losses even more profound, and these are the stories of our lives moving forward. Not things, but people, and perhaps that self as well, that self I still believe is ours to own, all effacing and erasing mechanisms to dull pain aside.

And then there is the hedonistic and obsessive wisdom of this, on writing, and the sadness that it never feels enough:

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.

And as it never feels enough – or good enough – there is more loss.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..Flash: Forgive Me, Lover


Wolf Pascoe January 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

One can never have enough of comments from you.


The Exception January 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Calendar? What is this of which you speak? 😉
The human mind is a wonder – I rely upon it and it alone.
The Exception recently posted..Wanting "Nothing"


Wolf Pascoe January 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

If you’re just getting started with this thing, I recommend chisel and soapstone. Much harder to lose.


Kyle Bradford January 19, 2013 at 9:00 am

“Things” – they will be the death of all of us.
Kyle Bradford recently posted..Two words that will destroy any relationship


Wolf Pascoe January 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Oy vey.


Privilege of Parenting January 21, 2013 at 1:18 am

Of course we are free to let go of it all and drop into the sun, but we are also free to celebrate the mystery of having in the first place and hug and bond and attach and never want to let go and drink so deeply from the cup of love in the here and now of touch and matter and feelings and tears that we need not play God at all and see what happens when we are kind and patient and tender.

Sometimes we lose things, and sometimes mysterious forces kindly take the cup of reeling from our hands, having drunk to the ashes and the dregs, our palates so appreciative of honey.


Wolf Pascoe January 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

see what happens when we are kind and patient and tender
sometimes mysterious forces kindly take the cup of reeling from our hands

May it be so.


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