Within my Buddhist practice I’ve always had difficulty with teachings on death. Yes, it is inevitable for all of us. It’s only recently that I began to understand the importance of that. My focus, and I think most people’s, has always been to accept that things fall apart. That’s helpful, but misses some of the point. It should be on appreciating the moment, knowing that all of this is fleeting. The lesson is about attachment. It’s not nihilistic, it’s celebratory.
A lot of the world’s problems today exist because we have an unhealthy attachment to the past. I saw someone make an astonishingly ignorant comment about Black Lives Matter, saying that Black people are still mad about slavery, but that ended over a hundred years ago. Well, no, they’re mad about Black people getting killed this year, this month, this week, an ongoing situation that extends all the way back to slavery. You’re the one that’s mad about pulling down a monument to a general on the wrong side of history. If anyone’s holding on to the past and refusing to move forward, it’s you.
Let It Go
It’s hard to let go of things that you consider part of your identity. As I watch “dead mall” videos, the question of how to bring them back comes up repeatedly. They can’t, for a variety of reasons. It’s not the result of online shopping, it’s because of inflation and income inequality. No one has disposable cash to spend on non-essentials. Before COVID the mall experience wasn’t one people had time for any more, meandering around and casually browsing. Aging, ugly buildings just aren’t a something to get excited about. Yet nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and many would like to bring malls back to their former state of glory so they can relive pleasant memories.
A couple of months ago I said that I expect to be dead by the end of the year. Part of that was accepting that we may not be able to stay in Finland. If we have to go back to the United States right now, I expect to either contract COVID, get shot, or succumb to something else that’s preventable but has allowed to continue unchecked. That’s what the country is right now, and that’s the arc it’s been on for a long, long time. I truly believe it, and I accept it. And since accepting it, I’ve had peace. Not nihilistic. Celebratory of the moment.
I am doing my best to enjoy life. I’m also doing my best to be productive, not just to try and avoid what I see as inevitable, but to be able to enjoy life. When things fall apart the solution isn’t trying to save them. It’s to build new things. There are things I want to create, and if time is running out, I need to create them. What’s the worst case scenario, that I live comfortably for a few more decades?