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Lions Roar : November 2012
69 SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 conceptual artist, talking about taking an important risk. These were new thoughts for me. I’d always assumed being panicked meant that you were doing the wrong thing, and that you ought to wait until you were calm before even contemplat- ing making a change. So I’d actually relinquished the gift of my unhappiness; I’d squandered it, disowned it, telling myself, “Get calm. Don’t even think about change until you’re no lon- ger upset. After all, you can’t think clearly when you’re so stirred up!”—and so I’d cast my life in emotional cement year after year. I’d remained in relationships too long and worked on projects too long, I saw now, gazing out the window at bustling Washing- ton Avenue. Fear had always meant, to me, Don’t do it! And wasn’t fear also an aspect of my clinging? After all, what did that pang mean when I left a place? It was mere attachment, in both the psychological and the spiritual sense. And it was the illusion that I would never have the good thing again. It was the illusion that something was wrong because I was sad, rather than that nothing was wrong although I was sad. Of course the inevitability of loss is one of the big lessons of the Buddha. It is one of the essential truths, and as long as I tried to shield myself from it, I merely narrowed my life. I’m writing this from a shockingly quiet apartment in Clinton Hill. Owned by an international journalist, its walls are covered with maps and its bookshelves must hold a hundred guidebooks. I think of it as the Invisible Apartment. It’s perched on the roof of a brownstone, an apartment so tiny it can’t be seen from the street, and it has no neighbors on any side except beneath its floorboards. When it’s time to leave again I know I’ll feel that pang, but I no longer feel a need to fight it. It’s even a kind of friend. Life is all a sublet anyway, of course. We don’t fully own even the bodies we live in; we can’t stop them from changing. We cede them from year to year. And this knowledge of loss, I’ve discovered, is the salt that brings up the savor of all the rest—understanding that none of it is mine to keep. It’s loss that provides the edge that makes the world sharply beautiful. Without it, life would pall; it would be far less intense. The pang is the small price we pay. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the level of real detachment—nor do I even seek it. Yet I’ve had these glimpses, as if I’ve taken a step back from my own life and can see the glittering pattern, all those scissor moments slicing us away from the past, letting us join the future, and I’m thankful for a perspective that makes the inevitability of change easier to accept. ♦ Life is all a sublet anyway, of course. Understanding that none of it is mine to keep provides the edge that makes the world sharply beautiful. PHOTO(BOX)©JUANMOYANO|DREAMSTIME.COM