Pattison on Wheels

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2-25-08: Attachment and Detachment

Way windy this morning and to some extent all day. Thus no boat trip. I took a long walk after 2 PM and sat a while near the water’s edge to see if any birds wanted their picture taken. There was a fish who jumped and jumped again in such a predictable way that I got several pictures of it. But mostly it was a day without much happening. I was thinking a little of the growing sense I have of the shape of the human condition. Being mammals we care. We have highly developed bonding abilities fitting for an animal who must spend years parenting to properly send some of our genetic stuff into the future.

All well and good and plenty of other animals have big old limbic systems to get all worked up over their family, troop, or tribe. The kicker for humans is that we stumbled on this trick of imagination that lets us build abstract models of our environment so we can simulate and problem solve without always having to learn the hard way. We have taken it so far that we actually experience life as if the simulation was life. Thus while we care tremendously we also have the ability to recognize that life ends and we must lose anything and everything we care about.

There is a terrible tension between our passionate desires on the one hand and our simultaneous deep ability to be aware that we must lose everything eventually. That, in a nutshell, is the trouble with consciousness.

The fact that we have walked this far through this invitation to despair is quite marvelous and deserves to be honored. Yes, there are many artifacts falling out of this tension. Some people choose to ease the stress by denial of caring and some by denial of dying, some both. We pursue our passions and drives as if there were no death or loss—even to the destruction of our own environmental support system. We pretend in a thousand ways that we won’t die. Nevertheless this condition is and will be visited on us as a species. We don’t want to address the deadly toxic growth of population because we don’t want our own imperative personal efforts at procreation restrained. Civilization becomes a vast study in delusional wish fulfillment.

Still, the clock is ticking and we have to watch the erosion of our dreams and the loss is built in no matter how long we deny it. So we will be aware. Increasingly aware. We will find a way to live with the dilemma because it is true and awareness of truth will win in the long run.


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