The Buddhists have known it forever. We cling to the past, to our delusions, relationships, jobs, situations, long past their expiration date. We cling, and then we suffer. We are so controlling! We're responsible for everything bad - or everything good - we want everyone to behave in a way we approve of. We are controlling, and we suffer terribly from it. The next thing you know we are old or sick, and then we die, still clinging, still suffering.
What the Buddhists do is practice letting go, they practice every day. It's not the only thing they do of course; they also practice compassion and mindfulness, but oh my they are so smart to know how bad it is when we cling.
Clinging is different than commitment, by the way, yes? I say yes.
I could go on, but I think instead I will quote from a tribute to Steve Jobs that appeared in the Washington Post this morning. I've read a lot of great stories about him of course. The message in the following applies to all.
We spend a lot of time wishing for the past, carping about our gizmos and the sway they lord over us, while loading up our iPods with songs that were popular when we were in high school, while stalking old boyfriends on Facebook. That in itself is a pleasant form of grief, but it is grief all the same.
Jobs kept nudging us away from that. Under his leadership, Apple’s subliminal selling point was: Let it go. Let go of the uneasiness about computers. Let go of ugly, antique technology. Let go of the fantasy future of personal rocketships. Let go of something deeper, something resistant in you that romanticizes the past.
In 2011, so much of our culture — as well as our politics — feels as though we’re losing grip on the old, beloved things. Where did record stores go? What happened to letters that come in the mail? Where did movie theaters go? What about the books? Where is my Main Street? Where is my America?
Jobs had been teaching us to say goodbye to all that for decades — we just didn’t know it. Some of us said goodbye to typewriters in the 1980s when we finished term papers using MacWrite on a Macintosh Plus for the first time. Some of us said goodbye when we made PTA fliers and “Lost Dog” posters that were far and away better than their Sharpie-scrawled predecessors. Let it go, let it go: Take your CDs to Goodwill; give your books to the library sale.
It was therefore an irresistible metaphor, in these final years, when the auditorium lights would go down and the crowd would go wild for Jobs, who increasingly greeted his followers and touted the latest neat, new thing even as he wore the look of a person who was not going into that future with us. He would be getting off here; we were to proceed without him into the unknown. Let it go and look ahead was the message all along.
Let go and reduce your suffering, y'all! Be here now! Shalom.