Saturday, October 4, 2008


1. What are you attached to that may ultimately be providing more pain, suffering or negative than pleasure and benefit? And why do you continue to stay attached?

Is it possible to be too attached to geography? Here is why I ask: I love oceans and seasons, and I love urban environments. Left to my own devices and with enough finances, I'd live in Boston or New York, or in a smaller town by the ocean. However, I find myself in a suburban environment in Arizona, in the middle of the desert. There are excellent reasons for this - my wife is from Tucson, she has a great job, her family is here, and the cost of living is low. But I'm unable to escape my attachment to a different geography, my desire for a different environment.

Does this provide more pain than pleasure? I can't say yes to that when I see my son getting to know his extended family on my wife's side (a situation that isn't fully possible with my family, with parents and siblings sprinkled across Rhode Island, Florida and Utah). I can't say yes when I see how happy my wife is in her job. I can't say yes when I see that we can afford a nice home here for the price of a tiny apartment on the East or West coasts. But if there is not more pain than pleasure, then there is at least some angst. It would be easier, of course, to let go of my desire for any idealized environment whatsoever and to simply "be" in the present. But I'm human and I unfortunately haven't mastered the art of living according to an abstract ideal.

2. Does your “attachment score” at the following survey indicate anything important about your feelings on attachment?

No. The survey indicates I fall into the secure quadrant. After seven years of marriage and more than a decade in the same relationship, I might begin to worry if the survey showed a different result.

3. Is someone too attached to you?

I don't think so. My wife and son are fairly attached to me (as far as I can tell), but to be "too" attached in my mind implies an unhealthy dependency. My wife is not dependent on me to be a strong, vital person in her own right, and my son is 12 months old so being attached sort of comes with the territory. If any attachment is loving and doesn't cross over into dependency, then I'm unable to define it as "too attached." I love Andreas' answer - "Daring to be attached is a part of daring to love to the fullest."

4. Share your thoughts on the following quote: “"Suffering finds its roots in your desire to be free from something that's either present for you right now or something that you fear may be present for you in the future . . . Your suffering is directly proportional to the intensity of your attachments to these passing phenomena and to the strength of your habit of seeking for some kind of personal identity in the world of forms." - Chuck Hillig

There is some truth in this statement, and perhaps it relates a little to my answer to the first question, but the quote doesn't grab me or shake me. The suggestion that suffering is caused in part by my desire to seek "personal identity in the world of forms" may resonate from a theological/philosophical perspective, but I'm too wrapped up in the world of forms at the moment to even desire release from a personal identity. Perhaps that's unfortunate from Chuck's perspective, but I rather like grappling with the wonders and the challenges of the world of forms.

5. Are you able to get rid of the life you’ve planned, so you can have the life that is waiting for you?

This is a very interesting question. I've always believed that the answer to this was an obvious yes, and I have in fact reinvented myself a few times. But I'm also realizing that the further one gets into life, each new direction may be more challenging than the one before it, as our lives are slowly constructed over a foundation of all of our earlier choices.

I find it intriguing, actually, how life unfurls as a series of independent decisions that, in their totality, become our lives and may even lead us far from where we began. In my case, for instance - Do I want to get married? Take time off from work to travel? Write a book about these travels? Move to Arizona for a job for my wife? Have a child? Until one day, these choices deposited me in my current life, as a part-time writer, part-time stay-at-home Dad in the Arizona desert. And the thing is, I know this will evolve and change, as well. So I look at life with a sort of wonder at how these varied decisions congeal and become part of a larger reality.

So, yes, I'm able to get rid of the life I've planned and to reinvent myself. I know this because I've done it. But I do think that my desire and ability to do this dwindles just a bit with each passing year.

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