I believe in the impermanence of all life. That anything I’ve ever loved, craved or found beautiful, will be gone someday. Because of this I believe that the attachment to material wealth is the greatest ignorance that plagues human nature.
I don’t mean to sound so dismal when I say everything you’ve ever loved will be gone. But what I mean is the universe is in constant flux. The person you think you were 10 years, 2 days, or 5 minutes ago, is not the same as who you are now. I believe that everything we’ve ever come into contact with, man-made or organic, creates us. Rainer Maria Rilke once said “Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror, no feeling is final.” On the other hand, everything we might create or acquire, is transitory.
My generation is chasing an illusion of happiness. Born of pixels and raised in virtual worlds, we are unlike any other that has preceded us. We’re too fascinated to turn away from the technology we were raised on. Our pursuit of material “success” will ultimately lead to unhappiness. We need to wake up to the reality that the best we can hope to accomplish is temporary pleasure and security in our materialism.
My realization of these things has given me chances to reflect on the impermanence of my world. Mountains dissolve into plains, and plains erode into canyons. Forests burn and greenery sprouts from the ashes. Water carves stone, and life-giving rivers flow. All formations are transient. Even universes. The existence of these truths, and my belief in them, tells me that the struggle to possess more than I could ever consume is a petty and useless pursuit, as the things I acquire will pass with my passing.
As an example, I attend what’s called an Expeditionary Learning school, which means we go on camping trips to various locations depending on grade, number of students, etc. On our trips we are given time for reflection by being placed alone in the wilderness for predetermined amounts of time. We call them “solos”. Recently, while I was on just such a school trip in the deserts of Utah, we had a 12 hour solo. As I meditated alone in nature, I discovered that I was so attached to my most indispensable objects, that I carry them wherever I go, even into the desert. Surprised by my attachment to these possessions, I decided I’d had enough: I buried them deep in the ground and left them there to return to the earth. When my solo had ended, I walked away from those simple, yet meaningful possessions that had mattered so much to me. I have never felt so liberated in my entire life.
That solo experience reminded me that everything decomposes, everything disappears, everything is impermanent. But I also know that nothing that has existed is ever completely destroyed, it remains as intangibles, as memories, or stories, or echoes of existence itself. Detachment from the material world doesn’t mean you’re ignorant, and releasing yourself from the binds of wealth doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy material things. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I had to choose between the two, I’d rather be broke and free, than rich, and ignorant.
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