Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for March 8th, 2014

Let it go 1

Posted on March 08, 2014 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 9, 2014 – 12:00am

First, a little Zen humor: “Master, is it okay to use email?” a Zen student asked his master. The Zen master replied, “Okay. But no attachments, please.”

When people ask me about the recordings I have made, they are surprised when I tell them I do not have a complete collection of APO songs, or even of my solo creations. “Don’t you have the desire to keep copies even for posterity?” they ask. After all, these recordings are an integral part of my life’s work.

I used to be an avid collector. When I was in grade school, I collected body parts of animals. I was into scouting and nature exploration and I had among my precious possessions some wild boar teeth, rabbits’ feet, deer antlers, sharks’ teeth, dead parrot beaks, and colorful feathers from exotic birds.

But my most prized possession was the complete hide of a leopard that my bother Ducky had brought home for me from Laos where he worked during the late ‘50s. My classmates who would stay in our house during weekends were in awe of my strange possessions. At one point, I cut off the leopard’s tail so I could bring it wherever I went.

Later, I got interested in collecting watches. I would buy all kinds of cheap and not-too-expensive timepieces during my travels. At one time, I had more than 30 watches. I just loved the way watchmakers could create diversely designed timepieces that essentially did the same thing. The more weird-looking a watch was, the more I was attracted to it.

I also had quite a collection of vinyl records that I had built up since the ‘70s. I loved records and would buy two copies of my favorite ones since playing them too many times made them sound scratchy sooner or later. I listened to my Beatles collection so often that some of the records started to skip after about 200 plays. When the CD became the standard format for music, I set my record collection aside for storage. But alas, Ondoy came and for the first and only time, my house actually flooded and my entire vinyl collection was submerged.

I felt bad throwing them away. But what else could I do?

I have pretty much stopped being a serious collector of anything for more than a decade now. Save for my computer files and digital photo collection, I have really nothing to show anyone who asks me, except for a few books and CDs. I don’t even have a place for my trophies and award plaques. They are scattered all over my house, some are stored in boxes, and others are lost.

At one time, while I was cleaning my desktop files, I was stumped, unable to decide what to throw away and what to keep. It was my son Mio who showed me the way. “Be heartless,” he told me. “If you haven’t looked at a file in six months, trash it.” I was actually thankful for the suggestion because in no time, my desktop was cleaned up. And to this day, I don’t really know what’s missing.

Collectors deal with a lot of attachment issues. Over time, they acquire sentimental junk that they treasure and have a hard time letting go of. Aside from the money spent, they experience the desire for something and the joy of eventually possessing it. Items loved and collected carry stories important to those who possess them.

Someday, I would like to have a complete collection of my musical works for my children to keep. I feel no attachment to owning a physical representation of them since I have them all in my head anyway. I would rather collect memories about the songs and how people were touched by them.

I want to live the rest of my life with less and less attachment. For sure, eventually, everything will go. That includes friends and loved ones, and things we own and treasure. We should also throw in a few memories, biases and opinions that give us too much pain and prevent us from moving on and having a fuller life of loving.

Letting go of attachments is hard but the tradeoff is, every time we do it, we become lighter and freer. With the right perspective, the material loss becomes a spiritual gain. I have seen “poor” people who have nothing but their possessions, and I have seen people who subsist on very little yet live very rich lives.

Maybe the question to ask is, how much is too much for one to feel rich and how little is too few for one to feel poor? It’s hard to find the right balance and each of us may have a different answer.

But of this I am sure: people who have an inner fullness are the happiest people around. To them, the question is immaterial whether they have enormous wealth or hardly own anything. I admire Bill Gates’ father who advised his son to give away half of his enormous wealth, which his son did without hesitation. I also admire many poor people I have met who genuinely offer their food to any stranger who steps into their humble abode.

I was quite amazed to learn that a Zen teacher who visits and gives yearly sesshins (retreats) in the Philippines is a vice president of a huge bank in Tokyo. Yet he carries himself without the trappings of one who is so blessed materially. There are cynics who may say that the reason he can behave so simply is because he has no financial problems. I don’t know whether he does or does not. I would like to believe it is his inner peace that makes him compassionate and less attached to material wealth. This shines through when you meet him.

I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with riches and pleasure. When they are there, I say let’s enjoy them. But to cling to them and pursue them doggedly above all else turns them into a great source of unhappiness.

The hardest attachment to let go of is expectation or outcome. Is it possible to let go of these? Every religion has something to say about the potential of wealth to lead us to evil. But most of them promote the expectation of going to heaven by doing good. So why should we let go of expectation?

I will give the final word on the topic to the controversial guru, Osho, who said:

“Don’t be attached to the things of the world, and don’t be attached to the things of the other world, because things are things. It makes no difference whether they are of this world or the other world — attachment is the problem.”

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