HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated June 24, 2012 12:00 AM
It’s a new moment as I write this. I spent a few minutes attempting to write an article for this column but it wasn’t going anywhere, so I thought I’d seize this new moment that is unfolding right now and just go with it.
It’s frustrating when it happens but what’s a writer who is stuck but has to meet a deadline to do? As usually happens, there is a lesson, an inspiration even in being stuck.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and not insist on pursuing paths that are not delivering. There’s a time for stubborn pursuit and there’s a time to let things just go.
There are guys who pursue girls doggedly for years and use their entire arsenal to win their love — chocolates, flowers, gifts, expensive wooing, and putting their best foot forward, but to no avail. The frustration that follows often tempers expectations and is a tough lesson in handling disappointments and accepting reality.
There are also those who expend a lot of effort fighting sickness, or a disease like cancer, going through all sorts of medical protocols and treatments, only to fail and die in the end. And that is very sad.
People explain such situations in many ways. There are those who salute the efforts of those who try really hard and fail, quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
And there are those who insist that perhaps, staying the course a little longer and not giving up could have tilted the results in one’s favor. In other words, in the eyes of those who judge, despite everything, they still did not try hard enough. Others who are less severe in their judgment and are philosophical will simply say that some things are just not meant to be.
The question of when to hold on to something and when to give up is a tough one. In a relationship that isn’t working out well, for example, on the surface, holding on seems to be the ideal, brave and courageous thing to do. Many will automatically give advice and, more often than not, it is counsel that urges the parties to stay on and work things out. Which only seems right and noble.
On the other hand, it is easy to equate giving up with failure or weakness. It seems like a cop-out, an abandonment of purpose, a failure of character to walk away from something one has sworn to be bound by. It is rare that a person who walks away from a relationship is not given a bad rap by outsiders who are often simply on the outside looking in and analyzing the situation from an uninformed angle.
Just as there are reasons to stay the course, there are also valid reasons to abandon a situation, abort a plan, cancel promises made. And knowing which path to take depends on how one weighs things.
In the heat of the moment, it is difficult to make the distinction between giving up and letting go. There is a difference between the two. To give up is to realize that one’s efforts were not good enough and by leaving, one is cutting his or her losses and freeing oneself from any more pain.
To let go, on the other hand, is to divest oneself of attachments like expectations, bitterness and eventually, even pain. To give up is to accept that one is not up to the challenge and to center on the unfulfilled promise. To let go is to conclude that there are more important and sensible scenarios to consider than staying the course. The former implies the end of the road. The latter suggests an unburdening to be able to travel lightly, perhaps on a new road.
Someone unknown once said, “One says you aren’t worthy of the prize, the other says you are the prize.” This makes the distinction clear.
When one gives up, there is a turning away and often, there is bitterness and enmity that accompanies it. Letting go, on the other hand, does not only bring emotional release, it can even be an amicable cutting of ties and a freeing of oneself of any formerly desired outcome. It allows things to unravel outside of one’s control. It implies a willingness to turn away and move on, unfettered by the past.
Another unknown wise person counseled, “Giving up does not always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.” The strength that is alluded to here is not only strength of character but a non-attachment to winning, or the wounded ego’s wish to always be in control. And that is certainly enormous strength right there.
In the acquisition of wealth where greed and exploitation must be tempered, one is also asked to “give up.” I am not talking here of merely “moderating greed” as former NEDA chief Romulo Neri counseled during GMA’s presidency. I am talking more about “giving back,” which is what the enlightened rich and good companies with corporate social consciences actually do — give back to the community that has made them rich.
So, to go back to the question, when does one hold on and when does on let go? It’s hard to say. The poet and novelist Herman Hesse wrote, “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. “
We can only let go when we realize that we have no control over many things, much less people, even if we care a great deal about them. And ironically, sometimes, it is a reason enough to let them go because we care about them. When you give up and let go, a remarkable thing happens; the pain goes away. If it doesn’t, it’s only because it clings back, because you are still clinging to it.
But when does one hold on? You hold on when, deep down, you know that the difficulties are temporary and can be overcome and the bigger payoff of growth and happiness awaits.