I can recall reading once in a book on East Asian philosphy that people suffer from one of three different attachments:
- they focus too much on the deficiencies of their past,
- they focus too much on the inadequacies of their present, or
- they focus too much on unpleasant possibilities of their future.
When I realized this, I became aware that I am probably too focused on my past. This manifests itself in benign and not-so-benign ways. The benign and even pleasant manifestations usually involve re-imagining my life in certain ways that often involve re-living my life in a "if I knew then what I know now" sort of fantasy. What if I had said yes when a certain girl asked me to a dance in the 8th grade? What if I had made a bigger commitment to staying in shape in my teens instead of my 20's? What if I had tried harder to be more connected with a lot of the people around me in my teens?
The less benign ways that this tendency materializes in my life is when old memories of embarassing and uncomfortable situations suddenly wash over me. It is at these points that I suddenly feel the urge to let some nonsense words escape my lips in order to somehow purge the thought flashing through my consciousness... making me more or less John Cage character on Ally McBeal (played by Peter McNicol) who would randomly utter words like Naragansett and Poughkipsee. I often thing that this is the sort of thing that homeless and hapless people on the street are actually doing... which also does not lend me much comfort.
All this really makes me appreciate the Buddhist idea that part of the path to Enlightenment involves letting go of the past, future, and present. Buddhism is about cultivating a detached sense of being where one lives moment to moment. It must be peaceful to only be a being devoted to releasing a current breath and taking the next. Yes, it must be peaceful.
At the same time, I realize that we are always the sum of our experiences and that definitely affects what we do in life. Who is to say that one small change way back when might not send my life moving in a completely different direction than it is now. I like my life is now. Playing "what if" is a futile game.
on 2003-07-18 at 12:45 p.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond