“Don’t do it,” my cousin warned. “Don’t get attached.”
I laughed at him. He obviously didn’t have to worry about that.
But my laugh didn’t seem to convince him.
“You have no idea who she is – she could be crazy.” His warnings continued.
Valid point, I thought. I hardly knew her.
I had met her only a week previous, on the night of her birthday.
The mood was festive. Her sister was visiting and her friends were with her. The weather was perfect. Anyone could be a pleasure to be around in such a perfect setting.
But we hung out the next day, and it felt the same.
My cousin didn’t seem worried, until he found out I had left the boy’s trip to Sydney a few days early to catch a Greyhound bus and sit through a three hour trip back into town just so I could take her to a movie.
“You could get hurt.”
I hated to admit it, but that one struck a chord.
He’s right, I thought, I could get hurt. Having, in earlier days, considered myself a stoic, I saw the potential danger in the path I was walking with this girl.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it didn’t matter.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had found someone that I wanted to be attached to.
But when did we start to correlate suffering with attachment?
It’s a thought that sort of worked it’s way into the western mentality from its distant origins in the east.
The idea of dis-attachment is nothing new. Various Buddhist and Hindu sects have always determined attachment to be a major source of human suffering.
Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988.
A very superficial understanding of the concept has worked its way into our psyche.
We see attachment as a bad thing.
It means opening up.
It means being vulnerable.
It means falling in love with a person who could take that love away from us at any time.
It means getting hurt.
But how much truth is there to this simple understanding of attachment?
I look around me, and I see that attachment makes up the very foundation of life.
On a purely molecular level, hydrogen molecules attach themselves to oxygen to form water – the elixir which makes life possible.
The biological attachment of man to woman creates life, and the attachment of a mother to her child is what allows that child to survive infancy – as her mother cares for the child out of that attachment.
The tides of our oceans are intricately attached to the gravitational pull of our moon, which in turn is attached to the pull of the earth, which spins happily in its attachment to the sun and our solar system.
The bloom of the African lilly is forever attached to the spring for the perfect conditions, the bees for its pollination, and the sun for it’s nurturing kiss.
In an infinitely interconnected universe, attachment is creation.
Attachment is life.
And yet attachment can be a dangerous thing.
It is when our attachments are based on reliance that it has a high propensity to cause suffering.
It is when we fill the void inside of ourselves with attachment that those attachments gain the power to hurt us.
It is when we attach ourselves to the love of others rather than the love of ourselves that our attachments become toxic.
It is when we attach ourselves to the acceptance of our peers rather than ourselves that our characters become weak and dependant.
Someone close to me always says that you have to fill your own cup. It is when our attachments fill our cups that they become dangerous, because at any moment we may lose them.
This leads to cycles of loss and gain, unbalanced relationships of power and reliance, and, for the most part, pain.
That is the lesson of the west, the lesson of the Buddhists and the Hindus. We mustn’t attach ourselves to sources of love and happiness that we should be getting from our own heart and souls.
But fearing attachments because we may lose them is only weakness.
It is a fear of loss.
It is a fear of being hurt.
It is a fear of not being worthy.
But we are worthy of love.
We are worthy of acceptance.
We are worthy of real, committed relationships.
Allowing ourselves to become attached is one of the greatest forms of vulnerability that we can demonstrate to each other.
The more attachments we have, the more we’ll lose.
The more we’ll suffer.
But that pain is the price we pay to live life to the fullest.
To avoid pain and live life in solitude is the life of a monk.
It is the absence of vulnerability, and it is the absence of the awe and wonder our indulgence in this human experience provides us.
It is human to be vulnerable.
It is human to attach.
The vulnerability that we demonstrate in attaching ourselves to another forces us to dive deeper into ourselves.
It is an essential journey into finding out all the intricate details about ourselves – the good, the (not so) bad, and the things we need to work on that we would have never noticed otherwise.
But finally, it teaches us acceptance.
It teaches us to accept ourselves as perfect just the way we are.
It teaches us to accept another as just as perfect.
It teaches us to accept that we may lose that person or thing at any moment, and that’s okay.
In fact, it makes that person or that thing even more valuable and beautiful because we may lose them tomorrow.
In the acceptance of eventual loss we find appreciation.
We find gratitude.
We’re not perfect. We never will be.
We will struggle to reach that higher place of existence for the rest of our lives.
But we can learn to be happy by ourselves.
We can learn to love and accept ourselves.
And along the way, when we get that undeniable feeling that we’ve found someone we want to attach ourselves to, we’ll be absolutely fearless when we do it.
Be good to each other,