Buddhists often talk about “attachment.”
Attachment appears to be the enemy of the good.
Attachment is not love!
Attachment is holding on to something too tightly, being unable to let it go.
Pema Chodron suggests that we could translate attachment (shenpa) as “getting hooked.”
And attachment kills love.
Jesus was dealing with attachment when he told the rich young ruler that he must sell all he had and give it away. And when he tells all of us to “die” to the self, that we might be free to rise to new levels of loving and living.
So the question for us always is this.
What controls me so profoundly that I am not free to change, to forgive, to love?
What is it that I want to hold on to, that is holding on to me (has me hooked)?
Because it is our need to hold on to certain things creates so much pain in the world.
And so much pain in our individual lives.
Wherever we see aggression, conflict, cruelty, abuse, oppression, hoarding, and greed, we are likely to find attachment.
We are attached to power.
As a result, politicians lie and cheat.
And people vote for those politicians who lie and cheat, and promise them what they are attached to.
We are attached to wealth.
Thus, the very rich gather more and more resources to themselves, leaving the vast majority of humanity in dire straits, because they are attached to their wealth.
We are attached to privilege.
To our visions of racial superiority.
We are attached, sometimes, to our resentment and our anger.
And the more we cling, the more we hurt.
And the more we hurt, the more we hurt others.
We need to learn to let go.
And here is the paradox. Only by letting go do we get what we really want!
As Jesus noted, whoever loses their life will gain it.
When we let go of power, we discover a new kind of power.
A healthy power.
The power of love, compassion, and generosity.
When we let go of privilege we find a new capacity to connect with others, all others, and are able to step away from fear.
As we head into a new year.
As we struggle with an inequitable economy, with racism, an endemic illness, and growing authoritarianism,
there is only one way forward that will not destroy us.
The way of kenosis.
It is not an easy task.
It may feel like dying!
But it is the only way we will survive.