Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 6 in The Beat Handbook is titled, "On Materialism." The entry mentions backpacks, mountains, Fight Club, cars, jobs, baldness, erectile dysfunction, and poetry - all related to the above passage from The Dharma Bums.

This is a critical passage in Bums in which Kerouac predicts a "rucksack revolution" led by "Zen Lunatics." I wrote about rucksacks on March 25, 2009, even sharing a picture of Jack's canvas rucksack as well as a lead on where to get buy a decent replica today (heavens, there we go with more materialism).

But on to what I said yesterday about needing to revisit this post. From time to time I look around at all of the "stuff" I've amassed over the years, and my initial reaction is to feel frustrated. It really is quite a lot. However, if I remember to do it, I remind myself to do a mental "check-in" on whether I identify with it. Is my new truck about me, does it define me, or is it about function and meeting particular needs I've identified at this time? The answer to that question is important. Having "stuff" isn't the problem. It's only a problem when the "stuff" controls you, when you'd feel less valuable without it, when you obsess over it. In short, when you think you "need" it.

Let's put it this way. Regarding any particular material possession you "own" (I put that in quotes because we don't really "own" anything - we borrow it for a spell): Could you give it away right now without angst? Regarding situations (e.g., jobs): Could you walk away from them right now and not look back?

Attachment (to things, situations, locations, people, even ideas) is the source of suffering. And you don't have to be a wandering vagabond with no possessions or relationships - which are indeed important - to live in that space where you know you're not "attached" to them.

Please don't misunderstand. I am all for loyalty and commitment to partners, spouses, children, pets, jobs, causes, etc.* But if they define you, if your value as a human being comes from those things, then you are on a dangerous path because sooner or later, everything gets taken away. So be free of them now. Eckhart Tolle says everything is honored, but nothing matters.

As Jack said, "That nothin' means nothin' is the saddest thing I know."

Grab that rucksack and go be a Zen Lunatic.

Tomorrow: On finding a mate.

*Intentionally omitted from this list are religion and politics, including nationalism. Loyalty and commitment to those "concepts" is the biggest cause of evil on this planet. It is very difficult to avoid attachment to these, to avoid being "conditioned" (as Krishnamurti would say) by them. So, I am explicitly not going to endorse them. At the same time, if you're hardcore into such things, great - as long as you step back once in a while and examine how your attachment to them actually manifests as compassion and not mischief.

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