Friday, October 1, 2010

Now I can see trees!

. . . was the comment of a colleague when we were talking about the destruction of one wing of the Boettcher Center on the DU campus (photo to the left!). Her office is in another wing attached to the one being torn down and, while she can feel the whole thing shudder at points, the expanding view out her window was clearly worth being shaken up. An article in the DU Clarion suggests that what will replace the old building will be another campus green -- a gathering place at the far south end of campus--so a grassy area will soon join the trees as a pleasing, soothing, sight.

The building is being taken down because it requires more renovation than financially reasonable. In short, it has outlived its usefulness. Or, put another way, keeping it up and running is not a good use of resources. But, paraphrasing Henry Higgins' comments about Eliza in My Fair Lady, "We've grown accustomed to its face." We grow accustomed to LOTS of things that, even though they're only marginally useful, once they're gone, lose their allure.

I've spoken, in the last few weeks, with a couple of folks who've recently moved to Denver from other states. They arrived to work before most of their possessions or furniture. Office spaces lack bookshelves (and books!); homes may have only a bed and chair. Both of the guys commented on how, after a few days without the stuff, they hardly knew it was missing. The bare, simple, space seemed sufficient, almost calming. I could easily relate, given the number of times I've moved. My experience, however, was the flip-side to their coin. ALL THOSE HEAVY BOXES OF BOOKS I was moving -- and so many of them read only once (or not at all). Baggage I carry around with me that weighs me down! Why do I keep them -- if not as reminders of what was, or because I've grown accustomed to them. And now those boxes sit in my basement unopened, mocking me! Better that they're gone! (So I've hidden them out-of-sight in the furnace room!)

Our possesions begin to posses us! And letting them go, releasing them, relinquishing them is extremely difficult. What part of our identity is bound up in what we have? And how much energy do we expend to hold tightly to those things -- energy that could be spent opening our arms, hearts and spirits to others, or simply to a fullness of life?

Buddhism asserts that suffering is related to attachment -- attachment to things, people, even views of self. Early Christians were noted for their sharing of possessions -- an un-attachment for the good of the whole. The most esteemed member of Hindu culture has been the sadhu, who live simply, and on the generosity of others (thereby providing those who give the opporunity to relinquish THEIR hold on all of their goods). The Jewish prophets were strong proponents of social justice -- the sharing of goods. NOT hanging on is seen as a good thing.
But it's not just the sharing of goods, or the total relinquishment of those goods that is beneficial. It is that new perspective that I gain when my view is not obstructed by all of the stuff I've put up, and that has since outlived its usefulness.

Golly, when the walls come down, I can see trees! And I can even tear down the walls myself.



PS: The Peace Pole -- the subject of last week's "thought" is being put in the ground this very day!

1 comment:

  1. What a clear and calming reminder of the peace that comes from relinquishing what no longer serves a purpose in our lives. I’m grateful to have been reminded of that and given a nudge to open new views in my own life.

    Thank you.
    Fay in the Living and Learning Communities