The lessons of living and dying are intertwined. The pursuit of wisdom … entails the practice of dying: … let go of issues,… possessions, …illusions, …regrets.
— Tom Owen-Towle
I don’t know about you — but for me — my interests (and pre-occupations) go on and off — for no apparent reason. Important now, unimportant later. In play now, off the grid later. Total concentration followed by total disinterest.
It’s really quite bizarre. I don’t mean to imply that none of my pre-occupations are consistently important (or unimportant) …. only that, if I chose to notice … many things capture my imagination for a time and then flame out … all at once. Poofft! That singular spark of importance which I give to a topic, image, relationship, or thought … just disappears.
“Hey?… What was that about?” I wonder.
And I’m not alone. We all do that … to some degree. We make grand assumptions about the importance of what’s going on, become deeply engaged and committed to its importance, and then suddenly – we let it go. Suddenly, it’s not important anymore.
This “discovery of importance” is our creative imagination at work. It helps us stay involved and connected. It’s the energy conduit that we learn to switch on and off … when it’s helpful and necessary. It’s also important that we pay attention to it. Put it under our control when we can.
Here’s an example:
I recently went an “A-list” party. Very self-important. Very self-consciously self-important. A peacock party. You know the type … the grand ball, the social cotillion, the “coming out.”
And, of course, what you wear defines “you.” It’s the first thing that becomes important — the impressiveness of how you look. And once I have a satisfactory “look,” that issue suddenly becomes inconsequential.
And now appropriately attired, I enter.
Greeting people, looking them directly in the eye, I shake hands find the words that seemingly “fit” the moment. Needing to disengage, I go to some neutral spot to re-group my thoughts. “The entrance” moment is now long gone. Exhausted from abruptness being “on,” my mind is abuzz with sorts of “other” important things.
Of course, the social environment “sets up” its own importance. When I enter, I’m trying to accommodate to all the various cues and signals. There are specific “values” to which I must relate. I focus and “tune in” to their temporary importance … knowing that this particular importance will suddenly disappear once I leave. Not entirely a surprise, but still a discovery.
Rationally speaking, importance is always a fabrication. However, it is a deeply connective one. It’s hard relate to without constructing some context of significance. We cannot formulate our response (and much less have an authentic one) without first being connected. It requires imagination.
And imaginatively speaking, significance all about our being present. We are not neutral observers and NEVER can be. We fill in the blanks about how we want to “show up.” And we do have choices. We can turn “importance” up or down, we can turn it on and off. That’s why we need to notice it more often.
When I got home that night, I held onto various impressions. Most of them were passing. “Just another one of those events,” I thought. But a few impressions were not so passing. My discomfort felt permanent. My desire to “fit” in felt permanent; the “forced” part of my being there, that too felt permanent.
Tom Owen-Towle says, “The lessons of living and dying are intertwined.” If significance is a fabrication, then it’s the single most important fabrication we use to “create life.” We become bigger and more engaged because of how we “show up.” AND if those fabrications are permanently engrained (something we cannot control), then our living becomes smaller. We lose our capacity to explore and grow.
The lesson of wisdom asks us to “know thyself” to discover levers for our imaginations, by turning on and off importance. And that skill requires us to let go of the things which seemingly “have us” when we least expect it. We must let go of the fabrications we create by default.
“Learning how to let go of issues, … possessions, …illusions, …regrets” are all experiments in dying AND at their deepest, they are all experiments we in living as well. Live better by noticing the importance which you create – for you are important — in every regard; even in the ones’ you cannot notice.
Thanks for listening!