Tuesday, January 3, 2012
I found this bottle cap on the sidewalk as I walked back from the grocery store on Saturday, the day after we put Ruby and Ernie to sleep. It's just a brand of beer, but it also got me thinking. Ruby and Ernie are free from the ailments that were slowly sapping their strength; I am free from the need to be a nurse in a canine hospice.
We usually perceive freedom as a positive thing. But it can also have a negative side, as some musicians have pointed out. In "Cactus Tree," Joni Mitchell writes about a woman who's "so busy being free" that she can't commit to a relationship with any one of several suitors, though "she thinks she loves them all." In a line that seems to suggest both fulfillment and longing, Mitchell writes, "her heart is full and hollow, like a cactus tree."
And of course, as Janis Joplin sang, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
Buddhism, on the other hand, teaches unattachment. Being attached too tightly brings misery and delusion. That doesn't mean we can't love, but we love with the knowledge that all things continually change. Everyone and everything shifts, evolves, dies. There is no permanent state of being, and even as those we love change, so are we changing. I didn't cry at all yesterday; I'm not the same person I was the day before.
So now I have more freedom, with all that it entails -- the sorrow and the relief, the loss and the gain, the heart that's both full and hollow.