Thursday, July 14, 2011

Attachments for sale

Like I said in my last post, we had a garage sale this past weekend. Our main items: kids stuff. Now anyone with children knows that this is just inviting disaster. Selling a child's toys is the quickest way to instigate a meltdown of epic proportions. Surprisingly though, my four-year-old daughter handled it pretty well. She just kind of sulked by the window as she watched my wife sell her baby toys.

Now I know what you're thinking, why did I torture the poor kid? Why didn't I bring her to the park or somewhere else to distract her?

The answer: because I'm an idiot. It wasn't deliberate cruelty, just plain old male dumbness. I make no arguments to the contrary.

As Buddhists, we're no strangers to the role that attachment plays in our lives. It's right at the center in Buddhism. Our attachment causes us to suffer.

So I knew how my daughter felt. We all do. We grow attached to objects, emotions, experiences, and situations; to the point where it physically hurts to see them go.

I watched painfully as she wrestled with her attachments, and understood how awful it must feel to see something that's yours--even if you never play with it and have long forgotten all about it--being sold right out from under you. How frustratingly powerless that must feel.

But that's the nature of life, isn't it? The human heart is fickle, and wants what it can't have.

I get that way with books. I'll go months without so much as glancing at a title, but the moment I think about selling it, my attachment slams on the brakes. Whoa, whoa, whoa--I love that book. Don't even think about selling it. Who cares if I've never read it; that's all the more reason to keep it!

It's a natural human response, one familiar to us all.

The garage sale was a learning moment for me. I watched all of my own childish dramas played out in my daughter's situation. I'm a 33-year-old, 200 lb. kid.

I soothed her, told her that we would buy her new toys, which cheered her up a bit. But deep down inside I knew that the toys weren't the issue. You could buy a child a thousand toys, just like you could buy me a thousand books, and it will never be enough. The human appetite for consumption is infinite. Just take a look at greedy billionaires who will never be satisfied.

It's not the toys or money or books that are the problem; it's our attachments. It's easy to sell the toys and books; they move real fast. It's our attachments that take a lifetime of practice to get rid of.

Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: CEThompson.

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