Let Go
or Let Be?

(revised 7/29/99)

by Jonathan J. Dickau ©'98,'99 - all rights reserved

There are many things in life which we must learn to let go of. We have no choice! At some point, we must let go of all the things we can possess or accomplish, in one way or another. This unfortunately includes our loved ones. If we don't give them up beforehand, death will surely take every thing, and everyone, we have. I believe that the sense of experience remains, long after both we and our loved ones, or possessions, have passed beyond us, but no object, no relationship, and no state of affairs, can be ours forever. Every individual must face this, but it is true even on a Geological, or Cosmic, scale. The planet Earth has not always looked like it is today, and it will not stay this way for long. Eventually, our Sun will explode and swallow our planet, ending all life here, but humans may have to let go of Earth much sooner, if we are not careful.

Strangely enough, it is only by learning to let go of certain things to which we humans have become accustomed, or at least learning to use less of those things, that we can hope to prolong our stay here, both individually and collectively. In terms of our survival, moderation is good for both the individual and the planet. Conservation and efficient use of resources allow us to have the use of limited resources longer, allow them to be shared by more people, or both. Letting go needs to extend beyond the concept of giving things up, however, to do the greatest possible good. We need to be willing to do things differently, in the future, and to think of things (and people) in a different way, in the present. What we need most to get rid of is the idea that we can do things the same as always, and everything will be different.

Our individual behavior does make a difference, and our individual lives are the proving ground for change in the world. The Dalai Lama has said that if we want to change the world, we must change ourselves first. I think we must also change our relationships, so that we treat the others in our life at least as thoughtfully as we wish the nations could. The real issue of this is highly personal, but it involves everyone, and renders us responsible for the collective acts of humanity. What I am saying here is that the interactions of our personal lives play out, on a smaller scale, the very issues which shape the destiny of all humanity. The way we treat ourselves, the ways in which we treat others, and the relationships which evolve as a result, are a model for larger communities, and the planet as a whole. Nations go to war over similar issues that individuals do, and our individual actions shape the collective actions of the whole.

There are some who believe that our personal actions project farther still, owing to the holographic nature of form, and I would not be surprised to learn that our struggles are mirrored by contention between other races in our galaxy. At the very least, I am relatively certain that the exact course of human history will eventually affect some distant cultures, should they exist, if we have not done so already. In any case, we can influence our fate, and in fact shape the destiny of our planet, by learning to free ourselves from attachment. This can take many forms, however, and the remedy for one condition may be poisonous to one in a different condition, or situation, and therefore totally inappropriate. Some things need to be corrected, or compensated for, others need to be let go of, and still other things require one to let things be as they are. The best remedy of all is often to restore the natural state, but how one goes about this varies greatly. Whether to take action, and what action to take, are all important, but there is more. Sometimes it is disastrous to act swiftly, or to step aside too soon, but at other times it's all that is necessary to avoid problems.

I have learned that sometimes people's admonitions for me to let go of something, or someone, are really a plea to let things be as they are, and this is very different. In a sense, letting things be is a more highly evolved sense of letting go. To say Let It Be is to honor something, or some event. When one lets a patch of forest be for long enough, nature makes it very special indeed. If you go to the Petrified Forest, in Arizona, there are signs that ask you not to pick up the rocks, or carry them away. If you let them be, someone else can see them as Nature intended. The same thing is said of flowers, and other things, in a Folk song by Malvina Reynolds. To let something be, or to let someone be, is usually a sign of respect. As John Lennon showed, to say "Let it Be" can be a very spiritual act, a consecration of that which is precious about life.

When we speak of letting something go, however, the connotation is not always nearly as positive. People might say "It used to be a nice place, but they really let it go," if you let your house become delapidated though lack of proper care. Another example might be "He should have been studying, but he let it go for too long." In either case, letting go of something represents a lack of responsibility, rather than detachment. Letting go of anything, has its down side. Perhaps it works both ways, and the people in the examples needed to let go of their reasons for putting off what needed to be done, rather than letting their possessions or responsibilities go unattended, for too long. We must be careful, therefore, not to let certain things go.

This is not the only way in which letting go can be a problem, either. People are different from things, but even dealing with inanimate objects well can be complicated. Sometimes, we must let something go, so that another may possess it, and this is different from letting it be shared. It is inherently unequal, often unfair, and usually involves some kind of hardship. Letting people go can be even tougher still, as in the break-up of a romantic relationship, and we must take special care in how we let our loved ones go, if we don't want to treat people like a pair of old shoes, or be treated like that ourselves. I've often thought that letting someone I love go is akin to letting them down. On the other hand, perhaps they are better off on their own. Perhaps, in addition, we should all be donating our old shoes to the poor, as well.

When something can be there for everybody, its value is multiplied, but some people would both force others to let go, and ask others to let them be. This makes life tough on many of us, but it is the very basis for a materialistic culture, such as we humans have evolved in the modern age. To a materialist, what makes precious things valuable, in some respect, is their very uniqueness, and the fact that nobody else can possess them. I would accord them their privilege, but I also feel that we need to reform our culture to survive, and I believe that this process depends upon the efforts, or at least the cooperation, of such individuals. We need to Share! We need to encourage people to care more, and to do more, as well, rather than just having more. Instead of letting things go, and watching the planet become uninhabitable, we need to let things be, wild and free, in their natural state, but not out of control. The same goes for people; real freedom tends to bring out the best in people, and we need to let them be natural too.

©'98,'99 Jonathan J. Dickau - all rights reserved.

Revised on
July 29, 1999

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