Life & Liberty


Every religious and philosophic tradition worth its salt advises “detachment.” Until recently, I pretty much accepted the concept of detachment as a very hard but ultimately very worthy goal.

Let me repeat that: A very hard goal.

In fact, it’s so hard to be detached that I began to wonder: Is detachment such a good thing after all? It’s against human nature to let go of things and notions and even people. So why, if it is contrary to our nature – to how we experience daily life – should we cultivate detachment?

Today’s burning question is:

Why is detachment a healthy state of being?

I’ve been reading Carole Satyamurti’s incredible (I can’t emphasize this enough) interpretation of the Indian epic Mahabharata. Believe me: you’ve never read poetry like this before. It’s like a good, steady, cleansing rain. It’s the kind of rain you want to get caught in.

I’m in the part of the text where a huge battle, waged between two branches of a single family, plays out on the fields of Kurukshetra. Warrior unleash flocks of arrows, casting nets of barbed darkness over their opponents.

As I was reading about this ancient battle, a thought came to me:

“There’s a reason why an arrow is not tied to its bow.”

Think about it. In order for an arrow to reach its mark and complete its intended aim, it must be free of its source of power. No, I take that back. It must internalize its source of power. All the tension and marksmanship required to draw the bow is transferred to the arrow, which, once released, can no longer be controlled by the archer.

If the arrow was tied to the bow, it would be ineffective, or create backlash, harming the weapon and the warrior.

When we are attached, in a relation of control – I’m not talking about healthy bonds of love and care – to our thoughts, dreams, relationships, and physical world, we are shooting off arrows tied to our minds: to our limited perception of what’s best for me.

These arrows may fly far, but eventually, we end up tripping over the invisible snares we set for ourselves – getting trapped and wounded by our own thoughts and actions.

So, to return to the question of “why detachment is healthy” I think part of the answer is:

Detachment is another word for freedom: living beyond the traps and invisible trip-wires of the mind.


One thought on “Life & Liberty

  1. I love the line about internalizing its source of power. Sometimes I think there is an overcorrection when it comes to reference points and the coming-of-age consciousness of a relative truth when the beauty of that relative truth is that we get to be in it and that that consciousness allows us to enjoy the rootless, while very intentional, flight towards something that matters. We get to bear who we are and take an effect. Task and freedom are not mutually exclusive.

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