Via Basel: Letting go…continued


Phillip Compton, Marsh Creek West Shore Sunset

In my last post I discussed retirement and letting go. Even in the short time since then several opportunities that were not on my radar have materialized, some of which are really exciting and challenging, but I will leave that subject for later to allow for them to develop and mature. For now, I will philosophize a bit.

As we emerge from our mother’s comfortable womb we are born with nothing but our naked little bodies. We own nothing and carry no baggage. We do, however, have potential. As we grow and pass through the usual stages of life, we accumulate stuff, whether material possessions or others, knowledge, beliefs, emotional dispositions, etc.—maybe even some wisdom toward the end if we’re fortunate.

But all of that is temporary, and we really don’t own anything. All we think we own is just a loan for a short period of time—in fact very short considering the long history of the human species let alone the planet or universe. When it’s all over and we are no more, at least physically—this comes whether we like it or not, worry about it or not, or plan for it or not—we take nothing with us into the  beyond. That applies whether you believe in an afterlife or not. (This was not so, by the way, for ancient Sumerian kings of Mesopotamia, who were buried with their worldly possessions as well as their caregivers and, morbidly, their personal physician.) All what we learned, experienced, and accumulated materially is gone, at least from the perspective of the departed. Zero. Nothing.

Yes, memories, legacies, and residuals of our earthly (lifetime) actions linger on for awhile but these fade over time except for a select few whose contributions may last for centuries or millennia. Honestly, for those living in the present and occupied with their own pressing issues, even these become abstract and impersonal.

So now we come to final curtain and letting go, which is involuntary for most and  non-negotiable for all. It can happen suddenly or gradually, down a slippery slope, and in both cases we are usually unprepared, anxious, and frightened.

Till now you must have wondered, What a subject to bring up, how depressing, and why do you have to remind us of it? Well, if you believe that ignorance is bliss, then you may be right. I believe if we are unprepared we suffer and make our loved ones suffer too. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so and that is not pure idealism. Hard, yes, but doable.

Except for a few years early on we do have choices. Most of these choices actually become important in our mid-to-later years. As we age and our baggage, material or otherwise, accumulates it actually becomes a burden to carry. By the way, this is not original or some weird philosophy. Nearly all religions, faiths, and sages, east and west, have addressed it one way or another. My point is that unless we start to shed some of that burden at some later stage in life and not leave it to the bitter end we will cause suffering to all including ourselves. How many of us plunge into a major undertaking, say, a marathon or business project, without months if not years of planning and preparation? It would be rash or even dangerous not to.

Unless I get a terrible backlash, I will attempt to elaborate in the next post on some of these attachments from my perspective as a physician, as well as personal experiences and readings over the years.

Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family, and now he will have more time for that. And for the next adventure.

Via Basel: On Retirement and Letting Go 

More Art by Phillip Compton