Thursday, September 12, 2019

Paradoxical Detachment

Let me start with paradox. The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that the word comes from the Greek and is made up of para- meaning “contrary” and doxa meaning “opinion”; The OED then provides a meaning which seems to have been framed in the 1560s. It is a “statement that is seemingly self-contradictory yet not illogical or obviously untrue.”

I apply that word in adjectival form to detachment. Appropriately, I believe. When we detach, we detach from something. In an ordinary situation, we get exercised about something ridiculous in the news. Our mind is so on-and-on-and-on about it that, finally, we say: “I’ve got to get detached from this.” One of the paradoxes of detachment, for me, anyway, is that taking up my diary and then meticulously recording the irritation, in every conceivable form, sooner or later (usually after writing about three-quarters of a page), the emotional turmoil has diminished. The attachment to my description of it has caused a distance to develop. And from the distance the whole thing has lost its hold on me. And this is so even if the ultimate pain comes from a source we can rarely shake, e.g. noting that I owe a huge sum of money for something I was unaware of and, having examined the circumstances, I see that I’ll have to pay it. Detachment eventually comes when I shrug, at last, and think to myself: “It’s only money.” This though indicates that I’ve reached a point of awareness in which I’ve managed to detach even from the value of money. It won’t last, of course, but for a meaningfully sufficient moment I’ve achieved freedom.

The paradox is that genuine detachment means the embrace of nothingness. That statement is seemingly self-contradictory; but the way it feels is both logical and obviously true.” Another name for it might be religion (another paradoxical word).

I say that because, in a really meaningful way, especially in a time like our own which is utterly attached to sensory reality and its extensions into abstractions like money, a time eventually comes when the world’s madness has reached what seem like maxima; life seems to have lost all value and meaning; everything is going into the bottomless pit. At such a time, in a seemingly self-contradictory way, parts of humanity embrace belief in the unbelievable, a reality beyond the one available for examination. They form or join religions. In effect they detach from the madness all around. And, paradoxically, the continued practice of this detachment creates a reality in which, if you have social patience enough, life resumes again. And the madness then seems to have passed.

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