28 May 2009

bonding at the end

Why do people always seem to bond at the end of the school year? Or when a trip, program or conference is ending?

Is it the realization that we won't be able to go out for tacos "sometime" and our time together is really coming to an end?

The "I better tell her I like her before she goes back to Sweden" mentality? Or, in the case of the school year, just that warmer weather makes people relax and feel more social? That everyone has worked hard all year, building up awe-inspiring resumes, and now, they have free time to play?

In any case, as June approaches, I see everyone smiling more and being more social. Graduating seniors reconnect with people they haven't seen since freshman year. Tutors come out of their library cubicles to catch up with other tutors. And everyone is getting naked and laying out by the river.

Aside from the getting naked in public (which wouldn't feel all that awesome in a Boston winter), I wonder why we aren't so warm and cuddly and social more often. Does knowing something is coming to an end make us live it and appreciate it more fully?

The ironic twist is that everything is always coming to an end. I did a twelve-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand, and one of the most important lessons I learned was the idea of impermanence. That everything in life is temporary. Which should make the sweet sweeter and the bitter easier to swallow.

They say suffering comes from attachment, and I was the master of not letting go. But if we can look at our precious (insert object of deep love) and know that it/he/she could be gone tomorrow, we might actually experience that person/object more fully today.

In other words, with the awareness that everything ends sooner than we expect, we would have this end-of-the-year feeling of deep appreciation all the time. And instead of longing for it afterwards, we will just cherish it while it is present. It seems to go against certain established values, but there is real freedom in it.

Like The Tao of Pooh, one loves where they are and who they're with, knowing it, too, will pass, and when the next chapter starts, they love it fully without pining away for former loves. But, some would argue, what an insult to old flames and loved ones who have passed.

The other way of seeing that would be to say 'They are and always will be a part of me, and suffering because they aren't physically present doesn't do anyone any good.' (And if they care about you, they shouldn't want you to suffer, either.)

So, the moral of the story: good ol' carpe diem. But instead of using it as an excuse for some young maiden to sleep with a strapping man passing through town, it should be remembering that each day disappears so quickly. We really have to grab hold, spend time with the ones we care about and appreciate whatever blessings we have.