Back in August, I wrote about two longstanding dreams of mine that I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of. One of those dreams — playing guitar and singing in a performing band — has been on my mind a lot lately, as it’s been utterly impossible to find the right musicians to collaborate with. Networking with musicians I already know and posting Craigslist ads have gotten me nowhere, and I don’t have enough free time to follow the most common advice I’ve received: getting out to open mic nights, performing solo, watching others perform, and approaching any like-minded people with the idea of a partnership.
In that August post, I included the great Langston Hughes poem — Harlem — wherein Hughes asks what happens to a dream deferred, listing off possibilities both drawn out and tedious (“Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”) as well as sudden and violent (“Or does it explode?”). Well, my dream of being in a band, having been with me for over 30 years, is quite clearly raisin-ish — a slow, painful withering — however much I feel like I’ll explode if it is never realized.
And that’s where Buddhism comes in, particularly the notion that attachment is a primary cause of suffering.
There have been times, the present situation included, when I’ve contemplated the possibility that it’s my clinging to the dream that is making it so painful to not be living it. I’ve thought that perhaps, in order to end the suffering and move on, I need to let go of the dream, embracing the possibility, however devastatingly disappointing, that the dream will never be fulfilled.
Sounds like a sucky choice, doesn’t it? A suffering-filled, protracted disappointment or giving up on the dream entirely?
Fortunately, that’s not really the choice at hand, from a Buddhist perspective, summarized nicely in a short web article I stumbled upon:
Non-attachment means gently releasing feelings, ideas or behaviors that create unhappiness and suffering in our lives. As this is done, we begin to feel freer and less fearful…
People often mistake the letting go aspect of non-attachment with giving up. But rather than signaling defeat, letting go of an attachment is a courageous step that can require a great deal of trust. Some also equate non-attachment with being passive. But non-attachment is being an active participant in life, without trying to have tight control, or manipulate every outcome.
–ElizabethFarrell, “Understanding Attachment and Non-Attachment”