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Let it go.

Just had a really good time in the pulpit at church(1st Unitarian Universalist of Detroit). Me, Dessa Cosmo, and Stephanie Chang each took a section of the poem In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver and expounded upon it. I got the end of the poem which fit well with my recent examination of the Japanese philosophy of Mono No Aware. So here is what I came up with.


Let it go By Robert Johnson
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
An end to things. All things have an end… even the universe itself will one day find itself collapsing into a violent implosion or slowly and inexorably freeze in entropic heat death. It is the nature of things to end. But the trouble is that we often do not take heed of this within our lives. And we find ourselves suddenly faced with it and unprepared. It is this that causes many to struggle with loss.
There is a Japanese view of things referred to as Mono No Aware. It is a phrase that does not have a direct translation but a close meaning is the pathos of things. It is a philosophy of appreciating things for what they are. Including their temporal nature. The fact that things are temporal is a part of its beauty in the eyes of Mono No Aware.
The most well known image associated with Mono No Aware are the cherry blossoms or Sakura of Japan. It is difficult to describe how beautiful they are when they all go into bloom at the same time across the island. They are so stunning that the nation practically takes a holiday in order to appreciate them. But they last for only a very short time. It is a sad thing when they fall. But viewed through a Mono No Aware perspective the fact that they fall is as much a part of their beauty as the petals themselves.
It is through this appreciation of the temporal nature, of that which is loved by them… this embracement even of the bitterness at the end… that they find a way to let it go of the struggle with the ending. And in letting it go they truly embrace that which they love in its entirety.
Perhaps there is an aspect to eastern living that causes contemplation on this aspect of things. The Tao speaks to this idea of letting go as well. In fact accepting things as they are is so much a part of The Tao that there is a famous painting expressing it. Called The Vinegar Tasters it shows three monks, representing the three main philosophies of China, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism tasting a vat of vinegar. Each of their facial expressions represent the view as held by their philosophies regarding life. The Buddhist and Confuscianist react to the vinegar with rejection of its bitterness. Meanwhile the Taoist is smiling because the vinegar tastes exactly as it should. It is true to its nature. Accepting this allows him to appreciate it for what it is.
The play Our Town by Thorton Wilder seems to capture a western view of these concepts. It seeks to remind us to take note of that which we love here and now. Notice all the little things and big things about those around you and what they mean to you as well as what you mean to them.
In the play the departed look on the living wondering why they go about their lives missing all the amazing moments they share with those they love. They yell and scream at us to stop and notice one another. Realize how the limited time we have with each other makes it all that much more important to make of the time what you can. Because in the end ….
At the end of the play the departed Emily asks the stage manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? — every, every minute?” The Stage Manager tells her no, but suggests that perhaps some saints and poets do value life. Maybe we can’t make every moment with our loved ones count. But perhaps we can try to be a bit more like the saints and poets and notice one another and appreciate each other for who we are.
This is what I believe Mary Oliver was speaking to. We must not only love… but recognize the temporal nature of that which we love. We must recognize that that which we love is as much a part of us as we are of it. And that when the end of things comes,… after you have done what you can… Do not struggle with the end of things you care about. For it is the struggle which takes the thing itself away from you. Instead let it go and let it be part of you. Let it go.

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