Happy New Year! We trust everyone had a wonderful holiday season (buttressed, of course, by the knowledge it was no more or less meaningful than any other season...)
We have been thinking a lot about detachment lately - in short, the ability to view one's physical (and mental) incarnation as one would view any other individual, rather than believing our self occupies some special and exalted place. We have discussed this many times, as this whole issue of shedding identity is critical to truly embracing the absurd.
For example, have you ever observed someone stuck in traffic - throwing up their hands, pounding on the steering wheel, or even yelling at the cars in front of them - and thought how ridiculous they look? Of course, to the individual who is racing to pick up his kids, or get to a job interview, or to any other "important" appointment, such an attitude seems the height of callousness. And indeed, we (as everyone else) have been in situations where it seemed vitally important to get to...whatever crucial and life-altering event awaited us. (Although now that we think about it we can't recall exactly what was so important - but it sure seemed so at the time!)
The point of detachment, therefore, is to view oneself as we view anyone else - to jettison our "knowledge" of what is or is not "important," and instead move through life with a true sense of equanimity. This, of course, is easier said than done - while the rational part of our brain may know we look ridiculous seething in our car, it is simply not so easy to override the reptilian part that knows we are late for the interview.
One method we have found useful in such situations (and yes, this may be considered a "trick") is to follow events down their ultimate path. For example, why does it bother us that we are late for the job interview? Well, we might not get the job! Which means...we might not be able to pay our mortgage...which will mean we have to move to a smaller place (or live on the streets!)...which will be significantly less comfortable (and more dangerous) than living in our house. The ultimate worry, of course, is that we might have less money with which to buy things such as food...which might endanger our survival (and that of our family). Or perhaps we are worried that not getting the job will affect our wife's opinion of us (or the opinion of women in general), which will restrict our access to sex.
Once we have determined the underlying worry (and this pretty much always comes down to food, sex, and shelter), it is an easy jump to the conclusion that the whole thing is a purely biologically-driven response, with a nod to Richard Dawkins' insight that humans are, essentially, gene-replication machines.
In other words, we are not worried about the job. We are worried (as always) about our ability to survive and reproduce, since these are the features which have enabled our genes themselves to survive. Our belief that the job is "important" is a cover-up of sorts, a culturally-driven abstraction to shield us from the horror that job or no...we (and our family) are eventually going to die.
Consider this: approximately 146,000 people die every day (that's about 100 a minute). Someday it will be you. Do you want to spend your remaining days planning for the "future," trying to craft a "full and meaningful" life that will still, in the final analysis, be no more consequential than dinosaur droppings, or would you rather live each day (and minute) as its own, taking joy from the simple fact of being alive?
Detachment provides a shortcut to this joy...